So Chris Matthews had a pretty big week, what with cheerfully mocking gays with Imus and then comparing Osama bin Laden to Michael Moore and then defending his remarks, with help from Joe Scarborough, by clarifying that it’s not just Michael Moore who bin Laden sounds like, but all liberals (video). Soon, enough, the Bow-Tied One quickly picked up and ran with the sentiment, as did Newt Gingrich, who said on Hannity & Colmes, “I think it's quite clear as you point out, Sean, that from this tape, that bin Laden and his lieutenants are monitoring the American news media, they're monitoring public opinion polling, and I suspect they take a great deal of comfort when they see people attacking United States policies.” Now it’s making its way through the rightwing blogosphere, because nothing’s more fun than conflating people who don’t share your opinion with terrorists.

There seems to be a rather strange expectation that liberals ought to express some sort of outrage that some of their most public representatives use language that sounds like that used by bin Laden. But the onus here is not on legitimate opposers of the war, who the administration goes out of its way to remind us are not “unpatriotic, not at all,” even as their shills gleefully assert otherwise. The responsibility is on the rightwing who, in choosing to seize upon the comparison to try to score political points, make themselves the useful tools of anyone whose goal is to see the United States torn apart at its seams. Bombs aren’t the only thing that can destroy a democracy; in fact, they are not even the most dangerous thing.

Does a man like bin Laden care if his enemy collapses under the smoke of explosions or from the slow but insidious undermining of the priniciples in which its freedom was forged? Absolutely not.

Dissent is a right. And dissent is only imbued with the capacity to provide comfort to one’s enemies when it is demonized. Were the Right to condemn instead attempts to widen the cavern between two groups of people who simply have different ideas about how best to fight a common enemy, they would strengthen, rather than further weaken, our democratic process, but they have chosen a much darker route, and in the end, we’ll all be worse for it.

That’s the thing about demonization—it only really helps the demons.

(Crossposted at Ezra’s place.)

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