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October 09, 2007

What Has Happened To The Right?

Something has gone wrong on the Right. Become sick and twisted and tumorous and ugly. To visit Michelle Malkin's cave is to see politics at its most savage, its most ferocious, its most rageful. They say they've spent the past week smearing a child and his family because that child was fair game -- he and his family spoke of their experience receiving health care through the State Children's Health Insurance Program. For this, right wingers travel to their home, insinuate that the family is engaged in large-scale fraud, make threatening phone calls to the family, interrogate the neighbors as to the family's character and financial state.

This is the politics of hate. Screaming, sobbing, inchoate, hate. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to drive to the home of a Republican small business owner to see if he "really" needed that tax cut. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to call his family and demand their personal information. It would never occur to me to interrogate his neighbors. It would never occur to me to his smear his children.

The shrieking, atavistic ritual of personal destruction the right roars into every few weeks is something different than politics. It is beyond politics. It was done to Scott Beauchamp, a soldier serving in Iraq. It was done to college students from the University of California, at Santa Cruz. Currently, it is being done to a child and his family. And think of those targets: College students, soldiers, children. It can be done to absolutely anyone.

This is not politics. This is, in symbolism and emotion, a violent group ritual. It is savages tearing at the body of a captured enemy. It is the group reminding itself that the Other is always disingenuous, always evil, always lying, always pitiful and pathetic and grotesque. It is a bonding experience -- the collaborative nature of these hateful orgies proves that much -- in which the enemy is exposed as base and vile and then ripped apart by the community. In that way, it sustains itself, each attack preemptively justifying the next vicious assault, justifying the whole hateful edifice on which their politics rest.

It is a blessing and relief that these mobs, as of yet, do nothing more than smear, that the blood they exult in is figurative and the inflicted harm is emotional or occupational. But they are howling, braying, thirsty mobs nonetheless, and their frequent, communal savagings of chosen representatives of their enemies is ugly and unsettling. It's impossible not to wonder when the first one will drive by a house, and then decide to ring the doorbell, and then. Indeed, it's already come damn close.

Christy Hardin Smith, has more, as does Digby. Think Progress has the facts of the story. And it's worth following some of the links, including the one to Malkin's attack on college students from years past. Malkin is, last I looked, the highest traffic rightwing blogger. What she's channeling is real, and it should repulse and worry decent people, no matter their political orientation.

Update: Read Jim Henley too. In fact, I'll quote him for you:

What we’re seeing here is the same tactics of personal destruction Movement Republicanism previously justified as necessary to winning The Greatest War Ever, now normalized as appropriate to handling a budget dispute. They wanted to get Jamil Hussein arrested or killed. They wanted Scott Beauchamp ruined or even fragged. They clearly want to destroy the Frost family. That’s why you just show up at someone’s workplace implying to their bosses and co-workers that they are liars, that they are trouble. To ruin them.

They wanted a war. Now they want everything to be a war. Any war.

October 9, 2007 | Permalink


I dunno.

Saying that a family (or child) becomes "fair game," as Mark Steyn does at The Corner, is wrong. One's political opponents, ultimately, are opponents - not traitors, not threats to one's survival.

But I read the adjectives and nouns in this post and ask if this is going to help.

"sick and twisted and tumorous and ugly", "shrieking, atavistic" "howling, braying, thirsty mobs" and so on.

There's "The Right," and there are decent people. Sigh. I suppose.

"You're "The Other!"" "No, you are!" "You!" "You!"

I worry that if you treat others as though they're disgusting, you run the risk of becoming disgusting yourself.

I'm just sayin'.

Posted by: Andrew | Oct 9, 2007 5:04:48 PM

You have to call a spade a spade. Something disgusting and ugly is occurring. I'm calling it what it is. What I;m not doing is digging into Malkin's past, or calling her husband, or visiting her home.

