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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.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Journalists: It's time for some articles on the pro-Bush blogosphere

(updated below - updated again)

Media Matters has compiled a long list of just some of the violence-inciting rhetoric and hate-mongering which has become a staple of the right-wing blogosphere. It cites examples from bloggers such as Dean Esmay, Misha, Megan McCardle (a/k/a Jane Galt), and Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds, along with the pundits and bloggers, led by David Horowitz, who were responsible for the recent publication of the addresses, telephone numbers, and satellite photographs of the homes of employees of The New York Times.

The important point here is that the liberal blogosphere has received substantial -- really, endless -- media attention over the past few months, coverage which has included everything from the upsetting use of bad words to petty bickering to rank Internet gossip. But the pro-Bush blogosphere is all but ignored by the media, and it is long past time for a substantive, thorough examination of the extremist rhetoric and violence-drenched imagery which composes the backbone of their dialogue.

In addition to the Media Matters items, there are numerous unreported stories regarding the right-wing blogosphere that are of great significance. Let's read about what goes on as part of the daily "discussions" at Little Green Footballs (whose daily readership numbers place it very near the top 100 daily newspapers in terms of circulation figures), and in similar venues of derangement such as Free Republic.

What type of rhetoric is one of the leaders of the pro-Bush blogosphere, Glenn Reynolds a/k/a Instapundit, a University of Tennessee law professor, promoting with his links, and himself disseminating on a regular basis? What sentiments motivate publication by Michelle Malkin of some of the most disturbing and hateful propaganda posters which can be imagined? And what causes three bland, corporate Minnesota lawyers at Powerline to routinely accuse political opponents and journalists of treason, urge their imprisonment, and engage in "rhetorical excesses too frequent to list"?

One of the pro-Bush blogs most heavily promoted by Instapundit currently displays satellite photographs of the home of the NYT Publisher, along with his home address -- isn't that thuggish tactic worth an article by itself? And virtually every mainstream Democrat, along with journalists who publish articles embarrassing to the Bush administration, are routinely accused in the pro-Bush blogosphere of being traitors and adjudged to be guilty of treason -- not by obscure pro-Bush blogs but by the most significant and well-read ones. As a result, as the Media Matters post documents, many pro-Bush bloggers have a virtual obsession with vivid demands for hanging political opponents and journalists.

John Dean's superb new book, Conservatives Without Conscience (which has been #1 on Amazon for most of the week), analyzes the transformation of American "conservatism" from a political ideology based on the imperatives of limiting government power into a movement predominated by authoritarian impulses and personalities -- a transformation I have also written about extensively. On his book tour, Dean -- who spent his life as such a mainstream Republican that he worked in the highest levels of the Nixon White House -- has been observing that his political views have really not changed over the past 30 years, but he now finds himself accused by pro-Bush conservatives of standing on the "left" side of the political spectrum.

That is because the political spectrum itself has shifted radically, and the movement which now most loudly describes itself as "conservative" bears little resemblance to the political movement of which Dean, for his entire life, considered himself a part. As its leading bloggers vividly illustrate, pro-Bush "conservatism" is a highly authoritarian movement which seeks to vest unlimited and unrestrained power in their Leader, views garden-variety political dissent as blasphemy and treason, and glorifies violence as a justifiable tool to achieve their glorious political ends. The standard language and argumentation of these pro-Bush bloggers reflect those attributes on a daily basis, which is why it is long past time for some journalistic examinations of what is being said and done by pro-Bush blogs.

The extremism of the right-wing blogosphere is so blatant that it is acknowledged and lamented by some conservative bloggers. Two well-read bloggers who advocated for the invasion of Iraq and who are generally quite conservative in their political views, Andrew Sullivan and Gregory Djerejian, both wrote recently about how this political shift has made much of the right-wing blogosphere unrecognizable to them as anything "conservative." Sullivan was long the most celebrated pro-war, conservative blogger, while Djerejian's blog was called a "must-read" by The Washington Times for his pro-war blogging. Yet both have become almost entirely alienated by what the pro-Bush blogosphere, epitomized by Reynolds, has become.

Sullivan wrote recently of how previously independent and libertarian-minded blogosphere leaders such as Reynolds "never challenged in any serious way the abuses of power in this administration nor the extremism of the Malkinesque blogosphere," and as a result, much of the right-wing/pro-Bush blogosphere has largely abandoned any allegiance to restrained-government conservatism:

But his appeasement of the Malkin right is truly dispiriting. He's not alone in this respect, unable to break with the illegal, arguably un-conservative and certainly anti-libertarian aspects of the current administration.

Djerejian documented the continuous and enthusiastic promotion by Reynolds of extremist foreign policy rhetoric and "outrageously looney, laughable fare" which, if followed, would generate "a series of 100 year religious wars." Djerejian also laments the smear tactics routinely invoked by the Reynolds-led blogosphere against anyone who criticizes the administration's war efforts, including those who have spent their lives loyally serving this country. He notes that this:

is the only reason I waste time writing about it this morning--because I care about the future of the Republican party's foreign policy, and if people seriously believe this utter claptrap and horseshit in too great numbers, we're gonna have some serious problems on our hands beyond where we're already at. . . . When you get over 100,000 readers a day, and are a very intelligent Yale-trained lawyer, there should be some responsibility shown.

