September 17, 2003

Anger-Baiting On The Right

Well, it has begun for real...The "US mainstream news
media" twisting of WIDESPREAD distrust of the
into the shrill attacks of an "Angry Left." Here is
where it begins...As I said, if the anti-Bush is Dean
(D-Jeffords), he will be Carterized, Dukaktized and/or
McGoverized, if it is Kerry (D-Mekong Delta) he will
be Gored, if it (by some magic) were to be Graham
(D-Fraudida) he would be Garrisoned (as in Jim
Garrison). Clark (D-NATO)? They do not know what to do
with him yet...But all of us, generals, ex-generals,
intel officers, ex-intel officers, officials and
ex-officials of the State Dept. and the EPA, the 9/11
widows...all of us...will become the "Angry Left" when
in fact there is a Popular Front stretching from some
real Republicans right of center to Democrats and
Independents in the center to the left...The "US
mainstream news media" is intent on earning that
_residential veto of the U.S. Senate's BI-PARTISAN
rejection of the FCC ruling on further media
Anger-Baiting On The Right

David Corn, Washington editor of The Nation, is the
author of The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the
Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers), which will
be released on September 30, 2003.

Perhaps I'm being slow on the uptake, but I've noticed
that the Right has found a way to try to diminish
left-of-center partisans. In recent weeks,
conservative commentators have branded the Bush
opposition "The Angry Left," which apparently is not
meant as a compliment. Some examples: James Taranto of
The Wall Street Journal's observed
that Sen. Joseph Lieberman wants to "save his party
from the Angry Left." (Taranto also wrote in early
August, "Oh dear, now the Angry Left is angry at us.
The Wall Street Journal has been hit by a mass e-mail
campaign, spurred by our... item in which we
characterized as a ‘far-left, pro-Saddam
group.’" Now, wasn’t it silly of MoveOn-ers to be
offended by that? ) Fox News Channel’s John Gibson
recently asked a guest, "Is [Democratic presidential
candidate Howard Dean] as angry as The Angry Left?"

When I appeared on a public radio show the day after
George W. Bush said he needed an additional $87
billion for his endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan, my
fellow guest, National Review's Byron York, at one
point cracked that I -- by complaining that Bush had
proposed no means of paying for his occupation of Iraq
-- was effectively presenting the viewpoint of "The
Angry Left." And on various Web sites, bloggers and
chatheads of rightward tilt and of no name recognition
have been deriding The Angry Left for months.

The Angry Left has yet to be certified by Ann Coulter
as the conservative movement’s official description of
America’s traitors, but I suspect that the
commentators of the Right will increasingly resort to
this label to dismiss what might well be a growing
opposition to Bush (or, at least, an opposition
growing in passion). The moniker is designed as a
put-down, one meant to signal that those afflicted
with anti-Bushism are motivated by emotion, not
rationality, that they cannot be reasoned with, that
they and their ideas need not be taken seriously.

John Podhoretz, a columnist for The New York Post and
a Fox News Channel contributor (as I am), wrote a few
weeks ago, "The rise of an ardent, passionate, angry
and engaged left is the most important political story
of 2003." He pointed to Dean’s success as the outrage
candidate and to a spate of right-critiquing books now
hitting the bookstands, including Al Franken’s Lies
(and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them), Joe Conason’s Big
Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It
Distorts the Truth, and my own forthcoming work, The
Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of
Deception, which he kindly predicted would become a
bestseller. But Podhoretz claimed that The Angry Left
is lost within the fog of its own ire. Its denizens,
he said, suffer from Foxanoia -- the condition of
obsessing over the influence of Fox News Channel --
and cannot "bear to admit" that "they lost an argument
about the nature of terrorism, rogue nations and world
power after 9/11." So instead of debating the merits
of these matters, they blast Bush, Fox and Coulter for
lying. "What aside from hating Bush and the Fox News
Channel, do they believe in?" he asked -- as if the
only thing The Angry Left has to offer is anger

