Sunday, February 03, 2008

"Living is easy with eyes closed...."

Received another of those right-wing pass-it-on emails today. It doesn't matter what the subject of these electronic tracts is. The object is to sow unreasoning fear, prejudice and distrust.

And what a patriotic thing ethnic hatred is when shared among friends. Just the way Tom Paine or Samuel Adams would have if they had had computers, the Internet and little knack for critical thinking.

A friend wrote to ask what I thought about these things, saying:

It makes me crazy.

During this election season, hatred and bigotry rise up from the mouths of people I have known and I am just shocked.

I guess I am just that naive to think that times have changed and that it shouldn't matter whether you are a man or woman or person of color when it comes to choosing a president to lead the nation.

It just makes me sad.

Indeed. The fact that this particular, unoriginal screed was attributed to some retired general who hadn't written it should surprise no one. As the Chicago Reader noted, the truth doesn't matter in Nixonland:
Nixonland, which will be published by Simon & Schuster, takes its title from a coinage of former presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, who once described “Nixonland” as a place with “no standard of truth but convenience, and no standard of morality except sly innuendo, the poison pen, the anonymous phone call.”
In Nixonland, presidential candidates of the Republican party that insists that the world irrevocably changed on 9/11 are falling over themselves to reinvent 1980s Reaganomics.

In Nixonland, Republicans who impeached a Democratic president accused of perjury allow a Republican president to decide for himself which laws he'll obey.

In Nixonland, two successive Bush Attorneys General refuse to answer whether waterboarding is a crime -- the same practice we prosecuted as a war crime when perpetrated by the Japanese in WWII. Say no, and the Republican A.G.s become international laughing stocks. Say yes, and they'll be asked why they haven't pursued Americans who have practiced it lately, and their own bosses who authorized it.

Comedian Lewis Black has observed:
... there has to come a point, where Democrats and Republicans, where we see a piece of footage and we just agree on what the fuck reality is. And the fact is you cannot shoot video of a Land Rover running over a cat and then say... the cat was trying to kill itself.
Unless you're a movement conservative ... and the truth is inconvenient.

This is what Barry Goldwater's party has become. Blogger and Goldwater expert Rick Perlstein writes about Allen Raymond's How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative. Raymond did jail time for jamming Democratic party and union firefighters' phones for the RNC -- arguably, under instructions from the White House -- in New Hampshire on election day, 2002:
"The mouth-breathers who decide GOP primaries might allow people who steal their money and send their children to impossible wars to get away with anything, but they'll cut no such slack for baby-killers," Raymond writes.


If that's the contempt he harbors for RNC members—the party elite—you can imagine how he talks about "the Jesus-loves-guns crowd" with their "pro-life, snake-handling babble" and "religious doggerel." In one memorable phrase, he regrets he did it all just "so some platitude-spewing hack could be elected Grand Cyclops"—thus, from the inside, weighing in on the debate over whether today's conservative movement is racist or not: "Grand Cyclops" is the title for the leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

He's rather thrilled to be able to demonstrate just how authoritarian-minded these "knuckle-draggers" are, picking up his cell phone from the Republican convention, telling [a friend on the other end] to watch his TV set, then barking "U-S-A! U-S-A!" while pumping his fist in the air.

Soon the whole section has picked up the chant: "That shit's fucking scary, man!" his friend says. Responds Raymond: "What else do you want them to say?"
I'm reading the Raymond book now. It's reminiscent of Jack Abramoff colleague, Michael Scanlon's appreciation of the usefulness of getting unwitting "religious whackos" to do their dirty work. Perlstein writes:
... Raymond is quite explicit that "both sides do it" is a myth: " When it came to playing in the gutter, we were the professionals—the Dems weren't even junior varsity."
Raymond himself writes:
In GOP circles in 2002 it seemed preposterous that anything you did to win an election could be considered a crime. For ten years I'd been making phone calls with the intent to manipulate voters; hell, I'd been handsomely rewarded for it. In my business, communication devices were all lethal weapons—and every fight was dirty.... Even the guys who didn't expose undercover CIA operatives, proposition congressional pages, and send other people's children off to die in an impossible war wouldn't rat on the ones who did.... I was truly beginning to understand how few metaphysical limitations a person is up against once he decides that the truth is what he makes it. From then on, two plus two would equal whatever sum I found most useful."
The party that routinely accuses its Democratic rivals of advocating moral relativism has become, not just comfortable with, but skilled at situational ethics.

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