A Case of Possession?
In all the years I’ve been following the political scene on this continent, I’ve rarely come across anything as reprehensible as the liberal-left reaction to the shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Make hay when darkness reigns (or never let a crisis go to waste) seems to be the working “progressivist” motto. Of course, the left has always been at it, exploiting suffering for gain. Going back at least to the New York Times' Walter Duranty and his shameless prevarications in the service of Stalin’s killing machine and moving up through the years to the present moment in which conservative public figures are blamed for Jared Lee Loughner’s murderous insanity, the litany of left-wing agitprop and duplicity has become nothing short of a demonic political discourse.
Its influence has penetrated everywhere. I open our metropolitan newspaper, the Montreal Gazette, expecting to find commentary on local politics, and am greeted by a cartoon depicting a tea kettle whose spout is a pistol barrel. Naturally, the Gazette’s superannuated cartoonist, who goes by the moniker of Aislin, still lives in a hippy-left alternative universe that has no relation to the world most grown-ups live in, suggesting that the paper is badly in need of an infusion of — pardon the metaphor — fresh blood.
Next I turn to our village weekly, the Hudson Gazette, and find that the editor singles out Fox News as an Al Jazeera-type operation (but not MSNBC), berates Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, and O’Reilly (but not Matthews, Schultz, Krugman and Olbermann), and censures the apparent machinations of that “unprincipled power seeker,” Sarah Palin, concluding that “Palin’s rhetoric might have triggered Loughner’s rampage” — the sort of hypothetical logic that even the president of the United States rejected in his memorial speech.
This is the typical liberal-left calumny we’ve all become used to by now. The flight of fancy of a small town editor’s op-ed, as is the case with the ignorance and indecency of his big-time congeners, is utterly impermeable to facts that counter the drift of leftist invective. To take just a few examples: Saul Alinsky’s Rule 13: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it” (italics mine); Obama’s “thuggish rhetoric” (in Diana West’s phrase) advocating bringing a gun to a knife fight, or in Victor Davis Hanson’s recounting, Obama’s “potpourri imagery of knives, guns, enemies, punishing, kicking ass, relegation to the backseat, get angry, getting in their face, hostage takers, trigger fingers, tearing up, etc.”; the Democratic Leadership Committee’s 2004 publication of a bull’s eye map targeting Republicans; Gabriel Range’s film Death of a President envisaging the assassination of George W. Bush; the slew of leftist death-rhetoric against Bush; Cindy Sheehan’s book Peace Mom in which she fantasizes about killing Bush in the cradle; the foaming tirades of MSNBC, Washington Post and New York Times media hitmen; a Daily Kos correspondent opining that Gabrielle Giffords is “dead” to him for voting against Nancy Pelosi; a Salon.com correspondent recommending the electrocution of Sarah Palin like one of Michael Vick’s dogs; and most recently the series of threats against Palin’s life on YouTube/Twitter.
In this demented thought-world, it’s completely OK for Chris Matthews to imagine someone jamming a CO2 pellet into Rush Limbaugh’s head and watching him explode, but let Palin correctly assert she has been the object of a blood libel — prominent Orthodox rabbi Shmuley Boteach has justified Palin’s use of the term — and the left goes into a feeding frenzy. “The righties are gunning up,” smarms Ed Schultz on The Battleground (nota bene: the battleground). There can be no doubt of this: the rhetoric of violence on the left eclipses that on the right by an order of magnitude.
One can plainly see how far and how deep such homicidal oratory has traveled, if even in a rural town in the Canadian hinterland where I make my home, it can manifest without hindrance. But what is rather fascinating is that wherever it emerges, it usually does so as a chiasmus, technically a verbal pattern with the parts reversed. Shakespeare’s “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” in Macbeth is a textbook example of chiasmus. My point is that, in the domain of the left, chiasmus now governs, not merely an utterance, but an entire political discourse. Leftists have been so infected by lies, malice, and intemperate language, functioning as a kind of viral package, that they have absorbed the verbal toxin without the slightest conscious recognition of having been co-opted. They then proceed to the next stage of the syndrome by projecting the “evil” upon their opponents, making what is fair for themselves foul for the other, while simultaneously absolving their own foulness.
As a result, Sarah Palin is treated as responsible for the Democratic Party’s cartographic call to battle. I would not be surprised if Allen West’s stirring “bayonets” speech will be construed as a guilty transference of Obama’s gun allusion. Though, in the process, the original bull’s eye map and the president’s gun will be virtually expunged from memory, excused or “contextualized.” Interestingly, nobody on the right has rushed to finger the Democratic map or Obama’s gun for the Tucson tragedy, but most on the left are not so generous in their methods. Already primed to rhetorical violence, the left in all the spurious innocence of profound complicity discharges its own condition upon those with whom it disagrees. The recent plea on the part of some on the left for a new tone of conversational civility is clearly dishonest; the left has no intention of honoring its appeal, as media journalism has made painfully obvious.
