Sunday, December 11, 2005

Extremism, hate speech, and moral equivalency

My post on "unhinged" political behavior on the right and the left (on Dave Neiwert's critique of Michelle Malkin's book Unhinged) has generated a rather heated discussion in the comments, as well as a thoughtful response here.

The main thrust of a lot of the responses from the left is that is that I am drawing a false moral equivalency between extremist rhetoric on the left and the right when the right is demonstrably worse. (Some posters from the right make the same criticism in reverse.)

Most of the criticism focuses on what Neiwert calls "eliminationist rhetoric" -- talk of getting rid of political opponents "either through violence or through mass roundups and incarceration." Ann Coulter provides some grist ("My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building"; "We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed too"). There's also a 1995 quote from Rush Limbaugh ("I tell people don’t kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus -- living fossils -- so we will never forget what these people stood for"), and another one from 2005 where Rush muses aloud that if it's a good idea for us to learn from the laws of other nations, we ought to borrow the new British law allowing the deportation of hate-preaching extremists: "Wouldn't it be great if anybody who speaks out against this country, to kick them out of the country? Anybody that threatens this country, kick 'em out. We'd get rid of Michael Moore, we'd get rid of half the Democratic Party if we would just import that law. That would be fabulous." There is also Bill O'Reilly's suggestion that the staff of Air America be locked up for "undermining" the country, and his comment about not protecting San Francisco from terrorist attacks in retaliation from the city barring military recruiters from schools.

All this is, of course, vile stuff, and there is no excuse for it (including "humor"). And I'll concede that it has no precise equivalent on the left (Ward Churchill is too negligible to count -- his only fame comes from the right). I'll show interpretive charity to Michael Moore and assume that when he lamented that if the 9/11 terrorists wanted to get back at Bush, they struck at cities where most people didn't vote for him, he meant only that the attack made no sense from that angle, not that it would have been better if they had struck in, say, Dallas. And I'll stipulate that when Garrison Keillor -- who has an audience of nearly 4 million on National Public Radio -- joked about taking the vote away from born-again Christians, it wasn't quite so bad as joking about killing them off.

But is it that qualitatively different? Dave Neiwert, after all, cites as one of his examples of Ann Coulter's out-of-bounds rhetoric her suggestion that women shouldn't vote (because they tend to vote the "wrong" way).

No one really thinks (I hope) that Limbaugh, Coulter, and O'Reilly are seriously advocating the murder and incarceration of millions of liberals. What makes their rhetoric so poisonous is that (a) as Neiwert points out, it amounts to "a declaration of enmity" rather than a desire to debate, and (b) certain ideas, such as killing or rounding up one's political opponents, are too vile to be broached even as a "joke."

Viewed that way, there isn't that much distance between urging deportation and urging secession. Laudably, Neiwert points to the "Fuck the South" post-election screed, which calls for the expulsion of the Southern states from the Union and ends with "Fuck off," as a lamentable example of hateful speech on the left: "[I]n the end, it's an argument for writing off your fellow Americans." But there are other, more mainstream examples of this mindset; two prominent Democratic pundits, Lawrence O'Donnell and Bob Beckel, made post-election comments about Southern secession.

The issue is hate as a dominant mode of relating to people on the other side of the political divide. It can be expressed in "liberal hunting license" bumper stickers as documented by Neiwert. Or it can be expressed in this Democratic Underground thread, where a poster writes that she didn't stop to help a stranded motorist with a small child in sweltering heat after she saw a "W" bumper sticker on the woman's car, and most of the other posters not only reassure her that she shouldn't feel bad but congratulate her. (One poster writes, "[E]verytime I see one of those stickers, the hate that fills my mind is almost embarrassing. People I don't even know, and I see that sticker and all of a sudden I hate their guts.")

And in some cases, of course, there are pretty close parallels. Here's Rush Limbaugh (once again documented by Dave Neiwert) on the four Christian peace activists taken hostage in Iraq the other day:

I like any time a bunch of leftist feel-good hand-wringers are shown reality. ... I'm telling you, folks, there's a part of me that likes this. Probably, even with this, though, you know, they're not going to see the light of day.

And here's Markos Moulitsas (Daily Kos) on the four U.S. contractors murdered in Fallujah in 2004:

I feel nothing over the death of merceneries (sic). They aren't in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.


As for extreme rhetoric migrating into the mainstream: in an earlier post, Dave cites Karl Rove's liberal-bashing remarks to a Republican audience in June ("Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers") as an example. Yes, I agree, that was a nasty, divisive, unfair comment. Some liberals seem to think no high-ranking Democrats have made equivalent conservative-bashing comments. Really? Well, here's Howard Dean:

"This is a struggle between good and evil and we're the good."

"I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for."

And here's more Howard Dean:

Speaking about election reform, he said it is unconscionable for voters to have to stand in lengthy lines at polling places given the demands of work and family. "Republicans," he said, "I guess can do that because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives."

In terms of actual violence toward political opponents: As Dave Neiwert says, it obviously exists on both sides, and I'm not going to try to figure out who's done it more. Ideologically, there are trends at the extremes on both sides that lend themselves to condoning political violence: on the right, the flirtation with vigilantism; on the left, the flirtation with revolutionary violence. (The tendency to romanticize such violence exists even among mainstream liberals: check out, for instance, this analysis of a 2002 New York Times piece about Chesa Boudin, the devoted son of two Weather Underground terrorists who are serving time for the 1981 murder of two police officers and a security guard in a Brinks armored car robbery.)

Now, another important point. Dave argues that extremist elements have gained too much influence in the Republican Party; and, especially after the Terri Schiavo fiasco, I'm inclined to agree. I have been appalled, for a long time, by the fact that a shrill hatemonger like Ann Coulter was being treated as a legitimate pundit on the right. (I was also pretty disgusted by the right's anti-Clinton vendetta.) However, Dave also adds:

The only left-wing extremist movements of any note in 2005 -- the animal rights/eco-terrorist extremists particularly, though the anarchists and anti-globalists who helped make the WTO demonstrations a fiasco also fit the bill -- do not have any kinds of significant footholds or influence within the Democratic Party.
Note that here, Dave defines extremist movements very specifically as ones that engage in lawlessness and violence. In that case, I'm not sure who those extremist elements in the GOP are. Dave has cited the embrace of Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry by mainstream conservatives during the Terri Schiavo battle, and I'll be the first to say that Terry is odious. But if we're going to look for counterparts on the left, let's ask who has more influence: Randall Terry in the Republican Party, or Al Sharpton in the Democratic Party? (For Sharpton's long record of extremism, including his role in fanning the flames of racial violence in several cases, see this column by Jeff Jacoby.)

If we define extremism to include people and movements that engage in violent and, well ... unhinged rhetoric, then I would point to at least two extremist elements that do have influence with the Democratic Party mainstream.

(1) The Congressional Black Caucus has endorsed the "Millions More Movement" led by the Rev. Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam (characterized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center as well as the Anti-Defamation League). On July 20, 2005, most of the CBC's 43 memers attended a strategy session with Farrakhan. (See this page for some of Farrakhan's more interesting comments over the years.)

(2) While being opposed to the war in Iraq is certainly not an extreme position, the antiwar movement, unfortunately, has been heavily enmeshed with extremist elements such as the hardcore communist group A.N.S.W.E.R. (see this critique in the liberal magazine Salon.com).

The issue of the anti-war movement and extremism also brings me to the rather painful issue of Cindy Sheehan. Yes, I know that some people on the right have crossed the bounds of decency in attacking Sheehan (for instance, Rush Limbaugh when he bizarrely suggested that her story was the equivalent of Bill Burkett's "forged documents"). But Sheehan's very real grief does not excuse her very extreme rhetoric ("The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush"), of which many examples can be found here. See also here, and here, and here. (The last link is to a transcript posted on David Horowitz's website, not the most reputable source in the world, but I haven't see any suggestiong that the transcript is inaccurate.) Among other things, Sheehan has hailed as a hero Lynn Stewart, the attorney who was convicted of aiding and abetting a terrorist conspiracy for serving as a liaison between her incarcerated client, terrorist mastermind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, and his network outside. Stewart is known for openly sympathizing with radical Islamic terrorism (which she sees is as a part of the anti-imperialist struggle). It is also worth noting that Sheehan's writings are carried by the far-right website LewRockwell.com.

Back in August, a poster on Daily Kos mused:

Last night, occurred to me: Cindy Sheehan, Terry Schiavo reincarnated?
I'm not quite sure what she meant, but she was right: if the Terry Schiavo fiasco was the triumph, and nadir, of "unhinged" politics on the right, Cindy Sheehan's protest has been the same for the left. (And, in both cases, those responsible are somewhat insulated from criticism by personal tragedy.)

Finally: if we're going to talk about a left-wing counterpart to Ann Coulter, I would say that Michael Moore definitely qualifies. And how.

So, all in all, I stand by my earlier point. There is nastiness and ugliness aplenty on both sides, regardless of the exact forms it takes. To some extent, of course, perceptions of "ugliness," "nastiness" and "unhingedness" (so to speak) are subjective. To me, saying that Bush didn't lift a finger to help the victims of Katrina because he doesn't give a damn about blacks is obviously unhinged. To someone to the left of me, that might not be so obvious. Likewise, to me, saying that any mainstream Democrats are sympathetic to America's enemies is obviously unhinged. Others may differ. So, in the end, when approaching this issue, we are all to some extent captives of our own biases and perceptions; and I do not exempt myself from this general rule, as someone more "right" than "left" but deeply disenchanted, and troubled by, many aspects of conservative politics.

Trying to figure out who started it is fruitless, as well. Each side regards its own nastiness as reactive, and has examples to point to. And, for each side, "they started it" and "they're worse" serves as an excuse to condone or even encourage nastiness in its own ranks. (A liberal friend of mine who had always despised Michael Moore, and prided himself on the fact that mainstream liberalism has not embraced Moore the way mainstream conservatism has embraced Coulter, concluded upon the release of Fahrenheit 9/11 that if this movie helps defeat Bush, then maybe Moore is exactly what we need in today's political climate.)

Remember the proverb, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind"? That's what's happening here. Eye-for-an-eye political debate is leaving us blind.

In 1946, George Orwell wrote in his essay, "The Prevention of Literature" (quoted with apologies to Catholics, though not to Communists):

The Catholic and the Communist are alike in assuming that an opponent cannot be both honest and intelligent. Each of them tacitly claims that ‘the truth’ has already been revealed, and that the heretic, if he is not simply a fool, is secretly aware of ‘the truth’ and merely resists it out of selfish motives.

Today, this mindset has become rampant on the left and the right, and not just on the fringes but in the mainstream as well.

In my earlier thread, one poster asked if I would suggest any remedies for this problem. I wish I could. The only solution I can think of is to rebuke political hate speech and to ostracize its perpetrators -- starting with those in one's own camp. It should be up to politicians to take the initiative. Imagine if the next Republican or Democratic presidential contender gave a "Sister Souljah" speech denouncing the political hatemongers in his or her party. Is this really an impossible dream?

86 comments:

Revenant said...

Aw, you didn't mention Gore's "digital brownshirts" comment. That one's my favorite.

Imagine if the next Republican or Democratic presidential contender gave a "Sister Souljah" speech denouncing the political hatemongers in his or her party. Is this really an impossible dream?

Well, the likely candidates at this point seem to be Hillary Clinton on the D side and either McCain or Giuliani on the R side. None of the three are especially guilty of the sins you describe (although the "vast right-wing conspiracy" line is suspect). So I don't think it's an impossible dream.

