Us Versus Them

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blogging, conservatism, liberalism and progressivism, News Media

David Neiwert seems to be taking some time off from blogging, so he hasn’t reacted to Cathy Young’s commentary on his Michelle Malkin series (first installment here) in yesterday’s Boston Globe.

After calling Michelle Malkin’s book Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild “accurate and disturbing,” Young acknowledges that righties can get a little unhinged sometimes, too. Then she mentions Dave:

Dave Neiwert, a Seattle-based author and award-winning freelance journalist, has posted a rebuttal to Malkin on his website at dneiwert.blogspot.com. Neiwert documents a lot of nastiness on the right, including physical as well as verbal assaults. For every left-wing ”Kill Bush” T-shirt, he notes, there’s a right-wing ”Liberal hunting permit” bumper sticker.

I’ve never seen a “Kill Bush” T-shirt. Per Dave, this claim comes from Malkin. I’ll take her word for it that somebody has such a T-shirt for sale, but we don’t know if anyone bought them. Impeach Bush, on the other hand …

But this anecdotes illustrates another point that Young misses: Righties demonize liberalism far more broadly, and generally, than lefties demonize conservatism; see this old post for discussion and this post for an illuminating comparison of rightie and leftie book titles. Briefly, I argue that righties define liberalism in more broad-brush, demonic terms than lefties define conservatism. Although there is copious and robust snarking going both ways, I find it’s easier to find condemnations for liberalism itself on the Right Blogosphere than it is to find condemnations for conservatism itself on the Left Blogosphere. As I wrote earlier, “when liberals attack conservatives, liberals tend to be person- or issue-specific, and give reasons — This guy is a jerk because he did thus-and-so. This policy stinks because it’s going to have such-and-such effect.”

Comparing “shoot liberals” to “shoot Bush” illustrates my point. But let’s go on …

Young continues,

Neiwert makes a lot of excellent points, but unfortunately he can’t resist the temptation of arguing that right-wing nastiness is worse than the left-wing kind.

For instance, Neiwert argues that a number of leading conservative figures have employed rhetoric about rounding up the opposition. (Here’s Limbaugh again: ”Wouldn’t it be great if anybody who speaks out against this country, to kick them out of the country? . . . We’d get rid of Michael Moore, we’d get rid of half the Democratic Party. . .”) Such talk, Neiwert claims, has no real counterpart on the left. But was it much better when Garrison Keillor, who has an audience of nearly 4 million on National Public Radio, suggested taking the vote away from born-again Christians shortly after the 2004 election? Yes, it’s all in jest, but this is joking of a very poisonous kind.

I got news for you, honey lamb; the righties ain’t jokin‘. And notice we’re comparing violence (“kick them out of the country”) to non-violence (“taking away the vote”). I mean, we’re comparing raving mad, foaming-at-the-mouth Limbaugh to the courtly and often soporific Keillor, for pity’s sake. Give me a break.

Now we have another example. The LGF’ers are calling for James Wolcott’s decapitation. Yeah, beheading jokes are always knee-slappers.

The catalyst for this impromptu rally was my clinical diagnosis of Daniel Pipes as “a patronizing little shit,” which seemed to displease the footballers, not that any of them bothered to acquaint themselves with the causus belli (Pipes’ pipsqueak character smear of Muhammed Ali). Then again, the poor dears don’t seem to know the difference between an ocelot and an ocicat, another indictment of the limitations of home schooling.

This one sentence amid all that writhing distemper leapt out at me:

“May he [i.e., me] be kidnapped by ‘insurgents’ in Iraq then appear on an ugly net broadcast. I wonder, if in the moment before the knife started sawing into his fleashy neck if he might rethink his opinions on the GWOT.”

He later corrected the spelling to “fleshy,” lest anyone think I possess a flashy neck.

Y’know, I have called a lot of people names on this blog. I call them weenies and idiots and whackjobs. I describe their mental and educational limitations in colorful terms. But I honestly do not believe I have ever wished physical harm on anyone. And this goes for the many other liberal bloggers whose work I follow.

