I have always enjoyed the challenge of interacting with opposing ideas. It is a way to refine and sharpen one's own thinking. So I have been spending some time on "conservative" Greensboro lawyer Sam Spagnola's blog. But it has become clear to me that the fun and challenge of interacting with opposing ideas is not shared by others at Sam's blog, with the exception of one thoughtful doctor. Mostly what occurs are ad hominem attacks on dissenters without any substance. It has become clear to me that Sam's blog is a virtual ghetto of intolerant reactionaries and free market fundamentalists on the fringe. They want to purge the conservative movement of Bush and McCain supporters that aren't, as Sam said, "real conservatives." They believe, as CPA101 stated, that John McCain is "crazy" because he believes in global warming. Some of them fantasize, as "Bubbanear" posits, that the 2008 financial crisis was not real but contrived, and Bush's Secretary of the Treasurer Henry Paulson was in on the conspiracy. They do not support Medicare because it is a "socialist" program, and believe, as Jaycee stated, that Martin Luther King was a man of violence.
If you dig deep enough, below the constant attacks against Obama and the "liberal media," Sam will say he supported libertarian Ron Paul in the 2008 GOP primaries and thinks of himself in "the Pat Buchanan mold." Paul is noted for (still, in 2008) opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed segregation in public accommodations. (See "Ron Paul and his KKK, White Supremacist, and Neo-Nazi Supporters"). Buchanan is overtly racist. See his "Brief for Whitey." In the Buchanan tradition, Sam insists that the deaths of Jesse Helms and Ted Kennedy should have received equivalent media coverage, despite the fact that Kennedy made a far greater contribution and received far more accolades than Helms. According to Sam, "liberal media bias" was the only reason Kennedy's death got more coverage. He also insisted that Jesse Helms did not oppose integration, even though I quoted from Helms' 2005 autobiography in which he stated emphatically that he did oppose integration. Facts are obviously not an impediment to opinions on Sam's blog.
He seems utterly invested in Obama's failure, whatever the cost to the country, and whines constantly about the so-called "liberal media". His current content, I wrote, could be programmed, predicted and written by a computer -- posts on "liberal media bias" are routinely found at AIM.org. If you believe there's a "conservative/corporate bias" to media, you can find new evidence of that on a daily basis at Fair.org. To me the diametrically opposed perceptions at AIM and FAIR pretty well demonstrate that the media is "mainstream," meaning "middle of the road. "
Sam reports Obama tracking polls only when they show downward trends not up trends, and only bad economic news and predictions, hoping, I suppose, for the nation's economic ruin in order to vindicate his anachronistic free market fundamentalism, which no Republican president since Herbert Hoover has embraced.
I told him he could just as easily set up Google keyword searches on "liberal hypocrisy," "Democrats hypocrisy," "Democratic corruption" "Blame Bush" "liberal agenda" "liberal media bias" "Obama economic ruin" and let those post to his blog automatically. He wouldn't have to do any work and the content would be the same. It's also as if he subscribes to a monitor of MSNBC and predictably reacts in outrage to what's broadcast there as examples of "liberal media bias." (He discounts that MSNBC in its ideological coverage is just borrowing from the Fox News playbook as how to develop a profitable cable news network.)
In "You Knew It Was Coming," he rushes to judgment, declaring that an Obama supporter, unprovoked, "resorts to physical violence and bites off the finger of an anti-Obama protestor. Ignored by MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, and the liberal bloggers who are invested in convincing you that the angry and violent protesters are on the Right." Instead of hysterically leaping to these propagandistic conclusions, he should have waited until he learned more. As I posted on Sam's blog,
"this guy Bill by his own admission first 'threw two punches that landed' on the MoveOn activist. That's assault. The second punch landed in the MoveOn activist's mouth, and his finger was bitten off. Bill is honest enough to say he doesn't know if that was the activist's intention, and has the sense enough to say he's not going to file charges, since he started the fight. Yet Cavuto calls him a "hero." Disgusting. Sam, this whole thing has backfired completely on you and Bob (Bubba), despite your rush to judgment. Bill acknowledges he threw the first punch. Yet you refuse to correct your false statement that the major networks "ignored" the story. That is just not honest. And you're portraying a man who threw the first punch as some kind of victim, though he himself admits that he's no victim. I do agree with your headline, however. "You knew it was coming." Given the over-heated, over-the-top rhetoric of people like your friend Bubba Bob ("there's going to be blood in the street") and your defense of him, that 'he's only speaking metaphorically'-- that guy Bill probably reads scurrilous blogs like Bubba's and believes the disinformation contained there -- it was probably inevitable that some kind of violence was going to take place. If this is not evidence that you and Bubba need to tone down your rhetoric and stop the hyper-partisan hate and rush to judgment, I don't know what is. I think you both need to take a deep breath, apologize to your readers, and start taking more responsibility for the words you use in public."
