Re-direct

In response to Urizen’s response on my own post, I felt the need to explain myself to those of you who came away with similar impressions as Urizen did.
My intent was not to dismiss the problem, and I never claimed to. In fact, my post was meant to stress the importance of combating the problem, not writing it off as offsetting penalties. My point was that one should not come away from the Mahablog post with the mistaken impression that there is something inherently rightist about hateful rhetoric. I acknowledged and even accepted the post’s point that the current political climate is such that the most egregious examples are coming from the right. (“I do, however believe that at this juncture the fundamentalist far right … is much stronger, much more vocal, and much more mainstream than the fundamentalist far left.”)

My point was (and is) that hateful rhetoric and action always exist, and they easily attach themselves to extremism. The fact of the matter is that in modern America, extremism on the right is far easier to attach to than that on the left. This was not true, though, during the Vietnam war, or more illustratively, in any bloody revolution you care to name. Mahablog claims that “the Right works a lot harder at cultivating hate than does the Left.” I disagree – I believe that the hate from the right has simply caught on better than hate from the left. In particular, I think that it’s not case of working harder, but rather of one having an easier time of spreading hate than the other.

The important distinction (and one that I will expand upon in an upcoming post, though not in this context) is that the empiricial evidence presented in the Mahablog posting are symptomatic, but care must be taken to infer the correct diagnosis. While I’m never one to object to “examining the ideological roots of these strains of eliminationism and hatred”, I think it’s dangerous to jump to the conclusion that the ideals of the right are what cultivate hate before reasoned investigation. I am willing to guess that the real reason rightist hate is so much more prevalent is in the willingness of people today to embrace far right hate than far left hate, in large part because the right found a “righteous” cause to attach its (more hawkish) rhetoric to, which gave the unscrupulous on that side the opportunity to start the proverbial snowball rolling.

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5 Responses to Re-direct

  1. Urizen says:

    My intent was not to dismiss the problem, and I never claimed to.

    I didn’t say you dismissed the problem, but it did seem that you dismissed the point that we don’t really “see eliminationist rhetoric from people who are prominent enough to have some following among liberals, progressives, or Democrats or who hold prominent elected office or positions in the Democratic party.” As I said, this is an empirical point, and you seemed to pass it off as mere slant. I don’t think it’s enough to say that the prevalence of eliminationist rhetoric on the right is merely a product of it “catching on” more than on the left, nor do I think that’s a particularly accurate statement, given the lack of attempts at such rhetoric from the left. The empirical point that eliminationism is and has been for a while a primarily right-wing phenomenon doesn’t seem to be in dispute here. Yes, “care must be taken to infer the correct diagnosis,” but that’s exactly what’s going on in Mahablog’s post—an attempt to explain the data based on the underlying ideologies. I’m not sure, either, how you can assert that the left works equally hard at cultivating hate—I’d be very curious to see how you would back such a statement up.

    There is a distinction to be made, I think, between two types of what you’re labelling ‘extremism.’ The type you seem to be referring to is the “I’m right and you’re wrong” variant, which is likely more balanced between the two sides. The type I think Mahablog is referring to is a more fundamental variety (“I’m right and you’re subhuman, and therefore you have no right to live,” perhaps), one with strong ideological ties to the xenophobia, militarism, and reductive “reframing” that are at the heart of the modern neoconservative movement. These are important connections that I think we have a duty to examine and ponder; I don’t think it’s accurate to dismiss them in favor of saying it’s merely a matter of opportunism.

    Keep in mind, too, that we’re talking about the American right wing, rather than some absolute philosophical construction of rightist politics. In that sense, yes, it’s a matter of “the political climate,” but I don’t think you can reduce it in such a way as to marginalize the ideologies that allow eliminationism to take hold. The American right is the neoconservative movement (look at how astonishingly marginalized the voices of classical conservatism have been in recent years), and even though that’s not exactly equivalent to fundamentalism, it is a political religion of the sort that tends to generate fundamentalist views and fundamentalist rhetoric. No one is “[jumping] to the conclusion that the ideals of the right are what cultivate hate before reasoned investigation.” On the contrary, these posts are that reasoned investigation. They’re an attempt to discern exactly why eliminationism is such a right-wing phenomenon. The right wing in modern America doesn’t begin and end with the culture or with opportunism in attaching itself to a “righteous” cause; it is about these things to many of its politicians, I suspect, but as a movement, it has become a bastardized and highly damaging ideology of its own. The hatred and combativeness that we’re seeing are central to the politics of the modern right, the idea being that voices of dissent from the status quo (that holy grail of social conservatism) are innately treasonous. Neoconservatism is not just a passing cultural fad—it is the right wing in America, and that’s something we must deal with.

    I also have to quibble briefly with your analogy to “bloody revolutions.” This is an imperfect analogy for two reasons. The first is that obviously there is a difference between eliminationist rhetoric and violence itself. The former often leads to the latter, and that’s the primary reason why the former is such a dreadful thing, but they’re not equivalent, and I don’t think eliminationist rhetoric tends to be a defining characteristic of revolution. The second imperfection is that leftist revolutions, almost without exception, have been acts of rebelling against perceived oppression. Neoconservative eliminationism has no such connection; it isn’t born out of a desperation to break the mold and gain some sort of freedom that’s being withheld, and only the most craven of right-wing pundits will attempt to assert that they’re being oppressed.

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