It’s Right/Left But Also Fantasy/Reality

This is a somewhat edited Twitter thread from Steve Schmidt, a political strategist who used to work for Republicans. His comments were precipitated by a CNN podcast (referenced at the bottom of this post):

The debate is around how to think and talk about Fox News. What is it? [CNN journalist] Brian Stelter thinks about this directionally and ideologically: describing Fox as moving further right. He is correct, as is [journalism professor] Jay Rosen, who evaluates Fox News along a different axis. For him, it is the drift into fantasy and the unreal.

The authoritarian movement in America is real, powerful and present. All authoritarian movements are nourished by an ecosystem that includes three powerful components:

A. The Financiers. “No Bucks, no Buck Rogers” said the PR man to the disdainful test pilots who were to become America’s Mercury astronauts in one of the all time great movies “The Right Stuff”. There is no autocratic movement without money and they have a lot.

B. CYNICAL ELITES.  Rep. Elise Stefanik, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Josh Hawley and Sen. Mitch McConnell are but a few examples of people who have tried to manage the toxic reverberations from [the former president’s] cult by manipulating it for power, self interest and vanity. They have aligned with the fringe and venomous ideas.

C. PROPAGANDISTS. All authoritarian movements rely on propaganda sustained by a particular type of lie. THE LIE OF AUTHORITY requires the abandonment of belief, truth, ethics, values and intellectual agency. It demands submission to the lies of the Leader/Party.

. . . Right-Left, in the tradition of American politics, has long been explicable with a two dimensional rendering, specifically, a horizontal line. It doesn’t work any more. When [Brian Stelter] talks about Fox and moving “Right”, it is important to pause and look at the [system of measurement].

Trying to explain the metastasized conservative media by marking a point on a line [that could be] used to measure ideological distance between [Republican moderate] Christie Whitman and [Republican conservative] Orrin Hatch [fails to capture reality].

The “Right” we are talking about here is a very specific variant, that no matter how easily identifiable, seems to induce a blindness in people who should see it clearly and an allergy towards confronting it by the people who have the most at stake in the fight.

We are talking, of course, about an authoritarian Right that is steeped in fantasy, delusion, hate, scapegoating, scientific racial theory, menace, violence and coercion.

This American Right is cousin to the noxious movements that have long been built on a fetid marsh of lies, grievance, scapegoating, hate, menace, fear and fantasy nostalgia for a world once pure. That fallen world, is the nucleus of a powerful and evil fantasy at the core of a terrible and dangerous mythology. The mythology is fear-based and architected around the imagined birthright of one group to feel superior to others.

It always leads to subjugation under the power and boot of the state for the purpose of preserving the power of the few and the fabulously corrupt over the common good of the great many.

Fox News is moving in a new direction and has been for some time. . . It is getting worse and more extreme every day. . . . The [metastasizing] ideological drift and the demand for submission to fantasies is at the core of understanding what all of this is. I hope enough people can see the totality of it all before we lose it all.

Unquote.

The CNN podcast is called Reliable Sources. From the description of this episode:

Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at NYU and authors the PressThink blog, discusses the devolution of Fox News; the difficulty of describing a “shifted political universe” in the United States; and the need for news outlets to be “much more explicitly and aggressively pro-democracy.”

He says “Fox is becoming in some way more demand-driven” because “its audience is in the driver’s seat in a way that’s more extreme than when Roger Ailes ran the network.” For example, Rosen comments, “Do you want January 6 to be the fault of Antifa? You can have that. Do you want [somebody else] to have won the 2020 election? You can have that.”

Rosen explains that “these kinds of maneuvers are attempting to sever people from reality so that you can do what you want with them… to just sort of de-anchor people from anything that they have in common with their fellow citizens so that they can be manipulated further. And that’s why it’s so insidious.” 

Ideology: A Very Short Introduction by Michael Freeden

This is volume 95 in the Very Short Introduction series published by Oxford University Press. I suppose it was worth reading, although I expected more about particular ideologies as opposed to the general nature of ideology.

Freeden defines a political ideology as: “a set of ideas, beliefs, opinions and values that

(1) exhibit a recurring pattern
(2) are held by significant groups
(3) compete over providing and controlling plans for public policy
(4) do so with the aim of justifying, contesting or changing the social and political arrangements and processes of a political community.”

He identifies four main political ideologies (socialism, liberalism, conservatism and fascism) but argues convincingly that none of them can be precisely defined. What they share are general commitments to certain fundamental principles, which can also be understood as preferred ways of applying certain key terms. For example, a liberal and a fascist may both be in favor of “freedom” and “justice” but define those terms differently and apply them to different situations.

Freeden doesn’t think that having an ideology is a bad thing. He clearly favors some ideologies over others, but suggests that having a political ideology is like having fundamental principles or preferences, and that it’s almost inescapable to have an ideology if you take politics seriously. At least in the Western world, the four mentioned above, although they have evolved through the years, have been the most frequently adopted.

Throughout the book, Freeden emphasizes the importance of language in the study of ideology:

Ideologies compete over the control of political language as well as competing over plans for public policy; indeed, their competition over plans for public policy is primarily conducted through their competition over the control of political language.

It Should Be Unbelievable, But Isn’t

As reported this afternoon on the NY Times website:

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, called House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio on Wednesday to commit to negotiations on a long-term deficit reduction deal, but only after the House passes the Senate’s bill to reopen the federal government without policy strings attached.

[Reid called Boehner on the phone and also sent this in a letter:]

“Before the House you have the Senate-passed measure to reopen the government, funded at the level that the House chose in its own legislation. I propose that you allow this joint resolution to pass, reopening the government,” Mr. Reid wrote. “And I commit to name conferees to a budget conference, as soon as the government reopens.”

The speaker’s office dismissed it as a surrender demand.

“The entire government is shut down right now because Washington Democrats refuse to even talk about fairness for all Americans under Obamacare,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner. “Offering to negotiate only after Democrats get everything they want is not much of an offer.”

Wait a minute. “After the Democrats get everything they want”? It’s what the Democrats and the rest of us already have! Except for the federal government being on life support, and presumably most Republicans want that little problem to be fixed too.

The Affordable Care Act has gone into effect. It’s not going away. It’s not something that has to be renegotiated. There was an election. The Supreme Court approved it. People are already signing up (although there is so much interest, the new websites are having trouble keeping up with the demand). 

Get over it, Boehner spokesman, and move on to the next crisis!

Earlier today I read a comment from a Republican at the Boston Herald site. She said that delaying the entire ACA for one year was “reasonable”, since some parts of it have already been delayed. She also said it was o.k. to delay it because the thing doesn’t work anyway (the evidence being that thousands of people who visited the websites yesterday had trouble getting through, because thousands of people were trying to get through).

This is the problem we’re having in this country. There are many among us who live in a different reality and use words like “reasonable” in a different way. “Extortion” becomes “negotiation”. As a result, communication becomes terribly difficult. Ideology can certainly cloud your perception of the world. 

http://www.nytimes.com/news/fiscal-crisis/2013/10/02/reid-says-hell-negotiate-once-house-drops-demands/

http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/us_politics/the_lone_republican/2013/10/
day_2_in_obama_holding_federal_government

PS — Someone just left a comment on the previous post asking why it’s bad for the Republicans to want to delay the ACA. That’s their right, of course. The question is how they try to achieve that goal. See the comments on the post below if you’re interested, including a link to another opinion piece.

In the meantime, I’m going to watch some soccer.