Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fair Imbalance

In case you haven't been paying close attention during all the back and forth over the current state of our political discourse, the absurd "both sides" meme has returned with a vengeance over the past couple of days. The claim, of course -- generally heard from the side accused correctly of trafficking most in irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric -- is that, well, both sides are guilty of trafficking in irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric. It's bullshit -- but you hear it a lot.

Well, now there's this from CBS News, which conducted a poll to try to pin down just who's behind all the anger:

"The poll also shows that while three in four Americans say violence against the government is never justified, 16 percent say it can be justified -- the same percentage that said as much in April. Twenty-eight percent of Republicans said such violence can be justified, compared with 11 percent of Democrats and independents."

Anybody surprised? Anybody?

First of all, at this point, after what we now know about Jared Loughner, I'm not saying that he was some right-wing stooge who took the words of Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin to heart and acted on them. He's much more your garden variety whack-job whose ideology is, predictably, all over the place. But there remains the possibility that the overall climate of unfocused rage in Arizona may have fed his psychosis -- and the discussion about how far things have gone in this country when it comes to politically based outrage is one worth having, regardless.

What the above poll clearly shows, though, is that, no, both sides of the political spectrum aren't dispensing the same brand of dangerous invective; they don't subscribe to the same consistently stoked anti-government paranoia or, let's face it, possess the same fetishistic view of militarism -- that worship of gun culture or innate horseshit frontier mentality that still, in 2011, believes that it might only be a matter of time before they have to pull a John Wayne and grab their rifle to defend what's theirs, en masse. I'm damn well not saying that everyone on the right is like this, only that most who are like this are on the right; it's part of their ideological DNA.

And it's adopted as a cynical sales pitch by people like Sarah Palin, who plays the entirely fictional role of Caribou Barbie on her reality TV show -- hunting "wild game" while a make-up tent and craft services spread sits directly off-camera.

Or Glenn Beck, who strikes a Jack Bauer-esque pose -- complete with handgun -- on his website, despite the fact that if he were ever really put in a live-fire situation, he'd almost certainly cower in a corner and cry like a four-year-old.

(h/t Kevin)


Anonymous said...

've been following the response to Tucson obsessively, and yesterday I noticed, perhaps spurred by Jon Stewart, the conversation had moved past Palin to the wider issues of media and tone. Some hardcore liberals were even reassessing their immediate grasping on to the target map as a bit facile and rushed to judgement. So just when she was being left behind, and on the day that attention should focus on the victims and Obama's words of consolation, she injects herself back into the story in the most wretched manner possible short of a photo op at a Glock counter. And the right wonder why she "drives libs crazy?"

Anonymous said...

What I love about that CBS poll is that now whenever a conservative hits me with "both sides have a lunatic fringe" I can answer that it's been quantified that their side's well of nutcases is two and a half times larger.

Anonymous said...

This article is probably the most balanced discussion of the attempt to control the narrative in the aftermath.

Anonymous said...

It was also telling that when the Sheriff came out against inflammatory political rhetoric (without naming political parties, I might add), it was the Right who took it to heart as a "slight" and "smear".

Steven D Skelton said...


Was there really any doubt as to who was talking about? The Sheriff made himself pretty clear at the time and his interviews since put away any doubt.

Busayo said...

I like how the latest message on that Beck screenshot says "We must stand together against all violence"...and he's holding a gun in the other picture.

Anonymous said...

@ Steven

No. There was never any doubt in my mind. Because I have eyes to see and ears to hear and I knew who I saw and heard spewing most of the hateful vitriol.

But that doesn't change the fact that he made his initial statement without attaching party affiliations, and it was the right-wing who took offense at it, in spectacular "the smeller is the feller" fashion.

Mart said...

Story today that the Tucson GOP District Chairman is stepping down as his family is scared they could be shot. They are scared of being shot by radical GOPea Partiers, not by Dems. Apparently campaigning for John McCain instead of the vitriolic J D Hayworth, and being a black republican is not good for your health in sunny AZ.

But you know, both sides do it.

Stephen said...

Caribou it.

My word verification for this: badho