Questions

Gene Weingarten poses an interesting question:

The murder of an abortion doctor and of a Holocaust Museum guard has predictably led to a left-wing media harangue against the right-wing media, whom the lefties blame for whipping up hate and violence.

As a lefty, I think they are right. (I mean, I think they are “correct.” The terminology gets confusing.) The point is, there are consequences to words, and people like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly and Michael Savage need to answer for theirs. But mostly, I have a question: Why does no one ever accuse the LEFTY media of whipping up hate speech and violence? How would that even work, anyway?

“A rabid follower of Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson shot up the offices of the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday to protest delays in implementing protections against global warming…”

I think he’s got it about right — left-wing media, to the extent that it exists in this country, just isn’t set up to incite violence. I don’t think this necessarily has much to do with any kind of philosophical differences; I wasn’t around in the 60s but it seems to me there were certainly violent, anti-government groups that would qualify as left-wing back then (the Weathermen, for example). For whatever reason, liberalism in this country gradually coalesced around mostly prosaic, concrete issues, like health care, progressive taxation, a more diplomatic foreign policy, and so on. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty on the left focusing on crazy stuff like vaccination conspiracies. But the fact that Peter Orszag, a freaking budget director, is a rock star to many on the left tells you all you need to know. The various liberal newsletters and emails I get frequently discuss some mind-numblingly detailed policy proposal (I don’t read them because I’m too lazy and shallow, but they always seem reasonable).

I also subscribe to some conservative email lists. And they are usually focused on theory (“oppose this bill because it is anti-capitalist”) if not pure fantasy (“let’s show the world Obama’s birth certificate was forged”). The idea of successful armed revolution in this country exists only in the world of fantasy and theory, of course, so it’s natural that right-wing media would elicit a more violent reaction than left-wing media does.

Honestly, though, I don’t see how it is possible for a movement to govern effectively with a focus on theory and fantasy. That’s not to say that conservatives can’t do a good job governing at the local level, where the issues are too concrete and boring to be dealt with by John Galt. But at the national level, I just don’t see how conservatives have a chance of being effective, given that their base, their media, and their intellectual infrastructure is more interested in rhetoric, “philosophy”, and fantasy than in any kind of policy specifics.

My question is: is there anything inherent in whatever conservatism is supposed to be that makes it less interested in reality? Anything in liberalism that makes it more interested in reality? Or is this all a historical accident? And is there a big political disadvantage to focusing on governing as opposed to pontificating?

158 replies
  1. 1
    Scruffy McSnufflepuss says:

    Well, the Nazis are really lefties, dontcha know. After all, they’re “National So-cialists.”

  2. 2
    Will says:

    So true. For the right, in the absence of coherent policy proposals, or even a belief in government actually doing anything, the crazy will fill the void. It’s politics as personal entertainment, fantasy, as you said.

  3. 3
    Jim Pharo says:

    I think Glennzilla gets it right this morning in locating the key difference as one of maturity. Even the Weatherman, everyone’s favorite Left-y extremists, used violence to make points, and not to cause individual human suffering.

    The Right embraces all the militia stuff for the same reason boys play army: it is satisfyingly Manchean (sp?). Good guys win; bad guys lose. This world-view is comforting when one is growing up. It counters the inherent ambiguity and nuance – and risk – that exist in the world.

    Good riddance to bad trash. These extremists will go back to their “lunatic fringe” and “Bible belt” niches, where, sadly, they will wait for their day to come again — in 10, 30, 50 or 100 years.

    Meantime, the respectable Republicans will form themselves up with a charismatic leader and challenge progressives. The net result will be not only undoing the right-ward shift (shove) we’ve endured since Reagan; we will end up, as always, a bit more to the left. (Also meantime, these morons will cause more damage. Let’s hope they do not get their charismatic leader before the moderates.)

  4. 4
    different church-lady says:

    Interesting how almost all of the commenters on Weingarten’s WP site miss the point of his exercise. Plenty of them can come up with sporadic examples of left-wing “violence”, but almost none of them bother to link it to a left-wing media figure who encouraged such action, or who the actor followed.

    Playing along, the best I can come up with is, “Reader of newly minted democrat John Cole’s blog banged head on desk repeatedly in response to reports of right-wing stupidity.”

  5. 5
    jibeaux says:

    This Richard Posner essay is kind of interesting.

  6. 6
    SKI says:

    It is a question of defending the status quo.

    In the past, the status quo favored the “conservative” view of how things shoudl be so the violence was primarily on the left (the exception being groups like the KKK that violently objected to the progress that had already happened).

    Today, the status quo is primarily progressive. Sure there are further advances we want/need but the basic orientation of society is towards progressive ideals. So those on the right are the ones trying to change society and when you try to stuff the genie back in the bottle, you get frustrated and violent.

  7. 7
    KevinNYC says:

    You have to remember how far right this country has been pulled. The mainstream of right commentary is far, far closer to the extreme right, than the mainstream of left commentary is to the far left, let alone the extreme left.

  8. 8
    peach flavored shampoo says:

    My question is: is there anything inherent in whatever conservatism is supposed to be that makes it less interested in reality?

    My take: conservatism is associated with un- or under-eductated yokels and/or the highly religious (read: folks untethered to science and logic and facts by the very nature of belief in a Majik Jesuz); liberals largely educated and agnostic people connected to facts and logic and thus, reality.

  9. 9
    Shalimar says:

    I think it is supposed to be the other way around: real conservatives value tradition and the way things have always worked, which is very reality-based. Liberals tend to be pie-in-the-sky people who fantasize about a more equitable future and overlook reality. This normal balance got skewed when Republicans started waging culture war to keep non-rich white guys interested in the cause. They lie to their voters and listeners as a matter of course, which is going to foster the us-against-the-evil-liberals fantasy world which has taken over the rightwing worldview in the US. They aren’t really conservatives anymore, they’re anti-liberals. And liberals have had to become reality-based to fight back. It’s a shock to the system to find out other people hate your guts because you want a better world for more than just an elite few.

  10. 10
    geg6 says:

    Modern conservatism has always been based on fantasy since I first remember paying attention back in the mid-60s as a child. I think it started as a reaction to the progressive dominance from Roosevelt on through (and explains why the conservatives studiedly ignore Ike) and it lives still because of that fantastical mindset. They can say with straight faces that conservatism has never been really tried because even St. Ronnie had to compromise major tenets. The advantage is that they never have to take responsibility. The disadvantage is that the vast majority of the nation doesn’t care abou their ideological purity and just wants to eventually see government working for them. Progressives are more focused in what happens to real people through policy. Yes, there are hard assed ideologues in the progressive coalition, but the basic premise of liberalism and progressivism is to make government work. It’s a plus when, as now, the people see that the balance of power and benefit is out of whack in a way that has hurt the majority of Americans. The drawback is that the focus on practical issues requires that things actually get done in a way that doesn’t make matters worse. Since I tend to be more action-oriented and see value in lifting all boats equally, it’s very easy for me to prefer liberalism/progressivism.

  11. 11
    jibeaux says:

    Well, Franken said the left wants information and the right wants ammunition, and while I do think all of us more readily accept information that conforms with what we are already inclined to believe, that still rings true for me. See, here I am more readily accepting information that conforms with what I am already inclined to believe! But the fact that I point that out makes me an information-friendly leftist, so I win!

    OTOH, maybe it’s because no one even starts a radio show catering to the Earth First types because the batteries on the solar radios they have on the commune won’t last long enough to get through the show?

  12. 12
    Dom Phenom says:

    “My question is: is there anything inherent in whatever conservatism is supposed to be that makes it less interested in reality?”

    My answer: “the invisible hand”

    there it is. if you believe that it’s going to do the work once you lift regulation, why worry about concrete policy.

  13. 13
    slag says:

    This post speaks directly to why I became a liberal. As both my parents were conservative, I grew up listening to Rush Limbaugh and Faux News (eventually) quotes all the time. Whenever one of the parents would pick me up from school, Rush would be playing in the car. And for a while, I cowered in fear of the gay, librul, baby-killing menace. OK, I wouldn’t actually cower, but I did once ask my neighbor who thought his gay aunt should be allowed to adopt a kid, “What if they made the kid gay?”. (I was like 12 years old, so give me a break!) Nonetheless, even after all those years of indoctrination, something in my brain just didn’t sit right. For every issue that Rush et al would bring up, I eventually started to ask: “So what?”. And once that question came up, it just wouldn’t go away. To the point where, once I started to hang around more liberal folks (in my teens, etc), I started to see a vast dichotomy between the two ideologies:

    Conservatives were mostly about blaming/denouncing what they perceived to be social ills, while liberals were mostly about trying to get at the root causes of problems in order to actually offer some resolution for them.

    Of course, this is a generalization, and I’ve observed individuals in both camps who do a hefty share of blaming (including myself at times). Nonetheless, I agree…the big distinctions are important. While, to some extent, the differences are quite cultural, and therefore, subject to generational whims, there is some element of the ideologies (as I see them) that help explain some of the differences. It’s partially our divergent relationships with authority that exacerbate the differences in priorities for liberals and conservatives. “So what if Rush/Obama/or even God says gays shouldn’t be allowed to get married? They’re not always right either.”

    /treatise

  14. 14
    Aqualad08 says:

    One word: curiosity. Liberals have it, conservatives don’t. And when one has curiosity, one is compelled to follow where it leads them. When one does not have curiosity, one is compelled to rely on baser means of communication, constantly justifying their personal lack of progress with fantasy.

  15. 15
    David says:

    I used to look at a small Conservative website and they would continually say that Conservative-ism isn’t a political party but rather a philosophy. The advantages, of course, is that it

    1. doesn’t ever have to be responsible for actually governing and

    2. anyone can be kicked out at any time for any perceived infraction of the nebulous, ever changing code of conduct

  16. 16

    I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

    Barry Goldwater set the bar in 1964.

    He wagered that an emotional appeal would trump reason; after all, a lot of reasoning is required know where the line is between extremism and not-extremism in the first place. If you just sugar coat it and make it seem acceptable to do, say, or think just about anything, then you save a lot of pesky thinking and pondering and just get right to the heart of the matter.

    Reason is just messy and eggheaded and intellectual. The feeling that one is right and is empowered to go straight at the thing is invigorating. There you have the basis for wingnuttia.

    Goldwater lost in a crushing defeat, but the gimmick he advanced has stuck. You can sum up the right’s attitude in Goldwater’s famous exhortation.

  17. 17
    bob h says:

    Former President George W. Bush presumably has sensed the rising tide of hate, hysteria, and violence in right-wing circles. As the Republican of greatest stature and authority, he should issue a statement decrying all this and urging civil discussion and disagreement. But to do so would be to acknowledge that Republicans
    have been encouraging and consorting with lawless elements, so I
    will not hold my breath waiting for a statement we should expect from a man of his stature.

    He’ll be content to yuk it up on talk shows and give banal, $150,000 a crack speeches. He’ll pass up, as he has all his life, an opportunity to show that he is a man and a real leader.

  18. 18
    Paul L. says:

    But mostly, I have a question: Why does no one ever accuse the LEFTY media of whipping up hate speech and violence? How would that even work, anyway?

    Black Panthers To “Deal With” Duke Players.

  19. 19
    argh says:

    Liberal thought is about human rights and individual liberty (“All Men are Created Equal”) and concerns the liberation of human conciousness from the Ancient Regime of aristocratic tyranny whatever its expression.

    The “Right” is a manifestation of the Ancient Regime, and represents the old class hierarchical system of domination by those “above,” while the “Left” is conflated with the failed ideology of Communism which was domination by those “below.”

    The Rightwing lies to exist, and one of their biggest ongoing lies is that Liberals are “The Left” in the communist sense. That is why a faction of active liberals took the name Progressive long ago, to emphasize that liberalism isn’t about the old political fights but about progressing FORWARD, not left or right.

    The Right-wing has lost the beat because they really aren’t about “individual liberty” in any way, shape or form. That was propaganda, and as it collides with reality it creates sparkles and bells.

    Liberalism survives and has superceded both Communism and Fascism (and the Old South Confederacy) because it produces better outcomes, and is open to “what works” as a practical matter. That is why certain aspects of socialism are embraced by liberals, but it should be understood that socialism is NOT communism. Our roads are “socialistic” as is our military. Liberalism is about what works for all of society, and other ideologies seem to be about domination by its members.

