Saturday, November 19, 2005

Unhinged: Unhonest

1: The Unbearable Lightness of Malkin

2: Eye of the Unhinged

3: The Unhinged Right

Part 4: Hunting Liberals

[Via Left in SF]

To hear Michelle Malkin tell it in Unhinged, the levels of extremism and ugliness that can be found on the right are apparently relegated to a few minor instances that apparently don't really count [p. 9]:
And while the Left's knee-jerk response to these stories will doubtlessly be to trot out well-worn examples of unseemly behavior on the right -- Dick Cheney swearing, or mean-spirited conservatives' Internet jibes about Democrats -- the 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.

As Malkin depicts things, the vast majority of ugliness is emanating from the left, from those same Internet jibes about Republicans to Howard Dean yeaaaarghing. In other words, covering the same range of participation that Malkin describes coming from the right.

Ah, but the way Malkin explains things, you see, it's the sheer volume of the left's unhingedness that is worth examining. So her text is mostly dedicated to cataloging this ugliness -- while studiously ignoring the question of whether a similar volume might exist on the right. Indeed, other than these two "minor" instances, you won't find a single instance of Malkin describing (let alone denouncing) "unhinged" behavior on the right.

It's not as though the information isn't available. After all, we tracked thuggery from both sides during the 2004 election here, and came up with a 33-to-8 ratio of right-wing vs. left-wing ugliness -- though the data collection for left-wing incidents was obviously flawed. Malkin's book cites most of the incidents we gathered, and a number we missed, including a large number of vandalism attacks on Republican campaign offices.

But Malkin, while cataloging these attacks, leaves unmentioned the nine separate attacks on Democratic campaign offices that were reported in 2004, incuding a number of deeply disturbing cases.

Malkin also describes a number of incidents of assaults, threats, and intimidation by left-wingers during the campaign, but similarly ignores the many incidents of identical behavior that were recorded on the right (we counted 15 of them). These included the the Bush supporter who pointed a gun at the head of a Kerry backer, and the boyfriend who put a screwdriver to the throat of his girlfriend who balked at voting for Bush. Or the Freepers who invaded an antiwar protest with the clear intention of disrupting the event and attempting to provoke fights.

Here's how Malkin sums it up:
It's not Republicans taking chainsaws to Democrat campaign signs and running down political opponents with their cars. It's not conservatives burning Democrats in effigy, defacing war memorials, and supporting the fragging of American troops. And it's not conservatives producing a bullet-riddled bumper crop of assassination-themed musicals, books and collectible stamps.

It's not a Republican who invoked Pol Pot and Nazis and Soviet gulag operators when discussing American troops at Guantanamo Bay. That was Democrat Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, who kept his Senate Minority Whip position and who continues to blame an "orchestrated right-wing attack" for what came out of his mouth.

It's not Republicans who suggested that President Bush had advance knowledge of the September 11th attacks or that Osama bin Laden has already been captured. Those notions were advanced by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and current Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean.

And it wasn't a Republican who asserted that the war Iraq was "just as bad as six million Jews being killed." That was Democrat Rep. Charlie Rangel, who has refused to apologize and whom no Democrat leader has denounced.

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.

Well, if Malkin were as concerned as she claims regarding wackos who disrespect veterans and commit violence against their opponents' signs, what did she have to say about the lunatic who ran over the flags at Cindy Sheehan's Texas protest that were intended to be a tribute to the soldiers killed in Iraq? She called him a "nutball." Pretty tough talk there, lady.

As I already noted in response:
It isn't Democrats who sprayed racist, pro-Bush graffiti on Democratic campaign HQ in Sacramento, or stole computers from Democrats in Ohio, or set campaign signs afire in Louisiana, or spread blood and innards around the front doors of Bush critics. It isn't Democrats firing workers for their presidential choices.

It isn't Democrats, Michelle, who have denigrated the service of war heroes; it's people like you. And it isn't Democrats who are delivering a steady stream of "bestselling" books attacking liberals as subhuman scum: calling them innately treasonous, identifying them with terrorists, the "enemy within" with a "mental illness." Going on talk shows and saying that the best way to talk to a Republican is "with a baseball bat, preferably."

As for the "assassination" themes, Michelle, it wasn't a left-wing blogger who posted the following remark at the height of the 2004 campaign:

Rope. Tree. Justice. The only three things that Qerry deserves for his "service".

No, as a matter of fact, that was a blogger who resides on your blogroll.

It was that same blog, in fact, that earlier urged the use of violence against another blogger and even provided directions to that person's home on his blog. I'm not aware of any left-wing bloggers having done that.

Indeed, for all the left-wing wackery out there -- and there's no doubt plenty of it -- what you don't see is this kind of eliminationist rhetoric.

After all, Michelle, it wasn't a prominent Democrat who publicly hypothesized about what would happen to the crime rate if all black babies were aborted. It wasn't a prominent Democratic radio talk-show host in Seattle who said of a U.S. Senator -- yes, the same Dick Durbin whose remarks you find completely out of line: "This man is simply a piece of excrement, a piece of waste that needs to be scraped off the sidewalk and eliminated."

It isn't the most prominent liberal talk-show host in the country who jokes that we shouldn't "kill all the liberals" -- instead, we should "leave enough so we can have two on every campus -- living fossils -- so we will never forget what these people stood for."

It wasn't a prominent member of the "liberal" media who opined that we ought to incarcerate everyone who works for Air America.

It wasn't a Democratic congressman who opined that we ought to ship liberal dissenters to Iraq to serve as "human shields."