Posted by: Ezra | Oct 9, 2007 5:06:36 PM

For this, right wingers travel to their home to inspect its worth
I remember reporters reporting on the worth of the homes of parents of the accused in the Duke Lacrosse rape hoax.
Why no outrage then?

Posted by: Paul L. | Oct 9, 2007 5:07:53 PM

What she's channeling is real, and it should repulse and worry decent people, no matter their political orientation.

Yes, Malkin and Coulter and Limbaugh and the whole army of rightwing media hacks are scary on several levels, but few (okay, Malkin & a few others) seem nuts enough to actually believe everything they say. The problem is that they have audiences who are sick, savage people, but it's virtually impossible to say that hey, a significant number of 'regular Americans' make rabid animals look sane & rational. I honestly don't know how best to counterattack when they have highly visible, if somewhat insincere, media figures to draw fire. Somehow it worked out okay for the wingers to say hideous things about people like you or me, attacking our patriotism, intelligence (!), motives, relationships, and anything else they could think of, while we have legitimate grounds to condemn these nutburgers and are still constrained, because no one will back us if we insult fellow citizens.

Sigh... this is one of those why-the-hell-bother days, I'm afraid. Seriously, given enough money I'd invest in some property outside the US, the way things look right now.

Posted by: latts | Oct 9, 2007 5:09:52 PM

Interestingly, when the UC Santa Cruz story broke I thought -- well, why not find out where Malkin lives. And I did rather quickly. But it stopped there. The notion of posting it was so self-evidently wrong that by the time the results were on screen I had rejected the idea completely. (It was also in short driving distance from me as well, but, again, the notion of showing up at someone's house to intimidate them because you disagree with their politics is a scary one.)

The use of the term fascist is probably overdone in left wing circles, but there is indeed a strong whiff of fascism about these people. Hatred is at the core of their political experience and the desire to crush the other, particularly a powerless "different" other, runs deep in their collective veins.

Posted by: Klein's Tiny Left Nut | Oct 9, 2007 5:10:52 PM

Well, the conservative mantra has always been this: work for yourself, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, save money for retirement, make sure your kids work hard in school, and raise a family.

Once you do all of these things but then choose to support Democrats, however, you become a target for harrassment.

This family is every right-wing conservative's dream family, and yet they drive Michelle Malkin up the wall with rage. Let's see what sins the family committed: working for themselves and eeking out a modest income. Owning a home in a poor neighborhood and being an upstanding member of the community, having one child become academically smart enough to get a scholarship to a private school and another child a beneficiary of a public program to give the child access to the special-needs education she needs. And it was possible because they weren't bankrupted by health care expenses.

This serves as an implicit threat-- if you ever support Democrats because they helped you achieve the American dream, the right will make sure to try their best to punish you for it. The middle class is supposed to remain struggling and silent and thankful for crumbs that get tossed to them, not publicly discussing how programs that had helped them could help others.

If they were a rich family who had to pay estate taxes, conservatives would be leaping to defend them. If they were a poor family whose children were failing out of school, they would have been regarded as part of the problems that are destroying our social fabric and corrupting the purity of essence of our precious bodily fluids. Either of those would have made them acceptable public examples for conservatives. But to eek out a barely-middle class lifestyle and thrive with the benefit of SCHIP? It's a sign that they're too uppity.

Posted by: Tyro | Oct 9, 2007 5:18:38 PM

Well, Ezra, you can call a spade a spade. You're one of the most skillful policy analysts writing in the blog format right now, who genuinely helps me see things more clearly at least half the time I log on to your site, or TAPPED.

But why is what you write, in this post, different to a Coulter or a Medved or a Free Republic or ... ?

"Those [red state/blue state] types are vile and nasty (add loathesome adjectives)."

Some individuals - Steyn, Malkin - may have behaved badly. Fair enough. We can point this out without adopting their methods - a howl of disgust, a cry of "unclean!"

Read your fourth paragraph again, and see if it can be taken as anything other than saying that "the Right," as a collective group, are "... howling, braying, thirsty mobs nonetheless, and their frequent, communal savagings of chosen representatives of their enemies is ugly and unsettling."

