The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Conservatives Espouse Outright Hypocrisy as Moral Value

Perverting Reality

by digby

I have long written that the right has retired the concept of hypocrisy. But until I read this piece by David Frum over at alicublog I didn't realize that they had actually formulated a moral philosophy to justify it. It is truly astonishing:

Roy writes:

Frum's opening made me think he was just going to show sympathy for a fallen sinner; later, I thought he would be content to tag on some contempt for a liberal media pile-on; but eventually I realized to my horror this man, a professional writer who had once been employed by the President of the United States, was rejecting a taboo as old as human society:

Consider the hypothetical case of two men. Both are inclined toward homosexuality. Both from time to time hire the services of male prostitutes. Both have occasionally succumbed to drug abuse.

One of them marries, raises a family, preaches Christian principles, and tries generally to encourage people to lead stable lives.

The other publicly reveals his homosexuality, vilifies traditional moral principles, and urges the legalization of drugs and prostitution...

...the first man may well see his family and church life as his "real" life; and regard his other life as an occasional uncontrollable deviation, sin, and error, which he condemns in his judgment and for which he sincerely seeks to atone by his prayer, preaching, and Christian works.

Yet it is the first man who will if exposed be held up to the execration of the media, while the second can become a noted public character - and can even hope to get away with presenting himself as an exemplar of ethics and morality.

How does this make moral sense?

Because, you hoser, human society depends upon at least a rudimentary concept of justice. We can forgive inconsistencies, and even admire trying and failing, but when someone amasses power from us based on his personal superiority, and is proved a fraud, he has broken the basic bargain of leadership. We mock him not out of meanness, but out of a communal survival instinct.

It is innate common sense to hold those who fail to practice what they preach to their own standards --- otherwise there are no such thing as standards in the first place and there is no moral value in honesty. Dear God, is he 12?

I had heard Kate O'Beirne make Frum's argument on Friday on Chris Matthews' show and just thought she was blubbering incoherently because she didn't know how to spin it. Apparently Frum's piece had just been injected into the Borg and hadn't been fully assimilated.

But this isn't really all that unusual. For instance, it also fits with their earlier admonition that parents should lie to their teen-agers about having taken drugs when they were younger. The right wingers say it's better to lie than admit that you have regrets (or don't.) They are enshrining dishonesty and hypocrisy as a moral imperative.

Frum and his fellow neo-cons and faith-based robots have spent the last few years mangling the discourse with so much hypocrisy, so many outright lies and twisted moral reasoning that they may have permanently built an alternate universe that they can turn to whenever the need arises. Witness two events that happened just last week.

First you had the John Kerry flap. After the first news cycle everyone knew he'd blown a punchline. There were even plenty of conservatives who admitted it. But that didn't matter. What mattered was forcing him to apologize for something he never said. It was a pure act of force, as if they put their foot on his neck and demanded that he agree that "up is down and black is white" --- a modern show trial in which Kerry agreed to confess in order to spare his party's chances in the upcoming election. He instinctively resisted, as sane people always do when forced to deny reality. But the sheer power of the coordinated Republican outcry (with the willing help of cynical Dems and the media) finally made it imperative for him to issue an apology for something he never said.

And the Republicans laughed and laughed because once again they had forced a leading Democrat to bow to their will as surely as if they'd physically held him down and made him agree that black was white and up was down. It was all the more delicious because every party to it, the Republicans, the Democrats, the public, the media and John Kerry himself all knew the real truth. Now that's power.

They pulled off a different, but related, gambit with something that was far more important. The administration tried to spin the irresponsible dumping of nuclear secrets on the internet as proof that the Iraq war was justified despite the fact that the documents were from before the first Gulf war. Even the secretary of state went on conservative talk radio and pretty much said "you can believe me or you can believe your lying eyes." Since it happened so late in the election cycle, it got lost in all the gay, meth snorting, joke blowing Republican effluvia of the campaign, but it is still one of the most audacious attempts at reality denial we've yet seen.

Fox news, unsurprisingly, shows how it was done:

GIBSON: Catherine, wait a minute. It sounds to me like the lead is buried. Has the U.S. government confirmed that Saddam Hussein had nukes? And The New York Times, of all -- of all organizations, is now confirming that Saddam Hussein was pursuing or had or was close to having nukes?

HERRIDGE: Right. I -- I don't want to think that I buried the lead, but that's always possible. I think what's happened here is that [Rep. Peter] Hoekstra (R-MI) and others are saying -- and Secretary [of State Condoleezza] Rice said also today, look, these documents show that Saddam Hussein may have been further along in the nuclear weapons process than we had believed. It was alleged in the Times that the documents included information on firing plugs. This is a very specific type of technology, which is not freely available on the Internet. So, that's -- that's one aspect of the story.

"Herridge" is Catherine Herridge, allegedly a news reporter, not a pundit. I suppose it would be too much to ask that she anger Roger Ailes and challenge Gibson on his blatant misrepresentation. But her approach wouldn't have been all that different from the mainstream media had they seen it as something more than an "oops," as CNN called it. It would have played out differently than the Kerry gaffe, but with the same underlying dynamic. The Republicans would have looked the media in the eye and dared them to say outright that the Republicans were lying. The media knows what it's supposed to do so it would have reported it like this:

Republicans claim that the New York Times has verified that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear program and was much closer to building one that we've previously thought. Democrats counter by saying that the plans that were released on the internet date from before the first gulf war. Coming up, Representative GOP Liar and Senator Democrat Noodle debate the issue.

The pressure in the media is slightly different, but the result is the same. The real point of this total disregard for reality is to force others to be complicit in their falsehoods.

They succeeded in getting everyone to agree that John Kerry should have immediately apologized for something he never said and they managed to at least partially spin what should have been a public relations disaster --- Bush personally ordering a project that resulted in arabic language nuclear plans winding up on the internet at the behest of their political fringe --- into a positive story that proved the Bush administration case for war.

These are bold, in-your-face challenges to what we all commonly perceive as reality. Frum's perverse moral view of Haggard's hypocrisy and dishonesty is the same thing. It's where the faith-based, the Limbaugh nation and the neocons come together in a Straussian orgy of lies and myths and pure brute force.

Winning this election will not change this. The political establishment has been trained in this method for almost two decades now and the Republicans are actually better at wielding this power as the opposition. I have no answers about how to deal with it. It's one of the most difficult challenges we face.


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