Our James W. continues,

More and more the rightwing militant “anti-idiotarians” (as they deludedly think of themselves)have been relishing the prospect of antiwar figures undergoing the Daniel Pearl treatment. They keep bringing it up as the retribution that’ll deliver certain choice heads on a platter. In a sick irony, Daniel Pearl’s marytrdom has provided a negative inspiration to certain super patriots professing to fight for truth, justice, and the American way.

For example, Anna Benson, the bodacious wife of a Mets pitcher, recently burst her bodice giving full lusty cry to an aria painting the glorious prospect of Michael Moore’s neck being used as a log.

“You are a selfish, pathetic excuse for an American, and you can take your big fat ass over to Iraq and get your pig head cut off and stuck on a pig pole. Then, you can have your equally as fat wife make a documentary about how loudly you squealed while terrorists were cutting through all the blubber and chins to get that 40 pound head off of you.”

And just this morning, the day after Christmas and the second day of Hannukah, blogdom’s zestiest Zionist party girl elevated the discourse by dismissing the concerns of legal scholars perturbed about Bush’s domestic spying thusly:

“Someone ought to tlell those legal scholars not to worry…….it’s smooth sailing once those Radical Islmonazis saw through their jugulars.”

(Her excitable italics.)

I assume her excitable spelling, too. But, for the record, I don’t find jokes about sawing through jugulars all that amusing.

I am not going to claim that no leftie ever wished physical harm, or death, or beheading, on a rightie. But it is a whole lot less common. And Mr. Wolcott knows why:

When rightwing bloggers and posters conjure that under Islam, Democrats–which they’ve come to call dhimmicrats–will get what’s coming to them (i.e., the business end of a butcher’s blade), it’s as if it’s a horrible fate that couldn’t possibly happen to them*–because it’s a death wish directed outward. The Islamic terrorists serve as proxies and stand-ins in this imaginary theater of cruelty, enacting what they (the warbloggers) would like to mete out to us (their domestic adversaries). …

…(*as another LGF poster put it: “Funny thing, the liberal mindset: expend all energy on phantom ‘enemys’, meanwhile the real enemy pounds at the fucking gate, ready to chop off their heads.” Note: “their,” not “our.” LGF’ers have a touching faith in the undetachablility of their own heads under the grisly Islamofascism they spend so many hours daydreaming about.)[emphasis added]

I think it’s often the case that the things people say they are afraid of are actually what they wish for. Survivalists are a good example; they are often people who feel marginalized or intimidated by the society they live in, so they hope for a day when that society is wiped out. Today’s Right Wing might be defined as a selective survivalist cult. They don’t want the entire society to be wiped out, just the liberal parts. And they aren’t joking.

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9 Comments

  1. atablarasa  •  Dec 27, 2005 @2:08 pm

    Right on, Maha. There’s no books that I know of saying “What to do When You Can’t Avoid Wingers” or “Exposing Wingers as Spawns of the Devil.” And I don’t denigrate conservatives; I denigrate Shrub, Rummy, Darth Dick and the rest. But I’m lumped with Liberals everywhere. We’re the “nips” and the “krauts” in this little saga: demons that the Right can destroy without a qualm.

    Specific instance: When trying to argue a political point, I was accused of “swallowing Democrat propaganda” rather than considering that I might have come to the point by myself (Liberals can’t think, you know…)

  2. Lis Riba  •  Dec 27, 2005 @3:49 pm

    I can remember seeing exactly one reference to a “Kill Bush” shirt in the liberal blogosphere, and that was remarking upon something seen in London that even a liberal anti-Bush blogger thought went too far. Excerpting:

    Near Leicester Square last night, I walked past a stand selling T-shirts. … [T]here was the shirt with a frightening-looking silhouetted figure and the legend: “Kill Bush.”

