Saturday, August 8, 2009

On the Brink

I really fear our institutions are ill equipped to deal with the growing mob mentality of the right. We haven't seen anything remotely like this since the days of McCarthy, and maybe not even then.

Medicare is socialized medicine.

You are welcome.

QOTD, Sara Robinson:
This is the sign we [scholarly experts who track the growth of fascism] were waiting for -- the one that tells us that yes, kids: we are there now. America's conservative elites have openly thrown in with the country's legions of discontented far right thugs. They have explicitly deputized them and empowered them to act as their enforcement arm on America's streets, sanctioning the physical harassment and intimidation of workers, liberals, and public officials who won't do their political or economic bidding.

This is the catalyzing moment at which honest-to-Hitler fascism begins. It's also our very last chance to stop it.
  • Sudbay: These protests "reveal a new level of viciousness in America's political dialogue

    Joel Connelly explained that there is something different going on in the country:

    The health care protests are different. They are organized, manipulated by national conservative groups, and reveal a new level of viciousness in America's political dialogue. As well, there are inciters.

    "Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate," Rush Limbaugh told listeners Thursday. A few moments later, he intoned: "(The) Obama health care logo is damn close to a swastika logo."

    On the Fox News Channel, meanwhile, Glenn Beck was doing a skit with a joke about "put(ting) poison in Nancy Pelosi's wine." Beck recently called our 44th president a "racist" and charged that Obama has a "deep seated hatred for white people or the white culture."

    House Republicans seem to be taking delight at watching Democratic colleagues' town meetings being turned replicas of 1933 sessions of the Reichstag.

    House Republican leader John Boehner has chortled that House Democrats are "likely to have a very, very hot summer."
    These protests are different. The anger and the vitriol are like nothing I've ever seen. The GOP leaders (including Rush and Beck) have unleashed something truly vile and vicious.

    NOTE FROM JOHN: This shouldn't surprise us. It's what they do. They fight hard, and they fight dirty. While our side doesn't fight at all. We negotiate backroom deals with Big Pharma in the hopes that our opponents will "like" us, and join us in a chorus of cumbaya. ...
    Rep. Bob Inglis (R) of South Carolina isn't exactly a moderate -- he has one of the more conservative voting records in the House. When he held a town-hall meeting in his district on Thursday, Inglis' constituents were probably pleased to hear about his opposition to health care reform.

    But the crowd turned ugly when Inglis suggested it'd be a good idea to "turn the TV off" and stop listening to Glenn Beck. "Turn that television off when he comes on," the conservative congressman said. "Let me tell you why. You want to know why? He's trading on fear." The fearful audience responded with relentless boos for their far-right representative.

    But it got worse. Gabriel Winant reports on some of the highlights from the same event.

    [T]he more acute a questioner's paranoia, the more eager the crowd's support. The video begins with a woman saying she's afraid of President Obama and the congressman asking why -- in response, the audience erupts with people calling the president a socialist. "You should be afraid of Obama!" one says.

    Later, a woman named Rose asks about being forced to accept vaccinations, and the crowd applauds. You can hear a shout about "martial law!" One man, seemingly with the approval of his peers, describes how everyone he knows is talking about revolution. Apparently there's even widespread concern about the involvement of the federal government in the regulation of light-bulb efficiency.

    Winant, noting Inglis' conservative voting record, added, "If this guy is a sell-out Constitution-violating secular statist to a significant portion of the party base -- it's hard to know how representative this crowd really is -- then the GOP is heading to some strange places."

    "Strange" isn't the first adjective that comes to mind, but it'll do.

    Inglis later told a local blogger, "The America that Glenn Beck seems to see is a place where we all should be fearful, thinking that our best days are behind us. It sure does sell soap, but it sure does a disservice to America."

    It seems the South Carolina congressman saw the results of this disservice first hand. When even far-right lawmakers aren't quite far-right enough for the activist base, it's a dangerous situation.
  • from the comments to Benen's post:

    These people are life's losers, the ones who have not only got dead-end jobs but dead-end lives, and the only thing they had going for them was "at least you're white." And now they don't even have that. The "Republican base" we're seeing is the same social strata that a certain Austrian tapped into in Germany a few years back.

