One of the hilarious things about the 2009 healthcare debate thingee was that, once conservatives started calling Romneycare ‘socialist’, we were still supposed to take them seriously (though maybe showing up armed to town hall meetings had something to do with that…). But David Faris notes what the Dirty Fucking Hippies have known for a while (boldface mine):
Many commentators argue that being mean to members of the Trump administration or trying to excommunicate them from the public sphere somehow plays into the hands of the right. It’s an argument made mostly by centrists who you might think of as Normalists — those who believe that in spite of this administration’s many egregious affronts to civic decency, the Constitution, and the spirit of American democracy, its individual agents must be treated just like any other prominent figure from any other administration…
This critique is doubly wrong. It elides the seriousness of the Trump administration’s transgressions, but it also presumes, falsely, that there is anything “the left” could do about this dynamic anyway, civilly or otherwise…
The point is this: The right’s outrage politics need no sustenance. It’s like a virus, and you are the host. If the Red Hen restaurant didn’t exist, Fox News would find something else, for without a constant supply of minor slights and puffed-up grievances to convey to their aging white viewers, what exactly would happen on this network 24 hours a day? The mission of Fox News and its ilk is to scour this enormous country every day for something that will keep its viewers in a constant state of spittle-flecked fury.
Faris makes another good point about the absence of justice–I mean the lock ’em up kind (boldface mine):
All of this is a deeply engrained cultural and political instinct. The idea that famous public figures are beyond reproach is a lesson drawn by our elites from the last 40 years of American history. In America, everyone from Iran-Contra conspirator Oliver North to Bush-era torture-philosopher John Yoo gets rehabilitated eventually. At the beginning of each administration, we agree to engage in a kind of collective mind-erasure, waving wands of forgiveness at even obvious criminals. Some are pardoned officially, while others can count on the healing power of time’s relentless passage. So North gets to run the NRA, and Yoo gets his life as a Berkeley law professor, and they all get to dine unmolested at the restaurants of their choice.
As a culture we stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that some people are so monstrous that they should not be invited on television or into our good graces. The Trump administration is full of people who (hopefully!) will be regarded by future scholars as the witting servants of a last-gasp, nasty white supremacy, whose crimes are probably not yet even fully understood. Its supporters are utterly unreachable, and they will be whipped into a rage regardless of what you or I or the owners of the Red Hen restaurant decide to do. Personally, I’d like to be able to tell my kids that when the arch-villain of their history books walked into my restaurant way back in the day, I at least gave her a piece of my mind.
If we combine the two points, conservative propagandists, until recently (and then only occasionally) have had to suffer the consequences of their actions. Very rarely do they lose their jobs or are viewed widely with disgust or disdain. There is no downside to Fox News (and those lower down on the food chain) whipping up fake scandals, as their business model is to train people to be fearful and hate-ridden. As Comrade Driftglass always puts it, “No nation can endure half Fox News and half free.”
They have always done this, and they will continue to generate phony scandals. If not the Red Hen, then they’ll find some fucking moron on a college campus and turn him into their New Scary Thing. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point out that it’s bullshit–and more importantly, that they are purveying bullshit, but this is not an intellectually honest exercise. Stop treating it like it’s anything other than deceitful propaganda.