The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, October 01, 2007

Make Mine Martyrdom!

In my continuing struggle to understand the various and sundry contradictions with which today's Republicans live quite comfortably-- by all appearances at least-- it's time to take a look at some brand new examples.

Tim Grieve observes Clarence Thomas' thoughtful public record of equating himself with black martyrs of American fiction, saying of his confirmation hearings that they thrust him "back into Bigger Thomas' world, a dark, cramped hell devoid of hope." Wow. In another flash of literary smartitude, Thomas notes that "in the Deep South you didn't need a strong case to send a black man to the gallows, and it is already clear that Tom will be convicted when Atticus goes before the jury to make his closing argument." His philosophical musings on America's history of racial discord must be why he believes that "[i]f a deprivation of liberty can be justified by the need to protect a town, the protection of the Nation, a fortiori, justifies it." And why, as Grieve writes, Thomas "was one of just three justices [in 2006' House v Bell] who said that a death row inmate should not be allowed to proceed with federal habeas corpus proceedings despite DNA evidence that called his guilt into serious question."

But that could be nothing more than basic arrogance and egotism. You know, "I didn't make it because of patronage, coincidence, or external factors-- mine is a stirring tale of incredible adversity overcome through exceptional courage and skill." This line seems especially appealing to those who got where they are through patronage, chance, or external factors.

Also in Salon, Glenn Greenwald looks at the right's extraordinary capacity to cry bloody murder-- no, "cry bloody martyr" would probably be more apt-- when it comes to dreaded and sadly overused comparisons to Hitler and the Nazi regime. The MoveOn story of 2004 is a classic example, in which the group didn't call Republicans Nazis, and didn't let contestants in a video contest do it, either. But were pilloried for doing quite the opposite by opportunistic wingers. Now, claiming victimhood at the hands of shameless people who toss around such epithets with reckless abandon, sensitive wingers are naturally doing everything they can to.... uhmmm, toss around such epithets with reckless abandon.

On his talk radio show last night, Mark Levin labelled MoveOn and Media Matters as "brownshirts." Michelle Malkin this morning excitedly touted Levin's attack, cheering the "no-holds-barred Mark Levin" for labelling both groups as the "brownshirts of the Clinton crime family."

So that could just be opportunism. And with nimrods like Malkin, Limbaugh, Coulter and O'Reilly still immensely popular on the right, would-be conservative intellectuals can simply shake their heads at the coarsening of our political discourse and lament that "entertainers" of this sort aren't a little more careful with their "humor." The final result? References to the Holocaust become just another bit of political static, lose their ability to horrify, and put us that much closer to repeating history. But at least you score some political points, right?

There are other examples, but this is starting to wear me out. And I still don't feel any closer to an insight on the whole winger hypocrisy thing. I know, I know, when will I learn?