It wasn't left-wing letter writers who attacked former USA Today editor Al Neuharth and recommended he face execution for treason. Al Neuharth, mind you -- not exactly Mr. Liberal.

And kooky theories? Well, Michelle, what about the forthcoming tome from a well-known conservative postulating -- against all known historical fact -- that fascism is a liberal phenomenon. Of course, you know all about ignoring the weight of historical evidence, don't you?

It isn't liberal bloggers, Michelle, who have waxed wroth at the General Ripperesque notion that the Flight 94 memorial is actually a tribute to the terrorists, or who have whipped up groundless fears about Islamist terrorists in Oklahoma and elsewhere; no left-wing moonbats groundlessly attacked the Pulitzer winner in photography or attacked USA Today with conspiratorial accusations for a badly retouched photo.

No, Michelle, that would be you and yours. Moonbats, wingnuts, take your pick: The shoe fits -- you.

Malkin also makes a great deal (pp. 163-164) out of a Bush-hating entrepreneur who offered a line of "Kill Bush" T-shirts and cups (the logo being a takeoff of the Tarantino film "Kill Bill"), and observes that no one on the right likewise promoted "Kill Kerry" shirts.

Perhaps not, but there is someone offering, at the same location, "Liberal Hunting Permits" like the one at the top of this post. Ah, but for Malkin, no doubt, there's nothing extremist about such gear.

Malkin also includes photos and anecdotes of left-wing Kerry supporters getting ugly with right-wing Bush backers throughout the campaign, and includes a photo gallery of some of the "unhinged" folk who would do such things.

Strangely missing, though, are shots like these:

[More info here.]

[More here.]

There's quite a gallery of this behavior on both sides of the aisle, really. But an honest and thorough survey of the ugliness will reveal something Malkin doesn't want her readers to know, because it contradicts completely her claim that the right reins in its extremists:

Not only are conservatives guilty of nearly identical behavior that Malkin describes as "unhinged," but the volume of it is at least equal to, if not greater than, that from the left. Right-wing unhingedness is equally pervasive, if not more so, at nearly all levels: it can be found throughout ordinary movement conservatives; conservative media and punditry spokespeople; and among the officials and movement leaders (like Cheney) who set the tone for the rest. And it has been poisoning the public discourse for a much longer period of time.

Anyone who is seriously concerned about the ugliness and division that has become imbued in today's politics should be concerned about the kind of discourse that Malkin documents -- at least, those instances that actually document beyond-the-realm behavior and not simple partisanship. There are enough of these, I think, to give any liberal pause.

But any honest assessment will not only consider all the ugliness across the political spectrum, it will consider it in its respective context. How should we assess left-wing nastiness, for instance, when it appears not only to be a relatively recent phenomenon, but in many regards highly reactive to right-wing provocation?

As I observed in the previous post, the deeply eliminationist nature of so much right-wing rhetoric -- "hunting liberals" being a classic example -- is the antithesis of constructive discourse. Its purpose is to intimidate and antagonize, as well as to encourage similar ugliness.

Conservatives' complaints about left-wing ugliness are akin to those of the lunatic who walks about the town square poking his fellow citizens in the eye with a sharp stick -- and then complaining about their lack of civility afterward.

The most significant context in this regard is another reality: the "unhinged" discourse from the right -- what Malkin calls "a lot of the violence, a lot of the paranoia, a lot of the conspiracy theories, a lot of this hatred" -- has been going on for a long time.

Perhaps it's just a convenient memory lapse by Malkin that omits the fact that conservatives have engaged in ten years and more of liberal-bashing -- consumed by a pathological hatred of Bill Clinton, especially, that came floating to the surface in the form of violence, paranoia, and conspiracy theories.

After all, who could forget all those stories promoted -- not just by fringe players, but by supposedly mainstream conservatives like the Wall Street Journal's editorialists -- about Bill Clinton:
-- Clinton was responsible for the fiasco surrounding the 1992 FBI shootings on Ruby Ridge.

-- Clinton and his attorney general, Janet Reno, were responsible for the massacre of the Branch Davidians who died at the culmination of the standoff in Waco.

-- Clinton was the nominal leader of the "New World Order," a government conspiracy to subsume American sovereignty under the United Nations and destroy our freedoms.

-- Clinton was responsible for a long string of deaths of people who had the misfortune to cross his path, cataloged in the "Clinton Body Count."

-- Clinton was a rapist.

-- Clinton had a love child by a black woman and then denied paternity.

-- Clinton was responsible for a vicious cocaine-dealing ring that operated out of Mena, Arkansas.

-- Bill and Hillary secretly conspired to have Vince Foster murdered and made to look like a suicide.

-- The Clinton staff vandalized the White House on their way out.

All of them either laughable on their face or completely disproven and discredited. We do know that an intern was giving him blow jobs, and he was evasive in his testimony about that (gwarsh, wonder why). But other than that, there was a tremendous amount of shit flung onto Bill Clinton's wall during the 1990s, and none of it stuck. Malkin, of course, makes no mention of this context.

She also makes much of protesters who burn Bush in effigy, but conveniently forgets that not only was Clinton burned in effigy during the 1990s, so was the first lady. And when she runs for President, expect a lot more of that. Indeed, no one seems to inspire unhinged behavior on the right like Hillary.

Considering how Michelle Malkin treats extremism like this on the right, I think it's a fair likelihood that she'll be one of the leading torchbearers in the Hillary-burning mob.

Next: Extremists? What Extremists?

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