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