Thursday, May 26, 2011

At least it can be said that right-wing hypocrisy is "pure."

Abraham Lincoln, commenting on the nativist Know Nothing Party, noted that if their position on racial, cultural and religious “purity” ever came to be the accepted dogma of the land, he’d prefer to live in Russia—where despotism could “be taken pure, without the base alloy of hypocrisy.” One must confess that right-wing talk of the variety you hear on Fox News and the radio at least has the certainty of predictability; you know that you are listening to hypocrisy itself in its purest form. There is not even the weakest pretense at fair and reasoned dialogue. You don’t even have to be watching or listening to know this; you could be a million miles away or fast asleep, and you could still be certain that you are not missing anything worthy of more than as astonishment at the gullibility of many millions who do take this in judiciously.

So it was a week ago I was surfing the AM radio dial when I encountered a vaguely familiar voice, effeminate, earnest, and occasionally hysterical in the enunciation of tiresome right-wing clichés that might have a surface “truth,” but doesn’t necessarily get us any closer to solutions for the country’s problems; for example, we may say this particular person always talks like he has ants in his pants, but removing the ants won’t necessarily calm him down and make him erudite. Of course I’m talking about Sean Hannity, who not only pollutes the television screen but the AM radio waves as well. Before Fox News, Hannity succeeded Bob Grant at WABC in New York. Although you wouldn’t guess it from his tame Wikipedia page, Grant was a radio “pioneer” alright—of race-baiting talk radio, preaching the gospel of white supremacy for a “mainstream” audience. After he joined Fox, Hannity would pay tribute to his mentor, inviting him on his show on occasion so that they could swap views on race and socialism. During his stint at WABC, Hannity welcomed one of Grant’s frequent callers, neo-Nazi Hal Turner. After Hannity subsequently denied he knew him when challenged, Turner—still unapologetic about his views—expressed disappointment with Hannity, who like a yellow-bellied coward denied their good friendship as if it had never happened. Hannity also had no problem (much as CNN’s Lou Dobbs often did) allowing white supremacists and anti-Semites like Andy Martin to appear on his show supporting his various smear campaigns of misinformation and deception, and only when directly confronted with it did he remember he “disagreed” with their racist views. We only have to ask, however, if Hannity believes his own views; if so, then we can assume that at least in private, he has “intellectual” intercourse with these fascists.

The only reason to bring any of this up is because—whether he was a good pupil or simply became more confident in expressing his paranoid beliefs—it is clear that Hannity doesn’t just come out of nowhere with this stuff; after all, he was engaging in race-baiting before he even heard of Barack Obama. Now that he has heard of him, Hannity acts as if he actually knows all about him; the obvious problem with Hannity doesn’t even know himself, so how can he know Obama? No one has ever heard Obama make Rev. Wright and Weather Underground-like commentary, but we hear Grant and Turner-like commentary from Hannity every day; the fact that Hannity is allowed a “mainstream” audience to expectorate his filth makes him much more dangerous than either of those two. Today (or any day) Obama is accused of being a spend, spend, spend freak, and fellow Democrats were running away from him like the plague. Now, how does Hannity support these claims? He may quote a so-called “poll”—probably something he either made-up, or something some extremist organization dreamed-up—that 89 percent of the respondents disagreed with giving Obama a “blank check” to raise the debt ceiling; maybe the 11 percent who said yes probably didn’t understand what “blank check” meant. Such fraudulent polls are the kind of "evidence" that the right uses to suggest considerable distance between the “socialist” Obama and “the American People.” Hannity then exclaims that Americans don’t want “business as usual” concerning the debt ceiling; why didn’t he say anything when Bush and a Republican-controlled Congress was inflating the deficit? Maybe he was just too busy dreaming-up the imminent communist takeover to think much about it.

Hannity claims on any given day that only a tiny minority supports Obama on any given issue (mostly fellow socialists); being so “out of touch” with the “American People” means that the Republicans have a free pass all the way to the White House in 2012 if they play their cards right. After all, O-B-A-M-A stands for Outrageously Black Afro-Muslim Abomination (I suppose I could come-up with something more creative that, but you get the point), all our guys (and Sarah Palin) are white and right just like you. Given all the suggestions of racial division, it is indeed odd how the right claims that we live in a “post-racial” world now that a dark-skinned man was elected president. What does that mean? From what I can tell, all it means is that people like Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Michelle Malkin and Rush Limbaugh have the “freedom” to more openly express their racial animosities as long as nobody is boycotting their corporate sponsors.

