Sunday, May 23, 2010

Narratives and Projection

DougJ: How does the right do it?

If you’re an American and you believe that the government should respect habeas corpus or privacy rights or the separation of church and state, or that invading foreign countries for no reason with no plan is bad, or that torture is bad, then you hate America. If you’re a Catholic and you believe that raping children is bad or that social justice is central to Catholicism or that that it’s okay for a democratically elected representative in a secular government to vote in favor of reproductive rights, then you’re a cafeteria Catholic. If you’re Jewish and you think that nuking Tehran is a bad idea, then you’re a self-hating Jew.

How did the far right manage to do this? These are three different (if connected) arenas with three different sets of issues. Why does the right hold the patriotic/one truth faith/etc. higher ground in all of them?

I believe this is the central question of modern American politics.

  • from the comments:


    Is it possible you’re slightly over-analyzing the situation, DougJ? One answer is that the specific issues don’t matter—it’s that rightwingers are authoritarians, and someone has told them over and over what to believe is right. They can even turn on a dime when needed.


Karl Rove thinks the Obama White House, unlike its predecessors, is filled with mean people who say bad things about their political opponents.

"President Bush, for example, never allowed a White House staffer or administration spokesman to go out and do what this administration and our predecessor routinely did -- that is to engage in calling the leaders of the opposition party disparaging labels and question their motives," he said.

The underlying complaint is itself dubious. This White House has its flaws, but in the face of hysterical criticism from clowns like Rove, the president and his team have shown considerable restraint when it comes to using "disparaging labels" and questioning critics' motives.

But the irony of Rove's criticism is that he's guilty of engaging in the very tactics he's whining about now. In 2005, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) described the Bush administration's torture policies and system of secret prisons as being reminiscent of "Soviets in their gulags." As Alex Seitz-Wald reminds us, Karl Rove, at the time a high-ranking White House official, argued that Durbin's quote was evidence that liberals are anti-American traitors.

If Bush "ever allowed" his aides to question rivals' motives, why did Rove specifically question, to use his words, "the motives of liberals"?

But the larger, and arguably more entertaining point, is that Karl Rove has made a habit of blasting Obama and his team of doing the exact same things Rove did when he helped run the White House.

Rove ran a White House that embraced a "permanent campaign," so he's accused the Obama team of embracing a "permanent campaign." Rove embraced the politics of fear, so he's accused Obama of embracing the politics of fear. Rove relied on "pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted " political events, so he's accused Obama of relying on "pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted" political events. Rove looked at every policy issue "from a political perspective," so he's accused Obama of looking at every policy issue "from a political perspective." Rove snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan, so he's accused Obama of snubbing snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan. Rove had a habit of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons, so he's accused Obama of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons.

A lesser hack may find it difficult to launch political attacks that are ironic, wrong, hypocritical, and examples of projection, all at the same time, but Rove is a rare talent.

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