2: Eye of the Unhinged
Part 3: The Unhinged Right
You might think that, having just appeared on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News show to plump her new book about left-wing looniness, Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild, Michelle Malkin might have squirmed a little when, just a couple of days later, O'Reilly himself uttered some of the most unhinged, unAmerican remarks I think any host on any major network has made in recent years, perhaps ever:
- Hey, you know, if you want to ban military recruiting, fine, but I'm not going to give you another nickel of federal money. You know, if I'm the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium, and I say, "Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you're not going to get another nickel in federal funds. Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead."
And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.
Has any major "liberal" media figure ever written off an entire city's population? Given terrorists permission to attack them? Damned thousands of Americans -- men, women, children -- to horrible deaths? Can you imagine the reaction if they had?
When the city's mayor demanded an apology, O'Reilly refused to back down, saying the city needed "a wake-up call." He also tried to claim he was making a "satirical" point and promised to publicize the "smear" sites that suggested he had said what he actually had said.
Regardless of whether he actually was inviting a terrorist attack -- and what kind of "humor" is it, exactly, that's predicated on mass death? -- what he was clearly saying was people who choose not to participate in the Bush "war on terror" do not deserve the protections afforded the rest of Americans, and by extension deserve to be killed by terrorists.
It doesn't matter to O'Reilly that these people may have legitimate reasons for being concerned about having military recruiters in their schools, especially since those recruiters are known to lie to and threaten young people. They may also have legitimate concerns about their children being recruited to fight in a war in Iraq that is nothing but a diversion from the real war on terrorism.
No, conforming with his notion of what is "patriotic" is all that O'Reilly cares about. Those who don't -- well, they can die.
Did any conservatives stand up and argue that O'Reilly's remarks were out of line and extremist? Um. No.
Did Michelle Malkin? Um. Well. [Crickets chirping.]
Y'see, Malkin is adamant in Unhinged that the right does its best to decry extremism and kookery, to purge it from their ranks:
- "[T]he truth is that it's conservatives themselves who blow the whistle on their bad boys and go after the real extremism on their side of the aisle."[p. 9]
And while conservatives zealously police their own ranks to exclude extremists and conspiracy theories, extremism and conspiracy theories have become the driving force of the Democrat Party. [p. 169]
On O'Reilly's show, Malkin expounded similarly:
- It is in fact conservatives who are very outspoken in condemning fringe people, and people who are extremists on the right side of the aisle.
So, either Malkin has no intention of actually participating in said "zealous policing," or she doesn't consider O'Reilly's remarks to be the same kind of plainly grotesque, extremist rhetoric she denounces in Unhinged. I'd guess both. Especially when the remarks in question are coming from one of her friends.
So, no -- Michelle didn't squirm. It's one of the cool things about the conservative cult mentality: it relieves you of those untidy little guilt pangs that usually accompany ostentatious hypocrisy.
But of course, we've already seen that when it comes to obvious cases of extremism, such as Michael Savage, Malkin is remarkably silent.
Did anyone from the conservative side of the aisle ever speak up when Savage announced that the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia "wasn't a tragedy"? Uh, no. How about when he said this?
- Right now, even people sitting on the fence would like George Bush to drop a nuclear weapon on an Arab country. They don't even care which one it would be. I can guarantee you -- I don't need to go to Mr. Schmuck [pollster John] Zogby and ask him his opinion. I don't need anyone's opinion. I'll give you my opinion, because I got a better stethoscope than those fools. It's one man's opinion based upon my own analysis. The most -- I tell you right now -- the largest percentage of Americans would like to see a nuclear weapon dropped on a major Arab capital. They don't even care which one. They'd like an indiscriminate use of a nuclear weapon.
Nope. It's positively an orchestra of crickets chirping away over there on the right when it comes to Savage, who claims an audience in the millions.
Though Malkin claimed on O'Reilly's show that conservatives denounce Savage "all the time" she has so far been unable to come up with a single instance of it. Indeed, a Google of Malkin's site reveals no denunciations of Savage -- just warm approval.
What about other extremists from the right? Perhaps the most prominent of these is Ann Coulter, who says things like:
- "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."
"They are either traitors or idiots, and on the matter of America’s self-preservation, the difference is irrelevant. Fifty years of treason hasn’t slowed them down."
"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
"God said ... rape the planet -- it's yours. That's our job: drilling, mining and striping. Sweaters are the anti-Biblical view. Big gas-guzzling cars with phones and CD players and wet bars -- that's the Biblical view."
