Friday, February 19, 2010

Who Will Hold Them Accountable?

CPAC is looking a lot like the national Tea Party convention in Nashville a couple weeks ago, which is to say, three days of hating on President Obama from the far-right fringe. And that’s pretty much all they’ve got.

The rhetoric that comes out of these conservative gatherings is alarming. At the Tea Party we had immigrant-bashing, gay-bashing, conspiracy theories, birthers, and a lot of anti-Obama anger framed in apocalyptic terms. CPAC follows the same script, it’s just different scenery. Here’s Darrell Issa, doing his best to fan the fear:
“I intend to use every resource of my office to make sure that this Administration does not escape serious, thorough, and consistent oversight of its policies, its use of taxpayer money, and its aggressive determination to impose a foreign ideological vision on the people of the United States," he says in his prepared remarks.

What “foreign ideological vision” would that be? We don’t know, because the reporter never asked, or if he did, he didn’t get an answer.

Now here’s Jim DeMint framing the national situation as

"a battle between the American people and Democrats.”

A “battle.” Huh.

What I heard on TV was DeMint call the Democrats to task for their “unprecedented power grab.”

What? You mean the election? The one your side lost?

This is nothing new. The conservative language is one of fear, one that incites action, and it’s well thought out. Here’s Jim DeMint from last year’s CPAC conference:

Earlier this week, we heard the world’s best salesman of socialism address the nation.

Obama had been president all of five weeks.

Five weeks.

Let that sink in for a minute. It certainly set the stage for the next eight months’ worth of “Obama is a Socialist” rhetoric.

How do they get away with this constant drum-beat of anti-Democratic Party, anti-liberal, anti-Obama bile at conservative gatherings? Back in 2004 I remember liberals being criticized--constantly--for being “too angry.”

How come no one outside of a few liberal bloggers and the occasional journalist points out this hypocrisy? How come no one ever calls these folks on their angry rhetoric?

How come no political leader--the head of the DNC, perhaps--ever steps up to say, “what are you people smoking? Socialism? You cannot be serious!”

You know, if no one on the national stage ever challenges this right wing lie factory, then the point has been ceded. You’re letting them get away with the lies. You have allowed them frame you.

Maybe it’s not the media’s job to call the CPAC/Tea Party crowd to account for their rhetoric (at least, not 100% of the time). But someone needs to. Liberals need to stop being so damn polite and worried about "decency" all the time and start realizing that it’s a damn war to the other side, so time to start acting like it’s a war on your side.

Are you afraid Rush Limbaugh will have a sad? Will Glenn Beck have an even bigger sad? Limbaugh said today that

Joe Stack "sounds just like any liberal Democrat," writings "almost word for word" like Obama, Pelosi, Reid

That's a pretty outrageous claim. Has no one stepped up and said, no, it's not true? Not close to true?

Glenn Beck poured “gasoline” and lit a match to demonstrate his take on what Obama was doing to “the average American.” This wasn't challenged because, I guess, of some lame idea that to address it was to validate it. But people, it's been validated already. It's out there.

This constantly-unchallenged over the top rhetoric is dangerous. It fans the flames of populist anger. We're dealing with a low-information populace, and if no one ever challenges the idea that “Obama is a socialist” then the talking point is left out there to fester. Ultimately it creates right wing nutballs who burn their McMansions down before flying a private plane into the IRS building.

It results in people like Warren "Gator" Taylor who took hostages at a Virginia post office.

It encourages the Timothy McVeighs and James Von Brunns and Scott Roeders and Eric Rudolphs. You can’t scream “Obama is destroying the country, Democrats are evil baby killers, everything wrong with the country is the fault of liberals” 24-7 and not expect something to happen.

So what I want to know is: who is going to counter this hate speech? Who is going to step up on the national stage and say enough already?

Why haven’t we done it yet?

27 comments:

  1. You would think that CPAC would be a great opportunity for conservatives to publicize their ideas for solving the problems of this country.

