Would I lie to you?

In the department of distinctions, today we have the following (via Steve Benen):

There are a lot of angry nuts on my side of the aisle [the right].  They simply can’t believe that Barack Obama somehow got elected president and they feel powerless right now.

But here’s the thing:  There’s plenty of crazy to go around.  Remember Bush Derangement Syndrome?  The 9/11 conspiracy theorists who thought Bush and Cheney were in on the whole thing?  The Diebold plot to steal the 2004 election?  Should we judge the Left by the whackos that show up at the anti-trade rallies?  PETA?  Greenpeace?  Of course not.  Almost by definition, the people motivated and available enough to show up in the middle of the day to express their outrage about something are not like you and me.

"Bush Derangement Syndrome" was shorthand (invented by Charles Krauthammer, of all people) for the (fallacious) ad hominem tactic Bush supporters used to malign critics of all things Bush.  So, saying, "Remember Bush Derangement Syndrome" as evidence of the wrongness of your opponent is like saying, "Don't you remember how I used to lie about you, didn't that show you were wrong?"


8 thoughts on “Would I lie to you?”

  1. While I agree that the label “Bush Derangement Syndrome” often was applied to any criticism of Bush, there was a large contingent on the Left, especially the Netroots, who were apoplectic about just about anything Bush did, even when it was routine.

  2. Very good of you to reply, James.

    Sure enough people were angry about anything Bush did–and stupidly so sometimes.

    I would disagree about your characterization of the Netroots crowd–some of them perhaps, but not the majority. But that would be an empirical question one could resolve by counting up the number of loony things Netroots people said about every little thing Bush did. My sense is that the people without minimally plausible (not necessarily right) arguments were relatively few. The majority of them, I think, had at least plausible objections (the war in Iraq was supported by dishonest arguments) expressed, sometimes, in extreme terms: “e.g., Bush lied!!!” But, like I say, that’s my sense, these guys are on my team, as it were, so I shouldn’t be trusted on my own to characterize them.

    This doesn’t change the fact that BDS is a way of fallaciously countering disagreement with Bush’s policies. There are and will always be crazies on “each side,” but it’s wrong to characterize the crazies as the most rational voice–as BDS was invented to do (and, by the way, I’m thinking of Chris Matthews–“only the real nutjobs don’t like Bush).

    While I’m on it, the 9/11 truthers are not necessarily lefties, or at least they don’t seem to have any particularly “leftist” position save in a very broad sense. You wouldn’t want to confuse them with people who alleged (accurately so it seems) that Bush had some kind of warning about which he seemed to do nothing. PETA and Greenpeace are single-issue organizations which have nothing directly (or even indirectly) to do with typical leftist platforms as a whole.

    Thanks again for replying–


  3. It may just be perspectival, but it strikes me that there is some difference with the degree to which the “crazies” have national political presence. To put it crudely, even someone like Kucinich who probably looks like an outlier on the Democratic left is a pretty small voice in the national democratic party. The birthers, brooks-brothers-rioters, neo-mccarthyites are being given voice by national political figures in a way that I just don’t see being paralleled by the presence of 9/11-truthers or PETA in the democratic party over the previous 8 years.

    So the point is well-taken in one sense–it is unfair and inaccurate to label a party by its outliers. But, perhaps not so unfair when prominent members of the party itself publicly smile and wink at, or even outright enables the outliers to have a national presence. Nevermind a former vice presidential candidate. . ..

  4. I think that’s right, with the caveat that 9/11 truthers and PETA aren’t related in any way to the democratic party and need not necessarily be “left” in any essential way. I ran across this today:

    “This is a scary time in Washington,” he said. “It’s a very frightening time. I see Barack Obama is creating an enemies list of people who oppose this miserable health care plan. I think that’s frightening. That’s from a guy that can’t even show a long-form birth certificate. I think we all ought to be prepared to fight that.”

    link here: http://briefingroom.thehill.com/2009/08/08/house-goper-cites-birther-claims-and-enemies-list-at-town-hall/

  5. Speaking of crazy, here’s Sarah Palin, former Republican VP candidate:

    “As more Americans delve into the disturbing details of the nationalized health care plan that the current administration is rushing through Congress, our collective jaw is dropping, and we’re saying not just no, but hell no!

    The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.”


  6. “death panel”?!?!?!
    That woman is crazier than a shithouse rat.

  7. I have to differ with Colin on one terminological point: Given the overt thuggery that people at the highest levels of the Republican party and their media mouthpieces are explicitly advocating and paying to manufacture, the term “enable” as a description of their behavior seems to rather gratuitously stretch the bounds of euphemism. A significant part of the leadership on the Right is not content to just “smile and wink” at this stuff; they’re jumping up and down on their podia screaming “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”

  8. Another point.  Softselling oneself by conceding that ones side of the aisle has a few whackos is a fine rhetorical opening, but there’s another dose of disingenuity in that statement.  Our Correspondent says
    “…They simply can’t believe that Barack Obama somehow got elected president…”
    Aside from the gratuitous ‘somehow’–Ronald Reagan somehow beat Walter Mondale, too.  But what he has not conceded sufficiently is that the people ‘can’t believe’ a simple numerical fact.  Why can’t they believe it?  Is that hyperbole?  Or, more likely, is ‘can’t believe’ code for ‘don’t accept?
    I subscribe to the latter idea, and not just because it shows that this correspondent isn’t genuinely interested in some conciliatory fact-finding, or ‘dialogue’ as it used to be called quaintly.  The whackos do believe that Obama was elected, just as they believe he’s a natural born citizen and all the rest.  What is true is that they don’t like it, and they (even the moderate dialogueists) reserve the right to ignore what they don’t like regardless of the numbers, the laws, the precedents, or the ironclad certainties of what happened a few years ago.
    The technical term for such behavior is cra-fucking-zy.

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