In Defense of Political Anger
It is the hallmark of a healthy democracy and a citizenry that cares.
September 30, 2009 - 12:30 am
“Mad Man,” said the cover of Time magazine that featured Glenn Beck blowing a raspberry at the world. The story inside warned us to be wary of “the angry style of American politics” — an obvious allusion to the liberal historian Richard Hofstadter’s 1964 anti-Barry Goldwater essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.”
We are all meant to tsk-tsk at the prominence of Beck and other supposedly out-there pundits.
But political anger can be a wonderful thing. Being against Candidate X is just as valid a reason to get involved in politics as being for Candidate Y.
Let’s be clear that anger need not have anything to do with violence. If Beck or Limbaugh or Mark Levin have been caught lobbing broken pavement at police, I have missed it. Their anger is simply a really engaged flavor of political philosophy. If anything, political violence is usually associated with the left in American life — from communist Lee Harvey Oswald, to the killers of RFK and Malcolm X, up through the 1999 Seattle protests and on to last week in Pittsburgh.
At the G-20 summit held in Steel Town, Time reported, leftist protesters who refused to apply for an assembly permit pushed dumpsters into the street, pelted police with rocks and macadam, and smashed windows of banks and even a Boston Market and a Mini car dealership. (These guys even hate cute little fuel-efficient Euro-cars? Sheesh.) Dozens of arrests were made. Meanwhile the number of projectiles hurled at law enforcement figures by banned-in-the-UK radio talker Michael Savage remained stuck at zero. The 9/12 protests that drew tens of thousands of marchers to D.C. were consistently painted as threatening because of signs that said things like, “Joe Wilson was right.” But if there were any arrests for violent acts, they weren’t mentioned in the Washington Post’s coverage.
In MSM arithmetic, “conservative anger” = “potentially violent,” even though we know “liberal anger” = “actually violent,” as we saw in Pittsburgh. Nancy Pelosi has set the table for this line of thinking with her tearful comparison of today, when conservatives are feeling their oats, with the time when Harvey Milk was murdered. Yet no one blamed the Beltway snipers or the Unabomber on the “climate” of extreme liberal thinking. You can be sure that if any act of violence is committed anywhere in this country by anyone who has expressed distaste for Obama, headlines will erupt and they will blame peaceful, mainstream conservative pundits.
The MSM aren’t too curious about protesters like the ones in Pittsburgh (Do they watch Rachel Maddow? Do they read Paul Krugman?) because they believe radical leftists kinda have a point. Bankers get huge bonuses. Shouldn’t we all lob rocks at police to express our outrage?
Clearly, some of the 9/12 protesters were angry. But that shouldn’t bother us, should it? Anger, after all, is seen as an essential element of liberal political comment, from Wanda Sykes suggesting Rush Limbaugh be waterboarded at this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner and Keith Olbermann fulminating about his “Worst Person in the World” du jour, all the way back to Bill Clinton threatening to punch the late William Safire in the nose and sainted figures of liberal protest like Lenny Bruce. Even the once-genial David Letterman spent a chunk of last fall fulminating against John McCain and, before that, against George W. Bush. Michael Moore is one angry fellow.
Even Time magazine, which ran a picture of Beck making little clawing gestures with his fingers, concedes that Beck is funny. His Fox News colleague Shepard Smith, Time reported, calls his studio “the fear chamber,” though Beck himself wittily calls it his “doom room.” Watching Beck, you may well find yourself chuckling more than raging. His cherub cheeks and sparkling blue eyes place him closer to the jokester in the back of the choir than to the freak on the grassy knoll. Beck is enjoying himself.
And so should we. In a recent poll, 72 percent of Americans agreed with the statement, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Political anger is fun. It’s therapeutic. It’s exciting to watch on TV or read on blogs. It is indicative of a citizenry that cares. It’s a sign of a healthy democracy that is questioning its leadership. It holds those in power accountable and makes them nervous.
The thing they’re nervous about is not being assassinated but being tossed out of office. They should be nervous about us. Because we are their bosses and we can fire them.