To underscore the point, Djerejian, in a separate post this week, publishes a letter from a U.S. solider serving in the Middle East who laments that "the shocking intelligence/ reasonability/ credibility free-fall at Instapundit is closely mirrored" by Bush followers everywhere, who refuse to believe reality about the war, who ascribe blame for all failures to a treasonous media or anti-American liberals rather than to the administration, and who place blind faith in the infallibility of Bush's actions, a syndrome which the solider describes as "a very common disease."

The extremist and increasingly deranged rhetoric and tactics found in the right-wing blogosphere -- not only among obscure bloggers but promoted and disseminated by its most-read and influential bloggers -- is, indeed, "a very common disease." When it becomes commonplace to hurl accusations of treason against domestic political opponents, or when calls for imprisonment and/or hanging of journalists and political leaders become the daily fare -- all of which is true for the pro-Bush blogosphere -- those are serious developments. And they merit discussion and examination by the media.

Instead of yet another story on whether Kos diarists are arguing with each other more than before or whether liberal bloggers curse too much, let us read about the extremist rhetoric, vicious character smears, and deliberate incitement to violence that has become the staple of the largest pro-Bush blogs --Malkin, Powerline, Instapundit and LGF -- along with the bloggers whom they tirelessly promote. Hundreds of thousands of people each day, including pundits and television news producers, are reading this material. The journalistic value in examining it and reporting on it ought to be self-evident.

UPDATE: Helpfully right on cue, LGF has a post today entitled "The Media are the Enemy" -- a title which really summarizes one of the principal points made on a daily basis by the blogs maintained by Powerline, Instapundit, and Malkin. Today's treasonous act is that a NYT photographer took photographs of a member of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army engaged in combat with American forces. Apparently, taking a photograph of someone engaged in a war is the same as aiding and abetting them and being on their side and rooting for them to win. Hence, photographers who take photographs of the enemy are themselves "the enemy."

LGF then links to Jeff Goldstein, who -- in a post entitled "Sleeping with the Enemy" -- declares: "Looks like the NYT has decided to go with neutrality over objectivity—essentially severing ties with their own country in the service of what they believe is a higher journalistic good: Pulitzer Prizes." He then thanks Michelle Malkin for the tip. Goldstein's post is then predictably followed by comments such as this:

It is clear (as it has been) that the NYT’s has chosen their side. They should suffer the consequences thereof. I just hope they do.

And this:

Talk of treason is out of fashion for some reason, but I could see some photographer hanged without losing too much sleep over it.

And this:

As i said over at LGF, pity the reporter didn’t catch any return fire.

That's just from the first few comments I looked at following Goldstein's Treason Accusation of The Day against the NYT. Undoubtedly, there are scores more like them as his comment thread "evolves."

Another day, another treason accusation, new traitors found in the American media and the Democratic Party, more calls for them to be killed or declarations that they deserve death. These are the sentiments fueling the pro-Bush right wing -- day after day after day. I realize that the use of bad words in e-mails sent by readers of left-wing blogs reflect such horrible meanness and hatred and should be covered by hundreds of newspaper articles. But doesn't this dynamic also merit some discussion?

UPDATE II: Michelle Malkin's post today is entitled "In the Company of the Enemy" and she pointedly says: "Which side are they on? The New York Times settles the question definitively" -- both with an editorial that criticizes the Leader and with the photographs found by LGF. She then links to John Hinderaker at Powerline, who cleverly observes that there was nothing courageous about the photographer taking those photographs because there was no "likelihood that a member of the Iraqi "insurgency" would regard a representative of the New York Times as an enemy."

This photographer-as-traitor lunacy spreading among them like wildfire may make it seem like I fortuitously picked a good day to highlight the extremism and treason-obsession of the pro-Bush blogosphere. But today is nothing new. This goes on every day with the right's largest blogs. Every day, a new traitor, more treason, more journalists and Democrats who deserve to be hanged.

UPDATE III: Those American patriots at Blogs for Bush stand up today for core American values by urging that those responsible for the Plame scandal -- meaning not Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, but instead, Joe Wilson and others at "the DNC and Kerry campaign" -- be imprisoned because they tried to make the Commaner-in-Chief look bad -- in an election year no less (h/t Hume's Ghost):

We really do need to prosecute Joe Wilson and others (likely at the DNC and Kerry campaign) who cooked up this whole, bogus story in an election year ploy to try and slander the President in to defeat in November of 2004. That it didn't work just shows the innate wisdom of the American people - but the people guilty of this con job need to see the inside of a jail cell.

Is there anybody who voted against the Commander-in-Chief who can remain free? As amazing as that Blogs for Bush post is, and as amazing as the photographer-as-traitor rants are today, my favorite all-time defense of American values is Townhall's Ben Shapiro, who emphatically advocated -- literally -- that Al Gore, Howard Dean, and John Kerry all be imprisoned for sedition. He could never have guessed when he penned that screed that the pro-Bush blogosphere would end up making him look mild.

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