If you've quit paying attention to the Tucson shooting case, first of
all, congratulations. Here is what you've missed: The
nearly-assassinated Democratic Congresswoman is getting better, and the
public discussion of her shooting is getting worse.
There's just too much nonsense being circulated to cover here, so we'll
focus on a relatively narrow but instructive development: How
rightbloggers have promoted to their primary object of hatred -- above
even the despised Obama, at least for the moment -- mild-mannered
economist Paul Krugman.
Krugman's column suggested a connection between the new rightwing
tradition of talking about killing one's political opponents -- see here for some hair-raising examples
-- and the Tucson shootings. "There has, in fact, been a rising tide of
threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials, including both Judge
John Roll, who was killed Saturday, and Representative Gabrielle
Giffords," wrote Krugman. "One of these days, someone was bound to take
it to the next level. And now someone has."
Krugman mentioned Michelle Bachman's "armed and dangerous" comments which, readers of last week's column
may recall, were elsewhere defended as relatively harmless, even though
Bachmann had also said that "Thomas Jefferson told us, 'Having a
revolution every now and then is a good thing.' And we the people are
going to have to fight back hard if we're not going to lose our
country," which could be taken as an invitation to armed resistance.
Still, Krugman's was not the most tightly-reasoned column ever written,
and could have been challenged with a reasonable rebuttal. But
rightbloggers were unable to muster a reasonable anything. Their
responses were mainly insults, dudgeon, and bullshit.
"Paul Krugman Is an Idiot," said Going to the Mat. "Krugman is an Asshole," said Crazy Conservative. "Paul Krugman is a bald faced liar!," said SBVOR ("Click the image of the lying bastard & read the rest"), etc.
"Paul Krugman, Buffoon," said Power Line's John Hinderaker.
Hinderaker claimed that "we now know that Loughner's murders were not
political" (though he felt compelled to add that the assassin's
"friends describe him as left wing").
Hinderaker also defended Bachmann's comments, insisting they didn't mean
what Krugman said they meant -- "when liberals quote sentence
fragments," he informed readers, "they are usually misleading when they
aren't out-and-out fabricated." Unsurprisingly Hinderaker's Bachmann
fragments did not include the bit about a new American revolution. Also,
he said Krugman is "a vicious hater," "incapable of doing even the most
rudimentary research," "Bachmann is infinitely better informed than
Krugman," etc. How Krugman ever won that so-called Nobel Prize, John
Hinderaker will never know.
"Krugman knows that people such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are not racists, bigots or purveyors of hate," wrote Desert Conservative.
"Yet, he writes just the opposite." Desert Conservative didn't say how
he knew this about Krugman's state of mind; maybe he tapped Krugman's
phone. (Previously DC wrote, "TUCSON SHOOTER CLOSER TO KRUGMAN THAN TEA PARTY OR CONSERVATIVE GROUPS.")
At the close of one of his columns, conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer
rather paroxysmally accused Krugman of psychological problems ("The
origins of Loughner's delusions are clear: mental illness. What are the
origins of Krugman's?"). Krauthammer, a trained psychiatrist, has been doing this sort of thing for years; sometimes he also complains about other people who casually impute mental illness to politicians. (You have to admire his nerve, if nothing else about him.)
Weirdly, the accusation of madness was one of only two brief references
Krauthammer made to Krugman. Doesn't matter -- Krauthammer's quick slur
was cheered by rightbloggers as if it were a speech by Edmund Burke.
added that Krugman was "intellectually lazy" and "intellectually
dishonest," and even called him "the Joe McCarthy of our times," echoing
William Kristol -- which probably confused both Commentary's and Kristol's readers, as most of them probably think McCarthy was a great American hero.
fame). Unnamed liberals who say "conservatives and libertarians bear at
least some responsibility for creating a 'climate of hate,'" Sheffield
explained, are just like Phelps, who believes that "God literally hates
people who engage in homosexual conduct."
Um, how? Maybe because Sheffield disagrees with both assertions -- we
had a hard time parsing his argument, even after he sought to strengthen
it by comparing Phelps' statements with Krugman's. Here's an example:
When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely
surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this
atrocity to happen?
