Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Laundering hate

Given that Mr. O'Reilly has insulated himself in the hermetically sealed world that is his ego, which has found a home in the alternate Fox News Universe, it's understandable that he would be a bit confused about what the difference between liberalism (and conservatism and libertarianism) and what is commonly understood to be known as "far left" politics is. But I think we need to go ahead and get a better working understanding of it.

So since O'Reilly's Talking Points - "The Difference Between Liberals and the Far Left" failed to live up to the promise of its title, I consulted American Extremists: Militias, Supremacists, Klansmen, Communists, & Others (1996)by John George and Laird Wilcox. The authors write

The far left in America consists principally of people who believe in some form of Marxism-Leninism, i.e. some form of Communism. A small minority of extreme leftists adhere to pure Marxism or collectivist anarchism. Most far leftists scorn reforms (except as a short term tactic) and aim for the complete overthrow of the capitalist system including the U.S. government. In Lenin's view, the battle for an eight-hour work day was nothing more than a "tactical maneuver to improve the power position of the party" and those who saw it as something more were guilty of vulgar reformism.
As examples of the far left in America, the book focuses on: Communist Party USA, Socialist Workers Party, Black Panther Party, Students for a Democratic Society, Progressive Labor Party, Workers World Party, Revolutionary Action Movement, Revolutionary Communist Party, and Communist Workers Party. No doubt if the book were written today, Daily Kos would fit right in. [Blogger's Note - Sadly, this can't even count as parody or satire, as plenty of folks in O'Reilly/Malkin realm agree, but for the record, this is sarcasm.]

The groups above were not only radical, but most were also violent and militant. They were authoritarian and anti-democratic (although some of them spouted democratic rhetoric). The contrast between these groups and what O'Reilly casually and routinely categorizes as "far left" is stark. For example, Bernadine Dhorn, part of the Weathermen, said of the Charles Manson murders:

"Dig it. First they killed those pigs; then they ate dinner in the same room with them; then they even shoved a fork into a victim's stomach! Wild!"

And another example: in April 1970 the national committee of the Socialist party issued the following statment about the Black Panthers

Their totalitarian ideology and obsession with violence are not minor matters. They are not merely psychological tendencies apparent among a minority of Panther members. Nor do they spring from a need for black self defense against police oppression in the ghetto. They are a central element in a consciously held, rigorously enforced and a militarily agressive political philosophy. One may, perhaps, explain the rise of the Panthers in terms of injustice of ghetto life, just as one can explain the rise of Fascism in terms of the wartime humiliations and post-war economic collapse of the German nation. But to explain is not to justify. All genuine liberals and democratic radicals must vigorously oppose the Panther's political program.
This quote is significant in that it illustrates both how far the gap between the far left and liberalism is - given that socialists are further "left" than liberals are - and what genuine extremism actually is.

So why is it that O'Reilly is unable to differentiate between communism/socialism and liberalism? Richard Hofstadter offers us an explanation

"The fundamentalist mind ... cannot find serious importance in what it believes to be trifling degrees of difference: liberals support measures that are for all practical purposes socialistic, and socialism is nothing more than a variant of Communism, which, as everyone knows, is atheism."

It should be noted that Hofstadter was not speaking of religous fundamentalism but a secular fundamentalist style of thought that had emerged out of the fusion of religous fundamentalism and reactionary political forces in the '30s and '40s. One can see that this describes pretty accurately O'Reilly's reasoning in the Talking Points in which he merges liberals and the far left.

O'Reilly has a long tradition of accusing enemies of being communists and/or fascists. In this regard, he is a kind of generic Joe McCarthy. He has taken a standard right-wing meme and repackaged it in a manner that allows O'Reilly to make broader and more sweeping paranoid accusations than McCarthy did.

Take a look at this, for example. That's O'Reilly saying that the Atlanta Journal Constitution is a "far left publication." Really, that's just flat out absurd ... and its the sort of thing that any respectable news network should be embarrassed to have said on air. Yet that's really nothing compared to O'Reilly's latest book in which he creates a fictional cartoonish movement that he asserts is attempting to destroy "traditional" America.

"My goal is to expose and defeat people who have the power to do you great harm. My weapons will be facts and superior analysis based on those facts," says O'Reilly channeling McCarthy in the intro. The "people" O'Reilly believes have the power to "do you great harm" are "secular progressives" as the purpose of Culture Warrior is to "expose the secular-progressive movement in our country for exactly what it is, to explain why it is so harmful for America, and to identify the movement's top leaders."