"I have to say I'm all for public flogging."
"I think [women] should be armed but should not [be allowed to] vote."
"Liberals hate America, they hate flag-wavers, they hate abortion opponents, they hate all religions except Islam, post 9/11. Even Islamic terrorists don't hate America like liberals do. They don't have the energy. If they had that much energy, they'd have indoor plumbing by now."
"My libertarian friends are probably getting a little upset now but I think that's because they never appreciate the benefits of local fascism."
And, since assassination fantasies apparently send Malkin all aflutter, recall also that Coulter thought assassinating Clinton should be a subject of public discourse:
- In this recurring nightmare of a presidency, we have a national debate about whether he "did it," even though all sentient people know he did. Otherwise there would be debates only about whether to impeach or assassinate.
Has Malkin ever spoken up about this kind of extremism? It doesn't appear so. A quick Google of her site reveals plenty of references to Coulter -- but they're all adulatory and approving; many are about painting Coulter as a right-wing martryr.
And what about Rush Limbaugh? Any raised eyebrows (let alone voices) when he suggested that Hillary Clinton would have John Kerry assassinated if he won the presidency? Nope.
How about when he suggested that it would be best to just kick out of the country anyone who speaks out against it -- thereby ridding us of Michael Moore and "half of the Democratic Party"? (The "unhinged" half, no doubt.) Any condemnation from the right?
Or then there are the numerous times Limbaugh has joked along these lines: "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." See anything wrong with wishing to kill all but a few liberals? Hmmmm? Anything extreme about that?
Then, of course, there is Malkin's friend O'Reilly, who has made numerous ugly outbursts over the course of his career. There was this recent gem too:
- Everybody got it? Dissent, fine; undermining, you're a traitor. Got it? So, all those clowns over at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send over the FBI and just put them in chains, because they, you know, they're undermining everything and they don't care, couldn't care less.
Wait. I think I know what Malkin is going to say about all these examples: "They're just jokes. Don't you liberals have any sense of humor?"
The funny thing about that is, when it's this kind of extreme "humor" coming from the mouths of those on the left, Malkin dismisses this defense. See, for instance, p. 161:
- Of course, if a conservative journalist had written this tripe, no one would let him get away with the "ironic joke" alibi. He'd be figuratively hanged instead for a hate crime.
Right. So why is it so easy to find "ironic jokes" from the right, but not so many figurative nooses for them?
Now, what's really noteworthy about the kinds of "jokes" and ugly rhetoric coming from the right side of the aisle is its nakedly eliminationist nature: it is predicated on the idea of eliminating liberals, either through violence or through mass roundups and incarceration.
This is really only found on the left in the form of the "jokes" about assassinating Bush, which are indeed grotesque and worthy of real condemnation. But the left doesn't appear to harbor fantasies about wiping out all conservatives -- as the right does for liberals, commonly, frequently, and loudly.
More to the point, this eliminationism has increasingly become an imbedded feature of right-wing rhetoric over the past decade. It's commonplace in Internet discussions, as well as generic talk on the street.
It's important to understand the effect of eliminationist rhetoric: It can't be debated. It can't be discussed. It's simply a declaration of emnity and the intent to cause harm. It is, rhetorically speaking, the equivalent of poking your opponent in the eye with a sharp stick.
Now, one of the apparent predicates of Malkin's text is something that goes unstated: the surge of left-wing hatefulness she documents is a relatively recent phenomonen. And I think anyone surveying the political scene in the 1990s would say that, as a matter of sheer volume, the left in that decade, at least, was much quieter in terms of ugliness than the right.
So if Michelle Malkin -- or anyone genuinely concerned about the state of the nation's discourse -- were seeking answers about why we're seeing this kind of response from the left, she would have to seriously examine the effects of the conservative movement's rhetoric of the past decade.
What they would find is that people on the right have been repeatedly, and aggressively, poking their opponents in the eye with a sharp stick.
And now they're acting all innocent and wounded when folks on the Left respond with howls of somtimes inchoate anger.
As we'll see, there have been a lot of these sharp eliminationist sticks being wielded by the right in recent years, and well before. And no one -- no one -- has been reining them in on the right. Indeed, not only are Malkin's claims to the contrary thin and completely unsupported, she has herself been leading the stick-poking brigade.
Next: Hunting Liberals