The Paranoid Right and Attacks on Moveon.org
In his always insightful New York Times column, Paul Krugman in recent weeks was even better than usual. Krugman, when looking at the paranoid, conspiracy-laden, resentful, self-hating troglodytes that form the foundation of the modern GOP, referenced arguably the most astute political observer of the past half century, historian Richard Hofstadter.
Hofstadter wrote a number of classics you probably read in high school or college, from The Age of Reform to The American Political Tradition. But it was in his work The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays, where he looked at the "angry minds" that animated both the McCarthy uprising and the Goldwater movement (Hofstadter wrote these essays in the 1950s and 1960s) and made some of his most prescient observations.
It's easy to see him predicting, in the "pseudo-conservative revolt" the paranoid politics employed by the GOP that has delivered our country to Bob-Corker-style racists, little spoiled brats named George with family lineages from suburban California and Greenwich, Connecticut, who like to play cowboy dress-up (Bush and Allen, respectively) and supposed anti-government Westerners like Senator Jon Kyl, who actually favors the government becoming so authoritarian as to be a dictatorship mining your health records and dating habits--when he is not musing openly about preemptively bombing Iran.
Don't get me wrong, this trend was already on the rise when Hofstadter wrote about it, utilized by the George Wallaces, Irving Kristols, Jerry Falwells and Richard Nixons, but as they have grown more powerful and have become a cancer on our body politic, it is more important then ever to expose these miscreants for what they are and fight back when they use the anti-Democratic tactics that are part and parcel to their entire atavistic movement.
You may be familiar with the attacks of the past, on Welfare Queens and Willie Horton, unions and "libruls," with the conservatives/Republicans realizing that if they could associate these positive words/organizations/programs with negative stereotypes and present "the other" for people suffering economically from their policies to blame instead of the corporations robbing them of their future, they could win in the political arena and enrich themselves at the same time (damn the consequences to our nation). All it takes is constant repetition and the opposition sitting idly by, allowing you to characterize them as you will.
In his piece, Krugman points out the addition of George Soros to this list, quoting Denny Hastert as saying back in 2004, "You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where-if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from." This has as much basis in fact as my saying "I don't know how Denny Hastert got to be so corpulent--it may be that he is eating all the Congressional pages Mark Foley hasn't gotten to, cooking them in a rich French butter sauce and topping it with a particularly lard-filled gravy." See how easy that was?
But the Republicans, much like with terrorism, the War on Christmas, gay marriage and other favorites, understand that as someone who is Jewish, of foreign birth, a financier and a New Yorker, Soros presents no better opportunity to provide people with that "other" who threatens their finances and values.
(Here, as I argue in In These Times, is how Democrats need to strike back).
Yet, the Republicans don't need all that Soros offers to launch this kind of attack. They only need to repeat bogus claims enough times, with pliant members of their media arm from Fox News to that Oxycontin-ingesting, serially marrying, doctor-shopping, sebum-stained pile of lipids known as Rush Limbaugh, and soon it enters the mainstream media and becomes fact for many.
Their recent attempts have targeted Nancy Pelosi, CREW, Kos and most of all Moveon.org. The latter organization has been so effective in raising money, awareness and Democratic voting rolls that the GOP has been on a jihad to make them radioactive. It is our job to make sure this effort fails.
Hofstadter pointed out that the psychological phenomenon known as "projection" is always at work among these "paranoids" who infect today's right. You may recall George Allen's disparaging his own Jewish heritage, Mel Gibson offering his theses on the workings of global geopolitics to a cop or cartoon-character Congressman J.D. Hayworth praising Henry Ford's theories in The International Jew, in which Jewish Americans were pretty much blamed for everything from world wars to the existence of heartburn.
Yet, the right has the audacity to pick out a few comments and videos posted by anonymous or obscure lunatics on the fringe-left on Moveon's site as representative of the entire group. (Which is why when an MSNBC appearance of mine was posted on YouTube, and one commenter called me a "Jesus Killer," I immediately took it to represent the feelings of every Republican since at least Nelson Rockefeller).
