The Party of Fear: Liberals Love a Good Scaring
In this week's Weekly Standard, writer Noemie Emery gives an excellent look into the mindset of the fearful left, so angry at President Bush for "scaring" the public into Iraq and yet so eager to be scared itself:
"It Can Happen Here," says Joe Conason, in his book of the same name, and in fact it already has started: George W. Bush and his coterie are the very picture of the pious and scheming homegrown fascisti that Sinclair Lewis described in his 1935 novel "It Can't Happen Here." Similarities abound. In Lewis's novel, "Buzz Windrip" (Bush), an illiterate dweeb with sleazy charm and low animal cunning, backed by Lee Sarason (Karl Rove), a smooth and duplicitous political mastermind, becomes president, cooks up a fake war to extend his own power, cows Congress, corrupts the courts, bankrupts the country, and all but destroys the free press. The core of his power is a sinister nexus of theocrats joined at the hip to corporate interests, and you can tell how evil they are by their proclaimed love of country, and their incessant talk about God. In their endeavors, they are backed by the Hearst newspaper empire (Fox News), the only one left after all other outlets have been shut down.
Fox News looms large in the liberal panic about creeping fascism--an immense smoke machine pumping poison gas into the atmosphere 24/7, against which there is neither escape nor defense. This theory of the pervasive malevolent power of Fox rests on a quip by anchor Brit Hume that the network played a decisive role in the 2002 midterms, which Conason seems to take seriously, and the scholarly output of two obscure professors arguing that Fox swung the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 as well. "Citing what they call 'The Fox Effect,'" Conason informs us, "professors Stefano Della Vigna of the University of California at Berkeley and Ethan Kaplan of the University of Stockholm found that the network convinced 2 to 8 percent of its non-Republican viewing audience to 'shift its voting behavior toward the Republican party.'" If they say so. But there is no corresponding mention of the NBC-ABC-CBS-Time-Newsweek-New York Times "effect," and what its impact on voters might be.
At the same time that Conason is looking back to a fictional past in America, Naomi Wolf--last heard from in 2000 advising Al Gore to dress in earth tones--is looking back to a real past in Europe, and seeing troubling parallels. In 4,600 overwrought words, she explained to the readers of the Guardian that there are ten steps to "Fascist America" and Bush is taking them all. He has whipped up a menace (the war on terror); created "a prison system outside the rule of law" (Guantánamo, to which public dissidents, including "clergy and journalists" will be sent "soon enough"); developed "a thug caste . . . groups of scary young men out to terrorize citizens" (young Republican staffers who supposedly "menaced poll workers" during the 2000 recount in Florida); set up an "internal surveillance system" (NSA scanning for phone calls to and from terrorists). An airtight case, this, and leading to just one conclusion: "Beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable . . . that it can happen here."
Well, this explains many things. It explains why poor Cindy Sheehan is now sitting in prison; why Bush critics like CIA retiree Valerie Plame have been ostracized by the corporate media and are wasting away in anonymity; why no critic of Bush can get a hearing, why no book complaining about him can ever get published, and why our multiplexes are filled with one pro-Bush propaganda movie after another, glorifying the Iraq war and rallying the nation behind its leader.
Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, Cindy Sheehan is running for Congress; Valerie Plame is rich and famous; the young Republican "thugs" made all of one appearance seven years ago--chanting "Let us in!" when Miami-Dade County vote counters planned to move to a small inner room with no observers present; and press censorship is now so far-reaching that you can't even expose a legal, effective, and top-secret plan to trace terrorists without getting a Pulitzer Prize. "What if the publisher of a major U.S. newspaper were charged with treason or espionage?" Wolf asks breathlessly. "What if he or she got 10 years in jail?" Well, journalists have been harassed, pressed for their sources, and threatened with prison, but not by George W. Bush and his people. Back in the real world, only one prominent journalist has been jailed by the federal government in recent memory, and that was Judith Miller, imprisoned for 80-plus days for contempt by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, the great hero of the anti-Bush forces for having indicted Vice President Cheney's chief of staff.