SUMMER ESCAPE TO THE PLANET OF FEAR! Embellishing facts every step of the way, a young liberal conquers his fear: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, AUGUST 12, 2010
The numbers arent looking real good: Here at THE HOWLER, we love Michael Moore; we thought Sicko was a brilliant piece of work, one of the most skillful arguments weve ever seen on any subject. But that doesnt mean that hes always right, and we thought he slightly misfired on Tuesdays Countdown. Moore was speaking about Robert Gibbs recent rant:
Its odd to see a humorist puzzled by a bit of hyperbole. Other liberals have gone even farther, complaining that no liberal ever said we want to get rid of the Pentagon, the second part of Gibbs rant. At such moments, we really do wonder if life is just a practical joke, staged by the gods.
Predictably, Big Eddie played it louder and dumber. Here he was that very same night, missing the point completely:
As big loud demagogues frequently do, Schultz pretended that Gibbs had been insulting his viewers, failing to note that he himself may have been the target. But might we help this big dumb slab comprehend that comment on health care? Presumably, Gibbs wasnt saying that Canadian health care is crazy, since Obama has frequently praised such a system himself. Presumably, he was saying that it was politically unattainable. If so, the blame lies in part with people like Schultz, not with people like Moore.
Here at THE HOWLER, we would love to see Canadian health care come to this country. (As weve often mused from the comedy stage: If we cant make Canada pay for our health care, what do we have an army for?) Why might that be unattainable? Because powerful forces on the right have demonized this type of health care for decades, as intellectual leaders of the liberal world sat by and stared into air. Moore is a hero of intellectual labor for the educational efforts he made in his film. And Schultz? Do you remember what happened when this big dumb slab was challenged about Canadian health care by a no-name back-bencher from the Arizona state legislature? If not, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/2/09. Prepare to avert your eyes.
Many criticisms of Obama from the left have made perfect sense. (File under Greenwald, Glenn.) Others have not, sometimes involving questions of what is attainable, given the shape of our national politics. We thought about the shape of our politics when we read this Digby post, in which she linked to Kevin Drum. Speculating about Gibbs statement, Kevin offered this thought:
We dont know about Kevins overall theory, but we were struck by his numbersnumbers Digby massaged down a bit in her post, where she said that 20 percent self-identify as Democrats versus 30 percent as Republicans.
In fact, the numbers are worse. Gallup has polled this matter for years. On June 25, the Huffington Post reported Gallups latest finding; 42 percent now call themselves conservative, versus 20 percent who say liberal. This two-to-one ratio has generally obtained since at least 1992. For a long-term Gallup chart, click here.
This is only one measure of political sentiment. (For example, more people will typically identify as Democrats than as Republicans. Click here.) But what do all those people mean when they call themselves conservative? Its amazing how rarely we liberals seem to wonder or ask. Beyond that, what sorts of things do those people believe about various issues, such as Canadian health care? Over the past many years, those people have been aggressively disinformed about a wide range of political issuesgenerally, as the liberal world sits about sucking its thumbs. If we lower tax rates, do we get higher revenues? Voters have even been heard that groaner for decadesand many have come to believe it!
Final question: What do all those voters think when we make indiscriminate use of our R-bombs? The key word there is indiscriminate, so lets ask that question again:
What do all those voters think when we make indiscriminate use of our R-bombs? To all appearances, we fiery liberals rarely wonder or ask. Often, it seems like these bombs are our toys, designed for a key demographic, the demographic known simply as us.
PART 4SUMMER ESCAPE TO THE PLANET OF FEAR (permalink): We liberals love to drop our R-bombsand our X- and N-bombs too. Trembling in the face of a summer of fear, Matthew Yglesias played the former card in the Washington Posts Outlook section.
Yglesias dropped his X-bombs early and often. As he starts, well include the headline that appeared in the hard-copy Post:
First, a word of explanation. Yglesias, age 29, is still a young man, with everything to live for. And yet, instead of the usual silly season, he finds himself confronted this summer with a summer of fear. And the whole scary thing has just happened so fast! Throughout his piece, he stresses the fact that the surge in xenophobia of which he writes has come upon us with frightening speed. One thinks of the way Camus described the awareness of plague descending upon Oran.
