Ignore the Man Screaming in Front of the Curtain

Here’s an interesting thesis from Steven Almond writing at the NYT.

Liberals are to blame for the success of right wing canards and screamers because they don’t elevate the conversation.  They fixate on the bloviator.

Of course, not all right-wing pundits spew hate. But the ones who do are the ones we liberals dependably aggrandize. Consider the recent debate over whether employers must cover contraception in their health plans. The underlying question — should American women receive help in protecting themselves from unwanted pregnancies? — is part of a serious and necessary national conversation.

Any hope of that conversation happening was dashed the moment Rush Limbaugh began his attacks on Sandra Fluke, the young contraceptive advocate. The left took enormous pleasure in seeing Limbaugh pilloried. To what end, though? Industry experts noted that his ratings actually went up during the flap. In effect, the firestorm helped Limbaugh do his job, at least in the short term.

But the real problem isn’t Limbaugh. He’s just a businessman who is paid to reduce complex cultural issues to ad hominem assaults. The real problem is that liberals, both on an institutional and a personal level, have chosen to treat for-profit propaganda as news. In so doing, we have helped redefine liberalism as an essentially reactionary movement. Rather than initiating discussion, or advocating for more humane policy, we react to the most vile and nihilistic voices on the right.

Media outlets like MSNBC and The Huffington Post often justify their coverage of these voices by claiming to serve as watchdogs. It would be more accurate to think of them as de facto loudspeakers for conservative agitprop. The demagogues of the world, after all, derive power solely from their ability to provoke reaction. Those liberals (like me) who take the bait, are to blame for their outsize influence.


Okee dokee then.

From Digby: Little wingnut monsters: even if you don’t feed them, they grow up anyway.

From Ballon Juice:

This may be the single dumbest op-ed in the NY Times this year, which would be an accomplishment, given that Friedman, Brooks, Douthat, and Bruni all write there. Apparently Steve Almond thinks that if liberals would just ignore nasty old Republicans, then we’d have an amazingly civil public discourse and Fox news would shrivel up and die. The logic goes something like this:

1.) Ignore Mean Republicans
2.) …


From Mahablog:

This is something like clap-for-Tinkerbelle in reverse. If we stop enabling righties by paying attention to them, they’ll go away.

I would like to say that I don’t feel personally victimized by escalating right-wing fanaticism. Most of the time I feel more like a helpless bystander watching barbarians sack my country.

From me:

WTF is wrong with you?  We now have walking, talking, reproducing humanoids that think taking from the poor and giving to the rich solves all of our economic problems, that poor people deserve to starve and die from lack of insurance because there’s something morally wrong with them, a basically ineffective right of center president is a socialist, Kenyan Muslim who has spent us into no man’s land, Fox News is actually news and not just made up shit that rich Republicans want you to believe, and fertilized egg has more right to “life” than a woman or a man that’s been wrongly convicted of a crime or GLBT people.  We’re supposed to ignore the propagandists and just spout platitudes about “big ideals”?  Gimme a friggin; break and buy a clue, dude!  We tried Air America.  It bored every one.  Eliot Spitzer got sent to out media land for having heady conversations.  What planet is this?

That is all.

13 Comments on “Ignore the Man Screaming in Front of the Curtain”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I read that. The guy is a concern troll and self-hating faux liberal. You know what that piece reminded me of? The pathetic Dailykos diary that Barack Obama wrote in 2005.

    • dakinikat says:

      No wonder we can’t win an argument in the MSM any more with folks like that given column inches.

    • SophieCT says:

      Wow. I never saw that post from B0 before. I wonder who wrote it.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I think he wrote it. It’s his whole pacify both sides and satisfy neither shtick.

    • Seriously says:

      Is this the same Steve Almond who reacted to Condoleeza Rice’s commencement address at BC by writing an open protest letter and resigning from his adjunct position? The author of “candyfreak”? If it is he doesn’t exactly practise what he preaches. Why can’t he do both, isn’t it possible to advocate for more humane policy even within the context of reacting, necessarily, to the most vile and nihilistic voices on the right?

      • dakinikat says:

        yup … that’s him

      • Seriously says:

        And see, if I had just waited 60 seconds for someone to answer my question I wouldn’t have made the poor decision to actually read the piece. 😉 OTOH, I wouldn’t have learned that if liberals would just be nicer and stop propping up Fox with our rage, “media outlets would shift their resources to covering the content of proposed legislation, the exploding role of corporate influence in our affairs of state and the scientifically confirmed predicaments we face as a species.” So, there’s that.

