Patriotism v. Hate Speech

(This is more or less a continuation of the Patriotism v. Nationalism series. See also “Patriotism v. Paranoia” and “Patriotism v. Francis Fukuyama.”)

Very recently Digby published a post called “Haters v. Haters” in which he argues, using very concrete examples, that the Right works a lot harder at cultivating hate than does the Left.

How many hateful liberal books accusing Republicans of treason, slander, being unhinged or ruining the world are there out there? A couple? Probably. But let’s just say that the market for accusing political opposition of capital crimes, indulging in fantasies about their extinction and musing about how someone should be killed as a way of sending a message to others has leaned heavily on the right wing side of the equation for decades.

A rightie responder to this post claims that much of what Digby identified as hate speech is not, in fact, hate speech. For example, when Rush Limbaugh expresses satisfaction and pleasure when Christian peace activists were taken hostage by Muslim terrorists who are threatening to kill them —

I said at the conclusion of previous hours—part of me that likes this. And some of you might say, “Rush, that’s horrible. Peace activists taken hostage.” Well, here’s why I like it. I like any time a bunch of leftist feel-good hand-wringers are shown reality.

— that is not hate speech. “There is nothing hateful about enjoying the suffering of other people when that suffering is due to their own stupidity,” says the rightie.

Digby responds:

I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether it’s hateful to enjoy the suffering of others regardless of how “stupid” they are. (Psychologists would call it sociopathic.) Let’s just say that I think it’s cold and inhuman and leave it at that.

Digby is right; the Limbaugh quote is sociopathic. And it sure as hell is hate speech, whether the rightie recognizes it as such or not. Which brings us to another distinction between liberals (patriots) and “conservatives” (nationalists).

There’s an ongoing intrablog argument about whether there’s more hate speech on the Right or Left blogosphere. Each side is certain the other is worse. I say the difference is not in quantity, but in quality. The Left Blogosphere hurls a lot of insults at the Right. I do it myself. I call righties whackjobs and idiots and Kool-Aiders and all manner of other derogatory things. No question, there is ugly rhetoric and demonization being generated on both sides of the blogosphere.

But here’s what I don’t do — I don’t wish the opposition dead. I don’t want them rounded up and shot. I don’t take pleasure in any pain or suffering they experience. And this is true of most of the Left Blogosphere. There are always exceptions. But by and large I don’t see leftie bloggers, especially prominent ones, wishing death, injury or deportation on the Right. I certainly don’t see such rhetoric coming from elected Democratic politicians in Washington or any liberal commentator appearing in commercial print or broadcast media. I can’t say the same about the Right.

(Quibble: One occasionally runs into some fairly ghastly examples of eliminationism coming from the extreme Marxist fringe — marginalized even by most of the Left — and from juvenile anti-Bush protesters with poor judgment and worse impulse control. This is one reason I am leery of public demonstrations; even though most demonstrators are serious-mnded people, there are always a few who don’t understand what is and isn’t appropriate. I’m saying I don’t see eliminationist rhetoric from people who are prominent enough to have some following among liberals, progressives, or Democrats or who hold prominent elected office or positions in the Democratic party. If you are a rightie who wants to disprove my point, you’re going to have to find examples coming from liberal equivalents of Rush Limbaugh, not just something naughty drawn on a sheet by anonymous adolescents and held up at an antiwar rally.)

And the fact that someone who is, I assume, bright enough to tie his shoes doesn’t recognize that what Limbaugh said is hate speech is fairly alarming. Can it be that righties don’t recognize their own hate speech as hate speech? No wonder they think we’re worse than they are. It also makes me wonder if some mild form of sociopathy — a personality disorder marked by an inability to feel empathy or concern for others — is a common trait of hard-core righties.

Dave Neiwert of Orcinus
is Da Man when it comes to assessments of rightie v. leftie hate speech. His most recent post, published yesterday, discusses Ann Coulter’s recent address to the Conservative Political Action Committee conference. You know, the speech in which she went on about “ragheads” and oh, how she fantasizes she could assassinate Bill Clinton. The speech that generated some chuckles and a few mild rebukes from righties. Anyway, it’s a good post, and it points to the fact that rightie hate speech is coming from prominent spokespeople for the Right; people who do appear in commercial print and broadcast media and who are invited to speak for the bleeping Conservative Political Action Committee conference.

David has blogged a lot about “eliminationist” rhetoric., which he defines this way:

What, really, is eliminationism?

It’s a fairly self-explanatory term: it describes a kind of politics and culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas for the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through complete suppression, exile and ejection, or extermination.