Anonymous88 said...

Thank you Cathy, for revisiting this issue with such balance. I couldn't agree more with your concluding lines. As someone who identifies with the left, I find the Michael Moores of the left absolutely appalling. I couldn’t stand F 9/11. Perhaps even more than the eliminationist rhetoric, what I find absolutely maddening is the intellectually dishonest tendency to simplify and exaggerate the other side’s argument, and to caricature the people on the other side, just to make a convenient ideological point. Both sides are guilty of this process, which is why yours is one of the few blogs I can stand to read in the blogsphere any more. I’m sure it’s the same with the right but I find this particular tendency rampant on the left; this is why, even though many of my political views are strongly leftist, I find many hard core left-wingers unbearable to talk to. The “Dubya is stupid,” “America is evil,” “Republicans are heartless” nonsense drives me nuts because it prevents any semblance of genuine debate (if ostensibly you are concerned with these matters) about why our President may or may not be suited for the job and why, what problems there may be in American foreign policy, and who will be affected by laws enacted by Republican administrations and why we should care. I have my leanings, but what I want is for people to challenge my views intelligently and honestly with a genuine view to debate. I challenge the people on both sides, but especially on “my” side if that will make you stand up and listen, to stop taking the easy way out.

Anonymous said...

My concern is this --- while
I utterly loathe truly offensive commentary, I do not begin to trust myself to decide what is and what is not offensive.

I am not offended by Ann Coulter. But, I agree with her. Who am I to say she's good or bad?

I find Moore offensive. Many people don't.

As bad as offensive language, mean language, or even outright demonization is --- I don't feel there is a solution that would be better than the problem.
-=Mike

Anonymous88 said...

In my statement that “…it prevents any semblance of genuine debate … about why our President may or may not be suited for the job and why, what problems there may be in American foreign policy, and who will be affected by laws enacted by Republican administrations and why we should care” – I didn’t mean to imply that the only topics I care about engaging in are those from a leftist perspective. Because I had previously cited three examples of common extreme statements on the left, I was merely noting the corresponding “real issues” that get buried when such extreme statements are used. Just a clarification.

Cathy Young said...

Have mercy, Rev; I can't list every nasty comment anyone has ever made!

Hillary and McCain or Giuliani... interesting!

anonymous88,

Thanks so much for the kind words. Would you consider using a name/nickname/handle? It's so much nicer, when talking to a fan, to be able to address them as something a little more personal than "anonymous88"!

Paul said...

We live in a nation where we have the right to freedom of speech and that I applaud. However,there are people who are hatefull and love to denigrate and deride people of divergent opinions and we see it on the populare blogs and television programs everyday. It is not enough anymore to disagree-you have to destroy the other side as well and that is truely sad. Civility left public debate years ago!!

Dancer88 said...

Hm... I thought Anonymous88 *was* my handle; I've posted a few times before. Very well, how about "Dancer88."

Anonymous said...

We live in a nation where we have the right to freedom of speech and that I applaud. However,there are people who are hatefull and love to denigrate and deride people of divergent opinions and we see it on the populare blogs and television programs everyday. It is not enough anymore to disagree-you have to destroy the other side as well and that is truely sad. Civility left public debate years ago!!

Yes, Paul. You are correct. And both sides are equally guilty of this.

But, again, what can be done about it?

It, sadly, works. Quite well, in all honesty. People always say they hate negativity in politics --- but for all of their faults, politicians don't do things that people hate.

What we've taught them over the years is that negativity ALWAYS pays off. Ignore a slur by somebody and you'll always suffer serious consequences.

Some would even go so far as to argue that truly important issues should generate the passion that, sadly, seems to be mistaken for intelligent political discourse.

I dislike it --- but I'm not naive enough to believe that the problem will go away. If politicians suffered from the negativity, they wouldn't do it.

The left's money is WITH the harsh rhetoric. The conservative side has had success, quite a bit of it, and you can't really say "Hey, you know what's worked so well for the last 30 years? Stop doing it".
-=Mike

Pooh said...

Anon (not 88),

I think my views and Cathy's are pretty similar on this issue, so (not speaking for her of course) say that I wouldn't want any sort of law against 'demonizing' speech. The counter-speech idea is a good one.

Certainly they have the right to say what they say. Whether they should do so is another question.

Anonymous said...

Pooh, I actually agree with you ---

But it's worked. For years.

It's really hard for a politician or a political operative to justify NOT doing so, considering the level of success it has produced.
-=Mike

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

Cathy: While I have no reason to quarrel with any of the specifics you provide, a couple of things bother me.

First there's the prohibition on outrageous humor. What exactly is the point in insisting on only the most civilized, rational discourse from everybody?

Let's use the F***-the-South, let's-revisit-secession rhetoric following the election. I certainly don't agree with that sort of rhetoric, and as a Bush supporter in deepest Massachusetts, I sure heard a lot it. But it's important to realize that few if any on the Left seriously entertained the idea; it was simply a way to blow off steam, meaning hot air. Same with Coulter and Limbaugh saying we should disenfranchise women, presumably because they trend Democratic.

Such statements are often meant as a kind of monologue rather than dialogue, in which those in each camp banter among themselves, and to simply label it "a declaration of enmity" seems to ignore that extra social dimension. Much as I try, I just can't take "liberal hunting license" seriously as "I hate you, I want to kill you." Really it's just a puerile taunt, mostly based on the fact that guns and their owners drive a lot of liberals around the bend. To fellow conservative gun-rack types, it simply says "one of us" and "boy, this'll show 'em," which is the function of all political bumper stickers as far as I can tell.

By reacting so strongly to "liberal hunting license," you're not only not getting the joke (such as it is), but it seems you may also be encouraging such rhetoric as well, odd as that seems. It reminds me of how teenage boys never get any attention by spray-painting an Anarchy symbol on the wall, but change it to a swastika and all of a sudden all hell breaks loose and it's on the evening news.

I realize that by regarding "humor" as off-bounds we may let in a lot of scoundrels who artfully straddle the distinction between thoughtful discourse and spurious bombast. (That includes -- take your pick -- Limbaugh, Moore, Coulter, Dowd, O'Reilly, Howard Stern, even Mencken and Abbie Hoffman.) And I can't help but be frustrated by how legitimate points by both sides get crowded out -- no argument there. But I can't help but think that the alternative is far less interesting, honest, and downright fun.

In saying this, I don't mean to let it all in, just to urge everyone to develop a thicker hide and pay attention only to what's worth paying attention to. And I also have a far different standard for actions than for speech. So that means the guy who didn't stop for the Bush supporter and her kids should be strung up by his thumbs, except not really. ;-)

The other thing I can't help thinking is that extreme discourse has always been around, and all we're seeing is more venues available for its transmission. As I've commented before, it was Jefferson whose presidency led this nation into utter depravity, and we've even been through a Civil War. If anything, I think we're more attuned to irony and bombast now than ever, like so much rap music. I'd be a lot more interested in finding out why our discourse currently has a certain feature set than reflexively condemn it in favor of some platonic ideal.

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

One thing I forgot to mention. I'm enough of a cynic to regard a "Sister Souljah" speech as a tactical manuever. If political candidate A successfully portrays candidate B as an extremist, one thing candidate B can do is criticize extremists in his camp.

William R. Barker said...

Cathy, you're just off base on this one. By that I mean that it seems to me you're bending over backwards to strike a "moderate" tone... to advance a theory of "moral equivalency"... while I still stick by my original contention that the governing Democratic establishment is more "wacky" than the governing Republican establishment. (*SMILE*) From what I gather, you think if anything it's the opposite.

"Eliminist rhetoric?" Give me a break. Do you REALLY think that Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly are extremists or "eliminists?" Come on, that's just silly. But anyway... neither O'Reilly nor Limbaugh are elected (or appointed) officials.

And for God's sake, what is this fixation with Ann Coulter?

I'm curious... do you actually listen to Rush much? How about listen or watch O'Reilly much?

Now I'll admit... Coulter isn't exactly my pint of stout, but she's no dummy nor is she a fascist - at least that's my take from reading one of her books once and from listening/watching her when she's interviewed.

But again... Coulter isn't an elected or appointed government official.

"Vile stuff?" Oh, please! Give me a frigg'n break!!! These people are conservative ENTERTAINERS... they're not hatemongers. You don't really think that they're "bad" or dangerous people, do you???

You ARE familiar with the word "hyperbole," aren't you? (*GRIN*) How about the word "schtick?" (sp?) (*SMILE*)

What's more vile, referring to Ted Kennedy as "The Swimmer," or... the actions of Ted Kennedy that gained him that nickname? I myself think "vile" is a still prominent black, female left-winger once wishing upon Justice Clarence Thomas a heart attack brought on by eating too much fried food. That's vile. And you know what, Cathy... the woman I'm referring to was and is in no way an "entertainer."

You'll show "interpretive charity" to Michael Moore? You'll stipulate that when Garrison Keillor -- who has an audience of nearly 4 million on National Public Radio -- joked about taking the vote away from born-again Christians, it wasn't quite so bad as joking about killing them off? Forgive me if I don't see your point.

How is it that right wing "jokes" are "vile" and left wing "jokes" are... bad but not vile???

All I'm trying to say is that you're losing me on this thread, Cathy.

"Poisonous rhetoric?" Again... PLEEEEASE! (You really do need this vacation, don't you, Cathy?!) (*WINK*)

Listen... I'm not questioning your integrity or your motives... (after all, you did bring up the Lawrence O'Donnell and Bob Beckel example yourself, as well as the issue of Randall Terry's general lack of influence in and on the Republican Party vs. Al Sharpton's prominence and impact in and on the Democratic Party)... I'm just saying that you're not making any sort of convincing case as far as I'm concerned for believing the Republicans are worse than the Democrats.

Markos Moulitsas...??? Daily Kos...??? These are the examples you're using to make your case???

Another thing... and this is just my personal opinion... when you go on and on about Terri Schiavo I just tune out. I just don't attach the same importance or emphasis to this footnote to American history that you do.

Anyway, I do find your opinions fascinating. Frankly, I was shocked by your previous "defense" of Nancy Pelosi compared to Denny Hastart. In my humble opinion, Pelosi is simply a loon while Hastart is... a politician.

ANYWAY... again... enjoy your European sojourn! (*GRIN*)

BILL

Revenant said...

But it's worked. For years

Has it? The Republicans lost seats in 1996, 1998, and 2000 (the years of anti-Clinton hysteria) and gained them in 2002 and 2004 (during which the Democrats were unhinged about Bush).

Hyperbolic condemnation of "the enemy" certainly gets your base on your side. But neither party's base is anything near a majority -- the two parties' bases, combined, are probably only around 50% of voters. The rest of the electorate, they have to fight over -- and most of those swing voters don't much care for either party.

Synova said...

Have things really gotten worse though? Or do we just not remember.

I'm seriously asking.

AprilPNW said...

Cathy:

I always loved your articles published in the mainstream press (I find them via RealClearPolitics) and when another blogger announced you had started a blog (Andrew Sullivan?) I wasted NO TIME in reading it. You are permanantly bookmarked, and I read you every day. Your pragmatic, common-sense approach is so VERY refreshing.

Kudos to you for your latest post, which points to the main reason I have practically sworn off discussing politics with anyone, watching ANYTHING on television having to do with politics (and that includes the Daily Show...). I have had it up to here with severe cases of Bush Derangement Syndrome (in Seattle, you can't spit w/out hitting someone with BDS), and was once called Right Wing Think Tank Operative simply because I stated that maybe...just maybe...the negative campaign the Democrats conducted in 2004 has SOMETHING to do with Bush winning the election.

