Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Partisan Crashers

If you've read this site long enough, you probably know that it hasn't always been this way.

I used to put a very high value on my ability to evaluate each issue on its own merits. Although I often tend to be center-left in my politics -- rarely if ever going the extreme liberal route -- I spent many years frequently siding with the right on a whole host of topics. I'm all for being strong on defense; I could care less about the political correctness that was a ridiculous liberal cause celebre for quite some time; I don't believe capitalism to be inherently evil; I want to see the poor and helpless in this country treated with dignity and everyone afforded good health care, but I think it requires a more efficient and vigilant government -- not a big one willing to just throw money around; I think that paying extra attention to certain ethnicities at airports is a natural concession to reality in this day and age and amounts to basic police work; I hate hippies; I can occasionally be as jingoistic as your average Toby Keith fan and freely admit that right after 9/11, I too had the knee-jerk reaction that wanted to see us annihilate a random city in the Middle East, just as an object lesson; I pretty much laughed out loud when those Navy snipers took out the Somali pirates who held an American captain hostage back in April.

Yes, sometimes I'm the first one to get all "America, fuck yeah."

For months and months on this site, I skewered Democrats in much the same way I skewered Republicans, believing that working backward in any argument to make the "facts" fit a predetermined point-of-view -- no matter that point-of-view -- was the most intellectually dishonest thing imaginable. I still think that I'm capable of sticking to that ideal, because if I don't, then my already somewhat inconsequential opinions are rendered utterly worthless since they're the product of nothing more than partisan prejudices.

But lately it's no secret that I have actually been more outraged by the actions of the right as a whole than those of the left. And I think the reason for that can be summed up in one simple question that may seem trite but which kind of needs to be asked: When did the primary voices of the American right become so shockingly dumb -- so shamelessly willing to jettison every last vestige of rational thought? True, during the Bush years stupid seemed to reign -- but the reality was always that those at the top were very smart people using very gullible people as stage props to further their agenda. I also get that this still happens regularly -- on both ends of the political spectrum.

But something has changed recently; maybe it started with the introduction of Sarah Palin to an already toxic mixture of paranoia and ignorance coming to a boil within certain segments of the population. Either way, over the last year it seems as if all logic and reason within the Republican party and its champions on talk radio and Fox News has gone completely out the window. It's like these people have lost their fucking minds. I'm not simply talking about their tendency to embrace and perpetuate half-baked conspiracy theories of the most mind-bogglingly outlandish variety; I mean their lack of shame at making arguments that not only don't hold up within the context of an extended timeline -- the kind of bewildering shit that can easily be proven hypocritical by comparing it to their comments of just one year ago -- but make no sense at face value.

Last night on Fox News, Sean "I Can Put You Into a Car Regardless of Your Credit History" Hannity made a comment and an implication so inflammatory and absurd that it's shocking his brain didn't rip the top of his head open to get some air. He pondered, "What does (it) say about Barack Obama and our government," that apparently the U.S. military knew that Major Nidal Nasan had contacted al Qaeda and was a growing threat yet did nothing to stop him? In other words, Hannity tried to link the fact that the military may have dropped the ball in devastating fashion on the Fort Hood shooting to the fact that Barack Obama is in the White House.

Do I need to remind you -- since reminding an obviously thick-headed ideologue like Hannity wouldn't do a damn bit of good -- that in the months leading up to 9/11, there were intelligence failures left and right within the CIA, the FBI and the Bush administration, including one in which Bush himself seemed to flat-out ignore the warnings of an intelligence report that all but spelled out the coming attack? I'm not saying that governmental agencies shouldn't be held responsible for their failures when a national tragedy happens that could have been prevented by them; I'm saying that you can't keep a straight face and castigate one president of the United States for an avoidable catastrophe that happened on his watch after singing the praises of another who was much closer to the fuck-ups that led to the avoidable catastrophe that happened on his. Well, you can't keep a straight face unless you're either a modern right-wing pundit or the lead character from Memento.

This is just another example of the kind of bald-faced, completely-detached-from-reality hypocrisy that the people who've hijacked the Republican party have trafficked in now for months into years -- the same people who spent almost eight years ranting and raving about how criticizing the president during a time of war amounted to treason, but who now conveniently add the caveat "Unless that President is Barack Obama -- That's Alright."

