by Victor Davis Hanson
NRO’s The Corner
This week’s talking point is the sudden danger of new right-wing violence, and the inflammatory push-back against healthcare. I’m sorry, but all this concern is a day late and a dollar short. The subtext is really one of class — right-wing radio talk-show hosts, Glenn Beck idiots, and crass tea-party yokels are foaming at the mouth and dangerous to progressives. In contrast, write a book in which you muse about killing George Bush, and its Knopf imprint proves it is merely sophisticated literary speculation; do a docudrama about killing George Bush, and it will win a Toronto film prize for its artistic value rather than shock from the liberal community about over-the-top discourse.
Socialism and totalitarianism are tough charges from the hard right, but they seem to me about as (or as not) over-the-top as Al Gore screaming “digital brown-shirts” or John Glenn comparing the opposition to Nazis. When 3,000 were murdered in Manhattan, and Michael Moore suggested Bin Laden had wrongly targeted a blue state, I don’t think that repulsive remark prevented liberal politicians from attending his anti-Bush film premiere. Yes, let us have a tough debate over the role of government and the individual, but spare us the melodrama, the bottled piety, and the wounded-fawn hurt.
Like it or not, between 2001 and 2008, the “progressive” community redefined what is acceptable and not acceptable in political and public discourse about their elected officials. Slurs like “Nazi” and “fascist” and “I hate” were no longer the old street-theater derangement of the 1960s, but were elevated to high-society novels, films, political journalism, and vein-bulging outbursts of our elites. If one were to take the word “Bush” and replace it with “Obama” in the work of a Nicholson Baker, or director Gabriel Range, or Garrison Keillor or Jonathan Chait, or in the rhetoric of a Gore or Moore, we would be presently in a national crisis, witnessing summits on the epidemic of “hate speech.”
So here we are with the age-old problem that once one destroys decorum for the sake of short-term expediency, it is very hard to restore it in any credible fashion on grounds of principle when the proverbial shoe is on the other foot. A modest suggestion: If the liberal community wishes to be more credible in its concern about contemporary extremist anti-administration rhetoric, then they might try the following: “Please, let us avoid extremism and do not fall into the same trap as Baker, Chait, Keillor, Gore, Moore, or Range when they either expressed open hatred toward their president, or speculated about the assassination of their president, or compared their president to a fascist. We must disown such extremism, past and present.”
©2010 Victor Davis Hanson