    Posted by: TCinLA on August 8, 2009 at 9:36 AM
John Cole: Just What We Needed

As if the health care debate was not already stupid enough, America’s dumbest quitter chimes in:

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Every time Sarah Palin opens her mouth I think of the old joke country song- “How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away.” I’m seriously ready for our Chinese overlords to take over. We’re just too stupid a country to function.

  • digby adds it is an Article Of Faith
    Harold Pollack has written a thoughtful response (much more thoughtful that she deserves) to Sarah Palin's claim that health care reform would result in the euthanizing of baby Trig. But Pollack attributes the talking points for this trope to Betsy McCaughey's op-ed piece, which may be true for policy and political elites, most certainly isn't for social conservatives likie Palin. As I wrote earlier, health reform resulting in euthanasia is is a strong article of faith among the right to life movement and has been for many years.

    This isn't the most important thing in the world, and Pollack's article focuses on the role of Ezekial Emmanuel, which is directly related to McCaughey's piece (and whose work is being misconstrued and used to spam blogs.) But I continue to find it a bit surprising that people didn't see this particular line of attack coming since it's been out there for so long --- and we just endured the Schiavo circus a few short years ago.

    This stuff is so fully absorbed into the psyche's of the social conservatives that all you have to do is whisper the word "euthanasia" Manchurain Candidate-style to activate the freakshow. Op-eds in the Washington Post are for the villagers, not the folks.
  • Hunter (DK) adds: Idiot Nation ...

    Seriously? I mean, come the flying monkey hell on. How is it that this hollow-headed dimwit doesn't get run out of town for statements like that? Obama's going to come murder her son?

    The whole Republican party can absolutely make stuff up, no question about it, 100% lies, no factual basis whatsoever, outrageous, known false stuff about euthanasia and "death panels" and denying care to people that are no longer "productive", stuff that's right out of the most venomous propaganda playbooks around, weird-assed, depraved, paranoid stuff that would be perfectly at home in a Henry Ford tract about the secret methods of the evil Jews or the like -- and not a goddamned news outlet on the planet is making a story out of the fact that these supposed leaders of their party are gleefully lying through their teeth about all of it, or that the "teabaggers" carrying these selfsame lies into public meetings aren't just angry Americans with a different point of view, but people spreading known, 100%-goddamn-freaking-false-and-false-from-the-very-first-time-it-was-uttered bullshit, and intentionally doing it so loud that they hope nobody can possibly shout them down.

    There's no "he-said, she-said" on a statement like "Obama's coming to murder my handicapped child." There's no damn panel of talking-head experts that need to be involved, there's no need to call on a lefty and a righty to have an honest to God televised freaking debate over where or not Obama is really going to go appoint a new government panel devoted to the task of murdering America's mentally handicapped kids. There's no Gigantic Public Calling to have the Wall Street Journal or some other Fail-in-a-fishwrap rag devote column space exploring how Americans may be "divided" on the probability of future government child-killing squads.

    What. The. Hell? If outright, astonishing, venomous child-murder-related death propaganda by some of the most prominent figures of a nation's political-supposed-discourse is not big, come-on-and-get-your-goddamn-Pulitzer-already news, what the hell is? But no -- all we get from such luminaries as the big boys of CNN these days are public statements about how even their own damn pundits can lie their asses off about whatever made-up disproven bullshit conspiracy crap they want, because that's just the way free speech is supposed to work, you pissant little asshole commoners.

    I sure to hell hope all these news outlets are being paid off or something, because I would hate to find out, ten years from now, that they really were ignoring the circuslike butchering of democracy out of star-spangled, crap-flinging, head-in-the-ass incompetence. They had better be on the take, and not really this goddamn unwilling to do their jobs just as a matter of dimwitted, bullshit-peddling laziness.


I noticed Anonymous Liberal had a tweet this morning that struck me as funny:

Next GOP talking point: it's made out of people!!!

