Monday, February 06, 2012

Moyers FAIL

Normally I like Bill Moyers and will follow him almost anyplace he wants to go.

But watching him grin and nod Charlie Rose-style as the 1,000th insipid Centrist burned valuable public television bandwidth driveling on about how both sides are exactly, equally wrong and morally blind was simply too much.

JONATHAN HAIDT: But cooperation and competition are opposite sides of the same coin. And we've gotten this far because we cooperate to compete. So you can say that liberals are more accurate or in touch with how the system works. But I would say they're more in touch with some aspects of how systems go awry and oppress some people, ignore other people. Liberals see some aspects of where the social system breaks down. And conservatives see others. You have to have consequences following bad behavior. That is as basic an aspect of system design as any. And that's one where conservatives see it much more clearly than liberals. 

I think I'm a centrist, in terms of liberal conservative. And I feel like I'm sort of, I sort of, like, stepped out of the game. And now that the game has gotten so deadly, I'm hoping that, in the coming year, I can be the guy saying, ‘Come on, people, just, here, understand the other side so you stop demonizing, and now you can argue more productively.

Just what our public discourse needs: one more vapid, Tom Friedman replicant selling the same fucking snake oil, this time with a patina of liberal respectability courtesy of Mr. Moyers.

Still, every now and then -- and regardless of how much Centrist sludge they try to bury the reality under --  a prominent wingnut gets bit by their own rabid dog hard enough to momentarily give the game away.  Of course, everyone who makes living selling the Centrist lie quickly closes ranks to pretend it never happens, but some of us watch and some of us remember.

Here is what I wrote back in 2008 when the Pig People momentarily turned on Kathleen Parker.

+ + + + + + + + + + +

Kathleen Parker Finally Gets
a good, long look at who's been signing her check all these years.

This is such one of my favorite parables I’m surprised I haven’t inflicted on you for three years:

… this insect specialist is walking around on the Near North Side during rush hour one summer day, talking with a friend. The ambient environment – near an “el” stop and hard by one of the ubiquitous construction sites – was warm-weather busy. As if someone had accidentally knocked over a bee hive full of workers dressed in bike pants, short skirts or business-casual suits and loosened ties.

It was loud.

And that’s when the entomologist stops his friend and tells him the he hears the distinctive chirping of a particularly uncommon species of cricket (BTW, feel free to re-tell this story using the ‘White House’ and Jiminy Cricket if you’d like. With a dollop of AstroGlide it fits like a pair of bunny slippers.)

His friend is dubious, to say the least.

“Quit screwing with me, Dwight (we’ll call him ‘Dwight’),” Larry said (we’ll call the other guy ‘Larry’.) “you know you can’t hear a damned thing in this din.”

Ok, “din” is my word. Larry wouldn’t really say that.

Dwight shrugged, and took out a small handful of coins – nickels and pennies and a dime or two, (Possibly exactly the same combination of coins O. Henry used in “The Gift Of The Magi”) – and tossed them up and out onto a temporarily vacant spot on the sidewalk. The instant they hit and started pinging and jangling around, everyone in earshot ceased what they were doing, stopped talking, and turned to look at the source of the sound.

“It’s not how loud it is,” Dwight said. “It’s what you listen for.”

Keep that in mind while you read this from Firedoglake:

Kathleen Parker Shocked To Find Her Party’s Full Of “Vicious”, “Threatening”, Delusional Wingnuts

By: Blue Texan Wednesday October 1, 2008

Parker, who last week called for Palin to step down, now finds herself the target of a Wingnut Two Minutes of Hate.

"Allow me to introduce myself. I am a traitor and an idiot. Also, my mother should have aborted me and left me in a dumpster, but since she didn't, I should "off" myself.

"After 20 years of column writing, I'm familiar with angry mail. But the past few days have produced responses of a different order. Not just angry, but vicious and threatening.

And she knows vicious. Here's Parker in 2003, on the Democratic presidential candidates:

Here's a note I got recently from a friend and former Delta Force member, who has been observing American politics from the trenches: "These bastards like Clark and Kerry and that incipient ass, Dean, and Gephardt and Kucinich and that absolute mental midget Sharpton, race baiter, should all be lined up and shot."