Oh, it’s easy to find examples of angry leftism run
amok. I get e-mail all the time from outraged lefties
(or liberals or progressives) who quite sincerely
suggest that Bush has brought the country to the edge
of fascism. Such loose and hyperbolic talk is foolish.
But, even so, these outbursts do not match the
extremism of hate that ran through parts of the
conservative movement in the 1990s. At mainstream
conservative conferences -- where GOP senators,
representatives and presidential candidates spoke --
you could pick up bumperstickers that asked, "Where’s
Lee Harvey Oswald when you need him?" And the Rev.
Jerry Falwell was promoting a video that accused Bill
Clinton of having murdered his political foes.

Back then, media commentators and left-of-center
advocates derided the Right for being irate. Remember
the shocking congressional election of 1994, in which
Newt Gingrich led his fellow Republicans to a historic
takeover of the House of Representatives? This feat
was tagged as the triumph of "angry white men." Now
the sanctimonious smugness is on the other foot.

But -- be warned, Podhoretz -- anger can be power, as
those mad Caucasian guys demonstrated. The United
States, the political analysts say, is ever more
divided along partisan lines; there are fewer fabled
swing voters. In such a world, elections tend to be
won by the side that motivates more of its voters. And
anger is a motivator. After all, would Bush have had a
chance in 2000 if disgust and revenge had not been
driving forces for many GOP voters? And Bush (per Karl
Rove) eagerly exploited those emotions, as he
campaigned for president as the fellow who would
"restore" honor and integrity to the White House.

These days, anger-baiting is being adopted by some on
the Right to duck the accusations made by The Angry
Left and to discredit the accusers, who do have more
to offer than mere anger, such as comprehensive health
coverage, a fairer tax code, a safer workplace,
tighter environmental safeguards. But if indeed Bush
lied -- or, to be kind, misrepresented -- as he guided
the nation into war, shouldn’t that cause a citizen to
become upset? If Bush is saddling this nation with
trillions of dollars in debt in order to grant tax
cuts to millionaires who would get by fine without
them, shouldn’t that provoke rage? It’s okay for
Arnold Schwarzenegger to be mad-as-hell about a $10
billion or so shortfall in the Golden State’s budget.
No one on the Right is mocking him as Angry Arnold. So
how should the taxpayer who cleans Schwarzenegger’s
shirts feel about a $500 billion national deficit?
Anger is not what matters; the cause of the anger

Sure, lefties tend to be pissed off at Fox News
Channel. But my hunch is they’re madder with Bush --
for good reason. Certainly, some of their anger still
is fueled by non-policy issues, such as his
less-than-honorable victory in 2000. Some of the wrath
is akin to the I-can’t-believe-it outrage that was
felt by anti-Clintonites: how could so many Americans
fall for this phony scoundrel? But much of the anger
has been stirred by Bush’s policy decisions and his
use of dishonest arguments to support these actions.
(You need an example? In a speech two days before he
invaded Iraq, Bush said, "Intelligence gathered by
this and other governments leaves no doubt that the
Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of
the most lethal weapons ever devised." But former
deputy CIA director Richard Kerr, who is leading a
review of prewar intelligence on Iraq, has said the
intelligence was loaded with caveats and qualifiers
and was based on circumstantial and inferential
evidence. In other words, the intelligence was hardly
no-doubt material.)

Bush’s actions and assertions are the issue.
Understandably, it is easier for some on the Right to
discount the critiques of Bush as no more than the
out-of-touch reactions of sore losers (shades of
2000!) than it is for them to confront head-on the
case against Bush. Derision can be an effective tool
for Bush’s defenders. If his most fervent opponents
can be cast as overly choleric, then their arguments
need not be considered. Bush foes should expect the
anger-baiting to continue, and they should hope that
Bush critics counter it with the right mix of calm
indignation and well-founded accusations.

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Published: Sep 17 2003

Posted by richard at September 17, 2003 02:29 PM