That's not calling a spade a spade. That's just name calling.

Posted by: Andrew | Oct 9, 2007 5:19:26 PM

You may see it as name calling. You're certainly allowed to. I see it as a very accurate description of a very scary tendency being repeatedly exhibited on the right. What they're doing does strike me as savage and visceral. And I won't speak of it politely, draining the outrage and anger from the writing -- because I think that would make my writing less true to the act being described. I think we're seeing a group bonding ritual playing out. To describe this in the terms Id use for a policy debate would make me necessarily unclear.

Posted by: Ezra | Oct 9, 2007 5:24:53 PM

Cue concern troll in 3...2...1...aw, shit, too late.

Posted by: Captain Goto | Oct 9, 2007 5:27:08 PM

Andrew, Malkin's home address is relative public knowledge. You don't see Ezra posting it here and telling people to check out her house and harass her neighbors and employer, do you? No? Then he's obviously not acting just like the hateful right wing idiots, is he?

For those that have right-wing family members they will have to deal with during thanksgiving, you have my sympathies. Normally, one can bite one's tongue when listening to their pointless, meaningless trivialities. But if they start bitching and moaning about a struggling middle class family trying to get by in Baltimore, it's going to be tough not to call them a bunch of heartless, misanthropic jerks.

Posted by: Tyro | Oct 9, 2007 5:31:54 PM

It's not name-calling, Andrew. Those are merely well-chosen adjectives. Let's turn this around a bit. What if Ezra was describing, say, Jane Hamsher as "brilliant, beautiful and successful"? Would he be wrong? Methinks not.

Malkin is the flipside and Ezra has every damn right to say so.

Incidentally, how would you describe Michelle Malkin? Moderate?

Posted by: ts | Oct 9, 2007 5:32:07 PM

The attack about the private school tuition strikes me as possibly even more stupid than the rest of this stupid stupidity. Aren't rightwingers the ones telling us public education is a disaster and that parents should be able to send their kids to private schools? And aren't rightwingers the ones who tell us that private charity, not government action, should be the preferred means of helping people in need? And yet when a private school makes a decision to offer a large tuition subsidy to a child who needs it, that's somehow a sign that the child's parents are some sort of degenerate, unfit monsters. Disgusting and incoherent all at the same time.

Posted by: Chris G. | Oct 9, 2007 5:32:31 PM

But why is what you write, in this post, different to a Coulter or a Medved or a Free Republic or ... ?

Please tell me how you would describe Malkin without saying anything nasty about her or her behavior. Try it, dude. I dare you.

There are times when even cool, collected wonks such as Big Daddy Ezra K have to lose it in order to express the proper disgust at the wingnutosphere's actions- in this case the vicious and personal attack on a family whose crime was going to the government for health insurance.

There is no rational way to respond to stuff like this other than to say, "These are VERY VERY bad people."

Posted by: Brad R. | Oct 9, 2007 5:35:28 PM

I agree with Ezra's initial comments and his reply to Andrew.

Two groups of people can call each other lynch mobs. But only the one with the rope and the dead body deserves the title.

Posted by: Philly Boy | Oct 9, 2007 5:38:47 PM


I guess the Democratic Party's tactic of hiding behind a 12-year-old child was, in retrospect, not such a neat idea after all. Does that mean that the Dems will stop hiding behind 12-year-old children in the future?

Posted by: TLB | Oct 9, 2007 5:42:50 PM

Well said, Ezra.

Posted by: lux | Oct 9, 2007 5:46:21 PM

Brad R: Ezra's post didn't say "Michelle Malkin has become sick and twisted and tumorous and ugly." He described "The Right" in those terms. Last time I checked, 40% of the adults in this country described themselves as being conservative.

If you think it helps progressives' cause by getting into a food fight, where the tribunes of the Right say that liberals are godless, treasonous, vicious, scum, while the champions of the Left say that conservatives IN GENERAL are participants in hateful, howling, braying mobs, well, have at it, I guess.