… Rhetorically, it takes on some distinctive shapes. It always depicts its opposition as simply beyond the pale, and in the end the embodiment of evil itself — unfit for participation in their vision of society, and thus in need of elimination. It often depicts its designated “enemy” as vermin (especially rats and cockroaches) or diseases, and loves to incessantly suggest that its targets are themselves disease carriers. A close corollary — but not as nakedly eliminationist — are claims that the opponents are traitors or criminals, or gross liabilities for our national security, and thus inherently fit for elimination or at least incarceration.

And yes, it’s often voiced as crude “jokes”, the humor of which, when analyzed, is inevitably predicated on a venomous hatred.

But what we also know about this rhetoric is that, as surely as night follows day, this kind of talk eventually begets action, with inevitably tragic results.

The most significant component of eliminationist rhetoric is the desire to inflict harm. David provides examples in several posts: here, here, here, and here, to pick just a few posts at random. As you read, you’ll notice that the examples are not coming from some beyond-the-pale fringe. Many examples are taken from prominent columnists and widely known rightie bloggers.

It is fundamental to rightie orthodoxy that we lefties are the haters, not them. This is how they explain our opposition to Bush; no matter how many concrete reasons we cite for opposing Bush, righties dismiss them with the simple explanation: You’re just Bush haters. Or liberals, or partisans, or variations thereof. And since we hate them, in their minds it is blameless and righteous to hate us back. So righteous, in fact, that taking pleasure in our deaths isn’t actually hate in their minds, as illustrated by the Limbaugh listener discussed above (and here). Fact is, if what Limbaugh spews out day after weary day isn’t hate speech, then nothing is hate speech.

A couple of years ago I experienced a fairly disturbing half-hour cab ride in which the cab radio was tuned to Laura Ingraham’s radio show. The cabbie was a young man so utterly absorbed in Ingraham’s hate speech — she spoke of nothing but her contempt and resentment of liberals — he could barely stand to sit in his seat. He was filled to the brim and quivering with hate. He punctuated Ingraham’s litany of liberal atrocities and her desire to see the tables turned by pouncing his fist on the dashboard and shouting yeah! On close observation it became clear the young man saw himself as some kind of oppressed minority suffering at the hands of a liberal power establishment. The fact that liberals have virtually no real political power in the U.S. today, and that Ingraham’s examples of liberal perfidy came entirely out of her own imagination, mattered little. I’m not saying this guy is typical — one guy does not make a representative sample — but I am saying this is what a steady diet of rightie hate speech can do to a person.

One of the most common bits of rightie shtick is to take something a prominent Democrat or liberal has said out of context and present it to the faithful Right as hate speech, so that righties feel justified in hating back. A classic example was the smearing of Senator Richard Durbin after he remarked on an FBI report on torture at Guantanamo. Durbin did not say that the U.S. was running concentration camps just like Hitler’s, but that’s what righties were told he said. And the reaction from righties was predictable, and sick, and terrifying. A substantial number of of our fellow citizens are, like the cabbie, primed to hate. All the VRWC has to do is yank their chains, and the eliminationism will commence.

I don’t want to put all conservatives in the same boat here. Traditional conservatives whose ideas are based in conservative political philosophy certainly can, and do, find much to criticize in liberal political philosophy and in many progressive policies enacted in the past (not many progressive policies around at the moment to take potshots at). What must always be understood is that the hard heart of our current political Right is not conservative. Whether one thinks of it as a quasi-religious cult or an old-fashioned political machine, or a little of both, I think it’s important to keep it separated from actual American political conservatism, which is an honorable tradition with a legitimate place at the table of government.

But this makes much “MSM” posturing over “balance” and fairness all the more bizarre. They’re no longer balancing opposing political philosophies. They’re balancing people whose opinions are based on political philosophy against a mindless hate cult. And you know this is true because, increasingly, the traditional conservatives are somehow getting kicked over to our side.

Yesterday Matt Stoller at MyDD posted “Reporters: The Right-Wing Hates You,” in which he argues that while we lefties get frustrated with news media for not doing a better job, righties want to destroy news media as we know it entirely.

They hate reporters, blindly. You as reporters can’t do a good enough job to satisfy them, because they are after obedience and not truth. They hate you. They hate what you stand for. They will rejoice in your downfall. They will lie to you because you don’t matter to them. You have no legitimacy.

It’s taken many years of propaganda about the “liberal media” to get us to this point but … we’ve arrived, folks. We’re here. Wake up. (See also ” ‘Marginalizing’ the Press.”)

If you want to see where we’re heading, just take a look at the Middle East. We’re told Muslims still carry a grudge about the bleeping crusades. We’re told Muslim leaders and Muslim schools have been teaching hate for decades. And recently a few imams used a few cartoons to yank the chains, and large numbers of Muslims go on a rampage.

Righties insist we are not like them, even as they use the Muslim rampage as an excuse to ramp up their own anti-Muslim hate speech. I agree that the majority of our home-grown rightie haters are not likely to riot in the streets. Yet. But give ’em time. My cabbie certainly was ready to join a lynch mob had he bumped into one.

