The Republican Noise Machine doesn't need the customary 100 days to size up the new president. Right-wing commentators barely needed 30 days to come to their conclusion that they hate everything Barack Obama stands for.I don't know, but recall the prediction I made before the election: "If a Democrat becomes president expect to have our public discourse overtaken and overwhelmed with the most extreme, insane, and rotten attacks and smears from the conservative movement that you can possibly imagine."
In terms of speed and efficiency, the right-wing collection of bloggers, AM talkers, pundits, and yes, newspaper cartoonists, may have set a new land speed record for becoming collectively unhinged, as they wail and moan about how the new Democratic president's turning America into a fascist state, or communist, or socialist, or whatever other bugaboo claim Glenn Beck and Laura Ingraham are tossing out to viewers and listeners on a daily basis.
Barack Obama is "arrogant," "dishonest," and "radical," Fox News' Sean Hannity announced during a single 10-second chunk of prime-time TV last week -- a casually hateful appraisal that didn't even raise eyebrows, simply because that kind of blanketed disdain for the new president has already become so commonplace.
Rush Limbaugh's original anti-Obama proclamation at the outset of his presidency -- "I hope he fails" -- already seems benign in retrospect. Since Inauguration Day we've learned Obama has "Marxist tendencies" and is "addicting this country to heroin -- the heroin that is government slavery" (Glenn Beck). That, "there are eerie, eerie similarities" between Obama and Nazis" (Michael Savage's guest host, Chris Stigall). And of course, Limbaugh himself famously bemoaned that "[w]e are being told that we have to hope [Obama] succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles ... because his father was black."
Meanwhile, last week widely read right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin was seen smiling while getting her picture taken with an Obama hater who proudly brandished a swastika placard at an anti-Obama rally in Denver. And the following day, Rupert Murdoch's far-right New York Post published a grotesque cartoon that seemed to associate Obama with a bullet-ridden monkey who'd been shot by two white cops on a city sidewalk.
If we just pause and take one or two steps back from the daily/hourly barrage of hate, it's obvious that faced with the new Obama presidency, the Republican Noise Machine has already lost all perspective -- has gone totally loco -- and it's only February, a mere month into Obama's first four years in office. Who dares to even imagine where the right-wing "conversation" goes from here?
And the ultimate concern I had with this state of affairs: "The ... threat is the one [Richard] Hofstadter recognized, that this kind of endless mindless drivel that comes from the Drudge-Hannity-Limbaugh axis of misinformation will create a political climate in which rational pursuit of our well-being and safety is impossible."
If this concerns you, the most acute recent analysis -that I know of - of the decline of reasoned public discourse remains Al Gore's book The Assault on Reason. (See here for my review.)