The Great Game Continues


New at Reason: Cathy Young pours salt in the wounds of lachrymose liberals and confounded conservatives.

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  1. bennett writes:

    What exactly do you mean by “held accountable” for what they say? Are you suggesting we force people to exhibit what you consider to be restraint with some type of “Fairness Doctrine”?

    No, actually, I was thinking forced labor and reeducation camps, with a handful of summary executions just to show who’s boss.

    (Jesus, what is it with some libertarians? If I used the expression, “stop banging your head against the wall,” would you accuse me of trying to covertly lay the groundwork for a mandatory helmet law? For future reference, if I don’t use expressions like, “The government should …” or “It should be illegal to …”, then you may assume that I’m not calling down the heavy hand of Leviathan on mine enemies. Specifically, in my foregoing comment, by “held accountable” I mean something like “held accountable within the sphere of public discourse and reputation by participants in that discourse.”)

  2. I must admit that I did assume the position you so sarcastically refuted. However, you still seem to be assuming that the left is some how more virtuous than the right, and at that point I disagree. For every Coulter there is a Carville.

  3. Carville? That’s the analogue? Which crowded buildings has Carville expressed his desire to see bombed by terrorists? Who has Carville wanted to kill so the opposition party will be “physically intimidated?”

  4. joe is correct, only the right-wing has lunatics. It is lunacy to not speak of Bush as Hitler.

  5. The hollowness of Young’s argument are revealed by the examples she uses. Hannitty, Limbaugh, Coulter and, to a lesser extent, Horrowitz are all well known people who have received wide exposures and made sometimes lucrative careers spewing their vicious nonesense. James Byrd’s daughter is not a media star and I think the fact that her father was ruthlessly murdered might be something Ms Young really ought to take into account seeing as she’s showing us the way of reason . And just who the f*** is Julianne Malveax?

    He examples exposing liberal nastiness reminds me of Frank Zappa’s comment chiding Tipper Gore for her investigation into obscene rock lyrics. I’m paraphrasing but it goes something like this: “I think she had to dig pretty far to find the one about anal vapors.”

    Face it, Cathy, conservative hatred is mainstream whereas liberal isn’t. You really are pulling a David Boner, excuse me, Broder here. If you really want to impress me go after Al Franken or Joe Conason. Assuming you can, of course.

    I’m beginning to find the title or your organ just a tad on the presumptuous side.

  6. Braintree – I think you make bennett’s point perfectly: “Even in the comments regarding this article people find it nescessary to tell us how the ‘other side’ is the bad one, and they miss the point entirely.”

  7. Bush as Hitler. Actually, I think I saw that one on Jim Lehrer. Not.

    The fact that you had to adopt the nom-de-web “Indymedia Editor” would cause a little lightbulb to go off in most people’s heads.

  8. Sorry Joe, but everyone knows conservatives are stupid (including Stupid White Men like you). We have studies to prove it.

  9. I think the Coulters of the world (on both sides) are the most vocal manifestations of a deeper problem in the good old left vs. right contest:

    Some people on the left or right can’t fathom how a good person could disagree with them. How could a good person possibly oppose social welfare programs? (Because they think the programs are making the problems worse by encouraging dependency.) How could a good person support the welfare programs that have failed to solve the problem of poverty? (Because even a flawed program still helps somebody, and they are reluctant to withdraw that help.)

    How could a good person oppose the war in Iraq? (Because they are extremely reluctant to unleash the violence of war, and the don’t believe that outside intervention can bring freedom and peace to a troubled region.) How could a good person support the war in Iraq? (Because they wanted to see a tyrant overthrown and the Iraqi people liberated.)

    How could a good person oppose laws to keep guns away from criminals? (Because they think the right to self-defense against criminals is paramount.) How could a good person oppose the right of a woman to own a gun and defend herself from violence? (They want to stem the overall tide of violence and they think restricting access to weapons will help.)

