Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Over the river and through the woods ...

... To Grandmother's house we go.

Blogging will be light for the next few days. Unlike my diet.

Unhinged: Unhonest

1: The Unbearable Lightness of Malkin

2: Eye of the Unhinged

3: The Unhinged Right

4: Hunting Liberals

5: Extremists? What Extremists?

Conclusion: Keeping Our Cools

The Poor Man made a noteworthy point the other day about an interesting facet of the conservative movement: "how even the tiniest example of wingnuttery is a near-perfect replica of the whole edifice, substantively consonant in every particular but scale."

Michelle Malkin's work, particularly her new book, Unhinged, is like that: a kind of embodiment in miniature, as it were, of the conservative movement as a whole. Just as Malkin ignores the clear presence of extremism within the ranks of conservatism and instead projects those tendencies onto her enemies, so too does the conservative movement as a whole.

And that, in the end, is the root of the problem.

Now, it's true that Unhinged is perhaps the most lightweight of all the liberal-bashing tomes that have been flooding the market. In a year or two, its publication will have been long forgotten, and its impact on the national discourse will have been negligible in any positive sense, in no small part due to its innate lack of honesty.

It's a forgettable propaganda tract in most regards. Why bother devote any time -- let alone a six-part series -- to examining it in the first place (as some of my readers have asked)?

Put simply, it's because Malkin and her book are crystalline examples of how the conservative movement works. She's certainly not the only one to be bellyaching about how nasty liberals are getting these days. It was a hot topic of conversation back in 2003, too. In fact, it's been part of the right-wing Wurlitzer's steady drumbeat for a couple of years now.

To say that this is a case of projection, as I've been explaining, is putting it mildly. But the most outrageous claim here is that the right polices and oversees its own:
"[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]

Does she provide any good examples of how conservatives zealously "blow the whistle on their bad boys"?

Well, no.

She did give us one clue in that appearance she made on Bill O'Reilly's show, wherein she continued on this theme:
O'Reilly: Do you see mainstream conservatives condemning Michael Savage?

Malkin: All the time.

O'Reilly: You do?

Malkin: Of course you do. In fact -- again, I think that this is something that the mainstream media does not recognize. 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. The Trent Lott episode for example. A lot of mainstream conservatives were pivotal in decrying Trent Lott's remarks at Strom Thurmond's party.

Well, there are (as always) a few things missing from Malkin's narrative. Liberals (particularly the bloggers Josh Marshall and Atrios, who kept the story bubbling with a steady flow of revelations about Lott's neo-Confederate dalliances) played an equally critical role in l'affaire Lott. And there is also the matter of a White House that was eager to cut Lott off at the knees in that lovely internecine warfare the GOP sometimes engages in.

But give Malkin and conservatives credit where it's due. Certain conservatives did play a critical role in bringing Lott to ground for his remarks. Regardless of how principled their motives, they deserve credit for forcing his removal from the Senate majority leadership.

But it's not as though the resolution of the matter vindicated either the GOP or the conservative movement. Lott did, after all, retain his seat and much of his power and perks. More to the point, the GOP's rich associations with the extremist neo-Confederate movement -- which was at the nexus of the issue with Lott -- neither went away nor withered.

As I explained previously:
Lott was far from alone among Republicans in maintaining ties to neo-Confederates and other Southern racists. Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, chief sponsor of a 1997 bill to impeach Clinton, also made appearances before the CofCC, and over the years has had open associations with the populist-right John Birch Society, as well as a striking penchant for placing the militias’ issues -- gun control, tearing down the United Nations, fighting "globalism" -- atop his list. Ex-Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice maintained open ties with the CofCC and other neo-Confederate factions. And Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster -- who was President Bush's campaign chair in that state -- maintained an interesting relationship with white supremacist David Duke: He liked to buy Duke's mailing lists. (He also tried to conceal his purchase of the lists and was caught and fined for it.)

The South, however, was only one of many staging grounds for ostensibly mainstream conservative politicians to commingle with right-wing extremists. In fact, it happened in every corner of the country. In New Hampshire, Republican Sen. Bob Smith made open alliances with the Patriot/militia-oriented Constitution Party (indeed, he nearly ran for president on the party's ticket). Former Rep. Helen Chenoweth of Idaho, who chaired a natural-resources subcommittee and was one of the first to join Barr as an impeachment co-sponsor, had long associations with her home district’s militiamen -- and you can still buy her anti-environmental video, "America in Crisis," from the Militia of Montana. Former Republican Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas likewise made open alliances with several Texas Patriot groups, and defended their agenda in Congress. Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas continues to peddle pseudo-Patriot "New World Order" conspiracy theories to his constituents.

The connections with neo-Confederates and right-wing racial extremists continue to flourish unabated today -- a fact about which the right remains in denial. It manifests itself in places like right-wing academia, where a predilection for the racist League of the South prevails. It comes to roost in the cozen of Republican political candidates with extensive neo-Confederate backgrounds.

