This post by Kevin K. at firedoglake got a lot of attention in the past few days; I really like most of it, especially the fact that he responds to Hugh Hewitt's assertion that blog-inspired Democrats are "angry, vulgar, profane, and cruel" by compiling vile right-wing quotes about the late Marla Ruzicka (e.g., "She went from 'peace' activist to piece activist"). By the way, Kevin, if you think those Little Green Football comments were over the top, check out Debbie Schlussel's "Treasonatrix Barbie."
But I have to say that I disagree with one part of Kevin's post -- and it means I disagree with much of the left blogosphere. He quotes a Rolling Stone article from 2004 in which Matt Taibbi wrote this about right-wingers:
...their conversations and their media are so completely dominated by implacable bogeymen: marrying gays, liberals, the ACLU, Sean Penn, Europeans and so on. Their faith both in God and in their political convictions is too weak to survive without an unceasing string of real and imaginary confrontations with those people....
Permanent war isn't a policy imposed from above; it's an emotional imperative that rises from the bottom....
Once you grasp this fact, you're a long way to understanding what the Hannitys and Limbaughs figured out long ago: These people will swallow anything you feed them, so long as it leaves them with a demon to wrestle with in their dreams.
Kevin's gloss on what Taibbi says is this:
...when I reread that extraordinarily perceptive passage by Taibbi, I actually felt kind of sorry for the subjects. They're scared is all. They're scared of a lot of things because they need to be scared of a lot of things.
Kevin goes on to talk about "dorks in crouched-down, defensive positions" who maintain "bedwetting blogs."
And this is where I disagree. I don't think the salient fact about these right-wingers is that they're "bedwetters," scared to death by 9/11. I'm not saying they're brave -- far from it. But I don't think fear is what drives them.
Hate is. Hate is the important emotion on the right.
Think of the years leading up to 9/11. First the Berlin Wall fell. Right-wingers had hated communists. Then, in the '90s, crime dropped. Right-wingers were the ones who'd cheered on the death penalty and "three strikes" laws and putting fourteen-year-olds in adult jails; they'd embraced the notion (advanced by William Bennett and others) that we were falling victim to "superpredators," young people whose taste for gangbanging and brutality was limitless.
Hell, even government spending was restrained under Clinton. They'd hated "tax-and-spend liberals" -- and now the guy they thought of as the biggest liberal of all times was balancing the budget.
So when right-wingers say that "9/11 changed everything," what they mean is that, at a time when they were scrounging for objects of hate, 9/11 was a bonanza, a gusher, a bumper crop.
And I'm not just talking about Al Qaeda, or terrorists in general, or even Muslims in general. Recall what Andrew Sullivan wrote within weeks of 9/11:
The middle part of the country -- the great red zone that voted for Bush -- is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead -- and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column.
That wasn't a warning -- that was a prayer. He was praying for a left-wing fifth column. Such satisfying hate! Surely we'd deliver the opportunity for them to feel hate, just the way he and his bellicose readers liked it.
We didn't. We didn't oppose the Afghanistan war in great numbers. But the many outrages the Bush administration has justified in the name of 9/11 (the Iraq War, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, warrantless spying, the outing of Valerie Plame) have aroused our ire -- which means there have been fresh opportunities for soul-satisfying right-wing hate almost every day.
And then, beyond that, there's Islamicist extremism, which is a gold mine for right-wing haters. They're torching embassies in response to cartoons! The ecstasy of my hate for them is almost unbearable!
The current clash of civilizations is the gift that keeps on giving; there's always a new reason for right-wingers to feel hate. This week they hate Comedy Central, for censoring an image of Muhammad in an episode of South Park. Ah, hate! What bliss! Where can we get more?
Not to worry. There's more -- there'll always be more. 9/11 really did change everything. It's now possible for right-wingers to hate without ceasing. And that -- not wetting the bed -- is what right-wingers are doing.
(Which I think is Matt Taibbi's point.)