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If you’ve been watching Glenn Beck much lately – something I generally try to avoid, but I inevitably see clips on Countdown, The Rachel Maddow Show, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and/or just about every blog on the liberal side of the blogosphere – you know that the man has been bandying about terms like “Nazi” and “fascist” and “Hitler” pretty freely in connection with progressives generally and President Obama in particular.
Not that President Obama is particularly progressive, but that’s another rant for another time.
Anyway, Beck has been engaged in a lot of ranting and raving and name calling, including some odd combos like “communist fascists,” which apparently is what happens when someone moves so far to the left end of the political spectrum that they end up back around at the extreme end of the right side of the spectrum.
Apparently no one’s ever explained Godwin’s Law to Mr. Beck.
Now, just yesterday, I ran across the following photo from the Washington Post (h/t @chrislhayes, link takes you to the original photo in context):
I ask you, who does this photo remind you of?
Here’s a hint. Change the flag behind him with another historical flag. One from, say, Germany. Late 1930s – mid 1940s era.
Seriously, dude. Glass houses. Pot. Kettle.
Mind, I’m not calling Glenn Beck a Nazi. Because, hey, I am familiar with Godwin’s Law.*
I’m just saying that, well, if there was a photo of me looking like this floating around on teh internets, I’d really want to avoid mentioning the H-word. Or the F-word. Um, fascist, that is, not the other F-word (which I manifestly have no problem with using when the occasion seems to call for it).
Just a thought.
* I will concede that there comes a point where the comparison to fascism as a system of government may be appropriate, despite the emotional valence of the term. I drafted a couple of posts for this blog during the Bush administration where I speculated about where we as a nation were along the slippery slope leading to fascism, though I don’t remember if I actually posted any of them. I was not alone in speculating about this – see for instance Joe Conason’s It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush.
Ever since the Senate vote on the FISA POS yesterday, I’ve been trying to puzzle it out, and I still don’t get it.
Why did Barack Obama vote for the bill?
What could possibly have motivated him to vote the way he did?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m plenty ticked off at all the other Democrats who caved to pressure from either the White House or (more likely) campaign contributors associated with the telecoms. They’re all on my shit list at the moment, and the Day of Retribution shall come, when they shall be Mocked Most Thoroughly for their total lack of backbone, intestinal fortitude, and/or principles.
I write a mean poison pen letter.*
But Obama’s decision to vote in favor of the bill completely mystifies me. I really cannot come up with a single rational explanation for his decision to support this bill.
It was a foregone conclusion that, no matter how he voted on the matter, McCain (who managed not to vote on the bill) will criticize his vote during the campaign. If he voted against it, he was soft on terrorism. If he voted for it, he was flip-flopping. (And by the way, McCain: Hello? Pot? Kettle? Glass houses?) So I’m not seeing much gain there.
Some have theorized that this is part of his effort to move a bit toward the center, since he is currently being portrayed by some on the right as being the senator who is furthest to the left on the political spectrum. But aside from those of us on the left who are active in these matters, my sense is that this issue hasn’t drawn a huge amount attention from the middle-of-the-road crowd. So the way I see it, he alienated his base on the left for very little potential gain in the middle.
And boy, has he ever alienated his base. From today’s Wall Street Journal, we have this little tidbit:
Obama’s own campaign Web site has become a hotbed of debate over his support for the compromise bill, spawning four groups in which opponents of Obama’s position vastly outnumber supporters—22,957 to 38. The “Get FISA Right” group blog on MyBarackObama.com was flooded with disappointed supporters after Wednesday’s vote, with more than 60 writing in within 90 minutes of the vote.
“Christopher from Cleveland” wrote, “All those people saying that we should relax, and take it easy, since it’s only one issue, are wrong because Barack is breaking his promise to us!”
“Dan in Holland,” said he was a Michigan voter who would no longer vote for Obama, adding “I just lost an enormous amount of respect for Mr. Obama and his vote on the FISA bill and the amendment to strip telecom immunity.”
Certainly, the blogosphere is up in arms about how he voted. Promises of no further campaign contributions and refusal to vote in November abound. (But really, are these people likely not to vote? Hell, no. When it comes down to it, I think we can all agree that what we do not need is for the next four years to look like the last eight years.)
Perhaps he fears a terrorist attack will take place on US soil between now and November. If there is one, a “no” vote on this measure really could hurt him in the polls. (See my previous posts on terror management theory for why.) So that might explain it.
