Thursday, August 30, 2007

See no evil, hear no evil, call your political opponent evil

In the post of Dave Neiwert's that I mentioned on Tuesday Mr. Neiwert links to Tim Grieve at Salon who wonders what Sean Hannity would have to say if some left-leaning singer said the sort of comments that Ted Nugent made.

Well, Grieve doesn't have to speculate because, as one of the commenters at Dispatches from the Culture Wars pointed out, on the May 2, 2007 edition of Hannity & Colmes the show featured commentary on Rage Against the Machine lead singer Zach de la Rocha saying on stage that the current administration "should be hung (sic), tried, and shot" for being war criminals. And guess who was one of the guests that was appalled by the comments ... yep, Ted "suck on my machine gun" Nugent.

Now, before I go on let me take a moment and make something clear. I think that calling for the execution of the President (or anyone for that matter) is extremist behavior that deserves to be denounced. At the same time, however, I'm not going to throw away my Rage Against the Machine cds (I've got 'em all), just like I'm not going to throw away my Damn Yankees cds - that's right ... cds ... I own all two albums that were released by that wuss rock supergroup. What bothers me is the double standard and hypocrisy of Sean Hannity who uses incidents like de la Rocha's to demonize his political opponents while defending as harmless the comments of his good friend Nugent.

Again, let me clarify. Double standard and hypocrisy in and of themselves don't upset me all that much. What really gets me is that the double standard and hypocrisy are part of what Neiwert has termed a projection strategy of folks like Coulter, Hannity, Malkin, O'Reilly, et all who demonize their political opponents as extremist thugs while providing cognitive cover for their own extremist ranks which they manage not to ever realize exists by accusing their enemies of what they themselves are guilty of.

As I noted quite awhile back, projection from the right has become such a common
phenomenon that it's now a very useful gauge in guessing where the right is taking us next:

Indeed, one of the lessons I've gleaned from carefully observing the behavior of the American right over the years is that the best indicator of its agenda can be found in the very things of which it accuses the left.
Whether it's sexual improprieties, slander, treason, or unhinged behavior, it doesn't matter: if the right is jumping up and down accusing the left of it, you can bet they're busy engaging in it themselves by an exponential factor of a hundred.

For a long time, I really believed that this was simply the right acting out on its own psychological predisposition. But as it's gathered volume and momentum -- especially as the right has avidly accused the left of the very thuggishness, both rhetorical and real, in which it is increasingly indulging -- a disturbing trend began to emerge:

What is particularly interesting about this kind of projection by conservatives is that it then (as the comments indicate) becomes a pretext for even further eliminationist rhetoric against liberals -- and eventually, for exactly the kind of "acting out" of rhetoric that Van Der Leun foresees from liberals.
In other words, for a number of the right's leading rhetoricians, the projection appears to be perfectly conscious: it is a strategy, designed to marginalize their opposition and open the field to nearly any behavior it chooses.
While I imagine that there are some figures in the conservative movement who consciously make an effort to use such "projections strategy," it seems to me that most do so as a consequence of the arrested mental development that has resulted from their authoritarian mindset. If you remember in Chapter 3 of the The Authoritarians, Altemeyer points out that massive doses of double standard, hypocrisy, and self-blindness are norms of everyday life for authoritarians.

Before we go on to look at the transcript, it might be a good idea to pause to re-read Chapter 3 as it will help provide a framework in which to view the remarkable behavior that we are going to witness in said transcript. In addition, it also applies to the display (also see here) that Greenwald documented in regards to Senator Larry Craig (perhaps more so in regards to compartmentalized thinking). Go ahead, I'll wait ...

Allright, then. Ready to take a look at the transcript? I hate to introduce another digression, but let's take a quick moment and recall Hannity's reaction to Ted Nugent standing on stage with machine guns saying that "piece of shit" Barack Obamana, Hillary Clinton, and Barbara Boxer can suck on them or ride them into the sunset while also stating that Dianne Feinstein is a "worthless whore."

