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?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Unhinged: Unhonest

1: The Unbearable Lightness of Malkin

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Book notes

A couple of notes for my Seattle-area readers ...

I'll be interviewed Thursday afternoon on Seattle's KUOW-FM, during Dave Beck's afternoon program, The Beat, which begins at 2 p.m. PST. We'll be discussing my book, Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community. Click on the KUOW link for a live feed.

That'll be kind of a warmup for my big event of the day, which involves a presentation at the Winters House in Bellevue for the Eastside Heritage Center. Winters House is an appropriate location, since it's adjacent to a blueberry farm that was at various times under the management of Japanese immigrants. And I'm hoping to have a number of the folks who participated in the project turn out, since a number of them are still alive and kicking. I'll have a slideshow, and I'll be discussing and honoring the families of those who turn out.

If you have time, drop by. Festivities begin at 7 p.m.

Orcas: Officially Endangered

[A passing J pod orca photographed July 28 at Lime Kiln State Park.]

Perhaps the best political news of the week is the government's decision to endow "endangered" status on the Puget Sound's orcas. As the P-I story explains::
The Endangered Species Act requires the government to devise a recovery plan for the orcas and to identify and safeguard "critical habitat" necessary for their survival. This could trigger a renewed push for the cleanup of contaminated hot spots in the Sound, environmentalists said. They also speculated that restrictions could be tightened on whale-watching boats.

Under the act, federal agencies also must review their actions to make sure they won't hurt the orcas. Concerns have been raised by the potential harm caused by Navy sonar tests.

This was a critical decision, recognizing the growing scientific consensus that this population of these animals is on the brink:
Their numbers dropped precipitously from the mid-'90s until 2001, when they reached a recent low of 79. They currently stand at 90, according to the Center for Whale Research, a Friday Harbor-based scientific group.

The federal agency recently set 84 to 120 orcas as the target population.

"Because the population has such a small number of sexually active males in it, a catastrophic event -- an oil spill, a chemical spill -- could really make a huge difference in the population," said Brian Gorman, spokesman for the fisheries service.

"The fact that the population is small always worries a biologist," he said.

Scientists have identified many other factors that put the local orcas at risk of disappearance. There has been a decline in the amount of salmon -- their favorite food source -- from historic levels. The killer whales are contaminated with industrial pollutants that can reduce fertility and make them more vulnerable to disease. Research has indicated that boat traffic and other manmade noise can disturb the highly social animals.

Coming to terms with those factors is almost certain to bring the scientists into conflict with both local industry and the military. Efforts to restore salmon runs are certain to place limits on the building and development industries. Cleaning up the pollution that's killing the orcas is going to raise antipathies in military circles, since the majority of PCBs (the most lethal of the pollutants killing the whales) are on the Puget Sound's military bases adjacent to the marine waterways, and cleeanup will be costly. The Navy also is likely to be butting heads over their use of sonar in the Sound.

The Seattle Times coverage points out that the initial reaction is that the listing is being greeted on all sides:
Unlike many other ESA listings, groups whose activities could impact whales -- including salmon fishermen and whale-watching tour operators -- applauded this listing.

"It's not like the spotted owl, where it's loggers versus owls," said David Bain, a University of Washington orca expert. "We're all on the same side on this one."

I'm not so certain about that. The orca listing will at least have the effect of putting more bite to the efforts to restore salmon, because the lack of their dietary staple remains the most fundamental problem the orcas face. And that puts the orcas up directly against the same development and agricultural interests that have been fighting salmon restoration.

Those same people, as it happens, are responsible for the one thing that could render the listing moot: the effort in Congress to gut the Endangered Species Act. As the Times piece observes:
Then again, the listing could have no impact at all if Congress changes the ESA, Bain said. In October, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to significantly scale back the federal government's role in preventing species extinction. It's not clear how the Senate will side on the issue.

"It may be that we spent six years trying to get this listing only to have it not mean all that much," he said.

That isn't the only effort on the part of right-wing politicians that could seriously endanger the orcas. As one of the scientists noted, a single oil spill could kill enough whales to drop the population below the critical levels necessary for full recovery.

And, as it happens, Republicans in Congress are working to raise the likelihood of an oil spill by killing the so-called "Magnuson Amendment" that keeps the major supertankers out of the Sound and limits the traffic that does come here.

The first of these efforts was killed in the House, but it was recently resurrected in the Senate by Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the rape-and-run pro-development right's favorite senator. The plan is not being very warmly greeted:
Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, and delegation staffers took them to task for trying to upend 1977 legislation by quietly enlisting Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Republicans from other states to champion their cause.