For me, I find the writing and public comments of Limbaugh, Coulter and Malkin absurd, distasteful, and repugnant. I don't see any reason why we should have to "lose it," and become like them.

That was Ezra's substantive point, and it's the right one. For me, though, it got lost in the disgust at "the Right" in general. I can't see how this helps.

Posted by: Andrew | Oct 9, 2007 5:59:39 PM

TLB: Ask your God George Bush. He hid behind kids a couple of days before he vetoed the bill.

Posted by: DoubtingThomas | Oct 9, 2007 6:01:16 PM

I guess the Democratic Party's tactic of hiding behind a 12-year-old child was, in retrospect, not such a neat idea after all.

Well gee whiz, this is a fine case of blaming the victim, isn't it?

Tell me, oh sagely Lone Wacko, does this pro-abstinence education video featuring kids give me free reign to dig into their personal lives and find out if they're "REALLY" virgins? Because that's basically the same thing Malkin is doing to this family. It's demented and creepy.

Posted by: Brad R. | Oct 9, 2007 6:02:10 PM

This is well-put, but I don't think it's anything new. You should have seen these foul souls back in the Reagan 80s.

Posted by: Roxanne | Oct 9, 2007 6:04:36 PM

But why is what you write, in this post, different to a Coulter or a Medved or a Free Republic or ... ?

For the same reason they do. It's a cheap pop of face heat.

Posted by: Senescent | Oct 9, 2007 6:05:35 PM

You got it right Ezra...heh, just read the other day(sorry-it may be old news) that Miss Coulter thinks women should stop being given the right to vote, since the majority of women vote Democratic.

Posted by: Texican | Oct 9, 2007 6:06:04 PM

I guess the Democratic Party's tactic of hiding behind a 12-year-old child was, in retrospect, not such a neat idea after all. Does that mean that the Dems will stop hiding behind 12-year-old children in the future?

You mean like when the Democrats rolled a nine year old out to sell the dismantling of Social Security? Or when they used a young girl who lost her mother on 9/11 to help Bush get re-elected? Or when they shoved a bunch of "snowflake children" in front of cameras to score points on the stem cell debate? Yeah, those Democrats are ALWAYS using kids to do their dirty work, aren't they?

Funny, I don't remember anyone going to those folks' homes and harassing them, or posting their addresses online.

What a cocksucker.

Posted by: Seitz | Oct 9, 2007 6:06:34 PM

TLB, I've lost track of how many times Republicans have hidden behind children to push their policies. It was done on stem-cell, with the "snowflake" children. It is currently being done right now with the ads advocating abstaining from sex until marriage. It was even done during the Foley scandal.

The difference between the left and the right is that it wouldn't occur to us to attack children---and if it did occur, after this escapade of brutality by the right, we'd reject as completely immoral.

Having people advocate policies they agree with is not wrong. Saying that the policies those people want are not good policies is not wrong. Attacking a 12-year-old kid is wrong.

But to the far right nowadays, anything they do is by definition right, anything anyone who disagrees with them does is by definition wrong. That is why Moveon criticizing a general is treason, but their criticism of soldiers is perfectly acceptable.

Thus, actions are not right or wrong---only people. So Malkin can stalk and attempt to intimidate this family, and its fine, because she's Michelle Malkin. She, and those that defend her, are without any sense of decency or honor.

Posted by: JoshA | Oct 9, 2007 6:07:32 PM

I guess the Democratic Party's tactic of hiding behind a 12-year-old child was, in retrospect, not such a neat idea after all. Does that mean that the Dems will stop hiding behind 12-year-old children in the future?
Posted by: TLB | Oct 9, 2007 5:42:50 PM

Worked pretty damn well for a certain president who froze still for an hour or so at an elementary school on the morning of Sept 11, 2001.

Posted by: chowchowchow | Oct 9, 2007 6:17:38 PM

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