Thursday, June 20, 2024

Professional Left Podcast Episode 814: Stop Normalizing 'Normalizing'

"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking." -- John Maynard Keynes.


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Oh! Oh! I Know! Call On Me! Call On Meeee!!

If you want a 3,000 word farrago of this...
“Following Finkel et al.,” Campos and Federico write in their recent paper, “A New Measure of Affective Polarization,” partisan hostility consists of “more than an undifferentiated tendency to feel more negatively about out-partisans than in-partisans, and we believe that the broad concepts of othering, aversion and moralization provide a good starting point for identifying the multiple components.”

...go and enjoy Edsall's NYT article.

If you'd like a shorter, slightly-less-polysyllabic explanation that actually answers the question the headline writer poses, then here we go.

For over half a century now, Republicans have been dumping toxic waste into our political ecosystem.  They were tired of losing, and so innovators started around for alternatives to politics as usual.

Nixon rolled out the Party of Lincoln's red carpet for unreconstructed bigots in the South, which is why it was called the "Southern Strategy".  And it worked.  Democrats had already begun alienating their southern bloc by pushing through landmark voting rights and civil rights legislation, and George Wallace showed that there was real, electoral power in explicitly appealing to southern white bigots by promising:

This is the torch that Reagan picked up, spinning for his audiences horror stories of "welfare queens" and "young bucks" living large mooching off the tax dollars of hard-working white Americans.  Reagan went a step further, welcoming into the corridors of Republican power an army of bomb-throwing, hell-and-damnation Conservative fundamentalists, and their energetic, fanatical congregations.

But perhaps the greatest gift Reagan ever bestowed on the Right was the gutting of the Fairness Doctrine.  With their voting base of bigots, fundies and imbeciles now in place, all that was needed to create a perpetual Hate Machine was a well-funded Conservative media that would keep the base drunk on rage and paranoia.  

From a much longer thing I wrote on this very subject back in 2017:

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan killed something called The Fairness Doctrine:
The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was — in the Commission's view — honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC, which was believed to have been under pressure from then President Ronald Reagan, eliminated the Doctrine in 1987.

For the record, the two federal judges who helped Reagan kill the Fairness Doctrine were future-Supreme Court incubus Antonin Scalia, and disgraced Nixon henchman Robert Bork.  After helping to hold down the Fairness Doctrine while Reagan smothered it, both men went on to enjoy long and fruitful careers as wingnut icons and ruiners of American democracy.

Also in 1987, immediately after the Fall of the Fairness Doctrine came the Rise of Conservative Hate Radio:

Daniel Henninger wrote, in a Wall Street Journal editorial, "Ronald Reagan tore down this wall (the Fairness Doctrine) in 1987 ... and Rush Limbaugh was the first man to proclaim himself liberated from the East Germany of liberal media domination."
Then, in 1990, immediately after the Rise of Conservative Hate Radio began normalizing a Republican vocabulary of lies, slander, casual racism and hate-mongering via millions of AM radios and "Rush Rooms" across the country. an up-and-coming pervert named Newton Leroy Gingrich began teaching a cohort of ambitious sociopaths inside the Republican Party to relentlessly parrot exactly the same hate-speech coming from Limbaugh and his imitators outside the party...

Regarding Gingrich, Tom Edsall's own paper wrote a whole thing about it [checks notes] 34 years ago.  That's two years before Bill Clinton was elected.  Surprised he didn't bother to look.  From The New York Times, September 20, 1990:

The Politics of Slash and Burn

''Sick.'' ''Traitors.'' ''Bizarre.'' ''Self-serving.'' ''Shallow.'' ''Corrupt.'' ''Pathetic.'' ''Shame.'' The group that urged political candidates to use these epithets has since regretted suggesting the word ''traitors,'' in response to inquiries from the press. But the others were allowed to stand; they appear in a glossary that a conservative Republican group recently mailed to Republican state legislative candidates.

The group is Gopac, the G.O.P. Political Action Committee. Its general chairman is Representative Newt Gingrich. With the pamphlet, ''Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,'' comes a letter from Mr. Gingrich himself. Its message to candidates: Step up invective. Use words like these to describe opponents. These words work.

Mr. Gingrich's injunction represents the worst of American political discourse, which reached a low during the dispiriting Presidential campaign of 1988. Then, more than ever before, negative argument displaced reasoned discussion about how a nation might best be governed. The sound bite reigned. Attack commercials flourished. The signs this year aren't any better. Evidence that negative campaigning can come back to sink the sender has had little impact. The races for governor in California and Texas have already seen the same slash and burn. No doubt the proceedings will grow more rabid still as November nears.

