I was reading an article at Politico.com that analyzes the factuality of President Obama’s and ex-Vice President Cheney’s dueling speeches on national security. It doesn’t surprise me at all to learn that Cheney played fast and loose with the facts. But I did feel a little disappointed by Obama’s own verbal shape-shifting.
However, that’s not the point of today’s entry. I read the first twenty comments on the story and was extremely taken aback to find the following remarks made by someone calling himself “elbonian”
"The liberals / lefties must be confused by this article. It is riddled with logical thought, clear suppositions and an honest effort to base comments on fact. Worse, this article is void of name calling and demonizing public figures which is the foundation of liberal / lefty thought. Chances are that liberals / lefties will lose interest in this article by the time they get to the second paragraph and begin posting comments that will be based on name calling, demonizing and making up stuff as they go along."
For some reason, that’s more or less how I’d characterize most conservatives! Wondering if perhaps I had overlooked the liberal vitriol, I went back and re-read the first twenty comments.
Of the first nine (all those preceding elbonian’s and thus presumably those s/he was responding to), seven contained nothing I recognized as “name calling, demonizing, [or] making up stuff.” Two contained remarks that I thought were slightly beyond to pale of civilized discourse:
#3 Conbug calls the President “Hussein Obama" and compares him to a “naïve 12 year old boy.” This is actually a very toned down version of comments I have read all over the internet claiming that Obama is really a Muslim and hence an enemy of America. Conbug also writes that “Too [sic] even compare the two as anything of equal stature EXCEPT MAYBE FOR READING A TELEPROMPTER is demeaning to Dick Cheney and or our former President George W. Bush.” Well, everyone is entitled to an opinion! But my opinion is: he’s making up stuff as he goes along.
#9 WWJD writes “VP Cheney has the facts on his side and tells it the way it is. The only thing the obamalama teleprompter had would be just more inept and worn out liberal ramblings.” Again, it’s an opinion and s/he’s entitled to it. But this writer is responding to an article that points out Cheney’s unclear grasp on the facts, so I’m guessing that s/he “los[t] interest in this article by the time s/he got to the second paragraph and began posting comments based on name calling, demonizing and making up stuff." Worse, what WWJD writes is profoundly unfactual: Obama's speeches are never inept, nor does he ramble.
Things really heated up after that with four of the next ten comments engaging in some of the faults elbonian attributes to liberals. Problem is, two of them come from a single conservative (or at any rate, apologist for Cheney). #11 mvpeach10 wrote “you simpering, wimpy little leftists, grow up,” a pretty clear example of name-calling (unless you happen to agree and then I guess it's just stating the facts). And #15 writes that “Obama is seeking more and more adulation. Getting it from 52% of the American population and the media isn't enough for this very narcissistic neophyte. He wants worship from the world.” Where does this idea come from that Obama thinks of himself as the next Messiah? Could it possibly be a projection of how many conservatives felt about GW? Ya think? But I digress.
Two of the negative comments were written by liberals / Obama apologists. #12 edwcorey tells elbonian “You write like a retard. Cheney is a failure at everything except nepotism and cronyism. He's corrupt, a sadist and a liar.” And #16 jpromansic writes about “bush amin and his goons” and calls Cheney a criminal. Some of that is uncalled for (retard, bush amin, goons). Some of it is very strong language, but also, in my opinion, true: nepotism, cronyism, corrupt, sadist, liar, criminal. (Well, not just my opinion. I think there's plenty of evidence to support this point of view.)
The upshot here is that in this small sampling, thirteen out of nineteen respondents avoided any name-calling, demonizing, or story-telling. That's pretty good. Of the six who engaged in rhetorical temper tantrums, conservatives outnumbered liberals four to two. So I have to say that elbonian’s comment instantiates what he accuses liberals of doing (which makes the score five to two) and proves (to me at least) that conservatives / Republicans are compulsively projecting their own foibles onto the liberals.
I wasn’t even going to bother writing this up because there are far better bloggers than I keeping track of this sort of thing. But the story that just broke on Politco about the RNC’s video comparing Nancy Pelosi to “Pussy Galore” shows just how vital this issue is—and how brazenly the conservatives / Republicans engage in name-calling and demonizing.
I’ll let Ann Lewis, former advisor to Hilary Clinton, have the last word:
“It’s an attempt to demean your opponent, rather than debate them. If they’re serious that this is an issue of national security, then you’d think that one would want to debate it on the merits,” she says. “It’s almost as if they can’t help themselves.”