    But NO!

    All they can do is bitch and moan about Obama.

    Conservatives -- Either step up to the table with some new ideas and quit your whining like a bunch of little girls, or just go away and let the rest of us get on with the business of running this country.

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  2. I'm thinking the Democratic party ought to elevate Alan Grayson because so far he's the only guy I've seen with the kind of courage and integrity to get right out there and speak up.

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  3. "It encourages the Timothy McVeighs and James Von Brunns and Scott Roeders and Eric Rudolphs. You can’t scream “Obama is destroying the country, Democrats are evil baby killers, everything wrong with the country is the fault of liberals” 24-7 and not expect something to happen."

    Too true. I don't just blame the Dems though. I think the MSM is being totally irresponsible - using misleading headlines, overblowing the protests and everything That Woman says, and not being factual or digging deep enough.

    Good post.

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  4. Oct.,
    Off topic, I'd love to engage in an open debate, minus trolls. Count me in.

    Good day.

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  5. Hi, SoBe!

    A friend and I were talking about just this last evening. What can we do about it? Should each individual Democrat/liberal/progressive wear a button or a slogan on a tote bag or whatever for the world to see? Does anybody think that would help?

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  6. PurpleGirl: I think everything helps. What you suggest, emailing congressmen and the WH, and leaving comments after various media articles telling them why you think that article is biased and even emailing the news outlets, writing letters to the editors, etc.

    It's no secret that most of those protesters were "hired help." I've often felt the right-wing (as opposed to Republicans) who leave gzillions of comments after media stories are also paid for their time and efforts.

    We may be poor but we can get just as noisy.

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  7. I think what I really wants is someone on the national level to step up and call them on this crap. And I’m not talking about the Rush and O’Reilly and Beck nonsense, those people are “entertainers” and are countered by folks on the left all the time.

    I’m talking about when “serious” political leaders like Mitt Romney say blatant lies and no one of comparable stature on the national stage challenges them. This is how lies become truth.

    Ken Blackwell said Obama is attacking Christians. He’s the former secretary of state of Ohio, he ran for governor. He’s not some fringe guy on AM radio, he’s a freaking conservative politician and he’s fanning the flames of religious war. Who will stand up and challenge this? It won’t stop, ever, unless an equally prominent politician from the left tells them to cut this crap out.

    I'm tired of liberals not challenging this stuff anymore.

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  8. SoBe: "Maybe it’s not the media’s job ..."

    The signal to noise ratio (S/N) is a scientific and engineering term that describes how much signal is degraded by background noise. When tuning a radio in search of a station, we understand noise as static and signal as reception.

    I think this is an apt metaphor to describe our experience of media. If the “signal” represents an accurate and honest reporting of news, then distortions, mendacities, and spin represent noise. Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh represent noise. Celebrity gossip and tabloid journalism represent noise. Blathering pundits and crosstalk represent noise.

    These days, organizations such as Fact Check and Media Matters, that attempt to separate fact from fiction (and signal from noise), are all too easily dismissed as partisan. These dismissals bury facts under even more noise. (A lie is a lie is a lie … no matter how one spins it.)

    What happened to investigative journalism? Decades ago, I recall, there were hour-long documentaries about cults, fringe groups, and militias. These days, the same reactionary groups are considered mainstream by the media, accorded equal time … rendered legitimate by their noisemakers.

    There is no longer an empirically objective and stable body of public knowledge upon which to rely. Sedition works under cover of noise; static conceals a culture war that is loud and clear to those of us who listen.

    When I read reactionary rhetoric that paints liberals in eliminationist language … “dangerous … a mental disease … traitors …. vermin to be eradicated” by reactionary elements … these invoke for me the sound of breaking glass and the reek of burning flesh. Yes, the noise is scary.

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  9. SoBe, perhaps you need to brush up on what the media's job is:

    "My job is to spend half the time repeating what one side says, and half the time repeating the other."