Negative discourse serves democracy poorly. The temptation to avoid serious debate is already great. It increases as the stakes soar and slander becomes a rewarding, easy option. The issues of the day go untended. The whole affair takes on the character of the gladiator's art...

The nakedness of the Gopac offering also makes it useful. There must be limits to the negative politics that voters will bear; the bald appeal to invective will certainly probe those limits. For now, it should be said that some adjectives in the glossary aptly describe the glossary itself: shallow, sensationalist and, yes, shame(ful).

The article gets it just about right.  All except the part about " There must be limits to the negative politics that voters will bear".  


Turns out, for Republican voters there is no bottom.  There are no limits.  And none of the Very Serious People lifted a finger to stop them because, as the Right was shelling out big money to create a Pretty Hate Machine to make their base progressively stupider and angrier, the Right was also shelling out big money to stand up white-shoe think tanks and media platforms full of Very Serious Conservatives whose job it was to appear in suit and tie in the Respectable Media to provide intellectual camouflage for the escalating derangement of the Republican base.

And it went along that way for a long time, and it was great fun for the Right, and very profitable.  The average Republican could go merrily along for weeks hearing nothing on the radio and seeing nothing on the TV but the same coordinated messaging:  that all of their problems could be laid at the feet of mouthy "feminazis", uppity, mooching Negros and, worst of all, those godless, Murrica-hating, flag-burning, baby-killing, Commie scumbags Democrats.  Meanwhile, if you were relying on the mainstream media to tell you about any of this, fuhgeddaboudit!  Everything was fine, and if the Liberals were complaining about this or warning about that, well ha!ha!ha!, you know how Liberals are!

Fortunes were being made calling us scum and mocking everything we hold dear.  And then came the George W. Bush's Iraq Debacle, which pushed every Limbaugh Conservative propagandist's capacity for lying to the limit, while at the same time also pushing every David Brooks Conservative denialist's capacity for lying to the limit, because now there were bloggers.  Liberal bloggers.  Liberal bloggers who could not only bypass the Very Serious legacy media gatekeepers entirely to take on the scumbag Right directly, but excoriated those Very Serious legacy media gatekeepers for their craven complicity,

Through the blogs, at last, Liberals had found a rickety and imperfect but viable means of punching back!  And punching back in a way that got people's attention.  That demanded answers and accountability.  Also we said "fuck" a lot.

And it was only then -- after the lies the corrupt and incompetent Bush administration had fed the world began to disintegrate,  and the Left had hit upon an effective way of punching back -- that the entire mainstream media suddenly got really, really interested in...The Extremes on Both Sides!  

You can see it in its infancy here, in February of 2006, being midwived by none other than David Fucking Brooks, to the amusements of a chuckling panel of Beltway media hacks, on the long-defunct Chris Matthews Show.     

Aside:  Yes, before Matthews had Hardball, and before he was fired from Hardball for being a creepy old sex pest, and before his pals at Morning Joe made it their mission salvage the carcass of Matthew's career from the ash heap of talking head's teevee, he had a show every Sunday called The Chris Matthews Show.  Beltway insiders spitting pre-chewed Beltway rumors and gossip and "common wisdom" into each other mouths like both mama birds feeding their chicks, and baby chicks getting fed.

This was when the mainstream media, which had completely rolled of for all the Bush administration's lies and been happy to hold the Liberals down while the Right kicked us, suddenly found itself very much on the wrong wide of the worst foreign policy disaster in modern history.  And, as you all know, the mainstream media has a going-to-the-ER-in-anaphylactic-shock-level allergy to self-reflection , holding itself accountable  and placing blame squarely where it belongs,, when in belongs on the Right.

So they all went all-in on The Extremes on Both Sides.  And "tribalism".   And "polarization".  And, of course, continuing to ignore what a deranged shit-show Conservative media had become, while aggressively tone policing the Left whenever we pointed out (often using the word "fuck") what a deranged shit-show Conservative media had become.

That's when a lot of us realized what a very long war this was actually going to be.  The Right had flown past its fail-safe points and was now bull goose loony and lost  to reason forever.  The mainstream media was by now so terrified at the thought of being labeled as "Liberal" by Fox News and Hate Radio, that they all but gave up on trying to hold the Right accountable for anything, leaving them unfettered to grow exponentially more unhinged and more openly fascist.  And the only ones who were ever going to speak the truth -- out loud and every day -- were the exhausted remains of the Liberal blogosphere and handful of Liberal podcasters.