  2. ecocatwoman says:

    Does anyone here listen to Wingnut talk radio or watch Fox NotNews on a regular basis? Maybe if I went on a binge & purge diet, and needed help purging, I might go that route, otherwise I rather kill myself if I was forced to listen/watch that group of looney tunes.

    I think Almond may have a point in that the MSM many times reports the outlandishness of Rush et al as if it is a news story. That, imho, amounts to free advertising. However, on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Politics Nation, The Rachel Maddow Show, MHP & Up with Chris Hayes, at least to me, they seem to make the case for the truth of the matter, not the Wingnut spin of the matter. They challenge the bulls**t. I think Stewart & Colbert are following in the footsteps of The Smothers Brothers.

    The MSM may be restrained considerably since they are owned, lock, stock & barrel by the very corporate overlords who are funding the campaigns of the Repugs. Until the grip of the corporatocracy is disengaged, we will never see the likes of an Edward R. Murrow nor a Walter Cronkite on network news. Murrow didn’t ignore crazy a$$ Joe McCarthy, he gut punched him every chance he got & saved our nation from that lunatic. Just like every other “problem” we face in life, it doesn’t go away if you ignore it. In fact, it generally gets worse & costs more money to fix.

  3. “We’re supposed to ignore the propagandists and just spout platitudes about “big ideals”? Gimme a friggin; break and buy a clue, dude! We tried Air America. It bored every one. Eliot Spitzer got sent to out media land for having heady conversations. What planet is this?”

    The references to Air America (which actually did quite well for a while) and Spitzer are non-sequiturs.

    I will agree that Almond’s piece was wrong-headed, but neither you nor Digby nor anyone else has been able to come up with a good strategy to counter the right-wing propaganda barrage that threatens to destroy this nation. Allow me to make five suggestions.

    1. Non-conservatives must not cooperate with the propagandists. Not even momentarily. Almond is correct to express his regret for appearing on Fox; to that extent, his piece is useful.

    2. Insist on truth in labeling. Every Democrat, liberal and moderate — including the president — should refer to Fox News, by name, as a nest of liars. Never say “Fox News;” always say “The Fox propaganda network.” No weasel words; no euphemisms. Use the harshest terms imaginable. The White House press secretary should use such terms, and so should all Democratic congressfolk. When the inevitable backlash erupts, double down. Never apologize.

    3. The Democratic party should erect and publicize a “Propaganda watch” website which chronicles the many lies emitted each day by the right-wing misinformation machine.

    4. Investigative reporters should track the money and the intelligence connections behind the Murdoch empire, Clear Channel, and Breitbart. To a surprising extent, that work has not been done. For example, we know that the Breitbarters recently got ten million dollars in venture capital money. From whom? How can these “venture capitalists” hope to make any profit from a site that does not feature advertising?

    5. Put pressure on larger internet media to cover non-conservative viewpoints. For example, most of Memeorandum’s links veer right. They will never link to (say) Alternet or The Nation (and yes, I have had problems with both of those), but they often link to Malkin or Breitbart. If we wrote to the folks at Memeorandum — not just once, but regularly — they might be more evenhanded.

    I think the five tactics listed above would do much to combat the propagandists. The first three points are directed at politicians and other “important” figures; we smaller-scale bloggers and citizen journalists cannot really help. But when it comes to points 4 and 5 — well, that’s were we can do real service.

    • NW Luna says:

      At ’em! Correct the lies and re-direct to our own talking points.

      A huge problem is that the larger media, internet and otherwise, is owned/edited by the Corporate Party.

      Almond sounds a tad insecure.

      Rather than initiating discussion…

      Almond has also forgotten that one does not make nice with the enemy.

  4. quixote says:

    I’m not so sure. Isn’t the NYT article just a longwinded way of saying “Don’t feed the trolls”? There is some truth to that. Joe Cannon makes good points about how everybody with a brain needs to stop accepting right wing vocabulary. My peeve: pro-lifers are anything but. The name that fits is “anti-sex.”

    • NW Luna says:

      “Forced labor” militants. That’s what I call the PLUBs.

    • Pro lifers who are pro execution – guilty or not — once fetus is a non fetus — both mom and ex-fetus can live on the street. In fact mom can give birth on the street. The freaks don’t listen to themselves talking — they just mouth meaningless emotional catch phrases & these jerks have the emotional brain of a lizard.

      However even one Iguana has more awareness than the radical right — that Iguanas saved his owner’s life. Woke the guy up & saved his life.