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Taking the wingnut temperature

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, October 25, 2010 15:08 EDT
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Roy Edroso’s Village Voice column this morning is awesome; he chronicles the rightblogger obsession with the Juan Williams situation. In doing so, he conclusively proves Glenn Greenwald’s theory that conservative outrage has nothing to do with freedom of speech, and everything to do with their firm insistence that bigotry towards Muslims should be considered unobjectionable and mainstream.

All that is very interesting, and you should read the links, but what I want to add is that reading all this made me realize that all the conservative tendencies liberal bloggers used to make fun from the beginning have really gotten so bad that they’re beyond parody. When we say they’ve lost their minds, we really mean it. Your average right wing blog post now reads like a parody that I would have written in 2006, and then tossed before I published it because I didn’t want to be accused of hyperbole. So I thought I’d organize some thoughts on what I’ve observed has really become the common wisdom amongst right wing bloggers and pundits.

If you’re not with us, you’re against us.
It was scary enough when President Bush used this phrase to threaten every country in the world that took the entirely sensible, reality-based position that it could both be true that Saddam Hussein was a bad guy and that this was no excuse for the U.S. to break international law for some old-fashioned imperialist war. Now it’s basically become the right wing version of the Golden Rule—a maxim that guides all their interactions with other people. There are allies and enemies, and nothing in between.

You see this is the universal, knee-jerk assumption that and news outlet that isn’t right wing propaganda is thereby “liberal”. The notion that NPR might have reasons outside of Stalinist thought policing for leftist intent behind their skittishness with sharing employees with a veritable propaganda outfit didn’t even occur to the right wingers that were flipping out about Williams’ firing. It was simply assumed that NPR is basically the liberal version of Fox News, a propaganda outfit with no relationship to the truth or objectivity or even old-fashioned lack of bias.

This notion that NPR is some kind of socialist propaganda network will come as a great surprise to anyone who actually listens to the station, of course. For one thing, they used to have Juan Williams as an employee, albeit in a more factually correct capacity as a conservative-leaning pundit than as the faux liberal he plays on Fox. They also have shows that are dedicated to chronicling the daily workings of capitalism with a distinctly pro-capitalist vibe, though I suppose anything but unquestioning worship at this point is taken by right wingers to be “liberal bias”. NPR is better than most news outlets about trying to do responsible journalism that sticks to the facts, but even they fall occasionally for the trick of trying to establish “balance” by having one fact-based commentator counter-balanced by some lying wingnut. I monitor them pretty carefully for their reporting on sexual health stuff for “Reality Cast”, and find that they occasionally will let anti-choicers say factually untrue things without correcting the record. But on the whole, their product is a scrupulous rendering of facts. If this appeals more to liberal listeners than conservatives, it doesn’t mean the station is liberal. It in fact points to something deeply wrong with conservatives.

Reality has a well-know liberal bias. One thing that was absolutely clear reading Roy’s round-up this morning is that right wing bloggers and pundits have completely abandoned the idea that there is a factual reality that you have to work with when forming opinions. Indeed, they’ve completely bought into the notion that “truth” can be ascertained not by how well it fits the facts, but how much it pisses off the liberals. Take, for instance, the argument du jour that anyone that tips his hand in public to the fact that he might be a believing Muslim has a high chance of being a terrorist. The “truth” of this statement is based in how politically incorrect it is, full stop. It certainly has no relationship to a sober assessment of the facts, including the fact that Muslims who are invested in their faith on all sorts of levels go about their business in this country all day every day without blowing anything up. The U.S. has 2.5 million Muslims living here currently. That means that the hijackers who took down the WTC constituted .00076% of Muslims in the U.S. Of course, that number—which got infinitely lower when said .00076% got killed—is statistically meaningless in many different ways. But that’s the point. It’s factually absurd to judge Muslims in America by the actions of a teeny-weeny minority, so teeny-weeny that you cannot generate meaningful statistics from their numbers. And yet, we’re being told that Williams was fired for telling the “truth”.

It’s also not just that the statistical likelihood that any Muslim going on a plane is going to be a terrorist is too low to even come up with a meaningful number. It’s also that Williams described a behavior that’s so ridiculously irrational that it’s not even within the realm of human possibility—he suggested that actual would-be terrorists would go out of their way to draw attention to the fact that they’re Muslim believers. Generally speaking, people who organize criminal conspiracies don’t go out of their way to draw attention to themselves. But again, the actual reality of the world we live in has no bearing on right wing assessment of “truth”. “Truth” is determined solely by how much it bolsters their prejudices and pisses off liberals.

Another example of this that cracked me up over this weekend involved this article that I tweeted. The article was basically a standard issue debunking of certain myths that have spread throughout the political landscape, often aided by anti-fact wingnuttery and loads of cash infusion from wingnut billionaires. The article was fact-based. It is factually incorrect that Obama tripled the deficit, raised middle class taxes, or instigated the bank bailout. Nonetheless, I got an angry retort from some Tea Party-loving wingnut that said, “Nothing but liberal spin &nonsense. Only a lib would write or buy this crap. Real facts are your enemy.” Except, of course, the facts in the article he objected to were fact-facts. “Real” facts, I guess, are something else. Their “truth” is based in wishing and prejudice.

I told he’d object if a “lib” said the sky was blue. He didn’t reply, I’m guessing because he didn’t know how to “nuh-uh” the liberal pointing out that he has a knee-jerk “nuh-uh” for everything “libs” say.

Liberals and conservatives can have nothing in common; there are no commonly held beliefs that can be considered neutral or mainstream. Just a few years ago, I would have honestly thought that conservatives would begrudgingly accept that opposition to bigotry was supposed to be such a universal American value that it would go without question. Now they’re all in a huff over the notion that anyone would even consider the possibility that it’s not great journalism for pundits to make factually incorrect statements about large groups of Americans based on their ethnic-religious heritage. The main reason seems to be that since the aforementioned “libs” stand by fact-based anti-bigotry, then fact-based anti-bigotry must be incorrect. There seems to be a purifying ritual going on. Anything liberals are, they can’t be, which is why we’ve had wingnuts show up here on food threads and try to taunt the “libs” by pretending there are vast dietary gulfs going on. (Is stuffing your face with junk food and refusing to eat green stuff going to turn into a form of Wingnut Kosher, or, if you prefer, Wingnut Halal? Wait and see!) I’ve also noticed that conservatives have picked up on screeching about evil “hipsters”, though with a comical inability to actually figure out what it would take to qualify as such a thing. All of this is just a matter of trying to erode any common ground that may have previously existed in a saner time.

Seriously, I give it two years before a wingnut does deny the sky is blue if a “lib” says that it is.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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