And that's where we are today, stuck with a mainstream media which has devolved into a husk that regularly outdoes the New York Times Pitchbot parody account.  A mainstream media which can barely bring itself to wrings its hands at the daily, open, braying threats to our democracy coming from Donald Trump and the entire Republican party, but will still rouse itself to action at any opportunity to muse bewilderedly about "Why We Hate Each Other This Much."

It's simple.

The Right has collectively allowed the worst people in the world to shit wild, toxic lies and sinister conspiracy theories into their skulls for decades.  They have let themselves become the willing, snarling tools of a vast and well-funded American fascist movement, and they did all this in plain sight. 

As for us godless, Murrica-hating, flag-burning, baby-killing, Commie scumbags on the Left?   We hate fascism.  Period.  And right now it looks like we're just about the only ones willing to stand up and fight to keep it from killing our country.

I Am The Liberal Media

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Professional Left Podcast Episode #813: No Fair Remembering Bill Buckley And The Power Of Myth

"It was a modest slip of the tongue, I was searching for the word ‘fascist.’" -- Gore Vidal apologizing to the presiding judge that time Bill Buckley sued him for calling him a “pro-crypto-Nazi.”


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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Wait? You Mean I Coulda Been Getting *Paid* For This?!?


The time: Peak George W. Bush administration.

The place: The American media landscape.

And the challenge:  If you are moved by cataclysmic circumstances to write about politics and the media, what is the shortest and surest route to becoming a complete media pariah? Giving slight offense will not get it done.  Treading, once and lightly, on the corns of a specific editor will not do.  You need get your picture  laminated next to every door into the mainstream media so that whichever bouncer is on duty today at whichever point on ingress knows not to let you pass.  You're shooting for the total persona non grata package, so what can you do that is so transgressive that you can never, ever be forgiven?   

The answer: Write about how fucked in the head the Republican party had become and write about how fatally compromised the mainstream media is for aggressively refusing to report on how fucked in the head the Republican party had become. 

I'm going to repost excerpts from two things I wrote in April of 2005.   The reason I'm reposting them is because they're from my very first month as a blogger, and because nearly 20 years later, rather than being kicked out of the media for ever whispering such things, an entire cottage industry of recently-former Republicans who are being offered top dollar for proffering exactly the same analysis.

If this stuff bores you, skip over it.  The moral of the story is way down at the bottom.  You will find it under the heading, The Moral of the Story.

First example, is from April 5, 2005.  That's +19 years ago.  It covers the rise of the crazies in the GOP.  How they're taking over the party.  And how the money guys and the "moderates" whistling past Lincoln's tomb thought thing weren't going to get so much worse.  Here you go:
The Fundies vs. The Funders.

The money guys are getting nervous. This whole patched-together GOP Dark Tower arrangement is visibly shuddering, and those up in the penthouse on the tippy-tippy-top can feel the swaying of the edifice more pronouncedly than anyone.

Something is coming.

Might not get here for awhile, but the coming Schism is already shaking the ground. The GOP’s own internal Cuban Missile Crisis. Their own third reel of “Reservoir Dogs.” Everybody pointing guns at everyone else and nobody willing to back off. Question is, who’s gonna shoot Nice Guy Eddie?
Very dangerous game -- chicken -- and we liberals should know; we’ve been playing it every election cycle for decades, but now we seem to be slowly learning how to stand together. The Republicans, OTOH, seem to be learning how to tear themselves apart in public like a German kinetic sculpture. Maybe there’s some kind of Cosmological Political Self-Immolation Constant in the Universe that always finds a way to balance itself out. Who knows?

What we can say is the Republican party is sick, and has been for a very long time. And the Moderates and Money guys are getting really, really scared of the increasingly deranged Fundy hired help, while the Fundies are getting louder and louder about their “Apocalypse Now!” agenda.

I have friends who used to describe themselves as Moderate Republicans. With these people, I could have gotten along. Found common ground. You know: “governed.”

9/11 made a lot of them lose their right minds in a lot of ways, but most acutely, it gave them a kind of Hysterical Political Blindness. Through sheer willpower (and cranking up the Limbaugh until their ears bleed) they try to drown out the clamor of the race back to the Dark Ages that their frenzied fellow-travelers are pursuing so feverishly.

Some virulent form of Spinal Dennis Milleritis, but now the Tower rumbles, and chunks of concrete are hitting the pavement, and a few of these moral sleepers are rubbing their eyes and wondering who the hell is making all the damned racket.

It’s the Fundies, pal. And the Funders are getting freaked.