    ThresherK

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  10. As a Radio operator, I use very sophisticated digital equipment to rescue signals from the noise - it seems that our digital medium has also allowed things that never would have reached public attention to prosper like maggots in rotting flesh.

    dangerous … a mental disease … traitors …. vermin to be eradicated” by reactionary elements … these invoke for me the sound of breaking glass and the reek of burning flesh. Yes, the noise is scary.

    Yes, reminds me of the radio programs playing in the background in Hotel Rwanda

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  11. SB: I understand about needing Dems from the national level to speak out but sometimes they need a nudge, or kick in the pants, to get going. This is why I suggested the above. Personally, I don't think they should need a shove, but they seem to have a case of no spine disease.

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  12. I have watched the CPAC 'thing' very closely and while I keep getting told how much attendance is up this year and how much younger the attendees are from prior years I cannot help but notice that it is the same ol' crazies standing at the podium...

    Newt Gringrich speaking as an endangered species, worried about the destruction of everything that made this country great...he talks as if he was never Speaker Of The House...

    Michelle Bachmann and her logic that Obama wants to fail....

    This coming from the anti socialist queen of Ag welfare...

    What a bunch....

    Oh, and the John Birch Society had a booth at this 'thing'

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  13. "I'm tired of liberals not challenging this stuff anymore."

    Agreed, SoBe. I used to get ticked off at members of the "Democrat Party" for not pointing out that it's the Dem-o-crat-IC Party when members of the Republic Party misspoke the adjectival truth. But you know what would really tank those fools? A prominent CONSERVATIVE or two who gives them what's what. I'm hardly in agreement with former Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia on much, but by God and Guns, I was proud of the fellow for declaring in the teeth of a bunch of twenty-something, book-read, right-wing C-PACs that yes, waterboarding IS torture and that yes, we ought to be damned proud that we can bring justice to barbaric psychopaths without resorting to torture or relying too heavily on military tribunals. They hated him for it and treated him like the crazy uncle in the basement, but we need more of such fearless honesty on the part of conservatives, and less drivel from the twenty-something C-pacyderms.

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  14. There is no longer an empirically objective and stable body of public knowledge upon which to rely.

    Yes it's that "poisoning the channels of public information" thing Henry Wallace warned us about 60 years ago ...

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  15. Also apropos to this post (source)

    Vice President Wallace's answer to those questions was published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan.

    "The really dangerous American fascists," Wallace wrote, "are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."

    In this, Wallace was using the classic definition of the word "fascist" – the definition Mussolini had in mind when he claimed to have invented the word. (It was actually Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile who wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana that said: "Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." Mussolini, however, affixed his name to the entry, and claimed credit for it.)

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  16. I love hanging out with you guys; you find the best quotes and articles.

    And this excerpt is interesting, "The American fascist would prefer not to use violence."
    Didn't one of the tea baggers or CPACers make a very similar statement about having a nonviolent revolution? I'll have to see if I can find the quote again.

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  17. CPACers seem very interested in violence, actually. I think it was Tim Pawlenty who most recently suggested conservatives go all "Elin Nordegen" and "take the 9 iron and smash the window."

    Can you imagine what would happen if liberals at a convention like Netroots Nation or Eschacon or even the DNC spoke in such violent rhetoric? I am not kidding when I say liberals were castigated for being "too angry," it was the talking point of 2004 and 2005. I remember Harold Ford Jr. spoke to the Music Row Democrats, of which I was a part, and told us to "not be so angry." And a woman took the mic and said "I AM ANGRY." It was such a big deal to own your anger.

    Apparently conservatives don't have that same problem.

    It's just really sociologically and psychologically interesting to see how liberals and conservatives react to things like electoral losses, and how the culture responds. There do seem to be two sets of rules.

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  18. CPACers seem very interested in violence, actually. I think it was Tim Pawlenty who most recently suggested conservatives go all "Elin Nordegen" and "take the 9 iron and smash the window."