I laughed because just this week, a friend of mine emailed a similar point:

Bold right-wing activists have leveled with the American people and explained how "Obamacare" will lead to euthanasia. Why haven't they mentioned the second part of his nefarious scheme -- to solve word hunger by converting the old folks into soylent green?

And the reason it's funny is because it isn't satire. The soylent-green talking point is already being repeated on Fox News, as if it were legitimate.

It must be challenging to be a political writer trying to parody conservative arguments. Prominent Republicans, who are either stark raving mad or pretending to be, are speaking publicly about "government-encouraged euthanasia" and "death panels." How does a satirist exaggerate for effect when the right-wing has gone mad?

tristero: Scary Times

Sara Robinson, on Dave Neiwert's blog, has an important post (the first of a series) about whether the term "fascist" applies to the escalation in disruptive, even violent behavior from the right now that we see open encouragement of that behavior even by the more "moderate" national leaders of the GOP and corporate interests.

The pessimistic conclusion of Robinson's analysis strikes me as overly dependent upon a "clockwork" notion of history. I don't think human events and politics works like that; yes, there are rough patterns, but there is also a lot more contingency than most schematics I've encountered appear to take into account. That said, what Sara writes is deeply troubling and I don't think she's wrong: far from it.

Here is the main point, but you really must read the whole thing.:

Now, the guessing game is over. We know beyond doubt that the Teabag movement was created out of whole cloth by astroturf groups like Dick Armey's FreedomWorks and Tim Phillips' Americans for Prosperity, with massive media help from FOX News. We see the Birther fracas -- the kind of urban myth-making that should have never made it out of the pages of the National Enquirer -- being openly ratified by Congressional Republicans. We've seen Armey's own professionally-produced field manual that carefully instructs conservative goon squads in the fine art of disrupting the democratic governing process -- and the film of public officials being terrorized and threatened to the point where some of them required armed escorts to leave the building. We've seen Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner applauding and promoting a video of the disruptions and looking forward to "a long, hot August for Democrats in Congress."

This is the sign we [scholarly experts who track the growth of fascism] were waiting for -- the one that tells us that yes, kids: we are there now. America's conservative elites have openly thrown in with the country's legions of discontented far right thugs. They have explicitly deputized them and empowered them to act as their enforcement arm on America's streets, sanctioning the physical harassment and intimidation of workers, liberals, and public officials who won't do their political or economic bidding.

This is the catalyzing moment at which honest-to-Hitler fascism begins. It's also our very last chance to stop it.
She promises that in a future post, she will describe how we can pull back from this awful brink. Can't wait.

John Cole: Will They Have Any Regrets

So wingnuts are now leaving threatening messages at the SEIU headquarters and urging each other to carry guns to the health care meetings, and I wonder- when this escalates and someone is killed, will the folks who have been whipping these people feel the least bit ashamed? Will the folks who have been lying about euthanizing seniors feel responsible in the slightest? Will all the seniors on government run Medicare feel silly for screaming socialism? Will John McCain, who has spent every single day of his life prospering under socialist government run medicine try to walk things back?

Will Jon Henke post some more Monty Python videos?

I’m so sick of these people. Just angry, angry, angry. And they are being manipulated by people who know better for purely political reasons. Just evil.


The New York Times' Gail Collins mentions in her column today that enraged conservatives are "following members of Congress around this summer, disrupting their constituent meetings and shrieking about socialized medicine." They are not, she noted, "following the great American tradition of dissent."

Collins adds, however, that it's better for reformers if the White House and its allies simply leave the mob to do what the mob wants to do.

Speaking of bad plans, the White House has been urging the Democrats to rally their own forces of placard-waving, sweaty, yelling supporters to confront the crazies. This makes no sense at all. It's not often that members of Congress look as sympathetic as they've been lately on YouTube, surrounded by loud and unlovable hecklers. In fact, the best chance for health care reform may be to sell it as the thing that those people pounding on the doors of a town meeting in Tampa and screaming at the fire marshals don't want.