Ok, then. On to the transcript (bolded emphasis of double-standard mine)

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Jane, here's the bigger question. If you say ever that you want to shoot the president of the United States, I view that as a threat. And I think, for that reason alone, that the Secret Service should investigate. Is it right or wrong?

FLEMING: It will be interesting to see if the Secret Service actually does that. Somebody posed that question on a blog. And so we'll see what happens.

HANNITY: But wouldn't you want that? I mean, if it's Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton? No, no, that will never happen.
This is quite remarkable. Nugent threatened shooting Hillary Clinton and yet Hannity violated his own previous remark and didn't care. The self-blindness it takes to accomplish this on national television without being embarrased to the point of quitting one's job is staggering. Yet Hannity has no shame whatsoever. As Neiwert pointed out in his post on this subject, Hannity went so far as to defensively insult Bob Beckel by insinuating that he's somehow more of an outrageous figure that Nugent when Beckel told Hannity that he should never have Nugent on his show again.

But it gets worse.

HANNITY: All right, Ted Nugent, look, I'm with you, Ted, about free speech. And, by the way, welcome back, my friend.

NUGENT: Thank you. We have some lightning here.

HANNITY: But you can't say — you can't threaten the president of the United States. I would think you agree with that.

NUGENT: You think? Yes, you know, we disagreed with a lot of administrations in the past, but none of our rhetoric included, you know, threatening lives. These guys are over the top. But they're lunatic fringe that even your average Democrat liberal doesn't agree with. But, unfortunately, nobody is silencing these guys, or not necessarily silencing, but condemning this outrageous violence that they're recommending.

HANNITY: Look, that's the point. If you threaten the president of the United States, I think that's a pretty — that's over the line. And the bottom line is, this is the president. Ann Coulter, this is the president of our country. You threaten to shoot the president, you're going to get under investigation, and you are going to, perhaps, get arrested. That's a terroristic threat.

COULTER: Right, right. No, and for good reason...
First, you have Nugent for the second time self-righteously pontificating about not engaging in violent rhetoric (the other time - and it's in Neiwert's post - being his response that a blogger who made comments about shooting Rush Limbaugh and Nugent should be arrested). Secondly, you have the queen of mean Coulter aggreeing with Hannity that such people should be investigated and possibly arrested. That's pretty damn bold of Coulter to agree with Hannity about anyone threatening the life of the President needing to be investigated and possibly arrested given that she had previously said that the US needed to decide whether to impeach or assasinate President Bill Clinton.

But even when Colmes pointed this out to Coulter she still managed to be blind to her own hypocrisy.

COLMES: Should you have been investigated when you said about Bill Clinton, "The only issue is whether to impeach or assassinate"? Should you have been investigated for that?

COULTER: No, that was a serious legal point…

COLMES: ... where he should be impeached or assassinated? You should not have been investigated for that?

COULTER: If this were a civilized country, that would be the question.
The worst bit from the transcript, however, is Hannity saying the following:

I would argue this is coming from the Harry Reids and the Democrats in Washington, that it's building an atmosphere where it's acceptable to push this language to the point where now we have bands on stage talking about shooting the president?
A little background info: Rage Against the Machine is a band with left-wing politics that has been super critical of the United States for as long as the group has been together (since the early 90s) and they have a history of romantacizing extremist figures such as Che Guevara and Huey Newton. To suggest that Harry Reid and Congressional Democrats somehow influenced the politics of RATM is 100 percent absurd.

But that doesn't matter, as Hannity is working from the ideological Truth that liberals are Evil the United States must be delivered from, thus the extremist comments of the left-wing de la Rocha are a consequence of moderate centrist figures in Congress not being conservative movement loyalists to President Bush.

Here we have the projection strategy in full effect. Joining in on the fun, Coulter soon after in the transcript states that she's sick of the "both sides" do it response because "liberals" are clearly worse.

Again, it is difficult to wrap one's head around just how detached from reality the comments of Coulter and Hannity are, as they indeed are doing precisely what they are accusing their political opponents of. I could literally do a post the length of my current entire blog front page with nothing of examples of those two demonizing "liberals," but I'm just going to throw out the first examples from the top of my head.