  20. 20
    Stefan says:

    But at the national level, I just don’t see how conservatives have a chance of being effective, given that their base, their media, and their intellectual infrastructure is more interested in rhetoric, “philosophy”, and fantasy than in any kind of policy specifics.

    At this point the conservatives are like the German philospher who exclaimed “yes, yes, I know it works in practice! But the question is, does it work in theory?!?!”

  21. 21
    peach flavored shampoo says:

    Funny. Shep Smith attempts the “reality” route, and now all the righties want him canned. I wonder if he goes Full Arlen before he sends his CV to CNN, or after.

  22. 22
    Brachiator says:

    My question is: is there anything inherent in whatever conservatism is supposed to be that makes it less interested in reality? Anything in liberalism that makes it more interested in reality? Or is this all a historical accident? And is there a big political disadvantage to focusing on governing as opposed to pontificating?

    Craziness is psychological, not ideological. James von Brunn was a white supremacist whose hatred festered for years. He was not Republican, or conservative.

    Rush, Hannity, Glen Beck and others are too blind or stupid to realize that they are igniting the match on long lingering fear and hatemongering that they cannot control. Compare this to the elements of the Taliban, once clients of elements of the Pakistan military and intelligence services, who are now turning on people who foolishly believed that they could control these fundamentalist extremists.

    Obama’s election has unsettled people on both the left and the right. Small groups of hard-core Hillary supporters could not restrain their suppressed racism, despite being good lefties, at the prospect of a black man supposedly dashing their feminist dreams of seeing a woman president elected. And you have Israeli’s upset that Obama is insulting the Israelis prime minister by showing the bottom of his shoe to him. While talking to him on the telephone. As “proven” In a photograph of Obama sitting at his desk during the phone conversation. With his feet up.

    And now we see Rev Jeremiah Wright expose himself as the black analog to von Brunn as he spouts noxious crap about Jews who are keeping him away from Obama. Wright is as disconnected from reality as any wingnut conservative.

    Liberals, progressives, whatever term you want to use, need to let go of the fantasy that they are especially plugged into “reality,” that they are somehow immune from teh stoopid. This is little more than blindly smug self-righteousness.

  23. 23

    My question is: is there anything inherent in whatever conservatism is supposed to be that makes it less interested in reality?

    Dunno. I still don’t understand how things shifted from Conservatism (“Mind your own business unless someone will get hurt if you don’t”) to conservatism (“Waaaah! People who aren’t just like us are scary and must be destroyed!”)

    However, what it means to be liberal hasn’t changed all that much.

    The more I think about it, Conservatism was never that popular, whereas sticking your nose in other people’s business, holding grudges and hating/persecuting people who are different has always been a crowd pleaser.

  24. 24
    geg6 says:

    SrirachaHotSauce: Exactly. It was the first presidential electio that I remember being aware of and even at my tender age, I remember the frightfulness of how they cheered him on. It made an impression an a 6 year old that I’ve never forgotten.

  25. 25
    different church-lady says:

    @Paul L.:

    Black Panthers To “Deal With” Duke Players.

    That’s a good one, but now in order to play the second half of the game, you’ve gotta find a left-wing media figure who flogged the story.

  26. 26
    Derelict says:

    is there anything inherent in whatever conservatism is supposed to be that makes it less interested in reality?

    Conservatism USED to be engaged with concrete reality. Goldwater, Nixon, and even Reagan actually had policy proscriptions to deal with real problems and move real agendas forward. Unfortunately, it became obvious under Reagan (and even more so under Bush I) that those policies and agendas DID NOT WORK. Indeed, in most cases the policies simply made the situation they were supposed to address even worse.

    Since the principles by conservatives would govern do not work, they’re left with nothing but rhetoric

  27. 27
    SGEW says:

    The only thing I can add to this discussion is that everyone really should read Al Gore’s The Assault On Reason sometime. Really.

  28. 28
    Neddie Jingo says:

    @KevinNYC:

    You have to remember how far right this country has been pulled. The mainstream of right commentary is far, far closer to the extreme right, than the mainstream of left commentary is to the far left, let alone the extreme left.

    I think this pretty much nails it. If the Overton Window were where it was in, oh, 1917, I think the shoe would be on the other foot.

  29. 29
    argh says:

    Dunno. I still don’t understand how things shifted from Conservatism (“Mind your own business unless someone will get hurt if you don’t”) to conservatism (“Waaaah! People who aren’t just like us are scary and must be destroyed!”)

    Conservatism is a gateway drug to ugly things. Or it was in the 1920’s, thought they say history doesn’t repeat. Unless you forget it … hmmmmm.

  30. 30
    Xanthippas says:

    My question is: is there anything inherent in whatever conservatism is supposed to be that makes it less interested in reality? Anything in liberalism that makes it more interested in reality? Or is this all a historical accident? And is there a big political disadvantage to focusing on governing as opposed to pontificating?

    I think modern American liberalism is somewhat distrustful of ideology. Just off the top of my head, I’m not really sure why that is, though some historical research could probably answer that question. Without a doubt there are “leftist” movements in the near past that have been extraordinarily violent and ideologically rigid, which proves that people of all along the ideological spectrum can be suckered by a paranoid or revolutionary message. And also yes, I think our conservatives are particularly taken with fantasy and paranoia. After all, right-wingers in places like Latin America have long been devoted merely to retaining their position in society. I suppose there’s less need for insane media messages when you just send your militias into the jungles to fight the leftist guerrillas directly.

  31. 31
    mclaren says:

    Back in the 60s the people who were inciting hate and violence for the most part had no access to the media. The Weathermen and the Black Panthers got only a couple of lines in the papers — almost everything on the media was government spokesmen. People today have this idea that the diversity of viewpoints we hear now about politics is normal, but it’s actually brand new, no more than 35 years old. For example, most people had no idea that JFK was chronically ill or had back problems or had mistresses. There was a complete blackout on that kind of info in the press and TV news. The media were highly controlled and fed everyone almost nothing but government press releases during the 60s, which is why it was such a huge deal when Walter Cronkite said on-air that he no longer believed the government about Viet Nam.

    The other issue is that the media environment today is completely different. Up till 1967, nightly TV news lasted 15 minutes and consisted of a guy sitting in front of a camera reading the AP news wire with teletype noises in the background. There was no such thing as talk radio. Discussion of politics was almost entirely person-to-person because the Fairness Doctrine made TV and radio shy away from discussing politics. The only kind of overtly political stuff in the media during the 60s was shows like Meet the Press, which consisted of government spokesmen answering softball questions.

  32. 32
    JM says:

    Uh, actually Joe Scarborough is saying that Paul Krugman is whipping up the hate … wait for it … because Paul’s hate-mail is full of references to Paul Krugman.

    No examples of eliminationist rhetoric from Krugman himself, of course, which is one more example of how Joe is stupid enough to be a conservative.

  33. 33
    The Other Steve says:

    Wasn’t both the abortion doctor and the holocaust museum the fault of leftist media promoting intolerance towards good hard working Americans who hate abortion and deny the holocaust?

  34. 34
    kingubu says:

    is there anything inherent in whatever conservatism is supposed to be that makes it less interested in reality?

    Inherent? I don’t think so. But as various events in the real world have contradicted or disproved some of conservatism’s basic assumptions, conservatives have chosen to cling to those assumptions instead of adjusting. It doesn’t take too many iterations of “I say X and any idea, person, or institution that says otherwise is part of a Commie plot” before you find yourself at war with reality in general.

    Concurrent with the above has been the popularization (mostly among social conservatives) that having a “good heart” or “Christian values” is all that’s required of an elected official and that any recognition of nuance and complexity is somehow impure or immoral.

  35. 35
    gbear says:

    Why does no one ever accuse the LEFTY media of whipping up hate speech and violence? How would that even work, anyway?

    The most common form of liberal violence seems to be the pie in the face. In our favor, pies don’t kill.

  36. 36

    @different church-lady: No. He has to find the media outlet that is run by the Black Panthers and/or devoted to broadcasting the ideas of the BPs.

  37. 37

    @Brachiator:

    And now we see Rev Jeremiah Wright expose himself as the black analog to von Brunn as he spouts noxious crap about Jews who are keeping him away from Obama. Wright is as disconnected from reality as any wingnut conservative.

    Whoa! When Wright shows up at the Fed armed to the teeth in order to make a citizens arrest of Ben Bernanke you might have a point. But conflating what Wright said with what von Brunn did is just plain horseshit. Sure Wright is disconnected from reality and he knows he can get an audience by saying crazy shit. So what? That puts him on pretty dicey footing with his anit-semitic words but that doesn’t mean he is a fucking terrorist.

    Liberals, progressives, whatever term you want to use, need to let go of the fantasy that they are especially plugged into “reality,” that they are somehow immune from teh stoopid. This is little more than blindly smug self-righteousness

    Now that I can agree with. Obama and Hillary were both subjected to some pretty vile shit from within the Democratic membership. I recall some disgusting sexist comments made toward Clinton during the primary season. Some of it right here in this very commentariat. And of course the race-baiting from the other camp was just as vile.

    Maybe we should all just chill the fuck out. Obama’s got this …

  38. 38
    Paul L. says:

    @different church-lady:

    That’s a good one, but now in order to play the second half of the game, you’ve gotta find a left-wing media figure who flogged the story.

    New York Times Duff Wilson and Selena Roberts.
    Eugene Robinson
    Newsweek

    “We fell into a stereotype of the Duke lacrosse players,” says Newsweek’s Evan Thomas. “It’s complicated because there is a strong stereotype [that] lacrosse players can be loutish, and there’s evidence to back that up. There’s even some evidence that that the Duke lacrosse players were loutish, and we were too quick to connect those dots.”

    But he adds: “It was about race. Nifong’s motivations clearly were rooted in his need to win black votes. There were tensions between town and gown, that part was true. The narrative was properly about race, sex and class… We went a beat too fast in assuming that a rape took place… We just got the facts wrong. The narrative was right, but the facts were wrong.

  39. 39
    slag says:

    @gbear:

    The most common form of liberal violence seems to be the pie in the face. In our favor, pies don’t kill.

    Mmmm…pie!

  40. 40
    Evinfuilt says:

    The left has ELF/ALF and the so-called Animal rights activists that use terrorist methods to try and get their way (they’re as much anti-science & hypocrites as the evangelicals). Much like the right wing extremists they can’t be reasoned with, they play to emotion and piss off those around them.

    But outside of all the attention PETA gets in national media (Bill Maher) they don’t have as active a propaganda group, they have a lot less calls for violence. They’re more isolated, and thankfully that keeps them out of the news. Once we get someone from these groups on national television nightly, then we’re in trouble.

  41. 41
    John says:

    The Rightwing lies to exist, and one of their biggest ongoing lies is that Liberals are “The Left” in the communist sense. That is why a faction of active liberals took the name Progressive long ago, to emphasize that liberalism isn’t about the old political fights but about progressing FORWARD, not left or right.

    Well, this was deeply foolish, if true. Liberalism is a term with a fairly specific meaning which has always excluded totalitarian communism. “Progressive,” on the other hand, is a term which can clearly encompass communism, and which was, in fact, the preferred self-designator of actual communist sympathizer in the United States from the 40s to the 60s or so.

  42. 42
    Roq says:

    I think there is something about *American* modern conservatism that breeds violence, mostly stemming from religious and nationalistic fervor, but nothing about the philosophy itself. Indeed, if they were really being true to the philosophy, they’d be the last people to get violent.

    I want to note that the left has violent protesters too, just far fewer and they tend not to actually want to hurt *people*. Environmental groups have burned plenty of buildings. Like the Weathermen, tho, they tend to clear their targets so as not to hurt anyone. They’re still taking terrible risks, however. A burning building on a college campus could easily hurt someone on accident, or spread, or who knows what, so these acts are condemnable not only as vandalism, but as dangerous activity.

  43. 43
    gbear says:

    @Brachiator:

    Rush, Hannity, Glen Beck and others are too blind or stupid to realize that they are becoming obscenely rich by igniting the match on long lingering fear and hatemongering that they cannot control.

    They know what they’re doing. They’re paid too much to care.

