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April 15, 2006

Comments

Remember, the first rule of newspaper is to preserve circulation, which in the modern era means "reinforce the biases of your existing subscriber base." And in DC, irrespective of political viewpoint, that means "those online people are screaming nutbags."

Sigh. Reel Big Fish was right.

Simple. Bloggers ask impertinent questions about certain editors and ombudspersons. Bloggers ask even more impertinent questions about a new hotshot cornfed, pen-raised blogger-columnist hire (who brings his Daddy's rolodex to the operation - access baby access). Hotshot turns out to be not so hot.

Wapo hivemind thinks: bloggers make us look stupid. Why are the bloggers so Angry? What *is* it with these Lefties?

Who you gonna turn your front-page hatchet to? What are you gonna do when your friend Ken M's people call with these links to something they call... The Angry Left(tm).

I glanced at the photograph and knew I didn't need to read the article.

I suspect MSOC was naive or dumb to risk getting into this situation in the first place, but I don't get many calls from the NYT.

oh that liberal media... you'd think it would take the opportunity, with the Republican President at 35%, to kick the right when it's down. but no, it kicks the left when it's still down.

Aw c'mon, hilzoy. If someone was trying to come up with a hypothetical article illustrating that the WaPo has editors who are clueless right-wing tools and reporters who are just plain lazy one could hardly do better... I would surmise that the "Angry Left" phrase and idea accompanied the email that provided Maryscott's name (and wouldn't I just love to know who sent it), and that it came from either an editor, or a GOP-friendly source, on the principle that if she was good enough to represent the "Angry Left" for Fox news (where she was very poised and effective IMO) she was good enough for the WaPo.

Okay, sure, I'm framing it in a way that confirms my preconceptions. But keeping in mind that I'm speaking as a raving moonbat (just ask the folks at Protein Wisdom), I thought this was a pretty positive article. Positive in the sense of good for the raving moonbat movement. Maryscott may or may not be naive but she's definitely not dumb. What she is is unflinchingly direct and utterly fearless. People like that and are able to identify it when they're exposed to it (cf. Dean, Howard). They crave it. It's almost always a net win.

It's entirely likely that this was supposed to be a hit piece, maybe even that they were looking for a yeeargh moment. If so I think it failed miserably. The fedayeen will no doubt be grievously offended, and it will confirm their preconceptions no less than mine. But with W approaching Nixon territory and the additional traffic that will reach MLW and kos as a result of this exposure, I don't think the WaPo did themselves or W any favors.

Anecdote: my sweetie (not a political person), read that and bust out laughing at the "Bush must be HIV+" crack.

Gratuitous overblown historical comparison: Poppy's interview with Dan Rather in 1988.

Bob McM might say something clever about features, not bugs right here. And I largely agree...

I have about 10,000 muddled words on this train wreck of an article. I should have just stuck to a photoshop joke about this guy. The article has absolutely no point and travels between wide-eyed naivete and knowing and unuseful/ill-explained mentions of other blogs and their traffic, enough to suggest a movement of course painted with the words and terms used by conservatives- The Left. Just a teeny bit of tarting up and this article could be an atroturf psychologist groups' faked webpage about "Bush Derangement Syndrome"

Nice try, but no cigar, sorry.

The wapo article focussed upon and described in some detail the most significant aspect of leftist weblogs.

It was a good call and a fair and accurate treatment.

Yeah, a's probably right! Those leftist blogs exist in a vacuum, and why would they use such poor language. What has happened to our civilized discourse? No, a, is not right. a chooses to poop on the proceedings.

Divide and conquer, kids. They'll just keep marching down the list getting people to denounce the fringe, and soon enough we'll all be out on that limb.

The same article could be said about noisy civil rights protesters and in fact Andrew Sullivan says this about gays all the time. "Just be good, our time will come- don't rock the boat"

I wish this weren't ObWi, because I'd just go monkey crap insane ad hominem on the individual known as a.

I think your'e being a bit unfair to the reporter, Hilzoy. Between his first sending her an email, and showing up in her living room, a week had passed. That's more than enough time to read through blogs and get an initial impression of them. (And there -are- an awful lot of angry leftist/Democratic sites out there, although it's not universal).

Let's see:

1. The ombudsman of the Washington Post publishes as fact a Republican lie about the Jack Abramoff lobbying/bribes scandal. (That is, that Democratic politicians were also receiving money "directed by Abramoff" so both parties were implicated.)

2. About a zillion left-wing bloggers descend and point out, with increasing anger, that this is just not true: it's a Republican spin.

3. The ombudsman and the Washington Post affect to take offense at the tone of the complaints and the language used, and close down the Washington Post's blogging area temporarily to shut off the complaints.

4. The ombudsman publishes a second column in which she fails to retract and apologise for the Republican lie she had passed on in the first column: instead, she claims it was partially correct.

5. About a zillion left-wing bloggers point out that the ombudsman of the Washington Post is not only not doing her job: she's behaving as if her job was to make sure that the Washington Post is a reliable mouthpiece for the Republican Party.

Somehow, I'm unsurprised to see the Washington Post now publishing an attack piece on left-wing blogs and claiming that this is all about the "Angry Left".

Not to be too dismissive, Brian, but I would have thought correct procedure would be to read some blogs then try and find some people to discuss. Doing it the other way around seems like a great way to reinforce one's prejudices.