It's not as though these are simply obscure politicos. Among the Republicans playing footsie with the neo-Confederates is former GOP bigwig Haley Barbour, who successfully ran for the Mississippi governorship with the open (and mutual) support of the Council of Conservative Citizens. Given the opportunity to correct that course, Barbour happily played the role of divider instead. Being Republican, after all, means never having to say you're sorry.

The neo-Confederates, though, are only one of many facets of modern conservatism in which right-wing extremism has woven itself into the mainstream. Others include:
-- The Minutemen.

-- Anti-environment extremists.

-- Anti-abortion extremists.

-- Eliminationist thuggery.

-- Religious extremists.

-- Talk-radio hatemongers.

And that's really just scratching the surface.

Meanwhile, let's not forget the American right's newfound infatuation with Joe McCarthy. First it was Jonah Goldberg, then Ann Coulter, and now this. Pretty soon we'll hear it coming out of Sean Hannity's mouth too: "Joe McCarthy was not so hot in the way he went about doing things, but he was right."

The absorption of so many extremist elements into the conservative "mainstream" has wrought nothing less than a reconfigured "conservative movement" that only vaguely resembles genuine conservatism. Fiscal restraint? Bah! International restraint? Fooey! Civility and interpersonal restraint? Fuggedaboutit! The "conservative movement" of 2005 is nothing less than the ascendancy of the old right-wing John Birch Society mentality: the paranoia, the demonization, the wild-eyed ... unhingedness.

That mainstream conservatism is being swamped by its extremist elements is a problem for everyone: genuine conservatives, moderates, liberals. Because the way it's happened involves a course that will lead the nation into truly dark times.

By absorbing so many extremist elements, the conservative movement has itself become more extremist. Many of these elements -- particularly the racists and neo-Confederates -- would eventually wither and fade from society if they weren't being sustained. And what's sustaining them is the access to power and influence they enjoy within the conservative movement. Moreover, that access is growing. And that's bad news for everyone (except, of course, those extremists).

The work of "transmitters" like Malkin, Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh in bridging the former gaps between extremist elements and the mainstream right is essential in creating the opportunities for that access. Their role is to provide media cover -- a constant barrage of talking points, wielding words as weapons in a propaganda war -- for the advance of this extremism.

We've known for some time, really, about the right's propensity for projection. I mean, who can forget the claims in early December 2000 that it was Al Gore who was trying to steal the election? Malkin's thesis that the left has been taken over by a cast of eye-rattling loons is of a piece with this: You can always get a good idea where the right is headed (if it's not already there) by what it's currently accusing the left of doing.

Nonetheless, that doesn't let liberals off the hook, either.

Now, Malkin's book doesn't present any substantial evidence of genuine extremist elements gaining significant influence within mainstream liberalism (and it's always worth remembering that liberalism is not a discrete movement in the way that conservatism has become). What she does document is some kookery among certain left-wing individuals, and some reactive ugliness (see, especially, the Randi Rhodes material) that is apologized for, but not forgiven.

The only left-wing extremist movements of any note in 2005 -- the animal rights/eco-terrorist extremists particularly, though the anarchists and anti-globalists who helped make the WTO demonstrations a fiasco also fit the bill -- do not have any kinds of significant footholds or influence within the Democratic Party.

But Malkin does document some genuinely ugly personalities floating among the ranks of liberals. Even if her footwork and methodology are shoddy and questionable, there are enough genuine samples to make a valid point. I think reading some of the e-mails sent her way, as well as some of the comments posted on blog threads, has to leave anyone with a simple sense of decency shaking their head.

I don't think it's fair to characterize the left as being represented by these kinds of voices, any more than I think it's appropriate to argue that the entire right is embodied by folks like the Border Ruffian

But I do think it's fair to argue that people on the left, if they genuinely stand against such things as xenophobia, racism, and misogyny, have an obligation to speak up against this kind of talk, these kinds of attacks.

People who read this blog know I have no tolerance for such comments here, and certainly have never indulged them.

And I'm frequently appalled and disgusted by some of the voices I hear on the left. The lamentable "Fuck the South" screed was a classic case: spleen-venting that feels good for a moment or two, and leaves the taste of dry ashes in your mouth. Because you know that in the end, it's an argument for writing off your fellow Americans.

That's what they do. And besides, it's counterproductive: a recipe for permanent loserdom.

Even more sickening for me personally are the anti-Asian slurs (with an exponential factor in the sexual ones) directed Malkin's way. Having studied, up close and personal, the history of anti-Asian bigotry in this country, for me these kinds of remarks always mark the person making them as a bigot to be scorned, regardless of their political affiliation.

And you know, I might speak out against these voices more often if I thought there was any likelihood I'd see conservatives similarly speaking out against their extremist and "unhinged" elements.

You remember. The condemnation that Malkin claims happens all the time -- and for which she can provide no clear examples.

Because that's the way the game is played now, thanks to the hardball Rovean Right. Fair play and decency are signs of weakness to be exploited. Admit to a failing and it will be trumpeted. That's why Republicans never, never, say they're sorry. (See Dick Cheney for the consummate example of this.) They just stay on the attack. Their own worst propensities become a charge to make against the opposition.