  44. 44
    Lupin says:

    The fantasy you accurately describe is only a screen cleverly woven by the super-rich, who own and govern this country, to get the rabble to support them. Sort of like religion in the Middle-Ages.

  45. 45
    Evinfuilt says:

    I think modern American liberalism is somewhat distrustful of ideology.

    @Xanthippas:

    There you go. You can’t have a violent organized movement if the movement itself distrusts single-minded leadership.

    Of course, it could be in another 10-30years that it happens. We just have to be aware and fight it from happening. Remember there’s more disagreement inside the Dem party right now than we had between Dems and all Repubs earlier this decade.

  46. 46
    Martha Franks says:

    Of course there are lots of contradictory ways that that words “liberal” and “conservative” are used, but I think that at least one common philosophical distinction centers around what you think about the effectiveness of reason. That is, liberals think the world can be improved by relying on what reason tells us will work, even if it is untried. This has all kinds of good effects in terms of devotion to facts and science, but since the French Revolution it has also been clear that reason can be elevated above humanity, leading to the horror and purges of the twentieth century. Conservatism wants to preserve working human institutions, even if they look unreasonable, on the grounds both that reason can have an edge of inhumanity, and also on the grounds that something which looks reasonable might have all kinds of unintended consequences and land us in a worse place than if we hadn’t changed it, even if that worse place is not as bad as the Soviet gulags (arguably one of the twentieth century’s excesses of reason).

    This distinction does, I think, tend conservatives toward fantasy to a greater degree than liberals. The fundamental conservative virtue is caution, which is very close to mere fear. The “arguments” that speak to that doubtful virtue are inevitably going to be emotionally charged pictures of possible dreadful outcomes. Reason does not trump those pictures because reason is itself dangerous in the conservative world view because it drains the human emotion from people.

    I am a liberal, but I have a real sympathy with a distrust of reason, especially looking at the experience of the last hundred years, when some societies that claimed to be trying to model themselves on reason as opposed to tradition became pretty murderous. In my liberal way, though, I like to think it possible to learn from history and change. What must be learned is that one of the facts with which reason must deal is that murdering political enemies is self-defeating, and unreasonable. To the extent that principle is firmly established, reason has a chance to make things genuinely better. Conservatism will never make things better. At its theoretical best it treads water. That’s not good enough, except for the people in power at any given moment. Thus the conservative approach always–ironically given its emotional underpinnings–leads to instability. People in power think that everything depends on preserving, conservatively, their own power, which only makes everybody else madder.

  47. 47
    ChrisZ says:

    I think there is some merit to the idea that the Right is inherently less interested in reality than the Left. Conservative rhetoric at least, seems to place a huge amount of emphasis on the rights of the individual, and government’s right to enact policy. The Left, on the other hand, tends to look at how a policy will actually affect society as a whole in their arguments and speeches. These are not always true, but I think they are generally so.

    What this means, is that the Right doesn’t need to look at reality to make its arguments. I think that actually is the bulk of the appeal of conservatism. You don’t have to do any hard analysis to make decisions, you can armchair it the whole way because it’s all based on you own idea of individual rights, or morality (Free Market + Bible). The Left, on the other hand, more often argues based on expected consequences, and that requires actually looking at the real world.

  48. 48
    JC says:

    I agree with the above, that nails it:

    You have to remember how far right this country has been pulled. The mainstream of right commentary is far, far closer to the extreme right, than the mainstream of left commentary is to the far left, let alone the extreme left.

    Remember, there used to be a proud tradition of the Rockefeller Republican. I think Romney’s dad walked in support of gay rights, correct?

    Look at George H.W. Bush, one of the last of that breed of Republican. For whatever deals he did with Carlyle group, making himself and his cronies rich, he:

    a. Had a reality-based view of the world
    b. Was willing to work hard for stuff.
    c. Wasn’t so interested in the “social issues” – except as needed to get elected (Horton).
    d. Was willing to raise taxes, in the end. (Which condemned him of course, to the Republican party.

    H.W. was a party guy for 30 years – and at the end, he also, was accused of ‘betraying the party’.

    But, his sons – both George W. and Jeb – signed onto some of the worst of the religious tinged stuff – as an example, Terry Schiavo.

    Mitt Romney – now has to play religious cultural warrior, to attempt to get the nomination.

    Etc.

  49. 49
    Evinfuilt says:

    What this means, is that the Right doesn’t need to look at reality to make its arguments.

    @ChrisZ:

    The right makes their own reality now. They’re proud of it and even consider it a badge of honor (see Bush and Krauthammer.)

  50. 50
    different church-lady says:

    @Paul L.: Paul, good informative links.

    I’m not sure the Eugene Robinson column fits the bill: he spends a great deal of time urging caution, and then focuses on and asks valid questions about the party which did indeed take place, instead of the alleged rape.

    As for the the other link, it is a marvelous catalog of all the various vectors of wrong that surrounded that ugly moment. I haven’t had time to read the entire article yet, but I do know the quote you pulled out is truly frightening, and a terrible indictment of how people in our media landscape (left or right) think about what they do.

  51. 51
    r€nato says:

    @Brachiator:

    Rev Jeremiah Wright expose himself as the black analog to von Brunn as he spouts noxious crap about Jews who are keeping him away from Obama. Wright is as disconnected from reality as any wingnut conservative.

    Let me know when Rev. Wright gets a radio or TV show which has an audience of millions, and when Democratic pols are forced to grovel in apology to him when they dare to criticize him.

  52. 52
    Tim Fuller says:

    As a fantasy member of the commune I can assure you that the batteries on our solar radio will not go dead. We don’t rely just on solar. Worst possible scenario has Bjork riding the stationary bike powering the generator long enough for the rest of us to enjoy the finale of “I’m a Celebrity…Get me Out of Here” on the big plasma screen in the meditation lobby. We are hippies, not heathens for chrissakes.

    Enjoy.

  53. 53
    blogenfreude says:

    Religion is belief in the absence of evidence. Religion explains conservatives, the GOP, and the last few Republican administrations. They see things that aren’t there, much as von Brunn did. Like the WMD. Weren’t there. Like the homosexual agenda. Isn’t there. And they similarly can ignore things that are there: global warming, the costs of their wars, and the will of the citizenry, to name a few.

  54. 54
    The Saff says:

    But the fact that Peter Orszag, a freaking budget director, is a rock star to many on the left tells you all you need to know.

    Well, intelligence is incredibly attractive. And after eight years of moron-ity, it’s liberating to have a White House staffed with people who, you know, actually know things. I personally love when Obama gets professorial during a speech or town hall meeting. He explains things without being condescending. The fact that he is attractive is only icing on the cake.

  55. 55
    flounder says:

    Conservatism is extrapolated from an imaginary past.
    The “Leave it to Beaver” past that conservatives envision was in itself extrapolated from an imaginary reading of the Roaring 1920’s and Great Depression, which was extrapolated from an imaginary reading of the Jim Crow era, and so on.
    It is not surprising that a doctrine propped up on one imaginary take on U.S. history after the other looks increasingly less like reality.
    As a result, you get Conservatives taking some simpleton thought experiment by Laffer on how the “law of diminishing returns” works and basing an entire economic theory upon it in which every tax cut ever both stifles government’s ability to “limit freedom” and simultaneously bulges the government coffers.
    While a normal person looks at this and furrows their brow, conservatives are out patting themselves on the back for discovering the political equivalent of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

  56. 56
    Jay C says:

    Weird, really – when I was becoming politically aware – in the 1960s – the CW about relative levels of “realism” along the political spectrum were pretty much the reverse of what they are today. It was generally accepted that the conservatives were the “realistic” ones, concerned mainly with policy effects, fundamental principles, practical politics, etc.; while the “Left”, broadly defined, were the “idealists”, mainly ideologically “pure”, and more interested in promulgating (typically via public “actions”) utopian fantasies than in the nuts-and-bolts of governance. Now it seems to be the other way around.

  57. 57
    shep says:

    Read this. It’s a bit of reading but it really does explain everything: the fealty to disreputable leaders, the hate-speech, the rejection of reality, everything.

  58. 58
    Comrade Dread says:

    My question is: is there anything inherent in whatever conservatism is supposed to be that makes it less interested in reality?

    Not really.

    Here’s my theory…

    Way back, once upon a time, you had genuine conservative thinkers. They could form coherent thoughts and string these thoughts together to form an actual philosophy and use that philosophy to create a framework of ideas on how to govern a country that would maximize freedom and minimize government’s interference in our lives.

    And they were largely ignored. Let’s face it, they were boring. Detailed policy ideas are boring. They don’t sell books, they don’t get ratings, and they rarely get you a lot of fame, money, and popularity, because people don’t want to hear you drone on about what a 3% increase in the marginal rates on the upper 2% of Americans would really mean for revenues or the economy. (You see? You’re probably bored already.)

    No, people want to hear about secret Communist conspiracies to take over America. They want to hear about how commies have infiltrated our enemy’s party and how liberals want to take your guns, nationalize industry, and send you off to our Siberian Gulag equivalent. People want to hear that they are part of an epic struggle between the forces of all that is good in America and all that is evil.

    That sells books. That gets ratings. Let the liberals drone on about freezing carbon emissions and temperature increase of 4 degrees over 100 years. We could try and engage them with our own arguments over why we think this is bunk and have a rational debate where both sides present their case to the American people (and you see, you’re starting to nod off again), or we could mock them because the weather this morning is really chilly and get some laughs because aren’t those liberals silly with their science when common sense tells us it’s getting cooler?

    You see, the Republicans embraced a form of lowest common denominator populism when it came to their media.

    Liberals try and do this every now and again, but they’re not nearly as good at it, because it is rather hard to cast “wanting to raise the marginal income tax rate on the upper 2% of America by 3%” as part of the front in the epic fight between good and evil” while “Fighting for your God given constitutional right to carry a Bazooka that the evil liberals want to deny you” fits much more nicely in the new meme.

    And lo, you have an entire class of Republican media whores making a crapload of money by whipping up the masses with LCD drivel rather than trying to engage them with ideas, a party that made a compromise with the devils in exchange for their help to get out the base’s vote, and a lot of people who get their political education from Republican media whores.

  59. 59
    Chrynoble says:

    I have a theory that any party/group/movement in power for too long starts to take for granted the ability to get stuff done. As getting the reality based stuff starts to become a given they focus on the ideals, and philosophy stuff more.

    The more they focus on that stuff the more dedicated they get to a “pure” form of those ideas. The idea that marriage was restrictive and didn’t support womens rights leading into the free-love excesses is one example.

    The people start voting for a party because they sense their is a need for change. The keep voting for it because at first it is effective in delivering that change, the vote long after that because of habit and because the party is successful at replacing actual values with party loyalty. Then suddenly the people realize that the sane rational works of the party of their youth is now spouting crazy like a tea pot left to long on the burner.

    Right now the right wing is full of the crazies and they are on the outs because of that for sure. I bet if you look back you will see the left being full tilt at times too.

    Thus I don’t think it is inherent in liberalism, or conservatism to focus on reality or philosophical fantasy, but rather the effects of being too long in or out of power.

  60. 60
    Woody says:

    I sometimes (often, really) think it too bad the anti-war/ant-corpoRat/anti-polluter lobby isn’t as rabid and as organized as the Anti-Choicers are.

  61. 61
    slag says:

    @ChrisZ:

    What this means, is that the Right doesn’t need to look at reality to make its arguments. I think that actually is the bulk of the appeal of conservatism. You don’t have to do any hard analysis to make decisions, you can armchair it the whole way because it’s all based on you own idea of individual rights, or morality (Free Market + Bible). The Left, on the other hand, more often argues based on expected consequences, and that requires actually looking at the real world.

    This point definitely coincides with my own observations, up to a point. And it is certainly bolstered by the right’s condemnation of the left as being “relativistic”. But implicit in this notion is that the left is largely pragmatic at the expense of principle. Which doesn’t explain the left’s staunch opposition to civil liberties violations and torture. On those grounds, many of us on the left might actually be seen as quite conservative (using the distinctions made in this argument). For instance, the innovations that Obama is proposing for our judicial system are viewed with significant distrust by the left, which wouldn’t necessarily be the case if we were mostly defined by relativist pragmatism. So, I think there’s something more to it that indicates that the distinctions between left and right are either more arbitrary or more complex (depending on one’s level of interest in pursuing the subject matter).