There’s another possibility, and it’s a disturbing one. Maybe he actually wanted the measure to pass. Maybe he wanted to have that warrantless wiretapping ability should he win the election in November.
For the record, I think that the last option is pretty unlikely. I don’t believe we’ve all misread him that badly. I don’t want to believe that.
Still, with his vote on this issue, I think he’s changed the dynamic in the race a bit. It was nice having a candidate we could get excited about, instead of feeling like we were voting for the lesser of two evils. And now, I think a lot of us are going to be asking the question, “What else is he going to change his position on?”
Hopefully, by this November, he’ll have reassured us all a bit in that regard. There’s plenty of time between now and then to convince us that he’s still the leader we saw in the primaries.
But we’re not going to forget about this. He voted to betray the constitution, just like everyone else who voted yes on that goddamn bill. He sold us out like the rest of them.
* Hey, I’m a graduate student of limited means, living in Redstatesville, which is a drive of approximately thirteen and two-thirds cassette tapes** from Washington, D.C. (if you allow for traffic). My response options are somewhat limited. Sometimes a Strongly Worded Letter is the best I can manage.
** Some people measure travel distance in miles. I measure it in music. Though that’s becoming more difficult, because lately, on long drives, I listen to my iPod instead of cassette tapes, and that’s just not very convenient as a measure of distance, because you have to count actual songs which is kind of a pain. On the other hand, with gas prices going up the way they have, long roadtrips will soon become a thing of the past, so the methodology for calculating distances becomes kind of moot.
Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fled France [Saturday] fearing arrest over charges of “ordering and authorizing” torture of detainees at both the American-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the US military’s detainment facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, unconfirmed reports coming from Paris suggest.
US embassy officials whisked Rumsfeld away yesterday from a breakfast meeting in Paris organized by the Foreign Policy magazine after human rights groups filed a criminal complaint againsgt the man who spearheaded President George W. Bush’s “war on terror” for six years.
Under international law, authorities in France are obliged to open an investigation when a complaint is made while the alleged torturer is on French soil.
Major disclaimer: I have absolutely no way of knowing whether any of this is true.
Of the three places I found this story, the only one I have any prior experience with is AlterNet. They seem to be attributing the story to IPS News (Inter Press Service News Agency), which I have never even heard of before. I cannot find the story on the IPS web site, and therefore am uncertain whether AlterNet’s attribution is correct.
One of the three sites reporting the story seems to be based in Iran, although it is an English-language site. Given the current state of relations between Iran and the US, I am likely to be skeptical about anything one of those country’s media report about government officials (or ex-officials) from the other country. (And yes, that works in both directions, given all the untrue things the US mainstream media reported about Iraq back in 2002 and early 2003.)
The third site is something called world news, which looks like a blog and seems to include stories from a variety of reputable sources, including the New York Times, Reuters, and BBC News. However, it does not list any source for this story, either.
None of the stories include an author’s name, though the Iranian site does have some initials at the end of the story (“RZS/BGH”), which might signify a staff author or authors — other stories on the site include similar strings of initials at the ends of the stories. The end result is that we have zero accountability on this story. (Yes, I realize that sounds ironic coming from someone who blogs under the moniker jane doe. But I’m all about irony. Plus, I usually cite sources for any factual assertions I make, unless they are being widely reported already by multiple mainstream sources.)
On the assumption that this might have actually happened but been ignored by our beloved corporate mainstream media here in the US, I did a little searching on some European news sites. Guardian (UK) and the BBC are both silent on this story, and the former of those, at least, would probably mention it if they had heard about it.
All-in-all, I have a lot of doubts about the truth of the story, but I thought it deserved a mention, if only in the hopes that someone who has the ability to investigate whether any of it is true picks up on it.
So my question to you, my dear non-existent readers, is this: has anyone else heard anything about this? Is this story true? A distortion of a true story? An outright hoax?
I don’t know. If you do, please post a reply in the comments.
And by the way, whether this story is true or not, it does not change my position that Bush and Cheney really ought to be impeached.
In my previous post, I outlined some of the principles of terror management theory, and described the theory’s implications for American politics. But despite the length of my post, I left out one very important point that I really wanted to emphasize.
You see, I am aware of anecdotal evidence that awareness of terror management theory can actually change individuals’ reactions to those lovely death primes the research relies on. Certainly, I have found that my own awareness of the theory has changed the way I watch the news, and in particular it has changed the weight I give to various political assertions by members of the current administration.
