The Daily Beast just can’t get enough of the “extremist!” meme. Today they have not one, but two articles proclaiming that this week’s suicide/plane attack on a Texas office building is a sign of growing far-right mania. Reading Joe Stack’s own manifesto and Michelle Horstman’s reaction to it should provide an antidote for that smear, so let’s take a look at another recent Beast feature: a quiz challenging readers if they can tell the difference between the words of “wingnuts” and dictators.
Let’s look at some of the highlights (if you’d like to take the quiz yourself without seeing any answers, head on over before dropping below the fold):
Rush Limbaugh: “We’re living in occupied territory…we, the people of this country, need to be liberated. We are oppressed now.”
Granted, calling the USA “occupied territory” just because the Democratic Party is currently legitimately in power is hyperbolic, but is it really that outrageous to think of a majority party that wants to force people to buy health insurance, thinks that government should limit how much money people make, and believes in government regulation of political speech as at least a little oppressive?
Glenn Beck: “We are a country that is headed towards socialism, totalitarianism, beyond your wildest imagination.”
Josef Stalin: “The people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do.”
Michael Savage: “We’re going to have a revolution in this country if this keeps up. The rage has reached a boil.”
I’m no Savage fan, but come on; this one’s tame even by his standards. Since when is predicting anger over an inattentive, ineffective government a call to violence? Isn’t predicting anger and violence pretty much what the Beast and other lefties do every day? It’s also worth noting that Savage is persona non grata among the talk radio world, considering that he regularly berates pretty much any right-wing talker who isn’t him.
Keith Olbermann: “The Democratic leadership has agreed to finance the deaths of Americans in a war that has only reduced the security of Americans.”
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA): “Right now, millions of Americans are waking up realizing that they don’t recognize their country any more.”
I take it I’m supposed to be outraged, but…I’m just not feelin’ it. Accusing the other side of dramatically changing the country is an old standby in American politics. I seem to recall that the Democrats’ 2004 standard-bearer was known to dabble in that sort of thing, too.
Pat Buchanan: “America is being converted from a Christian country…into a multiracial, multiethnic, multilingual, multicultural Tower of Babel not seen since the late Roman Empire.”
Much like Savage, Pat Buchanan’s not exactly a universally-embraced figure on the Right these days, either. As you, uh, may have noticed lately, anti-war, anti-Israel views like his are hardly in line with mainstream center-right blogs like NewsReal. But while the source of Buchanan’s cultural views might be questionable, there’s nothing inherently scandalous in this particular quote. Saying America is/was a Christian country is an accurate acknowledgment of one of our founding values’ biggest influences, not a call for theocracy. And while racial & ethnic diversity is something we should welcome, the Left usually means something else entirely when talking about multiculturalism.
Not only are most of the Daily Beast’s examples less than shocking, but even the bad ones don’t display the totalitarian impulse their “wingnuts or dictators?” setup would suggest. Many things are bad, but totalitarianism is a particular kind of bad. This quiz is further evidence of the long-standing observation that virtually any word with significantly negative connotations, regardless of its actual meaning, is fair game as shorthand for “whatever liberals don’t like.”