PHELPS: God appointed the Afghanistan veteran to avenge himself on this evil nation.
also wrote, "Read any random left-wing website and you'll see countless
rants about how Democrats need to be more like Alan Grayson," without
giving any examples and in contradiction to the results of a simple Google search,
which shows rightbloggers far more obsessed with Grayson than liberals.
Maybe literal meaning is actually beside the point, and Sheffield's
whole column is meant as a new type of surrealist prose-poetry.
Lachlan Markay of NewsBusters said he'd written a letter of complaint about Krugman to the public editor of the New York Times. Since even Markay seemed to realize there was little hope that the Times
would run it as an Op-Ed, he reproduced it for his readers. In it,
Markay complained that Krugman had referred to Michele Bachmann's "armed
and dangerous" remarks as "eliminationist rhetoric," which Markay
called an "egregious error" that the Times must correct.
The public editor's assistant politely rebuffed Markay, which (as those
accustomed to internet crybabies might expect) led to a complaint from
Markay that "the response really does not address any point made in my
initial email." Markay also speculated that, since the response was not
as personal as he might have wished, the Times may "have
received so many letters in response to that column (or other Krugman
columns) that Brisbane's office had to draft a form letter on the topic"
(a charge repeated by others as fact).
The idea that the Times' public editor gets lots of crank
letters, and doesn't respond personally to all of them, seems not to
have crossed Markay's mind. Such faith is touching, especially in a
media critic. We wonder if he accepts annual Pulitzer nominations from
his boss in lieu of raises.
When President Obama gave his well-reviewed, conciliatory speech in Tucson, setting aside partisan blame for the shooting, Tom Maguire called out the important part: "We heard Krugman seemingly tossed under the bus early in the speech," he said.
knew who to blame: "Paul Krugman inspires Arizonan." "It would seem
that Paul Krugman, Keith Olbermann, Clarence Dupnik and other
left-wingers have created a 'climate of hate' and are thus responsible
for Eric Fuller's violent threats and arrest on Saturday," said Ruth Ann Dailey.
"Perhaps responding to the hateful, violent rhetoric from Krugman,
[Chris] Matthews, [Bill] Maher, [E.J.] Dionne, and Olbermann, Tucson
shooting victim and hard-left activist, J. Eric Fuller, was arrested..."
said Bill Hennessy. Well, at least Krugman's not talking the rap by himself.
Of course it's meant as a threat. Unless someone actually got hurt. In which case, you're Hitler.
moved to ask at this point: Why are rightbloggers so bent out of shape?
You'd think they'd be calmer than this; after all, they regularly assure their readers, and themselves, that the public agrees with them that conservative chest-thumping didn't motivate the Tucson shooter.
Yet they're still so tightly wound that a single, relatively mild column
by a donnish academic spurs them to outsized fits of rage. Hell, even
the normally ultra-glib Instapundit has been talking so much about the alleged "blood libel" against conservatives that he's starting to sound like Meir Kahane.
Laying aside the possibility of guilty consciences (you've read them --
do you think they have consciences?), our best guess is that they
they're just very frustrated. Since the whole Tea Party thing got going,
It's been real horrorshow for the rightwing droogies, but now they find
themselves obliged to behave themselves, lest they attract suspicion.
The strain tells. Sure, they love playing the victim, but man does not
live by blood libel alone -- sometimes a patriot's got to blow off
steam. And just because some Democrats got shot up, they can't.
Maybe this also explains their hard-on for Krugman. Lots of people have
been giving them a hard time, but from Krugman it's worse because he's
the ultimate liberal authority figure: Not only is he a Nobel laureate, a
Times columnist, and a Hollyweird guest star, but he acts like a goddamn teacher -- his speech is mild, he doesn't shout, and he allows himself to be pictured in scarves like this was Hogwarts or something.
They like to talk about being oppressed by jack-booted Obama thugs,
but what really drives them nuts is the idea of being sent back to
study hall, and forced to submit to the authority of some fruity thinker
just because he supposedly knows more than they do. Which, come to
think of it, may explain their politics about as well as anything else