Monday, November 21, 2005

Unhinged: Unhonest

1: The Unbearable Lightness of Malkin

2: Eye of the Unhinged

3: The Unhinged Right

4: Hunting Liberals

Part 5: Extremists? What Extremists?

All you really need to know about how Michelle Malkin handles the extremist elements of the conservative movement can be found in her description, on pp. 131-132 of Unhinged, of the scene surrounding the protracted death of Terri Schiavo in Florida:
Next on the unhinged target list: ordinary, peaceful protestors who traveled to Florida in support of Terri Schiavo, the disabled woman starved to death by her husband and the courts after a protracted legal battle in March 2005. Here's how Michelle Cottle of The New Republic expressed contempt for Schiavo's religious supporters on CNN's Reliable Sources with Howard Kurtz:

Kurtz: Michelle Cottle, has the press ridiculed, or maybe I should say marginalized, religious people who believed [that] Terri Schiavo must be kept alive as a matter of Christian morality?

Cottle: Well, it's not that they get out there and make fun of them. It's just you come with a ready-made kind of visual here. You have people on the streets praying. They're, you have very dramatic and even melodramatic protests and things like this.

These people are easy to kind of just poke fun at without even saying anything. You just kind of show these people. And the majority of Americans who don't get out there and do this kind of, you know, really dramatic displays feel a little bit uncomfortable on that level. [Emphasis added]

If Cottle was willing to be this honest on national TV about his discomfort with people praying on the street, can you imagine what her colleagues in newsrooms and control rooms across the country say about "these people"?

She goes on with more descriptions of "religion bashing" around the Schiavo case, as well as numerous other instances of similar ugliness by "church bashers" and "religion haters."

But note how she describes Cottle's "discomfort" (though it sounded like she was more amused than discomforted): its only source, in Malkin's retelling, was "people praying in the street" -- when what Cottle was describing was the bizarre, freak-show scene that actually was on display in Florida, including the "melodramatic protests" that included such scenes as falling down on their knees in the middle of the street.

Well, these scenes didn't just disturb media people: they disturbed regular, churchgoing Christians as well, because they entailed other self-described Christians shoving their brand of belief -- an extremist brand, actually -- down the throats of a family struggling with the most difficult and private of decisions. These ostentatious displays of religiosity are, for many Christians, spiritually problematic. Haven't these people ever heard of the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican?

Mostly, the scene in Florida disturbed anyone with a few remaining strands of sanity and decency. If you wanted to see some "unhinged" folks, you only had to watch a few of the street scenes:

If you continued watching the broadcast of Reliable Sources that Malkin cites, you'd have heard them discuss further the nature not just of the "ordinary" protesters who were showing up at Schiavo's hospice, but of their allegedly mainstream-conservative supporters in the media:
JOHN FUND, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Michael Schiavo, the closer you look at him, the more unsettling the whole case gets, because, frankly, he has not been a good husband.

PAT BOONE, SINGER: Terri's husband is determined to let her die, not let her die, put her away.

PAT ROBERTSON, THE 700 CLUB: I blame her husband, who obviously wanted to kill her.

Let's not forget, of course, that this rhetoric in fact inspired at least one person to action -- the charming fellow who plotted to have Michael Schiavo and the judge in the case murdered.

Moreover, the stage in Florida was every bit as filled with right-wing extremism. The ranks of those "ordinary, peaceful protesters" were being filled by the likes of militia leader Bo Gritz -- who attempted a citizens' arrest of Michael Schiavo and the judge in the case -- and Randall Terry, who has a long history of associations with the murderous wing of the anti-abortion movement, as well as the Patriot/militia movement. Neo-Nazi Hal Turner went so far as advocate an armed rescue, as well as shooting anyone who interfered.

So, where did these wackos go in Malkin's description of the Schiavo protests? Nowhere to be seen. Nary a mention. They were just ordinary people praying. Right.

And did anyone hear any "mainstream" conservatives denouncing these folks, as Michelle claims happens with great regularity? Well, not really. Certainly there's nothing in Malkin's posts on the matter to indicate anything but admiration for them.

In fact, it seemed that everyone on the right was doing their damnedest to enable them.

Let's not forget that the Schiavo matter was a classic case of the conservative movement being taken captive by its extremist wing: the Republican Congress went so far as to try to force an intervention that was repudiated by the courts. That in turn inspired an extremist attack on the integrity of the courts that went nowhere.

It's not really a surprise that Malkin sees no extremism in all this. That is, after all, part of a pattern she has sustained throughout her career: Malkin is embarrassingly susceptible to a broad range of extremist ideas and talking points, including their claims not to be racist. Then, in promoting their ideas --albeit repackaged for broader consumption -- Malkin helps transmit these extremist ideas into the mainstream.

Malkin, in fact, has numerous dalliances with right-wing extremists -- the real ones that she claims conservatives are busy policing.

The most vivid instance of this is her long association with VDare, which has been designated a hate group by the SPLC, and for good cause:
Fast forward to 2003. Once a relatively mainstream anti-immigration page, VDARE has now become a meeting place for many on the radical right.

One essay complains about how the government encourages "the garbage of Africa" to come to the United States. The same writer says once the "Mexican invasion" engulfs the country, "high teenage birthrates, poverty, ignorance and disease will be what remains."

Another says that Hispanics have a "significantly higher level of social pathology than American whites. ... In other words, some immigrants are better than others." Yet another complains that a Jewish immigrant rights group is helping "African Muslim refugees" come to America.

Brimelow's site carries archives of columns from men like Sam Francis, who is the editor of the newspaper of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, a group whose Web page recently described blacks as "a retrograde species of humanity."

It has run articles by Jared Taylor, the editor of the white supremacist American Renaissance magazine, which specializes in dubious race and IQ studies and eugenics, the "science" of "race betterment" through selective breeding.

As I've said before, Malkin's In Defense of Internment is likewise of a piece of this same willingness to indulge views that are by any measure bigoted, and in some cases, extremist, by ignoring the latent bigotry and its broader ramifications.

These are hardly the only instances. Let's not forget her link in a blog post to an anti-immigrant site operated by an extremist Holocaust-denial organization. (The link is still up.)

Then there are the Minutemen, hailed by Malkin as "the mother of all neighborhood watch programs", and defended with regularity on her blog. As I've observed numerous times, the Minutemen are a magnet for the most extreme racists and xenophobes in America, and their claims to be "weeding out" such extremists are so much hooey.

After all, not only is the Minuteman Project directly descended from the militia movement, the Minuteman leader have a history of extremism. And they haven't changed their stripes, their media makeover notwithstanding. Jim Gilchrist, one of the Minuteman Project cofounders, is currently running for Congress under the banner of the far-right Constitution Party -- which itself is closely bound up with promoting the militia movement. And then there are the charming folks who show up for Minuteman parties.

Given Malkin's extraordinarily high tolerance for right-wing extremism -- indeed, her open participation in advancing their agenda -- it's probably not any wonder that the presence of right-wing extremism, and its positive embrace by the mainstream conservative movement, is simply left out of her narrative.

After all, if you think racial hygienists like Jared Taylor and Steve Sailer and the rest of the VDare gang are "normal," well, then what "real extremists on the right" remain for people like Michelle Malkin to denounce?

In that respect, Malkin emodies what has become of the "mainstream" conservative movement: So enmeshed with extremism she thinks it's ordinary.

Next: Keeping Our Cools

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