  62. 62
    Deborah says:

    I go with historical accident.

    In terms of practicing violence, the SDS in the 60s was leftist, and the anarchists of the turn of the last century (e.g. the assassin of McKinley) were leftist. Right now our domestic terror appears to be overwhelmingly rightist, whether Von Brunn or the guy who attacked the army center a few weeks ago–radical Islam is far right too, after all.

    In terms of the press on one side ginning up violence, I think that’s been right wing in the past few decades, though certainly the anarchists had their newspapers. I’d posit that the left being vaguely “power to more people” and the right being vaguely “the people who have power now deserve it,” the extreme press of the right is going to be the side calling for vigilante attacks–the country is going to hell in a handbasket because those radical extremists want to change things and our elected officials are supine, and when will people stop talking and start taking action?!!? = terror by follower of right wing journalism.

  63. 63
    ChrisS says:

    Rev. Wright, a small time city pastor with a limited audience in Chicago and no TV network vs. :

    Rick Warren
    Jerry Falwell
    Pat Robertson
    Joe Scarborough
    Rush Limbaugh
    Newt Gingrich
    Glenn Beck
    Bill O’Reilly
    Michele Malkin
    Debbie Schlussel
    Jonah Goldberg
    Ann Coulter
    Tucker Carlson
    Lou Dobbs

    and probably dozens more that I’m unfamiliar with.

    Charitably considered left:
    Rachel Maddow
    Keith Olbermann
    Jon Stewart

    A journalist, a sportscaster, and a comedian.

  64. 64
    Jay B. says:

    I don’t think this necessarily has much to do with any kind of philosophical differences; I wasn’t around in the 60s but it seems to me there were certainly violent, anti-government groups that would qualify as left-wing back then (the Weathermen, for example). For whatever reason, liberalism in this country gradually coalesced around mostly prosaic, concrete issues, like health care, progressive taxation, a more diplomatic foreign policy, and so on.

    DougJ,

    Liberalism has always been one thing and “The Left” another. Some of their goals overlap (but certainly not all), but the means to achieve them are completely different. Liberals were loathed by the New Left and vice versa. The internecine arguing between the Nader Left and the Liberals since 2000 was a pale reflection of the fights of the 1960s, which were spectacularly captured in Chicago, 1968.

    And both sides in that fight were right about different things and wrong about different things. Their mutual distrust and loathing led directly to Nixon.

    Also, the fights between different factions of the New Left further were about the use of violence v. non-violence. The Weathermen faction that branched off of SDS is the prime example.

    But liberalism as you describe it didn’t ‘gradually’ coalesce, it’s pretty much been exactly as you describe it since Roosevelt. Prosaic, obsessed with finding a middle ground, respectful of the market but not enthralled by its infallibility, activist government, but diplomatically inclined, etc.

    On the left, liberalism won the fight.

    On the right, however, it seems inescapable that the pragmatic faction of conservatism (think James Baker, Scowcroft, Powell) is dead and discredited by the dominant faction of the party.

  65. 65
    slag says:

    @Jay C: I would argue that the majority of the media (yes, I’m blaming) still regards and portrays conservatism as being based in realism. Especially as it concerns economic–and even foreign policy!!–matters. So, I think those old daddy-mommy tropes are still deeply embedded in our institutions when it comes to caricaturing right-left distinctions. But after the last 8 years, I’m thinking that, as far as the American people are concerned at least, actions are finally starting to speak louder than words. I hope!

  66. 66
    The Other Steve says:

    @Evinfuilt:

    But outside of all the attention PETA gets in national media (Bill Maher) they don’t have as active a propaganda group, they have a lot less calls for violence. They’re more isolated, and thankfully that keeps them out of the news. Once we get someone from these groups on national television nightly, then we’re in trouble.

    I saw some of them activists on Fringe and they got turned into a man killing snake insect thing. That alone will probably warn them away from violence!

  67. 67
    Tom Hilton says:

    I think he’s got it about right—left-wing media, to the extent that it exists in this country, just isn’t set up to incite violence.

    And even if they were, liberals don’t have as many guns. The thing that makes inflammatory speech from the right inherently more dangerous than any (hypothetical) comparable speech from the left is that on the right, there are lots and lots of people with the hardware to translate that speech into violent action.

  68. 68
    El Cid says:

    As a member of the extreme, ultra-fringe left, it’s my view that there simply is no sizeable extreme left on political measures.

    There are a few groups vaguely associated with ‘the left’ who are willing to use violent and semi-violent methods, such as arson or vandalism.

    But I’ve had 30 years of this bullshit where the extreme right is the mainstream and tepid liberalism (i.e., Nancy Pelosi) is treated as hair-on-fire shrieking extreme left.

  69. 69
    Brachiator says:

    @The Grand Panjandrum:

    Whoa! When Wright shows up at the Fed armed to the teeth in order to make a citizens arrest of Ben Bernanke you might have a point. But conflating what Wright said with what von Brunn did is just plain horseshit. Sure Wright is disconnected from reality and he knows he can get an audience by saying crazy shit. So what? That puts him on pretty dicey footing with his anit-semitic words but that doesn’t mean he is a fucking terrorist.

    Stop being naive. Let’s look at what Wright said:

    Asked if he had spoken to the president, Wright said: “Them Jews aren’t going to let him talk to me. I told my baby daughter, that he’ll talk to me in five years when he’s a lame duck, or in eight years when he’s out of office…”

    I am not conflating what Wright said with what von Brunn did. But Wright’s noxious anti-semitism, that “Jews control Negroes,” is exactly the same as sentiments expressed by von Brunn.

    Wright is not just trying to get an audience. He’s already got an audience. He is connecting with the crazy ass anti-semitism that has floated in some leftist circles, and in the lunatic fringe of some black revolutionary groups for decades.

    Obama and Hillary were both subjected to some pretty vile shit from within the Democratic membership. I recall some disgusting sexist comments made toward Clinton during the primary season. Some of it right here in this very commentariat. And of course the race-baiting from the other camp was just as vile.

    For the sake of accuracy, I note that the Clinton campaign and some Clinton supporters were responsible for racist bilge directed at Obama. Very little sexist crap came from Obama or Obama supporters. I hate false equivalencies.

    r€nato — Let me know when Rev. Wright gets a radio or TV show which has an audience of millions, and when Democratic pols are forced to grovel in apology to him when they dare to criticize him.

    You have got to be kidding me. Von Brunn didn’t have a radio or tv show, and he killed a good man, security guard Stephen T. Johns. And he didn’t need Rush to whip him up. He was contributing to hate message boards and groups for years before he finally decided to commit murder.

    Rush and company have dangerously intersected with hate groups. But they neither created nor can control them.

    And the last time I checked, Rev Wright had a large church congregation and quite an audience for his recorded sermons.

    gbear – They know what they’re doing. They’re paid too much to care.

    Let’s see. Debbie Schlussel is Jewish. According to Wiki, her maternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors. Her rhetoric is clearly unhinged. But had von Brunn murdered more people at the Holocaust Museum, had murdered, example, Jewish children, do you think that Schlussel really would be saying to herself, “at least I got paid.”

    Maybe we should all just chill the fuck out. Obama’s got this…

    We have to help Obama continue to keep it.

  70. 70
    ChrisZ says:

    @slag

    This point definitely coincides with my own observations, up to a point. And it is certainly bolstered by the right’s condemnation of the left as being “relativistic”. But implicit in this notion is that the left is largely pragmatic at the expense of principle. Which doesn’t explain the left’s staunch opposition to civil liberties violations and torture. On those grounds, many of us on the left might actually be seen as quite conservative (using the distinctions made in this argument). For instance, the innovations that Obama is proposing for our judicial system are viewed with significant distrust by the left, which wouldn’t necessarily be the case if we were mostly defined by relativist pragmatism. So, I think there’s something more to it that indicates that the distinctions between left and right are either more arbitrary or more complex (depending on one’s level of interest in pursuing the subject matter).

    I thought about this point when I was writing my original post and ultimately decided that it wasn’t too important for a couple of reasons.

    The first, is that I don’t think it distinguishes the Left from the Right. When it comes to Gay rights, both sides are arguing from ideology. The torture issue, I think, makes my point as well. Although I agree that the most common complaint from the Left was that torture is inherently wrong and so should not be done, the Right spent most of their time arguing that “it’s not technically torture.” They weren’t arguing based on results (although, since torture doesn’t get good results this is probably a good move), they argued based on whether or not it’s torture or on some ridiculous hypothetical situation for which they also don’t have to leave their chair.

    The second reason, is that it’s very rare. I really don’t reality based arguments from right-wingers very often. Their stance on abortion, torture, gay rights, affirmative action, taxation, health care, government bail-outs, etc. all seem to me to be ideologically based. I haven’t done a quantitative analysis of that hypothesis, so you’re free to disagree, but that is how it seems to me.

    Last, I’ll just say that I wasn’t claiming that my rule works in every case. There will be counterexamples on both sides, but I felt the rule worked well enough.

  71. 71
    ChrisS says:

    though certainly the anarchists had their newspapers

    I would say that TV and, to a lesser extent, radio are much more influential than newspapers. And the dispersion of xenophobic racism and fantasy news is made so much easier.

    Left wing radio doesn’t work because

    A couple of points from Host, a fabulous essay by the late, great David Foster Wallace (Atlantic Monthly, April 2005) :

    Naturally, in order to be even minimally interesting, your remarks should be intelligible and their reasoning sequential—a listener will have to be able to follow the logic of what you’re saying—which means that you will have to know enough about your topic to organize your statements in a coherent way. (But you cannot do much of this organizing beforehand; it has to occur at the same time you’re speaking.) Plus, ideally, what you’re saying should be not just comprehensible and interesting but compelling, stimulating, which means that your remarks have to provoke and sustain some kind of emotional reaction in the listeners …

    And

    Notwithstanding all sorts of interesting other explanations, the single biggest reason why left-wing talk-radio experiments like Air America or the Ed Schultz program are not likely to succeed, at least not on a national level, is that their potential audience is just not dissatisfied enough with today’s mainstream news sources to feel that it has to patronize a special type of media to get the unbiased truth.

    So, Rightwing propagandaists construct a simple, easy to understand alternate reality (e.g., Welfare is unnecessary; they’re stealing your money), which fits in well with quick-fire talking heads, and then hammer on it to receptive people who think that this view is unrepresented in the media. Rinse, and repeat.

  72. 72
    blogenfreude says:

    If it hasn’t been pointed out:

    The Left (eg PETA, Earth First) = property damage.
    The Right (eg von Brunn, Adkisson) = dead people.

  73. 73
    Aaron says:

    What is a Progressive?
    A: One who tries to implement Progressive policies.
    What is a Liberal?
    A: One who employs the liberal analysis on policies-the liberal analysis is to analyze a policy as if new. To start from scratch and come up with a reason and science and common sense.
    What is a Conservative?
    I think that NR quote sums it up: ‘to stand astride the flow of history and say ‘enough’.’
    What is a Republican?
    a lying scumbag.

  74. 74
    Shygetz says:

    Questions of this nature always seem to boil down to differences in the definition of “conservative”, which eventually reaches Sullivan-esque heights where anyone not currently fomenting a violent overthrow of the government is a “conservative”.

    If DougJ had replaced “conservative” with the more-easily-defined yet equally accurate description “reactionary”, then the question becomes simple to answer–reactionaries are not interested in current reality or realistic future projections, as they are entangled in a nostalgic drive to recreate a past (often one which never really existed) in which they held privilege unchallenged.

    Oh, and @Brachiator: You think Wright already has an audience? Then tell me what he said the day BEFORE his anti-Semitic comments. Wright was trying to get the spotlight again, and he said some awful stupid things to do it. But he’s not in the same ballpark as von Brunn…hell, he’s not even playing the same f*cking game.

  75. 75
    Mike G says:

    Since the principles by conservatives would govern do not work, they’re left with nothing but rhetoric.

    Libs would generally see that their policies aren’t working and change them. ‘Conservatives’ of the recent Repig stripe are so personally invested in the neurotic construct of their own perfection and infallibility that they respond by denying that they could ever be wrong, fear and hate and attack anyone who points out faults, and retreat into a Manichean fantasy world of nationalism and hypermasculinity. It’s a stage most of us grow out of on elementary school playgrounds.