But I am not drawing solely on my own experience in making this assertion, even though I am unaware of any published study that would support it. Rather, I am relying in part on unpublished whisperings among the graduate students at one of the academic institutions where much of the research into terror management theory has been conducted.
First, you must understand that much of the research in this field (as is the case with nearly all psychological research) is performed on undergraduate college students, usually those enrolled in undergraduate psychology courses. There is a very good reason for this, of course: undergraduates are a convenient research population, and they will usually participate without pay in exchange for a few extra credit points in their psych classes.
On at least one of the campuses where much of the research into terror management theory takes place, the graduate students who collected the data complained that they had gotten reputations among the current crop undergraduate psychology majors for always working on terror management studies, and the students participating in the studies would be looking for the death primes as soon as they saw the graduate students conducting the research. Suddenly, the researchers had trouble getting statistically significant results, even in cases where all previous research suggested that the present study should produce such results. In other words, awareness of terror management theory at least partially nullified the effect of the death prime. As a result of this, the grad students had to start going to other college campuses in the area to seek research participants.
It is for this reason that I have devoted so much time researching and writing my post on the politics of terror management. (Though the post ostensibly responds to Olbermann’s recent piece on the nexus of politics and terror, I have actually been working on it for some time and only made the changes that address his piece in the last two days.) I hope that my post on the subject, and a few others I have planned, will spark a discussion of terror management theory in the blogosphere, and that that discussion will eventually reach the mainstream media. It is my hope that, by increasing voter awareness of terror management theory and its implications, the ability of politicians to manipulate those voters with fear will be reduced.
Please note that I am not claiming there is no reason for us to be concerned about future terrorist attacks. The events of 9/11 made it plain that we are vulnerable to attacks on American soil, and it is appropriate for our government to devote significant resources to preventing future attacks. My point (and hope) is that voters should be able to make their decisions about which candidate(s) would be best to lead our country into a post-Bush future and undo the damage he has done to our country and our standing in the world arena free of the sort of emotional manipulation that we have been subject to in the recent past. Knowledge is power, and in the present instant, knowledge of terror management theory confers the power to resist manipulation by those who hope to use the theory to manipulate us with fear tactics.
And furthermore, I believe that Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.
Yes, I have been gone for a while now. I apologize to you, my non-existent readers, for my absence. I could blame it on end-of-the-semester overload, but that really wouldn’t cover what’s been going on in my mind. The simple truth of the matter is that I have felt a bit overwhelmed by all the various revelations over the past few months about the depth of the malfeasance, corruption, and perversion of political processes that we are seeing in Washington right now. There were, quite simple, too many things to be writing about, and I felt like I was drowning in a rising tide of scandals. Talk about a target-rich environment!
So I have been delaying work on the blog till I could focus a bit. Expect to see more over the next couple of days, as I get caught up on Gonzogate, the looming presidential election (it really is looming, you know, like a monster in a gothic horror story), the whole Iraq catastrofuck, privacy intrusions, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
You may have seen this already, but in case you missed it, Tom DeLay has started a blog – it apparently went up on Sunday, and was initially up for about 75 minutes with unmoderated comments, resulting in lots of posts of the “You crook!” and “F— you!” variety, and a few more thoughtful comments, whereupon it was taken down by Tommy Boy or one of his minions until they could figure out how to set it up with moderated comments. The posts are back up now, but it looks like it’s being heavily moderated. Some critical posts are getting through, but there already appear to be complaints from some commenters that previously-submitted comments haven’t been posted.
But wait, I hear my nonexistent readers say, don’t you reserve the right to cancel comments? Yes, indeed I do – abusive or threatening comments. Though at this point I’d be grateful for any comments at all, and would probably limit myself to mocking the grammatical and factual errors of those who flame me. And I welcome any kind of thoughtful criticism or reasoned disagreement – the whole point of free speech is that ultimately through intelligent discussion bad ideas will be discredited and good ideas will gain wider circulation. While I believe that the ideas and ideals I espouse are good ones, I freely admit to being human and therefore capable of making mistakes, so I like to hear opposing viewpoints. They may change my mind, or they may ultimately strengthen my resolve in my original views, but it is better to hear all sides of an issue (even the moronic ones) than to pick a viewpoint – particularly because that viewpoint is trumpeted by certain individuals or political parties – and ignore all evidence to the contrary.
But back to Tommy Boy. It looks like one attentive blogger kept a copy of one of the original posts plus comments before they were yanked from circulation – you can find it here. Entertaining reading, and something you’re not likely to see again anytime soon.