Archive for March, 2010

The Political Right and the Death of the Normative Right
March 26, 2010

I’m not done talking about this.

It’s not hard to draw a line between modern far-right nihilism and the ethical outlook of the Bush administration. For all of the latter’s high-minded rhetoric about spreading democracy around the world, their national security approach was founded on a policy of complete disregard for human rights. In defending this disregard, people like Marc Thiessen make the claim that torture and indefinite detention are necessary to preserve America; I’m not going to rehash the rebuttals to this claim, but suffice to say it’s a huge old crock of shit.

The principles the Bush administration violated weren’t superseded by greater principles; America would have remained alive and well (and, in fact, even more secure) had we not waterboarded detainees into insanity. So how to account for the right’s vociferous defense of atrocity? Simple: these principles were, in fact, superseded by emotional states. The slightest potential threat of terrorist attacks put the right into such a state of blind terror that it immediately justified the most inhuman acts.

Now you see the same thing happening in the far right’s excuse-making for domestic terrorism. People are angry. Specifically we are angry. And this is somehow supposed to be a reasonable defense, or at least mitigating factor.

But any principle that can be obliterated by an emotional state is no principle at all. The whole point of normative claims is to subject our behavior to something above an emotional state. Which certainly puts the right’s grand tradition of high-minded moralizing into perspective.

The takeaway point is one that we’ve heard before but worth repeating again: the modern American right wing has ceded claim to any sort of moral values at all. So please, spare me the misty-eyed, Andrew Sullivan-style paens to “conservative principles.” If you want to be extremely charitable, you can call those words a quaint anachronism; if not, call them incoherent noise.


links for 2010-03-25
March 25, 2010

But Right-Wing Terrorism’s a Myth, Part II
March 25, 2010

Over at Salon, Gabriel Winant makes a point I’ve been arguing for awhile: that as time goes by, the DHS report warning for a rise of right-wing political violence looks more prescient than ever. And the same people who ranted that this report was drafted solely as a justification for oppressing peaceful conservative dissenters are–intentionally or not–fomenting this violence.

This is what happens when you subjugate all other concerns to victory for the party: when the RNC seeks to convince its supporters that a modest health care package represents the end of democracy, they should expect some of those supporters to react by using any means necessary to preserve democracy. But rather than taking responsibility, Republican leaders are turning to increasingly pathetic excuses: the Democrats do it too! The media is being mean!

These sorts of rhetorical crutches used to be merely irritating, but now they’re appalling. After spending years harassing the left over their perceived tolerance and sympathy towards acts of political violence, Republican leaders–and, to a much greater extent, the conservative media apparatus–are reminding us of the real issue; that for the modern American right, there is no principle that can’t be sacrificed to the platform, or twisted and perverted into something completely unrecognizable. So remember, folks: politically motivated violence is bad, but it’s at least somewhat easier to understand when white Christian people do it.

Life Imitating Art Imitating Life
March 25, 2010

Watch some of this mock interview from one of the best shows about politics ever made, The Thick Of It:

Then watch the following interview with real-life Tory leader David Cameron (via Dylan‘s Twitter):

Two points:

1.) I’m only superficially acquainted with UK politics, but between this interview and this scandal, it’s sort of hard to avoid the impression that both of the country’s major political parties are sort of a mess right now. Right now I’m still predicting Gordon Brown to hold onto his Downing Street residence, though it’s pretty clear it won’t be very much of a “Yes We Can” moment.

2.) We’ve seen American politicians get humiliated like this in interviews before, but most of them have been Sarah Palin. Say what you will about David Cameron, but he’s a reasonable effective political operative, and also clearly not an idiot. So how does something like this happen to him? The clip from The Thick Of It explains why pretty well, even if it is fiction: because in the UK you’re more likely to see substantive grilling on the issues, which needs to be distinguished from the American tendency towards creating the impression of substantive grilling by just shouting a lot. Also, note that the interviewer asked Cameron to reconcile a comment he had just made with a seemingly contradictory comment he made at the beginning of the interview; unlike a disturbingly large slice of American interviewers, this guy actually has a short-term memory/attention span extending beyond two minutes.

links for 2010-03-24
March 24, 2010

links for 2010-03-23
March 23, 2010

Thoughts on the Passage of HCR
March 23, 2010

The Vice President sort of beat me to it.

Everyone Read My Damn Article
March 23, 2010

Every once in a while I get the privilege to write something for a publication that isn’t a blog (my own or otherwise) but, in fact, an online magazine (edited in part, incidentally, by FOTB* Dara Lind). Huge difference, folks. And this is one of those times.

The article–which I think you should read, especially you over there, because I wrote it just for you and I think you’d enjoy it–is an extended attempt to justify the continued existence and, more than that, indispensability of the novel, partly inspired by Borges and David Foster Wallace, and partially inspired by Dylan’s assertion a while back that “text is an inferior way of telling stories to video.”

Also, I think you should read it!

*Friend of the Blog

Monday Downer: The McCain-Lieberman Bill
March 22, 2010

Sorry to dump on everyone’s parade. I wouldn’t lose much sleep over it though, since it’s very unlikely this legislation will actually pass. It’s really just a reminder that both John McCain and Joe Lieberman are truly hateful individuals.

links for 2010-03-21
March 21, 2010

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