The dirty Republican Secret that they hide right out in the open is sooo simple: Without their cross-burners, their Fundies, their militia groupies and their assorted other Hate-based Civic Organizations, they can't win anything. Without them, the Original GOP Gangsters would poll no higher than 30-40% from now until the end of time...and they know it.

So the whole of the GOP Noise Machine is (and must be) devoted to pandering to the Ultras, appeasing them. Fox News and Scream Radio are the damned cheering section for these Special Wingnut Olympics: devoted exclusively to telling stupid. hateful slugdumbs that they are not stupid and hateful. That their asinine, Jack Chick cartoon “religion” is somehow not ludicrous.

It is Hungry Tiger on whose back the whole Republican Party rides. Bush 41 made the mistake of not knobbing their rotting peckers hard enough and it cost him the election: since then who’s the Boss and who’s the Bitch has been crystal clear, and the split is starting to gape wide and ugly. The Ultras aren’t backing off this time: they smell arterial blood and they're hungry.

The Moderate and Money Republicans thought they were safe. Thought they could dispatch their Fundy thugs to beat-down and demonize Democrats whenever we got too close to victory. Thought their Imperial litters would be borne into Neocon Heaven on the broad backs and pin-heads of the Red State Shining Path Evangelicals.

Unfortunately, the trouble with having a Magic, 500,000 watt Demonizing Cannon in the hands of crazy people is that they have no compunction about turning it on anyone. Anyone at all.

Shit baby, they turned their shit-hoses on to genuine War Heroes -- in your own Party -- and didn’t bat a fucking eye. So what makes you think for a minute that they’re not going to swing those big guns around and fire them right into your wheelhouse if they believe you aren’t 100% down with their whole American Fascist Theocracy program? Because they’re realists? Because they believe in compromise? Haven’t you been paying attention!

There’s an old saying from World War II that “A Jew is anyone that Hitler says is a Jew.”
And a Commie is anyone that Joe McCarthy says is a Commie.
And a terrorist is anyone that George Bush says is a terrorist.
And an America Hating Enemy of Christ is anyone that Tom DeLay says is an America Hating Enemy of Christ.

Jesus, these fucks just never, ever learn do they? Always think you can get away with being a little bit pregnant and a little bit fascist, and skip out before the check comes.

Moderate Republicans (and non-voters) is where we win. We need to talk to them. Arrange pen-pal correspondence with them. Whatever.

Have one or two fresh Fundy outrages ready to slip into the conversation. Be firm but sympathetic: Every time you pulled the lever for the GOP, you handed over power to your worst nightmare...
The second core sample from the Age of Bush is from just four days later.  April 9, 2005.  It is a vivisection of a column by Mr, David Brooks of The New York Times, who was already fully committed to the Both Sides Do It lie.  He was busy cautioning this Republican party that, well-intentioned though they may be, Mr. and Mrs. Average Murrican were getting a wee bit nervous about a few of the GOP's more ambitious proposals -- like gutting Social Security -- and a few of its more enthusiastic supporters.

This was how Mr. Brooks described the situation:

The Republican Party is running into a problem: the conservatism of the American people. Over the past decade, the Republicans have set themselves up as the transformational party... [But the American people] have a taste for order and a distrust of those who want too much change on too many fronts too quickly...
And here was my helpful translation:

Translation: They are scared shitless that the Crazier’n a Shithouse Rat Theocrats that the Evil Liberals have always warned them about might actually exist and have the keys to the car. Oh and all the Mapquest Route Planners they left behind as clues have a place called “Armageddonville” circled in big, red Crayon.
Hey, remember Mapquest?!  What a time it was!

Brooks went on at some length trying to gently remind his Republican party that their most effective strategy had always been was keeping their racism and crazytalk hidden behind a genial, smiling Reagan mask, so put the fucking mask back on already!   

Then there was the problem of the Dear Leader of the Republican party being, y'know, a terrifying lunatic.  

Sound familiar?

In 2024 that Dear Leader is Donald Trump.  In 2005 that Dear Leader was Tom DeLay.  

Here's Brooks:

House Republicans like what DeLay has done, and few have any personal animus toward him, but his aggressiveness makes them - and his own constituents - nervous. Only 39 percent of DeLay's Texas constituents said they would stick with him if he were up for re-election today, a Houston Chronicle survey found.