I have argued in the past that righties define liberalism in more hateful and demonic terms than lefties define conservatism (click on the link for examples). Liberals who criticize conservatism 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. On the Right, however, the word liberal itself is such a pejorative that no qualifiers are required. There are always exceptions, but if you start googling for examples of broad-brush demonization of liberalism by righties and of conservatism by lefties, you find truckfuls more of the former than you do of the latter.

And I think that’s because, for too many righties, hate itself is the point. And hate doesn’t need reasons.

[Next (and probably last) in the series: Righties discover intolerance!]

Update: See Arianna Huffington, “Is Sean Hannity Addicted to Coulter Crack?”

49 thoughts on “Patriotism v. Hate Speech

  1. Maha….As always, well written and enlightening. Thanks for all your insight.

    I find it also interesting that the BIG mouthpieces for Rightspeak, (Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, Coulter) get paid huge sums of money by the Rightcompanies to support Rightthoughts.

    Not only do they get paid to spew it, they also seek to deny any dissent. Check this out…

    The right currently owns and operates the MSM outlets (network/cable). The right lobbies the Congress to ensure a tight media stranglehold and blasts away at PBS and public radio, and given a little time, I fear that they will hijack control of the blogosphere; whether they purchase and parse the bandwidth blogs use, purchase the companies that provide the blog service and squeeze out the left, or create financial obstacles and surcharges on internet/blog use to quiet the growing left voice.

    Call me a crazy, tin-foil hat-wearing, rightwing-conspiracy-believing, bleeding-heart liberal. But rest assure that this lefty is willing to do more than just speak truth to the powers that be. Emphasis on my willingness. And if we don’t see some tangible changes this fall (in elections and media reporting) as the right continues its march towards silencing left dissent, then the question becomes not one of what we say as the liberal patriots we espouse to be, but one of what we are actually willing to do.

  2. Bodhi Maha,

    I am intrigued by your post today concerning hatred directed by each side towards the other. I make my living as a student of human behavior and I have been percolating about what causes such animosity and sustained intense retaliatory impulse in this context.

    Any of us that perceives attack such that it threatens survival, literally and/or psychologically, can be triggered into actions designed to obliterate that threat. However in “survival mode” we can suffer distortion in perceptions of the others and of our own internal experience that really makes it all seem darker then it has to be, thus producing more destructive repsonses.

    Outrage and righteous indignation are likely the seeds to hatred. These are addictive drugs ’cause it feels so GOOD to think how WRONG they are and how SUPERIOR we are. The outcome is to be distracted from our frustration and anger and preventing functional resolution, and resolution of some kind is our only hope.

    On the Washington Journal you contained your animosity and moderated your responses to derision and hostility. Will you maintain that voice and make a contribution to this side of the ‘sphere towrds the goal of evolving to a greater sophistication than, f— you, you m———— b——, eat s— and die?


  3. Will you maintain that voice and make a contribution to this side of the ‘sphere towrds the goal of evolving to a greater sophistication than, f— you, you m———— b——, eat s— and die?

    I don’t use that sort of language under any circumstances. Well, unless I’m in labor, which is not going to happen again in this life.

    These are not the times to modify oneself, however. I’m done with moderation for the sake of moderation. Surely name-calling by itself will get us nowhere; we need facts. We need reason. But if someone’s being an idiot, I am damn sure going to say so.

  4. Oh, Maha. I’ve been hoping for a discussion on this very topic. Thank you for setting it out so clearly. We’ve seen it coming since Rush first came on the scene.

    Based on my own experience (conservative parents, you know), whenever I express my concern about the hate that continues to fill the airwaves, they respond in a panic – “Don’t you dare take our talk radio from us!” As though the commies were going to come in and take away their only form of “free and unbiased” speech! It’s truly a distortion of perception, totally based on fear. “Liberal media” is a boogeyman that I fear I will never be able to vanquish for them.

    Thanks to you and to all these informed and thoughtful contributers who are shedding light upon all of this for us. I continue to believe that it comes down to our biological need for survival and how we each perceive it, so I have especially appreciated the insights of people like Neil and Alyosha. (Among so many others!)

    Your perceptions and your ability to articulate them while drawing on so many pertinent sources are mind-boggling to me, Maha. I’m so glad I heard about you on C-SPAN.

  5. I have observed before that, the left/progressives/democrats do not have functional equivalents for people like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, et al. The right likes to say, well there’s Michael Moore. But Moore is different. The thing with Moore is that, he exposes things and casts issues in ways they don’t like, while still adhering to basic truths and facts. Moore is not out there like Coulter, openly advocating the deaths of “liberals,” which really translates to anyone who disagrees in any way, shape or form with Bush. Moore or no one on the left I can think of has done what O’Reilly did, which was to invite terror attacks on the Coit Tower in San Francisco.

