Comments on Limbaugh over the line by CK MacLeod

Ritchie Emmons wrote:

I find rather puzzling that I, with not a drop of Jewish blood in me, seems more interested in the well being of that tiny state than much of the Jewish diaspora.

You might find the following article illuminating. Several people here commented on it favorably:

@ JEM:
In a debate among people arguing presumably in good faith, the first person to accuse the other of "drinking the Kool-Aid" discloses that he has been imbibing, and inevitably puts in question everything else he says.

I've long meant to read Oren's book, thanks for reminding me about it.

I put up the Youtube clip because our banishment from Contentions put me poignantly in mind of the Exodus, and also of the outsiders/criminals celebrated in the song. Then, when I went to see if the song was in Youtube, I ran across the video I ended up posting. And somehow it all resonates with Commentary/Contentions' status as defender of Israel.

@ Ken:
A tyrannical government is, for an American, a government that is functionally "not worth living in." Of course, as in all things, there are degrees of tyranny, and you could, in theory view the federal government as tyrannical or verging on tyrannical and not feel obligated to strap on a bomb vest or form a revolutionary cell immediately. All the same, every interaction from everyday life to the great political struggles relies on a willingness to achieve a civil and less than completely one-sided resolution of most disagreements.

In the meantime, the vast majority proceed with an intuitive, gut-level awareness that order is vastly preferable to civil war. The Founders made it clear that they considered revolution a decision to be taken with the utmost seriousness, after the exhaustion of alternatives, and with care to protect as much of what worked about their society, their heritage of democratic norms and assumptions, as possible.

@ Geoffrey Britain:
There's almost without a doubt some guy or gal somewhere, probably more than one, at this very moment, posting a nearly identical comment from the left, utterly convinced that the right has for decades been lying and scheming and cheating and killing, driving the country to destruction, betraying the most fundamental moral precepts of democracy, playing from a stacked deck, and so on.

Contrary to your assertions, when the right was in power, the left expressly accused the the Bush-Cheney administration of betraying the Constitution, eroding constitutional freedoms and circumventing constitutional protections, using a compliant media to advance a fundamentally anti-American and immoral agenda. Today, many on the far left accuse the Obama Administration of being thoroughly corrupted by corporate America, pursuing an agenda that vastly enriches or bails out big business and Wall Street and the expense of the people, and on and on.

Such accusations have always been made, from both sides. 50 years ago, the right was always ready to accuse the left of preparing to sell out to Communism. The left was always ready to demonstrate beyond a shadow of doubt that the right was full of warmongers ready to destroy the nation and even the world. The right believes the left seeks a distorted and contradictory vision of freedom. The left believes the same about the right.

We have a political system for reconciling such differences. In the meantime, the jumping-off point of this discussion wasn't an economic prognosis, it was a post that asked what was categorically different about Limbaugh's rhetoric and what Limbaugh was complaining about. The answer, nearly 50 comments later, remains "nothing."

The ‘hypothesis’ is now the only theory that fits the facts and, your evident unwillingness to face the writing on the wall… changes that ‘future history’ rushing at us, not a whit.

Until the economic apocalypse is upon us, then the idea that our current level of debt will cause such an apocalypse is an hypothesis. No one can say - though some think they can say - exactly how such dreadful events will unfold. They could be right. I myself am more in the soon-come camp than the don't-worry-be-happy camp, but the notion remains a strongly held minority opinion among informed economic observers, not an already established and incontrovertible fact. It's therefore cannot be a basis for the indictment as you stated it. In the meantime, we have a situation where the retrospective opponents of TARP accuse the doomsayers of '08 of being chicken littles... and then immediately turn to crying that the sky is falling.

The Debt-to-GDP ratio argument is based on an inference, not a demonstrated law of economics. Krugman was taken to task for pointing out that US Debt-to-GDP far exceeded 100% on the eve of our greatest period of economic advancement and military and political dominance - that is, at the end of WWII. It's obvious that we aren't in a remotely similar position, and that in many respects what we had going for us in 1945 we have against us now, yet in other respects we have more advantages now. The economists whom I most respect predict a difficult decade ahead, including likely stagnant growth in the US and Eurozone, a severe downward adjustment in expectations for India and China, and a worrisomely high chance of economic collapse and instability in the periphery.

No one knows what the future holds - not you, not me, not the neo-neocons, no one. In the meantime, our political system allows us to make mistakes, and occasionally to learn from them. If things go south, it won't be the first time, it's unlikely to be the worst time, we're very unlikely to get the worst of it compared to other countries, and the fall will be from a much higher level of consumption and power than in the past.

And it doesn't come close to justifying the criminalization, or worse, of political differences - which is what a lot of this rhetoric that I have been protesting implies, though for now the people spreading it remain afraid to accept or embrace the implications of their own words. If you're not plotting or prepared to support revolution, then either you don't really believe what you're saying - or you need a different way of saying it.

Zoltan Newberry wrote:

Now, we have our dear Tsar demanding we provide him with pwoof

No - I request that you attend to the argument I'm making, rather than the argument you prefer to attack.

Rex Caruthers wrote:

That’s what is happening at ZC.

What makes you say that? We're conducting discussions in various threads about the use and abuse of political rhetoric. It's an abstract job, but someone's got to do it.