Here's my translation:

DeLay has their nuts in his medicine bag and they don’t fucking dare say a word against him. DeLay makes a viper like Gingrich look like a charming Southern Gentleman, that’s how de-ranged he is. Don’t fuck with The Hammer, dude. My cousin said she had a friend who saw him beat a homeless guy to death with a congressional staffer. Then he ate him, whole, like an Anaconda eating a rabbit. He’s Kaiser Fucking Sose, man. Prince of Darkness. On the plus side, two-out-of-every-five ambulatory humans in Sugarland, TX would still support him even now that he has been outed as the Satan’s Wingman. Gotta love Texas: It’s like a whole other Special Olympics Purgatory.

However, Mr. Brooks also warned, that Democrats should take no comfort in any of this because Mr. and Mrs. Average Murrica found both sides equally yadda yadda yadda:


This does not mean good news for Democrats. That party is at risk of going into a death spiral. The Democrats lost white working-class voters by 23 percentage points in the last election, and now the party is being led by people who are guaranteed to alienate those voters even more: the highly educated and secular university-town elites who follow Howard Dean and believe Bush hatred and stridency are the outward signs of righteousness.

My translation:

America has had a chance to test drive Irresponsible Cowardly Stupid for a few years now and they luvs it! Even though they will climb over corpses to send their kids to college, Americans hate “elites.” Jeez, just saying that word creeps me out. ElitesElitesElites!    Stop it dude: you’re scaring the Fundies. Nothing more frightening than a citizen with a book. And positively terror-ific if they went to college...except Bob Jones...who Rock! Go Fighting Antimiscegenists!

And for +19 years and +11,000 posts (and 811 podcast episodes), to this very day, though I've veered here and there and around the block again from time to time, I've been on this beat.  Which has been rewarding in more ways than I can count, but it also provides a thoroughly Mapquested route to media ostracism. 

Go after the monstrousness of the Republican party without surcease?  Check.

Go after the Both Sides Do It lie without letup?  Check.

Go after the Very Serious Persons of the mainstream media -- especially The New York Times -- for using the Both Sides Do It lie to deflect, diffuse and otherwise run cover for the monstrousness of the Republican party?  Check.

And now, The Moral of the Story.

I read this Bulwark article yesterday evening, and after laughing all night, and right through breakfast, I thought maybe I'd write about it.

And then I got this wave of what I can only describe as precognitive deja vu.  The uncanny sense that, whatever I write today as a disreputable pariah Liberal blogger, 20 years from now I shall read the exact words I type today staring back at me from the pages of an elite media publication, under the byline of someone who built their career stomping the shit out of everything we Liberals cherish.

Anyway, here's the first few paragraphs from that Bulwark headline story:

1.  Both Sides

At this point, I think the New York Times has moved past trolling and on to attempted homicide. Here’s a paragraph in a story about Eric Adams:

Mayor Adams is far from the only notable elected official who has been criticized for making comments that seem inappropriate. President Biden has made remarks about people’s physical appearance. Former President Donald J. Trump often mocks people’s physical appearance and was found liable in a civil trial for sexually abusing the writer E. Jean Carroll.

Both sides.


BotH SiDeS!

It goes on like that for another 12 paragraphs.  

And then I read a thing that kicked my laugher up from rueful guffaws to something else:

Here's the thing I read:

At this point it’s clear that if we want better media, we have to build it ourselves. Which is what we’re trying to do, right here.

Yes, with the aid of wealthy benefactors, a quarter of a million subscribers, and, most importantly, in-kind promotional contributions from MSNBC worth tens of millions of dollars every year that got them a quarter of a million subscribers, The Bulwark is building its "better media".  And they are building it out of [checks notes] former Republican comms people, former Republican office holders, and former employees of Bill Kristol's now-defunct Weekly Standard.

From a long profile in The Washington Post, May 28, 2024:

The Bulwark: How could it be wrong when it feels so center-right?

...The Bulwark, a franchise of 11 podcasts and six Substack newsletters, has become an outlet for a lot of people. Not nearly as much so as Trumpism, but, well — that’s kind of the whole idea. It has picked up those that MAGA, and polarization in general, left behind...

And it’s been growing. This spring, the Bulwark added a podcast on Trump’s trials hosted by conservative lawyer George Conway; Adam Kinzinger, the former Illinois Republican congressman who voted in favor of Trump’s second impeachment, will become a regular contributor and podcast guest. It also hired political scribe Marc Caputo to send dispatches from Florida in a newsletter vertical titled “MAGAville.”