    To wingnuts (and that is not hatred; its as much as it is a term of derision) to point out factually how Bush is wrong, or somnething that they have said is wrong or in error, is “to hate.” But its okay for Coulter to call for the deaths of muslims, as she does, and that’s okay.

    Sometimes I wonder if these people are really that deluded that they don’t realize how ridiculous they sound.

  6. Clark, I think they are deluded. That’s what is so worrisome. Reason seems to have no effect on them. Common sense is lacking as well. I place much value on historical lessons that can instruct us. Anyone have anything to offer on that score? What about the craziness that’s gone on in our past? In the pasts of other civilizations? What saved them ultimately – or ruined them?

    I’ve gained many insights from journalists like Robert Kaplan. Our culture is not the only “crazy” one. Just the most powerful. And the crazies have more clout than ever before. Can you imagine what Eisenhower would think?

  7. With only a few minutes to comment, I have to say , ONCE again , your soooooo right Maha.I am reminded ,again, of Orwells book(1984) …….I hate to keep returning to it, but what you are saying fits right into the “two minutes of hate” and the “Hate week” spoken about in the book.
    It seemed weird when I was reading it, but the idea Orwell was pointing to was keeping the masses in a frenzy of hate with daily reminders.Todays “two minutes of hate” has been extended and is there for the listener anytime.Turn on talk radio or faux and get your fix.
    The most interesting thing about this someone (Karl Rove) spent a lot of time studying, and what they found was a large segment of society raging and filled with hate.All they had to do was find a way to tap into that hate and unleash it.I don’t believe it was that hard(if you build it , they will come).
    It turns out people LIKE to hate.It’s fun and it requires no thought what so ever,,tapping into their anger was like taking candy from a baby.Add in the fact many on the right feel their hate is patriotic and that, in their eyes almost makes it blessed by God , because after all God loves America bettter than the other countries.
    The problem , as I see it, is now that all the hate has been unleashed it stopping it.Righties have found a new found purpose in their hate.Hate has gotten them their way, and as long as they keep seeing results from their hate , it will grow.They hate arabs? Suppose they killed them all, do you think their hate would end? I believe it would just roll on to the next group they hate. If their hate was taken to it’s conclusion one could imagine what the world would look like, empty of everyone but the bush cult….then they would turn on their own and question whether or not a person loved dear leader enough(my patriotism can beat up your patriotism)….
    In the political chat room I go to, I have been wished dead,even been threatened with death by those on the right for doing nothing more then speaking out against Bush’s policies.If someone from the left is late coming into the chat room the righties favorite thing to do is daydream out loud maybe said leftie has died.Then an hour later the same group will ask how we can possibly deal with muslims because they want us all dead,,, WOW!

  8. Can you imagine what Eisenhower would think?

    A lot of historians have been critical of Eisenhower’s presidency, but I think he was essential to keeping the crazier elements of the Right of his time under control. Remember, he became president during the height of Joe McCarthy’s reign of terror. Eisenhower hated McCarthy and helped bring him down (he and others in his administration pushed for the televised Army-McCarthy hearings that served as McCarthy’s coup de grace). A substantial part of the American Right of the day wanted to start a war with China — nuclear war, if need be. Eisenhower had the sense to say no and the stature as a war hero to make it stick.

  9. Justme –
    I’ve meandered into a few of those rightie chat rooms, too. I liken it to what an undercover Jew must have felt like when listening in at the doorway in some Gestapo building. Or what African Americans might have heard in person in the South a century ago. You’re very brave to go in there!

    You’re right about it just “rolling’ on to the next group. In our community, illegal aliens seem to be the group of the day.
    I’ve been especially sensitized to this issue lately because of what has been going on in our little community with the Minuteman Project. I don’t know if you’ve been catching the news about our little town parade being targeted and sued (unsuccessfully) by this group?
    Orcinus is spy-hopping on this, I’ve noticed. Thanks Maha, for pointing out this great blog.

    Sadly, it does feel good to hate. It’s ironic that the conservative “good taste” party has been hijacked by a faction that displays all the histrionic, hate-filled veribage of some of the worst of the left-wing extremists of the sixties.

    By the way, where have all the survivalists gone? I thought they were going to “protect” us from all this government intrusion. I guess they are willing to give Bush carte blanche? Incredible irony.

  10. Maha, I’ve been kicking myself that I haven’t gotten out yet to see the film, “Good night, and Good Luck.” Have you (or anyone else) seen it?
    The look of the clips I’ve seen brings back so many memories of that time. I was pretty young, I admit, but when I was growing up, we seemed to have a closer connection to our recent past than young people do now. Do you think so? Is that part of the reason for some of the imbalance these days?