It's not an unreasonable point. The "crazies" have proven themselves to be truly insane, complete with Nazi-related placards, death threats, and nooses. They're shutting down public forums, picking fights, spreading vile nonsense, and comparing health care reform to the Nazi Holocaust. Any reasonable person watching events unfold this week would be disgusted by what's become of the conservative opposition -- which has been organized by corporate interests and egged on by Republican leaders.

Why not, as Collins suggests, just leave them to humiliate themselves?

The answer, I suspect, is that to actually create some momentum for health care reform, there needs to be a concerted push launched by the American majority that's been waiting for reform for decades. It's not enough to simply let right-wing mobs destroy whatever remaining shreds of credibility the conservative movement had left. It's necessary for reform advocates to be vocal and public, letting the media and policymakers know there's a genuine hunger to pass, at long last, meaningful reform.

Now, this obviously doesn't mean having reform supporters act like far-right lunatics, shouting down Republican lawmakers, shutting down public events, and threatening physical violence. But Collins assumes rallying proponents is a "bad plan" because it means "confronting the crazies" and taking the focus off of mobs the American mainstream should find repulsive.

But that doesn't seem like the best way to win a policy debate. Many have tried sitting back, passively waiting for crazed activists to discredit themselves in the eyes of the political establishment. The more successful efforts have gotten in the proverbial game, rather than waiting on the sidelines. The silent tend to go unheard.

digby: He said/She said/Shut Up

Joan Walsh has a great post up today about the town hall nonsense and taking the press to task for its coverage of the health care debate in general (while giving Stephen Pearlstein a well deserved shout-out for this excellent article in the Washington Post.) She rightfully singles out the New York Times for its tepid, he said/she said (and tardy) coverage today of the town hall mobs and rightfully so. It just doesn't get any worse than this:

The tenor of some of the debates has become extreme. Ms. Pelosi has accused people at recent protests of carrying signs associating the Democratic plan with Nazi swastikas and SS symbols, and some photographs showing such signs have been posted on the Web.

Far be it for the NY Times to actually assess whether such things are true. Maybe Pelosi's lying when she "accuses" people of such things. After all, the pictures that have been posted on the web don't prove anything , right? Or the videos. Or the non-stop Nazi analogies coming from talk radio gasbags and Fox News nutballs. It just too much to expect that the NY Times would actually investigate such a charge and report on their findings.

But then I'm finding that media is behaving even more irresponsibly than usual, particularly in the cable gasbag world. For instance, take . ...


Time's Mark Halperin had an item late yesterday on his top 10 reasons "everything about the health care mobs is a national disgrace." Some of the observations are fair, some aren't.

For example, Halperin calls out media outlets for contributing to the problem, noting that coverage of the mobs "is playing into the hands of the mobsters, and "crowding out a needed national debate about health care." He added, "It is very easy to disrupt a town meeting and the (apparent) reward is getting their requisite 15 minutes of fame on television news."

He also takes on the Republican Party, arguing, "The abject weaknesses of the Republican Party and the conservative movement (in general and on health care) are on display in the reaction of their 'leaders' to the mobs." Halperin even raises a point the GOP would much prefer go ignored: "Ask Republican members of Congress who voted for President Bush's massive prescription drug entitlement law how many of them read that bill before they voted in favor of it -- or how many bills they EVER read in their entirety."

But the third point on Halperin's top 10 list seemed out of place.

The White House is understandably pushing back against and exploiting the mobs for its own political gain; while understandable, it is also shameful in its own way.

Now, the efficacy of the White House pushback strategy is open to debate -- more on that later -- but I'm not following Halperin's reasoning. As Michael Crowley noted, "The White House is 'understandably' fighting back against hysterical and frequently dishonest opposition, and that's 'shameful'?"

I suspect Halperin saw that his list went after the GOP, the right-wing mobs, and the media, so he felt compelled to bring some "balance" by criticizing the Democratic administration, which has had the audacity to try to overcome ridiculous lies with the truth.

Halperin's larger point -- the mobs are a disgrace -- is obviously compelling. But I think he put a pox on one too many houses.

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