Thursday, June 20, 2024

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


Marc McKenzie said...

As always, I prefer Driftglass' takes on how we got here, because DG REMEMBERS STUFF...the type of stuff that our MSM has purged from their memories in their drive to "both sides!" everything.

myklgrant said...

I love yours and Olbermann's takes on the capture of the American media by the right. Even the despair at ever finding a solution often comes through. Keep at it.

Jim Butts said...

The best history lesson I’ve ever read. The most important. The most entertaining. I’d love to help get a collection of your columns published. I’m a very good editor and I’m extremely persistent in finding things (like a publisher). We will get Olberman and Krugman and Pritzker to give us blurbs. You’re a great writer and thinker. A section on Brooks. A section on Sullivan. A section on “dumpster fire.” A section on Limbaugh and Hate Radio. A section on Fox “News.” A section on the “new” Republican Party. A section on “both siderism.” There would be overlap among the sections. But repetition is a great teaching strategy. At any rate, I’d spearhead the effort mostly using your online archive. We’d arrange chronologically so the growth in your thinking could be seen. Or it would show how “the Left has been right about the Right all along.” This is a serious suggestion. And I know you have not spoken positively about such a project. But you’ve never had someone like me behind the suggestion. Ph.D. in the history of early Christianity. Founder of an independent publishing company. Author of six family “history” books. Completely at home with handling sources. A senior scholar with experience and maturity. At any rate, I’d be willing to put together a short sample of the project. I’m retired. Not interested in making money for myself. Money for you? Hell yeah.