Thursday, August 21, 2003

The Brownshirt Barbie strikes again

While I've been re-running the "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism" series,, it's become clear that I already need to update the chapter dealing with Ann Coulter and her prominent role as a "transmitter" of extremist memes into the mainstream -- something I've been tracking the past couple of months but haven't had the time to blog about.

During that time -- particularly with the release of her new book, Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism -- she has shifted into a completely new realm, one in which the ideas and agenda she represents are unabashedly drawn from the extremist American right. (As usual, the book is also replete with crass falsehoods, bizarre distortions, documentation that contradicts the text, and sweeping generalizations. See Brendan Nyhan's thorough debunking at Spinsanity for more details.)

Of course, this extremism is present in the very title -- as well as the overriding theme of the book -- in that Coulter paints a portrait that presents well over half the population of the country, including many who have sacrificed their lives and well-being in the defense of the nation, as outright traitors. This is the kind of rhetorical thuggery that has raised itself in America on a few select occasions -- all of them associated with fascist and proto-fascist politics -- and its broad acceptance is a disturbing indication of the direction the national political dialogue is taking.

Her outright celebration of extremist memes is particularly pronounced in one well-remarked facet of Coulter's thesis: Her attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of Joseph McCarthy. She paints the Tailgunner as a true-blue red-blooded American who fought the dirty Commies tooth and nail and was crucified for doing so.

To say that this flies in the face of history's judgment -- that McCarthy was a far-right demagogue who exploited a false patriotism to smear political opponents and ride a wave of hysteria to power -- is putting it kindly. Indeed, Coulter is attempting to revise history with an overt abuse of facts and logic that is derived, stylistically and thematically, from the Holocaust revisionism of the Institute for Historical Review.

Moreover, the attempt to rehabilitate McCarthy's reputation has long been a favored theme of the extremist right. John Welch founded the John Birch Society specifically as an attempt to carry on McCarthy's torch. The JBS' McCarthy rehabilitation efforts have continued to this day. McCarthy has continued to be a hero to these even farther right than the Birchers. I used to see a book titled, I think, The Taming of Tailgunner Joe for sale on tables at militia meetings and through the Identity-based Christian Patriot Association; it was an attempt to tie in the "smearing" of McCarthy with the rise of the so-called "Holocaust hoax."

Now Ann has underscored that extremism, in another interview with her favorite extremist-meme co-transmitter, the New York Observer's George Gurley:
My Dinner With Ann

"... They’re squealing like mad, but it’s too late—I’ve redeemed Joe McCarthy, it’s done. People give me Joe McCarthy T-shirts, there’s going to be a Joe McCarthy doll, there’s another Joe McCarthy book coming out. It’s over."

If Coulter is right -- and I doubt it, given that any number of conservatives have denounced her ahistorical and afactual "rehabilitation" job -- then the nation is in serious trouble. A return of the McCarthyist ethos would mean the very real empowerment of the extremist right in America.

Even if she is wrong, there is little doubt that her tirades -- and her continued high profile in the broadcast and print media as a spokesman for the conservative movement -- have pushed mainstream conservatism even farther to the right.

I observed previously, at the outset of the "Rush" essay," that one of the best ways to discern the underlying agenda of conservatives is to examine what they accuse liberals of planning. And Ann, of course, provides us with a startlingly clear example:
"Oh, they will never be able to say that," she said. "If we lose, and the liberals are running gulags, concentration camps and madrassas, and the re-education counselors are teaching the history -- that is the only circumstance in which a liberal will ever be able to say, ‘We were right and you were wrong.’ No, they are wrong about everything …. They are working ferociously to undermine America."

Projection: It's not just for movie theaters anymore.

[A tip o' the Hatlo Hat to Maia Cowan for the last line.]

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