Yet, the same mainstream left and center-left that has rejected the idiotic policies of Joe Lieberman must be anti-Semitic, even as we support Barbara Boxer, Russ Feingold, Herb Kohl and our party's campaign committees are run by Rahm Emmanuel and Chuck Schumer. Good try Bill Kristol.
(For more on Lieberman and serial waffling over the years, by the way, please see my AlterNet piece here).
Then there is the right-wing fringe group The Free Enterprise Fund (FEF), which has run false ads accusing Moveon of being for "$1.3 trillion in higher taxes," "stopping welfare reform," being for a "global government" and of course being "funded by George Soros."
Well, let's see, Moveon has never advocated higher taxes, only opposing George Bush's tax cuts for Paris Hilton and Halliburton. They didn't exist when welfare reform was signed (nice research department imbeciles). One cannot find members of the organization advocating "global government" anywhere except in the paranoid minds of the dispossessed bed-wetters running the FEF. And the George Soros thing, well, we've already gone through that.
FEF is also angry because Moveon got involved early in advertising about corruption among four GOP members of Congress--Nancy Johnson, Chris Chocola, Deborah Pryce and Thelma Drake--making some of these districts, which nobody thought would be competitive, pick up opportunities for Democrats. So FEF attacked Moveon as the ones who were "unethical," "corrupt," and practicing "dirty tricks." No evidence was given to back up these spurious charges mind you.
Here's a bit of advice for FEF, however. You might not want to be throwing stones at a successful and yes, ethical operation, such as Moveon, when your organization was founded by Stephen Moore. Besides being perhaps the biggest dork allowed on television (with Fred Barnes clocking in at a close second) Mr. Moore was fired from his previous gig at The Club For Growth amid charges of "disorganized management," and accusations of "stolen donor lists" and "betrayal of principles."
And when you have Peter Ferrara listed as a Senior Fellow, the same Peter Ferrara who admitted that he "took money" from Jack Abramoff to write op-ed pieces boosting Mr. Black Fedora's clients without disclosing it, and responded when caught by saying "I do that all the time. I've done that in the past, and I'll do it in the future," ethics might be an area to steer clear of.
Also, getting sued by the FEC for violating the Federal Election Campaign Act in 2000, 2002 and 2004 doesn't do much for one's credibility when it comes to "ethics."
Unlike Peggy Noonan, I won't try and use my sixth sense to channel the thoughts of the dead or dolphins or the sadly departed primitive bacterial life on Mars.
But even though Dr. Hofstadter passed away 36 years ago, a few passages in particular from The Paranoid Style will seem eerily familiar, and explain why groups like Moveon are targeted for attack by the conspiratorial minds who currently ARE the GOP.
Quote #1: "Let us now abstract the basic elements of the paranoid style. The central image is that of a vast and sinister conspiracy, a gigantic yet subtle machinery of influence set in motion to undermine and destroy a way of life."
See right wing conpiracy theories about Moveon, "the gay agenda," Bill Clinton, etc.
Quote #2: "The apocalypticism of the paranoid style runs dangerously near to hopeless pessimism, but usually stops short of it. Apocalyptic warnings arouse passion and militancy, and strike at susceptibility to similar themes in Christianity."
See The Family Research Council, Pat Robertson and fear of "secular humanists."
Quote #3: "In contemporary right-wing movements, a particularly important part has been played by ex-Communists who have moved rapidly, though not without anguish, from the paranoid left to the paranoid right, clinging all the while to the fundamentally Manichean psychology that underlies both."
See Neoconservatives, Crazy Christopher Hitchens and lunatic David Horowitz
Quote #4: "The sexual freedom often atributed to him, his lack of moral inhibition, his possession of especially effective techniques for fulfilling his desires, gives exponents of the paranoid style an opportunity to project and freely express unacceptable aspects of their own minds."
See Mark Foley, Newt Gingrich, Don Sherwood, Rush Limbaugh, Jim Gibbons, "Hot Tub Tom DeLay," Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and every other divorced or philandering or self-hating homsexual or child-molesting Republican who attacks Democrats on family values while living a tortured life of self-doubt, self-loathing and personal longing.
Sadly we all pay the price for the demented mental state of the vast majority of those who now make up the core of what should be renamed The Party of Jeff Gannon.