@ Zoltan Newberry:
If people didn't constantly parrot the latest Beck- or Rushism as though it made sense, then it would be a lot easier to say, "they put on a good show, leave them be." Jesters in the lead is not a good formation for battle, and it's a horrible basis for policy.

narciso wrote:

The problem, CK is the esteemed professor didn’t know why he considers Dapper Don, a war criminal, it’s just de rigour, in his circle,
they know all Gitmo detainees are innocent, even after one blows up
the L train in Chicago, they know AGW is happening even though Phil Jones, admits it hasn’t happened for a decade

Since you don't know what the professor actually said or actually thought, you're just making an assumption. My guess is that he has a very similar basis - perfectly reasonable, sensible, and realistic in his own mind - for declaring Rumsfeld a war criminal to the one that Zoltan has for declaring Obama a traitorous thug.

I like the illustration: The man makes an accusation whose implications are repugnant, not least regarding the man's own mindset. Zoltan feels his best recourse is to "leave the table." Constantly putting ones opponents in a position where the only sensible or honorable choice is to "leave the table" is not a formula for democracy, my frems. And this would apply equally if Zoltan, having reached the punch bowl first, had started off the non-conversation with "of course the Obama crowd are a bunch of thugs and traitors who hate America."

@ Rex Caruthers:
THE POSSESSED/DEVILS is one of my favorites, but you get into a kind of paranoid anything-is-anything-ism when you implicitly compare the Obami to nihilists and revolutionaries bringing chaos to a Russian province.

@ Zoltan Newberry:
I say this as your virtual friend: It is hypocritical - comically, self-disfiguringly, and counterproductively hypocritical - to complain about some doofus calling Rumsfeld a war criminal in the same breath that you are consigning said doofus and everyone who votes the same way he does to some species of devil or demon.

Beck and Rush are polemicists who at times masquerade as objective analysts. It's part of their shtick. There's a place for polemics, but as a substitute for thinking it becomes dangerous for all concerned.

Geoffrey Britain wrote:

How can Obama’s actions, in regard to the economy, be anything other than intentional? He has to know the long term effect of his deficits. He has to know that they will lead to economic collapse.

But that's not "known." It's an hypothesis, like any other. The likes of Krugman and Romer believe that deficits don't matter much on their own - a respectable position among conservative economists as well, in fact a critical difference between the Reaganauts and the "tax collectors for the welfare state" - and that at the current economic conjuncture replacing the precipitous drop-off in aggregate demand following the credit collapse is more important than anything else. Failing to run a sizable deficit, from this neo-Keynesian perspective, is just reproducing the mistakes of the '30s.

The Obami took that position ahead of the stimulus. As a political matter, they larded it up with what they needed to hold their coalition together. Presumably, the economists judged the compromised product the best they could get, and crossed their fingers that it was close enough to the ideal. It's all criticizeable. There might even have been people who embraced a worst case political calculation of the sort you describe.

That's an interesting discussion - also whether other aspects of our system make debt and deficits of this size sustainable economically and politically, and whether they damage the economy and our prospects unjustifiably - but it is not prima facie evidence of a secret plot to destroy the country or force a constitutional dam burst.

The rest, I have to say, is ideological imposition, an insistence on seeing political adversaries as political objects rather than as thinking subjects - especially to the extent it follows from the economic conspiracy premise.

If we can't see the human beings on the other side, then we aren't qualified to hold power over them, in a democratic society. Leftists are not devils or demons. Mostly.

Ritchie Emmons wrote:

Is Limbaugh *that* far off with this assessment?

Just far enough to have said something that, if there's any doubt about it, it must be left unsaid for a civil, democratic conversation to proceed in good faith.

It's similar to the notion of presumption of innocence in criminal matters. Even people whom we believe to be guilty are entitled to the presumption - as much for our sake and for the sake of all the others, as for the sake of the defendant.

I won't speculate about Bill Clinton, but I suspect he's right up to a point that an atmosphere of expressly anti-government ferment encourages the McVeighs of the world - which isn't the same as saying talk radio or any particular set of talkers are implicated in the OKC bombing. Even if they were, I could accept it as a price worth paying for a free society, and trivial compared to the price of unfreedom.

We cannot have a country worth living in, or at all, unless people who disagree resolve their differences peacefully. A rhetoric that implies otherwise is faulty rhetoric in a democratic society, whether from the right or the left, regardless of who's guilty of more of it. Since most people are deaf to their own rhetoric and blind to their own ideology, we also have to begin with the presumption that, though we may hear in the exchange of insults between the two sides a ratio of 5 or 10 or 100 to 1 of their infractions compared to ours, they very likely hear the opposite ratio.

It's obvious, for instance, that the defenders of Rush and Beck hear "truth," not insults. The defenders of Obama or others on the left hear a different truth - the "truth" that all of those crazy nutballs on the right want them dead, or gone, or destroyed.

It's all pretty darn sick, though not really very far out of the ordinary.

(Welcome to ZC, btw, Ritchie. I've seen you contributing at JED's blog, and of course remember you from Contentions. I'm glad you joined the rest of us...

@ David:
At times I've listened to Limbaugh on a regular basis.

There's a difference between having a different vision for this country and hating and seeking to destroy the country - which is also the difference between a political opponent in the American tradition, and an enemy that needs to be destroyed, that it would be dishonorable and a form of treason not to seek to destroy. The sense that Limbaugh is not always aware of the difference is part of the reason that I don't listen to him more often.