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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A spectre is haunting America...

A couple of posts down, we looked at the increasingly popular right-wing meme which holds that Michael Chertoff is the beneficiary of a "liberal" or "socialist" conspiracy. After that came a post which noted that the Chertoff Group is composed of intelligence bigwigs like Michael Hayden and Chad Sweet.

The teabaggers have formed some very strange ideas as to what constitutes liberalism and socialism

If you traipse through blogland, you'll find plenty of comments like these about the TSA controversy:
We should disband the TSA and not have our government (and our taxes) paying for security for private industries such as airlines; this is out and out socialism. The airlines should be responsible for their, and their passengers, safety -- not big government!
Sentiments of this sort are goofy -- yet they also place liberals in a tricky position, if only because neanderthals can't grasp subtle distinctions. In this case, the distinction comes down to this: Yes, the government has an obligation to protect its citizens -- the TSA exists for a good reason, as do the Coast Guard, the Army, the local constabulary and similar "socialist" institutions. We can defend that abstract principle while condemning the (mostly Republican) insiders who have turned various government institutions into schemes for personal enrichment.

It's an ongoing outrage: First the conservatives corrupt all aspects of our government -- then they tell us that government was the problem all along. When the Bush administration allowed profiteers to commandeer the Katrina clean-up effort, right-wing bloggers responded: "See? Government programs don't work!"

As always, reactionaries hope to win the argument through sheer repetition. A very few examples will suffice: The TSA is a "Marxist" plot, according to these bozos, while Glenn Beck predictably labels Chertoff part of the great "liberal" conspiracy. According to this hallucinogenic screed, the TSA screener scandal means that we are living in a "slave state" controlled by Marxists. This guy writes of "Airport Scanners and Marxist Criminology."

If you do a little googling, you'll find dozens of similar examples. The rightist writers keep spewing out the lies the way Frito-Lay spews out corn chips: All Dems are liberal, all liberals are socialists, all socialists are commies, and Uncle Karl wrote what he wrote because he wants strangers touch your junk.

(Side note: When did "junk" became slang for genitalia? I first noticed this usage a few years ago, but it may have slipped into common parlance at the end of the last century.)

A few points:

1. Where was the conservative outcry earlier? As noted in our previous post, the first denuciations of the Chertoff Group appeared a long time ago in lefty journals like Mother Jones. The right-wingers won't tell you that.

Ultra-conservative propagandists opportunistically seized upon the airport security issue only after it became a national scandal. And now they want everyone to think that Chertoff and the folks who read Mother Jones play for the same team. What a bizarre situation!

2. The Chertoff group includes former NSA head Michael Hayden and the CIA's former head of covert ops, Chad Sweet. If you feel comfortable calling these guys "Marxists," then I'd like to know how you define the term.

In the past, only a few loons in the John Birch Society accused the CIA of being part of the communist conspiracy. Today, that wacko idea is becoming common.

3. You know damned well that the exact same right-wingers would be screaming for body scanners -- and defending Chertoff -- if a Republican were sitting in the oval office.

We've seen this kind of thing before. In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, Bill Clinton instituted some reasonable anti-terrorism measures; in response, the conservatives screeched about jack-booted thugs robbing Americans of their freedom. Yet when the Bushites pushed the far more draconian Patriot Act, conservatives accused the Act's critics of hating America.

4. Obama is no socialist -- in fact, he's hardly locatable anywhere on the left. He's a Republican in D clothing on issue after issue: Free trade, Afghanistan, Wall Street bailouts, mortgage relief, electronic eavesdropping, etc. This is precisely why I opposed him in 2008. Alas, incessant right-wing propaganda has persuaded half the citizenry that the "socialist" canard has merit.

Is there any way to combat this propaganda barrage? Is there any way for old-school liberals to criticize and oppose Obama without making common cause with tea-stained thugs and lunatics?

5. In this day and age -- in the wake of the Wall Street disaster -- many Americans actually think that the big problem facing the country is resurgent Bolshevism. Can you freakin' buh-lieve that? I can't. Yet there it is.

It's getting truly nutty out there. You don't have to look very far to find assertions that Russia faked the death of communism in 1991. We're even seeing a comeback of James Jesus Angleton's insane notion that the Sino-Soviet split was a fraud, and that Moscow was behind the Prague Spring. The gooniest John Birchisms have suddenly gone mainstream.

If this madness continues to take hold of the nation's imagination, all hope is lost.
I think all the conspiracy theories speak of our distrust of the government in Washington. We see those in Washington as using their position of power to enrich themselves, instead of serving the people they represent.
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