Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Righteous anger

Richard Cohen, via Atrios, waxing wankeriffic like the Nobel Prize winner he is:
But the message in this case truly is the medium. The e-mails pulse in my queue, emanating raw hatred. This spells trouble -- not for Bush or, in 2008, the next GOP presidential candidate, but for Democrats. The anger festering on the Democratic left will be taken out on the Democratic middle. (Watch out, Hillary!) I have seen this anger before -- back in the Vietnam War era. That's when the antiwar wing of the Democratic Party helped elect Richard Nixon. In this way, they managed to prolong the very war they so hated.

The hatred is back. I know it's only words now appearing on my computer screen, but the words are so angry, so roiled with rage, that they are the functional equivalent of rocks once so furiously hurled during antiwar demonstrations.

Oh please. Just take me out and shoot me. We've been hearing this whine, incessantly, for the past four years, and it's enough.

These morons -- the conservatives who can dish it out but can't take it, and their Beltway liberal enablers who can neither dish it out nor take it -- had barely finished their eight-year spree trashing the country and the presidency in order to prove their moral superiority (and, along the way, pave the way for a complete right-wing takeover) before they began mewling this gibbering pap. Now they've swallowed the Michelle Malkin "unhinged liberal moonbat" meme whole.

No doubt some of Cohen's mail was vile, though before I take his word for it, I'd rather look at the evidence (which he of course cannot provide), particularly regarding the extent of it. And note how weirdly inconsistent the tone of the column is; at some points he seems to be suggesting that nearly all of it was awful, though he admits he didn't even come close to reading it all; at others, he admits that some of it was respectful and even supportive. It's just flat-out incoherent.

The underlying incoherency, though, is in Cohen's pearl-clutching claim that what poured out of his screen was unadulterated "hatred." Considering the life-and-death issues at stake here, and the blitheness of pundits like himself in treating these issues as mild embarrassments or inconveniences, it's clear that what Cohen is actually having to face is people's anger -- their righteous, well-tended anger.

As I wrote two years ago:
All of the hand-wringing currently circulating among the pundit class about the rising tide of "Bush hatred" misunderstands the nature of what really is happening. They mistake anger for hatred -- though in the case of conservatives, it's fair to say that the confusion is intentional.

Anger, for the most part, is a righteous and largely rational thing -- it arises from genuine grievances, and is typically a response to outrages of some form or another. Hatred, on the other hand, is an irrational thing; it comes from deep in the soul, and is usually an expression of some deep-seated imbalance on the part of the hater. Naturally, if anger is allowed to fester unaddressed long enough, it can easily mutate into hatred. But they are distinctive in nature.

We can all recall the Clinton hatred of the 1990s: wild accusations that he planned to enslave America in a "New World Order," that he'd had Vince Foster murdered, that he ran drugs out of the Mena airport, that he had fathered a black "love child," and on and on and on. As Bob Somerby recently observed on the topic, this wasn't just emanating from the fringe elements of the right, though it certainly had a significant audience there; this was coming from supposedly mainstream conservatives inside the Beltway, and it was broadcast throughout mainstream media. This hatred was grotesquely irrational, especially considering that Clinton was a political moderate by any lights whose policies on many fronts (international trade, welfare reform, balancing the budget) presented victories for conservative ideals.

Of course, the same conservatives who engaged in this lunacy -- projectionists that they are -- have a habit of accusing liberals of the very behavior in which they themselves avidly participate and foment. Thus they have now invented the "Bush hatred" meme, suggesting that liberals who attack Bush are the moral equivalents of themselves. ("I know you are, but what am I?" is the essence of these charges.)

But, as I have argued at length previously, the majority of this "hatred" is predicated on real policies and real actions by both Bush and his administration. This is not hatred: it is anger -- real, righteous and well-grounded anger.

Anger can be a healthy thing, especially if it is based on solid reasons and real grievances. Anger over real injustices motivated the American Revolution, the anti-slavery and civil-rights movements, and women's suffrage. History is replete with righteous anger.

Anger only becomes unhealthy hatred if it festers. And one of the ways it can fester is if the grievances underlying them are dismissed out of hand as irrational -- not just by the perpetrators of the injustices, but by the supposed allies of the victims.

Oh, but Cohen even recognizes that perhaps there might be some good reason for the anger:
I can appreciate some of it. Institution after institution failed America -- the presidency, Congress and the press. They all endorsed a war to rid Iraq of what it did not have. Now, though, that gullibility is being matched by war critics who are so hyped on their own sanctimony that they will obliterate distinctions, punishing their friends for apostasy and, by so doing, aiding their enemies. If that's going to be the case, then Iraq is a war its critics will lose twice -- once because they couldn't stop it and once more at the polls.

Only if people like Richard Cohen and the similarly execrable Joe Klein are allowed to pose as "liberals." Because the reality that is consistently overlooked by these "voices of moderation" is that the vast majority of Americans are now "Iraq war critics."

Cohen has a long history of this kind of crap. His claims notwithstanding, I'm not sorry to look elsewhere for someone who is a "friend" of liberal causes. With "friends" like that, who needs enemies?

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