Perhaps we can forgive the frightened young lad for throwing his X-bombs all around, sometime forgetting to use his words to describe the actual problem. He complains about the xenophobia in paragraphs 1, 3 and 8and then again as he ends his piece. For the record, this is one of Digbys favorite bombs. She sees the problem everywhereexcept in herselfand isnt reluctant to toss such bombs, ignoring collateral damage.
We can perhaps forgive this young writer for one other fault. We can perhaps forgive him for the clownish, persistent way he embellishes the facts of his frightening tale, creating a sad, inane silly season of his own.
Does Yglesias embellish his tale about this summer of fear? Only when he types! First example:
Have we really moved with frightening speed from discussing the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform to our current state of affairs? Only if youre in love with the thrills provided by good horror movies! Readers, whens the last time any serious person thought we were discussing the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform? Sadly, it has been years. Presumably, the trembling writer refers to President Obamas speech about immigration reform on July 1 of this yearthe speech which was correctly described in the next days New York Times:
Duh. This was Obamas first speech on the issueand the White House had no plan to actually push a bill. As Yglesias surely knows, it has been years since anyone had a real discussion about the prospects of such reform. But when we stage our annual silly season, we tend to forget such details.
Please note: Were not suggesting that we should change the 14th amendment. Were not expressing a view about the Cordoba House; were not attempting to defend its more clownish opponents, like the patently ludicrous Pamela Geller, whose bad faith deserves to be profiled in the Washington Post. (We strongly recommend this sympathetic report about Imam Rauf and his associates in yesterdays New York Times.) Were challenging the brains and good faith of children like Yglesias, who excitedly throws his X-bombs around even as he clownishly embellishes the torments of our summer of fear.
Are we trapped in a summer of fear? As he continues, Yglesias keeps throwing his X-bomb around, describing a groundswell of public hostility toward outsiders. And he sketches a larger theorythis wave of xenophobia has been caused by our economic collapse:
Fear, in essence, begets fear, Matthews says, as he free-form fear himself. And while its certainly true that economic downturns can produce unfortunate social movements, its also true that Yglesias embellishes every step of the way, stoking our fear about fear itself. As he continues, he lists his third and fourth manifestations of the alleged summer of fear. His embellishment leaps off the page:
It has all come about so quickly, the frightened writer exclaims. And then, he cites two race-based controversiesone of which was barely a controversy at all, one of which has been pimped all through the past decade.
Where does the Washington Post find these kids? As evidence that the nation is gripped by a groundswell of public hostility toward outsiders, by suspicion of foreigners and other ethnic groups, Yglesias cites the race-based controversy surrounding Shirley Sherrod, a controversy which lasted roughly one day, until the facts became known. (At that point, the controversy was redirected at its perpetrators, including Fox News and Andrew Breitbart.) Is the nation in the grip of suspicion of foreigners and other ethnic groups, presumably meaning blacks? If so, why did everyone except a few minor nutcases instantly accept the obvious fact that Shirley Sherrod had been mistreated? This controversy did come on quicklybut it departed the very same way! And by the way: If the race-based controversy surrounding Sherrod reflects a surge in xenophobia, lets not forget to name the names of the two of the leading X-men:
Vilsack fired Sherrod at the start of the one-day affair, issuing a statement which plainly implied that she had engaged in discrimination. Jealous jumped in a few hours later, issuing a thundering statement which said the NAACP was appalled by her actions. Are Vilsack and Jealous big xenophobes too? No wonder Matt feels so much fear!
The race-based controversy about Sherrod lasted maybe one day. But then, the raced-based controversy about the New Black Panthers was also amazingly slight, unless you were watching Fox News, a channel which has pimped fear about this group all through the past decade. Only one thing changed this summerthe New Black Panthers were involved in a minor, but actual, news event. Fox News tried hard to pimp the affair, without vast success on the larger stage. But thats what it always has done with this group, in good times as well as bad.