The manner in which an individual reacts to those with different ideas is VERY telling, and reveals much about an individual's outlook and life philosophy. From what I've seen and heard from some liberals...you just have to shake your head and wonder....

mythago said...

No one really thinks (I hope) that Limbaugh, Coulter, and O'Reilly are seriously advocating the murder and incarceration of millions of liberals.

Limbaugh? No. O'Reilly? Maybe. Coulter? Definitely.

First there's the prohibition on outrageous humor.

There is no "prohibition on outrageous humor". What there is, is a recognition that humor can easily be a thin mask for hatred and aggression, and that "Geez! I was just joking! Lighten up!" is the first resort of a jerk who got caught out saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. And there is a suggestion, in a lot of humor, that the threat of violence isn't entirely joking.

To paraphrase, conservatives are afraid that liberals will mock them; liberals are afraid conservatives will kill them. I know "red state" people who despise what they see as "blue state" liberal elites because they are sure said elites sneer at them. But when I travel to a "red state" on business, my liberal friends are actually worried about my safety.

Revenant said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Revenant said...

conservatives are afraid that liberals will mock them; liberals are afraid conservatives will kill them.

Any liberal who honestly fears that possibility is an idiot.

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

mythago, consider yourself mau-mau'ed. Suppose I lived in a red state and voiced qualms over letting my daughter attend college in a blue state for fear she might be gang raped by marauding bands of ethnic minorities or homosexuals. Would there be a good reason to make fun of me?

Rev, this sort of stance is probably "honest" in the same way that people with psychosomatic illnesses are "honest." Having dwelled among the paranoid Left many years ago, I know that such ideological groups tend to engage in narrative among themselves to tighten their bonds and reinforce their belief sets, much like telling ghost stories around the campfire. (The Right does it too.)

bk said...

We've noticed the following over at centerfield,which BTW is a centrist blog: many threads often devolve into a childish battle over which side is worse.

Such devolutions are invariably pointless. We've taken to calling such battles comparative political demonology, or CPD for short. If possible, I try to point out when this is happening, and encourage people to step away from the roll of tinfoil.Here's what I said at CF in asking the rhetorical question "how many iterations does it take to show that this game is pointless?":

I expect the answer to this riddle is that an infinite number of arguments is required, because the partisans all seem to think that the point is actually to prove that the other side is worse, by whatever anecdotal means necessary. Because they are so convinced they are correct. Both righty and lefty partisans are already CONVINCED that the other side is worse, and I'M convinced that few if any can be persuaded otherwise by the other side's partisans.

That leaves every lefty claiming the right is worse _and_ every righty claiming the left is worse in the exact same position when speaking to a mixed audience: preaching to their choir members, convincing none of the other side's choir members, and showing their true colors to the mass of amused centrists.

Which brings us all back to "what is the point in playing the game of comparitive political demonology?"

mythago said...

You ARE familiar with the word "hyperbole," aren't you? (*GRIN*) How about the word "schtick?" (sp?) (*SMILE*)

Yes, they're words often used in retreat by people who thought that if you call hatemongering "joking" and say "I'm just an entertainer," then you have a Get Out Of Accountability Free card. Whatever happened to the old-fashioned concept of taking responsibility for what comes out of your mouth?

Suppose I lived in a red state and voiced qualms over letting my daughter attend college in a blue state

Suppose I actually have family members who are 'red state' dwellers, so this is not abstract speculation.

The difference is that my conservative relatives do not think that liberals will kill me for my political views. They are not concerned that somebody who goes to San Francisco and says "I'm a Christian" is going to be beaten up or killed by vigilante atheists. They may worry about big-city crime, but they don't say "Be sure not to tell anyone you aren't a Democrat" out of fear that I would encounter anything worse than snotty comments.

My blue-state friends, though, will regularly worry that if I don't keep my head down and pretend to be a nice straight Christian lady, that I am in danger of actually being harassed up to and including violence.

I'm not saying they're right. I'm saying that's the perception I hear from people on "both sides".

Cathy Young said...

I don't have the time to reply to each comment individually right now, but just a few things.

letmespellitoutforyou: I'm certainly not arguing for taking all edgy humor out of political discourse. P.J. O'Rourke can be pretty nasty at times, but not in a truly hateful way.

I also think a lot of the extreme rhetoric is intended not only to blow off steam and forge group bonding, but also to taunt and bait the opposition.

The "liberal hunting license" bumper stickers and the "kill Bush" humor could be easily ignored if they represented nothing more than fringe behavior. The problem is that right now, public discourse as a whole leans toward the vicious and polarized, and it definitely has the effect of alienating many people from political discourse altogether.

William:

I think your post demonstrates, in a nutshell, exactly what I'm talking about. You seem incapable of seeing any faults on the right. By the way, where on earth did you get the idea that I find right-wing hate speech vile but not the left-wing kind? I'm truly baffled. (Actually, what I said about Garrison Keillor was that while joking about stripping people of the right to vote may be marginally better than joking about killing them off, I don't think the difference is all that great.)

As for the "entertainer" excuse: yeah, that's the same excuse Michael Moore uses when he jokes about how the passengers on the 9/11 planes were "scaredy cats" for not fighting back against the hijackers because they were a bunch of white middle-class weenies. And I don't buy it for either Moore or Coulter.

And yeah, I thought Julianne Malveaux's comment wishing that Clarence Thomas would die early of a heart attack was definitely vile, but it's ridiculous to compare Malveaux and Coulter. Malveaux is hardly "prominent," and the comment in question was made on a PBS show whose audience could probably fit in a couple of buses. Ann Coulter, the "entertainer," is a best-selling conservative author who speaks regularly at conferences of conservative groups such as the Conservative Political Action Committee. And let me get this straight... you find Malveaux's comment vile, but not Coulter wishing for the assassination of transportation secretary Norman Mineta?

Try and reverse some of Coulter's comments politically. I.e., imagine that a leftist commentator had said, "My only problem with Timothy McVeigh is that he didn't drive his truck into the Fox News building," and "The only question left about Bush is whether to impeach or assassinate." Now imagine that this person appears frequently on CNN and at meetings of Americans for Democratic Action, and is generally one of the people most in demand on the liberal speaking circuit.

Would you find this outrageous or not?

Coulter is a VERY prominent right-wing commentator whose "shtick" is based entirely on the premise that Americans who disagree with conservatives are to be viewed as the enemy. Sorry, I find that spectacularly unfunny and, yes, poisonous.

Btw, I don't recall ever saying that I thought Pelosi was les extreme than Denny Hastert. Tom Delay, maybe. I certainly don't consider Hastert an extremist.

Which of Pelosi's comments do you consider so wacky? Most of the ones I've seen (however much I disagree with Pelosi's politics) are basically strong political rhetoric. If you mean her post-Katrina description of Bush as "oblivious, in denial, dangerous" -- frankly, I think that Bush's "all is going well" response elicited that kind of reaction from a lot of people, Republicans included. And really, it was nothing compared to some of the comments top Republicans made about Clinton.

You should try that "put the shoe on the other foot" exercise sometime. It can be enlightening.

mythago: if blue-staters are worried that red-staters will kill them or use violence toward them for being liberals, does that, maybe, tell us more about blue-staters' prejudices than about those of the red-staters'? By the way, I remember reading an article in Slate.com in which someone desribed his experiment of walking around a strongly liberal neighbhorhood in a Bush T-shirt and then around a strongly conservative neighborhood in a Kerry T-shirt. He got a lot of verbally violent reactions to the Bush T-shirt and none to the Kerry ones.

thecobrasnose said...

The "put the shoe on the other foot" exercise is totally unnecessary when it comes to the left mocking the right. Your Coulter counter-examples are actually quite mild compared to the everyday output of the majority of liberal comedians and entertainers. And while you might say that Coulter is better regarded by the right, you should remember that left leaning entertainment industry types signs a heck of a lot of checks for the Democrats. Sure, Cameron Diaz saying nutty things to Oprah is a hoot, but Barbara Streisand has contributed enough dough to the Dems that her memos to the congressmen of that party aren't laughed out of DC--not publicly, anyway. Who would have thought anyone was that rich? And you might remember a notoriously raunchy Kerry-Edwards fundraiser hosted by Whoopi Goldberg a few months back. Though a complete tape of the evening was never released, undisputed quotes that were released has a lengthy, obscene riff by Goldberg on the President's name and the audience yukking it up to Margaret Cho's Bush/Hitler jokes (to wit, Bush would be Hitler if he had some ambition! HaHa!)

I'm not saying that the fundraiser should have been forbidden or any participant condemned. But it was an official Democratic event attended by the presidential and vice presidential nominees, and which contained content that was approximately as ill considered as Coulter's schtick--and yes, that's all I can plausibly consider it.

Meanwhile, when Coulter is invited to public lectures, she is shouted down by leftist blocks of the audience, who occasionally also throw pies and the like at her. That behavior is not only censors her, but willfully deprives her audience their legitimate right to hear what she has to say. (And the same elements do the same to William Kristol, who is rather more genteel in his presentation.)

And while Garrison Keillor has a smaller audience than Rush Limbaugh, it's no comfort to me that his show is on NPR and partly financed by my thin dimes. I'm not a regular Rush listener, but at least he has commercial sponsors to support his rhetoric--which makes it far easier for me to dismiss and ignore as I please. Same goes for Randi Rhodes’ foam-at-the-mouth rants on Air America.

Almost all of it is surprisingly easy to tune out, once you get the hang of it.

Cathy Young said...

cobra, the purpose of my "shoe on the other foot" exercise was not to say that there isn't similar rhetoric on the left, only to respond to William's contention that Coulter's rhetoric is no big deal.

Btw, Whoopi Goldberg's talk with the "Bush" pun is reproduced in Malkin's book.

thecobrasnose said...

Coulter's rhetoric isn't a big deal. At worst, it's lamentably commonplace (heck, I cringe to admit the Cho crack I quoted above brought an involuntary smirk the first time I read it). Shutting down Coulter’s speeches, however, is—and it would be if it happened to Michael Moore.

Cathy Young said...

I guess we disagree there; I think it is a big deal. Mind you, I'm not in favor of Coulter or anyone else being "pied" or otherwise assaulted. I just think that in a better world, Coulter (and Moore) would have no sizable audience.

And yes, I'd feel better if Coulter was a comedienne.

Alan said...

I think Cathy's position is entirely defensible. The fact that some comments are arguing that the Left is worse and some that the Right is worse is proof enough.

The main point, without delving into endless iterations of CPD as bk pointed out - is that the overall effect is anathema to any kind of actual meaningful and productive debate.

I myself am regularly disgusted by the Left and the Right - mainly for the sheer irrationality and cognitive dissonance that both sides are capable of.

While not a regular reader, I try to read this blog whenever I need some fresh air. I bookmarked it as soon as I learned of its existence, it seems one of the few places on the internet where fairness and nuance survives.

The internet is both a great tool and a curse in this ongoing culture war. Unfortunately most of the time I fear that strident partisanship and divisive polemics threaten to undermine our entire society and culture. Perhaps I need not worry. One poster said it was surprisingly easy to ignore. A practical experiment a friend of mine conducted seemed to provide evidence to that effect: A few weeks ago he strolled down one of the aisles of cubicles where he works and none of the 13 or so professional educated co-workers knew any significant details about the Valerie Plame investigation, the Senate Lockdown or Samuel Alito (all of which were in the news that week).