See, liberals (or anyone or any entity that O'Reilly has a problem with), re-named in the No Spin Zone lexicon as "s-p"s, are radical far leftists and yet they're also - at least at Daily Kos - "no different" from the KKK and Nazis in terms of spreading hate.

What's more, O'Reilly has previously on his program stated that there really is no significant far right in America, but the far left is powerful and threatening to take over the Democratic Party. You can see O'Reilly's ego rationalization in effect here, where he has projected out not just "liberal" bias at CBS but an entire "s-p" movement trying to attack O'Reilly and his network because they're defending "tradtional" America in order to dissipate the dissonance that should result from him being a part of Fox News, which is itself a part of the conservative movement - the most significant and powerful political movement in the country.

So let me quote the aforementioned authors again

The core values of the American right are individualism, capitalism, religiosity, and nationalism. This has been consistent for most of the twentieth century.

The great majority of far right organizations and individuals tend to adhere to an ideology that includes: strong support for religion (primarily Christianity), intense nationalism/patriotism, anti-Marxism, antiliberalism, anti-social-democracy, and support for nations that are traditional authoritarian dictatorships. In addition, a number of extreme right organizations have developed convoluted conspiracy theories that embrace some elements of superstition and mysticism, such as the "Illuminati" and Masonic conspiracies.

Many right extremist groups focus on ethnic/racial chauvinism as the main component of their ideology - Aryan Nations, the various Ku Klux Klans, the Nation of Islam, and the New Order, for example. Others, such as the John Birch Society and Christian Crusade, eschew ethnic/racial prejudice as part of their ideology.
So from that what does it sound like America is closer to? The far left or the far right?

The authors list the John Birch Society and the Christian Right as examples of the far right. Tim LaHaye, a former JBS organizer and one of the leading figures of the Dominionist movement, has seen his Left Behind novels sell around 60 million copies in one form or another. He also founded the secretive yet influential Council for National Policy.

Pat Robertson shows up in the book as another far right figure. If you want to see how close the Republican party has come into transforming into a religious party, then check out how many members of Congress score 80 to 100 percent from the Christian Coalition.

You can probably guess that Jerry Falwell - a guy who said that the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision was a Satanic plot - counts for the Christian Right, too. See here for the role Falwell played in shaping the course of American politics.

James Dobson, the guy with more influence than Falwell or Robertson? Yep, he's there.

Guess who has interacted with all of them? That's right! Bill O'Reilly. Here we have O'Reilly promoting the Left Behind books of LaHaye. Also: O'Reilly telling James Dobson about how "s-p"s don't have any morals, O'Reilly appearing on the 700 Club to let Pat Robertson know he's a "traditional" American (more on this in a moment) and O'Reilly interviewing Jerry Falwell after Falwell told an audience that the anti-Christ will be Jewish and telling Fallwell that he should reconsider making such statements because his opponents will attempt to smear him.

But, you might protest, didn't Bill lecture Hillary Clinton about not promoting or legitimizing hate? Yes, he did - but in his mind he's not a hypocite because when it comes down to it, at a fundamental level O'Reilly doesn't really disagree with these folks.

"LaHaye", the authors tell us, "also writes that humanists are amoral, one world socialists." The only difference here between O'reilly and LaHaye is one of terminology.

After 9/11, Robertson and Falwell went on tv and blamed the attack on people "who have tried to secularize America" for having incurred God's wrath. Remember O'Reilly's outrage over Ward Churchill's comments about 9/11? Where is his outrage over what Robertson and Falwell had to say? It's funny how O'Reilly's outrage always seem to come out in a fashion that helps to white-wash the hate of some of the most bigoted figures in the country. Take, for instance, O'Reilly using Falwell's death as an opportunity to attack "s-p"s or O'Reilly threatening to cut a guest's mic when she told him that Bill Donohue is a bigot (he is.)

I'll digress here for a moment. Donohue has said that "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular ... Hollywood likes anal sex." Here we have O'Reilly telling us that Daily Kos spreads hate just like Nazis and the KKK, but when someone tries to inform him that Bill Donohue has made statements that, at least, are structurally similar to the bigotry expressed by the likes of Nazis and the KKK he becomes outraged and orders the guest not to smear Donohue.

