Moderates and “Extremists”

October 31, 2010

Just read this piece on cnn.com and it prompted me to post for the first time in, oh, almost two months–

http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/10/31/avlon.rally.sanity/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_cnn

I didn’t go to the Stewart/Colbert “rally,” and as I read more about it, I’m glad I didn’t.  Although it sounds like it was probably fun, and while I respect Stewart and Colbert as much as you can respect professional entertainers’ political work, the more I read, the more I realize the rally seems to have reinforced one of the great misnomers (read: bullshit) of this political period.

In simplest terms, the notion that “extremists at both ends of the spectrum” have hijacked our political discourse is crap.  Total and complete crap.  No, that’s an insult to crap.

Yes, there are extreme leftists.  Chances are, unless you’re one of them, you’ve never seen or heard of any of them.  There’s simply no equivalent on the left for the lies, hatred, vitriol, distortion, power-hunger, lies, lies, hate, violence, lies, and violence and hate of Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, John Boehner (who, if he’s not one of this gang sure seems to want to be), Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn, Rand Paul, Andrew Breitbart, James O’Keefe, …  the list goes on and on and on and on.  None.  Amy Goodman?  Who does a radio show that about 43 people listen to?  At least she doesn’t make shit up out of whole cloth to suit her agenda.  Michael Moore?  He’s a clown, and nobody on the actual left much listens to him anymore (if we ever did anyway).  Barack Obama?  You’re an idiot if you think he’s a liberal.

The facts are quite simple.  Our political discourse has been hijacked by bad people who spew whatever shit is convenient at the time in order to scare people into ceding power to them.  It doesn’t matter if the shit they spew is the same shit they spewed last week, or last year, or whether the new shit as antithetical to the old shit.  These people will say anything (read: ANYTHING) to maintain power for themselves and their friends, no matter what the cost to the nation or the world.  And it’s THEM, along with their corporate-media lapdogs, who propagate the myth that “extremism” comes from both directions.  It doesn’t.

We’ve seen this strategy before.  Conservatives are very good at accusing liberals of doing whatever conservatives are actually doing; it allows them to deflect attention from the fact that they’re the ones doing it.  That anybody actually believes the shit they spew is, quite simply, a bonus.  Their primary purpose is to generate noisy, horrible-sounding static; the goal is to make people stop listening.  And it’s working.  Yesterday’s Rally to Restore Sanity was, by most accounts, a pretty much content-free feel-good session from which nothing at all emerged.  Yay.

What it will take to send the rightwing extremists back where they belong is simply to shut them off.  I don’t mean that those of us on the left should ignore their existence.  I do mean that we have an obligation to put their hate-filled shit in its proper context at every turn.  Don’t debate them head-to-head because they never, ever listen; and neither do they have any actual commitment to the positions they take, so changing their minds isn’t really a goal.  Instead, we have to make sure that the larger swath of the public, who isn’t firmly committed to left or right (they call themselves “moderate,” while I call them “uncommitted,” but that’s a topic for another day), doesn’t hear the shit unchecked.  Call out the lies.  Call out the flip-flops.  Don’t let their hypocrisy, hate, and lies slip down the memory hole.

If leftist extremists EVER have the kind of bully-pulpit the right currently does, we can talk about finding the “center” and extremism from “both sides.”  Until then, the insistence that it’s coming from both sides is simply right-wing propaganda.

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Politlcal bloggers, trust, and “news”

July 29, 2010

The following post on today’s Daily Kos calls for some additional reaction, I think…

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/7/29/888579/-Breitbart-was-the-problem,-not-bloggers?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+dailykos%2Findex+%28Daily+Kos%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher

Apparently, a couple of genius anchors at CNN are blaming open access to the internet for the Shirley Sherrod “incident” rather than asserting (correctly) that Andrew Breitbart is a lying scumbag, and worse failing to recognize their own complicity in creating the scandal because they (and Fox, and MSNBC, and all the rest of them) didn’t bother to do any verification or fact-checking before they ran the story.

The Daily Kos post handles the first half of that well, reminding readers that Breitbart’s ill intentions don’t mean the internet is bad.  But Kos doesn’t address the other half of the problem, which is the reckless way that the MSM took up the story without finding out ANYTHING about it.  I’m appalled but not surprised (one of the lingering effects of the GWBush administration is that those emotions are permanently detached in my psyche) that CNN wouldn’t even stop to consider that maybe they made the mistake here–not just taking Breitbart seriously enough to pick up the story, but–up against his history of fabrication and manipulation–running it without taking ANY responsibility for its accuracy.