Conventional wisdom dictates that while conservatives may do horrible things, liberals are horrible people.

Like I said: it's stupid, it's lazy, and it generalizes from a blog that, for all its virtues, is not typical. It was also way onesided -- I mean, I won't hold my breath for a similar profile of, say, LGF. (Which is much, much angrier than O'Connor's site. As best I know, LGF has no analog of BondDad.) I suspect it probably was the result, probably not directly, of the Howell brouhaha.

But the thing is: there are genuinely interesting stories out there. I would have thought that the existence of blogs that are not full of venom, on either side, was more interesting than the existence of blogs that are. Likewise, the stories I mentioned.

So here's a question: if you were a Post reporter and you wanted to write a story that had something to do with liberal blogs, what would it be?

I'm in favor of the left being angry. I'm in favor of the middle being angry. We have a lot to be angry about.
The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them and the only way to deal with liars is to publically denounce them. The angry right grew strong in the vaccumn created by the indifference of the middle and the politeness of the left. I agree that this article is an example of sloppy, if not unprofessional, writing, and, of course, the wrong blogger is presented as typical--but still I am in favor of yelling back or even yelling first. I just think our yelling should be accurate ( as opposed to making things up), directed at specific targets ( as opposed to demonizing Them), and should clearly express the moral basis of the outrage we have every right to feel.

"Real reporting." Well, I would say this piece was a profile, not a news story. Why it's on page 1 instead of the Style section, that is the question that comes to my mind.

(My wife's answer: "the Post has a grudge against liberal bloggers and they are trying to portray them as exteremists.")

[Apologies in advance to Gary for so much "they" and "them." In this case I think it is a reasonable conclusion based on the evidence.]

Pace "a"'s opinion, the Washington Post hatchet-job piece on Maryscott O'Connor and the "Angry Left" could only be described as "fair and accurate" by the ideological delusional - of which the blogosphere, like our society, contains WAY too many.
"Fair"? - Any article that starts off painting its principal subject as a slovenly, chain-smoking harridan (illustrated, tabloid-style, with a truly awful photo of MSOC), motivated mainly by inchoate "anger", and bolstered by pop-psychology tropes, and cherry-picked examples of "outrage" has made, IMO, its bias clear from the get-go.
And "accurate"? Maybe in the sense of not containing any overt falsehoods: but an article in a major publication that examines the "Angry Left Blogosphere" in isolation - quickly glossing over the tone and content of the right-wing Internets - and seeming to have little comprehension of the fundamental nature of the blogosphere in and of itself?
Accurate? More like selectively focused, and borderline intellectually dishonest (i.e. like a typical second-rate blog!).

if you were a Post reporter and you wanted to write a story that had something to do with liberal blogs, what would it be?

To display their breadth and reason for existence. I'd certainly include Orcinus as an anti-hate, anti-repression blog, Pharyngula and How To Save The World for science, Street Prophets and Chuck Currie for religion, MyDD for Dem party activism, several humor blogs, the fact-checking of TPM, Washington Note, Eschaton, firedoglake, Glenn Greenwald, the gender fairness issues commonly covered by Alas A Blog and Feministe, the economics blogs like Brad DeLong, Max Sawicky and Angry Bear,the passion - including anger - displayed be several, the debates of policy and election strategy that occur, the Labor Blog, the ethnic-issue-centric blogs, the war-eyed views of Baghdad Burning Back, To Iraq, Juan Cole, and all the etc.

There's an importance to passion as well as logic, emotion along with reason, scientific analysis along ethics debates. The WaPo article could have covered the entire body but chose to display an elephant to a blind man by letting him feel one vocal cord.

Because of the Domenech debacle, the real WaPo purpose may be to gain reader feedback about their stated plan to hire a lefty and righty blogger. But by controlling the definition of the parameters of 'liberal' with its narrow coverage, it may be trying to prep folks for their final choice, perhaps a DLC-type centrist blog?

Instead of the Angry Left, my focus would be on the innovative ways bloggers are influencing the political dialogue and impacting the old press with the fresh capacities and talents of thousands of people that the Net gives voice to.

I'm somewhat surprised by a's comment. I had thought that the doctrinaire Bush-supporters response to this article would be to denounce it for not mentioning or quoting any non-liberal blogs, nor explicitly stating its disagreement with any of the quotes from liberal blogs.

Speaking of Pharyngula, I think this comment from PZ Myers is most apt:

It seems to me that the real news story is all of those angry right wing blogs that are screeching in support of war and torture and tax breaks for the rich and incompetence and corruption. I sure wish a journalist would sit down and make sense of that for me.

I'm going to leave the article aside for the moment, so I cannot say whether it's a hit piece, but speaking as a photographer, that's a deliberate hit photograph, to coin a phrase.

I've never seen another image of MSOC, but does she actually bear a resemblance to Cindy Sheehan, or did they just find the photo that was the best approximation?

Pooh:

Go HERE and check out the photo in the "About" section: you might get what the complaints about the WaPo photo were about.

If I were going to write a story about people being angry, I might want to try to explain the anger, put it in context and then come to a point suggesting whether there could be justification for the anger, without specifically endorsing it, but not end up with the usual he said-he said style uselessness.

And Hilzoy saves me from writing about something again. That story bothered me in a lot of ways, most of which I couldn't precisely articulate, but she did.

It's pretty odd, for one thing, to act as if "The Angry Left" is some sort of new phenomenon in 2006, when the administration and the Republicans have already pretty much lost the trust of the political middle of the country.

