The latest dog-whistle is heard: We read Digby first most days, though we sometimes dont agree with her reactions to events. (That doesnt mean her reactions arent right.) For one such point of disagreement, consider this brief post, in which Digby posts tape of a six-minute excerpt from a speech by Sarah Palin. (Palin spoke in Tyler, Texas on June 26.)
Digby doesnt really discuss what Palin said in that six-minute excerpt; her short post is basically insults. (Title: Word Salad Swimming in Oil.) She starts with a note about Palins delivery, which was in fact rather poor. (Digby: She can barely catch a breath she's speaking so quickly.) After posting the tape of Palins remarks, Digby offers one short quote from the speech, then rolls her eyes at the rubes in attendance. (Honestly, who would actually pay money to hear this incomprehensible, babbling moron pretend to speak?) This ended Digbys brief post.
A familiar phenomenon followed. Digbys commenters followed her lead, posting insults aimed at Palin or at Palins audience. First comment: Where are her pom-poms? What idiot took away the pom-poms? Fourth comment: The same people who go to see evengelical preachers would pay to hear her babble. They aren't even listening to what she's saying, just how she is saying it.
Eventually, the sacramental moment occurred, as it does in all such churches:
COMMENTER: What this mindless twit says or doesn't say doesn't matter to her audience. It's all about code words and dog whistling. The subtext of phrases like "we want our country back" is "can you believe what that uppity Negro Democrat is doing? We want to kill him. Seriously.
In fact, there was nothing in Palins six-minute excerpt about wanting our country back. Unless you have an exceptional ear, there were no race-whistles at all. But all too often, this is the way we liberals now reason, as we assure our tribal mates that the other tribes grunts are soooo dumb.
This can produce good solid funand a boost in our low self-esteem. But it isnt politics or analysis; its nothing more than tribal loathing. It doesnt serve the national interestand its ginormously dumb.
We dont always click on links to pieces of tape, but in this case, we went ahead. Given what wed already read, we were rather surprised by the things we saw Palin saying.
In the six-minute excerpt, Palin did make a few trademark comments wed be inclined to regard as dumb. But in the main, she stated a progressive line, again and again, to a large group of Texas voters.
What does Palin say in this excerptthe excerpt our tribal mates derided? Again and again, Palin says that she is in favor of strict government oversight of the oil industry.
Government does have a key role to play in overseeing some of our natural resource development, obviously, she says. What is the proper role of government? The former governor goes on at some length, expressing a rather congenial line. Were not sure why this is moronic:
PALIN (6/26/10): What should [the federal government] be doing? It should be focusing on national security first and foremost. And appropriate regulation of industries like the energy sector, because if theyre lax or if theyre careless, well there are far-reaching adverse consequences for the public, for our economy, for our environment, and were seeing that in the Gulf. Government can and must play an appropriate oversight role. Such oversight is in the best [interest] of our nation and the public and industry, because the only way the public will trust industry to develop our resources is if they can prove that they can do it safely, ethically, responsibly. So thats my record, and when I say Drill baby, drill, were not naive about some corruption within industry. Like any other industry, yup, theres some corruption in there. And Im not naive about the need for strict government oversight. And Im not unmindful of the potential tragedy of an oil spill. No Alaskan will ever forget that day in 1989 when we got words that the Exxon Valdez oil spill was taking place...
Making our living off the water, were seeing whats going on in the Gulf and we, as Alaskans, our heart is broken for them because weve been there too, twenty-some years ago, with that spill in Alaska...
Twenty years later, when I was governor, I had to file an amicus brief against Exxon in favor of the plaintiffs to get Exxon to finally pay up what they owed Alaskan victims. And thousands of Alaskans in those twenty years, the fishermenthey died! Its a whole other generation now that finally received some compensation. So how dare BP put the Gulf victims through such a thing? We have to make sure that BP will not do this, will not do what Exxon did to Alaskans all those years ago.
We have to make sure that BP will not...do what Exxon did to Alaskans? Lets be honest: If we liberals saw Obama say such a thing, wed stand up and cheer. Beyond that, all that smack would disappear about how the poor guy cant emote. (For the record, Obama has to work with BP in the current instance. Palin is not so constrained.)
Palins rumination goes on at some length; it comprises the bulk of the six-minute excerpt. But the commenters didnt seem to have watched; they treated this as their latest chance to sing favorite songs from the hymnal. Palin had said, again and again, that BP must be dealt with strictly. But this was just the latest dog-whistle. It concerned the desire to kill that uppity Negro Democrat.
In our view, its interestingits promisingto see large groups of conservative voters told about the (obvious) need for strict government oversight. In a more rational, more disciplined world, this would represent a chance for progressives to stick their foot in the doorto form outreach to such voters. At present, the vast bulk of votersright, left and centerare being savaged by the power of big corporations. Our basic interests overlap. These mutual interests oppose the interests of Power.
On balance, Palins comments made blindingly obvious sense. They open the door to progressive advance. But as we so often do these days, we liberals stood in line to jeerto announce how smart and good we are, as opposed to those other dummies.
When the two tribes act this way, Corporate Power cheers.
Alas! The children are frequently out on the lawn these days. Sad to day, they arent real bright. They like to complain that they dont get respect. But who would respect such blather?
Snarkertainment is us (permalink): For a similar manifestation, check this unfortunate post by Steve Benen. In this case, we liberals get to enjoy some good solid fun at the expense of big dumb-ass Rand Paul.
Benen writes about a proposal Paul has occasionally made concerning border security. In particular, Paul has proposed building an underground electronic fence to help secure the southern border. Does Pauls idea make technological sense? Like Benen, we have no earthly idea. But if you read Benens post, you will see him mocking the proposal as incoherent, bizarre, inexplicable, unexplained. The commenters quickly fall into line, showcasing their vast skill with insults and sneering derision.
As with Digbys post, so with Benens. Out of curiosity, we clicked the link Benen provideda link to what appears to be the only instance in which Paul has elaborated on his idea. (We were electronically transported to this report by Sam Stein, at the Huffington Post.) And uh-oh! Benen goes on and on about the idea that Paul has never explain[ed] how the contraption would work; this produces endless hilarity among his commenters. But in fact, in just the third paragraph of Steins report, Paul does seem to explain how this electronic fence would work. In the end, we dont know if the idea makes technological sense. But the basic idea behind the contraption does seem fairly clear.
(For our own incomparable comment to Benens post, just click this.)
Might we offer a point about the way our modern politics works?
In the past twenty years, the talk-radio right has increasingly created a politics of dumbness and low-IQ inanity. Its striking to see how many liberals long to do the same thing.
Benens post doesnt seem to make sense, except as an invitation to the snarkertainment which characterizes so much liberal pseudo-politics. (His commenters take him up on the offer.) In recent decades, this kind of low-IQ tribal politics has worked quite well for the Rush-and-Hannity right; increasingly, the Republican Party has adopted this style as its own. But almost surely, this kind of dumb-ass, low-IQ politics will never work out well for the left.
Its amazing to see how many liberals long for the chance to try.
David Brooks, part 2: Coming tomorrow.