  11. Excellent post with many great comments. Some thoughts:

    “Empathy” – the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes – is a defining characteristic IMO between left and right. Without it, you’re a sociopath, who is operating blind. I’ve heard the most ridiculous assertions, projections actually, made by righties toward “Other People” simply because they were unwilling or unable to put themselves in the position of Others. “They hate us for our freedoms”, apart from it being politically calculated speech is an example. Sun Tsu said you have to know your enemy, which is impossible for the empathy-challenged. As such, we’re significantly less safe in the hands of the right.

    A huge part of the right’s schtick (great description) is projection – blaming others for what you are unwilling to own or recognize in yourself. This is hugely behind the right’s assertion that the left is full of hate. Look in the mirror, dummy.

    The addiction to hate is frightening and real. Orwell nailed it with the Two Minutes Hate. I know righties who have to get their fix of this daily, much like the cab driver in maha’s post. It is completely beyond reason.

    Finally, if you haven’t figured it out, liberals are being set up in this country to take the fall, in much the way that the Jews were in Germany. It hasn’t come yet to Kristallnacht, nor have we gotten to the point of political assasinations, unless you think Paul Wellstone and Mel Carnahan were done in, but I fear it is going to get much worse before it gets better. If I could leave the USA, I would do it. Now.

    samiam: Thanks.

  12. Sayyy…. Re: the UAE/port issue-
    You don’t think this is a “no negotiation with terrorists” deal, shades of Reagan’s Iran-contra, do you?
    Something very fishy is going on. The media is beside themselves with bafflement.
    Is this why we haven’t had any terrorist attacks in all this time?
    Buying our protection, perhaps?
    Just wondering. Scary thought.

  13. I’d like to add that there is another difference between the far right and far left groups who express their hate through actions instead of words.

    When the far right carries out its hate, there is harm done to the person being hated, like when a gay bar is entered and people are shot or axesd or when an abortion clinic is blown up while the building is occupied.

    The far left seems to go after the property of the hated group/thing, like the destruction of SUV’s and homes under construction to protest the encroachment of nature. I’m not sure if the church burnings in Alabama is a right or left crime, but it seems to fit more in with the left.

  14. Hate speech is total BS! You can’t have it both way’s. You either are allowed to say whatever with our first amendment rights and when you want to, to whomever you want or you can’t. You cannot be simply selective with regard to who is a [protected species] just because it is politically correct.
    What needs to be applied to all Americans is to stop being labled as African American, Hispanic American and Jewish American. You are either an American or your not so knock off the BS and learn to get along with us, the fastest diminishing race in the USA,…..White Americans who can’t even be proud to be White for fear of being labled a Racist.

  15. Having looked at a great number of “White Pride” websites, I remain unclear what it is about “whiteness” that is a source of pride.

    Italians might take pride in being compatriots of Dante and Michelangelo. The French might take pride in being compatriots of Voltaire and Flaubert. The English have their Shakespeare. And so on, and so forth.

    But what did “whiteness” achieve? Against what odds did its possessors struggle?

  16. You can’t have it both way’s. You either are allowed to say whatever with our first amendment rights and when you want to, to whomever you want or you can’t.

    It never even occurred to me to not allow people to say what they want, but then I’m a liberal. No speech short of inciting violence should be censored. I’m just pointing out that righties are nastier.

    You are either an American or your not so knock off the BS and learn to get along with us, the fastest diminishing race in the USA,…..White Americans who can’t even be proud to be White for fear of being labled a Racist.

    Oh, jeez louize, get over yourself. I’m probably whiter than you are (unless you are albino), and I’m not whining about being a “diminishing race.” And may I say if the only thing you’ve got to be proud of is being white … that’s real pathetic.

    If you want other people to get along with you, I suggest you learn to get along with them.

  17. Oh, one more thing — although I believe even racists have a right to express racism — I have a right not to have to pay to publish their speech. Since bandwidth here is on my dime, I excercise editorial control. White supremacists are banned from posting here in the future.

  18. The First Amendment protects against GOVERMENT intrusion on speech. It’s one of the unsubtle distinctions that is lost on wingnuts.

    BarryBarry can say what he wants about blacks, gays, and women in his home. Similarly, property owners have the right to tell him to shut up and get his bigotted ass off their land. If he refuses, then the property owner has the right to get the Sheriff involved to drag him off to jail.

    In now way are his First Amendment rights to spray racist invective infringed.

  19. One other thing: I have the lowest contempt for white people who feel they need to argue about their right to be bigots. Similarly, I have the same contempt for white people who bitch about minorities receiving affirmative action.

    Nothing like refusing to give the underdogs any slack. Your modern Republican Party.

    I’ve recently decided that I will no longer entertain as company anyone who supports Bush. I’ve come to the conclusion that anyone who still supports Bush is either stupid, greedy, or evil.

