Friday, September 25, 2009

A conservatism hater

David Greenberg, a professor of history at Rutgers, has a very self-satisfied and sneering essay in Slate which admits his failure to understand conservatism at great length. Apparently inspired by the latest "Time" magazine, he dredges up the old Marxist nonsense of Hofstader, Adorno & Co. and seems to think that there is something in it, but ends up admitting that none of them give a useful explanation of modern-day American conservative politics. Rather amusing really.

It is difficult to fisk something as lightweight as Greenberg's essay but maybe I should make two points:

In typical Leftist style, he projects onto conservatives the very thing that most moves Leftists: Hate. The title of his essay is "The Obama haters". That people might violently disagree with Obama's policies without hating him seems to be a combination outside Greenberg's limited emotional range. Again in good Leftist style he offers no evidence that ANYBODY hates Obama. He just asserts it. He KNOWS! Obama is personally a very agreeable personality so I find it hard to imagine that anyone hates him. Obama's extremely limited understanding of economics (e.g. his claim that he can give healthcare to more people with less money) does reduce one to despair at times, but despair is a long way from hate.

But I suppose the main defence mechanism that keeps Greenberg's sense of superiority alive is not so much projection as denial. He just cannot see that people like Glenn Beck have reasonable points to make: Points reasonable enough to cause at least one Obama appointee to resign. So if the words of Beck & Co. are not reasonable, there must be something other than reason behind them. Frustratingly for Greenberg, he just cannot figure out what that might be. Again, quite amusing.

If Greenberg reads this, he will probably accuse me of "psychologizing" or some such. That would be amusing too as that was precisely what Greenberg tried to do, but could not convince even himself. But I do after all have over 100 papers in the academic literature on the psychology of politics so I probably have a more useful background for "psychologizing" about politics than he does.

Some excerpts that might interest Prof. Greenberg:

Secret protocols of Beck’s legions

Grassroots conservative enthusiasm notwithstanding, the talk-radio host and Fox News personality is under attack this week, with the liberal establishment's favorite weapon, a Time magazine cover: "Mad Man: Glenn Beck and the angry style of American politics." This continues a long tradition of weekly newsmagazine covers demonizing conservative figures like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich... After a few more paragraphs, Von Drehle plays his trump card: "The old American mind-set that Richard Hofstadter famously called 'the paranoid style' -- the sense that Masons or the railroads or the Pope or the guys in black helicopters are in league to destroy the country -- is aflame again…" Von Drehle's invocation of "the paranoid style," a trope that Hofstadter derived from Theodor Adorno's "authoritarian personality," is intended to clearly signal the reader that Beck is a kook, a conspiracy theorist, a demagogue pandering to the dangerous emotions of the ignorant mob.

Having never met Beck, I am not qualified to speak of whether he is representative of the "paranoid style." However, my friend and fellow American Spectator contributor Matthew Vadum has been a studio guest on Beck's Fox News program and did not mention any "roiling mix of fear, resentment, and anger." If Beck rants off-camera about black helicopters and Masons, it eluded Vadum's notice.

While my acquaintance with Beck is limited to occasionally catching a few moments of his TV or radio shows, I did have the opportunity to speak to many of the people at the Sept. 12 Capitol rally. My Arizona blogger friend Barbara Espinosa was there, and I spent many hours before, during and after the event talking to the organizers, attendees and speakers, including Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and author Mason Weaver. None of these people seemed to think that Glenn Beck represented a menace to public safety or the conservative movement.

They're all in on it together -- the grandmother and teenagers, Pence and Vadum and Weaver! It's all a clandestine conspiracy to conceal the hidden agenda for global domination by the Secret Legion of Beck! And if you don't believe it, then you're obviously a paranoid kook.

More here.

Why the left hates Glenn Beck : "For the last few years the left and the press would take shots at Beck, but never in a concerted fashion. He simply could be ignored, and they had bigger fish to fry, like the long-reigning king of conservative talk radio, Rush Limbaugh. Things changed when Beck shifted from CNN to Fox News, just in time to comment on the policies of a new Democratic administration. Beck caught fire, both with his commentaries and with his growing fan base. He even took to the road for another comedy tour, blending mainstream humor with his political jabs. A few Beck bestsellers later, and he officially became a media empire. But the talker’s ability to take down his targets changed the dynamics — and the ferocity of the attacks against him.”


