I’ve been watching with fascination how the left’s dislike of George W. Bush has lately melted down into clinical paranoia: fits of sputtering and sometimes physically violent rage. Witness U.K. Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker’s scatology-laden call for Bush’s assassination (which Brooker later dismissed as an “ironic joke”) and the custard pies thrown at Ann Coulter as she gave a speech (which the liberal pundits dismissed as an even bigger joke). (See my U.K. Guardian: Kerry Letter-Writing Campaign Didn’t Work–So Let’s Just Kill Bush!, Oct. 25, and It’s OK to be a Misogynist If You’re a Liberal, Oct. 26.) Wasn’t it supposed to be the liberals who were the party of sweet reason and everybody’s right to free speech’ Those genteel titters at Bush’s grammatical gaffes have degenerated into pies in the face and howls for murder.
My favorite political writer, Mark Steyn, notices the same switcharound in a piece for the U.K. Spectator. Remember those “angry white men” whom the liberal pundits used to write about ad nauseam‘ Those enraged blue-collar dimwits who voted Republican because they were resentful that women and members of ethnic minorities were getting all the jobs’ We don’t hear very much about them 10 years later–and that’s because, as Mark points out, the angry white men nowadays are the pundits themselves. Here’s Mark:
“After ‘angry white men’ threw out the Democrats’ congressional leadership in the 1994 elections, Peter Jennings, the exquisitely condescending Canadian who anchors ABC News, sniffed that ‘the voters had a temper tantrum.’ But this time round the angry white men are all on the Democrat side, and the media seem to think it’s perfectly normal.
“The other night, for example, Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC’s ‘Senior Political Analyst’ (i.e., Democrat hack), discussed John Kerry with John O’Neill, spokesman for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. This is a flavour of the senior political analysis offered by the Senior Political Analyst, although for the full effect of his shrieking over Mr O’Neill’s attempted answers you really need the big 72-inch screen with quadraphonic surround-sound ranting and digital-quality close-up of his facial contortions:
“‘That’s a lie, John O’Neill! Keep lying, it’s all you do!… Lies!… That’s a lie! It’s another lie! That’s a lie! Absolute lie!… You’re just lying…It’s a pack of lies!… He just lied to you! He spews out this filth!… You liar!… You just spew lies!… I just hate the lies of John O’Neill. I hate lies…O’Neill’s a liar, he’s been a liar for 35 years…They lied!… Lies! Just tell me the initials, you liar! Creepy liar!…’
“A day after this calm measured display of quiet confidence in Senator Kerry’s campaign, his fellow MSNBC honcho, ol’ Pitchfork Pat Buchanan, read a prepared statement by the network apologising for its senior analyst going bananas. Out on the street, meanwhile, angry white men have burgled Republican offices in Spokane, Washington; lobbed cinder blocks through Republican offices in Flagstaff, Arizona; shot up Republican offices in Knoxville, Tennessee; assaulted female Republican students handing out flyers at the Gophers football game in Minnesota; and are currently bullying early voting Republicans at polling booths in Florida. If this campaign went on another two months, they’d be seizing GOP county chairmen and beheading them on video.”
My theory is that the left has gone around the bend because it can no longer control the media and hence the “discourse,” as the postmodernist theorists say. Once upon a time, and it wasn’t long ago, the Peter Jenningses and Larry O’Donnells of this world–not to mention the Dan Rathers–were all you could get when you switched on the TV news. As for the print media, it was the predictably liberal New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and so forth.
Unfortunately, that deadlock hold, in which the supposedly free speech-promoting liberals effectively silenced all opposing voices except those of the occasional token conservative such as George Will or William F. Buckley, is long since relaxed. Conservatives own the Internet–hence liberals’ disdain for us pajama-clad blogsters–and they also have the powerful and popular Fox network on television. The newspapers tout their same old liberal line–except that fewer and fewer people read them. So it’s natural if paradoxical that liberals’ definining characteristic is no longer liberalism but bullying and cinderblocks through the window. It’s a sad turn but not a surprising one. I’ve always suspected that the liberal devotion to free speech applied only to politically correct speech.