Meanwhile, the anti-Trumpers of the center-left are, as always, looking for conservatives who agree with them. Together with the refugees from the right, it amounts to a market. With 267,000 subscribers — 37,000 of whom pay for a fire hose of additional content and live chats — the Bulwark ranks third among Substack’s political sites. The company counts Kathryn Murdoch, Rupert’s daughter-in-law, among its early investors, and brings in about $5 million a year in gross revenue. Longwell says the venture is close to breaking even.

The Bulwark’s live shows are another way for all those people to know that they’re not alone in their starry-eyed desire to Make Centrism Great Again. 

Ah, yes.


I Am The Liberal Media

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Then There Was Tommy Nichols, Who We Called Tommy Both Sides...

....because he was pathologically incapable of talking about any Republican atrocity without it reminding him of something that he remembers some lefties did that was equally atrocious.  

In fact, this week he did it twice in one podcast.  On Mona Charen's Bulwark podcast where Tom was safe from the peril of  some Liberal popping up and asking him inconvenient questions

First example, speaking about how effortlessly Republicans profess to believe two things at the same time which completely contradict each other:

Nichols: matter what happens it's always the Deep State and, y'know, Bidens are super villains. I mean I love this idea that Joe Biden is this, like, doddering old uh fossil who also is,  y'know this this James Bond super villain...

All of which is true, and could have been left right there, no argument.  But since Tom apparently always has to be an asshole...

Nichols:'s kind of the flip side of the way people used on the Left used to talk about George W. Bush, right? He's a complete idiot.  He's...he can't tie his shoes, and he masterminded 9/11 and the Iraq [?] hoax. 

Charen:  Right!

Nichols: And, y'know, I mean it it shows you that we have become as a culture childlike in our inability to perceive...

And thus the specific depravity of Nichols' recently-former political party, and his complicity in turning that party into the shitpile it is today, is magically transmuted into a "we" problem.  A cultural problem, which Nichols had no part in creating.  Instead he wraps himself in the pundit's cloak of Olympian, above-it-allness and scowls down at us grubby mortals on the Right and the Left who have ruined everything.

You can see why no actual Liberals are allowed within a country mile of this neocon circle-jerk.  

But the fun doesn't stop there.  Just a few minutes later...

Nichols:  [Trump] is completely off his rocker.  And, you know all these prominent Republicans keep stepping forward and saying this is a deep danger.   The guy's unfit!  He's terrible! Of course I'm not going to, y'know...  And and it's especially galling when you think, um, there's been an argument made now that Virginia is a swing state...but, y'know, if you're John Bolton and you live in Virginia yeah your vote could matter .  Paul Ryan, Wisconsin, your vote's gonna matter! 10,000 votes could make the difference.  And... and all these guys saying well, y'know, I have deep concerns but...

So far, so good, right?  He's made his point and could have stopped right there and moved on.  

But since Tom apparently always has to be an asshole...

 Nichols: ... they all remind me of Bill Clinton, um, talking about preserving his viability.  And I just find it really cowardly...

Yes, Nichols is actually comparing the public decisions being taken here-and-now by John Bolton, the 75-year-old former National Security Advisor to Donald Trump,  and former Speaker of the House and current Fox News board member, Paul Ryan, to a tortured letter that Bill Clinton wrote as a deeply conflicted 23-year-old college student, during the height of the Vietnam War in 1969.

The letter itself hasn't been the subject of anyone's conversation for more than 30 years, since Ted Koppel dredged it up for a Nightline hit-job back in 1992.  But when it came to discussing grown-ass Republican men with real power and influence choosing to hide under a rug rather than take a position on voting to keep a monster out of the White House, somehow this 55-year-old letter was top-of-mind for Tom Nichols. 

Because they can never let this shit go.  Just as they can never stop fictionalising their own past until fuck ups become noble causes and the Bush administration becomes the story of a great and decent man who was cruelly slandered by us dirty despicable hippies.

Oh the humanity!

One suspects this is actually a mental condition -- a glitch -- that is endemic among Never Trumpers.

One suspects that decades defending their indefensible party by automatically Both Sidering all the horrible shit their party was getting up to,  rewired the brains of Republicans like Tom Nichols so completely that now they just can't stop.

Or maybe he's just a really petty asshole.  

I Am The Liberal Media

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Professional Left Podcast Episode 812: What's An Independent?

"Granfalloon: A proud and meaningless association of human beings." -- Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle


The Professional Left is brought to you by our wholly imaginary "sponsors" and real listeners like you!

Area Man Wakes From 55-Year Doctrinal Coma

Discovery can be hard.  Sometimes it takes a lifetime.

I, for one, am in awe of people who have made discoveries about the universe, whether it's something eye-popping like finding a new exoplanet, or something more subtle, like a new species no one had ever cataloged before.  