    Now, on each issue above, I agree with one side and disagree with the other. But I think that some of the people whom I disagree with are still well-meaning. Yes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And yes, if somebody is wrong then he’s wrong, and his ideas should be opposed. But that doesn’t mean that the person is some sort of devil. He’s simply wrong, not evil.

    Some people are probably freaking out right now that I actually tried to cast a good light on the side that they disagree with. How could I possibly say anything nice about gun control proponents? Because I’m a liberal at heart: I believe in freedom because freedom leads to progress and stability if most people are more-or-less good, and I believe that most people are more-or-less good. Even the people whom I disagree with are good at heart, and the disagreement is over means, not goals.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying “Oh, [insert issue here] is OK because the people supporting it are good.” No, I’m saying [insert person here] is good even though he’s proposing the wrong approach to a problem. Let’s just say he’s wrong, not that he’s a traitor.

  10. thoreau, what you describe is a tendency that all people are tempted by. However, liberals reject that stance on principle. We’re the ones who are relativists, who see merit on both sides, who want to understand everyone’s individual truth, etc etc. Sometimes we fail, but at least we try and fail. (Note, this does not apply to ideological left philosophies like Communism, which are absolutist).

    The philosophy of the right, on the other hand, rejects all that. Rightists believe that there is a right position, and the others are wrong. Those who believe differently do not hold an equally valid position, but an inferior one. When they demonize the other side, they are not failing to live up to their ideals, but putting them into practice.

  11. joe is being a bigot for his relativist position. how do YOU know that relativism is right and non-relativism is wrong?

  12. Well, speaking as a Nazi (Buzzflash, LA Times Op-Ed page) criminal (Democratic Underground) probable Klan Member (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) who would rather see young black children starve (Gore campaign’s Donna Brazille), as a guy who sometimes listens to the hate filled talk radio that inspired Tim McVeigh (Bill Clinton) and the type of guy whose opposition to hate crimes laws means he favors lynching (Ms. Byrd, San Francisco Examiner), as a complete and utter moron who believes that cutting taxes can lead to higher revenue (Jim Carville) and as a selfish child of privilege who shirks his patriotic duty to pay ever higher taxes (Molly Ivins), or even as a plain old radical right wing scumbag corrupt Republican hypocrite (Ted Rall), I think the right is definitely much meaner and nastier than the left.

    All liberals are kindly, gentle folks, who just want what’s best for us. If you don’t believe me, just ask Al Franken. He knows who the lying liars are…

  13. There you go again, thoreau! Do you always have to be so damned reasonable? Haven’t you figured out yet that when this thing was named “Reason” the founders were being ironic? 🙂

  14. Joe-

    There’s the irony: “We are the relativists, they are the meanies.” Might as well say “There are only two kinds of people in this world: People like me who see shades of gray, and people who don’t see shades of gray.”

    I know, you aren’t being dogmatic like that little strawman statement I put up there. But it is a conundrum: How can one see both sides and at the same time say “My opponents have no interest in seeing both sides, they’re just nasty”? I guess the criticism has to come from somebody who is neither left nor right.

    Right now, I’d say that the worst elements of the right specialize in being mean. The worst elements of the left are more hysterical: “The sky is falling! They’re going to toss poor infants into the snow for wolves to eat! They’ll send us all to Guantanamo!” The problem is that when liberals try that act they display the theatrical talents of Ashton Kutcher (i.e. none) so they’re easy to dismiss and ignore. The right obviously has some better talents, because their mean and nasty performances get more attention, they yield more profits for the performers, and they’re generally more interesting and colorful.

    Limbaugh and Coulter would probably go to Hollywood if they didn’t already have such a lucrative gig. But Coulter would have to lose some weight to do well in Hollywood. Skinny as a rail ain’t skinny enough in Tinsletown! 😉

    (OK, you can say I was mean there, but it was more a knock on Hollywood and what it subjects women to.)

  15. “The philosophy of the right, on the other hand, rejects all that. Rightists believe that there is a right position, and the others are wrong. Those who believe differently do not hold an equally valid position, but an inferior one. When they demonize the other side, they are not failing to live up to their ideals, but putting them into practice.”

