Thursday, December 16, 2010


Via Ron Chusid, I see that Christopher Hitchens has written an admirably angry takedown of the tea party movement and Glenn Beck; it's up on the Vanity Fair Web site. The piece is spoiled for me, however, by a brief dip into the recent past:

So, Beck's "9/12 Project" is canalizing old racist and clerical toxic-waste material that a healthy society had mostly flushed out of its system more than a generation ago, and injecting it right back in again. Things that had hidden under stones are being dug up and re-released.... a whole new audience has been created, including many impressionable young people, for ideas that are viciously anti-democratic and ahistorical. The full effect of this will be felt farther down the road, where we will need it even less.

I remember encountering this same mentality a few years ago, when it was more laughable than dangerous. I didn’t like Bill Clinton: thought he had sold access to the Lincoln Bedroom and lied under oath about sexual harassment and possibly even bombed Sudan on a "wag the dog" basis. But when I sometimes agreed to go on the radio stations of the paranoid right, it was only to be told that this was all irrelevant. Didn't I understand that Clinton and his wife had murdered Vince Foster and were, even as I spoke, preparing to take advantage of the Y2K millennium crisis -- remember that? -- in order to seize power for life and become the Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu of our day? These people were not interested in the president's actual transgressions. They were looking to populate their fantasy world with new and more lurid characters.

Hmmm -- at the time, do you remember the Hitch ever bringing up the less-than-savory nature of his newfound friends? I believe he started making the right-wing rounds when he published his anti-Clinton book No One Left to Lie To, in 1999; not long after that, 9/11 happened, Bush and Cheney sought to overthrow Saddam, and Hitch became, for years afterward, the right's cosseted-pet lefty, at least until he started getting squeamish about that torture thing. No, wait -- even after he denounced Abu Ghraib, he was still thumping the tub for the war for the likes of The Weekly Standard. Even now, Hugh Hewitt prays for him.

Yet somehow, in all that time on the right, presumably encountering even more conspiratorial nuttiness, Hitchens -- who postures as The Last Honest Man, and who seems to have written and published more words in that period than mere mortals had time to read -- never once made note of the fact that many of his compatriots were barking lunatics.

You know what, Hitch? Those people you saw in the Clinton years, and presumably beyond, weren't "more laughable than dangerous." They were taking over America, set back only briefly by Bush and Cheney's failures. They were aided and abetted by the same right-wing media that showered you with affection. And you, the oh-so-trenchant observer, either never saw it coming or never thought it was worth bringing up.

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