Maybe its a good thing that most people are not paying attention these days. Or maybe they are already sick of it and only us gluttons for punishment are left to deal with the noxious political climate.

As for what to do about it -- we need more bloggers like Cathy Young who are willing to put logic and fairness above ideological rhetoric. That does not mean that one should not take a strong position, it only means that when a position is taken that it is borne out of an honest and objective analysis of the issue at hand. We are all subject to our biases and experience, but if we make an effort we can improve our ability to be objective. For me it has almost become obsessive. I long for an O'Reilly or Limbaugh type mainstream media program that emphasizes debunking all of the rhetoric on both the Left and Right (too bad only sensationalism sells)

At the moment I feel that bringing back honest, rational debate (if it ever existed) is more important than who wins. What's the point in winning, if you turn out to be wrong. How can you know if you are wrong, if there is no honest debate.

So go out an evangelize the value of objectivity and denounce ideological rhetoric whenever you can. To be effective you cannot put the offending person in a defensive position. You have to feign sympathy to their issue while trying to make them understand why their rhetoric is unhealthy. Guess I'm dreaming now....

Brian said...

I generally agree with everything Cathy writes, although I do have a couple of nits to pick with this one.

First, it seems odd that incidences of Republican rudeness haven’t included more acknowledgement of the extreme hyperbole of religious leaders. Tim LaHaye, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, etc... – all of them have made some fairly rude and outrageous remarks, and all of them have much larger followings than the equivalent extremists of the left like Sharpton.

My second point is that, although there is no distinction between the content of the rudeness from Republicans or Democrats,there doesn’t appear to be much money to be made in Democratic rudeness, whereas Republican rudeness can be quite the gravy train. (how's that for a run-on sentence?)

Rush Limbaugh, James Dobson, Tim LaHaye, Pat Robertson, Malkin – all of ‘em, they seem to be making quite the killing peddling their wares (certainly they are all making far more money than more thoughtful conservative commentators and authors could ever dream of).

I guess Michael Moore is making decent bucks (though certainly not on the LaHaye level), but he is the only rude Democrat type I can think of who is making better money shilling than he could doing something else. So far as I know, Garrison Keillor’s audience tunes in for fake biscuit commercials and really insufferable music. He doesn’t make his money from political commentary. Al Franken was probably making more on SNL than on Air America. George Soros is spending his money to spread fringe Democratic politics, rather than making a killing off of them.

I don’t know if that means there are more rude Republicans out there, or if rude Democrats just aren’t bright enough to figure out how to cash in, but I do think it’s a valid distinction.

p.s. – I hate to use “left” and “right” when talking about stuff like that, because the rudest speech tends to be partisan rather than philosophical. The rudest folks tend to be ones who never, ever, ever criticize their own “team” and who reflexively toss add hominems against anybody who identifies with the other party. Perhaps that is why you don’t see much of this kind of rudeness from prominent libertarians.

Revenant said...

What's the point in winning, if you turn out to be wrong. How can you know if you are wrong, if there is no honest debate

On most issues the debate's already happened. After a certain point there's no reason to debate any further unless new evidence or new arguments appear. That's why we don't debate phlogiston theory anymore.

Pooh said...

Revenant takes his ball and goes home...(I kid). Really you think the debate has happened? Do you want me to list the things in the last 3 months were the "debate" has consisted of "Nanny Nanny Boo Boo"? (Alternatively. "You Hate America." "You Hate America MORE." "No, YOU Hate America more," etc.)

As a counterpoint to Cathy and myself, here's an amusing little thing which satirizes the perils of taking an "objectivist" position into the realm of equivalency.

Alan

this: Maybe its a good thing that most people are not paying attention these days. Or maybe they are already sick of it and only us gluttons for punishment are left to deal with the noxious political climate. is part of how we got where we are, so no, I don't think its a good thing.

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

Cathy: I'm certainly not arguing for taking all edgy humor out of political discourse. A misstatement on my part. I'm concerned we develop a tin ear for such bombast, and by taking it too seriously we give the intended reaction and create a market for more.

P.J. O'Rourke can be pretty nasty at times, but not in a truly hateful way. But by what measure? I love P.J. and think he's a riot, but isn't he the same guy who published a rather provocative Enemies List as part of a "Call for a New McCarthyism? How am I to distinguish that from hateful rhetoric? Yes, I believe his tongue is in his cheek, but I'm not entirely convinced that Coulter's is not.

Alan said...

On most issues the debate's already happened. After a certain point there's no reason to debate any further unless new evidence or new arguments appear. That's why we don't debate phlogiston theory anymore

Even if that were true, the problem is that apparently not everyone has gotten the memo.

Otherwise, we wouldn't find ourselves in current climate.

Without a vigilance in maintaining honest and rational discourse, new minds coming of age are susceptible to political and partisan forces who may convince them to support ideas that may be contrary to previously settled debate.

Hence we are condemned to argue political philosophy and policy for eternity...

But the current extremism creates a wider chasm and potentially results in both sides being more wrong than right. I would like to believe (perhaps naively) that civil and rational discourse would lead to a smaller margin of error.

Alan said...

Maybe its a good thing that most people are not paying attention these days...... is part of how we got where we are, so no, I don't think its a good thing.

Well, that mostly was sarcasm.

Actually I like to blame the media for repeatedly choosing to invite two wing nut pundits to discuss an issue instead of two relatively non partisan experts capable of addressing the issues honestly and with nuance. Is the public to blame for that in the sense that the former garners more ratings. What responsibility does the MSM have to provide the public with better discourse?

And what does that vast silent majority actually think? Are they just dumb and happy and don't care? Or are they centrists, perhaps with some innate common sense meter that rejects all the name calling? Maybe this cultural schism just seems worse than it is in that a relatively small number (by comparison) of partisans, pundits and bloggers are making all the noise.

Lastly, I agree that we should not treat Democrats and Republicans or Liberals or Conservatives with equivalency. In an ideal world those labels would vanish because everything would be issue based. When I talk about objective analysis, I mean at the individual issue level. Yes, one would bring their political philosophies to bear on an issue, but I would be willing to guess (as long as logic and evidence were involved) that consensus would be much higher than it is today when all discourse is driven by identity politics, i.e. you are either a Democrat or Republican.

Revenant said...

Do you want me to list the things in the last 3 months were the "debate" has consisted of "Nanny Nanny Boo Boo"?

Well, no. But I'll be happy to list a few topics where no new arguments or significant information has appeared in the last three months:

- abortion
- gay marriage
- the war in Iraq/on terrorism
- cutting/raising taxes
- national healthcare
- the deficit
- gays in the military
- global warming
- genetically modified food
- creationism

In fact, I'll go one further. For many of those topics, there hasn't been anything new to debate for years. In some cases -- creationism, taxes, abortion -- there hasn't been anything new to debate for decades. A person interested in educating himself about any of those issues can, in a matter of months or years, hear pretty much every coherent argument any side has to offer on any of those topics. After that it's pretty much just listening to the same ol' crap all over and over again.

Revenant said...

Even if that were true, the problem is that apparently not everyone has gotten the memo.

Actually, that's not it at all. The problem is that the most controversial topics either have no objectively true answer (e.g., abortion) or deal with topics so complicated that theories about them are impossible to conclusively prove (e.g. anything having to do with politics, wars, or the economy).

The problem with, for example, the abortion debate isn't that the two sides don't understand each others' arguments. Its that they do.

Anonymous said...

Mythago: You said, My blue-state friends, though, will regularly worry that if I don't keep my head down and pretend to be a nice straight Christian lady, that I am in danger of actually being harassed up to and including violence.

I'm not saying they're right. I'm saying that's the perception I hear from people on "both sides".


Really? From both sides? Conservatives in "red states" tell you, "When you come round these parts, don't tell anyone you're a Democrat, or you'll get killed"? I don't believe that for a second.

All that you've done is show how utterly paranoid your "blue state" friends are.

Alan said...

The problem is that the most controversial topics either have no objectively true answer....

I agree with you actually on that point, but it doesn't significantly change the thrust of my argument.

Without honest and objective discourse (I'll cease using the word debate), new minds will never bother to educate themselves fully on both sides of the issue.

So instead of opponents agreeing to compromise or at least expressing tolerance for differing viewpoints (which they have intellectually realized cannot be disproved), they instead demonize and insult each other.

That in turn fosters further erosion in a willingness to examine those coherent arguments that have been around for decades. And more importantly the gulf between the sides becomes artificially large because each side will have exaggerated the merits of their own arguments while believing the straw man arguments against the other side.

Anonymous said...

The grant is in, so I'm back. As someone who lives in an urban island of bible belt red-state, I will say this partially in Mythago's defense. Walking down the street in the suburbs or rural areas wearing a Kerry or Democrat shirt will not put you in danger. If that is what your friends think, that is pretty silly.

However, walking down the street wearing a shirt that announced to the world that you were gay and /or a liberal atheist who was pro-choice would earn you at a minimum glaring looks and, following an unsuccessful effort to save your soul, some nasty comments. That is a minimum. It would certainly put you at risk of having the stuffing beaten out of you. At least for the gay thing, maybe the climate has changed more than I realize. Its just that I know people who have been assaulted, although not recently. I think it is hard to find a gay or lesbian person in my age range living in a red state who DOESN'T know someone who's been assaulted.

Oh, and I have had Christians get very nasty with me when I politely refuse to convert.

Z

William R. Barker said...

CATHY WRITES...

William:

I think your post demonstrates, in a nutshell, exactly what I'm talking about. You seem incapable of seeing any faults on the right.

--------------------

Huh?!?! I don't know where you get that from, Cathy. I could spend all day blasting George W. Bush and the establishment Republican Party. Hey... all you have to do is start a thread dedicated to that and I'll be right there in the thick of it! (*GRIN*) Actually... I think my posts are pretty damn "moderate." For example, while Mythago (just one of the lefties who frequently posts) claims that Ann Coulter wants to murder and imprision millions of liberals I would never make such an idiotic claim against Michael Moore. (*SCRATCHING HEAD*)

---------------------

CATHY CONTINUES...

By the way, where on earth did you get the idea that I find right-wing hate speech vile but not the left-wing kind?

--------------------

When you write comments such as:

"All this is, of course, vile stuff, and there is no excuse for it (including "humor"). And I'll concede that it has no precise equivalent on the left (Ward Churchill is too negligible to count -- his only fame comes from the right).

* No precise equivilent on the left...

--------------------

CATHY CONTINUES...

I'm truly baffled.

--------------------

No problem, Cathy! That's why I'm here... to remind you of what you've written! (*GRIN*)

---------------------

CATHY CONTINUES...

As for the "entertainer" excuse...

---------------------

You say it's just an "excuse," I say it's reality. We disagree. That's... ok... right, Cathy? (*SMILE*)

----------------------

CATHY CONTINUES...


And yeah, I thought Julianne Malveaux's comment wishing that Clarence Thomas would die early of a heart attack was definitely vile...

--------------------

That's good, Cathy!!! You're making tremendeous strides!!! (*GRIN*)

* See again your own earlier comment about "no precise equivilents" that you're now apparently rethinking. (*GRIN*)

--------------------

CATHY CONTINUES...

...but...

--------------------

"BUT???" (*SMIRK*) See... this is what I mean when I accuse you of bending over backwards. There's no "but" here, Cathy. Wake up and smell the espresso! (*SMILE*)

--------------------

CATHY CONTINUES...