  20. Maha wrote:

    “And may I say if the only thing you have to be proud of is being white…that’s real pathetic.”

    Should one be more proud of those parts of the body which don’t receive sunlight and are more white?

    (And Maha, why can’t we cut and paste with the new format?)

  21. Should one be more proud of those parts of the body which don’t receive sunlight and are more white?

    That depends on the parts. 🙂

    (And Maha, why can’t we cut and paste with the new format?)

    The flaw is in Explorer. Switch to Firefox. You’ll like it.

  22. You cleared the saloon of that riff raff right quick, Miss Kitty. Much obliged.
    (“Gunsmoke,” for those of you too young to know)

  23. Well… the reason people don’t recognize what Limbaugh does as hatespeech is twofold.

    First, they’re used to it, and they hear it from other people. If a thousand people tell you about how liberal the media is, if you don’t think the media is all that liberal, you’ll tend to think you must have missed the stuff that proves it’s liberal.

    Second, Rush Limbaugh has never been untruthful about what he is. He is an entertainer. *He* doesn’t *care* about what he says. It’s just a role he plays and gets a boatload of money for playing. He doesn’t sound hateful because he doesn’t hate. In another forum, I pointed out that he’s like a drug dealer who doesn’t use his own products. He peddles hate, sure… but he doesn’t indulge himself.

    This is important because hateful people will self-destruct, sooner or later. Hatred is ugly, and people will be repulsed by it… and it can’t help but make itself visible sooner or later.

    Limbaugh’s not hateful. He’s just making up whatever it is he feels his audience wants to hear.

    I reckon Coulter’s the same way. No one can live on that much high octane hate if they take themselves seriously.

    (And let me make myself clear, just so there’s no question: I think that Limbaugh is a despicable person for acting the way he does. I just don’t make the mistake of thinking he’s hate-filled or malicious. Evil doesn’t require hate or malice; it only requires indifference.)

  24. He doesn’t sound hateful because he doesn’t hate.

    He sounds hateful to me. I genuinely believe he and Coulter are sociopaths. It’s shtick, yes, but deep down inside they believe what they say, or else they wouldn’t be able to sustain the act for all these years.

    Evil doesn’t require hate or malice; it only requires indifference.

    That’s a point, as sociopaths really don’t give a bleep about anything or anyone but themselves.

  25. The comment about Limbaugh only being an entertainer who produces acts his audience wants, tells a lot about his audience.

    Limbaugh is a rich man because he instinctively can spew wingnut nonsense with an amazing degree of congruence between what he says and what his listeners want to hear.

    In other words, Limbaugh is a sort of weather vane, pointing to the extremes of the extreme right. Kind of like the profiler in the John Harris books who is haunted by his ability to empathize with sociopaths, only Limbaugh apparently isn’t haunted (or is he haunted, and that explains the oxycontin abuse?).

  26. “Miss Kitty,”
    Well, I’ll be. You tell that Cousin Patrick o’ yours that our family admired his work every Saturday night. She wouldn’t a been Miss Kitty without ’em now, would she?

  27. Well, truth be told, I don’t think Patrick ever styled her hair for Gunsmoke. He styled it for her real life after she retired. He said she was a very nice lady, though.

  28. Pingback: The Mahablog » Hate Speech and Its Consequences

  29. “Miss Kitty,”
    Aww, I heard she was, too.

    Re: #34… Wow. Remember the days when we were under the illusion that Americans were decent, people? (Some of us still are!) We always choose to forget our history, though, don’t we?

  30. Forgetting history, as conservative intellectuals often complain, is an American specialty. Of course, they have their own list of things to be remembered.

    How often do we think about the wars against the native populations, the French and the Mexicans as examples of colonial wars? How often do we think about the slaughter of the Filipinos?

    I recommend the war in the Philippines as a interesting case study. Even those websites that are intent on rectifying the ignorance of high school history teachers on the subject consider the war to have ended when the President announced that it had ended, and do not attempt to estimate, or even mention, the huge numbers of civilians who died in subsequent years.

    It would be trite to repeat Santayana’s remark.

  31. Forgive me if I pre-emptively weep for my country and my world. Bad times coming, we all know it, so be prepared. Therefore these premature tears.

    As usual, Evil has the tactical advantage; Good, the strategic advantage. The issue will be decided, as usual, by logistics; that is, Reason. So you and I, dear Maha, have some basis for confidence; the rightist cult, less so.

  32. One thing I’ve noticed is that when liberal commentors do go off into fantasy injury (often involving anal rape), they’re usually called on it pretty quick. The charming* Ms Coulter comes in for her share of these comments, but the general feeling is that “we’re above that”. If that’s all we got, we got nothin’.

    Even vacuous comments on appearance tend not to fare well in the Leftosphere.