I think anyone of a liberal/progressive/leftish bent who's lived through the past several years probably has a cloud of pure seething rage roiling inside somewhere, with good reason. Sometimes, we let it out a little. On blog comment boards particularly, sometimes we let it out a lot. And it's a struggle to keep it from taking over completely.

But the thing that amazes me, given that total hatesplosion would be completely understandable, is that there are so many liberal bloggers who don't let it take over. Sometimes they get a lot of crap for it on their comment boards, but they keep it together and construct reasoned arguments and retain some dignity, which makes their outrage all the more impressive on the screen. And in the WaPo article that really doesn't come through at all.

The article is a pre-emption.

The War against Iran is about to start. Soon after, Americans will start to die at the hands of Iranians. No Senator or pundit is going to say "The dead Americans are Bush's fault." or "Iran isn't dangerous if we leave them alone." They will all say:" X thousand Americans were killed by Iran and must be avenged."

Only the left blogosphere will be discordant. If it is, I am not sure how people will react as we enter WWIII. But if the left blogosphere becomes unpatriotic, well they are Bush-deranged and angry all the time anyway.

Ya hear about Stephanopolous and Joe Klein today. Joe Klein said pre-emptive nukes aren't off the table, and Stephanopolous called him insane. Joe Klein looked at George S as if George S was the insane one. We nuke Iran, move into a war, and you think the Beltway wants to call a President we can't remove a lunatic? They will go along.

I don't know what the rest of will do.

But take care, y'all. I don't know where this is going, or how far Bush will go. If we really go to war, posting and commenting could become serious adventures.

Jay, I got the complaints BEFORE having seen that...now I'm sure they were trying for the mama Sheehan look...

If anyone cares to read it, I've written an apologia regarding the article and the response to it.

"I'm somewhat surprised by a's comment. I had thought that the doctrinaire Bush-supporters response to this article would be to denounce it for not mentioning or quoting any non-liberal blogs,"

So you have pre-conceptions about non-left blogs - so what else is new?

If the article is called "The Angry Left" why would anyone not on the left be upset if it doesn't mention their blogs?

Anyway, why denounce an article that accurately describes the angry left?

"nor explicitly stating its disagreement with any of the quotes from liberal blogs."

This doesn't make sense.

Mary Scott's prose sounds like a lot of what I read from both left and right so I don't think either of them can claim to be more calm and rational than the other.

So you have pre-conceptions about non-left blogs - so what else is new?

The fact that there are people with no sense of humor in the world?

why denounce an article that accurately describes the angry left?

My assumption is that a reporter who finds a person who he feels is going to stand in for the exemplar of the Angry Left™ and then cruises around blogs is going to mirabile dictu find that he was right. However, anyone who is pursuing a truthful representation is going to maybe look at the Technorati top 100, and go from there. It is always possible that someone's prejudices are correct, but as it stands, I personally don't think that the article portrays the "left" as it has emerged among blogs. If you feel it is accurate, I wonder if you could go into a little more detail. Why do the 6 sites listed in the article and not other sites constitute an accurate representation? How do we choose representative sites? What would constitute representative sites on the right side? And how much of MaryScott's prose have you read, other than what was relayed in the article?

Hilzoy as a paradigm of the protesting liberal. I could be green with envy.

I apologize for having a mental image of a "doctrinaire Bush-supporter" who is willing to criticize newspaper articles for not explicitly including their viewpoint. There must be something wrong with me for imagining that there are such people.

The first sentence of the previous comment would have been better phrased if it were clear that "their viewpoint" refers to the viewpoint of the "doctrinaire Bush-supporter," rather than the viewpoint of the article or newspaper.

it's funny (to me); I saw this post last night when there were 0 comments; and my first thought was: I bet Power Line has a slobberingly positive post up about the very same WaPo article. And I went and looked; and lo, there it was at the top of the stack. As a wise person once said: yeesh.

or: sheesh. or: something.

But take care, y'all. I don't know where this is going, or how far Bush will go. If we really go to war, posting and commenting could become serious adventures.

If you go around telling people to be afraid to protest, they will be afraid to protest, and eventually they'll be justified in their fear.

I'm done with that kind of game. Bush has already lost the trust of the country. If these guys start amping up the fear again and building consensus for an attack, some people will go along, but it won't be as many as for Iraq. The best way to treat the administration is as if we're not afraid of them.

Glenn Greenwald has already written about the bizarre idea that the left has anything like the venom of the right, at least in its more prominent representatives:

Yes, it's always convenient to point out the other side's idiots while making Vanna-White-ish display gestures in the direction of decided non-idiots who share your ideology.

So, yes, there are angry Left and angry Right. I stay away from both as much as possible. If more people did, Atrios and Kos would certainly be gathering more dust, as would [insert right-wing anger sites of your choosing].

If anger's your thing, though, there are plenty of places to go spleen for people of all political bents.

So, yes, there are angry Left and angry Right.

but the Angry Right is mainstream, syndicated on hundreds of radio stations across the land, and the MSM doesn't care to talk about it - except in adulation (Coulter on the cover of TIME?). it's only the Angry Left that's interesting.

"it's only the Angry Left that's interesting."