    What are you talking about? All you do here is demonize the right. I argued about 30 posts with you once over why you shouldn’t assume all SUV drivers are motivated by personal evil.


  16. Dear Brad S.

    The right is significantly worse. This is not a consistent. There have been times in my life when the left was worse, i.e., the glory days just before people came up with the term politically correct to describe what was going on.

    Ann Coulter has said that the only wrong with Timothy McVeigh was that he didn’t bomb the NY Times building. She falsely accused the NYT of calling Clarence Thomas a “hankerchief head biscuit-eating Uncle Tom.” She’s said that liberals are inherently treasonous and should have their lives threatened. What has James Carvelle said that remotely comes close to this kind of stuff? What has the left said about GWB that remotely approaches accusing him of murdering Vincent Foster? What lies have been tossed against him to compare with accusing Al Gore of having claimed to have invented the Internet or any of the other “lies” that were falsely attributed to him? Who has accused Bush of anything like murdering 40 people for knowing too much about White Water? Who is the left’s Rush Limbaugh? Ann Coulter? Sean Hannity? Michael Savage? David Horrowitz? From where I sit there’s Michael Moore and a bunch of people no one’s ever heard of. And who on the right would you compare to Al Franken and Joe Conason? If you think they’re coparable let’s make some comparasons. Stop hiding behind a bunch of generalized BS and let’s get down cases. I challenge ye.

    Just because you feel more comfortable avoiding an uncomfortable reality does not make it magically vanish. Willful ignorance and facile equating isn’t an argument, it’s an excuse for one.

  17. I think liberals and conservatives have very different faults.

    The conservatives are probably “meaner,” in terms of harsh, red meat rhetoric, because their ideology places a greater emphasis on mental “toughness” and avoiding touchy-feelyness.

    Liberals, on the other hand, are much more prone to smugness and (usually unfounded) intellectual arrogance. For example, “Democrats care,” and “We see the world in terms of its complexity.” For examples of the latter quality, I guess we might look at the incredibly subtle and sophisticated liberal arguments on gun control (gun violence bad, therefore gun control good) and public education (ignorance bad, therefore more spending by the government school system good).

  18. I think Braintree and Kevin both make good points.

    The left’s attack dogs, which admittedly go under the guise of “sensitivity” were much more influential once upon a time, until the phrase “political correctness” was coined. On college campuses they enjoyed (and to some extent still enjoy) unchecked power, but outside the ivory tower they were mostly just harsh critics with no real teeth. Nowadays they are (mostly) a joke.

    The right’s attack dogs make no pretense of sensitivity or fairness. They are good at getting their base energized. They are good at getting liberals on the defensive.

    Right now the mean attack dogs probably get more attention because they are better actors and their scripts are very specific to their target. The PC attack dogs are (usually) less successful because their scripts always sound the same (“Conservatives hate women, minorities, and the poor, and they’re going to force Grandma to live on the streets while deporting every liberal to Guantanamo!”). The conservative scripts are basically the same in the way that most action movies are the same, but they change enough details to keep it interesting.

    Maybe the liberals will get better attack dogs in the future.

    Or, maybe, just maybe, we’ll eventually move beyond the same old left vs. right shouting match to some other shouting match. I have no illusion that human nature will ever change enough to displace the good old fashioned shouting match, but maybe we can change it from left vs. right to libertarian vs. everybody else.

    Hey, I can hope…

  19. thoreau,

    One reason for asymmetry is that people like Horowitz, Coulter and Hannity are much more mainstream among conservatives than people like Moore are among liberals. Case in point, Michael Moore appeared on The View to an audience of soccer-mom liberals, and absolutely horrified them: “How can you SAY that? That’s so EXTREME!”

    Mainstream liberals are so spineless and pussy-whipped they’re afraid to even BE a genuine opposition when “patriotism” or “national security” is an issue. That’s why you’ve got contemptible scumbags like Daschle and Gephart who voted for the Patriot Act and voted to authorize force. But now, when it’s too late to undo the damage of their earlier acquiescence, they’re finally coming out and saying “You know, I had doubts about it all along….” You see, it’s SAFE to challenge the Commander-in-Chief now, because flag-waving fatigue has finally set in among the American people.