Why? As I said, I suspect its because O'Reilly's bias blinds him to the hypocrisy, because at a fundamental level he agrees with these guys that America is under assault from subversive, radical anti-Christian forces. Just take a look at this?

It's hard to be optimistic when fundamental creeds like America's Judeo-Christian philosophy, like competitive capitalism, like responsibility for one's actions are all under fire by the likes of George Soros and other "open society people."

Even the optimism of President Reagan would be challenged by organizations like the ACLU, the NAACP, and some large urban newspapers who want to tear down traditional America and replace it with a secular entitlement-driven system.
What O'Reilly does is to launder the hate of these figures ... he repackages it in a more palatable form that is free of some of the more absurd and obvious characteristics of their bigotry. There are so many examples of O'Reilly serving as the medium for the transmission of Religious Right bigotry that it's hard to know where to start ... this is partly why I've found it difficult to finalize this post. Here's an example of O'Reilly giving a sympathetic forum to a representative from the Traditional Values Coalition. That's the same TVC that said this two years later

The list goes on, but it is important to see the coalition that has formed: Islamists, Marxists, Hollywood Liberals, and Homosexual activist groups – all aligned with the Revolutionary Communist Party to vilify President Bush, Christians, and the war against Islamic terrorism.


A dangerous Marxist/Leftist/Homosexual/Islamic coalition has formed – and we’d better be willing to fight it with everything in our power. These people are playing for keeps. Their hero, Mao Tse Tung is estimated to have murdered upwards of 60 million people during his reign of terror in China. Do we think we can escape such persecution if we refuse to fight for what is right?
What was that again O'Reilly was saying about not legitimizing "hate" groups?

And lest you forget ... according to O'Reilly the "traditional" American power structure just so happens to be mostly white Christian males and that O'Reilly believes the "far left" (e.g. the New York Times) wants to "change the complexion" of the USA by "flood[ing] the country with foreign nationals." In the post I wrote about O'Reilly revealing his "white, Christian, male" persecution complex I stated

I tend to think that s-p/traditional was something O'Reilly came up with for marketing purposes, but I begin to wonder if it has something more to it than that ... perhaps O'Reilly is creating a cognitive model that allows him to blind himself to the inherent prejudice of his beliefs.
I'm finding this conclusion harder and harder not to draw, especially when one keeps coming across ambigous comments that sound vaguely racist such as O'Reilly last night saying that he doesn't want Mexicans "clustering in neighborhoods and changing the tempo of the whole neighborhood" or not so ambiguous comments like calling Mexicans "wetbacks."

This is an idea I've been turning over for a couple of years now. That as the American zeitgeist shifted and racism/bigotry became something less socially acceptable, the standard right-wing "conservative Christian America is under assault" meme evolved and became more generic. The example I've been using of this is the war on Christmas meme (which has evolved and changed to successively accuse Jews, Communists, Liberals, and finally S-Ps for supposedly waging war on Christianity vis-a-vis X-mas), but the best articulation I've seen of his point is by Michelle Cottle in an article for The New Republic about Ann Coulter.

Once upon a time, people were allowed to harbor all sorts of ugly prejudices against blacks, Jews, gays, Catholics, Mexicans, the Japanese, the Irish, uppity women--you name it. Ugly or not, it's human nature to pin your troubles on The Other--however you choose to define it. Can't find a job? Blame the Mexicans. Crime on the rise? Blame the blacks. Can't find an adequately adoring wife willing to put up with all your crap? Blame the feminists.

But increasingly it is socially unacceptable to badmouth individuals simply because they are members of a particular race, religion, ethnic group, etc.--or to attribute unflattering characteristics to such groups. You can decry what certain groups do--for instance, threatening the institution of marriage by (gasp!) demanding that two men be allowed to get hitched, or making a mockery of the law by sneaking across the U.S.-Mexican border in search of lousy jobs--but not who they are. Obviously old fashioned bigotry will never completely die out. But in today's stereotype-averse culture, there are fewer and fewer places where jokes about blacks/Mexicans/Jews being lazy/dishonest/greedy will earn you hearty laughs rather than uneasy glances--or a pop on the nose. And 9/11 angst notwithstanding, an overly broad remark about Arabs or Muslims can get you labeled an ass-backward bigot faster than you can say "Pat Robertson."