Or, more to the point, it is only the Angry Left which gets denounced by the supposedly left-wing mainstream media, in spite of being smaller (in the sense that Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, or even Little Green Footballs or Redstate, have far bigger profiles than Maryscott O'Connor) and less angry (in the sense that no one on the left has eliminationist fantasies about the right or suggests all right wingers are traitors) than the Angry Right.

Without being able to read the article, and indeed without having read the article, it's hard to see if Time is as adoring of her as it is of this guy or this guy.

It is a little suspicious, though, that Lyndon Larouche didn't get a cover. That guy's crazier than practically anyone in public life, because I think he actually believes what he says.

I wonder if some of this is payback for the Domenech business, or for the frequent (and on-target) criticism, led by DeLong, of their news coverage.

"Besides that, though, what amazes me is the sheer laziness of this reporter, who chose to seek out confirmation of his own preconceptions rather than ask himself: are there any truly interesting stories about blogs out there? If so what are they?"

Welcome to my world on the reporting of abortion, nuclear power, social security, foreign policy, the Drug War, pharmaceutical prices, and the homeless. Please ignore the grime, I didn't know you were coming over. :)

"However, anyone who is pursuing a truthful representation is going to maybe look at the Technorati top 100, and go from there. "

Well there is the Eschaton and Pandagon (technorati links 3,429 and 1,583) for example. They certainly qualify as angry. And for some articles the WashingtonMonthly (TRL 3,796)comments get every bit as nasty as LGF (TR L 4,050)comments. (I presume when people complain about LGF they mean the comments.) Compare to ObsidianWings with a surprisingly healthy 599.

Seb: 599 what?

Never mind. I see ;)

I just went to technorati and there on the front page is Michelle Malkin's favorite blogs. And then going to look at the top 100, she's tenth. Gawd.

"And for some articles the WashingtonMonthly (TRL 3,796)comments get every bit as nasty as LGF (TR L 4,050)comments."

Really? I seldom read Drum's comments now except to see if cmdicely has something to say, but I find the above highly unlikely.

Also note that the quality of Atrios's anger is quite different from MSOC's, and expressed in very different ways. An interview with him, or Drum, or Kos would have been a little different.

OTOH HuffPo is above Malkin, even, so go figure.

I also find Sebastian's assertion about Washington Monthly comments surprising. Then again, a lot of WM comments are from right-wing trolls.

If you've been keeping track of the DougJ debacle over the months: so hard to tell a right-wing troll from a poseur without your program.

Oh, and pursuant to this, and in order to more quickly collapse the Godwin probablility function, I am just like Adolf Hitler. Or at least, you know, just like the Hitler Youth.

Discuss.

I actually find Neiwert disturbing. He is kind of like a cop I know who can't trust anyone because he deals with so many vicious people on a day to day basis. It isn't so much that he is wrong about the people he studies, as he is wrong in generalizing it to the whole world.

If I may strain an analogy (and you certainly know that I may) he is a lot like Saruman--his study of evil and its methods has warped him and caused him to adopt some of its methods in pursuit of his own goals. Neiwert uses the same paranoid analysis style and totalizing demonization rhetoric as the subjects of his research.

Yes, about 90% of Neiwert's blog could be boiled down to this: "Conservatives are accusing left-wingers of being treasonous! People who use such hateful language towards their political opponents are a bunch of fascists."

"Neiwert uses the same paranoid analysis style and totalizing demonization rhetoric as the subjects of his research."

From what I've seen he's careful not to - haven't read him in a while, though.

Note that your 'He's Saruman" view is the same many liberals have of people who have studied Islamic extremism and extremists and generalize to Islam and Muslims.

Niels, I don't think that calling for the death of your opponents and pointing out that your opponents are calling for your death are somehow equivalent violations of civility, so I don't see the hypocrisy.

"Note that your 'He's Saruman" view is the same many liberals have of people who have studied Islamic extremism and extremists and generalize to Islam and Muslims."

Sure. The reason Saruman is such an interesting character is that he typifies a human failing that doesn't get covered in literature nearly so often as other human failings.

The thing that sprang to my mind was Nicholas Cage's character in 8mm. A bit of a stretch, certainly.

FTR, i actually agree with Sebastian and Niels about Neiwert. far too often, he comes up with an example of something from a right wing blog that's really offensive, and then i immediately recall something as equally offensive (if i forget for a second that i agree with the underlying point it's making) from a lefty blog. that's not to say he's wrong that there are crazies on the right, but that he's wrong in his implication that the left is innocent.

And I think you're wrong in your implication that both sides are equally guilty, cleek.

OT: Any of the blog owners have anything to say about immigration? That could be an interesting discussion, especially since I'm very undecided about the issue. Balloon Juice may be a bipartisan blog, but its immigration thread has definitely made me miss ObWi.

Well, I've got plenty of opinion, but precious little of it that's had much in the way of thought devoted to it.

Hence, my silence. I think that we ought to either enforce our current laws or figure out how to do without, but I'm not really sure how to do either. And how to unscrew-up the end product of a couple of decades of ignoring the problem, I have no idea. I do think that enforcement ought to focus on businesses, because as much of a crime as illegal immigration is, it's also a crime to hire undocumented workers and pay them off the books.

The security questions are also worth looking at, but building the Great Wall of America across out southern (and possibly northern) border is, well, more than a little extreme.

Probably most of this is "trasmission" from my racist party overlords, so weight as appropriate. What's the frequency, again?