    Jeremiah Wright…blahblahblah….Black Panthers…

    OK, show me a major radio or TV talk show host who support and promote them, other than for shock/outrage value.

  76. 76
    buggy ding dong says:

    The main reason is that right wing violence has always been tolerated in this country and left-wing violence has led to crackdowns.

  77. 77
    sugarfree says:

    There are crazy people on both sides so citing Wright or PETA or whomever doesn’t prove anything.

    The issue is that conservatives have given their crazies their biggest megaphone, the keys to the car, a trunk load of ammunition and a wink and a nod.

    But oh, there’s some completely marginalized leftist-wacko who did something crazy so it’s totally equivalent.

  78. 78
    JGabriel says:

    Brachiator:

    Liberals, progressives, whatever term you want to use, need to let go of the fantasy that they are especially plugged into “reality,” that they are somehow immune from teh stoopid.

    “Morans.” “Teabagging.” “Mission Accomplished.” “Is our children learning?” And so on.

    You may well be correct, but you must admit that Republicans/Conservatives make it very difficult.

    .

  79. 79
    slag says:

    @ChrisS:

    their potential audience is just not dissatisfied enough with today’s mainstream news sources to feel that it has to patronize a special type of media to get the unbiased truth.

    As someone who is extremely dissatisfied with today’s mainstream news sources, I beg to differ. And TPM, TAP, Harper’s, and other outlets would probably agree with me. But there is one incredibly important caveat: I don’t know any liberal who ever believes that anyone is giving them “the unbiased truth”. That’s unpossible. But what I think we do hope for from our media is more in-depth contextualizing and less reliance on intellectually dishonest spin. That’s where Faux News’ sloganeering succeeded (in their Orwellian way), and it’s something that interests lefties as well.

  80. 80
    Adam says:

    This is a viewed I’ve held for a long time. In many senses, conservatives/republicans are much more idealistic than liberals/democrats. If you look at any issue, conservatives generally take the “in a perfect world” side. As in, in a perfect world, women would not get abortions b/c they wouldn’t need them; in a perfect world people would be responsible and sane with their firearms and gun control laws wold be unnecessary; in a perfect world, the market would regulate itself and government leave it alone, etc. It’s a challenge to find any important modern issue where the right takes the practical/realist/pragmatic line. Which is funny since they still for some reason seem to think of themselves as the party of grownups.

    I think this is largely a cultural moment thing vs. something built in to the philosophies. There was a time when conservatism, broadly speaking, was the philosophy of governance and modern liberalism, in its nascent phase, was the airy-fairy domain of dreamers. But, contrary to popular pundit opinion, the country has in many ways moved left over the years, which has left conservatism beached on an island of rhetoric and “big ideas.”

  81. 81
    jibeaux says:

    @blogenfreude:

    Earth First, at least in the past and I haven’t read much about them lately, has not been adverse to tactics which result in injuries to people, e.g. spiking trees, although it is not their goal to injure people.

  82. 82
    AhabTRuler says:

    @buggy ding dong: To be fair, Hoover did knock the shit out of the KKK. Same way, too. Infiltrations, agents provocateurs, entrapment, illegal surveillance, &c. Old tricks are the best tricks.

    ‘to stand astride athwart the flow of history and say ‘enough’

    [/pedant]

  83. 83
    TenguPhule says:

    Gene Weingarten is a giant fucking rightwing tool

    Fixed.

  84. 84
    blogenfreude says:

    @jibeaux: I had forgotten about that. Still, no body count that I know of … anybody knows different, plz advise.

  85. 85
    Death By Mosquito Truck says:

    Left-wing media doesn’t need to incite killings. If we need someone erased, big gummint can do it.

  86. 86
    Woody says:

    blogenfreude
    If it hasn’t been pointed out:
    The Left (eg PETA, Earth First) = property damage.
    The Right (eg von Brunn, Adkisson) = dead people./blockquote>

    Yup.

    No action by ELF/ALF/PETA etc has led to the death of anyone. They are tough on ‘property,’ agreed. But only in monarchies is an attack on the property of the king the same as an attack on the monarch, per se.

    Of course, attacks on property are attacks on the underlying assertions of the elite, and are therefore prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the ‘law.’

  87. 87
    Hob says:

    @Jim Pharo: Just because the Weathermen were right about the Vietnam War doesn’t mean that they weren’t destructive assholes, or that their use of violence really made any kind of coherent point.

    Their biggest action in their pre-underground phase, the Days of Rage, was a plain old riot, with no more thinking or message behind it than “the war is wrong, so we’re going to fuck shit up and scare y’all like you should be scared”. Read the part about Jeff Jones proclaiming “I am Marion Delgado”, then read what that was about and wonder how far up one’s own ass one would have to be to think that’s a revolutionary statement.

    Once they went underground and started planting bombs, you could argue that their attacks were more politically focused — if you leave out the botched nail bomb they blew themselves up with in Greenwich Village. I know some people still argue that the plot to blow up off-duty soldiers at Fort Dix was bullshit, but I don’t see how that kind of bomb could’ve been meant for anything other than murder.

  88. 88
    DanF says:

    This is an interesting read on authoritarian personalities (PDF):

    http://members.shaw.ca/jeanalt....._links.pdf

    Here’s the shorter, wikipedia version:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.....itarianism

  89. 89
    gwangung says:

    @AhabTRuler: I’ve never had problems with government surveillance of groups per se. A lot of people SAY they’re peaceful and non-violent and turn out not to be that way in the end. And dropping in on meetings to figure out that they mean what they say isn’t that objectionable.

    It’s staying there far beyond that which is objectionable to me. When there isn’t evidence of criminal actors or of conspiracy, you’re wasting time with surveillance. Move on and use the time more fruitfully.

  90. 90
    WereBear says:

    I once heard it explained something like this:

    Liberals believe that people are inherently good and society should be structured to maximize their opportunities towards goodness.

    Conservatives believe that people are inherently bad and society should be structured to minimize their opportunities towards badness.

    I still like it because it covers so much ground. Liberals like to come up with ways to get masses of people education, health care, food, and other basics so that they can contribute to society. Based on the fact that liberals think people want to contribute to society, if they have a chance.

    While conservatives think that without laws and harsh punishments against each and every thing they don’t like, people will lie around and eat Cheetos all day.

    Though I don’t know where they get that idea from…

    (Durn this commenting system! Durn it to heck!)

  91. 91
    ChrisZ says:

    @shep

    Read this. It’s a bit of reading but it really does explain everything: the fealty to disreputable leaders, the hate-speech, the rejection of reality, everything.

    Really interesting read! I’ve only gotten through a bit of it so far (I am technically at work), but it looks very promising, and is engagingly written. Thanks for the link!

  92. 92
    AhabTRuler says:

    @blogenfreude: With a cursory inspection, the only reliably documented injury was caused by a pike placed by a right-wing survivalist. On its face, when someone spikes a tree, they are trying to prevent the tree from being harvested, so it behooves them to announce, publicize, and mark such trees. Of all the documentation I examined (including a textbook), the potential of injuries is cited more than actual evidence.

  93. 93
    KG says:

    My take is this: the conservative movement took the easy road by tying in with southern populists who weren’t really populists so much as being confederate sympathizers. That was problem one (and not unique to the conservative movement lately, Democrats also did this in much of the 20th century). Problem number two was by signing up with the aforementioned southern populists was buying into the know-nothingism of the same crowd. Problem number three was a failure of philosophy (again, related, for obvious reasons, to the first two issues) in that they bought into Locke (man being inherently good) without considering Hobbes (short, cruel, and brutish). The last problem is just basic politics: they forgot to restock their bench, so when the A-listers retired, they didn’t have anyone who could articulate (or formulate) ideas. Say what you will about Gingrich, but he could at least formulate and articulate ideas (granted, his batting average won’t get him into the Hall of Fame, but at least he could provide something).

  94. 94
    DanF says:

    @shep:

    Doh! Shep beat me to it!

  95. 95
    gbear says:

    Let’s see. Debbie Schlussel is Jewish. According to Wiki, her maternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors. Her rhetoric is clearly unhinged. But had von Brunn murdered more people at the Holocaust Museum, had murdered, example, Jewish children, do you think that Schlussel really would be saying to herself, “at least I got paid.”

    She wouldn’t have changed a thing she did other than to show more ‘concern’. She’d still be sitting in her throne reinventing the killer’s background in a way to best maintain her status quo. There’s no ‘Whoa! Wait a minute’ to be found with her (or any of them except maybe Shepard Smith). Keep moving.

  96. 96
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    My question is: is there anything inherent in whatever conservatism is supposed to be that makes it less interested in reality? Anything in liberalism that makes it more interested in reality? Or is this all a historical accident? And is there a big political disadvantage to focusing on governing as opposed to pontificating?

    I vote historical accident. I agree that the conflict is between hard-nosed realists and pie-in-the-sky idealists, and right now the idealists are the ones identifying as conservatives, but that hasn’t always been the case. Nixon may have been an evil son of a bitch, but he was also a realist; he got shit done with whatever tools he had available.

    Personally, I blame Reagan for the current state of affairs. After all, he proved that deficits don’t matter; he did much the same for critical thinking.

  97. 97
    MBunge says:

    While you can find violence in any extreme, the reason why we don’t hear or see liberals in the media whipping up violent emotions and irrational frenzies the way conservatives do is machismo. Conservative intellectuals tend to fetishize it. Liberal intellectuals tend to be alienated from it.

    Mike

  98. 98

    I think the difference is entirely or almost entirely due to “who owns the media, and how do they make money?”

    Conservatives own the media. They make money by exciting emotion.

    I’d love to think it’s due to intrinsic factors, but I think it’s really all about what makes money. Then it becomes a positive feedback loop, where easily-swayed people get more ginned up by conservative media than by boring liberal media, so conservative media focuses more and more on attracting the easily-swayed and ginning them up some more.

  99. 99
    mcc says:

    That’s not to say there aren’t plenty on the left focusing on crazy stuff like vaccination conspiracies.

    Well but I mean… that’s part of the thing. When these things spring up on the left, the left pushes back. I mean, what are the “crazy” pools on the left– antivaxers, 9/11 deniers. Consider what happens when either of these things go to DailyKos, which is about as partisan and raging a political entity as you’ll find. It takes me only a few seconds with the search function to find DailyKos trashing antivaxers in front page articles, and as for 9/11 deniers they’re simply outright banned from even the user diaries section. (And although I don’t/haven’t read the site enough to know, as far as I’ve heard the banning policy also errs on the side of purging anti-Israeli commentary that appears– Wright-style– to be using “zionist” as a code word for something else.) And this is on a site where basically all the editorial ideas are too extreme left for mainstream Democrats! In this one example at least there is an intentional attempt to manage the community in such a way as to keep it “reality-based”. They would rather have a smaller community than they would have a community where antivaxers and racists and those who pretend mass murder did not occur can appear to be speaking for the community.

    It wouldn’t be that hard for the noteworthy voices on the right to draw a similar clear division between themselves and the guys running around shooting people. It wouldn’t be that hard to, for example, condemn shootings of abortion doctors without an undercurrent of “…but he had it coming”– or avoid a situation where you have to condemn shootings of abortion doctors while simultaneously praising every sort of personal harassment and interference toward abortion doctors short of pulling that trigger. It wouldn’t be that hard to position yourself such that it really is clear that you not only condemn Von Braun’s murders at the holocaust museum, but you also disagree with his view of the United States as being embroiled in a race war wherein minorities lead by Obama are about to take away your guns. The visible voices on the right have not availed themselves of these opportunities. Instead they’ve tried to create a big tent where madness isn’t argued against, but rather pandered to– effort is taken to make the crazy comfortable enough that it’ll continue to vote for you, and the difference between “moderate” and “extreme” gradually becomes a matter not of what is believed, but whether you state what you believe outright or use moderated code words. This is the coalition the right has tried to base their power on, and now they’re shocked and bothered that “but I don’t really agree with that” is not sufficient to avoid being judged on the actions of people whose votes that one way or another they actively court.

    One note: You might actually be able to sum up everything I’ve said above, and possibly answer Weingarten’s question, with the sentence “The left is not as unified as the right”. For once, this is seeming to me like a good thing for the left.