Crackpot conspiracy theories, circular reasoning, selective memory, insane arguments that go nowhere, the complete abandonment of logic and reason, the canonization of the craziest and most farcical among its lunatic fringe -- this is why it's become impossible to defend the GOP these days. It's gotten so bad that even taking an occasional stand for the ideals of conservatism, some of which I happen to agree with, makes me feel like I need a shower -- because those who are supposed to be advancing these ideals have instead allowed their party to meltdown from the inside out.

It's almost impossible to imagine that conservatism was once the domain of unapologetic intellectuals like William F. Buckley.

Now look at it -- it's the soapbox from which Michele Bachmann shouts gibberish.

Who with a brain wants to in any way be associated with that?


Bill Bush said...

Read the intro and first 2 chapters of Chris Hedges' AMERICAN FASCISTS: THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT AND THE WR ON AMERICA. It is a compelling viewpoint.

Riles said...

My thoughts exactly. I've always tried to judge each issue individually, but more and more, I think, the Right is just fucking crazy. They've got no right to knock Obama over his perceived "mistakes," because they defended Bush for the exact same shit. Too many golf outings? Sorry, Bush had a few vacation days too. Too much use of executive orders? Sorry, Bush pretty much pioneered that practice.

I realize that I'm going more Bush vs Obama here... However, it's not to say that I think Obama is flawless, but when your party sets a precedent (and with their loose legal interpretations, they set many many precedents), and the next administration follows it, you've got no room to talk.

And, back to your point. We need more brains and intellectual honesty in Washington. It boggles the mind to see the Right complaining how many pages the health care bill is. Their fucking JOB is to read, write and deal with legislation. Just, unreal.

Norm said...

Agreed. Hannity, Limbaugh, Savage, and Beck are entertainers, first and foremost. They say outlandish, over-the-top things because that's their job. Their job is to entertain in a market that's flooded with entertainment options.

In academia it's publish or perish. In talk radio it's grab ratings or perish.

These guys do exactly what Ed Schultz, Bill Press, Randi Rhodes, Bill Maher, and Jon Stewart do -- they entertain.

The only reason Hannity is considered "dumb" and Maher is "clever" or vice versa is one's political stripe.

Indeed, I hear some ridiculous things get spouted by Hannity and Limbaugh. And I hear even worse things get spouted by their adherents. But I listen to Press and Rhodes, too, and hear things that are just as outlandish, hateful, and just plain dumb said there, too.

Like calling those who oppose the public option "terrorists."

Are they doing us a service by exposing people who would otherwise be watching "Real Housewives of Orange County" to the issues? Maybe.

Are they doing us a disservice by deepening senseless partisan divides? Also maybe.

But please -- don't call the kettle black.

Look at the comment above mine and look at the book he's suggesting we read. Need I say more?

Ryan said...

"the next administration follows it, you've got no room to talk."

I think this gets to the heart of it. They have no position to stand on where they think they can be sufficiently distinguished from the Democrats.

What they've done is turned to a backwards Socratic approach to just grind any progress to a halt.

All they really want to do is create doubt and confusion while doing it in such a way out in right field way that Obama doesn't want to even acknowledge it. Then they can jump up and down about how he's elitist, doesn't want to engage with them etc.

At the end of the day, until Obama gets the dem's lock step behind him and throws the idea of bipartisanship out the window nothing is going to change.

They need to stop fearing the mid-term elections - they're going to lose seats. They should be ramming through as much as they can right now while they've got the votes - their position can only get worse in the coming months/years.

threesecondsofdeadair said...

On a related topic, you should track down the Today Show's interview this morning with Carrie Prejean – brain surgeon, homophobe, and professional victim – where she reveals the vast liberal media conspiracy to silence conservative women. Because, you know, Prejean, Sarah Palin, Michelle Malkin, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, and Ann Coulter have so many important things to tell us. Prejean claims she's been "Palinized" by the media, which I'm assuming means, "Revealed as someone with the IQ of a doorknob."


Anonymous said...

"Who with a brain wants to in any way be associated with that?"

That's the point, isn't it? Not so much that anyone with a brain wouldn't want to be associated with it but that it's validating the ones without a brain in their heads. Now everyone can join in. You don't need knowledge and critical thinking skills to make a contribution to the discourse anymore; that left WAY too many people out of the discussion.

