On Thursday’s episode of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, a frequent slur was revived and a regular tactic of Maddow was again utilized.Â
The slur: “Conservatives are Nazis!”
The tactic: Maddow invitingÂ a guest to do the dirty work of flinging the mud, thereby allowingÂ the hostÂ to keep her rhetorical “hands” clean andÂ maintain the image of an objective investigative journalist.
Maddow’s “The Deacon on the Hill” story was a hit-piece on Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), highlighting some of the social conservative’s more controversial statements (his recommendation of the death penalty for abortion doctors, his assertion that junior high schools are plagued by “rampant lesbianism,” and hisÂ criticism of the airing of Schindler’s List by network television).Â
Maddow then cited Coburn and Senator John Ensign’s connection to the Christian group “The Family” (a.k.a. “The Fellowship”)Â andÂ its congressional lodging house, C Street. At that point, MaddowÂ introduced Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, an expose of the religious group.
Sharlet, a contributing editor for suchÂ prominent leftist magazinesÂ as Harper’s and Rolling Stone, reported that at the C Street meetings, politicians like Coburn and Ensign were allegedly indoctrinated toÂ view themselves as divinely appointed, totalitarian leaders who could do whatever theyÂ pleased — including have extramarital affairs. “It’s a sort of totalitarian idea of Christianity,” the unnamed leader of the Family told the congressmen, according to Sharlet.
Sharlet described the Family as a cult that secretly influences prominent Republicans, and whoseÂ directorÂ allegedly has claimed that divinely selectedÂ leaders are permitted to rape children if they wish. The Family leader, Sharlet added,Â claimed that Hitler, Lenin, Pol PotÂ (who engineered the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s), and al QaedaÂ kingpin Osama bin Laden understood how power should be properly used.Â
The Religious Right is hardly my favorite segment of the Conservative Movement, but Sharlet’s assertions are a bit much. MaybeÂ his claims about the group are accurate, maybe they’re not — I’m in no position to dispute them. But what he and Maddow wouldn’t be correct in claiming is that such wild authoritarian tendencies constitute anything but a remote fringe with no real influence. Yet neither Maddow nor Sharlet would acknowledge that, because then they wouldn’t have had a story or an ideological cudgel with which to strike their political adversaries.
Sharlet’s critique is meant to advance an argument that is continually made by the Left toward the Right: go to the heart of the Conservative Movement (and, by extension, toÂ the heart of every conservative) and you’ll find a Nazi.
I’d hope for better of Maddow than this.