    Now, I don’t think there’s anything inconsistent with taking a stand against the terrorists and also loathing Bush. After all, that’s pretty much how I view things. …

    But that T-shirt was so far out of bounds that I was astonished–and if you’ve lived in New York and Amsterdam for the past decade, it takes a bit to astonish you. It wasn’t funny (not that it was meant to be), it wasn’t appropriate, it wasn’t…for once, I found myself at a loss for words. And, as an American, I have to say I took it as a bit of a personal afront to see that shirt for sale on a foreign street.

    There is a line. And that went way across it.

    Source & context: http://demagogue.blogspot.com/2005/09/london-part-ii.html

  3. Bonnie  •  Dec 27, 2005 @4:30 pm

    Most of the voices for the right are shrill and verbally abusive. They call those of us on the left hateful names and wish horrible fates upon us as Maha has commented on eloquently. Verbal abuse usually leads to physical abuse, which is why the rhetoric has escalated. As Maha states, there are some lefties who throw it back at the righties; but, I think their numbers are few. Most of us try to be civil. In the end, the righties don’t listen. They do not want to hear any thing but their own voices. Maha has written about this, too.

    Last night I was bored because everyone else was doing holiday stuff and I was home alone with my cats wandering the internet. I came across this wonderful definition of a liberal:

    What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label “Liberal?” If by “Liberal” they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer’s dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of “Liberal.” But if by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”

    This is from a speech by John F. Kennedy in 1960. You can find it at the following website:

    http://www.liberalparty.org/JFKLPAcceptance.html

    I think it is important that we do not sink to the low level of the Coulters, Limbaughs, Hannitys, Malkins, etc., who want to dehumanize us. I do not wish to dehumanize them; they are doing that on their own. I think the rightwing echo chamber is the best example of “projectionism” I have ever seen. Nevertheless, the left does need to work harder to be heard over the rightwing noise machine by any one who may still have an open mind. The one rule I try to live by comes from Miss Manners, who is one of my heroes: just because someone has been rude to you does not give you the right to be rude to them. Maybe we should send a copy of “Miss Manners Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Manners” to some of the most abusive.

  4. Rick  •  Dec 27, 2005 @4:50 pm

    Perhaps no physical harm to righties but if we could somehow alter their contribution to the gene pool if not remove their influence to future generations altogether…

  5. paradoctor  •  Dec 27, 2005 @5:16 pm

    Do not worry, Rick; that effect will be achieved by members of the opposite sex looking at them and saying No.

  6. Lynne  •  Dec 27, 2005 @7:51 pm

    It does seem to be true, that conservative speech seems to be encouraging violence toward those who do not believe as they do. I can honestly say that I haven’t read liberal writers who suggest similar. Why is this?

    David Neiwert, whose blog I read regularly – along with yours – has made a special study of how hate speech turns into violent action in far too many cases. He is well worth reading.

  7. Donna  •  Dec 28, 2005 @8:52 am

    It is downright bizarre to compare the murderous rhetoric and hate-filled expressions of some Bush groupies with the words of Jesus.

    Some forty years ago when I was a teenager, I read one of those bottom of the page anecdotal passages in a Reader’s Digest magazine……..to this day, that passage still guides me. Here is that passage in an admittedly time/memory-imperfect paraphrase:
    “Two men walking together on a city street go up to a news stand so that one of them can buy a publication. The news stand vendor is downright hostile, surly and insulting to this fellow who wants to make a purchase, but the guy just calmly repeats his request until he gets his wanted publication. As the two guys then walk away, the other guy exclaims, “Why did you let him get away with that behavior!?” His friend responds, “If he wants to act that way, that’s his choice, but I’m not going to let him decide how I behave.”

  8. Den Valdron  •  Jan 4, 2006 @12:16 pm

    I think its important to recognize that the right in America is no longer conservative by any meaningful application of that word. Conservative views and principals have been abandoned in favour of a vicious, radical-revolutionary agenda.

  9. bartkid  •  Jan 13, 2006 @3:47 pm

    What percentage of LGFers have served in the military?

    [insert sound of crickets.]

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