So what's an angry, frightened populace to do with all that pent-up desire to name-call and finger-point? Easy: Channel it at folks in the opposing political camp. For hard-right wing-nuts this means attributing every filthy characteristic imaginable to Democrats/Liberals/the left, ascribing venal motives to their every action, and blaming them for every misfortune to have befallen your beloved country over the past half century. Under the new rules of the game, you still can't deride Mexicans--but it's perfectly acceptable to deride liberals for pushing policies that allow Mexicans somehow to screw up your life. Ditto blacks, Asians, Eskimos, Episcopalians, and lesbians named Jackie. As a bonus, partyism can be rationalized as a more thoughtful brand of bigotry--since theoretically your hatred is an expression of political philosophy: You don't loathe liberals (or conservatives) for who they are but what they do. As practiced, of course, the phenomenon increasingly goes well beyond hating the sin into the realm of hating the sinner. Thanks to my Republican upbringing, I have long-time friends who sincerely believe that whatever Democrats/liberals/lefties do/believe/advocate by definition must be either irredeemably wicked or irretrievably stupid. (Some of them, I suspect, still pray for my full recovery.)
"A more thoughtful brand of bigotry" ... Cottle is not the first to notice this. In his essay "The Psuedo-Conservative Revolt" Richard Hofstadter wrote (bold emphasis mine)

Sociological studies have shown that there is a close relation between social mobility and ethnic prejudice. Persons moving downward, and even upward under many circumstances, in the social scale tend to show greater prejudice against such ethnic minorities as the Jews and Negroes than commonly prevails in the social strata they have left or are entering.12 While the existing studies in this field have been focused upon prejudice rather than the kind of hyper-patriotism and hyper-conformism that I am most concerned with, I believe that the typical prejudiced person and the typical pseudo-conservative dissenter are usually the same person, that the mechanisms at work in both complexes are quite the same, and that it is merely the expediencies and the strategy of the situation today that cause groups that once stressed racial discrimination to find other scapegoats. Both the displaced old-American type and the new ethnic elements that are so desperately eager for reassurance of their fundamental Americanism can conveniently converge upon liberals, critics, and nonconformists of various sorts, as well as Communists and suspected Communists. To proclaim themselves vigilant in the pursuit of those who are even so much as accused of "disloyalty" to the United States is a way not only of reasserting but of advertising their own loyalty — and one of the chief characteristics of American super-patriotism is its constant inner urge toward self-advertisement. One notable quality in this new wave of conformism is that its advocates are much happier to have as their objects of hatred the Anglo-Saxon, Eastern, Ivy League intellectual gentlemen than they are with such bedraggled souls as, say, the Rosenbergs. The reason, I believe, is that in the minds of the status-driven it is no special virtue to be more American than the Rosenbergs, but it is really something to be more American than Dean Acheson or John Foster Dulles — or Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The status aspirations of some of the ethnic groups are actually higher than they were twenty years ago — which suggests one reason (there are others) why, in the ideology of the authoritarian right-wing, anti-Semitism and such blatant forms of prejudice have recently been soft-pedaled. Anti-Semitism, it has been said, is the poor man’s snobbery. We Americans are always trying to raise the standard of living, and the same principle now seems to apply to standards of hating. So during the past fifteen years or so, the authoritarians have moved on from anti-Negroism and anti-Semitism to anti-Achesonianism, anti-intellectualism, anti-nonconformism, and other variants of the same idea, much in the same way as the average American, if he can manage it, will move on from a Ford to a Buick.
And I'm not the only one who has picked up on O'Reilly acting (unconsciously and not deliberately, I believe) as a kind of bridge between the more standard (and extreme) "right-wing" hate memes. Dave Neiwert, responding himself to O'Reilly's "white, Christian, male" comments noted

While I was cruising through far-right racist websites -- something I do with some regularity anyway -- I kept running across a familiar theme: white male Christians are under siege, an "endangered species," and "white culture" is likewise on the brink of vanishing in a swamp of brown people.