Slarti, I think your receiver malfunctioned some time back. On this issue, it sounds like you're picking up the same transmission I'm getting, which should have been coming from my Islamofascist feminazi overlords and -ladies.

BTW I have a friend who's hard over on the absolute Trueness of anthropocentric global climate change, that's also saying we ought to build a Great Wall or two.

Obviously the dude's getting his signals crossed somewhere.

That's why I think immigration is a good topic for a bipartisan discussion. People's positions are much less predictable than on some issues. But it does seem that it's too complicated for people who aren't strongly receiving the appropriate transmissions to feel certain what they want done about it.

Niels, I don't think that calling for the death of your opponents and pointing out that your opponents are calling for your death are somehow equivalent violations of civility, so I don't see the hypocrisy.

I didn't make such a claim, so I don't see the relevance of your post.

In response, Neiwert is right that Ann Coulter (or maybe one or two other people in America) have joked about the death of liberals. Not good. And Neiwert isn't doing the same thing as that.

But more broadly, Neiwert constantly insinuates that people who disagree with him on any number of highly disputable issues -- laws against hate crimes, for example -- are fascists or neo-Nazis. And the irony is that this is *exactly* the sort of demonization that Neiwert complains about when he finds it on the right. (Ann Coulter: Opposition to McCarthy isn't just wrong, it's "treason." Neiwert: Opposition to hate crimes laws isn't just wrong, it represents the transmitting of neo-Nazi memes into mainstream politics, blah, blah, blah.)

(Ann Coulter: Opposition to McCarthy isn't just wrong, it's "treason." Neiwert: Opposition to hate crimes laws isn't just wrong, it represents the transmitting of neo-Nazi memes into mainstream politics, blah, blah, blah.)

Notice that you don't have to accept Neiwert's argument about opposing hate crimes to recognize his point about the transmission of extremist RW memes into mainstream politics. However, if you reject Coulter's notion that opposing McCarthy is equal to treason, there's not much left.

And I think you're wrong in your implication that both sides are equally guilty, cleek.

i'm not sure being half as crazy as totally fncking crazy is such a great thing.

"Notice that you don't have to accept Neiwert's argument about opposing hate crimes to recognize his point about the transmission of extremist RW memes into mainstream politics."

I actually find his point on hate crimes far more compelling than his transmission point. His transmission point is pretty much garbage. He transforms "ideas I don't agree with but that many conservatives agree with" into "neo-Nazi ideas" through 'transmission'. He uses quite a few paranoid linkages to do so, but the typical trope involves confusing overlapping ideas between conservatives and his Neo-Nazi groups with the ideas orginating in the Neo-Nazi groups. His mistakes are twofold.

First he sometimes confuses the direction of the transmission. Many of the neo-Nazi groups agree with the silly tax protest groups that they ought not have to pay taxes to the federal government. Conservatives have tapped into resentment against taxation for quite some time. The fact that this resentment crystalizes in Neo-Nazi and tax protest movements does not mean that the "lower taxes" idea came from these movements. The tap into a common vein on that issue, yes. But it takes his paranoid analysis style to make it more than that.

Second he confuses catchy slogans with actual influence. All sorts of people find truth in "Religion is the opiate of the masses" without buying in to Marxism as a general concept. Some of those people are even conservative. The fact that the phrase has been "transmitted" into the wider political discourse says very little about how much Communism is found in the political discourse because the statement is interesting apart from Communism and does not rely on Communism for its force. Sometimes he will track a catch-phrase from its earliest recorded usage in a dodgy group to more popular usage later. His paranoid analysis style is used to explain how this shows the dodgy group's 'influence'. The diffusion of such catch phrases would be better explained the way a joke spreads across the nation. If it strikes a chord, it is going to get spread around by word of mouth to all sorts of people eventually (and almost immediately in the internet age). That isn't the kind of shadowy influence that he claims.

I actually find his point on hate crimes far more compelling than his transmission point.

Now contrast that with what you think is compelling about Ann Coulter's points.

Not directly in response to anyone here, but we now have the pleasure of having Malkin post the private phone numbers of student protestors.

The point of Coulter's McCarthy piece (at least the one I read) was that Communists really were in government far more than most people were willing to believe at the time. That doesn't explain persecuting Hollywood idiots, so there isn't a lot to that point. Which is about as much as think of the hate-crimes point. It isn't completely idiotic, but it isn't much of use either. In the context of the discussion of both authors, neither non-awful points save the really bad points.

I see what may have caused the confusion. When I said "I actually find his point on hate crimes far more compelling than his transmission point." I should have used the arched eyebrow emoticon. To be clear I mean "I find his point on hate crimes far more compelling than his nearly worthless transmission point. Hate crimes legislation tries to deal with a real problem in a bad way. His transmission point is an all-purpose rhetorical tool which sheds almost no light on anything."

The point of Coulter's McCarthy piece (at least the one I read) was that Communists really were in government far more than most people were willing to believe at the time.

I'm curious if you know which one that was. I was referring to the book, _Treason_, which has gems like Coulter accusing Owen Lattimore of being a spy, but noting with surprise that his identity doesn't seem to be anywhere in the KGB declassified documents. If the point is that there were more Communists than people are willing to admit, it does not support the case by citing cases that are not true.