...it's ridiculous to compare Malveaux and Coulter. Malveaux is hardly "prominent,"

--------------------

Hmm... a bit of revisionist history there, Cath. AT THE TIME... Malveaux was a VERY prominent liberal while I don't believe Coulter was even on the public radar scope.

----------------------

CATHY CONTINUES...

...and the comment in question was made on a PBS show...

-------------------

Uhhmm... Cathy... I think you're making my point for me here. (*WINK*)

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CATHY CONTINUES...

...whose audience could probably fit in a couple of buses.

-------------------

Ha! Ha! Ha! Again... it's kinda funny to watch you jump through hoops here, Cathy. At the time Malveaux made her remark PBS was a very influencial member of the American media establishment and frankly they still are today. But anyway... we're getting off track.

--------------

CATHY CONTINUES...

Ann Coulter, the "entertainer," is a best-selling conservative author who speaks regularly at conferences of conservative groups such as the Conservative Political Action Committee. And let me get this straight... you find Malveaux's comment vile, but not Coulter wishing for the assassination of transportation secretary Norman Mineta?

--------------------

If Coulter did that, yes, that obviously qualifies as a vile comment. That said... and going back to my original comment about how I can criticize Bush and the Republicans all day long... Norm Mineta is an absolute incompetent and keeping him on - along with that other absolute incompetent Tenent - was one of Bush's major mistakes both before and after 9/11.

-------------------

CATHY CONTINUES...

Try and reverse some of Coulter's comments politically. i.e., imagine that a leftist commentator had said, "My only problem with Timothy McVeigh is that he didn't drive his truck into the Fox News building,"...

----------------------

Sorry, Cath... wouldn't bother me. (*SMILE*) I'd take the remark for what it was, a hyperbolic comment meant to shock and gain attention.

----------------------

CATHY CONTINUES...

....and "The only question left about Bush is whether to impeach or assassinate."

----------------------

Ditto. It doesn't "shock my delicate sensibilities" nor would it drive me to my telephone to call the Secret Service in a panic to report a credible threat to the President. Seriously, Cathy... you've gotta rethink where, when, and under what circumstance the line should be drawn. Malveaux's comments (made in all seriousness, I believe) were vile; these examples you're coming up with... obnoxious. See the difference?

------------------

CATHY CONTINUES...

Now imagine that this person appears frequently on CNN and at meetings of Americans for Democratic Action, and is generally one of the people most in demand on the liberal speaking circuit.

--------------------

Cath... why would I have to "imagine?" This is what happens all the time. Again... you're confusing revenue generating controversy and "showmanship" in order to attrack an audience pro or con and reach out to the base with truly unhinged and vile behavior.

----------------------

CATHY CONTINUES...

Would you find this outrageous or not?

----------------------

Have I answered the question to your satisfaction? (*WINK*) (*GRIN*)

-----------------------

CATHY CONTINUES...

Coulter is a VERY prominent right-wing commentator whose "shtick" is based entirely on the premise that Americans who disagree with conservatives are to be viewed as the enemy. Sorry, I find that spectacularly unfunny and, yes, poisonous.

-------------------

You have a right to your opinion.

Now... if you were paying ANY attention... you'll remember that I originally stressed that Coulter isn't my cup of tea (pint of stout), but sorry, Cathy, I think the "poisonous" tag is just ridiculous. (It is ok that I differ with you... right?) (*SMILE*)

-------------------------

CATHY CONTINUES...

Btw, I don't recall ever saying that I thought Pelosi was less extreme than Denny Hastert.

Tom Delay, maybe. I certainly don't consider Hastert an extremist.

---------------------

My mistake! You're absolutely right... you were referring to DeLay, not Pelosi. Sorry!

---------------------

CATHY CONTINUES...

Which of Pelosi's comments do you consider so wacky? Most of the ones I've seen (however much I disagree with Pelosi's politics) are basically strong political rhetoric. If you mean her post-Katrina description of Bush as "oblivious, in denial, dangerous" -- frankly, I think that Bush's "all is going well" response elicited that kind of reaction from a lot of people, Republicans included. And really, it was nothing compared to some of the comments top Republicans made about Clinton.

--------------------

Fair question, Cath! Frankly, I don't have a specific quote to give you and honestly... I'm not going to spend the time trying to dig one (or two... or ten...) up simply because if I did what would you do - respond with more DeLay quotes? I consider such an exercise a waste of time. If you want to know "where" I come up with that opinion of Pelosi, it comes from all the times I've seen her on TV. To me... she comes across as a wack. (*SMILE*) That's just my gut feeling and for what it's worth that's where my feelings about Dean come from... having watched him on the Sunday Morning News Shows time and time again, etc. (Sorry... I didn't take notes!) (*SMILE*)

----------------------

CATHY CONTINUES...

You should try that "put the shoe on the other foot" exercise sometime. It can be enlightening.

----------------------

I do! Could it be that you "see" what you expect to see in my posts rather than truly paying attention?

As other "conservative" voices who take part in Y File discussions have noted, I think if you really analyize the thrust of the posts of the "right wingers" vs. the "left wingers" you'll notice that more often than not it's the left who tend to go overboard.

Anyway... just my two cents worth!

BILL

P.S. - I find it hard to fathom how you can be so tolerant of posters like Mythago who make outrageous claims about blue staters being worried that red staters are going to KILL them while claiming that *I* am basically a mindless partisan simply because we disagree on the meaning of certain examples.

Revenant said...

However, walking down the street wearing a shirt that announced to the world that you were gay and /or a liberal atheist who was pro-choice would earn you at a minimum glaring looks and, following an unsuccessful effort to save your soul, some nasty comments. That is a minimum.

Hell, that's the reaction you get in California just for saying you voted for Bush. I've experienced being an atheist in the South and being a right-of-center voter in California, and I can definitely state I got a lot more grief for the latter than the former.

I think it is hard to find a gay or lesbian person in my age range living in a red state who DOESN'T know someone who's been assaulted.

I think it's hard to find a gay or lesbian person living in ANY state who doesn't know someone who's been assaulted. It happens in San Francisco too, and if that city got any more Left it would topple into the Pacific Ocean.

Besides, homophobia is more than a cultural thing than a left/right thing. A gay person is safer in an upper-income white Republican neighborhood than he is in a lower-income black neighborhood.

Brian said...

I think it's hard to find a gay or lesbian person living in ANY state who doesn't know someone who's been assaulted. It happens in San Francisco too, and if that city got any more Left it would topple into the Pacific Ocean. Besides, homophobia is more than a cultural thing than a left/right thing. A gay person is safer in an upper-income white Republican neighborhood than he is in a lower-income black neighborhood.

That misses the point. The simple fact is that some cultural conservatives physically assault gay people. It doesn’t matter if the cultural conservative in question is black, white, red or purple – Republican, Democrat or Independent – and whether they live in San Francisco or Tulsa. At worst, a Republican wearing a Bush t-shirt may get a nasty comment from liberal. A gay person (whether in San Francisco or Tulsa) lives with the very real risk that some Neanderthal will beat him or her up. I guess there are some environmental nutbags who resort to violence, but it’s nowhere near as widespread as gay-bashing. I think this is another valid distinction between the two sides when it comes to obnoxiousness.

So, to recap my silly points. Obnoxious social conservatives are more likely to beat up gays and to get really, really rich by marketing obnoxiousness.

Obnoxious liberals are more likely to be embraced by “the cultural establishment” and get invited to fancy parties in Hollywood.

Thoughtful and polite commentators, like Cathy, Jon Rausch, Virginia Postrel and others, don’t get rich nor do they get invited to the Vanity Fair Oscar Party. There is clearly no justice in the universe.

Anonymous said...

Revenant,

I am not surprised you got grief in California. I am just surprised you got MORE of it for being right of center than for being an atheist in the south. I have gotten quite a bit of grief for being an atheist in the red state west, midwest, and south. Granted, I haven't gotten as much grief in the south, but that is because I generally only go to visit family. (My family have plenty of things to give me grief about.)

It is true that gay people get attacked everywhere. However, in more liberal areas, we certainly present a bigger target. So, the picture in more liberal, blue state type environments is that most people can be themselves, and not be attacked. In contrast, the feeling in more conservative, red state type environments is that the few who are open either have been or eventually will be attacked. Again, things are really changing, so maybe I'm stuck in the 90's.

A gay person is safer in an upper-income white Republican neighborhood than he is in a lower-income black neighborhood.

Duh! Statisitically, anybody is safer in the upper-income white neighborhood. They don't hate us any less. The difference is that people who have more, have more to lose. They aren't going to attack us on the street, because that would risk legal trouble. Instead, they do their level best to communicate that they hate us and that we aren't welcome in the neighborhood. Of course, they also attack us at the ballot box.

Don't get me wrong. I'd rather people people glare at me and get snippy, rather than come after me with a crowbar (happened to a friend). But you can't seriously be suggesting that red states, in general, aren't more homophobic than blue states (again, in general). I mean, Jeez, the Republican party platform explicitly states opposition to gays in the military and gay marraige.

Z

Anonymous said...

I am a statistician, and I mis-spelled statistically. You can't tell I haven't been getting much sleep lately.

Z

Revenant said...

The simple fact is that some cultural conservatives physically assault gay people.

So do some cultural liberals -- particularly in the black and hispanic communities. A gay man is more likely to get his ass kicked in South Central Los Angeles than he is in a solidly-Baptist middle-class suburb of Houston. Homophobia isn't about being liberal or conservative, it's about being ignorant. The same goes for racism.

Statisitically, anybody is safer in the upper-income white neighborhood.

No, I mean he's more likely to be attacked for being gay. Blacks are one of the most viciously homophobic demographic groups in America.

I mean, Jeez, the Republican party platform explicitly states opposition to gays in the military and gay marraige

The Democratic Party is also opposed to gay marriage and gays in the military. Need I remind you that it was Clinton who signed the DOMA and authored the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy (and, indeed, told The Advocate in 1996 that marriage should be for men and women only)? Or that Kerry also came out against gay marriage during the 2004 campaign? There's good reason for this. Both parties have groups in their base that they rely on for votes, but which are strongly homophobic. For Republicans it is conservative Christians. For Democrats, it is blacks, Hispanics, and union workers.

You're correct that the blue states are, on average, less homophobic than the red states. But the difference isn't that great, and in any case there are few states of any color which aren't majority-homophobic. California banned gay marriage by statewide referendum, and you don't get much Bluer than California.

Instead, they do their level best to communicate that they hate us and that we aren't welcome in the neighborhood. Of course, they also attack us at the ballot box.

Yes, but there's nothing wrong with them doing that; this is a democracy. And your assumption that they're only refraining from physical attacks because they "have too much to lose" is unfounded. Finally, social conservatives (and people like me, who are falsely presumed to be socially conservative because we voted for Bush) are subjected to the same hateful treatment in socially liberal and/or heavily gay areas.

Brian said...

But the difference isn't that great, and in any case there are few states of any color which aren't majority-homophobic. California banned gay marriage by statewide referendum, and you don't get much Bluer than California.

Now that’s just silly. Sure, California doesn’t have equal marriage yet, but it does have comprehensive domestic partnership legislation, co-parent adoptions, and employment discrimination laws. “Red” states, on the other hand, have overtly vicious laws like Oklahoma’s law that purports to invalidate adoptions by gay couples moving in from out-of-state (the subject of a great recent article in Reason by Julian Sanchez). If that isn’t a “great” difference, I don’t know what is. Granted, no state is as anti-gay as Iran, or as gay-friendly as the Netherlands, but that doesn’t change the simple fact that there is a vast gulf between the two.

