Monday, August 16, 2010
In the in box, part deux
So here’s my response to my hate mail. No, I did not alert the authorities; I did not (and do not) think letter-writers like Angry Guy pose any credible threat to me and my family. And no, I did not reply with snark. Reader, I parried him. Seriously, I tried to talk sense. Like so.
I pointed out that he was sending angry screeds to someone he didn’t know, with absolutely no evidence that that someone had done or said anything on Journolist to which he might object. I also pointed out that for all his talk about “idiots,” this is not something that sane, well-adjusted people do. He replied that what I had said or done was beside the point; the point was that Journolist provided a way for liberals to plot against their enemies and practice the “politics of personal destruction,” and that I (a) had associated myself with Those People (and was therefore guilty!) and (b) had not objected when one of them proposed making spurious charges of racism.
Aha! Now I knew what he was talking about. The reason the Journolist archives are important—to Tucker Carlson, to the Daily Caller staff, to Andrew Breitbart, and to random angry guys on the Internet—is that Spencer Ackerman once suggested, in response to the Jeremiah Wright Crisis of aught-eight, that “we” should call Fred Barnes or Karl Rove a racist and throw a right-winger through a plate-glass window ... rhetorically. (I believe Ackerman added, “Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear.”)
There are a whole mess of things going on here, but let me start with the obvious: Ackerman is a smart guy and much of his published work is great, but that rant was nasty and foolish. It’s your basic Internets Tough Guy Talk, and surely if it had been written by Erick Erickson or Ace of Spades (even in an email), we would be mocking it now with a mighty mockery. What’s more, it was totally unnecessary: there really are legions of racists on the right. You don’t want to confuse the meaning of racism even further by throwing around bullshit charges at people. At the moment, the right’s standard for legitimate charges of racism are quite high: as Chris Rock once put it, you have to have shot Medgar Evers to be a racist. Sliming civil rights leaders, depicting Obama as a thug or a monkey or a watermelon-eating pickaninny, writing about Michelle eating ribs all day—that’s not racist. Shooting Medgar Evers, OK, that’s racist.
Ackerman’s rant from aught-eight thus did wonderful work for conservatives and Tea Party Patriots™ in 2010: remember, the Journolist Outrage was compensation for Breitbart’s profoundly dishonest (but briefly, spectacularly successful!) attempt to smear Shirley Sherrod, which was also Breitbart’s profoundly dishonest attempt at a tu quoque aimed at the NAACP, which had just had the uppity temerity to denounce racism in the Tea Party. As with the right’s spittle-flecked reaction to the Skip Gates Incident of aught-nine, there are some new rules in play: one, black people are no longer allowed to be angry, or even to have been angry at some point in the past. This goes double for black ministers, of course, and quadruple for black government officials whose fathers were killed by white farmers and whose relatives were lynched (because, after all, those relatives weren’t really lynched, they were merely beaten to death). And two, attacks on those angry or formerly-angry black people, including essays about how their relatives weren’t really lynched but merely beaten to death, are not racist. The real racists, as usual, are black people themselves, and their white liberal enablers like Ackerman, who hurl spurious charges of racism at poor innocent white guys like Barnes and Rove.
OK, glad that’s all cleared up. No, I didn’t say all that to my Angry Email Guy. I simply pointed out that in response to the right’s Jeremiah Wright freakout, one guy on a listserv of 400 made a nasty suggestion—a suggestion that, evidently, no one else on the listserv thought was a good idea. That’s why there never was a coordinated campaign to smear Barnes or Rove—or anyone else—as a racist.
I then addressed the bit about my complicity in Ackerman’s evil plan. I said that if I had seen it at the time, I might have objected to it. Or I might not have; I can’t say for sure, because my relation to Journolist was like my relation to my other three large-group listservs: I read about ten or twenty percent of the material on them. Just the stuff that interests me. On Journolist, I was most interested in the debates over Afghanistan and health care—subjects on which there was a wide range of opinion. Anyone combing through the Jlist archives will find that I also expressed my deeply-held belief that hockey is a far better sport than soccer. Just fyi. But I didn’t see the offending post at the time, because when Ackerman wrote it, I was not a member of Journolist. The only reason my name is on that FreeRepublic list is that I signed the seekrit open letter decrying Charles Gibson’s and George Stephanopolous’ ridiculous performance in one of the Obama-Clinton debates. So, I said to my outraged correspondent, here’s the deal. The “conspiracy” you name consists of a bunch of people who signed an open letter. The letter was circulated to me by ordinary email, not by secret Journolist email. When I joined Journolist, I found that it consisted of a bunch of liberals writing liberal emails to each other liberally. Last but not least, I noted that Ezra Klein had asked the list about the possibility of adding Carlson to it. As Ezra has pointed out, Carlson knows this perfectly well, but doesn’t admit it, because ... well, because he’s a lying sack of excrement, that’s why. In my humble opinion. And if I saw him today, I would say
I didn’t add that the whole thing involved stolen private correspondence, because, of course (as my first hate-mailer—not this guy, an Angry Penn State Alum—made clear), the right now thinks that stealing private correspondence is a good thing, so long as the correspondence in question involves evil scientists and their hockey sticks or evil liberals and their liberal liberal something or other.
