There is a lot of concern over in Left Blogistan over the growing use of eliminationist rhetoric among right-wing blogs.
The concern is valid. The collection of such excess, for use against both the speakers and their supporters, is fair game.
But I argue here that the danger is less than it appears, and that in some ways this is a good thing.
The Nixon Thesis under we have lived for nearly 40 years is based on conflict. From the beginning, as I’ve written many times, the dehumanization of dissent has been at the heart of the matter. Whenever the thesis has been threatened, the rhetoric has been ratcheted up. The result has been an abusive political marriage, with liberals either cowed or beaten into submission because the majority still believes the thesis.
This is what is in the process of ending, as we go through a new Crisis and seek a new Thesis.
Democrats remain divided even today, between those who follow the AntiThesis of Clinton, triangulating between the most extreme conservatism and liberalism, which they also assume to be extreme, and those seeking a new Thesis. This, too, is natural. Some 40 years ago Republicans were divided between those who followed the AntiThesis of Eisenhower, accepting the premises of liberalism while trying to sail against its wind, and movement conservatives who were building something new.
We know what this looked like. These were the hippies, the
dope-smokers, the followers of the Summer of Love, and their millions
of wannabes all across America. Their music, their image now dominates
our memory of that time, although they were far from the whole reality.
They were merely what was different.
I would argue that, in the context of history, this fringe defined
the dieing of liberal’s light. Some liberals at that time knew this,
and it depressed them deeply.
Just as the excess of unity set against the backdrop of an unpopular
war led to peace, love and dope 40 years ago, so it leads today, on the
right, to hate speech.
Because dominance of the mass media is an important element in the
Nixon Thesis (control it while still treating it like an enemy, the
same as is done in journalism and government) a lot of this nonsense
gets played before a mass audience.
It’s also important to note how often this rhetoric goes back to the subject of Vietnam.
Remember, political myths don’t require truth to be powerful, and the
lie that Vietnam was lost because liberals lost heart is, and always
was, at the heart of it.
I have taken to calling these people "haties" because they’re playing with hate just as hippies played with love. (The mysoginism
and male chauvinism at the heart of the hippie lifestyle have been
discussed to death.) And I think it’s vital that, at this time of
crisis, we give these idiots all the rope they need to hang themselves.
That’s because it is going to get worse before it gets better. There
are a lot of Timothy McVeighs out there — more than ever before. Their
politics as well as their persons must be discredited if we’re to move
forward. People like Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter need
to be excised from the public debate, just as the hippies and their
followers were a generation ago.
But they won’t go quietly. Just as hippie culture matasticized into
the Weather Underground, the Mansons and (in its last stage) the
Symbionese Liberation Army, so I guarantee that some of today’s Free
Republic haters are going to turn into McVeighs. But we learned from
that earlier brush with extremism. The new Thesis attached the
extremists to the body of their opponents, and then pushed it like a
dagger into the heart of all liberals, killing their movement for a
This is what we must now do to movement conservatism. And in that effort people like Glenn Beck are useful hippies indeed.
P.S. — As previously-legitimate speech becomes out-of-bounds, and as the any new political thesis becomes excess, unable to deal with new problems because it doesn’t ask the right questions, it’s this out-of-bounds political thought (defanged, of course) that becomes the heart of the next Thesis. But making that happen is a generation-long process. You, and I, and Glenn Beck will all be long dead before it comes back.