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Daily Howler: Before we call the other tribe names, let's see how our own tribe has functioned
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SURPRISED ALL OVER AGAIN! Before we call the other tribe names, let’s see how our own tribe has functioned: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, AUGUST 11, 2009

The New York Times discusses the foreign experience: Omigod! It finally happened! On Monday morning, the New York Times finally got around to discussing the foreign experience! Readers finally got to learn how health care works in one of the countries which has achieved full coverage, despite spending much less per person than the United States does:

NEW YORK TIMES (8/10/09): [Louise Clark] was—and still is—a great fan of socialized medicine. In the 1980s, she had lived in Australia, where she had experienced the perks of national health care firsthand. As she puts it: “I’m familiar with what it’s like to take a 4-year-old to the emergency room in Sydney late at night on a rainy night and have five doctors standing at the door and not get a bill.”

Wow! Louise Clark “experienced the perks of national health care firsthand.” Sadly, that paragraph represents the Times’ full discussion of this much-disappeared topic.

Remember, we live in North Korea now! North Koreans aren’t allowed to learn about foreign countries. So too with us rubes in this, our most-managed public discussion.

Groan. That paragraph comes from an op-ed column by the hapless Judith Warner. (Warner’s work is usually kept on-line. This column got the hard-copy treatment.) Warner devoted one paragraph to the foreign experience—the foreign experience in the 1980s, no less. What was her column’s principal focus? Darlings! Louise Caire Clark is the actress from the famous “Harry and Louise” TV ads. Warner wanted to know how Clark’s life has changed because she appeared in those ads!

We strongly advise you to read that column. You will be reading the fatuous work of a sadly typical New York Times columnist. She helps you see the fatuous culture of the New York Times itself. For unknown reasons, all female columnists at the Times are required to sillily simper. This peculiar practice represents an astonishing cultural throwback.

The Times is our most important newspaper—but we’re in North Korea now. We rubes know almost nothing about the foreign experience. In our simpering, corporate-ruled culture, such knowledge just isn’t allowed.

Special report: Getting our keisters kicked!

PART 2—SURPRISED ALL OVER AGAIN: It would be hard to overstate the stupidity of America’s discourse. At present, liberals are angry about Sarah Palin’s statement concerning Obama’s “death panel.” But then, any sane person should be angry; Palin’s statement was monumentally stupid, and inexcusably vile. Do we still believe in the founding ideals of the western world itself? A nation which tolerates stupidity this vast is one which has ceased to exist:

PALIN (8/7/09): The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care.

Any nation as stupid as that has largely ceased to exist. So too for a nation prepared to accept the cosmic stupidity of Rush Limbaugh’s musings about Obama’s new health care logo.

More specifically, Limbaugh has mused about the startling resemblance between the new Obama logo and the Nazi swastika symbol. “They accuse of us being Nazis, and Obama's got a healthcare logo that's right out of Adolf Hitler's playbook,” Limbaugh recently observed. A nation which tolerates that degree of stupidity is a nation which barely exists.

And yet, your nation has long accepted that degree of public stupidity. Liberals rail against this culture today—but our “leaders” have helped create it. Limbaugh has been playing the public for fools for a very long time now. (Hillary Clinton helped murder Vince Foster!) Many of his listeners have no idea that they’re being treated like fools when they swallow his varied pronouncements. In part, they don’t know that because “liberal leaders” have never much tried to inform them.

And by the way: Before we liberals get too full of ourselves, might we note an unfortunate fact? Palin and Limbaugh are so far beyond the pale that the pale can’t be seen from where they reside. But then, we liberals can be pretty dumb when it comes to this decades-old syndrome ourselves! This syndrome has been in place for a very long time. But our side seems surprised by the news.

Consider an e-mail Steve Benen posted last Saturday. Steve’s reply to the e-mail is well worth considering. But we were struck by the e-mail itself—and by Steve’s initial reply:

E-MAIL TO BENEN (8/9/09): I don't understand why the wingnuts are so angry. Conservatives will be better off if reform becomes law, just like liberals and independents. Please explain the rationale for the fury.