    The closest mainstream liberals come to attack-dog style is when they’re whining about the “mean-spiritness” of some social welfare policy. Back during the Newt-wit years, just about every day the Special Orders period on C-SPAN would bring out the same two-dozen Usual Suspects with the exact same, verbatim one-minute speech about how “the mean-spirited Republicans are cutting funds for our children….”

  20. Braintree – I find it ironic that, on a thread discussing an article that said there’s no point in getting into left vs. right shouting matches, I’ve been challenged to a shouting match. Getting back to the original argument put forth by Ms. Young’s article, the vitriol that the left and right have for one another might make for good television and good entertainment, but it does little to push us closer to real solutions to real political problems.

  21. Jeez, Kevin. You watch The View?

  22. Cartoons. To put up against physical threats, Cathy Young gives us web cartoons?

    Rush Limbaugh visited the White House. Ann Coulter keeps turning up on Good Morning America. And on the others side, we find “Lenny Bruce, Louis Farrakhan, and Angela Davis.”

    What’s next – Tom Daschle bruised Tom Delay’s knuckle with his cheekbone?

  23. I am starting to worry that Cathy Young is
    turning into David Broder. All that stuff in
    civics class was wrong. The folks who consume
    Ann Coulter and Michael Moore and the rest of
    the fuming blowhards are not lost on the way to
    intelligent political discourse. If the blow-
    hards disappeared, they would just watch more
    NASCAR (Coulter) or listen to more bad folk
    music (Moore).


  24. “I am starting to worry that Cathy Young is
    turning into David Broder.”

    Now that’s harsh.

  25. Who?s meaner, conservatives or liberals?

    I realize that Ms. Young may not have written the headline, but that seems to be the question her piece poses. It’s a shame she didn’t bother to answer it.

  26. The difference is between attacks on “liberals” in general and on specific conservatives. A cartoon of Bush pushing a granny down a graph doesn’t say “This is what Republicans want to do to old people”, it says “This is the result, metaphorically speaking, of Bush’s policies”. It’s a far cry from Coulter’s accusations of treason and emotional sledgehammering (“burning with hatred”?) Even Maureen Dowd’s attack on Clarence Thomas was aimed at one particular individual in response to what she saw as hypocrisy on his part.

    I could also say that accusations against Republicans (that they are on the side of the very rich) are not as over-the-top as the current crop of accusations against Democrats (that they are on the side of genocidal dictators).

    There used to be reasonable conservative commentators, but I guess the other kind get higher ratings.

  27. Mark – sensationalism and hyperbole will get higher ratings (and more votes) than logic and reason every single time. That’s why you see reasonable commentators from the left and right routinely pushed aside by windbags from the left (Jackson, Sharpton, Moore, Carville, etc) and right (Coulter, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, etc).

  28. Oh yes, another witless and platitude infested article by Cathy Young. Give me more. 🙂

  29. I must disagree, Jean Bart. I think she is spot on in her description of the lunacy that is political theatre. There is very little substance in the discourse when people spend so much time pointing fingers and discussing “who started it” like six year olds on the playground. Even in the comments regarding this article people find it nescessary to tell us how the “other side” is the bad one, and they miss the point entirely.

  30. Even in the comments regarding this article people find it nescessary to tell us how the “other side” is the bad one, and they miss the point entirely.

    Really? I would argue that saying that it doesn’t matter who’s worse misses the point entirely: if no one is ever going to be held accountable for what they say, why should anyone show any restraint? Put another way, if the leading conservative radio personality and the bestselling conservative author can accuse liberals of treason over and over again, but all that will be excused by one unfriendly editorial cartoon in the New York Daily News, why should they ever stop?

  31. bennett,

    The point is that this sort of commentary is neither new or especially enlightening; if you want to see real mud-slinging, visit 19th century American politics. As to what Young has said, big whoop! Nothing new or otherwise interesting here – move along.

