Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In which NRO pisses on my head and wants me to believe it's raining

It is a losing proposition to give a thorough response to every piece that comes out of the conservative internetosphere. Firstly, most of the content on the political internet is written for those who already agree -- it may be hortatory, but rarely closely argued with the skeptic as internal audience, one who wants every factual claim to be supportable or common knowledge.

Maybe that's where the problem begins -- there are factual propositions which are common knowledge on the right, or in certain subgroups of the right, which are simply false. Tax cuts increase revenue. The Paul Ryan budget plan cuts the deficit and/or pays down the debt. Illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from otherwise hard-working Americans. Barack Obama had the farthest-left record in the whole Senate. Hell, for that matter, the Democratic Party is leftist. (Or is it still the Democrat Party? I can't keep the ungrammatical silliness straight. In any case, that claim isn't linked to a patient explanation of why it's bollocks because it's a matter of definitions, and I'm not sure that the Right even agrees among themselves on what constitutes a "leftist".) "Republican" is synonymous with "conservative" (and the exceptions should be drummed out). "Republican" has always been synonymous with "conservative".

Yeah, you see that one a lot actually, sometimes expressed in a skillfully trollerific fashion and sometimes just stated baldly. And it's insulting, really, when a troll or an op-ed writer tried to pull that one out on you, because they're betting that I didn't learn a damn thing in high school history or afterwards. And the sad thing is, it's a pretty good bet.

All of which is a long introduction to why I'm writing about the latest bit of ahistorical gibberish infesting the virtual pages of the National Review. (And it probably ain't even the latest anymore.) I promise, I won't take this much time on every piece of ahistorical gibberish that pack of gibberers gibbers out. But among other reasons to make a special exception (aside from the obvious fact that I've been negligent on my bloggardly duties lately), I wanted to make a point to the Facebook friend who linked the story originally, about why National Review does not get much benefit of the doubt. Why it's almost never the wrong decision to not even bother clicking on a link to their website, and if one finds one has through some mischance, to CTRL-W without delay or compunction.

The exchange went like this:
Friend (on his own wall): This is a must-read.

Now I can see the title and the first line or two of the piece without clicking, and it's that combination which gets me to click over. "The Party of Civil Rights" it says; "This magazine has long specialized in debunking pernicious political myths, and Jonah Goldberg has now provided an illuminating..."

I'm not clicking over because I'm curious or want to be informed here. I'm clicking over because I'm insulted, and I desperately hope that I'm wrong -- that this op-ed doesn't say what it sure as fuck looks like it's saying. The rational choice, based on dozens of NRO articles I've seen, is to move along and leave the monkeys to fling poop as they please.

But I want this article to not be saying what it looks like it's saying. And I want this friend, who's a smart guy, a Notre Dame grad, I want him to not be buying into what it looks like this piece is saying.

Alas, the piece is, indeed, an exercise in Democrats-are-the-real-racists-and-I'm-going-to-use-Republican-and-conservative-and-right-thinking-interchangeably. Joe, if you're reading this, please know that you're publicly devaluing a Notre Dame education by not throwing this dreck out on its ear where it belongs.

So anyway, I click over. I don't even quite believe what I'm reading, but I get down to the first page break (I've linked the unpaginated no-ads version, you're welcome), and I've had enough, and say so in a comment:
The very first sentence of this piece, appearing in the National Review of all places, is a slap in the face to every person who has worked against the forces of white supremacism in the modern conservative tent. Or does he somehow [think I] don't have an internet to recall to us what the old man wrote himself, in the National Review: "The central question that emerges--and it is not a parliamentary question or a question that is answered by meerely consulting a catalog of the rights of American citizens, born Equal--is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes--the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race."
Joe suggests I read the whole piece; I respond that I've seen enough to be quite confident that I'm not missing anything. Of course, if I'm not going to read the piece, Joe has little confidence in my ability to discuss it (on Facebook or elsewhere). Which, of course, I would have said just as quickly to him if the circumstances were reversed, so everyone's clear that I'm not faulting the point. It's just that I wasn't trying to discuss the piece. I was explicitly just discussing the first sentence of the piece, which I did read, and which even someone so addled as myself can see is part of a pattern. (And yes, those are the first three non-duplicate results of a google search that I can keep up all day. Can anyone say "echo chamber"?)