BP would like more oil tankers to be allowed to dock at its Cherry Point refinery in Bellingham.

But the so-called Magnuson amendment, named after the law's author, the state's late U.S. Sen. Warren Magnuson, restricts any increase in oil-tanker capacity in Puget Sound unless it serves Washington state's energy needs.

Internal e-mails from BP executives and one of its lawyers, given to The Seattle Times, indicate that BP has been working closely with Stevens to undo the tanker rule.

You can bet that when these big-money interests come up against the new orca listing, it will be just a matter of time before we start hearing from "scientists" funded by these selfsame interests.

They'll inform us sternly that there are plenty of orcas in the world, so this population doesn't really need protecting. And besides, the new restrictions are costing us jobs, and Americans more oil for their SUVs. And a few hundred other phony talking points designed to let the orcas go extinct here.

Count on it.

Unhinged: Unhonest

[1: The Unbearable Lightness of Malkin]

Part 2: Eye of the Unhinged

There's a lot of left-wing ugliness documented in Unhinged, and Michelle Malkin's reportage of it, on a surface level at least, appears to be largely accurate -- so far as what she actually reports. As noted, however, most of the time this reportage is incomplete: Exculpatory evidence, of course, is never even mentioned, and Malkin does little to ascertain that the ugliness is from bona fide liberal sources.

In fact, it turns out, Malkin's examples are often not what Malkin presents them as being.

There are certain stretches in the book -- particularly some of the Internet-spawned ugliness directed Malkin -- that should give all liberals pause. There's little doubt that some of the people angered by Malkin's arguments responded with vicious, racist, and misogynist hate mail.

However, Malkin never attempts to provide the reader with any perspective on all this. What percentage of the discourse, for instance, falls into this genuinely ugly category? That should, after all, tell us a great deal about the nature of the beast.

Those experienced in Internet-based discourse are well aware that nastiness abounds on all sides, particularly in the political realm. But the quantity of this nastiness can also be telling. What's striking about sites like Free Republic and Little Green Footballs, for instance, is not just the ugliness of the rhetoric, but the sheer overbearing mass of it. Is the ugliness at sites like Kevin Drum's and Atrios's -- both of whom provide much of the grist for Malkin's mill -- comparable? We never find out, because Malkin never bothers to examine the question.

Now, while Malkin correctly identifies some real examples of viciousness, she fluffs out her thesis regarding left-wing ugliness and kookery with plenty of examples that aren't really all that kooky.

For instance, she devotes most of pp. 7-8 mocking the Web site for posting liberals' apologies to the rest of the world for having failed to prevent George W. Bush's re-election. This is simply old-fashioned partisanship -- something that Malkin appears to only consider kooky when it comes from the left.

Moreover, an examination of the genuinely vile comments that Malkin provides shows that Malkin was anything but careful about those citations. For instance, on her back cover, Malkin quotes an anonymous poster at Eric Muller's blog, Is That Legal?, who wrote:
This is what happens when you send a yellow woman to do a white man's job.

As Thersites has pointed out, the entire post was actually a clearly satirical one:
Why can't we find competent race-traitors anymore? Issuing a retraction based on legal threats? Disgusting. This was her moment to shine - a real public forum to level a set of smears against Japanese-"Americans" that would have assured they NEVER tried to drive across the heartland of America again. Instead she knuckles under like Tojo in Tokyo Bay.

This is what happens when you send a yellow woman to do a white man's job.

Posted by: Tommy Pain at May 18, 2005 11:45 AM

That is, the poster was writing in the voice of an actual racist to make a satirical point about Malkin's argument. This, of course, seems to have either been missed or glossed over by Malkin. Her use of it as an example of ugliness is either a dense misreading of the original post or just dishonest. Or, rather, "unhonest."

Another example of missing context is her inclusion of the following remark:
Look at how even aggressive educated wogs like this Michelle Malkin serve their white masters at little or no prodding simply because they desire to be white and not what they were born.

Malkin's a whore regardless what race she was born. She'd serve any Dark Lord as long as they paid her.

This remark came from a thread at Eschaton, which Malkin culled for the blog post that provided the basis for the section of Chapter Six of Unhinged that examines online lunacy.

And what's clear is that the post -- written by "Big Daddy Mars" -- was actually written in response to another satirical post, this time written by a troll who appeared on Atrios' threads and posted in the voice of the historical King Leopold. His post:
Why exactly does this large toothed educated female wog believe that she will be treated as white when God chose to make her yellow?

Even her political allies see her as nothing more than a trained monkey coached into saying a few simple racial truths that would be politically damaging if put into the mouths of a white man?