  33. Why is it that anal sex is such a frequent feature of political insults in the US? It doesn’t seem to feature much in the discourse of other countries.

    Manliness and Civilization?

  34. comments no 13 & 14 – I’m sure that you both know that the part from the hearings were real tape/whatever from the actual hearings. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I want to before the Oscars.

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  36. I have slid out of my insulated world in the last few years, having avoided public policy and politics for most of my life.I don’t know much about it still, but at least I am paying attention.

    With regard to human behavior, there is not doubt in my mind that you can mobilize, entice and coerce humans into creating a Lord of the Flies kingdom on earth by pandering to the primitive and base elements of human behavior. But conversely, I have also felt that the role of a religion or philosophy is to elevate us — or at least get us to consider — ourself above animalistic and anti-social behavior. I want to ask why is encouraging degrading and debasing behaviors is seen as a viable avenue for religion.

    What I find particularily disturbing is the corruption of religious dogmas to co-opt scores of people into believing that inequality, greed, murder, warfare and theocratic empires are their moral imperative. (Forget the rest of the world, I’m talking America).

    Thank you for the thought provoking piece. I am particularily in debt to your piece on Nationalism as it was poited out to me (Orcinus) just as I read my son’s freshman paper on Nationalism as a viable force to combat Globalization.

    Again. Thank you.

  37. Hm. As a former one of those “old-fashioned conservatives,” I have to disagree. The “old-fashioned” type may be more genteel, at least in public; they may on an individual basis dissent, in so far as their subculture allows, from specific conservative traits or tenets; they might diminish or downplay the extremism, because it’s embarrassing.

    But what we never, ever did was kick the racists, the homophobic eliminationists, the misogynists, the religious bigots, the xenophobes and the puritans *out*. We didn’t even censure them. We just ignored them, unless forced to admit their existence – and then we declared that 1) they were just A Few Bad Applesâ„¢ and besides 2) Liberals/Democrats Were Worseâ„¢.

    That’s how it was in 1975. (And 1985, and 1995, but 75 is as far back as my personal memory of movement conservativism get-togethers, and conservative media, goes back.) Phyllis Schlafly was the darling of the Republicans in TX because of her combination of Faith, Family, Flag and Women In The Kitchen – not in spite of it. Campaigns to get rid of everything sexual or blasphemous in the arts and media and schools were slower and less organized then, but they were fomented in magazines like the National Review and Human Events. So were the memes of Social Security Is Killing America/Unions Are Killing America and Moslems Are Overruning Contracepting Old Europe! all of which I read in conservative publications before 1979.

    I knew people who went on to work for the Reagan Administration and Weyrich and Buchanan, btw. I’m at most 2 handshakes away from nearly all the pundits from the major conservative think-tanks and many of the politicians, and never forget that the “neocons” trained under the paleocons, and that the think tanks were founded twenty and more years ago, by the paleocons, some going back as far as Dewey and Hoover cronies. Anti-labour, anti-minority, anti-woman, pro-war, pro-unrestrained-corporations, and Fear of the Other – all of it disguised under a pseudo-Americana Frank Capra vision which will be magically restored to us if we only get rid of miniskirts, the Pill, stoner art, rock’n’roll, and beatnik poets and dirty hippies – sorry, spandex, the Pill, movies about homosexuals, rap music and teens with piercings. And make them shut up shut up shut up about how wrong it was to invade foreign countries or prop up brutal dictators or destabilize foreign governments by funding, um, ‘freedom fighters’ in the name of the Invisible Hand of Tashlan.

    It’s been like this since John Birch was combining a career as a Baptist missionary with a career as a spy for the American government until the locals twigged to him – or, actually, since before Sacco and Vanzetti were killed, when a Republican keynote speaker from Indiana called antiwar protestors “traitors” who should be lynched (a label that Mark Twain ironically embraced) and preached a manifest destiny to spread civilization and Christianity to the Philippines and how it was God’s Will that we open the rich mines of Asia – and the even richer market potential of China – for the USA.

    Finally, over a decade ago I expressed my reservations about Rush Limbaugh (I was then moving away from conservativism in the wake of Tailhook & Anita Hill which forced me to confront my doctrinaire denials that the Right was sexist, no, liberals were the true sexists, tricking innocent women into promiscuity and abortions – but was still too indoctrinated to call myself a “liberal” even in the privacy of my head, since liberals were Bad Bad Bad!) to one of those “traditional conservatives” of the personally polite, moderate, genteel sort – and he said and I’ve heard others since argue it, that even though yes Limbaugh was a crass brutish demagogue, he did good work conveying conservativism to the masses, the great unwashed who were too crude and ignorant themselves to be reachable by the lofty heights of National Review or American Spectator…

    As ye reap, so shall ye so. Don’t cry for the old-fashioned conservatives, we turned a blind eye to the beams in our eyes so that we could persecute liberals

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  39. It may well be true that right-wing extremists are more inclined to “wish their opponents dead” or at the very least, express satisfaction at their suffering, as in the case of Rush Limbaugh and the peace activists taken hostage. I will leave my final conclusions regarding that in suspension until my survey of the polarized regions of the blogosphere and the mass-media is mostly complete.