  100. 100
    DanF says:

    @mcc:

    “[…] effort is taken to make the crazy comfortable enough that it’ll continue to vote for you, and the difference between “moderate” and “extreme” gradually becomes a matter not of what is believed, but whether you state what you believe outright or use moderated code words.”

    There’s a lot to this. What would the GOP’s electoral prospects be without dog whistles?

  101. 101
    aimai says:

    Maybe someone said this 100 comments ago but there is a real and significant difference between social movements founded on tolerance, love, respect and with an objective of increasing individual freedom and those founded on the opposite principles and which require the limitation of individual freedoms in order flourish. I don’t say that because I’m a liberal and I think liberalsssssssssssssssss are nice. I say that because I think liberalism argues, in general, for increasing the social and legal space allotted for individual choice over and against the state, the family, or other coercive institutions. Its hard to bomb tht into existence. Its hard to assasinate people into more freedom.

    The rights the right is agitating for are rights of control–they want to limit men and women’s right to choose how to live. Its fatally easy to target individual people as a lesson to the others–to target women who leave the family, or women who want abortions, or men who help them, or blacks trying to desegregate schools.

    aimai

  102. 102
    WereBear says:

    Excellent point, aimai. Progressive thinking is about opportunities, while conservative thinking tends toward coercion…. which requires much more pressure.

  103. 103
    Fulcanelli says:

    @El Cid:

    As a member of the extreme, ultra-fringe left, it’s my view that there simply is no sizeable extreme left on political measures. There are a few groups vaguely associated with ‘the left’ who are willing to use violent and semi-violent methods, such as arson or vandalism. But I’ve had 30 years of this bullshit where the extreme right is the mainstream and tepid liberalism (i.e., Nancy Pelosi) is treated as hair-on-fire shrieking extreme left

    Amen, this.

  104. 104
    Doug says:

    Conservatives have beautiful theories and philosophies that never conform with reality. By beautiful, I mean they are simple, neat and well-ordered. This is rather different from reality, which is messy, chaotic and full of lots of people who work against their own long-term self interest.

    So reality-avoidance becomes necessary for conservatives if they wish to maintain their philosophy and self-identity. I have seen my own conservative father suddenly exit the room mid-argument when I brought up facts which he did not wish to hear.

  105. 105
    jrosen says:

    Xanthippas:

    “Just off the top of my head, I’m not really sure why that is, though some historical research could probably answer that question.”

    As someone who began on the then far-left (I am a Red Diaper baby, i. e. a child of old-left CPUSA’ers) and lived as an aware adult through the chaotic 60’s, I can suggest a few things.

    The Old Left, both the Communists who idealized (and ideologued) the USSR — my 95-year-old mother still does — and Socialists who hated it, were guided by ideology, basically Marxist, however convoluted and the interpretations (and rationalizations) became. (Indeed, that many of their best thinkers and writers came from a Jewish background might account for the Talmudic complexity of the arguments that raged). But reality marginalized them at best, and really injured some of them — my family went through the Mccarthy treatment when I was in my teens and although we came out OK, there are still some scars that throb when the political weather gets threatening. And then: the Secret Speech, the Hungarian and E. German uprisings (which did it for me), put serious doubts in play and, lo and behold, the most successful progressive movement of the century, the civil rights movement, came out of the Black Christian Churches, confounding some of the most deeply held ideological positions of the old Left.

    Add to that the total ’60s confusion of positions according to old schemes: the Vietnam War, which became the focus of so much anguish and desperation was escalated by Democrats (until Nixon). LBJ launched that war and the “War on Poverty” almost in the same breath, while supporting the civil rights movement with practical action (exploiting the death of JFK for the purpose!). JFK himself campaigned as an anti-Communist Cold warrior and initiated the Test-Ban Treaty, and seemed to be moving left when he was gunned down, by a self-styled man of the Left (yes, I do think, after decades of consideration, that Oswald was a lone gunman). I watched some old friends move from the traditional right (Ike-like) into SDS when it was mildly progressive and then farther and farther left into the insanity that ended with Kent State and the “Days of Rage” (I helped to start at least one of Weathermen on his trajectory. And some of the internecine bickering of the New Left was almost a caricature of the polemics that raged in the ’30s, as if the radicals were trying to re-enact the whole experience, complete with pathetical calls for armed revolution — Trotsky at the Smolny Institute was a favorite trope — while the ones who used clubs were hard-hatted men of the working class, on them!)

    Surveying this fiasco from a distance, it seems clear that an ideology that was born in a very different time and place was inappropriate (that’s polite!) to the problems of our day. And it is easy to see how the best of intentions can result in the worst of outcomes when human beings try to coerce reality — here the Orwell text is “Animal Farm” — into an ideologically predetermined cast. Thus caution, pragmatism, incrementalism seem better suited to deal with real difficulties then grand prescriptions.

    Today’s Right might take note, if they cared about reality at all. But it’s a lot more fun to hold extreme positions when you know somehow that there isn’t a chance they will ever be realized. Until the nuts start shooting, of course.

  106. 106
    Mike from DC says:

    I believe that part of the reason for right wing violence today is that political/ideological movements turn to violence when they become desperate. In the late 60s, liberal dominance was on the wane, and the radical wing began to turn to violence when they saw that their agenda (especially peace in Vietnam) becoming less and less likely to be enacted.

    I think the right is in a similar position right now. They sense, although most can’t or won’t articulate it, that their moment is over, and it won’t come again for awhile. So, as they see their goals become increasingly less likely to be attained, their desperation increases.

    The irony, of course, is that when a movement turns to violence, it tends to lose popularity in a hurry. They’ll eventually hit bottom and start rebuilding the movement.

    A caveat: I’m not trying to imply that the bush admin was racist or supported white supremacy. Just that, from a white supremacist’s eyes, society would not become more diverse under a conservative administration.

  107. 107
    Xanthippas says:

    @jrosen:

    Surveying this fiasco from a distance, it seems clear that an ideology that was born in a very different time and place was inappropriate (that’s polite!) to the problems of our day. And it is easy to see how the best of intentions can result in the worst of outcomes when human beings try to coerce reality—- here the Orwell text is “Animal Farm”—- into an ideologically predetermined cast. Thus caution, pragmatism, incrementalism seem better suited to deal with real difficulties then grand prescriptions.

    I wonder how long it will take the right to come to a similar conclusion?

  108. 108
    Nick says:

    GOD. What are the attributes of God, as believed by conservatives versus liberals?

    Conservatives believe in the Old Testament God–vengeful, allows angry Arabs to fly planes into WTC because of gays marriage and abortion. That’s God 1.0.

    Liberals, at most, believe in a New Testament God (2.0). This is a benign God–Christian reciprocity, karma–keep in the flow of life (Tao) and there will be less suffering.

    Which more closely resembles reality? From my perspective, belief in accepting life as it is, without imputing active qualities like vengeance and blessings to God, is a more realistic worldview. And it’s the liberal worldview.

    I also think recent studies show conservatives psychologically are authoritarian, and thus an authoritarian, Old Testament God is more comfortable to them psychologically. But it’s not real.

  109. 109
    bey says:

    @TenguPhule

    You should probably read more Weingarten. Gene’s not a right-wing tool by any strech of the imagination.

  110. 110
    Nick says:

    Look at the explanations for the WTC attacks:

    From the right, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson–God removed his protection from America because we sinned by allowing abortion and gay marriage and too much fucking in general; Bush–evil doers abound!; “D’Souza contends that the cultural left is responsible for 9/11 in two ways. They fostered “a decadent and depraved American culture that angers and repulses other societies — especially traditional and religious ones — and by promoting, at home and abroad, an anti-American attitude that blames America for all the problems of the world.”

    From the left, the attacks were blowback for American foreign policy (Chalmers Johnson)

    Which explanation seems more grounded in the way people really behave?

  111. 111
    KRK says:

    My question is: is there anything inherent in whatever conservatism is supposed to be that makes it less interested in reality? Anything in liberalism that makes it more interested in reality? Or is this all a historical accident?

    The current proclivities of conservatives and liberals in the US are a product of this particular time in history. Certainly conservatives can be pragmatic and liberals can be hypertheoretical. And I don’t agree that it has anything to do with the relative level of intelligence, education, or religious faith between the two ideologies.

    Concentration and corporate dominance of the media and the proliferation of 24/7 “news” means that conservatives get non-stop opportunities to talk, essentially unchallenged, about their worldview. After several years of enjoying this kind of attention, they believe that they’re actually saying something every time they open their mouths. Theory is easier than reality, so they talk about theory. For elected conservatives, moreover, the post-Reagan Republican platform that “government can only make things worse” doesn’t leave a lot of room to get practical. The realists understand that they can’t actually eliminate a bunch of popular programs and agencies and still retain political power, so getting too specific would reveal the emptiness of their platform. That problem is compounded in 2009 because the country has seen what Republican control of all three branches of the federal government (and many state governments) produces, and it isn’t very impressive. One presumes at this point that if the conservatives had practical solutions, they would have implemented some of them by now. Talking theory allows them to avoid taking the blame for current reality.

    And is there a big political disadvantage to focusing on governing as opposed to pontificating?

    When things are going okay or better, pontification is more likely to bring electoral success. Voters only seem to be impressed by pragmatism when everything is in the crapper.

  112. 112
    lownslowav8r says:

    Research done on authoritarians find that only about 1% of the population are leftist authoritarians. Aproximately 25% of the population is right-wing authoritarian. That is the key difference. Lot more right-wing crazies than left-wing crazies.

  113. 113
    Ash says:

    I have nothing to contribute to this post, except to say Orszag is kinda adorable.

    [/shallowness]

  114. 114
    John says:

    This distinction does, I think, tend conservatives toward fantasy to a greater degree than liberals. The fundamental conservative virtue is caution, which is very close to mere fear. The “arguments” that speak to that doubtful virtue are inevitably going to be emotionally charged pictures of possible dreadful outcomes. Reason does not trump those pictures because reason is itself dangerous in the conservative world view because it drains the human emotion from people.

    Interesting post, Martha, but I don’t think this is right. Both the left and the right are inclined to fantasy, just to different kinds. The left tends towards a kind of utopian fantasizing – imagining the wondrous world that could be if only the irrational structures of the past could be swept away and pure reason reigned. It’s this kind of fantasy that created the Terror, and Stalinism, and so forth.

    The right tends towards dystopian fantasy – kind of the mirror image of the left’s. This leads to different results, but I don’t think either side is, overall, more inclined to fantasy than the other.

    What is key here, I think, is that because of the shape of American politics, the mainstream left is way, way, to the right of the elements that are dreaming of a communist utopia, whereas the “mainstream” right is very close to the wacko conspiracy theorists. I think this is more a historical accident than anything relating to specific causes.

  115. 115
    John says:

    I’d add that contrasting “liberals” with “conservatives” is going to unfairly tilt the balance. Liberalism is, essentially, a centrist philosophy. Liberalism has always had very strong strains of pragmatism and so forth, at the expense of ideology. In most countries, the traditions of the mainstream left are socialist or social democratic. While I’d say that the left half of the Democratic party is ultimately not very far from mainstream European socialist parties in terms of actual policies and so forth, it doesn’t derive from an explicitly socialist tradition in the same way, which makes a big difference.

  116. 116
    Miriam says:

    Why are vaccination conspiracy theorists considered left-wing? Aren’t they mostly white, suburban, middle class parents?

  117. 117
    Gordon, The Big Express Engine says:

    To all: very strong thread today. Great comments. Carry on.

  118. 118
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    @different church-lady:

    Well, aside from the fact that the Robinson article is – as you point out – full of qualifications, it also praises the Duke administration’s attempts at diversity on campus, etc. And I don’t see any evidence that the article led to the announcement two days later of a fully-formed plan by the BPs to march on the campus.

    As to the AJR article with the Newsweek quote, consider the paragraph following the two posted above:

    If the facts are wrong, though, why explore the narrative at all? Is it fair to use the Duke lacrosse players to tell a larger story of athletes run wild–a theme that appeared not only on sports pages but also was splashed, repeatedly, on the front pages of major newspapers and amplified on cable shoutfests? Says Johnson: Once the facts are “proven not to be true, you certainly have to consider whether the narrative is relevant.”

    And finally, I’m trying to think when I have ever seen the right-wing media do any similar self-examination over inflammatory reporting or commentary.

  119. 119
    Martin says:

    Well, we do have groups like the Earth Liberation Front out there firebombing SUV dealerships and McMansions. Left-wing media is certainly capable of whipping up that kind of action, and there’s been no shortage of rants against oil companies, polluters, and the like, but none of them even hint toward that kind of action. Their focus, as far as I’ve ever seen, is on positive individual and community action – replace your light bulbs, wear a sweater, buy a Prius, that kind of stuff.

    So, left wing media could be doing what right wing media does, but they simply don’t do it. I always thought conservatives valued the distinction between having a right and using it. Sure, Hannity has the right to call Obama the greatest threat facing Democracy, but he should be responsible enough not to. Isn’t that the very nature of the 2nd amendment debate?

  120. 120
    kuvasz says:

    As to the so-called conservatives in America: in dealing with the Right, even the most literate, and reading their most articulate essays they appear to lack of substance.

    They seem to be without principles, calling what guides them a philosophy seems to be giving them far more distinction than they deserve. Rather, their thought seems to be nothing more than crumbs and shards raked together from various sources– Hobbes, Locke, Smith (invisible hand leading towards utopia), Marx (economic determinism), Freud (where they get their constant urge to play on middle class fear) and numerous others — and shaped together into a formless mass which they mold to the desired situation.

    There is no philosophical system on the Right, rather only cynical opportunism masquerading as coherent thought, a fig leaf of virtue to hide their whoring ways.

    I have no respect for them because they have no sense of shame. They are more akin to the Bolsheviks of Russia than to anything American (that is the reason that “Busheviks” is so appealing). For them everything comes down to attaining and retaining power and cashing in, nothing more.

    That’s the difference, Mr Cole. One cannot articulate a conservative agenda that fits to the scene in a post- industrial 21st century America if it has no basis in reality.

  121. 121

    […] attention of some trolls for the thoughtcrime of criticizing Michelle Malkin, I want to point out something that DougJ had to say over at John Cole’s pad: I think he’s got it about right—left-wing media, to the […]

  122. 122
    DougJ says:

    Why are vaccination conspiracy theorists considered left-wing?

    My impression is that they are mostly left-wing. I could be wrong.

  123. 123
    Barry says:

    I’m skipping to the end, so please excuse me if this has been covered – in the end, since the 1960’s, it’s been painfully clear to liberals and leftists that violence was a tool of the right. Not for any intrinsic reason, but because they could get away with it.

    For example, think of an alternate 2000’s, with no 9/11.

    1) Thousands of liberals and leftists organize militia groups, and express outrage about Bush vs. Gore. They denounce the Bush administration as illegal and illegitimate, and spend their weekends shooting at targets with the faces of Bush, Cheney, Scalia, Rhenquist, etc. on them, and talk about how they have the right and duty to overthrow an illegal administration.

    2) They are egged on by numerous talk show hosts, who dream up insane lies about the Bush administration, and talk about how ‘self-defense’ might be necessary. This propagates acrosss the MSM; Armed Forces Network even carries Lush Rimjob, who spends three hours a day making whackjob accusations against President Bush.

    3) Tomas McVickers, a far-left Gulf War vet, blows up a federal building in California, killing over 100 people, in an insance attempt to start a revolution.

    What would be the result?

    It’s a trick question, because the federal and state governments would have cracked down in the earliest stages of (1). (2) never would have happened; the MSM would carry mainly gossipy features, and be very careful of investigating any deep crimes (which would lead them to too many powerful, rich factions).

    In the end, the right can do this sort of sh*t, and either get away with it, or lose only enough that the failure is not obvious.

  124. 124
    les says:

    My question is: is there anything inherent in whatever conservatism is supposed to be that makes it less interested in reality?

    Because whenever conservatism, as currently practiced in US politics, meets reality it fails miserably. Since the right can’t give up conservatism–they are, after all, conservatives–they are forced to give up reality. Conservatism–the mish mosh of retained privilege, libertarianism, majority culture supremacy, wealth preservation–has never worked for actual populations, and as education and standard of living rises, populations figure it out and abandon it.

    It’s not just the Fox News level loonies, either. Go read Larison and his commenters. Very educated, erudite, well read, well spoken–but Larison’s notion of proper society hasn’t existed since Tsarist Russia, and he wants it back. Another loon writes of the rise of Greater Red State America (his caps, not mine) and awaits the rest of us realizing all the benefits of mainstream conservatism over the last 40 years, and joining. Another gang of them wring their hands over the assault on white males–the 25% of the US population that has 90+% of the political power, economic power and wealth–and the horrible degradation of culture that results. And on and on.

    Conservatism has no connection with reality.

  125. 125
    les says:

    @DougJ:

    a

    My impression is that they [anti-vaccination nuts] are mostly left-wing. I could be am regrettably wrong.

    FTFY.

  126. 126
    Ash says:

    @Miriam: I guess cause anti-vacciners propose alternative DFH treatments like eating more green stuff? Something like that. I’m with you though, they’re generally just random middle-class people. And Jenny McCarthy.

  127. 127
    anonevent says:

    I do think that we have to watch thinking that we’ve been proven correct. There are left-wing nutjobs that think that you can burn down a housing development and that will prevent climate change. There are liberals/progressives that have been fighting for things like healthcare, unions, a decent living wage, and education. There are conservatives that fight for lower taxes and less regulation. There are right wing nutjobs who feel that they can fix the country by shooting a doctor or a guard. And there are the 80% of Americans who wake up in the morning and decide whether or not to take their sick child to school, and figure out how they are going to pay for dinner. For the last 30 years, the middle of the road people have aligned with tax cutting Republicans. Now they are aligning with healthcare providing Democrats. After they get healthcare, they’ll start bitching about how much of their money is being taken by the government.

  128. 128
    vaux-rien says:

    Charitably considered left:
    Rachel Maddow
    Keith Olbermann
    Jon Stewart

    A journalist, a sportscaster, and a comedian.

    you should check out the beginning of Ray Taliaferro’s show from last night, he was on a fucking tear.

    http://bayradio.kgoradio.com/k...../50200.m3u

    I love that guy, screaming and stammering and all.

  129. 129
    kay says:

    @Barry:

    I agree with you about Bush v Gore. The losers in that case were the soul of restraint. They accepted the authority and finality of that court decision, and that is a remarkable thing, in hindsight. Considering what we’ve seen since this last election. The daily tantrums, I mean.

    And there were a lot of losers in that court case. Millions of them. If that ain’t a testament to the much-hyped “respect for the rule of law” I don’t know what is. It oughta make the losers proud. That’s restraint.

  130. 130
    anonevent says:

    @les: Sorry, les, but since Jenny McCarthy is currently the face of the anti-vax crowd, it appears left wing.

  131. 131
    les says:

    @les:

    That’s probably too glib, DougJ. The anti-vaxers aren’t so much conservatives in the Fox/Limbaugh/political sense, although the political types cater that way, as in the fundamental christianist sense. So, they share with the Repub base, with the anti-evolution, anti-science, anti-expertise crowd; but may stir in more lefty type woo–wholistic medicine, blah blah. They also share the massive conspiracy theory crap–all of the medical world is out to get us, government is hiding real cures, yadda yadda.

    Check out the Denialism Blog (I’d embed, but the commands never work for me and I don’t want to piss John off) for good info generally on these types.

  132. 132
    NickM says:

    I have learned by sitting through through too many Unitarian church committee meetings that liberal prize consensus-building and persuasion (sometimes too much). Contemporary movement “conservatives” (really, reactionaries) don’t really care much for that. They believe in authoritarian politics. Consideration of different points of view is a sign of weakness or lack of conviction that your position is correct. The perfect movementarian response to a critic is a loud “Shut up!” and a cutting of the mike. A lot of reality by necessity gets excluded when you take that approach to new ideas or information.

  133. 133
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    @Ash:

    Seems there are also geographical pockets of anti-vacciners.

    I did not know this until my daughter-in-law informed me, at the height of the swine-flu scare, that the scariest part of traveling with their baby was spending the night in Ashland, OR … evidently a cluster of unvaccinated children.

  134. 134
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    Why does no one ever accuse the LEFTY media of whipping up hate speech and violence?

    On the off chance that no one else has written this: WHAT left-wing media???

  135. 135
    mcc says:

    What is key here, I think, is that because of the shape of American politics, the mainstream left is way, way, to the right of the elements that are dreaming of a communist utopia, whereas the “mainstream” right is very close to the wacko conspiracy theorists. I think this is more a historical accident than anything relating to specific causes.

    This is a good point, but I’d actually go beyond this and argue that the definitions of “liberal” and “conservative” are as definitions a historical accident, always. The terms ultimately say nothing about the content of the philosophies they describe but only denote that one defends the status quo and the other seeks to change it. The meanings will thus change with whatever the status quo is– you can’t compare “liberal” and “conservative” between any two times and places and expect it to mean anything. (Quick, read some stuff about the Iranian election showdown between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, and ask yourself who is the liberal and who is the conservative. Okay, now what are their economic policies?) Of course in this particular discussion thread when people say “liberal” and “conservative” we really mean something more like “democratic” and “republican”, but…

  136. 136
    les says:

    @anonevent:

    I don’t actually know Jenny’s politics–I won’t fight ya. I think the question is more orthogonal to the conservative/liberal political question. I spoke w/out thought; my first time, of course. Heh, indeedy.

  137. 137
    Gregory says:

    Honestly, though, I don’t see how it is possible for a movement to govern effectively with a focus on theory and fantasy.

    Exhibit A: The Bush Administration.

    But since when has movement conservatism been interested in governing effectively? P.J. O’Rourke quipped back in the ’80s that Republicans campaign on a platform that government doesn’t work, then get elected and prove it. All this before George W. Bush’s political career was a gleam in Karl Rove’s eye.

  138. 138
    Johnny B. Guud says:

    The Right embraces all the militia stuff for the same reason boys play army: it is satisfyingly Manchean (sp?). Good guys win; bad guys lose.

    It’s exactly this type of zero-sum mentality that drives the fringes nuts. There is never any middle ground—-you’re either fer us or agin’ us

    That’s why Obama drives them crazy. They insist he’s to the Left of Chairman Mao and is offering no compromises, where in fact, he’s essentially more pragmatic than they think.

    As to what incites the violence—who knows? The DFH violence of the 1960s disappeared when the Left learned that real change comes through education, getting involved locally, getting the word out, etc. That’s how real change comes about.

    These things run contrary to the basic tenets of conservatism—-“getting involved” means “community organizing”, which of course means “socialism” and “agitation” which is for DFHs and “terrorists”

  139. 139
    Andy K says:

    @Jay B.:

    On the left, liberalism won the fight.

    I’m going to disagree, but only on the definiton of ‘liberalism’.

    IMO, liberals are centrists. They weigh all of the options, left and right, and come to a decision on which is the best direction to go at the moment. Liberalism is, then, reactionary, rather than ideological.

    The reason it seems that liberalism ‘won the fight’ in the late ’60’s was that, domestically, there was less of a Left to deal with in the wake of the red scares of the previous four decades. While leftists were being thrown in prison and/or blacklisted, the elements of the far right wing were largely ignored. Had there been an international influence on the White Citizens Councils or the John Birch Society, then maybe there would have been accusations of un-Americanism amongst those groups.

  140. 140
    NonWonderDog says:

    I associate the anti-vaxxers with the whole acupuncture, chi-flow, crystal healing, homeopathy, “alternative medicine” crowd. People who believe that disease is caused by being insufficiently attuned with nature are not very likely to be right-wing authoritarians. That doesn’t say anything about their economic beliefs, of course, so anti-vaxxers are not necessarily left-wing.

    There’s probably a string of paranoid right-wing anti-vaxxers who believe that doctors are out to poison or mind-control their kids or whatever, but the paranoids seem more likely to believe that vaccinations are a hoax propagated by insurance companies in order to boost corporate profits. Which is, again, a position that has more in common with the left than the right.

  141. 141
    Tony J says:

    My question is: is there anything inherent in whatever conservatism is supposed to be that makes it less interested in reality?

    Depends on what your own personal definition of ‘conservatism’ is.

    Put it like this; the core idea of conservatism is – supposed (and this is a genuine lefty socialist from the UK talking here) – to boil down to the idea of preserving the things that don’t need to/shouldn’t be lost in the process of natural change, because they have real value that wide-eyed idealists don’t see. That’s what the whole “Standing athwart history…” line represents. Genuine conservatives are supposed to be the mature, seasoned realists who put the brakes on ‘change for the sake of it’ and provide the time and the space for things to shake out in a way that allows for progress and improvement without unnecessary collateral damage.

    But today’s American ‘conservatism’ isn’t about that. It’s become an unsustainable melange composed of disparate reactionary groups representing the losers of American cultural history, united only by a shared antipathy for the progressive forces – blacks, gays, abolitionists, immigrants, unions, liberals, reformers, feminists, etc, etc, etc – who beat them all at one time or another, and a shared dream of “taking back the country” so they can “make things right!“. Once they achieved that, and failed miserably to convince the rest of the country that they weren’t losers after all, the whole thing fragmented and started eating itself, with the more extreme elements lashing out in violent spasms at the ‘Real America’ that rejected them at the ballot box.

    Reality isn’t for losers, and that’s the whole appeal of modern day conservatism. It provides an optional reality where your own petty grudges and lifetime of failure are transformed into nobility and self-sacrifice, and every defeat is an affirmation of your basic rightness. It doesn’t win them elections anymore, but they’ve got whole TV stations and Internet sites devoted to telling them it’s still not their fault. It’s a conspiracy, you see, and everyone who doesn’t agree with them is in on it, and Always Has Been.

    But, y’know, YMMV.

    Anything in liberalism that makes it more interested in reality?

    American liberalism? It has a history of making the country better for the majority of the people, and doesn’t have to explain away or justify massive failures to anything like the degree American conservatism has to. It’s story is about progress and freedom, being on the “right side” of consiquential historical events when it really mattered, so reality is a support, not an enemy. Modern liberals can look back at the history of the USA and say “We could have done more and it would have been better for everyone“, while conservatives can’t. Makes for a much healthier relationship with the Real World and spares you the cognative dissonance that so troubles modern-day conservatives.

    Or is this all a historical accident?

    Well, yeah. How the hell did the Party of Lincoln end up representing Dixie anyway?

    Only in America.

    And is there a big political disadvantage to focusing on governing as opposed to pontificating?

    Depends what you’re pontificating about. Currently, the Republican Party is using its remaining credibility to tell the electorate that they commited treason in 2008. That’s not going to make them look like an option in 2010, because it has shit-all to do with how the Democrats govern the country in the meantime. All they’re doing is giving the Democratic Party massive space in which to look like they’re at least trying.

  142. 142
    mcc says:

    Why are vaccination conspiracy theorists considered left-wing?

    Antivaxers cut across the political spectrum, and draw from different weird bases of support including groups considered both traditionally democratic and republican. If you follow antivax or “alternative medicine” groups and leaders they’re invariably wildly nonpartisan (at least while they have their antivax hats on) and usually seem only dimly aware of politics at all. (For comparison read any creationist blog and you will very quickly be able to discern which party the author votes for.)

    But this said, if we look at what little political base things like alternative medicine advocates and vaccination conspiracy theorists have the left is going to have to take this millstone. The NCCAM is the child of Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat. If we look at voices against traditional medicine in the media we wind up with names like Oprah and Bill Maher– I can’t off the top of my head think of any right-wing voices of the Maher level who have stuck their neck out for alternative medicine (Michael Savage has done a beautiful job of covering up his PH.D in “Nutritional Ethnomedicine” and previous career as an herbal medicine specialist). I also can’t think of any bloggers on the right who stuck their neck out for antivaxers the way the Huffington Post did. I again don’t think antivaxers can be described as partisan and I can’t find any niche for antivaxers in the Democratic Party the way I can find a niche for creationists in the Republican Party, but on the balance they do have more formal ties to the left and I think we as leftists have more responsibility to distance ourselves from antivaxers than those on the right do.

    A note: I’ve had this theory for awhile that if Obama really gets his way on this health care thing, it’s going to force alternative-medicine types into being a solid, actively partisan bloc for one party or the other forever. In short, if we ever get a national health service or national health insurer, then there’s at some point going to have to be a decision about whether and to what extent it covers CAM (“complementary and alternative medicine”). I could see this one going either way. A “single payer” in health care, or anything that smells like one, is in some ways inherently opposed to “health freedom” of the type antivaxers seek (that is, the freedom to use medicine that does not work); on the other hand, a government-owned insurer or health care provider would be provide a nice handy target to lobby into providing welfare to alternative medicine providers. Once the “public option” picks a side, it will become in the minds of alternative medicine advocates either a tool of big pharma to eradicate scientific dissent (and said advocates will thus work tirelessly forever to support whichever party wants to dismantle it) or a source of free money from heaven (and said advocates will thus work tirelessly forever to support whichever party wants to prolong it).

  143. 143
    mcc says:

    Curses, held for moderation.

  144. 144
    Andy K says:

    @NonWonderDog:

    I’ve seen my fair share of libertarian anti-vaxxers who tend to share the belief with the lefty anti-vaxxers that the whole business is just that- a business.

    As a liberal, I want to see the facts that vaccines do enough harm versus benefit that we’d be better off without vaccines. Other than the Swine Flu vaccine in ’76, I haven’t seen a glaring example.

  145. 145
    NickM says:

    @ Andy K

    As a liberal, I want to see the facts that vaccines do enough harm versus benefit that we’d be better off without vaccines. Other than the Swine Flu vaccine in ‘76, I haven’t seen a glaring example.

    The example frequently used is the incredible rise in autism diagnoses in the past 20 or so years. Because it has not been adequately explained (at least that I’m aware of), people are coming up with crackpot theories to explain it and I think the way in which vaccines are produced is prime among these theories. I don’t think the medical evidence bears out the theory that vaccinations are linked to autism, but for some reason the idea has taken a tenacious hold among some, including apparently Jenny McCarthy.

  146. 146
    anonevent says:

    @les: I think Jenny’s politics can be summed up in her campaign against vaccines. But my point is that Jenny’s an actress, therefore she’s liberal by definition, therefore her opposing vaccines must be a liberal cause. Whether the perception matches reality is an entirely different question (I don’t think it’s an issue either party really wants to get involved in, I certainly don’t).

  147. 147
    les says:

    @anonevent:

    OT, but what the hell. The autism crowd isn’t so much anti-vax, as they are claiming that a preservative in some vaccines causes autism. There’s a boatload of evidence that there’s no connection; Jenny’s in the “anecdotes and anger trumps science” crowd. To the extent that liberals tend to be more reality-based, it’s not a liberal position; but the anti gang certainly crosses political lines on other issues.

  148. 148
    Jim-Bob says:

    Rush and company have dangerously intersected with hate groups. But they neither created nor can control them.

    I see what you’re going for there, Brachiator, but that’s a very disingenuous argument. Nobody’s arguing that, Rush, O’Reilly, Beck, et. al actually CREATED the murderous, angry right. Nor has anyone accused the Talkers of DIRECTLY controlling the McVeys and vonBrunns of the world.

    Don’t tell me this sort of coincidence just “happens.” Words have consequences, too. Like yelling, “Fire” in a crowded theater.: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....84205.html

    The Talkers cynically manipulate opinions. Because there’s good money in that. Even better, after someone crazy takes inspiration from the likes of Beck, Rush, O’Reilly, the Talkers get a two-fer: The ego-boost that comes from having the power to influence events (Rush has even copped to that, albeit tacitly)–and the publicity surge that comes from hoopla that surrounds events like the Tiller murder or the Pittsburgh cop killings keeps the Talkers ahead of a handful other news cycles.

  149. 149
    Blue Raven says:

    On the left-wing extremist violence side, the Animal Liberation Front’s activities haven’t resulted in human deaths in a direct fashion. Indirect is a quibble due to having to figure out whether the laboratories they “liberate” were close to finding a cure for a disease or researching something communicable that can kill. Worst result of an animal-rights act of violence I can think of off the top of my head is a section of England’s ecosystem getting fucked over because they “liberated” a mink farm and let the mink out into the wild. Fur farm mink aren’t domesticated like pet ferrets. They knew how to kill for food, the area didn’t have a predator to balance their insertion, and you can do the rest of the math.

  150. 150
    CalD says:

    Seems to me like most of the overt thuggery disappeared from the American Left after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Up until then, radical lefties still talked a lot about revolution and everyone had a copy of the Anarchist’s cookbook, a Sandinista flag, a beret and a subscription to the International Socialist and/or The Militant… Afterward, not so much.

    I’ve wondered occasionally why the New Right wasn’t similarly chagrined when the curtain was pulled back on Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. To listen to some of these people talk, that always sounded to me like pretty much their idea of paradise.

  151. 151
    latts says:

    is there anything inherent in whatever conservatism is supposed to be that makes it less interested in reality?

    [disclaimer: haven’t read through the comments yet]

    I think the reality disconnect of modern political conservatism is that its natural usefulness is best expressed when out of power– societies naturally move toward liberalism absent extreme stressors, and conservatism at its best adds moderation and prudence to progressive efforts– and when people want power in order to stifle progress, cognitive dissonance results. So in recent years at least, they try to engineer the kinds of crises that tend to move societies backward instead of forward, because that both increases their hold on power in the short term and justifies their efforts by pointing to the institutional disasters they created as reason to eliminate those institutions they despise (Katrina/FEMA, anything involving Iraq, the UN, etc.).

  152. 152
    MNPundit says:

    Conservative = Negativity.

    I don’t mean that in a nasty way, but modern Conservatives are defined by opposing progressives. That is it, that is all they can do. Because they seek no change in institutions they do not have to deal with reality.

  153. 153
    chopper says:

    @Comrade Dread:

    And they were largely ignored. Let’s face it, they were boring. Detailed policy ideas are boring. They don’t sell books, they don’t get ratings, and they rarely get you a lot of fame, money, and popularity, because people don’t want to hear you drone on about what a 3% increase in the marginal rates on the upper 2% of Americans would really mean for revenues or the economy. (You see? You’re probably bored already.)

    aint that the truth. hell, the only reason an appreciable percentage of the country believes in global warming is because they started making crazy movies and shows on the discovery channel dramatizing what it would be like if new york got flooded with a wall of sea water.

    that’s mostly why so many people haven’t been convinced of the veracity of evolution – make a coupla super blockbuster post-apocalyptic movies that really revolve around the concept, maybe then americans will give a damn.

  154. 154
    TInySpark says:

    Reality is whatever the majority says it is.

    Since liberals control things now, reality is enacting bigger and better government programs and crunching the numbers that go with it., and conservatives appear to be the ones hopelessly mired in philosophy.

    When conservatives were in power, reality was that we had to take the fight to the terrorists, and the liberals were the ones who sniped at the war policies without offering any concrete alternatives.

    The difference between policy and pontification is the difference between the driver and the person who sits in the passenger seat and bitches.

  155. 155
    Tim P. says:

    “The essence of the Liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment.”

    -Bertrand Russell

  156. 156
    Matt McIrvin says:

    Back when Ted Kaczynski was on the loose and getting his manifesto printed, there were conservatives saying that he’d been incited to murder by left environmentalism, and there were also some generally liberal essayists saying more or less annoying things along the lines of “well, I don’t approve of mailing bombs to people but his criticism of industrial society makes some good points”.

    That’s about the closest thing I can see to post-1990 liberal-media-incited violence, and even that really isn’t; the effect was the other way (Kaczynski’s a Sixties counterculture holdover who dropped off the grid in 1971 and started mailing bombs in 1978; he probably hadn’t consumed a lot of media in some time).

  157. 157
    Contracts says:

    Remember ELF (the Earth Liberation Front)? That’s a recent example of leftist extremism. How about Seattle 2000? Granted, a lot of those were anarchists and difficult to classify, but their allies were leftists, not the black helicopter folks.

    The difference is that, post-9/11 and certainly post-Iraq, the right began worshipping the armed forces and the use of force while the left defined itself in many ways as being opposed to the use of force. I’d say that there is no conservative party anymore; to the extent that there are conservatives left, they would be the anti-immigration and libertarian crowds (two different crowds, I hasten to clarify). To claim that “conservatism” is bunk as a result of the actions of a few nutcases shows nothing but the author’s myopia. It would be similar to claiming, in 2006, that the left was unable to affect policy because Code Pink hadn’t stopped the war in Iraq.

  158. 158

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