Are we trapped in a summer of fear? If this is the best our frightened young lad can do, well have to say no, were just not. But when a young person is gripped with fear, everything around him seems frightening. After describing the sharp reversal on display in the Cordoba House matter, Yglesias continued faking his facts, in a way which deserves condemnation:
What a consummate hack! One statement about immigration is technically accurate; technically, both candidates did promise a path to citizenship in Campaign 2008. But Candidate McCain only did so when forced; he had abandoned his support for comprehensive reform after the Bush plan failed in the spring of 2007, long before the summer of fear brought on by our economic collapse. In a famous statement Yglesias agrees to forget, McCain even stated, in a January 2008 debate, that he would vote against his own former bill if it ever came to another vote. It is absurd to suggest that the current state of play about immigration has come on suddenly or abruptlyand this is even true about the 14th amendment matter. Bills related to birthright citizenship have been introduced in Congress every year since the 1990s, the Post reported in the same Sunday paper where Yglesias marveled at all the abruptness. Two days earlier, in a typically silly editorial, the New York Times even noted this:
The Times was in such high dudgeon this day that its claim about Reid was a bit unclear. But yes, Reids bill, offered seventeen years ago, clarifies that a person born in the United States to an alien mother who is not a lawful resident is not a U.S. citizen. (Reid press release, August 1993, in an earlier summer of fear.)
For the past several decades, there has always some damn-fool provision floating around concerning immigration; for what its worth, the birthright citizenship matter is less patently absurd on the merits than most. But there has been no abrupt slide toward xenophobia, except in the tortured minds of our fear-boys. And good God! The way this pitiful child dissembles about that new birther poll! In the recent CNN poll, 71 percent of respondents said that Obama was definitely born in the United States or was probably born in the United States. This is very close to the earlier 77 percent figure, which came from a poll which only let respondents say yes he was, or no he wasnt. By the way, that earlier poll was a Daily Kos poll, and all such results should now be suspect. In another sign of our liberal brilliance, Markos got himself conned by a fraudulent pollster for years, he has now sadly said.
Its sad, and truly remarkable, that the birther foolishness exists at all. But its equally sad when one of our brightest young liberal writers fakes his data in such stupid ways, struggling to create his own silly season, a frightening summer of fear.
One last point: Can you see the name of one other xenophobe lurking in that last passage by Matthew? Today, President Obama is overseeing a skyrocketing rate of deportations, he writes, adding Obamas name to those of Jealous and Vilsack in the long list of current xenophobes. No wonder Matthew is so afraid! The xenophobia has spread all around!
The nonsense of this piece is vast, though it does teach us several key lessons:
First, it helps us see how much we liberals like to play with our toys. Just as we love throwing R-bombs around, Yglesias tosses his X-bombs all about, inventing a silly, sweeping tale about some abrupt rise in xenophobia. In these ways, pseudo-liberals deride the American publicand they practice to lose.
Second, we learn an important fact about a large change in the press corps. For most of the past several decades, silly-season nonsense like this only came from the rightafter which, the mainstream press corps would fall in line with the tale. In 2001, the silly season revolved around the claim that Gary Condit had killed Chandra Levy. In a truly evil act, pundits invented at least two bits of fake evidence. Right up through September 11, the whole gang had good solid fun with their evil tale.
This reflected the culture of the Clinton-Gore years, in which ludicrous invented tales were, by law, aimed at Big Democrats. We read ludicrous tales about Big Dem Liars, back in the day when the liberal world had run off and hid in the woods. In those days, careerists of Matthews stripe had two choices in the press corps. They could repeat the claims against Big Dems, or they could just keep their traps shut.
Frank Rich chose the first pathway to citizenship; E. J. Dionne chose the second. Today, silly children get to invent liberal tales. This is a truly major change, a reaction to the disasters of Bush. Pseudo-liberals now get to play, though the game itself stays idiotic.
How idiotic? Eventually, Matt is so scared that he turns to an expert. Presumably, it isnt Professor Friedmans fault that his comments get used in this fashion:
These summers of fear are always with us! Sometimes, they involve a nationwide wave of lynchings directed not only at blacks, but also Catholics and immigrants. Sometimes, they involve one-day stories in which a very good person gets misrepresented, before every sane person in the country agrees she was badly mistreated.
In each case, we liberals get to denounce the wave of xenophobia spilling up from the vile underclass!
We liberals love to play with our toysto throw our various bombs all around! Tomorrow, a look at our gruesome bad faith concerning race and gender. Have you heard that we liberals arent always all that? Trust usvoters have noticed.