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September 05, 2009

Jon Henke: Reputable Conservative Organizations Need to Stop Associating with the Disreputable World Net Daily

I had a pleasant disagreement with Henke on this by email. Pleasant, partly, because I'm not sure what my position is. He may be right.

Just so you know how goofy WND has become -- this goes a lot further than silly new Birther theorizing like "Obama was born 4 years before his birth certificate says, when Hawaii was not a state."

[T]he Web site Worldnetdaily.com says that the government is considering Nazi-like concentration camps for dissidents. Jerome Corsi, the author of "The Obama Nation," an anti-Obama book, says that a proposal in Congress "appears designed to create the type of detention center that those concerned about use of the military in domestic affairs fear could be used as concentration camps for political dissidents, such as occurred in Nazi Germany."

Actually the bill in question provides for setting up temporary headquarters for medical personnel in case of emergency. It says nothing at all about rounding up undesirables and keeping them inside concertina-wire pens. How Corsi made this leap is beyond me.

Well, not really. I can take three guesses: 1, he's gullible, 2, he's paranoid, 3, he's pandering to an audience he imagines to be gullible and paranoid.

The dispute I had with Henke was a narrow one. I do not at all disagree with him that these sentiments are, as others have said, "lunatic."

I question his assertion, however, that this sort of thing "hurts" the right.

I do not question that it's embarrassing. I myself would never echo Corsi's Bizarro-length super-leaps of logic.

But do the paranoid mutterings of a fringe of a wing of a large party actually hurt that party in political terms?

Without question, if this sort of thing is going to hurt a party, it will hurt the Republicans. The Democrats are allowed to play footsie with Truthers, and to give Michael Moore seats (multiple; he's a big giant fat-ass) at the Democratic National Convention, despite the fact that he produced a film that is at least Truther-esque.

And the media will embargo the whole topic of Trutherism because they know it reflects badly on liberals, leftists, and other sorts of Democrats. Notice that racist skin-heads are always called "right-wing extremists," to group them together for us; whereas animal rights terrorists are called "animal rights terrorists" and anarchists are called "anarchists" and Truthers are called "Truthers." They're never called "left-wing extremists," because there, the media is determined to not group them with liberals, also known as "the media themselves and the people they vote for."


So, if they're going to make an issue of wild accusations and paranoid suspicions, they'll do so with the Republican Party only.

But -- even so. Is there any evidence your average voter gets into the inside-baseball aspect of all this to even know that somewhere out there there are silly people saying silly things? Would he care if he did know?

Let's say that 20% of all people are prone to conspiratorial paranoia. Would it greatly upset the average swing voter to learn that, indeed, the right, broadly speaking, does in fact include such folks in an approximately 1:5 ratio? Isn't that what your average swing voter would be expecting from the outset?

Do we really need to get this fraction down to 0% to have credibility?

I find the question interesting. In terms of intellectual honesty -- you ask me if this is crank, well, I'm obliged to tell you it's crank. To hint that maybe it's not crank would be, to me, dishonest.

On the other hand, do I have to make a big scene over it? Do I have to demonstrate that I am greatly offended by crankery? Must I focus on it?

What do I care? So, Jerome Corsi is saying some stupid stuff. He's said stupid stuff in the past. I fully expect him to continue saying stupid stuff in the future.

What's that got to do with me? Just because he votes the way I do on occasion? Well, I'm sure we have a lot more in common than that. Does that make me his keeper? Or his warden? Or his teacher?

I don't mind this stuff all that much, because I myself -- if I'm being honest, which I generally avoid -- am a bit on the authoritarian side of things. So, since I myself am not going to be sitting here worrying over the amount of power we're giving FEMA, for example, in an emergency, I take some solace in the fact that others will do my worrying for me, even if, as here, their suspicions are taken to the nth degree of extremity.

Whether they question a little or question a lot, they are, in the end, serving to criticize and question government power, which is generally healthy.

Now, I may not be a particular fan of the goofy manner in which Corsi and WND construct their critique, but since they're doing some work here which I'm personally not, who am I to criticize the manner in which they do it.

This might bother me a bit more if I was worried that such sentiments were going to become mainstream in the GOP or conservative movements. In that case, should the suspicions become so entrenched in the party or the movement that political office-holders and non-office-holding leaders such as Fred Thompson or (now) Sarah Palin feel pressured to repeat and endorse such nonsense, then I'd worry that yeah, this really could wind up harming us.

That's always the point I start worrying -- if such a mass of my political cohort is becoming enamored of a politically-poisonous meme that it's going to become something like the party/movement platform.

But I don't see that happening here. Henke mentions WFB's excommunication of the John Birch Society, but I think (without being able to prove) that the JBS had a lot more sway in the 50s than the crankish WND has today.

I guess I'm differentiating between intellectual hygiene and political hygiene.

As far as intellectual hygiene goes -- yes, by all means, if something strikes you as daft, you are obligated to call it daft. If it's dumb, you must call it dumb. If it's pandering-paranoid, call it pandering-paranoid.

But political hygiene involves the act of excommunication, and basically pushing people out of a movement. I don't see how that is warranted here.

Call me cynical, call me a pure partisan, fine. But I watched as the Democratic Party went to second base with the Truthers, although they refused to be seen "dating" them in public, and the media refused to report on it. I pleaded with them to do so, and they refused.

I'm not flip-flopping. I'm not changing my position. But the fact is I went to court -- the media -- contending for a certain rule, and the judge -- the media, again -- ruled against me and established the rule that parties are allowed to play naked-games with fringy crank movements with impunity.

So I haven't changed my position -- but I have been overruled, and now that I have that ruling in hand, it seems stupid of me to impose a more strenuous rule upon myself than the court is imposing on other parties that come before it.

It's like the IRS ruling that a certain tax-dodge is legal. Well, okay. I might not agree with the IRS, but if that's the rule established, I'd be silly not to take advantage of it. My personal disagreement with the rule demands that I express my personal disagreement with the rule -- not that I follow some other rule which is not, in fact, the rule.

I had been wondering about this issue weeks before Henke posted, wondering exactly what constituted out-of-bounds rhetoric anymore, given the relentless fascist/murderer/architects of 9/11 rhetoric directed at Bush and Cheney for eight years.

I did in fact object to that rhetoric then. But my concerns were dismissed by the supposed "neutral referee" in the skirmish between the two parties.

Fine. So now I know "the rule." I don't agree with it now, just as I didn't agree with it before, but the rule is the rule and I'm not feeling particularly obligated to scold people "on my side" for believing things I don't. That's not the rule, I've been informed by my media betters, The Deciders.

If some oppose Obama for the "wrong reasons," what the hell do I care? A lot of people voted against Bush and McCain because they thought Bush blew up the WTC and stole not one but two elections, and I didn't hear anyone crying about that.

I don't know. Maybe deep down inside I know that Jon Henke is right.

But maybe deep down inside I also know I no longer give rat's ass.

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posted by Ace at 04:25 PM

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