Suck it up, Kathleen. You've been tossing red meat to a caged rabid animal for two decades. No sympathy when it finally bites you.
Now, she whines:

...when we decide that a person is a traitor and should die for having an opinion different from one's own, we cross into territory that puts all freedoms at risk.

I'm truly speechless.


John Hawkins, responding at Right Wing News, writes:

As a general rule, conservatives aren't as nasty and vicious as liberals...

To which I say, Amen Brother!

However I couldn’t quite place which pillar of sweet, kindly Conservative temperance Mr. Hawkins might be citing, so maybe someone can help me out here.

Was it Karl Rove?

Or Tom DeLay?

Or Newt Gingrich?

Was it Roger Ailes?

Glenn Beck?

Tucker Carlson?

Neil Cavuto?

Ann Coulter?

Pat Robertson?

Maybe Chris Wallace?

Lou Dobbs?

Dick Armey?

Robert Novak?

Steve Doocy?

Jesse Helms?

Bob Dornin?

Jerry Falwell?

John Gibson?

Sean Hannity?

Dick Cheney?

Brit Hume?

Rush Limbaugh?

Mary Matalin?

Tony Perkins?

Dick Morris?

Bill O'Reilly?

Phil Gramm?

Michael Savage?

John Hagee?

Monica Crowley?

William Donohue?

Frank Luntz?

Michael Medved?

G. Gordon Liddy?

Or maybe Laura Ingraham?

Once upon a time, in another country, all it took was a scrape of yellow cloth

to instantly dehumanize someone.

Like a switch being thrown, a favorite teacher, neighbor or friend could become

a hated pariah.

An honored member of the community could be morphed into an enemy of the state

in the twinkling of an eye.

And it was possible ONLY because a sophisticated infrastructure of habitual, mindless, daily-repeated bigotry and rage that had been built up decade after decade was annexed by a power-mad clique of fanatics, weaponized, tanked up with rocket fuel, and then let off the leash.

Does this sound at all familiar, Ms. Parker?

Of course as long as the monster worked on your behalf -- as long as it was only gypsies, malcontents, misfits, queers, Jews and commies against whom the propaganda machine ranted by day and and for whom the jackboots came by night -- as long as the bell never tolled for thee -- everything was just fucking peaches and cream!

As long as it's just those people, Good Germans like Ms. Parker will always be more than happy to make a little bank firing up the mob. Only too willing to smirk and sneer and turn a little profit raging up the pig people in the service of demonizing anyone who doubts the infinite wisdom of the Dear Leader or the infinite goodness of the Christopath cabal that runs the GOP, ‘cause it all sounds just like sweet, sweet music…just as long as its being directed at the dirty Jews Liberals.

But now the monster has turned on its creator, and Good German Kathleen has finally heard an inkling – or an oinkling – of the baying, shrieking hordes whose bloody-mindedness we on the Left have been trying to curb for the last generation.

So, as a newly Displaced Pundit stranded in Liberal Casablanca, let me save you some time and trouble and tell you what won't work.

For about the last 30 years, we tried on the Left the sweet-reason thingie.

Didn’t work at all.

We tried the “compromise” thingie.

Got called weak and cowardly for our trouble.

We tried the “Hey, lets elect the most Centrist President we can find. A Republican-lite Southerner, that’ll give the Right almost everything they ever wanted. Welfare reform, NAFTA, DOMA, GATT, a balanced budget, surpluses, and a military victory.” thingie.

For our sins we got eight years of partisan hearings, government shutdown, slander, and impeachment, because while Conservatism might have been a movement once upon a time, too many of us failed to realize until it was too late that today's Conservatism is a moral dumpster fire of bigots, fundies, homophobes and imbeciles.

It is a disease that took over the country by screaming that everyone who disagreed with it was a god-hating traitor, and if you expect one iota of pity from anyone on this side of the moral Universe for finally getting bitten by the mad dog you’ve been feeding all these years, you can go fuck yourself with a steam hammer.

Once that disease is eradicated, we'll get right back to playing nice.

But until then, Anna Karenina, your locomotive is waiting.


Suzan said...