    One thing is quite certain to me, however. When it comes down to posturing and name-calling versus death-wishing, in attempts to demonize the “other side,” it’s really just a matter of degree. Wishing death upon someone, or claiming to enjoy the suffering of another, has a very extreme sound to it, and it is practically guaranteed to produce shock and offense, but there is a big difference between expressing “enjoyment” from afar that someone is suffering, and actually experiencing enjoyment when coming face-to-face with that suffering, in the real.

    For example, how would Rush Limbaugh react to the horrors of war if:

    1.) he actually had to witness the suffering and death of an innocent child with mangled appendages?

    2.) if he had to live, day after day, with the omnipresent fear, and very real danger, of a bomb falling from the sky on his head at any moment?

    3.) if he had to attend every funeral of every solider who died in Iraq, and witness the sufferings of the family?

    Point: It’s much easier to posture and express a lack of sensitivity and make a host of sociopathic comments on a whole range of subjects when you haven’t had to directly experience anything like that which you comment on. I venture that at his core, Rush might not be quite the sociopath that many make him out to be. I think it is quite probable that his (and many other right-wingers’) wishing harm upon others is, in terms of its emotional sophistication, akin to an angry child saying “I wish you’d die! to their parent. Which certainly doesn’t excuse a patently antisocial comment such as claiming “I like anytime a bunch of leftist feelgood handwringers are shown reality.” Indeed, the comment is particularly ironic in that Rush himself has not seen the “reality” of anything; he has seen the inside of broadcasting booth, the tickers of a thousand media outlets, and the tickers of his own distorted consciousness behind his closed eyes as he lies in bed at night.

    This is the “reality” that many of us experience. We hear a multitude of spins on a subject, left, right, and center. We dig for facts, we make our own spins. We quest for truth, even when data are scarce, imprecise, or ambiguous. We decide how things are, although the “systems complexity” at the global political and economic levels approaches the point where “chaos theory” begins to take hold in ways that defy our most profound and subtle of reasonings.

    In so doing, we become convinced of the strength of our position, while becoming convinced of the folly of the “other side’s” position. In some cases, our view becomes so polarized that we begin to think in absolutes: the other side is entirely wrong, and our side is entirely right. By and by, we begin to introduce emotional loading into our characterizations of the other side.
    It is here where it becomes merely a matter of degree. We call them names, we make up clever or not-so-clever names for them, and lump the whole of the “other side” together under these designations. . ALL Republicans (or Dems) are stupid. Or evil.

    The most extreme form of demonization is when we begin to call another’s essential humanity into question. Claiming to experience joy at the suffering of another is one way to do this. Wishing death upon them is another way. However, in a very fundamental sense, name-calling or wishing death upon a political opponent is the same thing, differing only by degree. Those with lower sensitivity thresholds and bigger mouths resort to the latter; those with higher sensitivity thresholds and a slightly greater measure of self-restraint resort to the former. The actions themselves are cut from the same cloth, and the danger of one leading to the other is always present, regardless of political orientation. They are both forms of ad hominem – attacking the person of one’s opponent, rather than the substance of their arguments. They are supposed to have no place in reasoned debate.

    Therefore, simply because we have not wished death upon our opponents does not mean we occupy the high ground. Because the demonization of another is base, period, because we are all human beings with the same foibles and frailties, regardless of how much we posture, regardless of the cruel things we say. Looking at it from another perspective, we are all to a large extent products of our environment; those most likely to do injury are those themselves who have been injured. Genuine sociopathy is rarer than many realize.

    Sympathy for the Devil? Maybe. However, certain Buddhist factions hold that the only difference between a “common mortal” and an “enlightened one” is simply that the former holds illusions about the world, while the latter holds none. If so, then most of us are common mortals, because we all live in a degree of illusion about what’s really going on at any one moment. Attempting to demonize each other with loaded language or vile curses only amplifies the illusions and muddies the waters, and broadens the divisions in a nation that is already deeply divided against itself.

    The best way to deal with the vitriol others send our way is to refuse to return the same in kind, but address only the substance of their arguments in a forthright, direct, and rational manner. And to not conjure excuses for ouselves when we slip up and fall into name calling. This is the real “high road.” If reason, eloquently and clearly spoken cannot win out, and the only resort seems to be the demonization of the other side, then I submit that even if the current “battle” is won, the war for the long term well-being of a Democratic America is already lost.

    Certain cliches really still do hit the mark. In this case, the most applicable cliche might be:

    “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”


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