Regardless, in the face of all this, I think it behooves liberals to remain true to their principles and eschew threats, violence and violent talk, and especially racist, xenophobic or sexually crude remarks.

I believe in fighting, and fighting hard, but I don't believe in losing my cool, either. It's a waste of energy -- not just yours, but everyone else's. Because, as Malkin's book well demonstrates, it provides them ammunition for distracting our attention from what's really happening: the spread of extremism within the mainstream right.

So I think it's worthwhile to decry behavior of the kind Malkin documents, and I intend to do so more often. I seem to recall that, whenever the remarks of the kind Malkin cites have appeared on liberal threads, they generally have been met with a chorus of disapproval (which, once again, Malkin neglects to mention).

That doesn't excuse them. But using them to represent a "trend" in liberalism -- while pretending that no such trend exists among conservatives -- is simply dishonest. No "un" about it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to return to reading something genuinely substantial and meaningful. I'd recommend everyone else do the same.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Michelle the Martyr

I was just going to stay out of the whole business of Michelle Malkin's recent self-martyrdom, since it doesn't directly affect me or respond to me. Certainly none of my posts have attacked her family, nor have they even hinted at issues regarding her race (though I have discussed her potential dual citizenship).

But I couldn't help but notice a few things about it. To wit:

-- There's the headline over the post:

Readers of my ongoing series on Unhinged will recognize this line. It's the one that Michelle uses to demonstrate how disgustingly racist the left is (she features it on the back cover of Unhinged).

Yet, as already explained, the line is taken from a comment posted at Is That Legal which, as you'll see, was a satirical post written quite intentionally in the voice of a white supremacist, by way of making a point about the kinds of interests that Malkin's work actually serves:
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

Why does Malkin keep reusing this line when it's clear that the "racism" in this post is satirical in nature?

-- Malkin doesn't really appear to be responding to the source of the questions about her professional relationship with her husband. That would be MalkinWatch and its lengthy examination of the extent of Jesse's contributions to her blog (cowritten by Liberal Avenger). As Auguste points out, his blog has never indulged in the inflammatory and racist material that Malkin complains about in her self-martyrdom. Neither have ever portrayed her "as a greedy Asian whore/dupe/brainwashing victim who simply parrots what [her] white slavemasters program into [her] empty little head."

In fact, it's hard to tell exactly who she's complaining about. It's certainly not coming from any blogs of real note.

-- Most significantly, there's this little sentence inserted into the middle of this wailing and gnashing of teeth, describing just what Jesse does contribute:
He has done copy-editing on my three books, conducted background research, taken dictation, drafted language for business letters, reviewed contracts, mailed my thank-you notes, helped me with a handful of blog posts out of the estimated 3,000 I've written since June 2004, corrected the math in a few of the estimated 800 newspaper columns I've penned since November 1992, and provided me with emotional support and encouragement through good times and bad.

As Matt Stoller says, what, exactly, is a "handful"? Are we talking just one or two? Or a dozen or more? A hundred? Why else mention the number you've actually posted?

Because the issue, in the end, is a serious one regarding Malkin's professional ethics: Did she post material under her name that was written by someone else without informing her readers?

It appears that the answer, from Malkin's own admission, is yes.

If so, why? What conceivable reason could she have for not giving Jesse Malkin his own byline on those posts he wrote?

It's important to understand that the incident that sparked Malkin's post -- her interview on a radio talk show in North Carolina -- framed the issue exactly that way: Was she posting material under her name that was written by her husband?

Eric Muller at Is That Legal? heard the interview, and has been posting on it:
Brad also asked her whether there's anything to all of the chatter out there on the internet that her husband writes some of the material that's published under her name. She denied this categorically, calling the suggestion "comical."

Ooops! A day later, she was admitting that, in fact, her husband does in fact write some of the material that's publishing under her name. Seems she was, in fact, lying on the air the day before.

And the lying continued in her misrepresentation of the interview in her blog post. As Muller points out:
Malkin blogs about this interview exchange here. One correction. She says this: "During one of countless book-related radio interviews this week, a liberal radio host insultingly asked me whether I write my own column." On the radio show, when Brad Krantz asked her what she thought of the story swirling around the web that her husband writes some of her material, she responded with enthusiasm, and said that she was "glad" he had asked the question.

Evidently, Malkin is intent on deflecting the serious criticism for an egregious breach of professional ethics by playing the racism card, and lying a little to cover her tracks. Isn't that what she complains about liberals doing all the time?

-- Finally, Michelle, if you want people to leave your family out of it, it always helps if you do the same.

In the meantime, instead of complaining about anonymous bloggers whom she never identifies, perhaps at some point she'll work up enough courage to respond to her more substantive critics.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: I've finally listened to a tape of the interview, and the questioner does ask Malkin about the rumors that Jesse ghost-wrote "your column and such things". So I've edited the post accordingly. My apologies.

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