    Need I remind everyone that the US had this very debate during the first Bush WH – over the now deceased Lee Atwater.

  32. What exactly do you mean by “held accountable” for what they say? Are you suggesting we force people to exhibit what you consider to be restraint with some type of “Fairness Doctrine”?

  33. bennett – I agree. Most of what passes for “political commentary” these days is either “Progressive Democrats = good, Uncompassionate Conservative Republicans = bad” or “Patriotic Republicans = good, Treasonous Liberal Democrats = bad”. Really, watching two parties battle for the moral high ground (ironic given the amorality of both) does very little to promote constructive debate on key issues. It can serve as a nice sideshow or distraction from day-to-day life (witness Cali – forni – a), but that’s about it.

  34. And whether or not discourse now is any different than it was in the 19th century is unimportant. Jean is right, things haven’t changed that much, but Cathy wrote the article about the current state of affairs, and did a nice job besides.

  35. I think Cathy Young refused to answer the question “Who’s meaner?” because her main point was that it’s irrelevant. Say that we award one of the parties the trophy for “Biggest Meanie on the Block.” OK, now what? With that issue resolved we’d still have to get back to more important matters.

    So even if one side is in fact meaner at the moment, it really doesn’t matter, and the odds are good that at some point (maybe next year, maybe next decade) the pendulum will swing again.

    Also, how would we even keep score? We can tally up Ann Coulter’s outrageous sayings. Then we can do the same for some left-wing pundit of comparable stature. Then go to another right-wing pundit, and another left-wing pundit. Then somebody will say “That pundit you cite from ‘my side’ is a marginal figure, you can’t compare him/her with the way that other person is so widely accepted despite his/her horrible sayings.” So then we start tallying up how many times each person appeared on a cable news program. Then we start seeing whether the host of the program was nice to each pundit.

    It would quickly start to resemble my nieces and nephews arguing over who hit who first and who got the nicer toy.

    So I think Cathy Young was right on to suggest that the question “Who’s meaner?” doesn’t really matter. And since I consider myself fiscally conservative and socially liberal (with foreign policy being harder to label) the whole left vs. right cluster fuck just isn’t very interesting to me. No matter which side is on top I’m going to agree on some things and disagree on others.

  36. It matters, thoreau, because the way media people talk about politics influences the way normal people talk and think about politics, which influences the policy outcomes. Right now, the right’s media presence is one big ad homenim attack. Their willingness to slime, threaten, and shut down is giving them a leg up on more honorable people, despite the weakness of the actual positions that they’re refusing to discuss on the merits.

  37. Making fun of the neocons is necessary. Making fun of liberals is just fun. Let’s all sing kumbayaa.

  38. Dear Brad,

    I have challenged you to support your argument by arguing the facts. Irony aside, you have failed to even attempt to support your case. I have asked you to name people on the left who are the equivalent of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, etc and other celebrities of the right. You have not done that. I have asked you to name people on the right for you to compare to Al Franken and Joe Conason who, unlike Rush or Ann or their buddies do a pretty good job of getting their facts straight. You have failed to do that. I have asked you to find stories about Bush that compare to the wild smears against Clinton and Gore. You have failed to do that. You are trying to reduce this argument to being entirely about tone. That is utterly dishonest and it is your dishonesty that is making me angry. Legitimately angry because you are blatantly refusing to deal with the substantive part of my argument.

    You know what? I’ve just decided that Brad is right. And, because of that, I’ve decided that if you’re honest about it and use Brad’s standard for evaluating human behavior there’s really no difference in World War II between America and the Nazis. We invaded France, didn’t we? We killed German soldiers, didn’t we? We bombed Dreden, didn’t we? We even occupied their country which is just so hypocritical since the reason we invaded them was because we were angry over their occupying France.

    And that’s why I join Brad in hating America: we’re exactly like the Nazis.

