Saturday, April 08, 2006


This may put me in the minority of bloggers, but I don't much care for blogging when I travel. Especially when I'm spending my days escorting my daughter through the commercial wonders of Disneyland, which primarily constitute serial adventures in line-standing and swollen, aching feet.

But duty beckons, thanks to Rick Moran of Right Wing Nuthouse, who wrote a lengthy response to my recent post at Firedoglake regarding the way that mainstream conservatism has increasingly come to reflect genuinely extremist values and ideas, largely through the sorts of thinly veiled appeals it makes.

It's noteworthy because, as readers know, this is a trend I've been documenting for some time, most notably in my two Koufax-winning series. And in all that time, I haven't seen anyone on the right try to tackle the argument in anything approaching a serious fashion. Most avoid my thesis like the plague, and if any do acknowledge it, it's usually given the standard substance-free airy dismissal (to wit: this is just too absurd to dignify with a response).

Alas, for all the words that Moran expends on my behalf, the end product is thin gruel indeed.

Take, for instance, Moran's claim that I "put the cart before the horse" regarding the movement of far-right appeals into the conservative mainstream; he claims, instead, that right-wing extremists have simply adopted mainstream positions and tried to spin them as their own:
The only problem with Mr. Neiwert’s notions of insidious issue creep by racists and fascists into the mainstream of conservatism is that he is blaming the responsible right for the fact that the racists adopted these issues, mixed them into an unrecognizable porridge of nauseating half truths and bowdlerized slogans, and spewed the result onto the internet and elsewhere trying to appear reasonable.

In short, while trying to connect Neo-Nazis to conservatives, Mr. Neiwert makes a classic, some would say stupid mistake; he puts the cart before the horse. It was not conservatives who adopted these issues from the extremists; it was the other way around.

This is his strongest argument, incidentally, and if his chronology were actually correct, he'd have a point. But it's not.

You see, David Duke and like-minded neo-Nazis were adopting these issues in the 1970s, well before they became part of Republican cant. And while it is true that many of them surfaced in the Reagan '80s, well before Pat Buchanan offered his formula for transmitting far-right ideas into the mainstream, the reality is that the trend has rapidly accelerated since then.

Take, for instance, the way the extremist right served as an echo chamber for mainstream conservative appeals during the Clinton years, especially in building up anti-Clinton animus with a whole raft of bizarre charges that formed the foundation for the impetus to impeach. Moreover, it's become embodied in the way that genuinely fringe figures like Randall Terry, Jim Gilchrist, and Jared Taylor have been subsequently embraced by the mainstream right as somehow representative of their ideals. It's also embodied in the way that Duke themes -- particularly his 1990s tomes describing how white America's values were in danger of being overrun by brown hordes -- keep popping up among mainstream conservatives; not surprisingly, the best example of this was Buchanan's book The Death of the West.

Moran's subsequent point borders on the downright inane:
I would suggest to Mr. Neiwert that his next article deal with the adoption by the Communist Party USA of many liberal issues such as racial justice, anti-war agitation, universal health care, and reigning in corporate power. Or better yet, he might want to take on Osama Bin Laden and that worthy’s peculiar habit of regurgitating liberal talking points about America, the war, and western civilization every time he makes a videotape.

Of course, it's Moran who himself is putting the cart before the horse himself here -- that is, extremists like the Communist Party are simply latching themselves onto legitimate mainstream issues, such as they did with civil rights in the 1950s -- if he thinks this kind of argument has any legitimacy. But it's clear he doesn't; he's just hoping to score rhetorical points, which only works if your characterization of the case is accurate. (As for Mr. Bin Laden, perhaps Moran hasn't noticed that the reality of fundamentalist Islamic radicals is that what they hate most about the West is embodied most in what are traditionally liberal quarters: free speech, sexual tolerance, a desire to break free from the chains of oppressive traditionalism.)

Perhaps more to the point, he seems not to understand that the concept of "transmission" -- that is, the movement of ideas and appeals from the extremist fringes into the mainstream through their careful repackaging -- does indeed hold as true for the left as for the right. Likewise, what he also neglects to comprehend is that the very real difference is that, for mainstream liberalism, such transmissions are nearly nonexistent now, however much they may have occurred in the past (and the historical instances are actually few and far between, and typically relegated to lesser issues, unless you're one of those nuts who believe FDR really was a communist). The nearly opposite is true of the mainstream right currently.

Moran goes on to not only demonstrate an abysmal grasp of the facts regarding right-wing behavior, he actually goes on to reproduce some of the same transmissions by way of acting as an apologist for his cohorts. To wit:

-- Michelle Malkin, he claims, has only a peripheral association with the hate group VDare, which exists only because they run her syndicated column. If Malkin's associations with the VDare clan ended there, he might have a point -- though a limited one, since columnists do have the right to deny anyone they like (or dislike) the right to run their work; if the National Alliance or Council of Conservative Citizens or Stormfront, all nakedly racist outfits, wanted to run Malkin's column, I would assume she would deny them that option (though that might be a bad assumption). Moreover, Malkin blogrolls VDare on not just her blog, but also on her subsidiary Immigration Blog. Additionally, she has on several occasions sprung to the defense of the VDare crowd, particularly Steve Sailer.