I commented about the same phenomena at the same time, but not as eloquently or serenely as you.



John said...

I'm not sitting on a hot stove waiting for anyone on your list, above, to say what Moyers just did, about Saul Alinsky:

“Maybe that’s why Newt Gingrich has been slandering Alinsky’s name,” Moyers said. “Maybe he’s afraid. Afraid the very white folks he’s been rousing to a frenzy will discover who Saul Alinsky really was. A patriot, in a long line of patriots, who scorned the malignant narcissism of duplicitous politicians and taught every day Americans to think for themselves and to fight together for a better life. That’s the American way, and any good historian would know it.”

John Puma

One Fly said...

Damn it anyway Bill why the hell you go do that. It's time to move on if age is clouding your judgement. Like a overage athlete stop while you're ahead and please don't tarnish your image.

Thanks for this DGlass. We are right and always have been.

Anonymous said...

Hey DG,

I don't think Haidt is in the same league as "DFB" or the "Stache of Understanding". I watched the entire interview over at Truthdig, and his description of the divide in modern US politics is accurate (especially with regard to the southern strategy)and he touched upon many of the themes that you and BG discuss on a regular basis, such as blind conservative loyalty.
Perhaps he is now more of a "centrist" after TED. He will probably sell a few more books now. Gotta prepare a new tax bracket and for BBQ's with the Brook's.


chrome agnomen said...

for brutus is an honourable man;
so are they all, all honourable men-

Anonymous said...

The complete video and transcript:

I think his "both sides do it" is based on the notion that conservatives are the old intellectual caste. I found myself agreeing with him on many cases. the main issue is that when he started describing how progressives should relate to conservatives or the "both sides do it", he seemed to be discussing my parents' conservative party. When he said that the Tea Party is not racist, I thought of the Texas TP leader and his sign calling Obama a "niggar". (Illiterate much?) I think too much of his experience with conservatives is with the more civilized sort, and none of the cantankerous old white knuckle-dragging fartknockers.


Batocchio said...

Scathing and on target. I've read some of Haidt's scholarly pieces, and he does have value. He gets some of it - at times, large parts of it - but he also slips into scolding liberals and retreating to fluffy centrism. His work is fine for addressing the Democratic Party's chronic problems in communication and marketing – but he refuses to look at certain glaring issues. He doesn't analyze on the level of policy, and rejects the logical conclusions of some of his findings. He's able to admit that Boehner refuses to compromise, and that Obama is too willing to, but still blames both parties equally. He doesn't point out that Republicans believe many things that are not factually true, and that their policies have been and will be disastrous.

Most of all, he refuses to admit that authoritarian conservatives exist entirely out of the realm of the social contract, debate and discussion, responsible governance, etc. They seek the destruction of their perceived enemies.

It's frustrating that so many educated people refuse to simply call things straight to the best of their ability, and let the chips fall where they may. That's because if they did, one party's rap sheet would be much, much longer. They let their predetermined conclusion dictate their diagnosis, and focus on cosmetics, not substance. They continually validate the most far-right crap with their "both sides" BS.

Notably, Haidt's pitch is to fair-minded liberals, who fret about such things as being fair and open-minded, while conservatives are obsessed with power. Movement conservatives aren't trying to understand liberals (and cannot describe their views accurately), only destroy them. Haidt's entire pitch depends on the very caricatured liberalism conservatives despise: a moral relativism that means they won't even stand up for themselves. Like the old joke goes, a liberal is a man so open-minded he'll take the other side against himself in a debate.

The comforting lie that desperate centrists tell themselves is that anyone who opposes the Republicans just hasn't given them a fair chance. But having an open mind means giving someone a fair hearing, not turning off one's bullshit detector. Compromise is a means to an ends, not a goal in itself, and it's impossible to compromise with people who despise the entire social contract, slur their perceived enemies and seek their utter destruction. There's no equivalency between "both sides" on that front. To adapt an old bit: On TV, the rabid right-winger says, "Kill all the Martians," the weak center-left guy says, "I'm not sure that's a good idea," and the Beltway centrism fetishist says, "Why don't we compromise and kill half the Martians?"

Much more in later posts...