  39. JDM, I never claimed that SUV buyers were motivated by evil, but that SUV sellers appeal to base desires. If noting that human beings have base impulses equates to calling them evil, then I plead guilty. But I’ll try to be more sensitive to your wittle feelings.

    “joe is being a bigot for his relativist position. how do YOU know that relativism is right and non-relativism is wrong?” I don’t. I’m just doing my best like everyone else, and I don’t have all the answers. Being aware of this tends to foster a certain intellectual humility, and discourages you from viewing disagreement as evil. It’s sort of the opposite effect of believing that God has chosen to give you power, or that people of your civilization/religion/school of economic thought have a unique capacity for comprehending absolute truth.

    thoreau, you assert that the image of liberals as open minded and slow to fight for their side is a self serving one, made up by liberals to make us look nicer. This is tough to believe, when it is repeatedly stated by conservative pundits in order to make us look weak and amoral. Remember, we’re the sissies who, even after 9-11, didn’t want to “invade (Muslim) countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.” Said weakness and amorality also cited to explain our objectivtely pro-Saddam foreign policy, our desire to coddle criminals, and our willingness to treat sodomites and druggies as human beings with full civil rights.

  40. What I don’t get is, if this is Reason’s top story, why have we already been relegated to page 2 of hit and run? Hm.

  41. No, Tom! No, no, no! I heard the story second-hand. Second-hand, I tell ya!

  42. “JDM, I never claimed that SUV buyers were motivated by evil, but that SUV sellers appeal to base desires. If noting that human beings have base impulses equates to calling them evil, then I plead guilty. But I’ll try to be more sensitive to your wittle feelings.”

    That’s quite the story. You were indeed claiming that the buyers were motivated by said ads, in spite of mountains of actual evidence (survey data etc,) to the contrary. You didn’t mention ads until part way through the argument, and only then to bolster the claim you’d already made. You mentioned them in the context of proof that the buyers were motivated by evil. Your exact line of reasoning was “Why would they spend all that money on the ads if they didn’t work?” But I know you’ll consider yourself safe until Reason gets a search function for its archives. I have to say that this is the first time I’ve seen you actually make stuff up. Normally, you rely on “facts” made up by other leftists.

    I’m not claiming hurt feelings, joe, just stupidity and leftist brain-washing on your part. I know that it’s hard for a liberal to imagine any motivations which are not either the particular brand of evil know as conservatism or hurt feelings.

  43. Fortunately, Google can search the Hit and Run archives.

    Here was your opening salvo:

    “Congratulations, Brad, you have the same taste in cars as a Baath Pary official [SUVs]. Of course, Saddam’s buddies used them as symbols of power and wealth, in order to show off their place on the sociopolitical ladder and intimidate the little people. It must have been very enjoyable for them to see that the car they drove made other people afraid.

    Good thing American SUV buyers don’t think like that.”

    Is it your contention now that your last sentence wasn’t intended as sarcasm, in spite of the fact that you reiterated that point several times during the argument that followed?

    “The Great Game Continues” indeed.

  44. “Cons are bad!” “Pinkos are worse!”
    I vote we settle this the traditional way:
    The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel and the leggy Ms. Coulter should Jell-O wrestle to determine the winner.


  45. That’s the AHA! quote? That’s supposed to demonstrate that I consider SUV buyers to be evil? Nice try.

    Since you didn’t follow the first time, I’ll explain the “good thing American SUV buyers don’t think like that” statement. Buying a big, expensive, badass vehicle is, for many people, a way of asserting power. The market research of the big three automakers supports this common sense statement. The desire to assert power over other people is a less-than-admirable trait. The attempt to do by purchasing a poorly designed car is laughable.

    But, yes, I still consider buying a vehicle to make yourself seem tougher to be worthy of disrespect. And I still trust the market research of the corporations that have pocketed $billions from following the research’s conclusions to be a useful insight into the people who bought the product.

    What you’ve done is to characterize criticism as a charge of being evil. Noting your aversion to nun-raping, you determine that you are not, in fact, evil, and conclude that, therefore, there is no validity in the criticism. Slopply logic indeed.

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