-- Glenn Reynolds, he claims, is really not a right-wing blogger at all but a libertarian one. Of course, Reynolds has made this claim for years as well, but those familiar with Reynolds' track record of uniform support for conservatives and their agendas, and converse animus towards liberals and theirs, tends to belie the claim. The decisive factor for me has been Reynolds' uniform support for the Bush administration's seemingly endless undermining of civil liberties, supposedly the heart of libertarian ideals. I have in my possession an e-mail that Reynolds sent in 1997 to a listserv I was on, attacking Clinton's post-Oklahoma City push for bolstering law-enforcement efforts for intelligence gathering on domestic terrorists and claiming that he didn't think any American should be willing to give up their privacy rights for the purpose of preventing terrorism; and yet his track record regarding the Bush administration has been precisely the opposite (uniform support for the Patriot Act -- which made the Clinton initiatives look minor in comparison -- and its sequel, as well as Bush's use of NSA for domestic surveillance).

-- He goes on to defend Reynolds' and other right-wingers smear of MEChA without really comprehending that what Reynolds did in calling MEChA "fascist hatemongers" and "racist and homophobic" was, among other things, to link MEChA to a group of Latino anti-Semites without any grounding for doing so, and then, after the mistake was pointed out to him, simply noted that the connection was in error: no apology, and no attempt to explain to his readers that his characterization was grossly off course.

-- Even worse, Moran defends Reynolds and Malkin by citing El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan (a document written in 1969) and noting:
The translation of that last little ditty is "On behalf of the Race, everything. Outside the Race, nothing."

But hey! Don't call them hatemongers!

Note that Moran calls this phrase MEChA's "motto" when, in fact, it is not; it's simply a slogan that appeared in some of its early organizing documents. Its actual motto is "La union hace la fuerza," or "Unity creates power."

Moreover, as I explained way back when, in a post that was included in the links of the Firedoglake post:
Most of the characterizations of MEChA's rhetoric have ranged from the extremely tendentious to outright gross distortions. And nearly all of them are devoid of both historical and current social context.

One of the prime examples of distortion in the debate is the way a number of the anti-Mechistas, including Malkin and Kaus, have zeroed in on the MEChA slogan: Por la Raza, todo. Fuera la Raza, nada.

Kaus offers the translation of this slogan that in fact has been used by every one of the MEChA critics:

(Many American Jewish groups fight against assimilation too, but I haven't seen any with a slogan equivalent to "For the Race, everything. For those outside the race, nothing.")

Before supposedly smart people go publishing such nonsense, it would help if they consulted, say, a native Spanish speaker (and one would think one would be available somewhere in Santa Monica).

A more accurate translation of the slogan would recognize that though "Por" translates to the English "For," it is used in a very specific sense of the word -- namely, "On behalf of" or "In the service of". "Fuera" is not "for those outside" but rather refers to the speaker, and means "Apart from." So what the slogan actually says is this:

In the service of the race, everything
Apart from the race, nothing

There is nothing remotely racist, particularly in the sense of being exclusionist or derogatory, about this, of course. The second line clearly only refers to the need to maintain one's ethnic and cultural identity. It is only racist if you deliberately mistranslate it: "For those outside the race, nothing."

Perhaps even more to the point, as I explained subsequently, "la Raza" is specifically a pan-racial concept, describing a populist notion of "the people," a notion that specifically includes a number of races, since the people of Mexico are actually constituted of a range of distinct races:
A more accurate translation would read, "In service of my people, everything; [for] apart from my people, [I have] nothing." There is neither the exclusionist nor the racist content that Malkin implies. La Raza, it must be noted, is not a racial concept but an ethnic one (it comprises multiples races, in fact).

This kind of sloppiness is typical of Moran's entire argument here. As you can see, his case simply falls apart when you examine it with any care.

In the end, though, I was most amused by Moran's remark that I "ought to be ashamed of [my]self."

And you know, it's true: I am ashamed of myself. I'm ashamed for having worked for so many years in mainstream media and, even while recognizing these trends as they developed in the 1990s, never having written about them with any detail or clarity because I thought it would be impolitic.

I'm ashamed for having assumed, for so many years, that the differences between the extremist right and the mainstream right were more significant than their similarities. That is, until it became all too apparent that the differences were growing smaller and the similarities growing much, much greater.

That's what I'm ashamed of.

But it's amusing that Moran would think I should be ashamed, yet he somehow couldn't bring himself to say the same of Ann Coulter when she called Muslims "ragheads" in a major convention speech; instead, he just called her "beyond over the top" and tut-tutted her obvious extremism. Though perhaps we should give him some credit for at least recognizing that.

However, he seems unable to bring himself to admit that Malkin and Reynolds -- let alone the Little Green Footballs or Lucianne Goldberg crowds, all of whom reside on his blogroll -- likewise have plenty to be "ashamed of." Indeed, it seems that there's little right-wing behavior he can find that anyone should be ashamed of.

Which is, really, a shame. But hardly surprising.

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