Her hatred for her fellow wogs comes from an inability to accept that God did not make her a European and that God chose to make her a woman.

Please, beat her severely and set her to work in a brothel somewhere in Malaysia that services Islamic terrorists.

King Leopold | Email | Homepage | 02.04.05 - 12:39 am | #

So Malkin, once again, omits context that makes the later "wog" reference clearer -- as well as the semi-satirical nature of Big Daddy Mars' response. As Thersites points out, Malkin's deletion of the King Leopold remark -- which she carried on the blog post, but left out of the book -- is telling in several important regards.

This all raises a critical context missing from Malkin's use of Internet posts to demonstrate liberal moral bankruptcy: To what extent, really, can Malkin ascertain that these posts actually represent liberals?

The Internet is indeed a wild and woolly place. And tricksters and hoaxters abound alongside the ugliness. Some liberals will wander over to conservative sites and post nasty material, posing as a fellow conservative, just to make the right look bad. And some conservatives do the same thing at left-wing sites.

In other words, these posts simply are not any kind of reliable source of information about the pervasiveness of the political ugliness Malkin wishes to document. Malkin never bothers to explain this to her readers -- no doubt because it would raise serious questions about her use of them in the first place.

Finally, Malkin attacks the sites' hosts for allowing this kind of nonsense on their boards. She attacks Duncan Black, aka Atrios, calling these citations his "idea of ideal political discourse" (p. 11), and Kevin Drum, saying that these "supposedly 'respectable' liberal bloggers allowed their foaming readers to post similarly depraved comments (p. 118). She particularly attacks Drum, who tried to ameliorate her anger with a reasonable e-mail exchange, and was rewarded for it by having her mock his response as "bleating" and "wimpy."

Malkin seems strangely obtuse about the nature of comment threads at blogs. Now, at small blogs like this one, monitoring and managing the comments is a relatively simple task. But as Malkin herself discovered, comments get completely out of hand when you reach the upper stratosphere of blogging -- when literally hundreds of comments are posted at your blog each day.

Malkin clearly believes that it's better to have no comments at all than to be unable to control what's posted at your blog. Which is fine; that's a legitimate choice for her blog.

But other bloggers will have different philosophies -- that it's better to encourage the public discourse by making comments available for your readers. It's an important way of building an online community at your blog, and it's a healthy exercise in free speech, the negative aspects notwithstanding. That, too, is a legitimate point of view.

Malkin, however, seems to be demanding that other major-level bloggers to follow her footsteps and shut down their comments. I don't think that's going to happen.

Frogs and Ravens had an excellent commentary the other day about the realities of blog-comment management:
On the one extreme of the spectrum are those who believe simultaneously that (a) blogs should not post anything that might offend them, even if they are only visiting a given blog on a first-time fly-by and (b) that anything should be allowed in the comment threads, up to and including insulting the blog owner and his or her other commenters. I call this the "The World Exists to Serve Me" contingent.

On the other extreme are those who believe that (a) blog owners can say whatever the hell they want, however they want, and if the people visiting the blog don't like it, they can go away (common rallying cry, "No one's making you read this blog") and (b) blog owners can do whatever they want with regards to their comments threads -- ban randomly, edit comments according to their own whims, refuse to have any comments, ban people who disagree with them, etc. I call this "It's My Blog and I Can Do What I Want" crowd.

... This is one thing that I think proves challenging to a lot of people new to the blogosphere (as well as a few tone-deaf old hands). The blogosphere is not a uniform, homogenous place, operating according to universal rules and expectations. (My god, how boring it would be if that were so.) Instead, the blogosphere varies with the whims and inclinations of each blog host and each commenting community. Some places are fine with profanity, others aren't. Some specialize in trading witty one-offs; others prefer thoughtful, meandering conversations. Some are snarky and sarcastic; some are warm and touchy-feely. Some develop small, close-knit communities into which a newcomer must ease slowly and cautiously; others are big raucous public parties that anyone can jump into without prior experience. The blogosphere is anything but homogenous.

And that's the point. Atrios' policy, he tells me, is that he will delete obnoxious trolls, but he has no intention of trying to play the role of full-time hall monitor in his threads. For the culture of his blog, that is a perfectly appropriate approach -- just as Malkin's is appropriate for hers.

Most significantly, perhaps, Malkin wants these bloggers to "clean up the trash" at their Websites, but seems to have no such concerns regarding the similar trash that can be found in the comments at such sites as Little Green Footballs and Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, both of whom reside on her own blogroll.

