January 18, 2004

Hate Pundits

Thereís an awfully big market these days for cheap political hack screeds. Michael Moore, Michael Savage, and Ann Coulter have all cranked out polarizing polemics against the Bad People.

It looks like Sean Hannity decided to try his hand at the genre.

I hate to review a book by its cover, but look at that title. Deliver us from Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, andÖLiberalism?

Iím sure itís fun to lump dictators, terrorists, and librulsô together into one happy and convenient evil ball. Itís got to be even more satisfying to ask the Lord to come down and deliver us from such a horror. My far-left friends know all about it. You know - Republicans hate black people, adore Hitler, throw Muslims into concentration camps, and kill Arabs for oil.

From the looks of these books you might think weíre gearing up for our own American version of the Spanish Civil War. Itís the commie-loving Democrats against the jackbooted GOP.

Millions of people buy into this line of thinking. These books are best-sellers.

I admit to not having read Hannityís book, and perhaps he ďclarifiesĒ his position on the evil of liberalism in its pages. He does sit there every weekday for an hour on his Fox News show with his liberal counterpart Alan Colmes. They seem to get along well enough, better than if his co-host were Charles Manson. But he is playing the evil card to get people to buy his book. Right-wing hate works as a sales pitch whether or not thatís what the book is really about.

We are not going to have a civil war. Yet at risk of seeming to undermine that sentence, I do want to say something about this mentality.

Writing off your political opponents as evil isnít just stupid and rude - itís only a step away from yearning for tyranny.

Sean Hannity, at least on his cover, equates liberals with dictators and terrorists. And hereís the problem: If you ask me whatís the best way to deal with terrorists and dictators, Iíll tell you straight up to put them in a cage or put them in the ground. Sometimes dictatorships reform themselves under pressure: witness Chile and South Africa. Other times you have to wait them out: See Soviet Union. For the most part, though, as far as Iím concerned, the answer is revolution or invasion. Dictators have no right to exist.

Terrorists? Jail íem or shoot íem. Thatís it. Negotiating, cutting deals, appeasing, or feeling their pain only enables them.

So if liberals belong in that same nexus of evilÖwhatís to be done about liberals?

The answer, of course, is nothing. Liberals arenít evil. They arenít guilty of treason. Unless Hannity reverses himself in the text, the premise of his book is bogus on its face. He doesnít mind using hate as a marketing tool either way.

It isnít nearly good enough to acknowledge that the other political party isnít evil. In a liberal democracy (thereís that word again) with two major parties, each party, each overall governing philosophy, brings something to the table and gets some things right. They balance. Liberals are the gas, and conservatives are the brakes. (Or is it the other way around this year?) Yin, yang, Venus, Mars, and all that. And each party gets some things flat out wrong. Itís just not possible to split a reasonably healthy political culture into halves and end up with one side completely right and the other side utterly wrong.

If youíre a partisan for one side and you truly believe in your bones that the other side is evil or wrong on all counts, it really does logically follow that youíd prefer a one-party state. If the other party has no merit and causes nothing but trouble, everything would be solved if everyone became a Republican. Or a Democrat. Or whatever. And so democracy, from this point of view, is pointless and even dangerous.

If our hate pundits followed their logic to its conclusion, they would demand that we cancel elections.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 18, 2004 3:39 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn