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?