Finally, social conservatives (and people like me, who are falsely presumed to be socially conservative because we voted for Bush) are subjected to the same hateful treatment in socially liberal and/or heavily gay areas.

And it’s absurd to compare the cold-shoulder that liberals give Bush voters to the outright government-mandated discrimination gay people face. Nobody is beating up people just for voting Bush, or trying to take Bush-voters’ children away. I’ve yet to meet a kid who was thrown out of his liberal parents’ home for being too Republican. It’s just wrong to think that the occasional rude comment in any way comparable to being discriminated against by your own government or parents.

That’s just moral equivalence at its silliest.

This entire thread reinforces my original thought. There is a huge market for nasty Republican rhetoric, and there is no comparable market for hateful Democratic rhetoric (although the rhetoric is certainly out there on both sides and is just as nasty coming from either – the stuff on the Democratic side is generally free). There is a market for nutso-bongo-crazy Religious conservative material consumed almost exclusively by Republicans (the Left Behind series), but there is no comparable market for similarly crazy material on the Democratic side (last I checked the Earth Liberation Front wasn’t exactly a lucrative gig). I don’t know why the difference exists, but it clearly does.

thecobrasnose said...

Assault is, to cop a line from Arsenic and Old Lace, not only illegal, it’s wrong. And so assault should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But hate? Not illegal, and it shouldn’t be. You want to hate me? Feel free! You think I’ve never endured a withering look or false assumption because I’m straight? Nah, I’ve got lots of qualities that seem to drive people nuts, and maybe one day one of them will get me beaten to death one sad night. Or maybe somebody will want my wallet or television just that much.

Perhaps the most plaintive comment on this thread was Cathy’s remark, “I just think that in a better world, Coulter (and Moore) would have no sizable audience.” Hard to disagree, but then I’d tend to say the same thing about that show “Hope & Faith.”

I can’t honestly say that vicious speech or writing has never hurt my feelings or worried me, but what worries me more is mass fretting about it to the point that proximate but far graver problems get lost or diminished in the commotion. Ann Coulter spouting fiery rhetoric troubles me far less than a group of “activists” (have to admit I prefer Coulter’s more colorful appellations for them, but for the sake of civility will stick with that term) shouting her down and throwing pies at her (or Bill Kristol or Bill Gates). Likewise, Theo Van Gogh sounded like an absolutely obnoxious person whom I probably would have disliked in life. But I’ll never know because he was slaughtered on the street by an even more motivated activist than Coulter has had to contend with so far.

To draw a parallel with other posts on this blog, when the “torture” of an uncomfortably cold room is equated the torture of Saddam’s rape rooms, or when the evils of patriarchy as practiced by the mass of men in the US loom as large as the oppression of women under the Taliban, the debate becomes hopelessly skewed. When Coulter does her outrageous thing on Bill Maher’s show, no biggie. When she is assaulted or prevented from speaking to her audience that is a serious problem.

We can’t let the debate about the tone of the debate blind us to larger issues.

Which brings me to Brian—sure, the Left Behind series may be nutty and worthless (I’ve never read the books), but the Earth Liberation Front has cost millions of dollars in damage to property (including research) and has physically intimidated its enemies. Surely you see that difference?

Brian said...

Which brings me to Brian—sure, the Left Behind series may be nutty and worthless (I’ve never read the books), but the Earth Liberation Front has cost millions of dollars in damage to property (including research) and has physically intimidated its enemies. Surely you see that difference?

Yeah, but it doesn't address my point that there is a market for one and not the other. ELF and LaHaye are both whack, but there are lots of people willing to shill out bucks for LaHaye's (or Falwell or Coulter's) brand of whack, whereas the stuff on the left has no client base willing to pay for it (with Moore being the one notable exception). I wasn't arguing that one had caused more damage than the other -- and I'm not sure it would be very easy to quantify the damage caused by bizarro apocolyptic fantasies.

b/t/w -- characterizing this administration's interrogation policy as "an uncomfortably cold room" is a pretty insensitive response to the torture of water-boarding and other brutality directed toward people who have never been convicted of any crime. Although the torture Bush has sanctioned is not as severe and pervasive as Hussein's -- it is fair to compare them, just as it's fair to compare U.S. socialists with more extreme socialists in other countries (who are guilty of the same mistakes, but to a greater degree).

Revenant said...

If that isn’t a “great” difference, I don’t know what is.

I think you're forgetting that a small difference in voter attitudes can make a huge difference in the outcome of a vote. For example, if 51% of one state wants something and 51% of another state doesn't want it, it will probably happen in the first state and not the second -- even though the difference in the two states' attitudes is only 2%.

And it’s absurd to compare the cold-shoulder that liberals give Bush voters to the outright government-mandated discrimination gay people face

I was comparing how members of the two groups treat each other in social situations. Personally, I think being called a Nazi who deserves to get drafted and killed goes a little beyond "being given the cold shoulder", but hey.

But if you want to talk government-mandated discrimination, I'd like to point out that left-wingers favor government-mandated discrimination against whites, men, and people who earn good salaries -- all of which I personally happen to be. So don't try claiming the moral high ground, here. Conservatives are no more guilty of using the brute force of government to punish groups they dislike than lefties are. Being denied government marriage benefits is no greater an injustice than my being subjected to higher taxes because I'm smarter and harder-working than the fuckups I went to school with, and certainly no greater than the children of Vietnamese boat people being discriminated against in favor of the children of well-to-do blacks.

the occasional rude comment

Occasional? Heh.

there is no comparable market for hateful Democratic rhetoric

Now that's just silly. "Fahrenheit 9/11" alone made $120 million, and it consisted of nothing but pure, unadulterated left-wing hate.

Brian said...

I already stated that Moore is the one left wing exception to the rule -- that doesn't change the overwhelming disproportion between the market for Republican rude crazy and the market for Democratic rude crazy. Right-wing crazy has religious broadcasting networks, scads of books, a big presence on Fox, lots more books, AM Radio networks -- all of them profitable. Left wing crazy has the sales of one fat dishonest documentarian. The market for right wing crazy is just bigger. That's all there is to it.

As for affirmative action being as bad as anti-gay legislation, if you think a marginal difference in the chance of getting into Michigan is the equivilent of the state of Oklahoma threatening to make orphans out of kids raised by gay couples, I guess we just have different value structures. I agree that state mandated affirmative action is idiotic, unfair and doesn't exactly smack of Equal Protection -- but how often do you really apply to Michigan anyway?

But if it makes you feel any better, I did think of one place where the left is worse than the right. Crazy lefties (Chomsky, Moore, Tim Robbins, Sarandon, Meathead) are generally accepted and even hailed in some very well established cultural institutions -- universities in particular -- whereas I think the uber crazies of Republicanism are pretty exiled to non-mainstream institutions. Al Sharpton is certainly going to get a warmer welcome at Princeton than Tim Lahay, which I think might mean that moderate Republican-leaning folks are better at criticizing their nutbags than Democrat-leaning folks. (or at least mainstream Republicans are embarrased by the crazies who vote the same way as they do -- which is commendable IMHO).

thecobrasnose said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
thecobrasnose said...

Brian--are you making the argument that there are more conservative nuts but that the liberal nuts are more dangerous and culturally corrosive? Not that I'd necesarrily disagree...

Anonymous said...

Revenant,

From the democratic party platform, 'We support full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal
responsibilities, benefits, and protections for these families. In our country, marriage has been defined at
the state level for 200 years, and we believe it should continue to be defined there. We repudiate
President Bush's divisive effort to politicize the Constitution by pursuing a "Federal Marriage
Amendment."' No mention of gays in the military.

Contrast that with the republican party platform, which states:
'We affirm traditional military culture, and we
affirm that homosexuality is incompatible with military service.' 'We strongly support President Bush’s call for a Constitutional amendment that
fully protects marriage,...' That is just the opening paragraph. There is a whole section on it.

Kerry had said that he personally had a problem with gay marraige, but did not support a constitutional amendment that banned gay marraige. He thought it should be handled by the states. Bush, on the other hand, was actively campaigning for that constitutional amendment.

And thats how its been... while the democrats haven't exactly been pro-gay, most haven't been anti-gay, either. Outside of blue states(where the republicans tend to be more moderate), however, it is quite challenging to find a republican who isn't pretty anti-gay. This isn't just an opinion. Look at the votes for gay related legislation over the last 10 years. If the bill could be helpful to the gay community, the majority of republicans vote against, the majority of democrats vote for. If the bill could be harmful to the gay community, it is the opposite. Time after time.

In my state, in 2004, there were campaign ads for a republican candidate that were blatantly homophobic. Doing stuff like showing footage of the democratic candidate shaking hands with a gay rights group, playing ominous music, and voicing over how the democratic candidate and the 'gay agenda' are going to destroy families.

But hey, you're out in California. When my republican aunt lived out there, she thought I was exaggerating, too. Then she took a job in rural Kansas, and was absolutely shocked, and fairly horrified.

0ut here, the GOP is the party of John Ashcroft, not John McCain.

Z

Revenant said...

Right-wing crazy has religious broadcasting networks, scads of books, a big presence on Fox, lots more books, AM Radio networks -- all of them profitable

Left-wing crazy has the other major news networks, National Public Radio, and all of Hollywood. I'm sorry, but the idea that there's a greater market for right-wing nuts just doesn't pass a laugh test. "Left Behind" didn't get made into a major Oscar-bait motion picture -- "Syriana", "Jarhead", and "Good Night and Good Luck" did.

Revenant said...

From the democratic party platform

All that means is that Democrats are hypocrites on gay rights and Republicans are not. Because the reality is that both parties are anti-gay. Both Kerry and Bush said that gay marriage should be banned and civil unions allowed.

Look at the votes for gay related legislation over the last 10 years. If the bill could be helpful to the gay community, the majority of republicans vote against, the majority of democrats vote for. If the bill could be harmful to the gay community, it is the opposite.

A supermajority of Democrats supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which passed in September of 1996.

The anti-gay-marriage amendment was never voted on, so we can't know how that vote would have gone.

A majority of Democrats voted "yes" on a measure expressing continued support for the Solomon amendment.

There may be other examples -- that's just from a brief Googling. But really, gays in the military and gay marriage are the big issues -- and Democrats, like Republicans, are on the wrong side on both.

But hey, you're out in California. When my republican aunt lived out there, she thought I was exaggerating, too. Then she took a job in rural Kansas, and was absolutely shocked, and fairly horrified.

I grew up in the south as an atheist liberal Democrat, so don't presume I don't know what it is like to be in that situation. And don't tell me about outrageous and hostile campaign ads -- you should have seen the crap the unions ran against Schwarzenegger's referenda during the last election.

0ut here, the GOP is the party of John Ashcroft, not John McCain.

That's a strange example -- McCain is a social conservative too. I'd have gone with Rudy Giuliani.

Anonymous said...

Being denied government marriage benefits is no greater an injustice than my being subjected to higher taxes because I'm smarter and harder-working than the fuckups I went to school with

This is simply disgraceful. To compare paying proportionally more money out of your income to being denied a near-fundamental right is simply absurd. It is not absurd to imagine a person who makes a significant amount of money (and thus pays more of their share in taxes) being content with the amount of money they pay in taxes and lacking any feeling of injustice. They could simply say, "I make a bunch of money, and I feel the money goes to a good places, so my taxes should be relatively higher". This is entirely reasonable. However, it would be absurd to imagine a homosexual couple that was perfectly ok with marriage rights or civil unions being denied to them, and even more absurd that they would make justifications for that denial of right to be a good thing.

