Thursday, July 31, 2008

Our beliefs are empirically correct and true, until someone acts on them

"Conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed." So saith Rick Perlstein, who has learned and forgotten more about Republican ugliness than can possibly be healthy.

Why that quote? Because earlier this week Jim David Adkisson entered an open-minded Unitarian Church, that apparently had a sign outside welcoming gays and lesbians, and started murdering people with a shotgun.

Adkisson currently sits in a jail cell, while at home police found copies of books by Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, and Sean Hannity. Not for nothing, but if a lefty had murdered evangelicals and been found with copies of Zinn, Chomsky and Naomi Klein in their apartment, do you think there would be any ambiguity at all from conservatives about the responsibility of those authors for those acts?

Except that of course, the analogy doesn't fit. Because Zinn, Chomsky, and Klein don't spend endless hours on the AM dial telling lefties how Republicans are weakening America and joking about how the only way to make America strong again is with a noose and a strong tree. Conservatives are. Michael Savage is beyond the pale, but even O'Reilly and Hannity let the mask slip every once in a while, and nudge-nudge "mistakenly" tell their listeners and viewers what they really think is necessary: lethal violence against people of different politics and religion.

So you might think that Adkisson's rampage might have prompted some soul searching among the right, except if you did you clearly weren't paying attention. Timothy McVeigh was clearly informed by the Republican right's paranoia machine, and the demonization of the federal government that Republicans revel in (when it's not their party in command) fueled McVeigh's attack on the Federal building in Oklahoma City. His attack came only months after, for example, G. Gordon Liddy's broadcast command to his followers that, when government agents came to get them in the night (as they certainly would, the Democrats were in power) you should "aim for the head, head shots, kill shots, kill the sons of bitches."

But when President Clinton dared to suggest that maybe the open sewer of America's AM dial was responsible, in even the tiniest way, for the atrocity at the Alfred P. Murragh building, the outrage from the right was, shall we say, considerable. (Never mind that these same people would later blame the teaching of evolution for the Columbine shootings.) McVeigh wasn't a conservative, they said, because real conservatives never do nasty things like that.

Which brings us back to Adkisson. What he and McVeigh have in common is not getting the fact that they've been conned. The American right doesn't care about abuses of power, and doesn't even care about gay weddings or national security. They care about making you care, and making you believe that Democrats are responsible for all the world's evil. But by and large, there aren't men who think violence against other Americans is the answer. (Imagine Bill O'Reilly in a bar fight, and how quickly he'd be on the floor in a fetal position, to get an idea.) These people like the language of violence, but the real thing is unthinkable -- literally unthinkable: they can't imagine that their words have consequences.

So for you, Jim and Tim, conservative terrorists both, I can only say I feel sorry for you. You let yourselves get conned by a movement that has no use for you. Having embarrassed American conservatives, you get disowned faster than Jesus himself was disowned before sunrise. It doesn't matter how true to the movement's teachings you are: if you get in the way of the true goal -- the pursuit and maintenance of power -- you and your memory go overboard.

Conservatism can never fail. It can only be failed.

(Chet has been following the Adkisson case more closely than I have, and has smarter things to say than I.)

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