And then there are the no-less worthy discoveries made by people about themselves.  Who have perhaps stumbled upon a personal epiphany or, as is often the case, done the hard and painful work of achieving a deeper understanding of why they do what they do.

And then there are people who are just full of shit.  Who lay claim to suddenly discovering something about their world which was not just staring them in the face all along, but was a subject about which they had been hailed as an expert.  A paid, professional expert.

Imagine a master carpenter who claims decades of experience, one day picking up a saw and demanding to know, "A device for literally cutting wood?  What unnatural deviltry it this?!?"

Imagine a board-certified podiatrist with 25 years of experience suddenly proclaiming, "Oh my God, you mean there are five toes on the average human foot?  What the fuck did that happen?" 

Which brings us a column by David French published just a few days ago in The New York Times, where, inexplicably, Mr. French now has a job for life writing about "law, culture, religion, and armed conflict."

I've mentioned Mr. French before on this blog. 

Outside of wingnut circles of self-admiration, most normal people may have first heard of him when he was Bill Kristol’s Never Trump fantasy league choice to run for President in 2016. Because voting for Hillary was just too icky.

Mr. French used to be a writer at America's oldest journal of white supremacy, The National Review, where he used his position to advance his many odious opinions, which all grew out of his hardcore, Conservative Evangelical "Christianity".   But, as happened back in those days, Mr. French ran afoul of the MAGA right on the issue of Donald Trump, they ran him right out of there.  How fortunate for him that he also had so many friends in the "liberal" media, that a job was almost immediately found for him at The New York Times.

Because of course it was

However, before they could bring him on board, Mr. French had to hastily "rethink" some of him more medieval beliefs about woman  and gays and so forth so that he could meet the minimum requirements for reputational rehabilitation by the Beltway media.   Then, on to the Times!  After which a slot was found for him at The Bulwark, and an occasional chair was found for him on cable news.  

Because of course they were.  

Anyway, this week, The New York Time's new, in-house expert on religion wrote a long column which began with this headline:

The Day My Old Church Canceled Me Was a Very Sad Day 

There followed a very long column about how shocked, stunned (pardon me while I make a quick trip to my pocket Roget's) astonished, bewildered, dismayed, floored and , yes, even flabbergasted that his Conservative evangelical church was full of...Conservative evangelicals all along!

Just as he and the rest of his Never Trumper friend were dumbfounded, overcome and, yes, even stupefied t discover that their Republicans Party was, y'know...

Here's a small snip of that long column:

This week, the leaders of the Presbyterian Church in America will gather in Richmond, Va., for their annual General Assembly. The Presbyterian Church in America is a small, theologically conservative Christian denomination that was my family’s church home for more than 15 years.

It just canceled me.

I am now deemed too divisive to speak to a gathering of Christians who share my faith. I was scheduled to speak about the challenges of dealing with toxic polarization, but I was considered too polarizing.

I was originally invited to join three other panelists on the topic of “how to be supportive of your pastor and church leaders in a polarized political year.” One of the reasons I was invited was precisely that I’ve been the target of intense attacks online and in real life.

The instant my participation was announced, those attacks started up again. There were misleading essays, vicious tweets, letters and even a parody song directed at the denomination and at me. The message was clear: Get him off the stage.

And that’s what the conference organizers chose to do. They didn’t just cancel me. They canceled the entire panel. But the reason was obvious: My presence would raise concerns about the peace and unity of the church. ... 

This is where you all should feel free to make up whatever "Come of Jesus moment" joke suits you and share it in the comments if you like.

As a rebuttal witness to, I call to the stand Ms. Diana Butler Bass, who, according to her author’s CV:  

...has had a conflicted relationship with evangelicalism over the last several decades. Early in her career, she was fired from the evangelical Westmont College, blacklisted, and ignored after she challenged traditional beliefs. She has written extensively about progressive Christianity ever since, and is the author of eight books, including Grounded: Finding God in the World—A Spiritual Revolution and, most recently, Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks. 

And this, from The Chautauquan Daily,  is a very short version of the circumstances of her firing:

Bass was fired from her dream job for doing nothing wrong.

At the time she was working as a theology professor at an evangelical Christian college. Bass said the president of the university told her: “You’re an amazing student and an amazing scholar. I’m literally just firing you because you don’t fit here.”

So, without further ado, take it away Ms. Bass (via excerpted from Twitter):

So, David French has “never seen anything like it” when his evangelical church turned on him?

Welcome to my life for the last 30 years.