I see that the comment about hate crimes as an attempt to explore areas of shared agreement, which I accept quite gratefully. I'll agree with your point that what Niewert descibes is precisely like the memetic replication that you describe with catch phrases and I don't think that Niewert has discovered something brand spanking new that never existed. However, your example of a joke spreading suggests an aspect of the thesis that you seem to be dismissing, that the conditions have to be right for the joke to spread. Thus, we don't have any 9-11 jokes for example suggests that there is something resistant to that notion. (I'm not going to say what jokes are extant, because I'm not in the states, so I don't know what kind of jokes are floating around, but I feel pretty certain about the absence of 9-11 jokes) If extremist notions are spreading (a point that you don't have to accept, but I assume for the purposes of argument), it is not for rhetorical purposes that he is highlighting the mechanism (which assumes some sort of bad faith on Niewert's part) but an attempt to link their spread not to some perverse desire on the part of people on the right, but to common everyday mechanisms in the way ideas are communicated.

"If extremist notions are spreading (a point that you don't have to accept, but I assume for the purposes of argument), it is not for rhetorical purposes that he is highlighting the mechanism (which assumes some sort of bad faith on Niewert's part) but an attempt to link their spread not to some perverse desire on the part of people on the right, but to common everyday mechanisms in the way ideas are communicated."

But this is the problem: part of how he identifies a particular notion as 'extremist' is by trying to chart its origin in (or usually sort-of kind-of near) an extremist group. As he usually uses it, the transmission argument functions as an ad hominem argument--the views are extremist because they 'come from' an extremist group. He sometimes doesn't even do that (because he can't show the proper timeline) and the argument reduces to the "Hitler was a vegetarian" argument.

"However, your example of a joke spreading suggests an aspect of the thesis that you seem to be dismissing, that the conditions have to be right for the joke to spread."

But you aren't really looking at how he brands something as extremist. He doesn't use the word the way we would, he is building a construct where nearly everything to do with the Republican Party or conservatism gets to be premptively dismissed as extremist. What he does is focus on often extraneous commonalities and uses that to 'prove' that the extremist groups (as we would use the word) have a strong influence over the mainstream groups. He plays the "Hitler was a vegetarian" game in almost every piece I have ever read.

For example lets take the piece Slarti linked to:

What was most disturbing was, even in 2000, the way the mainstream conservative agenda was beginning to resemble the politics of longtime racists like David Duke and Richard Butler, the Aryan Nations leader: bashing welfare recipients, attacking affirmative action, complaining about "reverse discrimination," calling for the elimination of immigrants. Since then, this trend has only accelerated, to the point that old-fashioned haters like Duke and the National Alliance are finding their ranks thinned by followers who just become Republicans.

Conservative-movement bloggers have not only played a critical role in this trend, they have proven to be the most reliable way of transmitting ideas from the racist far right by repackaging them in mainstream clothes, and even worse, generating sympathy for racist beliefs. This is why, as Atrios suggests, so much of the right blogosphere has the appearance of a "racist freak show."

Note first, the running together of agendas. Welfare, affirmative action, immigrants. They aren't all the same issue. You also have to set aside that the left is at least as ambivalent about immigrants (for job pressure reasons). Second note that he is basically slurring me as someone 'influenced' by Neo-Nazi thought becuase I have reservations about welfare, I detest affirmative action as a betrayal of the idea that people ought not be sorted by race, and he is probably confused by the fact that I love immigrants.

Next see how easy the game is:

"What is most disturbing, even in 2006, is how the mainstream liberal agenda was beginning to resemble the politics of Communism. Government influence on enterprise and a distrust of the market had been transmitted from its Marxists roots such that people rarely call themselves Communists, they just become Democrats."

Now watch this trick, I'm about to transform a distrust of markets into Marxism:

"Liberal bloggers have not only played a critical role in this trend, they have proven to be the most reliable way of transmitting ideas from the Marxist far left by repackaging them in mainstream clothes, and even worse, generating sympathy for Marxist beliefs."

Neat trick huh?

His:

"Beyond this core, many of the recruits for the Patriot movement were strikingly similar: deeply conservative, susceptible to conspiracy theories, and hateful of the very idea of liberalism. Many of them rejected racism and white supremacy, at least overtly; and they rejected the notion that they were being recruited into a movement with racist roots and intentions, especially since these realities were well disguised."

Becomes my:

"Beyond this core, many of the recruits for Moveon.org were strikingly similar: deeply liberal, susceptible to conspiracy theories, and hateful of the very idea of conservatism. Many of them rejected Communism, at least overtly; and they rejected the notion that they were being recruited into a movement with Communist roots and intentions, especially since these realities were well disguised."

This is especially interesting because Moveon.org gained vast amounts of power and publicity through the anti-Iraq-war movement and its public protests organized by an actual Communist group. In Neiwert's paranoid style that would be a clear indication of Communist influence over the Democratic Party.

His:

"The main mechanism for converting mainstream conservatives into right-wing extremists and white nationalists is a process I call transmission: extremist ideas and principles are repackaged for mainstream consumption, stripped of overt racism and hatefulness and presented as ordinary politics. As these ideas advance, they create an open environment for the gradual adoption of the core of bigotry that animates them."

is especially stupid. He basically will not give me the right to a moral compass different from his. I must dislike affirmative action because I am racist or a fool. There is no independent reason to dislike it, therefore I am either a secret racist or I am being fooled by the secret racists. The idea that affirmative action might be bad does not occur to him. If it were bad, of course racists would latch on to it--it divides by race. But non-racists could also be against it.

