Saturday, January 29, 2011

Conservatives in the Crosshairs

At the clip is Ed Driscoll's latest edition of Silicon Graffiti. I scooped the blogosphere on Newsweek's "American Assassins," as folks might recall:

There's more, at any rate. Sultan Knish offers an analysis, "In the Crosshairs of the Speech Police":
The best propaganda is not just accepted by those who hear it, but also by those who tell it. The lie so compelling that even the liar comes to believe in it. But lies are accepted more deeply when they appeal to the emotions and worldview of the hearer. And so when there is a cultural gap, the liar is more often fooled, than the lied to. He believes his own lie, because he wants to believe it. The lie reflects how he thinks the world really works.

....

When the media fails to win on an issue, it will blame the messaging. But if after every effort is exhausted, the public remains unconvinced, it will decide that the public is unreasonable. Dangerously so. In the media narrative, unpersuadability is equivalent to irrationality. And such people are dangerous. Having placed its own worldview at the apex of reason, worldviews that deviate from it are treated as unreasonable to the extent and magnitude of their deviation. Culture gaps that are not based on race or ethnicity, will elicit a violently xenophobic response. While the media celebrates diversity, it is actually profoundly intolerant of differences.
More at the link.

But see the outstanding James Taranto, "
The Politics of Bloodlust: Barbara Ehrenreich, Hendrik Hertzberg and the Left's Disturbing Preoccupation With Violence."

I've covered Ehrenreich in detail, and Taranto's discussion is exquisite, but let's scroll down to the discussion of Hertzberg:
Even odder, many on the left have advanced a false narrative in which the Tea Party is violent. The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg did so in a column last week, in which he was still trying to justify the media's falsely blaming the right for the attempted murder of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Hertzberg claims that the shooting "took place amid a two-year eruption of shocking vituperation and hatred, virtually all of it coming from people who call themselves conservatives," and that "these realities, and not the malevolence of liberal opportunists, were why, in the immediate aftermath of the crime, the 'national conversation' focussed on the nation's poisonous political and rhetorical climate."

This is bunk. The "two-year eruption of shocking vituperation and hatred" is a media myth, promulgated in two primary ways:

The first is by seeking out the most extreme expressions by Tea Party activists and sympathetic politicians and portraying them as if they were typical. This is in sharp contrast to the way left-wing political rallies are covered. Extreme and violent rhetoric is at least as easy to find there if you look--Michael Bowers has put together a photo gallery of "Left-Wing Hatred"--but the mainstreamers seldom look. During the Bush years, "antiwar" rallies were routinely depicted as nothing more than forums for wholesome, patriotic dissent.

The second is by presenting innocuous rhetoric from the right as if it were something sinister or dangerous. The most famous example--cited by Hertzberg, naturally--is the SarahPAC map of targeted districts, including Giffords's, which many on the left hoped had incited the man who shot her. Palinoiacs denounced the map as "violent" when it first came out last March, notwithstanding that the visual metaphor of a target is about as common in political campaigns of both parties as cartoons on the pages of Hertzberg's magazine.

Similarly, as we noted Jan. 12, Paul Krugman, the New York Times's most dishonest columnist, characterized as "eliminationist rhetoric" Rep. Michele Bachmann's comment that she wanted her constituents to be "armed and dangerous." In context, it turned out that she wanted them to be "armed" with information--a poor choice of words, but no more eliminationist than Barack Obama's comment in June 2008: "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun." At the time, the New York Times characterized this as part of "Mr. Obama's efforts to show he can do more than give a good speech."

Hertzberg is saying no more than that liberal journalists like himself are justified in perpetuating the myth of conservative violence because they promulgated it in the first place.

Perhaps he is right that it is not the product of opportunism but rather of sincerely held prejudice. But would it be a defense of, say, Theodore Bilbo or Joseph McCarthy to say that they sincerely believed the prejudices and falsehoods they espoused? What's more, Bilbo and McCarthy were politicians. Why is it so hard for journalists to remember that their job is to tell the truth?

It's hard because most journalists are progressives, and progressives are liars.

Readers here see evidence of that all the time.

2 comments:

James Taranto said...

Haha, my closing question was rhetorical! But thanks for the nice comments and also the link to Greenfield's fascinating post.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks James. Keep up the good work!