How about Hannity doing a segment on his Sunday show where he equates Hollywood celebs with dictators and ominously names them "Enemy of the State"* which has traditionally been a term used by dictators to target political opponents for elimination or Coulter writing in Godless

Liberals are not demanding that tax payer money be used for research on toenail clipping. That would not advance their governing principle, which is to always kill human life (unless the human life being killed is likely to fly a plane into American skyscrapers, in which case, it is wrong to kill it.)"
Or better yet, how about any of this stuff? How about this, then? Does any of that count against "conservatives"? Of course not, not in Fox News world. In that alternate dimension "conservatives" are Good and "liberals" are Evil and that's that.

Returning to Newiert's post, he mentions that one of the seminal texts of conservative movement projection is Michelle Malkin's Unhinged. I concur, and have written previously about Malkin's bizarro world reaction to Ann Coulter's hate-mongering.

One of the primary reasons that Malkin feels justified in demonizing "liberals" as unhinged is that she receives hate mail. It seems to have never occurred to Mrs. Malkin that figures whom she considers "liberals" might also receive hate mail and that it possibly is typical that public figures - especially polarizing public figures such as herself - get hate mail.

So Malkin gets hate mail and that means "the left" is unhinged. Contrast that with the response of this prominent self-described liberal.

The last time I appeared on C-SPAN I did a call-in show in which I talked about Saturday Night Live and political humor for about half an hour. A few days later, I received this letter:

To the Jew Franken:
I saw you on C-SPAN, and I always knew you were a fag Jew. You fucking faggot. I know you spend all your faggot time on your hands and knees getting fucked in the ass by fellow Jew faggot Barney Frank while you suck off that faggot Gerry Studds.
And I thought to myself, "He could tell all this from one little interview?"
See, the reality is that there are jerks out there across the political spectrum who will respond with hate to people they disagree with. But what the Fox News crowd does is legitimize the hate that is directed towards "liberals" by pretending that it does not exist or that is an abberation when it occurs. They maintain the belief that "liberals" are uniquely unhinged even when their fans send hate mail and death threats and fake anthrax letters to targets of their ire. They maintain these beliefs even when, as in the Greenwald posts that Neiwert links to, one of Malkin's blogroll members calls for the death of Supreme Court justices or provides satellite photos of the home address of an employee of the New York Times.

Yet, in the face of that happening you get someone like Bill O'Reilly telling his audience of millions that Media Matters is dangerous because it is hypothetically capable of doing what his go-to guest host's pet blogs are already doing in actuality.

The program Fox and Friends - which if you can remember the old Will Ferrel Chery Oteri skits about vapid and inane morning programs is like that but with the zombie hosts mindlessly shilling for a political agenda - itself went out of its way to attempt to white-wash Nugent's comments out of existence. If you watch the video clip provided at that link, you'll notice host Greg Kelly saying multiple times that he couldn't tell what Nugent was saying on stage but got the impression that he was angry with Obama and Clinton for some reason. This is difficult to believe given that the audio is plainly understandable; besides that, a transcript is readily available. Kelly is so emphatic about it that one is left with the sneaking suspicion that he was acting on orders from the producers.

To get an idea of how disengenuous all these Fox News folks are, imagine for a moment what would the network's reaction be if Rosie O'Donnell said that Rudy Guliani should suck on a machine gun and that Condoleeza Rice was a whore. Do you think they would buy the defense that she's a comedian? That is after all, the defense that Nugent is giving for his remarks.

No, hell no they wouldn't.

As I've said repeatedly, the self-blindness of these folks is unbelievable. And that's what troubles me. I find myself wondering where the threshold for them is - at what point would they not be able to rationalize anymore double-think. I'm sorry, but if I'm being honest I look at Coulter, Hannity, Limbaugh and Malkin and imagine that they could easily become the sort of people that turn into apologists for tyrannical rule, kind of like the characters in It Can't Happen Here who were apologists for the fascist regime of Buzz Windrip who went around saying you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, except instead of saying that they'd be saying the Constitution isn't a suicide pact.

