"A Nation of Weenies and Permanently Enraged Censors"

|

Over at New York, Kurt Andersen hoists his keyboard and smashes it over the heads of the ninnies who predict civilizational doom when the Ahmadinejads of the world say mean things.

Almost any argument about race, gender, Israel, or the war is now apt to be infected by a spirit of self-righteous grievance and demonization. Passionate disagreement isn't sufficient; bad faith must be imputed to one's opponents: skepticism of affirmative action equals racism, antiwar sentiment equals anti-Americanism (or terrorist sympathy), criticism of Israel is by definition anti-Semitic, and so on. More and more people think they're entitled to the right not just to ignore or disapprove, but to veto and banish. And the craven fear of triggering tantrums leads the responsible authorities—university administrators, politicians, corporate executives—into humiliating, flip-floppy contortions of appeasement.

Maybe, I tell myself hopefully, it's all a spasmodic reaction to the unfettered discourse that the Web and cable TV and talk radio have unleashed—that because freedom of expression is rather suddenly greater than ever in so many ways, people are trying desperately to reestablish limits on what can and can't be asserted in their vicinity. And no doubt this sort of panicky, anti-democratic exceptionalism—freedom of speech for us, but not necessarily for you—is fed by the chronic sense of emergency that has prevailed since September 2001, when the White House press secretary warned that "Americans … need to watch what they say."

Maybe the fever will pass. Or maybe a lot of us are permanently losing our taste for liberty, devoted to "freedom" in the abstract but unprepared to endure all its messy particulars.

Most of Anderson's following words are given over to university speech codes and the unctuous umbridge of Lee Bollinger. That's old news. I'm ever more fascinated by the anti-speech anger on the right, the stuff Jesse Walker has written about. Switch on any of the Fox News gut rumble shows—O'Reilly, Hannity, John Gibson—and there's at least one segment about the "controversial comments" of some pinko or another and how loudly they should be condemned. At 50 decibels? At 100 decibels? Here was the lead question on Friday's Hannity and Colmes, about the Rush Limbaugh "phony soldiers" kerfuffle.

Hillary Clinton accuses a four-star general, slanders him as a liar. Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, John Kerry, John Murtha, are these Democrats in power emboldening America's enemies with their comments and slander against the military?

Surely not even a beefcake crybaby like Sean Hannity thinks this stuff matters, or that it impedes our progress in the glorious conflict.

Walker on Ahmadinejad here.

Advertisement

NEXT: Freedom from the Tyranny of Starbucks

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Surely not even a beefcake crybaby like Sean Hannity thinks…”

    No, he definitely doesn’t do that.

  2. I too have noticed the rise of right-wing PC.

    IT cracks me up when they say things like “The PC orthodoxy says I can’t talk about (nuking Iran, walling up the border, etc) but…” even though there are shows all over cable tv with blowhards saying exactly those things.

  3. From what I understand, vitriol has a very, very long history in American politics. It may be that the level of vitriol has waxed and waned over time, and that it’s waxing now in comparison with some other time, but that doesn’t mean it’s something new and perilous to our Republic.

    Perhaps it’s wrong to impute bad faith to everybody who disagrees with me, but I would say that those of us who were right from the start about the current disaster get tired of seeing people who were wrong from the start still treated like Serious People. They might not have impure motives, but they’re clearly missing something in their analysis, and instead of treating them seriously perhaps we should suggest that they sit down, STFU, and listen and contemplate until they’ve figured out where they went wrong.

    Giving them a “time out” from discourse may seem unfair, but it’s better than letting them replicate their mistakes in Iran.

  4. Orwell was right about the existence of doublethink, although he was wrong about it requiring an act of will. All it really takes is complete devotion to one’s “team.”

  5. maybe the fear of open engagement is merely another sign of the death of rhetoric?

  6. Orwell was right about the existence of doublethink, although he was wrong about it requiring an act of will. All it really takes is complete devotion to one’s “team.”

    No, it has to be willful.

    Prime example: Clinton lying under oath vs. Scooter Libby lying under oath.

    The same people condemning Clinton are supporting Libby, and vice versa.

    I really think you have to make a conscious decision to switch that quickly about something that public…

  7. I’m ever more fascinated by the anti-speech anger on the right, the stuff Jesse Walker has written about. Switch on any of the Fox News gut rumble shows-O’Reilly, Hannity, John Gibson-and there’s at least one segment about the “controversial comments” of some pinko or another and how loudly they should be condemned.

