I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Sending Eugene McCarthy off to hell (updated)

A little informal survey of the right side of the blogosphere yesterday, the day after the death of anti-war Senator Eugene McCarthy, revealed the emergence of two camps: those who felt constrained to respectfully note that McCarthy seemed to possess genuinely held (and wrong-headed) anti-war convictions, and those who had no compunction about expressing what they really feel about McCarthy.

Here are a few highly representative comments from Protein Wisdom, which, notably, tends to attract a more restrained and reasonable element as compared to other neoconservative gathering places:

May Eugene McCarthy, seditious scum and all around worthless son of a bitch roast and rot in the darkest, hottest corner of hell forever and a day (emphasis in original).

McCarthy was the first eruption of the disease that is consuming the Democratic Party of today.

Eugene McCarthy helped enslave more people than Lincoln freed, he helped extend the life of communism another 20 years and he was complicite (sic) in the killing of almost as many people as Hitler.

But his heart was in the right place. Burning in hell would only begin his deserved punishment.


There is a substantial (and, by all appearances, growing) portion of the American population which has genuinely come to believe that anyone opposed to an American war is -- by virtue of that opposition and it alone, and regardless of the reasons for that opposition -- a morally depraved, subversive traitor. The kind of comments excerpted above are precisely the sentiments routinely applied to Jack Murtha, Howard Dean, Richard Clarke, and anyone else whose career demonstrates a dedication to their country and adherence to quite mainstream principles but who comes to question the wisdom of the war. They are instantaneously and widely decreed to be cowardly terrorist sympathizers who deserve unlimited punishment.

The anonymity which the blogosphere affords to so many is somewhat analogous to alcohol – it causes people to lose their inhibitions and thus to say things which they wouldn’t say in its absence but which nonetheless reflect their true thoughts. And, to extend the comparison a little further, the comments section of many blogs are like raucous neighborhood bars, repositories for unconstrained and therefore truthful discussions. Comments like the ones excerpted above from Protein Wisdom were far from uncommon yesterday, because the underlying views they convey are becoming increasingly pervasive.

UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein, the proprietor and host of Protein Wisdom, gallantly leaps to the defense of his commenters in the Comments section to this post:

For what it's worth, I think McCarthy was a principled guy -- or better, I believe he believed himself to be a principled guy, those his principles seemed to pull him all over the place. As such, while I disagreed with much of his politics, I don't hold him in the kind of ill regard I hold those whose anti-war stance I take to be more opportunistic than heartfelt. . . .

Some of my commenters (several of whom fought in Vietnam) are still remarkably angry at McCarthy and his ilk. Divisive times, those.

I love how Jeff justifies and excuses his commenters who equate Eugene McCarthy with Adolph Hitler and publicly wish -- the day after McCarthy dies -- that he burn in hell forever. We just have to understand that they are passionate about that era and are speaking from some hard-core convictions.

By contrast, for Jeff, anyone who (understands how intelligence works and) says that George Bush misled the nation with regard to Iraqi WMDs is way over the line of decency and can't possibly be saying that with any sincerity at all. (Such) individuals who express this view are just opportunistic traitors who -- unlike Jeff's commenters -- are unprecedently corrupting American political dialogue and harming the country's interests with their rancid, ugly rhetoric.

It's good that Jeff holds both sides to the same standards rather than reflectively defending even the most facially reprehensible statements just because those responsible for them reside on his side of the ideological spectrum. (Revisions to Update in parenthesis).

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