Saturday, April 11, 2009

What remains of the right wing (for lack of a better way of putting it) is spinning out of control, lost in a hysterical, inflammatory morass of hyperventilating rhetoric — which contributes to its own loss of credibility and embarrassment toward itself. Rick Moran, a disillusioned right-of-center observer, comments:

[Glenn] Beck worries me. Conservatives worry me. I worry about myself. I feel trapped in a huge ball of cotton, trying gamely to make my way out but don’t know which direction to start pushing. I am losing contact with those conservatives who find Beck anything more than a clown — and an irrational one at that. Same goes for those who worship at the altar of Rush, Hannity, Coulter, and the whole cotton candy conservative crowd. I can’t take those people seriously. The fact that they are popular mystifies me.

It should mystify anyone concerned with the future of democratic discourse. The fact is, and it is one of those blunt statements, the figures that Moran is talking about are almost openly anti-Enlightenment — that is, anti-rational — opposed to reason, and the attendant value of fairness. This is not hyperbole. There is always room for well-reasoned and thoughtful dissent; it is a necessity. Pure and simple reaction, however, is not meaningful or useful, and militates against the norms of discussion and debate. It is also flies in the face, very contemptuously, of standards of evidence and argument. These are dismissed as irrelevant; conviction is what matters.

In the mainstream sphere, Fox News is the most visible culprit, as both a hyper-partisan ideological cocoon and a massive exercise in fraud. Its leading blowhards engage in a postmodern game in which they consistently promote themselves as the head of the pack of media wolves; at the same moment, they maintain they are outside the entire media entity. Another sleight-of-hand trick is introduced with the use of projection, in which the just-folks multimillionaire opinionator-reporters blithely accuse their enemies for their incitement, their inflammatory and irresponsible pretensions to analysis, and their absurdity. A plausible analogue would be a child who steals a cookie and calls his mother a thief for catching him.

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