    Not entirely clear how condemning controversial comments is anti-speech. Isn’t that how its supposed to work? Marketplace of ideas and all that?

    a beefcake crybaby like Sean Hannity

    Possibly the stupidest man paid to talk into a microphone.

  8. “Possibly the stupidest man paid to talk into a microphone.”

    I’m surprised to see you say that about Hannity, RC. I thought your views were pretty much in line with his.

  9. So long as its just commentators flapping their gums, i really am not all that concerned. What has me worried is stuff like this

    “Others on the Democrat side are pushing ahead with other plans. Rep. Henry Waxman has asked his investigative staff to begin compiling reports on Limbaugh, and fellow radio hosts Sean Hannity and Mark Levin based on transcripts from their shows, and to call in Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin to discuss the so-called “Fairness Doctrine.”

    link from http://www.spectator.org/util/print.asp?art_id=12128

    from instapundit today. When your actual elected representatives start trying to clamp down on speech, thats when to start getting very worried.

  10. I would say that those of us who were right from the start about the current disaster get tired of seeing people who were wrong from the start still treated like Serious People.

    This is the frustration felt by all people who were right about something, others were wrong, and then the people who were wrong don’t give you credit. Very frustrating, but completely normal. It’s not going to change.

    a beefcake crybaby like Sean Hannity

    That’s pure poetry, Weigel.

  11. Episiarch-

    If they weren’t getting ready to replicate their mistakes in Iran I could get over the fact that they’re being taken seriously. This isn’t just about pride, it’s about making sure a mistake isn’t repeated.

  12. Sean Hannity is no beefcake; trust me.

  13. Most of Anderson’s following words are given over to university speech codes and the unctuous umbridge of Lee Bollinger. That’s old news. I’m ever more fascinated by the anti-speech anger on the right,

    Old news??

    The conservatives were in power when cable and the web ratcheted all this stuff up and they let it happen…hell they didn’t even the cut funding to left leaning PBS and NPR..I hate to brake it to you Weigle but they are not in power now and it is the left who are moving to ban hate speech (read: ban criticism of democrats)…sure its old news but now they have the votes to actually outlaw speech.

  14. Perhaps it’s wrong to impute bad faith to everybody who disagrees with me, but I would say that those of us who were right from the start about the current disaster get tired of seeing people who were wrong from the start still treated like Serious People.

    Aren’t you the same guy who thinks Bush alone started these wars in a vacuum to steal oil and kill Arabs?

    I think they are still treated like serious people, because the loudest alternative is a decent into moonbat conspiracy land.

  15. If they weren’t getting ready to replicate their mistakes in Iran I could get over the fact that they’re being taken seriously. This isn’t just about pride, it’s about making sure a mistake isn’t repeated.

    thoreau, I know–but I’ve encountered this so many times in normal life, and then again with pundits, that it doesn’t surprise me or even get me angry any more. Most people have short memories and don’t hold people accountable for what they have said in the past. If people actually did, then tons of politicians, pundits, and even scientists would be out of a job.

    It’s frustrating as hell. For instance, look at the Brady Bunch and their claims that Florida would become a death hole after the castle doctrine was strengthened. Totally didn’t happen, and totally forgotten. Same with the WMD. Where the fuck are they? Why aren’t more people demanding to know?

    Care about it too much and you’ll tear your hair out. Not worth it.

  16. Prime example: Clinton lying under oath vs. Scooter Libby lying under oath

    I’ll one up you on the example: Democrats fighting liberation wars abroad (i.e. Kosovo and Somalia) with Republicans et al screaming about it every day;

    Now fast forward to the Iraq war debate, strike some names and reverse parties.

    It’d be amusing if it wasn’t so damn sad.

  17. Ayn_Randian,

    I’ll go even further: both parties promising a return to moral values.

    They’ve been promising that shit since Caesar Augustus Octavian Julii…

  18. Everyday I pray for the apocalypse. It is the only cure for the state in which we find ourselves. Man fell from grace when he discovered propaganda. Luckily I am well stocked in whiskey, and do not watch any of these thin-skinned idiotlogically pretzel twisted blow hards.

  19. I’m surprised to see you say that about Hannity, RC. I thought your views were pretty much in line with his.

    I’m surprised you listen to Hannity so much you could opine on whether anyone’s views are in line with his, Snake.

    Based on my limited exposure to him, I would say he is a pure Republican party mouthpiece. Me, not so much, although I am man enough to admit that, of the two major parties, the Dems have a tendency to get my goat a little quicker.