There is a stark distance in the amount of injustice done to people in these two cases. In fact, the first case, with progressive taxes, is highly debatable whether any injustice is done in the first place, and this debate has been going on for centuries, and will still continue to go on for centuries in rational discourse. We will still be asking the question, "What is the appropriate level of taxation?" And that question should be asked. However, I hope we should not be asking the question "What is the appropriate level of marriage rights that should be granted to homosexuals?".

To equate the two is an injustice itself.

Anonymous said...

Revenant,

Sorry to presume. I agree that wasn't fair. And yes, Giuliani is a better choice... I was just going for the John - John thing.

The gay marriage amendment was shut down by democrats in the Senate. You needed 60 votes to 'invoke cloture' which would let it go to a real vote. Republicans:
— 45 yes, 6 no; Democrats — 3 yes, 43 no; Independents — 0 yes, 1 no

In the House, it came to a vote Sept 30th, 2004. Democrats — 36 yes, 158 no; Republicans — 191 yes, 27 no; Independents — 0 yes , 1 no.

How about the marriage protection act of 2004? This was a House measure to make it so that gay people couldn't challenge DOMA in federal court. It passed:
Republicans — 206 yes, 17 no; Democrats
— 27 yes, 176 no; Independents — 0 yes, 1 no.

Try googling the Weldon Amendment to HR 2944 or check out the long, tortured history of ENDA. There are other measures which have been mostly sponsored by democrats, but have not been allowed by the majority to come to a vote: domestic partnership benefits and obligations act, domestic partner health benefits equity act, family medical leave inclusion act, uniting American families act, and the military readiness enhancement act (repeals don't ask, don't tell. Sponsored by a democrat).

You got me on DOMA. But it is worth noting that 100% of republicans voted for it. Every nay vote was a democrat.

Z

Pooh said...

Revenant, see Syriana before you describe is as 'liberal oscar-bait'. It's "Realist" more than anything, I'd say.

Revenant said...

The gay marriage amendment was shut down by democrats in the Senate.

It was filibustered by them, yes, but all that shows is that Democrats didn't want to have to cast votes on the amendment -- a filibuster wasn't necessary to prevent the amendment from passing.

As for your other examples -- certainly there are bills where most Democrats favored gay rights and most Republicans didn't. The point is, your claim that this is always the case isn't true. Democrats are indeed more willing to support gay rights, but only in trivial cases. On the important stuff they're AWOL. That some Democratic Congresscritters have sponsored pro-gay legislation doesn't mean much -- the party has never gotten behind it, and so it doesn't go anywhere. Democrats are a minority, but they're perfectly capable of raising enough of a stink to pressure Republicans into voting when they think it is important.

The truth is that Democratic support for gay rights is much like Bush's support for the gay marriage amendment. He doesn't give a rat's ass if it ever passes. He expended zero political capital getting it passed, in fact. The important thing is to toss out a law that gets some interest group in your base fired up, then let it be killed by the wicked Opposition.

Revenant said...

see Syriana before you describe is as 'liberal oscar-bait'. It's "Realist" more than anything, I'd say

Plot summary: we kill the good guys so that oil companies can get rich, everything wrong in the Middle East is ultimately America's fault. That's not Realism, that's how paranoid leftists *see* realism. "Wall Street" suffered from the same problem with regard to capitalism.

rick said...

revenant-

"Jarhead" was part of the "Left-wing crazy" market?

Could you elaborate or support your claim with evidence?

Revenant said...

This is simply disgraceful. To compare paying proportionally more money out of your income to being denied a near-fundamental right is simply absurd.

There is no right to government benefits, fundamental or otherwise. Gays aren't fighting for the right to marry -- they're fighting for the right to receive the government benefits that heterosexual married couples get. In other words, they're fighting for the right NOT to be treated equally, but to in fact be treated better than single people like myself are.

So yes, it is vastly more unjust that I should have to work extra hours of slave labor just because I'm more valuable as a worker. "You have more money, ergo I should be allowed to take more of your money" may be run-of-the-mill left-wing thinking, but that doesn't change the fact that it is nothing more than the majority enriching itself by preying on the minority.

Brian said...

Left-wing crazy has the other major news networks, National Public Radio, and all of Hollywood. I'm sorry, but the idea that there's a greater market for right-wing nuts just doesn't pass a laugh test. "Left Behind" didn't get made into a major Oscar-bait motion picture -- "Syriana", "Jarhead", and "Good Night and Good Luck" did.

It’s simply pointless arguing with you. If you think NPR is the left-wing equivalent of Rush. OK. You go with that. If you think “Jarhead” is in any way, shape, or form as crazy as the multi-bazillion selling Left Behind series. Um, well, I guess you are entitled to your opinion. Did anybody actually see “Jarhead” for it’s politics – everybody I know who went to see it just wanted to see Jake Gyllanhaal take off his shirt.

The functional equivalent of Rush, Hannity, LaHaye, etc. is Michael Moore, Margaret Cho and Al Franken. Rush, Limbaugh and Hannity make a whole lot more mollah than Cho and Franken. Sorry the facts offend, but the facts is what they is.

Yes Hollywood is liberal. No, it does not make money due to its liberalism. Again, my point hasn’t been refuted. There is a paying market for right wing hate and crazy, but the market for similar left-wing hate and crazy is much, much, much smaller.

I wasn’t arguing that there are no relatively liberal media outlets, nor that there are no liberals in media, or that there aren’t crazy liberal jerks out there, or anything of the sort. I don’t understand why you keep arguing against straw men.

b/t/w – the fact that you bring up a nonprofit entity like NPR to refute my point that there is no paying market for left-wing crazy – um – well – that’s kinda funny.

Sorry about the taxes. I know, I know, it's practically like having to sit at the back of the bus, or having your kids taken away, or being arrested for sodomy. It's almost exactly like that. Sure is. Yup.

Cathy Young said...

There's no way I can reply to most of these comments, so I'll have to limit myself to a few quick points.

To William Barker:

I wonder how carefully you read my post. I said that a few prominent right-wingers' "humorous" talk about mass murder or incarceration of liberal has no precise equivalent on the left. But I said there were other things that were, essentially, just as bad.

If you want to insist that Malveaux ever had anything like Coulter's prominence ... well, I won't argue the point. I just think you're totally wrong on this. And by the way, why is it "vile" to joke that you hope someone will die from eating too much fried food, and merely "obnoxious" to joke about hoping that someone will be assassinated? At least the former invites no human action. Or does Malveaux, unlike Coulter, get no benefit of the doubt as to whether she was joking?

As for partisanship: Sorry if I misread you. However, I don't think it's a matter of partisanship so much as ideology -- a lot of conservatives who are hardcore ideologues have been plenty critical of Republican administrations. Your posts struck me as exhibiting a "no enemies on the right" mentality. (By the way, I believe you asked why the Terri Schiavo case is so important to me. Sorry, but when Congress acts in a blatantly unconstitutional manner, and when leading conservative media personalities tell or abet blatant lies and cause the entire country to be gripped by nearly a week of hysteria, I find that pretty scandalous.)

Regarding your claim that I somehow treated mythago more favorably than you -- I suggest that you re-read my reply to mythago's comment about blue staters' fears about red staters. If the tone of my reply to you was somewhat more brusque... sorry, but your post kind of rubbed me the wrong way because of its condescending tone ("You really need that vacation" etc.).

letmespellitoutforyou, re PJ O'Rourke: I didn't see the "enemies list" as that big a deal because (1) it was merely one bit of schtick in PJ's overall body of work; (2) it was not part of a larger tidal wave of demonizing rhetoric; and (3) it was clearly humor, albeit edgy humor. In Coulter's case, I can see how some of her cracks can be written off as humorous, but does she even claim she's joking when she declares the Democrats the party of treason?

cobra: I agree that "pieing" incidents are more troubling than Ann Coulter's extreme rhetoric, but why does it have to be one or the other? Surely one can be opposed to both (with the caveat, of course, that throwing a pie at someone is illegal and should be punished, while Coulter's speech, and indeed speech far nastier than Coulter's, is fully protected by the First Amendment).

Interesting debate on where the big bucks for extreme rhetoric are. I don't really have any coherently formulated thoughts on this at the moment, but a quick comment to Brian. I think you may be overlooking more "genteel" varieties of extreme/opponent-demonizing speech left of center. I'm thinking, for instance, of things like Maureen Dowd's assertion in one of her columns that Clarence Thomas's critique of raced-based affirmative action revealed him to be "barking mad."

Pooh said...

Revenant, if that's your plot summary then you haven't seen it. That's a summary based on overheard talking points. It's Joe Morgan saying Moneyball is full of crap having never read it. But who needs evidence when you are 100% certain of your correctness ex ante?

As to your point on gay marriage, that is simply asinine. You CAN get married and get benefits, they can't. You have superior rights in this area to every gay person. (Oh wait, they can 'marry' opposite sex too. Yup that's the same thing.) If you want to argue that no-one should have access to 'partnership' benefits, I'll listen, but you are being obtuse, I think willfully so. If you don't want gays to get married because you don't like gays, be upfront about it, don't hide behind faux Libertarian nonsense.

mythago said...

does that, maybe, tell us more about blue-staters' prejudices than about those of the red-staters'?

Why would it tell us "more" about one or the other? I'm honestly not sure what you mean by this.

I'm *not* saying that lefties are better than righties. What I am saying is that the misconceptions each 'side' has of the other seem to be different.

thecobrasnose said...

The very best way to prevent gay marriage from winning at the ballot box is to continually accuse all Republicans/ conservatives of bigotry. I understand that some may simply see it as a calling a spade a spade, but you should recognize how alienating it is to otherwise sympathetic people. I support gay marriage on principle and would vote for it if it given the opportunity, but have to admit that after a couple years of abuse that conflates any support whatsoever for the current administration with all manner of anti-gay evil…I’m just not that interested in gay causes any more.

Which I guess is a decent illustration of how intemperate rhetoric can backfire on those who employ it.

Pooh said...

Cobra, to be clear, I wasn't accusing Revenant of bigotry, I was accusing him of obfuscation. Plus the "poor oppressed single guy" argument just ticks me off. I am not a victim damnit ;)

William R. Barker said...

CATHY WRITES...

To William Barker:

...your post kind of rubbed me the wrong way because of its condescending tone ("You really need that vacation" etc.)

---------------------------

WRB REPLIES...

Oops! Sorry Cath! I didn't mean to push your buttons! That was me being a wiseass... written with a smile on my face... rather than me trying to be condecending. (*SMILE*)

-----------------------

CATHY WRITES...

If you want to insist that Malveaux ever had anything like Coulter's prominence ... well, I won't argue the point. I just think you're totally wrong on this.

-------------------------

WRB REPLIES...

We agree to disagree. Fair enough.

--------------------------

CATHY WRITES...

And by the way, why is it "vile" to joke that you hope someone will die from eating too much fried food, and merely "obnoxious" to joke about hoping that someone will be assassinated?

-------------------------

WRB REPLIES...

Because I think Malveaux was serious. I put that right in my post. Now who's not "carefully" reading posts?! (*GRIN*)

-------------------------

CATHY WRITES...

[D]oes Malveaux, unlike Coulter, get no benefit of the doubt as to whether she was joking?

---------------------------

WRB REPLIES...

No. (How's that for short and sweet?) (*SMILE*)

----------------------------

CATHY WRITES...