THIS IS WHAT EVANGELICALS DO. Always. They cancel people.

It just takes privileged conservative guys a while to notice I guess.

He literally just said “there are churches where you can’t be a Democrat.”

THIS HAS BEEN HAPPENING FOR 30 years. Geez. He didn’t know this????? There are millions of people who have experienced this. Evangelicalism has ruined so many lives.

Also, maybe he should memorize that Niemoller quote: “First they came….”

Finally, I’m all for Prodigal Sons and deathbed conversions. If, however, your job is public commentary on religion, you shouldn’t be so clueless. 

Maddening, isn’t it?  

Until they kicked him in the metaphorical teeth and tossed his ass out of his own church, David French somehow never noticed that his cult was a nest of bigoted, hateful vipers.  And it allegedly caught him completely by surprise when his church reacted exactly as anyone who wasn’t in that particular cult could have told him they would react.

Dead-wrong all along about religion? 

And about politics?

So of course The New York Times was gonna hand David French some of the most valuable real estate in journalism so he could write about both on the Sulzberger's payroll..

I Am The Liberal Media

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Brain Bug is Afraid

As an unreconstructed neocon, Bret "Bug" Stephens remains extraordinary extravagant about who he thinks Joe Biden should be bombing and how hard.  Listening to him whine about how cautious Biden is being about not lobbing lit road flares around in a region that is already saturated with gasoline and oily rags, one cannot help but conclude that the idea of "From the River to the Sea" is an eastward-pointing slogan for Bret Bug.  That he'd be more than happy to restart the Bush-era delusion of region-wide regime decapitation, starting with Biden glassing everything from the Jordan River east to the Caspian Sea, then sending in the Marines to something something Jeffersonian democracy and a flat tax.  

Only by embracing this Cheneyesque vision of American hard military power, violently projected everywhere from Day One, could Biden have won the favor of Bret Bug.  Which, you would think, after the historic, humiliating debacle that became of the Great Iraqi Liberation Thing Bug and his fellow neocons were so enthusiastic about, clowns like Bug would have second thoughts about.  

But you would be wrong. 

Clowns like Bug never learn. That's part of their Conservatives ethos: never, ever admit you're wrong about anything.  Just keep doubling down on your disastrous ideas until a coven of Underwear Gnomes pass a miracle and everything turns around and you can tell history to fuck off because, secretly, you've were right all along!

The trick to understanding goofs like Bug is that they do not live in the here-and-now.  Instead, thanks to the princely salary that the House of Sulzberger provides him, Bug can afford to live far over the ever -receding horizon of the future, in an imaginary happy tomorrow place where he has already been proven right and he can tell all us smarty-pants Liberals to suck it.

But until then, according to Bug, the very least Biden can do to make it up to Bug for failing him so badly is to immediately announce he is stepping aside, thus throwing the Democratic party into chaos six months before the election and virtually guaranteeing a Trump win in November.

His op-ed is entitled "The Most Courageous Thing That Joe Biden Can Do", and by now I think we can all agree where anatomically Mr. Bret 'Bug' Stephens of The New York Times can stick his advice and opinions with a ramrod.

The first sentence is the usual Obligatory Conserative Reagan Knob-Slobbering -- 

In 1977, Ronald Reagan shared his thoughts on the Cold War with his aide Richard Allen...

-- about which even the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab electron microscope could not detect how little of a damn I give.

And then, right at the end, comes this bag of burning shit dropped on the White House lawn.  The doorbell is rung, and Bug scampers away into the night.  

It all leaves the president with one option that can be a win for America and, ultimately, his place in history. He can still choose not to run, to cede the field to a Democrat who can win — paging Josh Shapiro or Gretchen Whitmer — and do the hard and brave things it will take to secure security and peace for the free world.

 So what motivates a mook like Bug to not just write such patently ludicrous trash, but to publish it in The New York Times?

I would speculate that it's fear.

Fear of what, you may ask?

Fear that a Biden victory in November would mean that Bug's dream of an America that bombs the hell out of anyone who even looks at us cross-eyed would have to be shelved for another four years.  Because, I would speculate, Bug would rather live under a lawless madman who will garrotte our democracy to death on live television but will also blow a lot of shit up that Bug wants to seen blown up...

...than under a judicious Democrat who is trying very hard not to start WWIII and who has also undoubtedly driven Bug mad by managing to pass more landmark progressive legislation, and against greater odds, than any Democrat since LBJ.  

Looks to me that, not-so-secretly, Bug is afraid that Biden might win.  

And I, for one. take comfort in that.

I Am The Liberal Media