    Can you imagine what would happen if liberals at a convention like Netroots Nation or Eschacon or even the DNC spoke in such violent rhetoric? I am not kidding when I say liberals were castigated for being "too angry," it was the talking point of 2004 and 2005. I remember Harold Ford Jr. spoke to the Music Row Democrats, of which I was a part, and told us to "not be so angry." And a woman took the mic and said "I AM ANGRY." It was such a big deal to own your anger.

    Apparently conservatives don't have that same problem.

    It's just really sociologically and psychologically interesting to see how liberals and conservatives react to things like electoral losses, and how the culture responds. There do seem to be two sets of rules.

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  19. CPUKE

    Crazy
    Paraniod
    Unrepentent
    Klanish
    Extreme

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  20. As much as these CPAC nuts are well,..nuts the Democrats are weak-kneed. They don't know how to fight back, communicate their achievements to win the message war and otherwise explain things to the American people. They underestimate the wackos on the right. They maybe dumb but a dumb person is can be very dangerous.

    Obama and the Dems seem way to laid back -- They just assume people will "get it" but they don't realize that most people these days are IDIOTS. They need the message pumped into their brains over and over until they get it. The Democrats just don't seem to get that.

    And given that there are so many stupid people today in America the Democrats need to explain things in simple, basic terms. It's frustrating to have to dumb things down but it's the only way to reach a lot of these people.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm a HARD CORE Liberal. However, I'm getting tired of sending countless emails, making countless phone calls, attending countless rallies and writing countless blog posts and letters to the editor only to see the Democrats wilt every goddamn time.

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  21. HBW -- yes, it gets tiresome seeing the Democrats apologize profusely and perpetually for winning. As Bill Clinton says, "strong and wrong" gets the victory most times if nobody offers anything better, and the Democrats just can't seem to understand that lesson.

    Wilde said more than a century ago that "A map without Utopia isn't worth looking at." Excessive realism of the sort we've seen from the current administration is another mode of apologizing for having won. Ideals are always impractical, yet sometimes it's possible to turn them into policy. It takes gumption, clarity, and persistence, but it can be done.

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  22. Blogging Dino:

    Agreed. It's interesting that the phrase, "Elections have consequences" seems to be lost on the wrong party. Its' the Democrats who don't seem to get it that--THEY WON!!!!

    Not that the GOP doesn't have blood on their hands too. In fact, they're holding the knife with this filibuster nonsense but the stupid Democrats won't assert themselves to make it STOP.

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  23. I wish the Democrats would toughen up a little.

    Reach across the aisle all you like. Compromise as much as you dare. Attempt to reconcile to your heart's content.

    At the end of the day the GOP will still hate the Democratic Party just as much.

    Might just as well give them cause.

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  24. the stupid Democrats won't assert themselves to make it STOP.

    Maybe they don't want to stop it, Handsome. Maybe being "paralyzed" by the mean and angry Republicans gives Dems (some of them at least) a plausible excuse for maintaining the status quo and blaming the GOP for it.

    Speaking about Dems repeatedly losing the message wars: George Lakoff has an excellent post on health care reform as an issue that should be framed in language of freedom and patriotism to resonate with (most?) Americans.

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  25. You know, Elizabeth, you say "Maybe they don't want to stop it". That does explain some of their unexplainable behavior. Blame it on the republicans. The Democrats have certainly not responded as strongly as they should have to republican talking points. It seems like the republicans can lie all they want and the Democrats keep quiet. With a couple of exceptions, they have no passion.

    We talk about the republicans being the party of the corporations, but lots of Dems get lots of money from those same corporations. The corporations don't care which party their contributions go to as long as they get payback for their contributions.

    We don't need to stop the republicans. We need to stop the corporation money train.

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  26. Jerry...you hit the nail on the head. Corporate money is corrupting them all. The biggest obstacle to democracy and good government isn't the Republicans--It's corporate money.

    I think the first thing we should be fighting for is ending money in politics. Ban lobbying for money, etc.

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