As for partisanship: Sorry if I misread you.

----------------------------

WRB REPLIES...

No problem! (*SMILE*)

----------------------------

CATHY WRITES...

Your posts struck me as exhibiting a "no enemies on the right" mentality.

-----------------------------

WRB REPLIES...

Heaven forbid! (*GRIN*) One example... I think Pat Robertson is off his rocker! (*SMILE*)

---------------------------


CATHY WRITES...

By the way, I believe you asked why the Terri Schiavo case is so important to me. Sorry, but when Congress acts in a blatantly unconstitutional manner, and when leading conservative media personalities tell or abet blatant lies and cause the entire country to be gripped by nearly a week of hysteria, I find that pretty scandalous.

----------------------------

WRB REPLIES...

First of all, Cathy... speaking of hysteria... (*GRIN*) (*WISEASS REMARK... NOT CONDESCENDION*) you'll have to explain to me - with quotes from the Constitution if you can - exactly why you believe the Congress acted "unconstitutionally."

Second of all... I'm as against lies as you are. (*SMILE*)

Third... back to hysteria... (*SMILE*) my experience was that people differed over the Schiavo case, most with the best of motives.

Finally... just for the record... I didn't "ask" why the Schiavo case was so important to you, rather, I wrote the following:

...when you go on and on about Terri Schiavo I just tune out. I just don't attach the same importance or emphasis to this footnote to American history that you do....

See the difference, Cath? And by the way, I wasn't saying that in a nasty or dismissive way; I was just sharing my own personal feelings on the subject.

As always, thanks for providing this blog and thanks for addressing my comments.

BILL

Revenant said...

That's a summary based on overheard talking points.

It's a summary based on my getting bored out of my mind with incoherent storytelling and walking out of the movie, actually. I've seen better film on teeth.

But rather than simply attacking my summary of the film, why don't you cite the parts of the film which are at odds with leftist perceptions of how US foreign policy operates?

to your point on gay marriage, that is simply asinine. You CAN get married and get benefits, they can't.

Sure they can. They just can't marry a person of the same gender and receive benefits. If requiring me to get married to a woman in order to receive benefits is fair, why is it unfair to require a gay man to do the same?

So, no. I think gays should receive marriage benefits, but the idea that they're entitled to them is laughable. Nobody is entitled to them. People are, on the other hand, entitled to the fruit of their labor.

If you don't want gays to get married because you don't like gays, be upfront about it, don't hide behind faux Libertarian nonsense.

Don't be a jackass.

Pooh said...

Rev,

Address this specific argument: If straight (married) couples are granted a benfit based on their marital status, so should same-sex marriage-like partnerships. This is not an argument based on entitlement, it's based on equal treatment. Are you serious that gay persons marrying opposite sex is analagous to hetero marriage? There is a large and obvious difference in kind, and you're unwillingness to address this is what lead me (probably unfortunately, and sorry about that) to question your real motives.

As to Syriana, you're switching your argument. Whether you thought the movie was crap is a seperate (though probably related) question to its politics. I enjoyed the movie because I like that style of storytelling. I'm not going to say you are wrong for disagreeing.

As to 'leftist perceptions', I don't know what you mean. Do 'rightists' perceive U.S. foregin policy to not act in its own interests? Do rightists claim we don't blow stuff up? I guess my underlying point was that I didn't feel the movie took a moral position.

Revenant said...

Address this specific argument: If straight (married) couples are granted a benfit based on their marital status, so should same-sex marriage-like partnerships. This is not an argument based on entitlement, it's based on equal treatment.

It's not an argument at all. It's just a claim.

Another way of phrasing the exact same claim is this: since straight married couples are treated better than single people, the principle of equal treatment requires that gay married couples be treated better than single people too. That's "equal treatment"? Only if some people are more equal than others. :)

Are you serious that gay persons marrying opposite sex is analagous to hetero marriage?

It is analagous to loveless, mercenary hetero marriage -- i.e., the kind you suggested to me when you said I could just go out and get married if I wanted the benefits.

Consider for a moment that the number of straight people in America who are never able to find someone they want to marry, who wants to marry them too, outnumbers the number of homosexuals here. I'd like you to explain why you don't give a shit about us and have no problem with treating us like second-class citizens.

As to Syriana, you're switching your argument. Whether you thought the movie was crap is a seperate (though probably related) question to its politics

How am I switching my argument? I said that it pandered to leftist paranoia and that it was a badly-made film. Those aren't contradictory statements. Oh, and I'm still waiting for you to support your claim that Syriana was Realist instead of leftist.

As to 'leftist perceptions', I don't know what you mean.

I mean the movie takes every left-wing perception of how US politics and the oil industry works and flogs us over the head with them, while showing none of the positive or right-wing perceptions of those things. Imagine if somebody made a biography on Martin Luther King which focused on his plagiarism and infidelity and showed nothing of the civil rights movement but the riots. Would you scratch your head and look puzzled if civil rights leaders complained that the film was aimed at racist whites?

Do rightists claim we don't blow stuff up?

Give me a break. Most of the stuff in Fahrenheit 9/11 actually happened, too, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a leftie hit piece. If you show every dirty detail of one side and ignore the other side, guess what -- you've made a partisan film, even if it doesn't contain a single lie.

Pooh said...

It is analagous to loveless, mercenary hetero marriage -- i.e., the kind you suggested to me when you said I could just go out and get married if I wanted the benefits.

That's a much better argument against all partnership benefits, period, than against same-sex partnerships.

As to Syriana, yes, you did switch arguments from 'lefty oscar-bait' to crap. I admitted that they aren't exclusive, but neither are they the same.

Realist in terms of zero-sum nature of the oil business. If China gets it we don't. Realist in that everyone is acting in their own interest, and the manner in which these interests intersect and overlap creates conflict. There was little moralizing (which would be the hallmark of Liberal, in International Relations terms, point of view.)

The piece of the film that is getting the most play in a lot of the reviews is the Tim Blake Nelson speech which is explicitly about the positives of the oil-business.

But in the interests in allowing you to have your say, what would a 'rightist' piece on the oil business look like?

thecobrasnose said...

Hi, Pooh--

Let's have a look at a few quotes:

…you can't seriously be suggesting that red states, in general, aren't more homophobic than blue states (again, in general). I mean, Jeez, the Republican party platform explicitly states opposition to gays in the military and gay marraige. Z

“Red” states, on the other hand, have overtly vicious laws…brian

Outside of blue states(where the republicans tend to be more moderate), however, it is quite challenging to find a republican who isn't pretty anti-gay. This isn't just an opinion. –Z

If you don't want gays to get married because you don't like gays, be upfront about it, don't hide behind faux Libertarian nonsense.--Pooh

I think I could predict how the posters would defend the above, but seriously--not interested. Blah blah red states homophobic...blah blah red state vicious laws...blah blah anti-gay republican...You get the idea. Revenant can be difficult (I speak from experience), but do you think any of the above did anything other than bolster his opinion a bit more? And to cause me to wander a little farther from the gay marriage bandwagon?

This isn't to say anybody here shouldn't express themselves as they choose (though Cathy WILL BAN if you get out of hand), just to suggest perhaps friendly persuasion in matters as important and sensitive as this one.

Pooh said...

Cobra,

Point taken. I thought he was willfully avoiding answering my specific point (dunno how I could get that impression), and said something intemperate for which I apologized.

I think z's underlying point, though overstated, is basically right in that the GOP is more explicitly 'traditional' (though in practice, as has been pointed out, neither party has been out in front on this issue, DOMA and DADT both Clinton era policies. So the party platform is more marketing than anything else)

There are reasonable arguments to be made against same sex marriage. I don't think 'why doesn't Will just marry Grace' is one of them.

Cathy Young said...

Guys, I haven't had the time to monitor the threads, but can I ask everyone to cool it? I think it's pretty clear from Rev's posts that he harbors no animosity toward gays.

Revenant: maybe I'm missing something, but are you now arguing that opposition to gay marriage, per se, equals homophobia? That it's equally homophobic to be in favor of various legal benefits for gay couples but against same-sex marriage, and to be in favor of throwing people in jail for homosexual sex?

thecobrasnose said...

Pooh, I agree entirely with your last point. But I also understand Revenant's frustration with marriage benefits as they currently exist and presumably would exist for gays and lesbians who marry. The original definition of marriage didn't account for the sharing of insurance benefits or tax breaks any more than it did same sex couples. Marriages that involve children, I believe, should be granted extra privileges by the state--but all the headache of deciding how that should work is daunting, and the official designation of what may or may not be a marriage of convenience is dismayingly cynical. Changing the definition of marriage could have radical unseen consequences, and being nervous about them isn’t necessarily a sign of bigotry.

This issue is one in which civil (or not) personal communication can be a vastly more powerful than the rantings of high profile commentators.

mythago said...

Nobody is entitled to them

The government could choose to offer no marriage benefits at all. But once the government starts handing out goodies, it can't do so in a way that is unconstitutional.

For example, the government could decide that everybody under age 10 gets a free basket of candy on his or her birthday. Now, nobody has a right to this candy. There is no Constitutional obligation to hand out candy. But it would be unconstitutional if the candy was only given to white children, or children born to married parents.

Anonymous said...

That misses the point. The simple fact is that some cultural conservatives physically assault gay people. It doesn’t matter if the cultural conservative in question is black, white, red or purple – Republican, Democrat or Independent – and whether they live in San Francisco or Tulsa.

After the Sheppard example, we KNOW you'd hear more about them if they happened.

And, you know, if you want to be REALLY technical, gays are treated equally under marriage laws:

Gay men are more than free to marry any woman they want. Gay women are very free to marry any man they want.

Like it or not, that is a totally equal system. It's not like, say, interracial marriage, where black men weren't allowed to marry white women and vice versa.

And, you know, when I see stories of ANY college conservative destroying liberal student papers, I'll buy into this concern. God knows stories of liberals destroying conservative student papers on campus are hardly unheard of.

-=Mike

Anonymous said...

Jeez, in the midst of my frequent absences, all goes wild.

Revenant, if it weren't for the filibuster, it would have passed. I agree that many of the legislation sponsorships are likely throwing bones to the constituents. As I said before, most democratic politicians are not really pro-gay. I also agree that marriage is a benefit, not an entitlement. In fact, my other half(republican until recently) thinks that the government should get out of the marriage business all together.

Cobra, I do not believe, nor have I ever stated, that all republicans are homophobes, evil, or any of that. I do, however, believe that republican party politics is, at times, explicitly anti-gay. This is true at the federal, and a lot of times, the state level, too. I think I have presented some clear examples of that, and if you need more, there is plenty where that came from. I also believe that their are social conservatives who support the republican party, in part, because of that anti-gay political slant. I can provide plenty of examples of that, too.

As a lesbian, gay rights is a bread and butter issue for me, and I don't have the luxury of ignoring it. It affects everything from how honest I can be with my co-workers to how my partner and I plan our finances for the future. So I pay very close attention to the rhetoric, the proposed legislation, and the votes. I also pay close attention to attitudes in the surrounding community about gay related legislation and the politicians who come down on one side of the issues or the other. I compare notes with my friends in more liberal communities. Again, I have to.

When it comes to where we put our votes, we all make hard choices. As a fiscal conservative, at times, I've had to really swallow hard to vote democratic. I am well aware than when each of us goes to the polls we don't endorse EVERYTHING a politician stands for. Still, when people I have voted for have done things I don't agree with, I own the fact that I helped put them there.

Z

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