Terminators: The Rise of the Extremes
Steve Janke at Angry in the Great White North has two posts which illustrate a process Americans are all too familiar with. After the Canadian Conservatives won at the elections Janke was watching the post-election speech of Jack Layton of the left of center NDP and this is what Janke saw:
Listening to Jack Layton's speech, I witnessed what I thought was the low point of the night, and it made me nervous. Jack Layton of the NDP thanked each of his opponents in turn: Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois, Paul Martin of the Liberals, and of course, Stephen Harper of the Conservatives. But while the mention of names of Duceppe and Martin were met with polite applause, a chorus of boos greeted Stephen Harper. Jack Layton didn't miss a beat, or scold his supporters, but carried on with a congratulatory message.
I worry that in Canada, the potential exists for what has happened in the US -- the fight between the Left and the Right will become intensely personal, at least for the Left. George W Bush is hated on a very personal level by Americans who have never met the man. Is Stephen Harper in for the same sort of treatment, hated for committing the crime of being a conservative?
Later Janke quoted some of the reaction in the left of center Canadian blogosphere to the Conservative victory.
Lets poke a stick at the neocons, turn over rocks, force the wingnuts into the open, expose their rabid face, and force them to eat each other. But right now, lets just flame the media. These lazy, mediocre, right-wing bastards let Harper get away with his dishonest stealth campaign. Let him fool a lot of Canadians. Almost cost us our country. Lets make sure they can never do that again. It’s payback time.
As for gays and lesbians and their friends, our war begins today. Lets make this Harperian interlude a mere blip in Canadian history. Before we smash them once and for all.
In a certain mental universe the poll victory of Stephen Harper is not one particular outcome in a long series of elections, a process in which sometimes you lose, sometimes you win. It's the northern equivalent of the US Presidential election of 2000. Those who think along those lines do not simply want to win the next election but demonize the enemy and smash them; just as some want to end the reign of Halliburton and BushChimpHitler and establish a progressive hegemony forever.
While this mentality is confined to a few, this minority by its militance often sets the agenda. Marc Cooper, hardly a right wing person, has a long article on how Pacifica Radio set about marginalizing itself. He writes as a person trying to warn a major left-wing institution not to continue its headlong rush off a cliff fully realizing that his good intentions will only be repaid with vilification.
Everything in me screams to NOT write this posting. It’s just not worth the pain such endeavors normally evoke. When I’ve done it before, I’ve been slandered, muddied, slashed, booed down, accused of everything short of being Jack Abramoff’s secret lover. I’ve even been accused of having a hand in the death of Chilean President Salvador Allende, who I had the privilege of working for before the 1973 coup. But here goes, anyway. I can’t help myself: ...
The five-station, listener-sponsored, half-billion dollar Pacifica Radio network has just named a new executive director. Predictable enough that the new guy, Greg Guma, comes straight out of the pwogwessive bubble of Burlington. But what catches the eye is how Guma – who will now oversee the five stations—has written with enthusiasm about truly off-kilter conspiracy theorists like David Ray Griffin who argue that 9/11 was NOT caused by the four Al Qaeda—commandeered planes. Instead, Guma asks us to take seriously the proposition that the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were the product of a Reichstag-like plot engineered by the Bush Administration.
To be frank, for those of us who actually pay some attention to this matter, the selection of a non-credible fringie like Guma is hardly a surprise. Pacifica has been in accelerating decline for two decades – especially in the last five years ... I don’t think anyone would or should care very much about any of this, if it were not for the gross squandering of an historic opportunity. Started by Bay Area pacifists, anarchists and liberals in 1949, Pacifica eventually opened stations in L.A., New York, Washington D.C. and Houston. Are you ready for this? The estimated value of those frequencies today – that is to say the market value of the five Pacifica stations operating today—is conservatively estimated to be $300-$500 million. You read that right. A half-billion dollars? Do you know of any other institution on the American Left that can compare in value?
Cooper goes on go describe the surreal infighting within Pacifica Radio.
Its air is filled with shrill, clumsy and dogmatic denunciations of “fascism.” Any trace of high culture, meanwhile, has been ruthlessly rooted out and expunged. The program schedule is divvied up among self-appointed “community leaders” and paid staff who – for the most part—could never dream of earning a paycheck from any other media entity in the world. What paid and volunteer programmers have in common is a death-grip on their personal slice of air time. Try to take it away and you became the target of a virulent campaign accusing you of being a sexist, racist, and corporatist nazi.
The process that Janke observed starting in Canada is already far along with the Kos-ification of the Democratic Party and the culture wars which show no sign of abating, only increasing in virulence. Though things may begin innocently enough with a declaration of war on BushChimpHitler the process of confrontation and radicalization inevitably leads to a rejection of the very idea of compromise, civility and respect which really underpins the democratic process. Politics becomes an arms race to see who can find the most extremist position. Nor is the phenomenon confined solely to the Left. It has been observed that opponents in the end come to resemble each other and conservatives also start to take intransigent positions.
Zombietime (hat tip: Little Green Footballs) has a photoessay of an anti-abortion march and the counterdemonstration which met it in San Francisco. It's a visual metaphor, I think, for the kind of Calvary that Canadian Conservatives may now be forced to endure. Go visit the link and ask yourself: where will the process end? How ugly will everyone be at the finish?