But yes, anyway, so I did in fact read the whole piece before sitting down to write this post. And you know what? I was right. Never once in the whole damn thing did the author acknowledge the National Review's own pernicious history perpetuating the pernicious myth of white supremacy and the pernicious water that the conservative movement has carried in the cause of keeping the world unsafe for nonwhite people. It's amazing how one's pattern recognition circuits can get so burned out by every fucking NRO article being from some other planet with different facts, so that one doesn't want to even waste one's time separating the useful nugget of corn from the stableful of horse manure. Oh wow, you tell me that LBJ cut the balls off of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, and was a racist? I'm shocked and awed. Now tell me which party it was whose president passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- which president used his legendary skill at getting Congress in line to get that landmark legislation passed?

My, my... it's almost as if the combination of a national movement and vocal conversation about civil rights, together with the same flawed, racist guy becoming the head of the party and representing the entire nation, changed both the political and moral calculus.

If LBJ had retired after 1957, he would be remembered, if at all, as an enemy of civil rights, because that was his record. And it was the record of the Southern Democrats stretching back to the Civil War. You know why LBJ isn't remembered as an enemy of progress? Because he changed his record; put his political life on the line, and won.
But we don't get any sense of this; instead, we're treated to this bucket of piss:Johnson did not spring up from the Democratic soil ex nihilo. Not one Democrat in Congress voted for the Fourteenth Amendment. Not one Democrat in Congress voted for the Fifteenth Amendment. Not one voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1875.
Repeat after me: Realignments happen. In the 1870s, the Republicans were the liberal party, while the Democrats were the segregationist party. In the 1890s, the Republicans were a wholly owned subsidiary of  U.S. Steel while the Democrats were a wholly owned subsidiary of George Pullman. In the 1910s, Republicans were conservationists and Democrats were back to being segregationists. In the 1930s, all of a sudden Democrats were coalescing around unions and Republicans were coalescing around bankers. (Predictably, the party backing the bankers had a bit of a national time-out.) And in the 1960s, the last vestiges of the segregationist wing of the Democratic party were finding themselves less and less welcome in their own tent and more and more welcome in the Republican one.

Oh yeah, you know what words I didn't see in that piece? I'll give you two guesses, and no, it's not "Lee Atwater". Though now that you mention it, he ain't there either.

But you want to know what I really found galling? This sentence, which I'd closed the article too soon to read the first time around:

At the same time, Republicans went through a long dry spell on civil-rights progress. Many of them believed, wrongly, that the issue had been more or less resolved by the constitutional amendments
passed during Reconstruction and then vitiated by Plessy and a raft of similar rulings. Any honest person reading this sentence has little choice but to scream at their computer screen "No, you ass-faced nutmeg-monger; no one interested in giving more than lip service to civil rights thought that the issue had been resolved after SCOTUS gave the green light to 'Separate but Equal', nor did anyone think that the law protected the civil rights of blacks, Irish, and the rest. The issue had been resolved -- and resolved in the oppressors' favor, and everyone knew it."

So tell you what, Williamson: you try being a Chinese immigrant in 1910 San Francisco and see how well your civil rights have been resolved. You try to organize a union in mining country -- and yes, organizing a union is a civil right. You try not being one of the privileged few, the 1%, if you will, though you're probably barely in the top 20, if that. And while you're at it, why don't you try turning your own pattern recognition circuits on the question of which party has spent far more than the span of my natural life actively denying people who don't match their idea of "us" all these civil rights and more, and stop trying to cloud the waters by claiming that social safety nets are clientship and the government teat.

You do that, and I'll go back to ignoring NRO. We'll both be better off.

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