Yesterday Glenn Greenwald published a post called “Do Bush followers have a political ideology?” in which he argues that much of the Right has utterly abandoned principle and has devolved into a George W. Bush personality cult. “Whether one is a ‘liberal’ — or, for that matter, a ‘conservative’ — is now no longer a function of oneâ€™s actual political views,” Glenn writes, “but is a function purely of oneâ€™s personal loyalty to George Bush.” It’s a great post, and spot on.
I thought of this post this morning when I ran across this article by Elisabeth Bumiller in today’s New York Times. It begins:
What happens if you’re a Republican commentator and you write a book critical of President Bush that gets you fired from your job at a conservative think tank?
For starters, no other conservative institution rushes in with an offer for your analytical skills.
“Nobody will touch me,” said Bruce Bartlett, author of the forthcoming “Impostor: Why George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.” “I think I’m just kind of radioactive at the moment.”
What follows is the sad tale of how Mr. Bartlett, a domestic policy aide at the White House in the Reagan administration and a deputy assistant treasury secretary under the first President Bush, became persona non grata in the rightie think tank crowd because of this book. Of course, we’re mostly getting Mr. Bartlett’s side of the story here; could be there are other reasons for his prolonged unemployment. Still …
The blind faith placed in the Federal Government, and particularly in our Commander-in-Chief, by the contemporary “conservative” is the very opposite of all that which conservatism has stood for for the last four decades. The anti-government ethos espoused by Barry Goldwater and even Ronald Reagan is wholly unrecognizable in Bush followers, who â€“ at least thus far â€“ have discovered no limits on the powers that ought to be vested in George Bush to enable him to do good on behalf of all of us.
And in that regard, people like Michelle Malkin, John Hinderaker, Jonah Goldberg and Hugh Hewitt are not conservatives. They are authoritarian cultists. Their allegiance is not to any principles of government but to strong authority through a single leader.
This is not hyperbole. These people are frightening. Glenn provides proof in his post. Do a search for “Malkin” on this blog and you’ll find a lot more proof. And, unfortunately, these people have been able to implant their warped worldview on a big chunk of “mainstream media.”
In the comments to Glenn’s post, Jay Rosen notes,
The dynamic you identify–liberal means anyone who questions Bush–was a major factor in the blow-up surrounding the Dec. 10th column by Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell, The Two Washington Posts, in which she wrote: “Political reporters at The Post don’t like WPNI columnist Dan Froomkin’s ‘White House Briefing,’ which is highly opinionated and liberal.”
To this day Howell doesn’t realize that she misspoke. She didn’t mean “liberal,” she meant “critical of Bush.” But she doesn’t know it because of the phenomenon you describe here.
Neither she nor the Post reporters who “don’t like” White House Briefing could find in Froomkin’s work any liberal positions taken, because he does not take such positions. He holds Bush accountable and subjects him to rigorous scrutiny, and he certainly doesn’t like the way the White House operates. There’s nothing “liberal” about that.
I wrote about it, and Dan testified about it, here.
On top of that, there is a mindset among the Right that says labeling any opinion “liberal” makes it self-evidently false. One need to argue why it is false, or find flaws in the argument’s logic or presentation. The word “liberal” (or variants thereof, like “leftie”) covers all ground. Glenn discusses this today in a follow-up to yesterday’s post.
Most (though not all) of the responses were quite heavy on name-calling and extremely light on substantive replies to the actual points in the post. More notable than the unsurprising fact that the post prompted lots of name-calling is the specific name-calling insults that were chosen. Almost invariably, bloggers told their readers that what I wrote can be disregarded because Iâ€™m just a “leftist” and a “lefty” and a “liberal” spewing forth the “KosHuff” party line.
According to Rick Moran at Right Wing Nuthouse, for instance, my “writing is little more than a tired echo of what conservatives can read on a daily basis at Kos or any other lock-step lefty blog where Bush Derangement Syndrome reigns supreme.” And at Little Green Footballs (more on it below), my post won the award for “Leftist Lie of the Day” and was held up as an example of “dishonest, ethically-challenged childish babbling that passes for leftist â€˜debateâ€™ in this modern age.”
So, they label the argument and the person making it “leftist” and “liberal” and – presto! – no more need to address the arguments or consider its substance because itâ€™s all been shooed away with one fell swoop of name-calling cliches.
(Note that Glenn links to Little Green Footballs, which is something I will not do. It just encourages them. If you are all-fired determine to find the site, it isn’t that hard.)
The name-calling phenomenon is old news here. Nearly all rightie comments to The Mahablog are nothing but name-calling. As you regulars know, it is my policy to delete any message that consists of nothing but insults to me or another commenter, which pretty much takes care of most of the right-wing stuff that gets left here. And, nearly always, the poster who gets deleted emails me about it and whines that I should be more broad-minded and willing to listen to other points of view (expressed with more invective, of course). Personal insults, however, do not constitute a “point of view” in my book.
Now, I think it’s true that there are real conservatives Out There who are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the Bush Regime. This is something I want to explore in more posts. But if you are looking at most leading bloggers and media spokespeople of the Right, you are looking at Bush culties, not conservatives.
Update: Do Bush supporters hate America?
One of the ignorant nimrods who regularly write to this paper to call me a Marxist argues that those who disagree with the president are delighted to see America fail, that people like me take pleasure in anything that gives comfort to our enemies. He argues that people who question the reckless use of the military are “pacifist military haters.” There is no truth to such baseless and childish nonsense, but he seems to think it sounds persuasive, or perhaps he thinks it’s a kind of logical argument.
That’s one of the reasons it’s difficult not to think some of these Bush supporters are just willfully stupid.
These people grow more tiresome as they have less and less with which to argue. Their recourse, it seems, is to tag people they disagree with by calling them “leftists” and “liberals,” as if those words cancel out all arguments.