You would say I was a fool if I were to say that the idea that the market cannot be trusted comes from Communism (not even correct, but in the paranoid style I can say it) and therefore all liberals who distrust the market are guilty of having their ideas transmitted to them from the extremist left. People sometimes distrust the market because they see something they don't like happening. Communists see it, and SO DO OTHER PEOPLE.

Because there are people on the right who outrageous things, does not mean an Angry Left doesn't exist. The content of MSOC--and many others of her strain--speaks for itself.

Because there are people on the right who outrageous things, does not mean an Angry Left doesn't exist.

very little argument there.

unfortunately, the Angry Right has innumerable radio and TV talk shows. the Angry Left has blogs and magazines, which the Angry Right has tons of as well.

the WaPo piece was stupidly one-sided. if the point was to say something about the state of on-line discourse, they should've split the article 50/50 with something like NiceDoggie, LGF or Free Republic. show the country the brilliant minds that fertilize the comment sections on those blogs.

"Because there are people on the right who outrageous things, does not mean an Angry Left doesn't exist."

Please identify anyone saying anything remotely like the Angry Left does not exist.

Sebastian Holsclaw, satirically: "Beyond this core, many of the recruits for Moveon.org were strikingly similar: deeply liberal, susceptible to conspiracy theories, and hateful of the very idea of conservatism. Many of them rejected Communism, at least overtly; and they rejected the notion that they were being recruited into a movement with Communist roots and intentions, especially since these realities were well disguised."

What strikes me about this is that I don't think I know anyone who is "hateful of the very idea of conservatism". Sure, plenty of liberals hate particular conservative stances, or specific conservative figures, but liberals either haven't really tried, or have been completely unsuccessful, at making "conservative" a mark of shame that stands alone, without the need for specifics.

Whereas the modern conservative movement was built around the central pillar of "Liberal" as a swear word.

I'm not sure if this is much of a defense of Niewart, but I don't think the reversal works quite as well as you suggest.

"Sure, plenty of liberals hate particular conservative stances, or specific conservative figures, but liberals either haven't really tried, or have been completely unsuccessful, at making "conservative" a mark of shame that stands alone, without the need for specifics."

I know anecdote and data aren't the same, but at my university there were plenty who tried, so I would argue the "completely unsuccessful" side rather than the haven't tried side.

Come to think of it, Neiwert strikes me as someone who is trying.

Sebastian,
Given the fact that you believe Niewert is identifying all conservatives (including you and your family) as extremists, your opinion is understandable and we went round about this earlier in the comments. This is the second time you've brought N up, so forgive me if I suggest that this is more personal than objective, especially when Charles is able to acknowledge Niewert in a non-disparaging way. For my part, I admit that I am favorably disposed to him because of his work on the Densho project and his book _Strawberry Days_, so we'll, as usual, just have to disagree on this.

Judge James Robertson is the one who resigned from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, supposedly as a protest, right? This may belong in the "Generals Speaking Out" thread, but it seems to me it's not much of a protest if he can't (or doesn't, at any rate) make any statement about resigning. All he's done is open a space for someone more subservient to the administration.

Argh, wrong thread even though there were two correct ones to choose from.

"This is the second time you've brought N up, so forgive me if I suggest that this is more personal than objective, especially when Charles is able to acknowledge Niewert in a non-disparaging way."

I didn't bring him up, he was linked to in the thread and I talked about it. And frankly I find it annoying to say that my discussion is "more personal than objective" when I have talked about a random (or at least not searched out by me) example that precisely illustrates what I'm talking about. I appreciate his effort to keep tabs on the neo-Nazi movements--his reporting on that is useful. His application of that to the entire world of conservatism is where he goes too far, and I gave an example as well as explained why I thought it was an example. I didn't even search out the example, it came independently.

For what it's worth, I share some of Sebastian's qualms about Neiwart's interpretations. N has done a lot of good journalistic exposition, but I do read some of his more speculative work with a skeptical eye.

Then again, I live in NY: what do I really know about the kind of white-pride movement he's warning against?

I apologize, I didn't realize the firedoglake was a link the Niewert. Frankly, I took it as Slarti being laconic and I didn't want to have to figure out what his point was.

I appreciate his effort to keep tabs on the neo-Nazi movements--his reporting on that is useful.

Which is why you compare him to Saruman? I'm sorry you are annoyed, but when you start off with a comparison like that, it strikes me as a truckload of assumptions that is quite beneath you. Is Niewert creating some multicultural Uruk-hai that I haven't heard about?

I think Sebastian and others are being extremely unfair to Neiwert. He goes out of his way to stress that the "conservative movement" he covers (with the exception of genuine neo-Nazis like the World Church of the Creator) is not true fascism but rather what he calls proto-fascism, ie an ideology that lacks key features of fascism (particularly the central importance of physical violence) but lays the groundwork for it by bringing fascist tropes and rhetoric into the mainstream. When commenters at Orcinus call something non-fascist fascist, he pulls them up. As for ignoring the sins of the left, I'm not going to say that he's entirely even-handed - I doubt anyone is - but he certainly has documented election-related violence/property damage from the left, and when he talks about, for example, Malkin's book, he links to those stories as well. Certainly he believes and argues that this sort of thing is far more prevalent and organised on the right at the moment, but then I think he's correct on that front. If you have evidence otherwise I'd be happy to look at it.

D'oh. That should have been pseudo-fascism, not proto-fascism.