Or put more directly, “the most trusted name in news” lost any trust I might have had when two of its spokespeople so utterly and completely misrepresented their own culpability in the damage done to Shirley Sherrod, the administration, the NAACP, and so on.  That’s not to say none of those groups (except Sherrod, who I find pretty much blameless throughout) have made mistakes of their own.  But notice that even Tom Vilsack and the Obama administration aren’t blaming “the blogosphere” for what happened; they realized they screwed up, and owned up to it.

Keep in mind one important factor here.  The NEWS outlets are the only group involved in this situation who willingly take on the charge of accuracy in reporting.  Sure, the NAACP overreacted and “got snookered” (to use their term).  Sure Vilsack (with or without the administration’s urging) flipped out in fear that the administration was going to be pilloried by Fox and their friends.  But for CNN’s claim to be “most trusted” is based on THEIR OWN claim that they actually do the work of investigating, checking, and verifying stories before they run them.  What else would “trust” be based on?  Who cares if they report everything first if it’s wrong?  Who cares what anonymous sources come to them when those sources aren’t telling anything resembling the truth?

We expect NEWS to be verified, and CNN is quite simply avoiding their own culpability by pretending that this was anybody’s fault but their own.


MoveOn’s Breitbart video

July 26, 2010

After posting this comment on two other blogs, I figured I should put it here as an entry instead of clogging up everybody’s blogs with identical points–

If you’re any of the MoveOn mailing lists, this link showed up in your mailbox today–

http://pol.moveon.org/breitbart.html?id=22043-17343035-DuVvHBx&t=1

It leads to a video MoveOn produced in which they spliced together some lines from an Andrew Breitbart speech, presumably taken out of context, “proving” (like Breitbart claimed he’d proved Sherrod’s racism) that Breitbart “hearts terrorists.”

Well, point made, I guess.  The purpose, as I understand it, is to use Breitbart’s techniques against him, demonstrating how easy it is to make anybody sound like they’ve said whatever you want it to sound like they’ve said.

The problem is that most of us knew that already–especially people who subscribe to MoveOn’s mailing lists.  The news last week about the Sherrod scam demonstrated Breitbart’s dishonesty (duh); Rachel Maddow’s broadcast of the entire ACORN videos demonstrated that Breitbart’s protege, James O’Keefe, did the same hack job. In short, the video doesn’t add anything new to what we already know about Breitbart; he’s a lying scumbag who doesn’t care how much misery he causes anybody in service to his political agenda.

What the video does add, unfortunately, to what we already knew is that MoveOn is just as capable of the same spiteful, malicious bullshit as Breitbart and his buddies.  For an organization that prides itself on not being like the villains, it’s unfortunate that their strategy this time is to out-villain the villain.

Chalk this one up as a misfire (as one of my Facebook friends put it).  I’m not going to tell MoveOn to take me off their lists; I’m not furious at them, I haven’t lost faith in them.  But this one wasn’t a good move.

UPDATE: On both my Facebook page and in the Comments section on another blog, people are arguing that I’ve missed the point of the video; it’s a joke.  Maybe.  I didn’t find it funny, and it would never have occurred to me that MoveOn even meant it that way if people I generally trust hadn’t said so.

So, as I just wrote elsewhere, it’s possible that my concern is misplaced, and I’d love for that to be true.
UPDATE 2: Mark Williams’ “Dear President Lincoln” letter was a “joke” too.

After a long conversation with my wife about this, last night while we both should have been sleeping, I realized that part of my response to the video is based on the way MoveOn framed it when they sent it out.  Many people who have seen it haven’t seen what MoveOn said about it.  While yes, the video is spoofing Breitbart on one level, on another it’s a direct challenge to Fox (and other) News outlets, castigating them for showing such an obviously edited piece of video without investigating it first.  And yes, news outlets deserve all that castigation and more.  I’m still not sure this was the way to do it.

But at the very least, other people have convinced me to back off from the suggestion that MoveOn was parroting the malicious glee of Breitbart and his ilk.  If you listen to Breitbart talk about this, aside from his constantly shifting series of lies, what you hear is what seems like genuine glee coming from him; more than any impact this effort has had, he’s loving the attention.

Satisfied?