Sam responds that he "has nothing to correct," and no apologies to make. If Sam and the commenters on his blog are representative of current conservative opinion, God help the Republican Party. These bloggers are virtually bankrupt of new ideas. Instead, they cater to and feed upon fears, resentments, grievances, and foster chip-on-the-shoulder attitudes.
Intolerant reactionaries are not absent from the Democratic Party, but I don't get the sense that they dominate now that the Democrats are the governing party the way they currently do certain quarters of the GOP. Back in 2005, Barack Obama took on the liberal blogosphere, telling the fiercest of Democratic activists what they didn't want to hear about civility and moderation. My guess is that a future Republican standard-bearer will have to take on the conservative blogosphere in a similar fashion.
I happen to believe that America is well-served by two vibrant, intellectually strong political parties. I'm intrigued by books like "The Conservative Soul: Fundamentalism, Freedom and the Future of the Right" by "conservative" Andrew Sullivan and "The Death of Conservatism" by "independent" Sam Tanenhaus, a biographer of William F. Buckley and Whittiker Chambers.
Tanenhaus's book deplores the demise of practical, realistic, intellectual conservatism in favor of a rigid, "revanchist" ideological purity. The "movement conservatism" of today, he writes, is "profoundly and defiantly unconservative — in its arguments and ideas, its tactics and strategies, above all its vision." In a Newsweek interview, Tanenhaus calls for a "mature and responsible conservatism that honors America's institutions, both governmental and societal," but suspects it might take 20 years to emerge.
Reviewing the book for The Washington Times, former White House speechwriter John Coyne describes it as an "appeal for civility and bipartisanship between two strong and principled political parties."
Sadly, there doesn't seem to be much interest in challenging books like these among conservative or Republican bloggers today.
Update: Photos of the uncivil, disrespectful and irrational placards at a 9/11/2009 "tea bagger" rally, and leaders like Michelle Malkin exaggerate a crowd estimate of 60,000 in Washington to claim it's actually two million. Photos of the "10 Best Signs from the March on Washington," including the most racist ones.
Update: TaNishi Coates of The Atlantic compares and contrasts the right-wing's expressions of hatred toward Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The Clinton-haters were just as uncivil as the Obama-haters, but with Obama there is the additional race factor. There are watermelon jokes, Congressmen referring to him as boy, and clucking heads claiming preposterously that the president "has exposed himself as someone with a deep-seated hated of white people."
Update: In the comments section below this post, Sam Spagnola declares himself "at war with extreme liberalism," presumably the kind espoused by me, Ed Cone, and Barack Obama. His cohort Bubba (Bob Grenier of Greensboro) posts an ad-hominen defamation of my character, though he has never met me. This is Bob's routine way to "discuss" issues. Over at Sam's blog, after several weeks of trying unsuccessfully to dialogue with him, I, the only dissenter daring to post at this time, declare that "I am outta here....Life is too short to beat one's head against a wall trying to reason with or find common ground with people who have no desire to reason or find common ground, indeed, who are invested in not finding common ground with their fellow Americans because that's a sign of weakness. Stalin and the Bolsheviks had a similar strategy. They were at war with their fellow citizens, too. Good luck with your third party, Sam."
Unless these guys threaten or engage in violence, the best we can do is ignore them, and not give them the time of day.
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