  20. joshua corning | October 8, 2007, 4:42pm | #

    Perhaps it’s wrong to impute bad faith to everybody who disagrees with me, but I would say that those of us who were right from the start about the current disaster get tired of seeing people who were wrong from the start still treated like Serious People.

    Aren’t you the same guy who thinks Bush alone started these wars in a vacuum to steal oil and kill Arabs?

    I think they are still treated like serious people, because the loudest alternative is a decent into moonbat conspiracy land.

    Pure comedy! Hilarious!

  21. oldnumberseven:

    From one whiskey lover to another…have you ever read Walker Percy’s Love in the Ruins? You just might like it.

    Great Percy quote from his essay ‘The Man on the Train’ —

    “When everything else fails, we may turn to our good friend just back from Washington or Moscow, who obliges us with his sober second thoughts – ‘I can tell you this much, I am profoundly disturbed?’ – and each of us has what he came for, the old authentic thrill of the Bomb and the Coming of the Last Days. Like Ortega’s romantic, the heart’s desire of the alienated man is to see vines sprouting through the masonry.”

  22. Now fast forward to the Iraq war debate, strike some names and reverse parties.

    Except the left does not recognize it as a liberation war (or even a failed one). It is a Haliberton blood for oil subsidy or what ever.

    Pure comedy! Hilarious!

    Hey Oldnumberseven give us some more anecdotes on how you deal with world events by drinking yourself to death…those are always a hoot.

  23. Taktix-I think that if each case of doublethink were volitional, those folks would, at some point, have to confront their dishonesty. I really don’t see those folks exhibiting even a flicker of doubt.

    The only alternative explanation is that they are too stupid to see the contradiction. I don’t think that’s the case.

  24. old grandad | October 8, 2007, 5:26pm | #

    Sounds like a good read. I will have to pick it up. Many thanks for the recommendation.

    joshua corning | October 8, 2007, 5:27pm | #
    Hey Oldnumberseven give us some more anecdotes on how you deal with world events by drinking yourself to death…those are always a hoot.

    There are worse ways to die. For example a psychic I know claimed somebody named joshua corning was going to die of auto-erotic asphyxiation.

  25. oldnumberseven-

    I thought that was Agent Mulder’s fortune.

  26. thoreau,

    True enough. I wasn’t original. Maybe next time I will use some of my own whiskey fueled wit.

  27. But if you google joshua corning auto-erotic asphyxiation you get this result.

  28. There are worse ways to die. For example a psychic I know claimed somebody named joshua corning was going to die of auto-erotic asphyxiation.

    I would be scared but you in a drunken stupor trying strangle me to death is more comic then threatening.

    The small mindedness that you think you have the capacity to cover it up is even more humorous.

  29. Taktix-I think that if each case of doublethink were volitional, those folks would, at some point, have to confront their dishonesty. I really don’t see those folks exhibiting even a flicker of doubt.

    The only alternative explanation is that they are too stupid to see the contradiction. I don’t think that’s the case.

    They are both complicit and not complicit at the same time…

  30. “auto” means “self”, joshua. He’s saying you’re going to strangle yourself fatally during a self-love event.

    I know some people say it takes the humor out of a joke to explain it, but I find having to explain this one to joshua is amusing in and of itself.

  31. Number 6: Welcome back. Where ya been?

  32. Perhaps it’s wrong to impute bad faith to everybody who disagrees with me, but I would say that those of us who were right from the start about the current disaster get tired of seeing people who were wrong from the start still treated like Serious People. They might not have impure motives, but they’re clearly missing something in their analysis, and instead of treating them seriously perhaps we should suggest that they sit down, STFU, and listen and contemplate until they’ve figured out where they went wrong.

    Thank you Mr. T.

  33. Thank you Mr. T.

    You call him Doctor Jones T!

  34. No, David, Hannity really is stupid enough to think that stuff matters, and so are the mouth-breathers who find his gaseous eruptions erudite and pithy. Hannity is a bottom-feeder whose main debate tactic is an appeal to the emotions of his fans to share his disgust regarding a particular issue.

  35. “Not entirely clear how condemning controversial comments is anti-speech. Isn’t that how its supposed to work? Marketplace of ideas and all that?”

    The point isn’t that it’s anti speech. The point is that it’s usually ad hominem bullshit that mucks up the marketplace of ideas.

  36. Ayn Rand was so right about Stalinism, I suppose she should be forgiven for being so wrong about corporatism.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.