At LGF, for instance, you can regularly find comments that call both Muslims and liberals "vermin" and "subhumans" and say that "targeted genocide ... will become necessary." At the Rottweiler, you can read threats of violence against other bloggers, as well as assassination threats against John Kerry. Misha, the site's proprietor, has posted himself in support of the notion that antiwar dissenters were asking to be lynched.

What's evident is that Malkin doesn't consider the comments at these sites -- not to mention the posts by their proprietors -- to constitute "trash". Otherwise, she wouldn't express indignation at liberal bloggers for their similar failures.

No, as already noted, Malkin contends that conservatives are in fact much better at weeding out such extremism. On p. 9, she claims that "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." (Ironically, she holds up only two examples of possible right-wing ugliness: Dick Cheney's "Go fuck yourself" to Pat Leahy, and "mean-spirited conservatives' Internet jibes about Democrats" -- but mentions them only dismissively, as though barely worth discussing. Yet Malkin, ironically, devotes entire chapters of her book to the same behavior on the left.)

She goes into this in further detail on pp. 168-169:
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 Â?orchestrated right-wing attackÂ? 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.

If only conservatives would zealously police their own ranks to exclude extremists -- particularly if they had done so over the preceding decade.

But, as we will see, they haven't. They aren't. And Michelle Malkin is one of the leading figures in this failure.

Next: The Unhinged Right

[Note: I've slightly rearranged the series since the first post, so the "Next" links have been edited.]

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Unhinged: Unhonest

Part 1: The Unbearable Lightness of Malkin

The first thing you notice about Michelle Malkin's new Regnery book, Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild, is how lightweight it is. It practically floats off the shelf and up into the ether, whence it appears to have originated.

That's not just because of its physical thinness. At 172 fluffed-up pages of actual text, it actually clocks in ahead of the 165 pages of text she devoted to In Defense of Internment -- though the latter was then fattened out to over 300 pages with Malkin's appendices containing a number of government archival papers. Unhinged just feels thin in the hand, and it's even thinner in substance when you open it and start reading.

And it's not just the hurried feel to the book. There are typos and typesetting screwups aplenty, which always attests to a rush job in the publishing biz. (What exactly is the last half-sentence of Chapter Two? Perhaps we'll find out in the paperback edition. Speaking of which, where's the paperback of In Defense of Internment?)

No, the reason reading Unhinged feels like breathing helium really comes down to content: There's only half the story there. It's like a piece of Swiss cheese -- anyone can see it's full of holes.

Everywhere you turn in Malkin's book, you'll find lurid descriptions of liberal ugliness, looniness, and viciousness. Most of what she reports is accurate, though in many cases what she defines as looniness is, shall we say, a matter of perspective.

The problem is what she doesn't report.

This is true of the book on a larger, thematic scale: Nowhere in Malkin's fluffy little screed is there ever any recognition that ugliness, looniness, and viciousness are every bit as preeminent on the right as they are on the left, if not more so. Nor is there any recognition that the right might have played a significant role in dragging the national discourse down into this gutter.

To the contrary, Malkin specifically denies that this might be the case, right from the outset. On p. 9 there's this:
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. Though no one in the mainstream media depicts the GOP as the party of peace, tranquility and civility -- preferring to cast those of us on the right as angry, destructive, bigoted, and off the rails -- it is, in fact, the Left that now embodies that unhinged creature.

Note that she immediately dismisses, without any rationale, two fundamental pieces of evidence against her characterization of reality:
-- Dick Cheney's crude eruption on the Senate floor, telling Sen. Patrick Leahy, "Go fuck yourself," is a classic example of unhinged behavior -- and it was an example of its manifestation at the highest levels of the conservative movement. More to the point, Cheney and his fellow conservatives rather pointedly refused to apologize or back down for the outburst, and in fact seemed to recommend such behavior to the kids watching at home. What was that about reining in their bad boys?

-- Mean-spirited conservatives' Internet jibes about Democrats are probably, as Malkin suggests, not worth taking too seriously. But then Malkin goes on to devote over half of her subsequent text to mean-spirited liberals' Internet jibes about Republicans. So why can Malkin bring this kind of behavior up as evidence, but the left can't?

The holes in Malkin's reportage also exist on a fundamental level. Take, for instance, how she handles one of the centerpieces of her argument that this lunacy has taken root at the highest levels of the Democratic Party: Howard Dean's remarks about theories that the Saudis might have tipped off George W. Bush about 9/11.

As I've already noted, Malkin's discussions of Dean's record in television interviews indicate a serious skewing of the reality of what he said. And sure enough, Unhinged skews Dean's remarks on pp. 33-35 with some, shall we say, selective editing.