But just for you, dear readers, I will add this: the Journolist outrage is small beer. Very small beer. The really outrageous outrage, instead, is all about the so-called Ground Zero 9/11 All Glory to Al-Qaeda Mosque, about which the right is deploying (surprise!) the very same tactics: lie, lie, lie, lie, and lie—and do so in such a way as to inflame the legions of the vicious and the stupid. It looks like a winning strategy to me, folks, especially now that the Democrats’ Bedwetting Caucus has gotten together with the National Center for Concern Trolling to express their dismay at Obama’s defense of the First Amendment:
“I would prefer the president be a little more of a politician and a little less of a college professor,” former Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas), who once ran the House Democratic campaign arm, wrote in POLITICO’s Arena. “While a defensible position, it will not play well in the parts of the country where Democrats need the most help.”
I don’t want to sound like a college professor, now, but this is what we call textbook stuff: the winged monkeys attack. Democrats can do one of three things: one, fight back; two, plead for mercy; three, admit that the winged monkeys have some good ideas about how to destroy Democrats, and pledge to work together with reasonable centrist members of the Winged Monkey Brigade to find bipartisan common ground. Obama, to his credit, chooses option one for a change—whereupon his party, having no idea of how to be a political party, goes running to the press to complain:
Democratic aides say that, at the very least, the president has again knocked his party’s candidates off local messages and forced them to talk about a national issue that doesn’t appear likely to play well with important swing voters.
These officials planned to spend the weekend talking about Social Security’s 75th anniversary—the topic of Obama’s Saturday radio address—or the progress made in containing the Gulf oil spill. Instead, they played defense on an issue at the intersection of religion and terrorism—two hot buttons Obama won his 2008 election partly by downplaying.
“The main reaction is ‘Why? Why now?’” said one House Democratic leadership aide. “It’s just another day off message. There have been a lot of days off message.”
The chief of staff to one politically vulnerable House Democrat said it “probably alienates a lot of independent voters” and “it’s not a good issue to be talking about right now.”
He said he suspects “there are a lot of [Democrats] who are spooked in tough districts today” and “a lot of Republicans licking their chops right now.”
So no, I’m not terribly concerned about stupid vicious hatemongering lying about Journolist. It’s of a piece with, but on a far smaller scale than, stupid vicious hatemongering lying about the
Downtown YMIA Cultural Center Ground Zero 9/11 All Glory to Al-Qaeda Mosque. And gauging from craven Democrats’ responses to said stupid vicious hatemongering lying, I’m thinking that the Ground Zero 9/11 All Glory to Al-Qaeda Chrysler Cordoba House might be enough, leaving aside even the illegal gay Mexicans and their terror babies, to send Gingrich and Palin to the White House in ‘12.
P.S. My use of the phrase “stupid vicious hatemongering lying” might seem, on a casual reading, to suggest that I have adopted Rich Puchalsky’s way of understanding stupid vicious hatemongering lying, as elaborated in the preceding thread. I have not. I continue to believe that the lesson of the great Procter and Gamble Satanism Hoax is that things are 15 percent more complicated than Rich makes them out to be when it comes to how people deal with stupid vicious hatemongering lying.
Update, August 17: And to follow up on this theme (and my own comment # 17 below), here’s one Mister Roy Edroso:
With extremely rare exceptions, you can go now through all rightwing sites and publications, from the high-end to the low, and find the same thing: A willingness—actually, an puppy-like eagerness—to exploit the basest religious and racial fears for political gain. (More than usual, we mean.)
We might adopt a lofty pose, scratch our chins, and say this speaks poorly of the state of the conservative movement. But whom would we be kidding? There is no conservative movement, intellectually speaking—merely a consortium of crackpots and bigots who believe that gays are threatening their marriages, rich people are overtaxed, black people are the real racists, and the building of a mosque at the site of a disused Burlington Coat Factory somewhere near Ground Zero presents a graver danger to American liberty than the other mosques already near Ground Zero.
About the most charitable thing you could say for them is: Maybe they’re only pretending to believe this nonsense.
Is that really more charitable? As I say in comment 17, there are known knowns, etc.