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David Swindle

David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here


MSNBC: The Right models itself on Hitler?

2009 July 10

Cartman

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. 

The slur: “Conservatives are Nazis!”

The tactic: Maddow inviting a guest to do the dirty work of flinging the mud, thereby allowing the host to keep her rhetorical “hands” clean and 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 his criticism of the airing of Schindler’s List by network television). 

Maddow then cited Coburn and Senator John Ensign’s connection to the Christian group “The Family” (a.k.a. “The Fellowship”) and its congressional lodging house, C Street. At that point, Maddow 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 such prominent leftist magazines as Harper’s and Rolling Stone, reported that at the C Street meetings, politicians like Coburn and Ensign were allegedly indoctrinated to view themselves as divinely appointed, totalitarian leaders who could do whatever they 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 whose director allegedly has claimed that divinely selected leaders are permitted to rape children if they wish. The Family leader, Sharlet added, claimed that Hitler, Lenin, Pol Pot (who engineered the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s), and al Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden understood how power should be properly used. 

The Religious Right is hardly my favorite segment of the Conservative Movement, but Sharlet’s assertions are a bit much. Maybe 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, to the heart of every conservative) and you’ll find a Nazi.

I’d hope for better of Maddow than this.

MSNBC: Rachel Maddow — The Mary Poppins of the Left

2009 July 9

mary_poppins6a00e54f05d430883400e554ddf66d8833-320wiSurely I’m not the only one to see the resemblance?

Perhaps it’s best to begin with a heretical statement: I like former Air America host Rachel Maddow. She’s funny, entertaining, and brings a much lighter touch than the ideological battering ram of her MSNBC colleague, Keith Olbermann. I don’t mind watching her even though I no longer share her politics. If more cable news hosts imitated her style, we’d have a much more pleasant media.

That being said, she’s not going to get a free pass from me from when she’s out of line.

Maddow’s the Mary Poppins of cable news. (Just look at the resemblance!) If she herself is frequently likable, it’s more often than not her guests — her soot-covered chimney-sweep radical journalists and pundits — that usually deliver the dirtiest tricks. It’s really a rather clever strategy. She can stay clean while her guests fling the darkest mud at her political enemies on the Right.

Here’s a summary of Wednesday night’s program, both her ups and downs:

1. Investigative journalist Michael Isikoff (who recently engaged in a debate with David Horowitz and Ben Johnson about their book Party of Defeat) was first up to talk about whether the CIA misled congress and Nancy Pelosi. I found this first story a confusing he said/she said that served only to muddy the debate.

2. A brief story talked about how Greenpeace, an environmentalist group whose disaffected co-founder describes as being “dominated by leftwingers and extremists,” unfurled a banner on Mount Rushmore jabbing at President Obama that said, “America honors leaders, not politicians. Stop global warming!” Maddow quipped that the activists now have to decided whether to “shop the photo-op to [socialist magazine] Mother Jones or to Men’s Health.” (I imagine the latter would probably pay more.) Not her funniest joke of the night.

3. Then the episode’s “slime the Republicans” segment began with some “news” about Senator John Ensign’s recent infidelity. (It’s only “news” because Maddow and MSNBC want it to be news.) A letter from Ensign apologizing to his former mistress, her children, and her family was published. Maddow read it on air and had it on screen. She then tied it to the South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s affair before making a transition into talking about whether or not Sarah Palin is wanted to campaign for Republican candidates. Maddow knits all these stories together — as though they’re somehow related — before introducing professional Republican- basher Frank Rich.

“This is all they have left,” Rich said of Palin. Rich said that the core sentiment of the Right of the party would be “a sense of grievance against the elites.” He then described this faction of the party as “nihilistic” and “scary.”

Rich’s comments could only be made by someone who doesn’t really interact with the actual people that make up the conservative base. He doesn’t explain how he’s gotten these impressions of the base — who is he talking to? — so it seems far more likely that his analysis is more a projection of what he wants the Right to be rather than what it actually is.

4. Maddow then had some non-partisan stories about North Korea waging cyber warfare against US and South Korean websites and a jihadi in Iraq named Baghdadi who may or may not exist.

5. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA,) a Blue Dog Democrat and Iraq War Veteran was on to promote his cause of overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” (Gay rights issues are frequent story on Maddow’s show for obvious reasons.) Murphy gave a sincere, persuasive, patriotic case for repealing the policy. It was the show’s intellectual peak.

6. David Kaczynski — brother of the “Unabomber” — was interviewed. It was an occasionally touching interview of a man who misses a brother lost to schizophrenia that’s all the more cheapened by Maddow’s attempt to tie it in to her argument against Guantanamo. Kaczynski didn’t really go for it and didn’t offer her argument much support when answering her questions. There’s no connection between the Unabomber and the Islamofascist enemy we face today. Sorry, not the most effective argumentative piece — some intriguing moments, though.

7. “Just Enough” with Kent Jones — a mildly humorous little throwaway segment talking about Iran’s anti-Semitic leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s attempt to kill a moth in comparison to Obama’s successful fly-killing. Jones joked that insects aren’t to be messed with and could take out the human race if they wanted.

In conclusion, Wednesday’s episode was far from Maddow’s strongest show. It alternated from a confusing anti-CIA opening to the rantings of Rich to joke segments. Interestingly its strongest moments were when Maddow interviewed her non-left guests — Murphy and Kaczynski. In other words, drop the ideology and the Daily Showisms, and Maddow’s capable of facilitating some worthwhile thoughts — which is more than can be said of many of her peers. One could hope that she might steer more in that direction but it’s unlikely she could resist the temptation to devolve into anti-Republican smears.