Here's how she quotes Dean:
Diane Rehm: "Why do you think he [Bush] is suppressing that [Sept. 11] report?"

Howard Dean: "I don't know. There are many theories about it. The most interesting theory that I've heard so far -- which is nothing more than a theory, it can't be proved -- is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis.

Here's what she omitted from Dean's remarks:
"Now, who knows what the real situation is? But the trouble is, by suppressing that kind of information, you lead to those kind of theories, whether or not they have any truth to them or not, and eventually, they get repeated as fact. So I think the president is taking a great risk by suppressing the key information that needs to go to the Kean Commission."

Likewise, she then goes on to quote Dean from a subsquent interview:
WALLACE: The most interesting theory is that the president was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Why would you say that, Governor?

DEAN: Because there are people who believe that. We don't know what happened in 9/11. Tom Kean is trying to get some information from the president...

WALLACE: Do you believe that?

DEAN: ... which doesn't -- no, I don't believe that. I can't imagine the president of the United States doing that. But we don't know, and it'd be a nice thing to know.

But again she omits the contextual remarks that explain why Dean was talking about this:
WALLACE: I'm just curious why you would call that the most interesting theory.

DEAN: Because it's a pretty odd theory. What we do believe is that there was a lot of chatter that somehow was missed by the CIA and the FBI about this, and that for some reason we were unable to decide and get clear indications of what the attacks what were going to be. Because the president won't give the information to the Kean commission we really don't know what the explanation is.

Malkin consistently omits the important context of what Dean was trying to say: That keeping the public in the dark feeds these kinds of conspiracy theories. Indeed, she quickly glosses over the important subtext behind Dean's remarks, when she asks:
What leading Democrat in his right mind would lend even a shred of credence to the baseless theory that Bush was "warned ahead of time by the Saudis" about September 11?

While there may have been no evidence that this was the case, the speculation itelf did not happen in a vacuum, considering that nearly all of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis by nationality, and the Bush family's ties to the Saudis have been voluminously documented. It's natural that there would be such speculation. (It's worth noting, of course, that Dean botched the opportunity to bring up these points by mishandling both the original remarks and his follow-ups to them.)

Moreover, as we later learned during the 9/11 Commission hearing, Bush indeed was warned ahead of time about the possibility of terrorist attacks -- not by the Saudis, but by his own presidential intelligence briefing. And he chose not to act on those warnings. That raises concerns not about any conspiracy, but about Bush's competence.

Conservatives definitely did not want to talk about these twin realities during the campaign -- so when Dean brought them up, it became imperative to paint him as an unhinged kook and conspiracy theorist. And they succeeded so well that Malkin could seize their altered reality and use it to plump up her thesis.

Malkin is especially hypocritical in discussing the Dean remarks, which she calls "the old I'm-not-saying-it-I'm-just-posing-the-question card". As TBogg points out, Malkin finds this card perfectly suitable to play when it comes to her own purposes, including smearing John Kerry by suggesting -- groundlessly -- that he wounded himself intentionally in Vietnam in order to obtain a Purple Star. What leading Republican would lend even a shred of credence to such a baseless theory?

Rewriting history by omission, of course, is a Malkin specialty: It's what she did, as I've explained in depth, with her pro-internment book. Any facts or details that might count as evidence against her thesis have no chance of being any more than briefly and dismissively mentioned.

In discussing this propensity of hers earlier, I described this missing element, in journalistic terms, as "fairness," but I don't think that fully describes what's lacking in Malkin's work; it goes beyond mere fairness. This is a matter of simple integrity -- intellectual and otherwise.

Malkin isn't being openly dishonest with these omissions. There's very little in Unhinged that you can say is actually false. It's more a matter of being unhonest: not letting her readers get the whole picture so they can judge for themselves. It's one of those things conservatives love to whine about with the "MSM" so much.

Unhinged lacks the fundamental honesty -- the integrity to consider countervailing facts and then factually counter them, if possible, to defend your thesis, rather than simply pretending they don't exist -- to be worth anyone's reading time.

The only people who will find this book useful are blinkered ideologues who just want more grist for their liberal-hating mills, the facts be damned. Certainly, it will be of little to use for any serious-minded person who is concerned about the state of the national dialogue -- except, perhaps, as Exhibit A regarding the source of the problem. Because Malkin's little contribution to the growing mound of liberal-bashing books is only going to make that dialogue incrementally worse.

Fortunately, it's so lightweight, that may be a rather small increment indeed.

Next: Eye of the Unhinged