Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Adam Serwer yesterday, in response to a New York Times profile of Liz Cheney, who thrills right-wing audiences when she defends torture:

For the GOP, torture is no longer a "necessary evil." It is a rally cry, a "values" issue like same-sex marriage or abortion. They don't "grudgingly" support torture, they applaud it. They celebrate it. Liz Cheney's unequivocal support for torture methods gleaned from communist China has people begging her to run for office.

... torture is now a "values" issue for the right, it is, like abstinence-only sex education, unmoored from the necessities of proving its usefulness in the real world....

One of the things I learned growing up in Boston during the busing crisis was that the hateful and vengeful very much want to believe that their feelings of hatred and vengeance are moral. They want to lash out -- and they want to be told they have God or morality on their side. Vengeance draws great strength from those rabble-rousers who can explain why the vengeance is righteous indignation. So the people who threw rocks at school buses in 1970s Boston were told that their cause was to preserve neighborhood schools -- that was the slogan -- and they lashed out in the belief that they were the good guys.

More recently, in years of lurking at Free Republic and Fox Nation and other right-wing sites, I've learned that right-wingers' embrace of bellicosity is invariably about the same thing: the fact that they want moral leeway to kill or hurt -- or, more often, to vicariously savor the death or suffering of -- people they hate. Only secondarily, if at all, is it about national security (or, on the domestic side, about, say, crime reduction or traditional morality). It's about having societal permission to be brutal (or vicariously brutal). They want their hatreds socially sanctioned; they want to feel virtuous about watching their enemies suffer. They'll never admit it, but what happens to the country is a side issue at best.

That's why 9/11 was the best Christmas present angry right-wingers ever got. They had a new enemy, and wishing the torments of hell on that enemy was just fine. Anger at terrorists was widespread, of course, but for angry right-wingers, the wishing-the-torments-of-hell part was the point -- that and the wallowing in their own sense of moral superiority. It's been clear for years that they're savoring this hatred and sense of self-righteousness. If we managed to eliminate the terrorist threat, efficiently and with as little bloodshed as possible, they'd feel a sense of letdown.

So of course they cheer Liz Cheney and her torture talk. They want to hurt someone -- righteously. She holds out the hope that that pleasure won't be denied them.

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