Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Rage on the Right
I recommend Sasha Abramsky's "Look Ahead in Anger" in the July 11, 2010 Chronicle of Higher Education. Abramsky argues that the rage that is fueling the Tea Party must be understood as a new example of what Hofstatdter called the "paranoid style in American politics" (see my entry of December 9, 2009), but Abramsky does not reduce the present rhetoric on the right to just another appearance of a cyclical phenomenon. The present rage is rooted in economic decline, but the present decline is not a simple recession: it will in fact endure as wealth and power are increasingly leaving the US and accumulating in China. Meanwhile Beck, Limbaugh, Palin, Gingrich, and certain leading members of the Republican establishment, paint Obama as a socialist and/or in racist language, as a deployer of an anti-American "Kenyan" ideology. Abramsky goes on to note that many American far-rightists are using an old technique, the "stab in the back" that Hitler used to portray Jews and liberals as traitors responsible for Germany's loss in the first World War, in the present moment rightists blaming Obama for the loss of wealth and power that afflicts American society. Abramsky points out that these kinds of attacks are not new: for example, the John Birch Society used them, starting in the sixties, to condemn liberals as communists boring from within American institutions to turn this country into a dictatorship. But the Birchites and other such reactionaries of that earlier period were isolated ideologically and regionally. Today they are becoming mainstream. (See Jane Mayer, "Covert Operations" in the September 22, 2010 issues of The New Yorker.) Abramsky's essay is worth reading and studying.