Sunday, March 23, 2008

Glenn Greenwald's Guilt by Association

There's a lot of talk about guilt by association this week, with Obama's Wright controversy still dominating the media chatter.

Obviously, one ought to be careful in making overly broad denuncations of Obama's ties to the hate-filled fringe of his party. My view is that the Wright issue
has fundamentally clarified matters for us, and that Obama's embrace of his pastor as family - and his claims that he can no more renounce him than he could his own grandmother - suggest that the closeness of the Illinois Senator to the most anti-American theo-ideological currents should not go without notice.

So what's the tactic of the some of the left blogosphere who cheer sentiments like Jeremiah Wright's? Well, how about demonizing the GOP for its own alleged base exclusionism and racism? This is exactly what
Glenn Greenwald does in his entry this morning?

It turns out that Glenn Reynolds has
linked to a blog called "Instapunk," which has an interesting Easter post up this morning. Make what you want of it. For Greenwald, however, some additional Instapunk postings apparently open up a purported subterranean world of conservative evil essence:

Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds today linked to what he called "EASTER THOUGHTS" from one of his favorite right-wing bloggers, his namesake, "Instapunk." That Easter post has a large picture of a crucified Christ along with a lovely religious poem.

Immediately beneath that righteous celebration of Easter is a somewhat less charitable post purporting to take up Barack Obama's invitation to speak about race. After listing a few black entertainers and sports figures he says he likes,
here are some of the thoughts Instapunk offers on race:

On the other hand, I am sick to death of black people as a group. The truth. That is part of the conversation Obama is asking for, isn't it? I live in an eastern state almost exactly on the fabled Mason-Dixon line. Every day I see young black males wearing tee shirts down to their knees -- and jeans belted just above their knees. I'm an old guy. I want to smack them. All of them. They are egregious stereotypes. It's impossible not to think the unthinkable N-Word when they roll up beside you at a stoplight in their trashed old Hondas with 19-inch spinner wheels and rap recordings that shake the foundations of the buildings. . . .

Here's the dirty secret all of us know and no one will admit to. There ARE niggers. Black people know it. White people know it. And only black people are allowed to notice and pronounce the truth of it. Which would be fine. Except that black people are not a community but a political party. They can squabble with each other in caucus but they absolutely refuse to speak the truth in public. And this is the single biggest obstacle to healing the racial divide in this country.
This is disgusting, obviously.

Now, while I would argue that Instapunk's indeed way out of the mainstream of the appropriate bounds of conservative discussion (or more precisely, language), I too feel like "smacking" guys with their pants hanging down to their hamstrings.

Am I a racist because I find that culture not only offensive, but one of the greatest challenges to black progress in the post-Civil Rights era?

Bill Cosby makes many of the same points.

But here's more from Greenwald on how this is supposed to be representative of conservative ideology:

This is just a slightly more explicit version of what one hears on so much right-wing talk radio, beginning with conservative hero Rush Limbaugh. Why is there so much hatred and extremism in black churches? Let's talk more and more about all the racism and radicalism among isolated black people and ignore the endless bile that has long spewed forth from the far more powerful appendages of the right-wing noise-machine, exemplified by Instapunk's Easter meditation on race.

While the dominant political faction in the United States
built itself and continues to feed and nourish itself with this sort of endless exploitation of racial resentments and grievances -- and while it openly embraces far more powerful religious fanatics who espouse ideas at least as radical and repugnant as anything Jeremiah Wright has ever said -- let's spend the next eight months talking about the controversial comments of a single, comparatively powerless black preacher and have our presidential election decided by that.
Greenwald then updates with some thoughts on the remarks of one of his commenters, who argues that modern conservativism is marked by a sense of "threatened tribalism":

There is no better phrase to describe the animating feature of the modern Limbaugh/Kristol/Fox News conservative faction than "threatened tribalism." The belief that they are good and pure, yet subjected to unprecedented systematic unfairness and threatened by some lurking Evil Other against whom war must be waged (the Muslim, the Immigrant, the Terrorist, the Communist, the Liberal, the Welfare Queen) is the centerpiece of their ugly worldview.

The sentiments expressed here by Instapunk are now most commonly expressed towards the New Enemy -- the Muslim -- but the Wright episode is a nice reminder of how seamlessly it gets directed towards a whole host of other threatening, bad groups. Hence the blithe application of the term "sleeper cells" to black Americans. That's what coalesces them and justifies everything. What matters is that there be some scary, malicious group about to harm them and America. The identity of the particular scary group at any given moment is really secondary.
This is classic Greenwaldian analysis. He sees in every element of conservative cultural criticism a millenarian worldview puportedly geared to the ultimate revival of some 1000-year reich.

Note how Greenwald never denounces the terrorists. He never distances himself from those who leveled the Twin Towers in 2001, from those who beheaded Daniel Pearl in 2002, from the Islamic funamentalists seeking to establish a caliphate across the Mideast, from the Palestianians who work toward the destuction of Israel, from the suicide bombers in Iraq today who kill American soldiers in their nihilist bids for eternal martyrdom.

Nope, it's always the evil Bush/Cheney regime in Washington, and the Limbaugh/Kristol/Fox News conservative faction, who pose the greatest threat to America.

Don't believe it for a second.

Greenwald is feted around the left blogosphere as some deep thinking intellectual pathbreaker, unlocking the keys to some subterranean conservative power elite seeking to implant a far-right theo-fascist dictatorship in the United States.

Instapunk's post is intemperate in its choice of words. The "n-word" is disgusting. The point in question, on the other hand, needs way more discussion in this country. One of the main reasons we don't see such frank discussion is that those who open up this can of worms are labeled racists and modern tribalists. Most people are harassed into silence for even raising such sensitive but troubling topics.

It's too bad too, because the goal of Greenwald and his allies on the left is to install their own version of a far-left wing utopian state. The unflinching support for Obama on the far left - amid the tremendously clarifying round of racial politics in the Wright affair - shows how close the radicals are to achieving their aims of establishing multicultural collectivism as the dominant ideology of Democratic Party governance this year.

Think about that when reading Greenwald's attacks on the Republican Party, and the alleged free ride its getting on the issues of race and politics today. Now that's some guilt by association.

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