Dunno about Sebastian, but I'm referring to his post on FDL, which is pretty silly.

Imagine if we were to abandon all things that racists or other people want, because they're wanted by evil people. Not even wanted first by evil people, but that's neither here nor there.

Would you be satisfied if Sebastian changed his analysis such that the Democratic Party was merely "proto-Stalinist," rather than "Stalinist" outright?

"He goes out of his way to stress that the "conservative movement" he covers (with the exception of genuine neo-Nazis like the World Church of the Creator) is not true fascism but rather what he calls proto-fascism, ie an ideology that lacks key features of fascism (particularly the central importance of physical violence) but lays the groundwork for it by bringing fascist tropes and rhetoric into the mainstream."

The problem with this idea is that the things he identifies as fascist tropes are not in fact fascist tropes. His analysis style is hated by people here when applied to liberals. He blithely says things all the time which are just like "liberals are really pseudo-Communists" or "liberals disguise their Communist rhetoric so they can interact with the mainstream despite the fact that they are really extremist". The ANSWER-peace peace protest linkage is hated here, but is organizationally much more compelling than many of his examples. Taking great pains to call liberals 'pseudo-Communist' because they allegedly had ideas about Iraq that were 'transmitted' to them by ANSWER would be easily identified as stupid. You might argue that opposition to the Iraq war was independently obvious to some liberals, and that the fact that ANSWER organized around it has nothing to do with the independent importance of talking about the issues.

Yet somehow you don't see Neiwert making the exact same illegitimate argument that drives people nuts when applied to liberals.

LiberalJaponicus, I have now written fairly extensively about the parallel I was attempting to draw. It certainly isn't more offensive to compare Neiwert to Saruman than to try to replace 'conservative' with 'pseudo-fascist'. You seem to be studiously avoiding engaging on the particulars. Even if you don't agree that Neiwert often uses illegitmate arguments, do you see that he does in the post Slarti links. Do you see how he does it in the part that I quote?

FWIW

In general I like Niewert, mainly in the sense of where he is working to expose real hate groups, or were he has shown some infiltration into the mainstream of their ideas.

However, I agree with both Sebastian and slarti that he tends to conflate the larger conservative movement into a more radical segment of the population, and, unfortunately, he then tends to lose some of the strength of his arguement.

In the excerpt above, I think he does exactly that. What he tends to neglect is that one may have a very non-racist, non-0hate reason for being against affirmative action, welfare, etc.

OTOH, his perceived attempt to demonize "conservatives" is really nothing more than what has been done to liberals over the years, and to some extent is even evident on this site.

One of the problems in this era is the over-generalization of concepts or groups, and frequently the mis-representation of what those groups stand for.

BTW, in reference to what started this post. MSOC is a very angry woman. I had a couple "run-ins" with her over at Kos.

But the term Angry Left is presented as a perjorative. What's wrong with there being an angry left?

Isn't there a lot to be angry about. MSOC and others like her serve as an outlet for feelings that if left to simmer, could become much more dangerous.

OTOH, his perceived attempt to demonize "conservatives" is really nothing more than what has been done to liberals over the years, and to some extent is even evident on this site.

And roundly excoriated, too. See how that works? In fact, if there were any symmetry, soon there'd be an ihatedaveniewert site popping up on blogspot.

That last comment: said at least three-quarters in jest. Not likening Dave to anyone else, or anyone else to Dave.

"And roundly excoriated, too."

Where and by whom outside of on ObWi?

"Where and by whom outside of on ObWi?"

Well Coulter gets attacked (often rightly) by people on both sides all the time for example.

LiberalJaponicus, I have now written fairly extensively about the parallel I was attempting to draw. It certainly isn't more offensive to compare Neiwert to Saruman than to try to replace 'conservative' with 'pseudo-fascist'. You seem to be studiously avoiding engaging on the particulars. Even if you don't agree that Neiwert often uses illegitmate arguments, do you see that he does in the post Slarti links. Do you see how he does it in the part that I quote?

I pointed to the other thread where I and several others went into great detail about how we thought you were taking what Niewert said too personally and pointed out how he is careful to define his terms. You disagreed, which is fine, but I'm not sure if doing the same thing again is really worth your time or mine. In regards to 'studious' avoidance, please notice also how I simply pointed out, in response to Neils comment that he's not Coulter and somehow we get to a paragraph by paragraph exegesis of Niewert. Note also that this is after you 'studiously' ignore the particular question I ask, which is what piece of Coulter's are you referring to. In fact, 'roundly excoriating' Coulter for you somehow means granting some of the particulars of her argument i.e. that she was actually pointing out that "Communists really were in government far more than most people were willing to believe at the time." I appreciate that you added a parenthetical 'rightly', but your previous point about Coulter is exactly Niewert's point about transmission of memes, with the meme transmission in this case being "Yes, Coulter may be batsh*t crazy, but she had a point about the government being rotten with Commies."

Normal blog manners would dictate that I finish with some zinger, but I'd really rather not. I'd just ask you to review the comments and simply think about what has been said. I wasn't trying to box you in a corner, but merely trying to work from some place of agreement.

Where and by whom outside of on ObWi?

Well, Charles has his own hate site, as I pointed out, and Niewert's been bashed about the head and shoulders elsewhere. I trust you've noticed by now that no one here is shy about pointing out this sort of behavior, or particularly gentle in the pointing-out.

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