Free Speech TV: As Absurd as the Flying Spaghetti Monster

2009 July 8

FSM

Perhaps the mind can only endure so many initialisms and acronyms before they start to blend together — sometimes in surprising yet strangely appropriate ways.

Free Speech Television is a commercial-free, neo-communist television network. If  you have DISH satellite, you can find it on channel 9415. As I type this blog, the TV-version of Democracy Now!,with its red diaper baby host, Amy Goodman, is on. Her guest, discussing the death of former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, is none other than Marxist historian Howard Zinn and radical journalist Jonathan Schell. Goodman almost falls into a self-parody when she describes the Vietnam War solely by naming the number of Vietnamese and American casualties, not the fact that it was fought to stop the spread of a totalitarian, genocidal ideology. (Perhaps because it was a political faith that she, herself, has spent a lifetime diligently serving?)

That’s basically par for the course for Free Speech TV (a rather Orwellian name, considering the Left’s standard response when conservatives come to campus). Other regular shows include Laura Flanders’ Grit TV and Gay US. Most of the rest of the airspace is filled with far-left documentaries and recorded speeches. It’s a bizarre parallel universe.  

The channel shows up as FSTV on my channel guide and for some reason whenever I look at it I can’t help but drop an M into the middle, blending its acronym with FSM to make FSMTV. And what’s FSM stand for? Why, that’s none other than the Flying Spaghetti Monster (pictured above,) the deity of the parody religion Pastafarianism which “believes” that the world was created by an invisible, omnipotent flying creature made out of spaghetti and meatballs.

The best critiques of the Left always define the Left in the same way: as a political religion. FSTV (or FSMTV as I’ll henceforth be referring to it) is akin to religious programming — usually boring, occasionally entertaining, continually ridiculous. (All three descriptors describe the droning tone and wild claims of the speeches of the frequently-featured leftist guru Noam Chomsky and his many imitators.) The political faith of the Left should be regarded in the same fashion as one would regard the notion of an invisible Spaghetti deity. It’s just absurd — and often hilarious in a sad way. On the 4th of July I stumbled into a debate with a group of anarchists about the American Idea. They declared that the Constitution and Declaration should be used for toilet paper and that the American Idea was a fraud. They couldn’t see the obvious staring them in the face. They couldn’t see how such things as the life and presidential election of Barack Obama was an affirmation of the truth of the American Idea — work hard, develop yourself, participate in the free market, and you have the freedom to rise from nothing to wealth and power.

And none of the True Believers on “FSMTV” can see it either. They’re trapped in a self-reinforcing reality tunnel that’s unable to grasp the obvious. 

The difference, though, between the Left and we Pastafarians is key: the Left doesn’t realize that its faith is an illusion.

Unreal Time with Bill Maher: Are You Pro-Socialized Medicine because you're a nurse or because you're a socialist?

2009 July 6

HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher has been on a hiatus the past few weeks, so they’ve been running repeats of recent shows.

The good news: you can watch a political discussion show for an hour without having to hear about Michael Jackson.

The bad news: HBO seems to mainly be running all-leftist episodes.

Despite Maher’s vocal leftism, he’s not opposed to having conservatives on his panels or as featured interviews. In the past weeks, such Republicans as Meghan McCain, P.J. O’Rourke, and Frances Townsend have participated in discussions. Maher even had an episode in which he went head-to-head against both former UN  ambassador John Bolton and former New Mexico Rep. Heather Wilson.

On Friday they ran the episode in which Maher devotes half the time to a one-on-one, fawning interview with Gore Vidal. (Somehow Maher forgot to confront him on his claims that Bush knew about 9/11 before it happened.) And then last night they ran episode 156 which first ran on June 5. The episode featured a discussion panel which included investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, journalist Matt Miller, author/columnist Paula Froelich, comedian D.L. Hughley, and Maher as moderator.

Or in other words: a hard-left Nation contributor (Scahill); a softer-left Center for American Progress fellow (Miller); a Page Six gossip columnist with a new book to promote (Froelich); and a comedic version of the America-smearing professor from the University of Pennsylvania, Michael Eric Dyson (Hughley).

Had the gossip columnist been dropped and maybe two conservatives or Republicans been thrown in, it would have been a fun panel. Alas, with this gathering, the range of debate went from whether to have a “single-payer” health care system (what Scahill was most adamant in arguing for) or a “Switzerland-style” system in which government issued vouchers to pay for people’s insurance (Miller’s position.) So a “debate” between The Nation and the Center for American Progress. Yawn. There weren’t any free-market advocates to challenge both positions and produce a real debate.

More disappointing is that Maher let this slide:

“Both of my parents are nurses and they are passionate supporters of single-payer health care,” Scahill said.

If Maher was really doing his job of moderating the discussion he would have shot back, “Come on Jeremy. Do your nurse parents support single-payer because they’re nurses or because they’re probably socialists who would raise a son who writes for The (expletive deleted) Nation?”

Of course the profanity wouldn’t be deleted because it’s HBO. Just another reason to watch Real Time — political debate is always better when spiced with well-placed obscenities. And Maher and HBO know that. Maybe next time, they’ll remember too that Republicans, conservatives, and other free-market advocates spice up an otherwise bland leftist “debate” as well.

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