Thursday, April 01, 2010

Strong Reactions

This week, we're all trying to figure out why a country that measures its self-esteem in firepower, and is culturally inclined to see killing people as the solution to virtually every problem on earth, should suddenly be prone to violent rhetoric and worse.

Patrik Jonsson of the Christian Science Monitor acknowledges that there may be faults on both sides: for every violent extremist, there's someone who unfairly accused his or her ideology of being violent and extreme (even though most of the people who subscribe to it are merely angry and antisocial).

The sensible outlook, as usual, is that of right-leaning centrism, which is able to discern the basic moral equivalence between spouting eliminationist rhetoric, and pointing out that eliminationist rhetoric could make members of a gun-fetishizing subculture more likely to go on shooting sprees. The fact is, most teabaggers are far less likely to commit acts of reactionary violence than to view other people's acts of reactionary violence as the logical result of allowing a foreign-born Marxist usurper to occupy the White House. Others simply take a harmless onanistic pleasure in violent rhetoric, and shouldn't be accused of being dangerous, for our sake if not theirs. (You wouldn't like them when they're angry.)

The Republicans ratchet up the anger over the country's changing direction. The Democrats play to fears by painting large swaths of Americans as radicals, racists, and rabble-rousers.
Why should someone who is merely trying to ratchet up public anger be tarred with the epithet "rabble-rouser"? And why should violent anti-government rhetoric be called "radical," when everyone who matters knows that this term is reserved for committed jihadists like Code Pink?

It'd be one thing to "play to fears" by demonizing Muslims, or the French...but these are Americans we're talking about. Real Americans, to be precise. A little respect is in order. Or else.

Besides, if people didn't rail against ZOG from time to time, nothing would ever get done around here.
"It's part of the balancing act this country has faced the whole time," says John Geer, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. "If we only had moderate rhetoric, how do you create change? When something is radically wrong, how do you not do something radical to get it back on track?"
"Love thy neighbor as thyself" is a far more radical proposition than any I've seen from the Teabaggers, but it doesn't seem to be quite as chic as threatening to gun down census workers. Since one can propose radical change in moderate terms (i.e., without inciting violence or dehumanizing people), perhaps it's not really reasonable to treat the paranoid style as our national Engine of Progress.

Jonsson very nearly says as much, in a luminous formulation you'd do well to staple to the door of your underground bunker.
[S]uch politics include a measure of risk. Words can, in fact, spark violence.
Well, yeah. The difficulty here lies in determining which violent threats against members of Congress are metaphors, and which are directives. Fortunately, Michelle Malkin has taken a break from posting the home addresses of her enemies to explain the distinction...or at least, the need for one.
For every truly reprehensible act of bigotry or violence, there are also instances of misrepresentation to manufacture controversy and "[criminalize] political dissent," as the conservative columnist Michelle Malkin puts it.
"Criminalizing" dissent is roughly equivalent with "censoring" it, which is roughly equivalent with expressing dismay at its content. That's the sort of thing up with which True Patriots will not put, so praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!

Geer reassures us that all of this is part of a natural cycle. "Liberal agitators" say that conservatives are "unhinged," and conservatives say that liberals are secular Islamofascists in league with al-Qaeda. 'Twas ever thus! It's a peculiarity of our national character, it seems, and its current persistence has nothing to do with the business models or political interests of media outlets that treat unfounded accusations and their point-by-point refutations as epistemically equivalent.

So what happens next?
On healthcare, "the strong reactions from Republicans could put them on the fringe," he adds. "But if the healthcare reform backfires, then it's going to hurt the Democrats."
And if these "strong reactions" create a perception that healthcare reform has backfired? And this perception is presented as definitive by journalists whose commitment to "objectivity" excuses them from considering their own role in creating it? My guess is, it'll be further proof that this is a center-right country, and no commies need apply.

It's part of the balancing act this country has faced the whole time.

(Image via Freeper Madness.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, I can think of a whole bunch of radical statements, beginning with as you say Love thy neighbour as thyself. Turn the other cheek. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Every seven years forgive all debts. (Funny how that one never makes it into the evangelical Christian discourse the way that homophobia does.)