Monday, September 6, 2010

Working ourselves up

Ross Douthat:
Paranoid About Paranoia

Makes some good points about the ratcheting up of political rhetoric -- that, apart from some rare but real crazies, the talk is overblown on both sides for effect. Bu$h is Hitler, Obama is an Islamist terrorist, etc. -- these aren't things that anyone really believes but are just ways of verbally puffing oneself up, signalling that "You really need to pay attention to me and what I'm saying, not because it's particularly reasonable but because I'm like, you know, really mad about it!"

In one sense, this is old hat, at least in America -- see the book Infamous Scribblers: the Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American Journalism by Eric Burns for some good, dirty fun involving attack politics in the early years of the Republic. What seems a bit different now, to me at least, is that the sides are more ideological, or more consciously so, than previously. That too may just be an illusion, due to the shifting nature of the ideological divisions, but, on the other hand, it may be that political venom comes to a head at times of greater political and ideological change. In which case, expect a lot more rhetorical overkill before things calm down.


  1. You tend to oversimplify matters, as does Douthat. The IWE issue is not addressed merely by "Bu$hHitler" . Recall the lengthy articles re the WMDs, and the evidence--the lack thereof (Harpers did a good job with that). The right continually sweeps that under the rug, ala Nixonian tradition; and really the Demos have dropped the issue as well, per ChairDame Pelosi (who supported the IWE). Check out some of Bugliosi's writing on BushCo, the IWE, and the misrepresentation of dangers due to WMD's.

    The bipartisan Robb Silvermann report cast doubts on the intelligence/"fact finding" back in 2005 (some of us were skeptical circa 2003, when the GOP spinmeisters--and quite a few liberal hawks (Hitchens & pals) insisted that Iraq had ties to Afghan/Al Qaeda).

  2. Ah, so it's only the right that's worked up. Sorry, J, but if I had the patience I'm sure I could come with a lot of similar "evidence" for Obama's Muslim ties, birther problems, etc. But I don't.

    ("IWE" = "Iraqi Women's Engagement"??)

    Fwiw, btw, the whole WMD issue was a) recognized by prominent liberals/Democrats and reasonable independents at the time as a serious concern, b) never the only reason for for the invasion, and c) magnified by the left, after no active weapons were found, as a purely partisan attack issue. That said, what I'm not going to do now is get into a long and dreary recap of the years of hyperventilating over it.

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  4. IWE: Iraqi war effort.

    The WMD issue--ie the misrepresentation of dangers due to WMDs-- is not purely partisan, except insofar that the purely right-wing simply ignores the issue (then so are the mainstream Demos). It may be tedious boring dull, etc. But that doesn't at all negate the possibility that the war (at least in Iraq) and approx. 200,000+ iraqi civilian deaths (some claim higher) occurred mainly because of false pretenses (or at best misrepresentation). Bugliosi's not exactly a d-Kos leftie either. Neither were the people on the Robb-Silvermann team. BushCo should be on trial...for war crimes, at least.


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