The loophole in the American way of life is that it doesn't matter how dumb or uninformed or blindly prejudiced or batshit crazy you are, by virtue of your being an American, your opinion is not only welcome but irretrievably valid!

The right has figured out that if you pander to the idiots instead of try to lead them, and make them feel validated by saying on TV exactly what they're thinking, you can make more money, become more famous and not work half as hard as you used to. It's a win-win for them. What's in it for them to do anything more?

Mart said...

Agree with first poster - the fundamentalist religous takeover of a chunk of both parties (google C Street) has made it reasonable to be without reason.

SteveR said...

The right's followers are crazy.
Their leaders are not: they're opportunistic.

BenoƮt from Ottawa said...

@ Anonymous 3:04. Our viewpoints are similar. I wish I'd written what you did so succinctly.

After comment no 2, above, I wrote what follows. Then rewrote it some. Not that great, esp. after reading the others, but I'll slap it down in any case.

"Said with just a little exaggeration for effect, it seems one of the aspects of American politics that Chez writes about is that it's become all about feelings. Not that people don’t talk about issues, but what seems to count is a) what people (esp. on the Right) FEEL about things and b) their right to YELL ABOUT IT.

Could it be a really big need for catharsis? The need to yell and protest because you’ve sort of lost it all and don’t have very much to show, post Bush-Cheney? Could it be an upswell of spiteful resentment? I mean first the Bush double presidency goes fuck in so many ways, then scientists are beating back Fundamentalists’ best reasoning attacks (intelligent design, book bannings) before the courts and in schools (‘cause lefties are fucking bright, and educated, and not SO deluded maybe), and then a g**damn ni88er gets elected. (Pardon my self-censored French.)

Media are more and more video tabloids, and for many viewers the line between reality and tv reality is gone; the Fox Networks et al were set up specifically to "balance out the liberal media"; I don’t believe they’ve ever had journalistic ideals. And of course they speak to the converted for hours on end, year in, year out.

The result? An American voter, especially on the Right, that "reasons" allatime like an angry Homer Simpson."

Mas Triste said...

We have been highjacked into believing that the 10% on the extreme right or left actually represent the views of those of us somewhere in the middle.

I remember when Crossfire first came on and I loved that shit. Today; not so much. Face it, the 80% of us in the middle are down right boring and make for some lousy radio / TV.

It is when you begin to believe the crap you are being spoon-fed by either extreme side that you have a problem. Trust me, Chez, that 10% on the right is NOT the voice of the right, theyjust happen to be the loudest and get the best ratings.

Chez said...

Norm -- The difference between, say, Hannity and Limbaugh and Press and Rhodes is this: While they're all entertainers, true, the Democrats as a whole don't take their marching orders from Press and Rhodes. Hell, they barely even willingly associate themselves with an Olbermann or a Maddow. And that's what I was getting at: that the modern Republican party has allowed the Limbaughs of the world -- the raving entertainers who it could be argued say ridiculous shit just to drum up ratings -- to dictate the agenda within their party. SteveR is right. The rabble the right-wing noise machine tends to stir is crazy; but the leaders making the noise and profiting from it are merely opportunistic. The problem is that intelligent discourse from the GOP -- traditionally a party of at the very least rational thought and decent ideas -- is what suffers or vanishes completely. That's the point I'm making.

Capt. A. Clown said...

One way to know when a leader is lying is when they say, "The American people are too smart to fall for that". -Because we're not, and they know it.

I think at some the GOP stopped believing they could win fact-based arguments, which is sad because they used to be the logical ones.

What they don't understand is that all they bullshit offensive lying they're doing now is ONLY effective to their core base of brainwashed dumb-fucks, and those people were going to vote GOP anyway, and that's what's so incredibly stupid.

Either they don't understand that, or else the only *logical* explanation is that they hope to incite violence within the U.S.

It IS time for the MSM to stop pretending to be even-handed in their reporting if even-handedness isn't warranted...

Squidboy said...

