Who's Crazy Now?


A series of posts at Reason illustrates that the liberal rage at right-wing loonies is starting to sound, well, a little loonie:

From Jesse Walker: "The social construction of the brownshirt menace, chapter DXXIII:

On Tuesday, MSNBC's Contessa Brewer fretted over health care reform protesters legally carrying guns: 'A man at a pro-health care reform rally...wore a semiautomatic assault rifle on his shoulder and a pistol on his hip....there are questions about whether this has racial overtones....white people showing up with guns.' Brewer failed to mention the man she described was black."

Here's the video:

Meanwhile, Matt Welch catches E.J. Dionne going off the deep end:

Remember when National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre's Godwin's Law comment about "jackbooted government thugs" was the worst thing ever? Well, the mainstream commentariat continues to use the same incendiary, totalitarianism-invokingWashington Post columnist and serial public broadcasting commentator E.J. Dionne:

This is not about the politics of populism. It's about the politics of the jackboot. It's not about an opposition that has every right to free expression. It's about an angry minority engaging in intimidation backed by the threat of violence.

And Nick Gillespie ponders the alleged violent reaction on the right whenever a liberal president comes in:

Last night, on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, Frank Rich of The New York Times reminisces about

the walk up to the [JF] Kennedy assassination, [when] there was all this hate talk about Kennedy, and then there was the John Birch Society, they were worried that the government was going to fluoridate the water and poison the country...it always seems to happen when there's a new liberal group taking over...it's not coincidence that the militias started up again in the 1990s or when Kennedy came in...

As Matt Welch and Jesse Walker and others at this site have been pointing out, loose analogies between between angry, sputtering citizens at town hall meetings and Nazis street thugs and political assassins are pretty damn lame. As important, they are almost inevitably the result of a strange ideological lesion that precludes inclusion of inconvenient facts. A propos of the above: JFK was not assassinated by a right-wing crank, but by a demonstrably pro-Castro defector to the Soviet Union who tooks shots at a rising right-wing freakazoid not long before shooting the president (yes, Oswald done did it). And, you might remember, that revolutionary (coff, coff) violence that wracked the '60s and early '70s was the result primarily not of out-of-control Barry Goldwaterites but by groups on the left.

Precisely what relevance any of this has to the current moment is far from clear.

We'll leave aside the garden-variety hypocrisy of people who have suddenly discovered that dissent may not always be the highest form of patriotism.  (And, to be fair, those who have suddenly rediscovered their right to peaceably assemble and demand redress of grievances)

Talk of death panels and crazy signs is, if polls are to be believed, a tiny fringe of the many Americans who do not like this health care plan much.  It's even, as far as I can tell, a small minority of the many Americans attending town hall meetings to harangue their congressmen.  Democrats appear to think that blowing those people up into the totality of the movement will help them win the PR battle on healthcare.  I suspect this will do more harm to the Democrats, and their ability to effectively deliver their message, than it will to the conservatives.

I expect the conservatives to become unhinged; it's the normal response to losing power.  So why are so many journalists losing basic touch with reality?

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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