Christopher Hitchens, while appearing with Coulter on Hardball was left with the same impression: "I’m appalled to see what kind of model citizen you’d make in a banana republic, Ms. Coulter. I mean, you’re just saying in advance that your credulity with respect to the president is infinite."

I'm not interested in testing whether or not that is so. Which means that it's vitally important to start building a coalition of people across the political spectrum who are not going to allow democracy to be voted away. I'll give Professor Altemeyer the last word

The biggest problem we have now, in my view, is authoritarianism. It has placed America at one of those historic cross-roads that will profoundly affect the rest of its history, and the future of our planet. The world deserves a much better America than the one it has seen lately. And so do Americans.

So what’s to be done right now? The social dominators and high RWAs presently marshaling their forces for the next election in your county, state and country, are perfectly entitled to do what they’re doing. They have the right to organize, they have the right to proselytize, they have the right to select and work for candidates they like, they have the right to vote, they have the right to make sure folks who agree with them also vote. The late Jerry Falwell declared in 2006, “We absolutely are going to deliver this nation back to God in 2008!”

If the people who are not social dominators and right-wing authoritarians want to have those same rights in the future, they, you, had better do those same things too, now. You do have the right to remain silent, but you’ll do so at everyone’s peril. You can’t sit these elections out and say “Politics is dirty; I’ll not be part of it,” or “Nothing can change the way things are done now.”The social dominators want you to be disgusted with politics, they want you to feel hopeless, they want you out of their way. They want democracy to fail, they want your freedoms stricken, they want equality destroyed as a value, they want to control everything and everybody, they want it all. And they have an army of authoritarian followers marching with the militancy of “that old-time religion” on a crusade that will make it happen, if you let them.

Research shows most people are not in this army. However Americans have, for the most part, been standing on the sidewalk quietly staring at this authoritarian parade as it marches on, becoming more and more dismayed. Polls confirm that the great majority of Americans feel the country has been going in the wrong direction. People know “the room is filling up with smoke,” but most are just watching it happen.

You can watch the authoritarians tear democracy apart, bit by bit, bite by bite. Or you can exercise your rights too, while you still have them, and get just as concerned, active, and giving to protect yourself and your country. If you, and other liberals, other moderates, other conservatives with conscience do, then everything can turn out all right.
*The segment has since been renamed "Enemy of the Week."


Alan said...


Another fine post. Keep up the good work.


spocko said...

Nice Post HG.

I listened to Hannity the day that Nugent was on after the video came out. Sean set him up, he gave him a pass and let him talk about all the children's charity work that he does.

And of course Hannity used all the arguments that KSFO hosts used on me, 'If you don't like it, don't listen."

We do have a responsibility to do something about this kind of violent rhetoric.

I haven't figured out what how to have an impact on Hannity yet.
He is just the kind of person who would be supporting more and more rights being withdrawn from US as time goes on. It is a dangerous tool (and I mean that in both sensed of the word)

Sheldon said...

"Rage Against the Machine lead singer Zach de la Rocha saying on stage that the current administration "should be hung (sic), tried, and shot" for being war criminals."

Assuming that the quote is accurate, and Rocha just got the order of his words wrong. He does call for a trial based on potentially real crimes. Nugent on the other hand just comes out with his hateful vitriol based on nothing that the Democratic politicians actually did. Clearly Nugent is worse.

Hume's Ghost said...

The quote is accurate. De la Rocha was saying that the US has been violating the Nuremberg laws - including every president since Eisenhower, if I recall correctly -and that this administration should be executed for being war criminals.

I'm not sure what I find worse, as the RATM comment comes across to me the same way as Melanie Morgan's comments about putting Bill Keller in a gas chamber do. But I find Nugent's more insidious, as they are issued under the pretense of facetiousness and provide cognitive cover to the targe audience, helping to blind them to the darker impulses they might be harboring.

Regarding the quote, not only are the words out of order, "hung" is bad grammar. The proper term would be "hanged".