Even though we've been hearing this pap from the white-supremacist right for lo these many decades now (really, this meme dates back to the early 20th century), and it has been a standard plaint of neo-Nazi and Klan websites for most of their existence, there was a reason it kept popping up on my radar: I was looking for material relating to Bill O'Reilly.
I said before that O'Reilly is a kind of generic Joe McCarthy. I don't think I've seen a quote that better illustrates that than this one:

I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that. And we have succeeded. You know we've succeeded. They are on the run in corporations, in the media, everywhere. They are on the run, because I will put their face and their name on television, and I will talk about them on the radio if they do it. There is no reason on this earth that all of us cannot celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together. There is no reason on the earth that we can't do that. So we are going to do it. And anyone who tries to stop us from doing it is gonna face me.
Not only does this statement display O'Reilly's demonization of "s-p"s, it also shows how he can so perfectly act as a medium for the transmission of the Dominionist message ..."oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces" are assaulting "traditional" America ... that IS the Dominionist (also see here) message, as well as being pretty much the same message peddled by white supremacists with the exception that they add in "anti-White" forces. The only difference is the name given to the designated scape-goat and the fact that O'Reilly most likely does not share the totalitarian theocratic vision that the likes of Falwell, Robertson, LaHaye, or white supremacists (like the ones who belong to Christian Identity) adhere to.

And let's just pause here and fully take in the planet sized dose of hypocrisy/double standard eminating out from O'Reilly: he called Pat Robertson a "traditional" American. By doing that, O'Reilly legitimized a man who is a hate-monger/bigot/conspiracy theorist par excellence. Where in the world can he possibly find the nerve to lecture the rest of the country on not legitimizing the "hate" of Daily Kos?

Ah, I almost forgot .. the John Birch Society. How about this: three examples (in addition to LaHaye's origins in the society) that come to the top of my head that should be enough to rebut O'Reilly's contention that "the far left" is more significant than "the far right" in America.

1.Ann Coulter being invited to speak at the CPAC convention year after year to see that JBS style extremism (Joe McCarthy is Coulter's hero and was a victim of liberal treason according to her) is now the mainstream of movement conservatism.

2. Glenn Beck bringing a John Birch Society representative on his CNN program to help spread conspiracy theory.

3. Regnery, the company that in the 50's published the work of JBS founder Robert Welch, publishing a revisionist book as part of a popular series by a racist JBS sympathizer and then O'Reilly's Fox News colleague Sean Hannity promoting said book.

I'm getting burned out on tracking this subject, but for more on the influence of the JBS and how the mainstream of movement conservatism has been shifting towards it, see Michelle Goldberg's work on the subject.

O'Reilly's statement that the far right is marginalized in America but the far left is threatening to capture the Democratic party is the opposite of the truth: he has inverted reality in order to make it more suitable for his ego. And in the process, he's helped to spread the hate of some of the most reactionary and bigoted people in this country.

Addendum: After posting this I started to surf the net a bit, and I came across this post from Ed Brayton about the hilarious letter written by Jesus General in response to an exchange Brayton had with Faith2Action in regards to Janet Folger promoting anti-gay lies originating partly from Aryan Nation propaganda. I said to myself, "I bet at some point she was on the O'Reilly Factor and got a sympathetic ear."

Guess what? She was.

The controversy about Harriet Miers raises a larger question about media hostility toward Christians. "I started noticing the attacks on Christians about a dozen years ago," author Janet Folger told The Factor "What we see now in sitcoms, movies and news reports is that Christians are depicted as kooks, idiots, and criminals." Journalism professor Bob Mann disagreed with Folger's contention. "As one who has worked for six newspapers, I have never encountered a single reporter or editor who would be opposed to giving both sides of this issue. I did not see either Molly Ivins or Maureen Dowd say Harriet Miers is not fit for public office because she is a Christian." The Factor pointed to statistics that indicate a vast gulf between the media and the public. "90% of Americans believe in God, while for journalists the number is 70%. The country is about 9% atheist or agnostic, but 20% of American journalists are. Atheists and agnostics are in the media far beyond the rest of society."


Howiecopywriter said...

That is quite a blast. But, maybe they are in these fundi driveling, to cover up that the financial system is a giant gambling casino. That they and their friends want to keep getting the money, even though it will destroy civilization.

gawker said...

Excellent post, HG. And I think Michelle Cottle's analysis was spot on.

Alan said...


A much anticipated post that did not fail to deliver. Great job.

Thanks for putting in what must have been hours upon hours of research.

Now if you can just get a link from DailyKos or Greenwald....

Although, DailyKos is not totally my cup of tea (especially the comments), O'Reilly's attack on DailyKos is ludicrous and hypocritical as you have most adeptly pointed out.