Strangers to dissent, liberals try to stifle it

It is an interesting phenomenon that the response of the left half of our political spectrum to criticism and argument is often to try to shut it down. Thus President Obama in his Sept. 9 speech to a joint session of Congress told us to stop "bickering," as if principled objections to major changes in public policy were just childish obstinacy, and chastised his critics for telling "lies," employing "scare tactics" and playing "games." Unlike his predecessor, he sought to use the prestige of his office to shut criticism down.

Now, no one likes criticism very much, and most politicians would prefer to have their colleagues and constituents meekly and gratefully agree with them on pretty much everything. And yes, Rep. Joe Wilson does seem to have broken the rules and standards of decorum of the House (though not of the British House of Commons) when he shouted "You lie!" in the middle of Obama's speech.

But none of this justifies the charges, passed off as cool-headed analysis, that Obama's critics are motivated by racism. There are plenty of nonracist reasons to oppose (or to support) the Democrats' health care proposals.

I would submit that the president's call for an end to "bickering" and the charges of racism by some of his supporters are the natural reflex of people who are not used to hearing people disagree with them and who are determined to shut them up. This comes naturally to liberals educated in our great colleges and universities, so many of which have speech codes whose primary aim is to prevent the expression of certain conservative ideas and which are commonly deployed for that purpose. (For examples see the Web site of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which defends students of all political stripes.) Once the haven of free inquiry and expression, academia has become a swamp of stifling political correctness.

Similarly, the "mainstream media" -- the old-line broadcast networks, the New York Times, etc. -- presents a politically correct picture of the world. The result is that liberals can live in a cocoon, an America in which seldom is heard a discouraging word. Conservatives, in contrast, find themselves constantly pummeled with liberal criticism, on campus, in news media, in Hollywood TV and movies. They don't like it, but they've gotten used to it. Liberals aren't used to it and increasingly try to stamp it out.

"Mainstream media" tries to help. In the past few weeks, we have seen textbook examples of how MSM has ignored news stories that reflected badly on the administration for which it has such warm feelings. It ignored the videos in which White House "green jobs czar" proclaimed himself a "communist" and the "truther" petition he signed charging that George W. Bush may have allowed the Sept. 11 attacks.

It ignored the videos released on Andrew Breitbart's showing Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now employees offering to help a supposed pimp and prostitute evade taxes and employ 13- to 15-year-old prostitutes. It downplayed last spring's Tea Parties -- locally organized demonstrations against big government that attracted about a million people nationwide -- and downplayed the Tea Party throng at the Capitol and on the Mall on Sept. 12.

Actually "mainstream media" is doing its friends in the Obama administration and the Democratic party no favors, at least in the long run. Obama comes from one-party Chicago, and the House Democrats' nine top leadership members and committee chairmen come from districts that voted on average 73 percent for Obama last fall. They need help in understanding the larger country they are seeking to govern, where nearly half voted the other way. Instead they get the impression they can dismiss critics as racist or "Nazis" or as indulging in (as Sen. Harry Reid said) "evil-mongering."

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has warned us that there was a danger that intense rhetoric could provoke violence, and no decent person wants to see harm come to our president or other leaders. But it's interesting that the two most violent incidents at this summer's town hall meetings came when a union thug beat up a 65-year-old black conservative in Missouri and when a liberal protester bit off part of a man's finger in California.

These incidents don't justify a conclusion that all liberals are violent. But they are more evidence that American liberals, unused to hearing dissent, have an impulse to shut it down.




ACORN sues over video as IRS severs ties: "A community organizing group stepped up efforts to defend its tainted reputation on Wednesday, filing a lawsuit in Maryland against a conservative activist, as yet another government agency sought to distance itself from the group. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn, has faced a deluge of criticism after a series of videos from hidden cameras caught staff members giving advice about tax evasion, human smuggling and child prostitution to James E. O’Keefe III and a partner, who were wearing disguises. Acorn announced it would sue Mr. O’Keefe and others involved in the video on Thursday in Maryland District Court, charging that he recorded the staff members without their consent, which is illegal. … Also on Wednesday, the Internal Revenue Service announced that it would no longer include Acorn in a groups approved to offer free tax preparation.”

Ex-MA AG to oversee ACORN review: "Former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger was chosen yesterday to oversee an internal review of ACORN, placing him in the middle of a politically charged national controversy fueled by videotapes showing counselors from the grass-roots group giving advice to a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute. Harshbarger said he believes the organization chose him for the national review because of a reputation to ‘call them like I see them.’ Speaking several hours after the chairwoman of ACORN’s board of directors announced his appointment yesterday, the 67-year-old lawyer said he has long specialized in advising corporations, nonprofit groups, and government agencies about their practices, and he was eager to play a similar role amid the controversy surrounding the community advocacy group.”