With you every step of the way on this one, great post. I was wondering how the partisans would stir the pot over a tragedy like Ft. Hood. As a veteran who is coincidentally once removed from the shooter I find it odd that he was not discharged or at least being watched. His behavior had been inappropriate for quite a while. However, that had nothing to do with any failings from the left or right.
Big fan of Buckley, once a Republican...now I think for myself. Love all the comments.

lakelady said...

oooo I'm soooo glad this Tuesday was more than just recycling day. Brilliant piece. Bravo! (except for one teesy weesy little thing... it's "couldn't care less" arrrrrrrrrrrrgh - a pet peeve of mine)

ok now off to send this little jewel on to a few friends

Chris said...

On the money again Chez. I spent last night stood outside my office explaining to a colleague that we Brits don't view the NHS as SOCIALISM, we view it as a MORAL IMPERATIVE. Yes, it has it's issues, but it works, and does a great job.

His only counter was "people don't like paying taxes". Well, duh. It doesn't matter what the bag of money you hand over for services is labelled, be it Taxes or Insurance, it's still a bag of money. And if it's Taxes for the National Healthcare plan, I'm happy as a guest in your country to pay my share. The bag will most likely be smaller and it'll at least not go towards some company's profits and on healthcare for for someone who needs it instead.

I think we may begin to see a swig of support for moderation, another good 'ol boy colleague here in Texas said that he didn't think single payer was that bad an idea. Of course this was after we just found out our premiums were going up for next year.

As for the dingbats, the lack of tolerance and clear thinking astounds me. That people are willing to put up with it astounds me even more.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

When you view the presidency as essentially a kingship, as the wingnuts do, this creates exactly what we've seen:

THEIR GUY IN POWER: "Unfetter the President, for he is a Good Man who will save us!"

OTHER GUY IN POWER: "America is lost, crushed beneath the heel of the pretender!"

The wingnuttier elements view the Presidency as essentially a four-year dictatorship. Thus, when they have control, All Is Righteous. When they don't, it's time to form La Resistance. Heaven and hell, us and them, simple as that.

In short, it's the worldview of a lazy-thinking, ignorant fuckknob who talks a lot about freedom and democracy and the American Way, but has less understanding of it than an orangutan.

Man, I miss actual Republicans.

Matt Osborne said...

Sean Hannity is a life-support system for a haircut.

Steven said...

I am really tired of ultra conservative outrage....at just about everything these days.

Your post brings up some interesting points of wingnuttiness.

Let me show you why the left get's a bad name. We are celebrating Veterans Day. HP has a couple of stries saluting Vets. Here are a couple of select comments. The undertones are deafening, Chez. Inappropriate doesn't begin....

- .... MUST bring an end to recruiters lies and empty promises.

- I will "support" them by opposing all our little imperial foreign wars, now and in the future.

- Do not vote for pathetic, lying, chickenhawks like Bush and Cheney, etc.

- No needless wars. And no needless deaths and injuries.

- Out of Afghanistan and Iraq now !!

- Our government is trying to eliminate some of the best citizens that is has living in this country.

- "Families of DC Sniper Victims Celebrate Execution" Really? We're 'celebrating' the murder of one of our own by 'our' government on the same day we're remembering those who fought and died for 'freedom"?

- The S E A L was born after the US took a beat!ng in V!etnam. I wonder what new special forces will be created after this b!utt whopping in !raq and Afghan!stan.

- Let's hear it for hero worship!!

- You're not a Teabagger are you?

Unemployed & Tired said...

Great post.

Only thing I would add is how annoying it is that our national debate on the issues that shape our lives must be run like fucking Monday Night Football. You can't have a rational debate on ANY issue -- you are FOR or AGAINST, Democrat or Republian, Redskins or Cowboys, Coke or fucking Pepsi!

... and ALL the politicians and 1%ers are laughing at the rest of us 99%.

here I am! said...

all true, but you preach to the converted.
how to reach those who need to know this is the problem.

Anonymous said...

I assumed if I ever actually commented on one of your posts, it would be in response to your personal story. Your life and mine have tracked way too closely for comfort over the course of the past year or two, and your posts about your marriage and your daughter never fail to move me immensely.

I am not one to post comments; I prefer internet anonymity. But this piece? This piece, like so many of your personal life pieces, made me feel as though I had written it myself (were I a writer with any talent whatsoever).

You summed everything up perfectly here. Sing it.