The hypocrisy of the right goes far beyond Hannity. I am the sole “liberal” in a family of Christian conservatives. I am not a contrarian; my life experiences have simply been far different. My older sister was a supporter of Mike Huckabee in the 2008 presidential primaries. This is the same man who on his Fox News show had not only welcomed right-wing country-rock “star” Ted Nugent, but joined him on stage with a guitar; a visibly embarrassed Huckabee listened as Nugent used a rather suggestive lyric that employed the words “stroke,” “pussy” and “purr.” Hardly “Christian” themes. I suspect that Nugent meant to make Huckabee uncomfortable for a laugh. Hardly amusing was Nugent’s 2007 rant on stage—brandishing and firing two rifles, informing an adoring crowd that "Obama, he’s a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun. Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch"—which seems not to have offended Huckabee’s sensibilities at all, at least not enough to prevent him from wondering if Nugent was a suitable guest. Of course Huckabee could say that he doesn’t condone such intemperate language, but that is only after you have the bad manners of asking him about it. It is also indicative of the fact that when Republicans claim that their party is “inclusive,” what they mean is that no racial hate speech is too extreme for them to accommodate.

It is admittedly hard at times to say who is more “pure” in their hypocrisy—Hannity, Palin or Michelle Bachmann. When Bachmann referred to “Osama” as if she and Bin Laden were best buddies, we knew it was because the right wanted to create a “link” between “Osama” and Obama. Bachmann also frequently bombasted that Obama was “soft” on terrorism because he wasn’t going after Bin Laden. It turns out, of course, that Bachmann was talking out of her fundament, but it sure made an impression on the old folks afraid of any dark-skinned person in their neighborhood. What was Bachmann wondering when George Bush said on several occasions that Bin Laden wasn’t a “priority,” and he wasn’t the least concerned about him? Probably the same thing Ann Coulter said on the Fox News version of the old CNN show “Crossfire”—that everything was going “swimmingly” in Afghanistan; this observation drew so much derision by a Democratic guest and the “liberal” questioner that Coulter became all flustered and stormed off the set. Bachmann’s also amused in a recent speech when she wondered if people like her mother could not explain to her why Americans had not stepped up to stop the Holocaust (probably a “repressed” memory), it would be just like having to explain why we had not stopped the “crushing” tax burden on Americans to our children. "I tell you this story because I think in our day and time, there is no analogy to that horrific action (it is not certain if she is referring to the Holocaust or taxes, as if it matters). But only to say, we are seeing eclipsed in front of our eyes a similar death and a similar taking away. It is this disenfranchisement that I think we have to answer to." You know, the U.S. has one of the lowest tax burdens in the civilized world, and the problems this country has only shows more clearly the effects of it. Western European countries are not whining about their tax burdens, because they realize that a civil society cannot function for long without some recognition of communality.

But Hannity is the star if this show, and in another recent broadside I heard him refer to a letter sent to Obama by a half-dozen health care organizations that pleaded with him to scrap the health care reform bill, which of course supported his own and the rest of the right’s view, based not a reasoned accounting of the health care problem, but simply because they hate any idea that actually takes into account the needs of people. But hold on a moment; Hannity was once more mixing his foul-tasting stew of misinformation with outright lies for added spice. He may have been referring to a letter from anti-abortion groups disturbed by provisions that end protections for doctors who will not perform abortions as a matter of conscience (I happen to agree with them on this), but more likely it is the letter from the AMA, Pharma, insurers and employee representatives. This letter did not, as Hannity told his listeners, express opposition to the health care reform bill; in fact it did not directly address it at all. It was merely a compendium of “suggestions” on how to cut costs by 1.5 percent, thus save $2 trillion over the next ten years or so. Since health care inflation would far exceed this (probably doubling costs at current rates), this is more a public relations stunt, and would have minimal impact on the federal deficit. The letter (which Hannity or his listeners obviously didn’t bother to read), contains certain proposals that are of interest only because of their redundancy:

Administrative simplification, standardization, and transparency that supports effective markets.

Reducing over-use and under-use of health care by aligning quality and efficiency incentives among providers.

Encouraging coordinated care and adherence to evidence-based best practices and therapies.

Reducing the cost of doing business by addressing cost drivers in each sector and through common sense improvements in care delivery models, health information technology, workforce deployment and development, and regulatory reforms.

Focus on obesity prevention.

So Hannity is lying again; nothing strange in that. These ideas were on the table 20 years ago, and probably for a lot longer—and maybe you think it might be a good idea to maybe do something now? The best thing about the health care reform bill is that it is actually forcing the health care industry to pay at least lip service to reform on their own, even if it is only that. Maybe they should have sent this letter to someone who still doesn’t “get it,” like Hannity. Oh, I forgot—you have to be able to read and comprehend first--and then say something that has no relation to its content.

As I said at the top, there is a certain “purity” about right-wing talk. If you buy into it, you never need be bothered with such as things as cause and effect or truth or consequences. It all has a simplicity that is both easy to consume and easy to excrete without fully digesting it. For those who don’t buy into it, they are saddled with the difficult work of navigating through the impure nature of reality.

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