Luxury carmaker wins $529 million government loan: "The Energy Department awarded a $529 million low-interest government loan to a California-based start-up luxury automaker to fund the development of an $88,000 plug-in hybrid vehicle and a future ‘family oriented’ sedan. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced the loan to Irvine-based Fisker Automotive for the development of two lines of plug-in hybrids that will save hundreds of millions gallons of gasoline and offset millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2016.”

Poll: Americans angry at Feds: "Americans are overwhelmingly angry at the U.S. government and is nearly as let down by the lack of ideas from both political parties, a new poll by Rasmussen Reports revealed Tuesday. Sixty-six percent of voters in a national poll said they’re angry at the policies of the federal government, including 36 percent who counted themselves as very angry. Thirty percent are not really angry, including 10 percent of whom say they aren’t angry at all. Among those most angry are Republicans — 90 percent of whom say they are somewhat or very angry. Seventy-seven percent of independents are angry and just 44 percent of Democrats are peeved. Among those suggesting anger abounds falls a majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents — 59 percent overall — who say the anger is greater now than it was during the Bush administration. But few believe that the political parties have an answer. Of those surveyed, 60 percent said neither Republicans nor Democrats understand what is needed and among those who claimed to be very angry, that number rises to 80 percent.”

“Capitalism: A propaganda story”: "Michael Moore, the professional freedom-hating socialism-hugging documentary filmmaker strolled onto the Jay Leno show to push his latest misnomered movie, ‘Capitalism: A Love Story.’ Not only did he show up but he showed off his utter ignorance of economics in general and capitalism in particular. And he, like many people on the political right and virtually everyone on the left, labeled capitalism as evil even as he clearly demonstrated that the evil belongs to government.”

UN: A-Jad speech prompts US walkout: "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized the U.S. and Israel in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly late today, prompting a walkout of American diplomats. ‘It is disappointing that Mr. Ahmadinejad has once again chosen to espouse hateful, offensive and anti-Semitic rhetoric,’ Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the UN, said in an e-mail issued as the Iranian leader spoke. … Ahmadinejad repeated criticisms of the U.S.-led military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and drew attention to what he saw as American complicity in the international financial crisis. The ‘engine of unbridled capital’ has stopped working and ‘liberalism and capitalism that have alienated human beings from heavenly and moral values will never bring happiness for humanity,’ he said.”

Obama regime to set higher bar for state secrecy (allegedly): "The Obama administration will announce a new policy Wednesday making it much more difficult for the government to claim that it is protecting state secrets when it hides details of sensitive national security strategies such as rendition and warrantless eavesdropping, according to two senior Justice Department officials. The new policy requires agencies, including the intelligence community and the military, to convince the attorney general and a team of Justice Department lawyers that the release of sensitive information would present significant harm to ‘national defense or foreign relations. …’ That claim was asserted dozens of times during the Bush administration, legal scholars said.”

Iran: No curvy mannequins in shop windows: "Iranian police warned shopkeepers Tuesday not to use mannequins without headscarves or which exposed body curves, official news agency IRNA reported. ‘Using unusual mannequins exposing the body curves and with the heads without Hijabs (Muslim veil) are prohibited to be used in the shops,’ Iran’s moral [sic] security police in charge of Islamic dress codes said in a statement carried by IRNA. Iranian police have stepped up a crackdown on both women and men, boutiques and small companies which fail to enforce strict religious dress codes since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to office in 2005. The measures are the latest in a country-wide campaign against Western cultural influences in the Islamic Republic, where strict dress codes are enforced.”

John Stossel on going to Fox II: "When I announced last week that I was leaving ABC for Fox, some readers complained about my ‘bias.’ I replied: ‘Every reporter has political beliefs. The difference is that I am upfront about mine.’ Look at today’s burning issue: President Obama’s pledge to redesign 15 percent of the economy. Virtually every reporter calls his health care plan ‘reform.’ But dictionaries define reform as ‘improvement.’ So before they present any evidence, reporters pronounce Obama’s plan an improvement. Isn’t that bias?”

Did Cash for Clunkers “revitalize” the auto industry?: "Contrary to what Automotive News breathlessly declared, the Cash program pretty much was what anyone with common sense and decent economic training could have predicted. It spurred sales for a while, but after the money dried up, so did the new car sales. I contend, however, that where Automotive News saw ‘momentum’ for the auto industry, in reality this program has brought long-term economic damage.”


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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