“Well, I'm not sure I can,” Steve replied—though he offered a post which is worth reading. For ourselves, we were struck by the question itself. After all, our public discourse has been routinely driven by crazy claims for several decades now. Last week, we listed some of those crazy claims, dating back to the widely-promoted, widely-believed claim that the Clintons were serial murderers. (This crackpot claim enjoyed tremendous currency all through the 1990s. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/5/09.) Steve himself posted our list of crazy anti-Clinton claims (just click here). Those lunatic claims—from the 1990s—are a key part of our nation’s recent history.

Let’s say it again: For the past two decades, crazy claims about Big Dem Pols have constantly roiled our discourse. Similarly, crazy claims about public policy have defined large areas of public discussion. This is especially true for people who listen to pseudo-conservative talk radio—and tens of millions of voters do. If we lower tax rates, we’ll get higher revenues! Generations of conservatives have heard such silly policy claims pimped and peddled all over talk radio. But: Can you name the liberal journal, or the liberal leader, who has ever made the slightest attempt to respond to either type of claim? Who has tried to create an actual framework for a vibrant Dem Party/liberal response? Who tried to insist that mainstream media treat the promulgation of such nonsense as news? (In the case of liberal leaders, we can name a few who pushed back to some extent. Liberal journals? None.)

This lunacy has been going on for at least twenty years. Steve’s e-mailer is still surprised by this fact. And Steve can’t quite explain it either. WHAT ARE THEY SO MAD ABOUT? was the headline on Steve’s (worthwhile) post.

“I don't understand why the wingnuts are so angry,” Steve’s e-mailer said. Incomparably, we posted this reply:

REPLY TO STEVE’S E-MAIL: Maybe they're mad about getting called wing-nuts. Tea-baggers can be like that, of course.

Translating: Citizens have believed the things they hear from Rush and Sean (and the like) for decades. Yet on our side, we still seem surprised by this fact! We have formulated no real attempt to push back against these public idiots—to warn those citizens that they’re being played by these big stupid hacks. Instead, we tend to call those citizens names. Then, we wonder why they won’t accept our own views about such matters!

“Conservatives will be better off if reform becomes law,” the e-mailer said—thus stating his own view of this highly complex matter. He then wondered why the “wing-nuts” refuse to accept his wisdom! In part, the answer is fairly obvious: By and large, people don’t take advice from other people who keep calling them names. But this has been the dominant “liberal” approach to this phenomenon for the past twenty years.

No, there are no “death panels” in that House bill. Yes, you have to be fairly gullible to believe such a thing. But we humans are very gullible—propaganda notwithstanding, we really aren’t very smart—and we tend to listen to other people who aren’t calling us names. We liberals have been fairly gullible too—for example, in all the bad-faith we’ve agreed to swallow from our own “leaders” during these decades. They have played us for fools, all through this period. Perhaps if we can bring ourselves to see that awkward point, we will develop a bit of compassion—dare we say empathy?— for rubes on the other side.

We might even grasp a key point: It’s one thing to go after Palin and Limbaugh. It’s different to name-call the millions of voters who get fooled by these famous old types.

Sorry. We human beings just aren’t very smart. Our own surprised side keeps proving this point. Is our side a bit like theirs?

Tomorrow—Part 3: We see racists.

Summer school/make-up session: Let’s try again:

The phenomenon being acted out this week has been part of our history forever. In 1964, Richard Hofstadter discussed the phenomenon in a very famous essay. Might we perhaps spell it out more clearly, so even our own side might understand? Here’s how the professor began his famous piece—in the month Lyndon Johnson got elected:

HOFSTADTER (11/64): American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.

That’s the start of a very famous essay. It was published in 1964. Today, though, our own side is still surprised and bollixed by the patterns described in this piece—patterns which have been expanded by the rise of certain technologies and by the rise of the cultural permissiveness which now allows visible public idiots to become honored figures in media.

(First we let Imus and Howard Stern in. Then, we got Limbaugh and Hannity. By the way: Our Own Frank Rich thought Imus was just soooo “smart.” Is Rich a wing-nut too?)

That famous essay is forty-five years old. Even at the time he wrote it, Hofstadter said the “style of mind” in question was “far from new.” Before we trash others for their stupidity, might we note the cluelessness of our own side as we announce how surprised we are by this long-standing phenomenon? By this phenomenon—which we have done almost nothing to address?