What Lurks Below

After Paul’s post yesterday about David Neiwert’s critique of Michelle Malkin’s new book Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild, I read through the entire six-part series. (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six.) It’s really quite amazing. I was especially interested in it having just posted about the KU professor who was physically attacked after having made disparaging comments about conservative fundamentalists. In that piece, I requested a modicum of perspective on who is really being attacked, citing liberal hunting licenses, Ann Coulter’s suggestiong that a baseball bat is the most effective way to talk to liberals, and Bill O’Reilly’s offering up San Francisco to terrorists, among others. Neiwert has plenty more examples (which I’ll get to in a moment), but also says something rather useful about projection, and conservatives’ predilection for it.

We've known for some time, really, about the right's propensity for projection. I mean, who can forget the claims in early December 2000 that it was Al Gore who was trying to steal the election? Malkin's thesis that the left has been taken over by a cast of eye-rattling loons is of a piece with this: You can always get a good idea where the right is headed (if it's not already there) by what it's currently accusing the left of doing.
An ingrained reaction to project one’s own nefarious motives, methods, and assumptions onto their opponents is inevitably wrapped up in shame and repression. To wit, many of the most anti-gay crusaders among the GOP’s ranks are closet queers. Last night, Mr. Shakes and I watched a great documentary on transsexual and intersexed people, and one of the most interesting segments dealt with a study in which self-identified heterosexual men were monitored via a sensor on their penises for their physical reactions to gay porn. The men were divided into two groups—those who held homophobic (or homobigoted) beliefs, and those who were comfortable with homosexuality. Those who were comfortable with homosexuality did not get aroused watching gay porn. Those who had indicated, through questioning, a fear or hatred of gays before being tested did become aroused, and in spite of knowing they had been monitored, all claimed they had not.

Projection and conservatism are inextricably linked, as shame and repression are key components of the lives of conservatives.

Malkin’s book, and all the howling complaints we hear regularly from conservatives that they are under attack, whether it’s the war on Christmas, the need for protection against dangerous liberals, or activist judges, are nothing more than a massive, collective projection—“defending” themselves against the very extremism that is most evident within their own ranks, and directed squarely at liberals. Throughout his series, Neiwert identified and thoroughly debunked one of Malkin’s most outrageous claims, rooted in this very issue:

"[T]he truth is that it's conservatives themselves who blow the whistle on their bad boys and go after the real extremism on their side of the aisle."[p. 9]

And while conservatives zealously police their own ranks to exclude extremists and conspiracy theories, extremism and conspiracy theories have become the driving force of the Democrat Party. [p. 169]
In fact, not only do conservatives not go after extremism on their side of the aisle, they have an entire network of operatives whose primary function is to serve as extremist apologists, normalizing the radical, and, worse yet, as conduits between extreme conservative elements and mainstream conservatives.

By absorbing so many extremist elements, the conservative movement has itself become more extremist. Many of these elements -- particularly the racists and neo-Confederates -- would eventually wither and fade from society if they weren't being sustained. And what's sustaining them is the access to power and influence they enjoy within the conservative movement. Moreover, that access is growing. And that's bad news for everyone (except, of course, those extremists).

The work of "transmitters" like Malkin, Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh in bridging the former gaps between extremist elements and the mainstream right is essential in creating the opportunities for that access. Their role is to provide media cover -- a constant barrage of talking points, wielding words as weapons in a propaganda war -- for the advance of this extremism.
Most concerning is that this propaganda war has escalated to the point where there are a shocking number of examples of eliminationist rhetoric. In addition to those I mentioned above, Neiwert has a compiled a disturbing collection. A selection from Ann Coulter:

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."

"We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed too."

“In [Clinton’s] recurring nightmare of a presidency, we have a national debate about whether he ‘did it,’ even though all sentient people know he did. Otherwise there would be debates only about whether to impeach or assassinate.”
A classic from Rush Limbaugh:

"I tell people don’t kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus -- living fossils -- so we will never forget what these people stood for."
Another fun one from Bill O’Reilly:

Everybody got it? Dissent, fine; undermining, you're a traitor. Got it? So, all those clowns over at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send over the FBI and just put them in chains, because they, you know, they're undermining everything and they don't care, couldn't care less.
From the blogosphere:

At LGF, for instance, you can regularly find comments that call both Muslims and liberals "vermin" and "subhumans" and say that "targeted genocide ... will become necessary." At the Rottweiler, you can read threats of violence against other bloggers, as well as assassination threats against John Kerry. Misha, the site's proprietor, has posted himself in support of the notion that antiwar dissenters were asking to be lynched.
And this morning I read that Michael Reagan, radio show host and son of the former president, has suggested that Howard Dean should be hung for treason:

Michael Reagan, son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is blasting Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean for declaring that the U.S. won't be able to win the war in Iraq, saying Dean ought to be "hung for treason."

"Howard Dean should be arrested and hung for treason or put in a hole until the end of the Iraq war!" Reagan told his Radio America audience on Monday.
This kind of rhetoric is incredibly alarming, and its intensity is escalating as conservatives see themselves losing their stranglehold on unilateral control. Consider for a moment that I have only scraped the surface of the eliminationist rhetoric spewed for public consumption—and that this is what’s being said while they’re in power. Any thought that things will “get better” if Democrats regain control of the House, the Senate, or the Presidency is foolish at best. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. I dread what lurks below the surface.

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