However, to make matters worse, what is percolating away in the leftist mindset is not only a species of obscure transference — blaming the right for the left — but, no less disturbing, a confounding of levels of application. That is, an implicit trope for the left is portrayed and condemned as an explicit summons for the right. Or, to put it differently, what is conceived as a subjective metaphor in leftist discourse is transposed as an objective imperative in conservative speech. From this perspective, the right is ostensibly doing what the left is only talking about.
Of course, the maneuver proceeds unconsciously. An unctuous pietism grounded in a mental state of absolute conviction obliterates reality. Since it is generally impervious to self-awareness and to the malign transmission of its own feverish distemper, the left is perfectly oblivious to the moral inversion it enacts.
This is why it can spend its time and resources shilling for tyrants and mass murderers like Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Min, Pol Pot, and Fidel Castro while attacking democratic America as an imperialist and colonialist hegemon. This is why Jimmy Carter can lobby in favor of Hamas while vilifying Israel. This is why the despicable Che Guevara can become a poster boy for the left, but not the righteous Raoul Wallenberg. This is why the New York Times, which denounces “many on the right” for “demonizing” people, is itself entirely heedless of its own obscene history — its standing by Duranty, its suppressing news of the Holocaust, its compromising of anti-terror operations by releasing sensitive U.S. intelligence, its arraigning Israel for the crimes of the Arab Middle East, ad vomitatum. This is why the Guardian can write that “rage…is encoded in conservative DNA” without a wisp of reflexive acknowledgement of its biased and vitriolic conduct, as closely tracked by CiF Watch. This is why PBS commentator Mark Shields can blame Congressman Tom DeLay for the death of twelve coal miners in West Virginia or impute discredited CBS anchor Dan Rather’s firing to a “lynch mob,” yet decry the “deterioration of public debate and the climate that has been fostered by…hate speech.” This is why former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean can distinguish his party from the Republicans, saying, “This is a struggle between good and evil and we’re the good.” This is why former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark can defend Saddam Hussein and Hollywood mogul Oliver Stone can lionize Hugo Chavez, but have nothing good to say about Ronald Reagan or George Bush. In flipping the syntax of moral accountability, they acquit themselves in the court of private opinion.
Unfortunately, they are like characters in the film Inception, locked inside the third level of the dream from which they cannot escape. For what is involved is more than simple hypocrisy or classic projection. It is a disorder that reaches down into the structure of the psyche or, as some would have it, the soul. Admittedly, it doesn’t start out that way. The source of such thinking resides in the laudable impulse to create a better world based on the principles of social justice, economic parity or befitting dispensation, and reciprocal understanding. Presumably most of us are on the same page with respect to such aspirations.
The trouble is that this noble passion is inevitably perverted in the minds of many by impatience and credulous idealism attended by a deep-dyed sanctimoniousness. It derives from a set of serious flaws of character and attitude, namely, the puerile conviction that the world is ultimately perfectible in toto, the correlative belief that beneficial change can be achieved only by drastic, often violent but always radical upheaval, and the assumption that we — the bearers of such fine motives — are both on the side of the angels and wholly infallible. The contagion gradually suffuses the entire personality. The upshot is a kind of sinister enchantment that comes eventually to dominate and seize, if not consume, the mind that entertains such purposes. And such minds are to be found today chiefly on the left.
Indeed, it would make analogical sense to say that the left is effectively possessed, controlled, and channeled to resist exorcism. Facts are either forgotten, brushed aside as of no importance or, as I have argued, transmuted chiastically to sanitize the self and stigmatize the “other.” Again, what is fair “here” is foul “there,” and what is truly foul “here” somehow remains fair. From the New York Times to the Hudson Gazette, from Chris Matthews to Aislin, from top to bottom, a pathological commutation is busy, in Melanie Phillips’ words, turning the world upside down.
Its most salient characteristic is that it is hermetically sealed and immune to the “talking cure,” closed off from persuasion. Macbeth’s witches have cast an airtight spell. In an insightful article for PJM, Kyle-Anne Shiver deplores “the entire progressive meme [as] no more enlightened than an actual witch hunt.” This is true enough, but who are the real practitioners of the black art? For the rapt and hexing behavior of the left is enough to make us believe in witches again, massing on the heath, laying about them with their broomsticks, and recruiting an entire generation to the cause and rituals of ensorcellement.
One may therefore be pardoned for suspecting that the only remedy for this tranced affliction is to be found in an updated and suitably expurgated version of the Malleus Maleficarum, not to hunt for supposed heretics but to expel a morbid fixation. Or maybe a reading of psychiatrist M. Scott Peck’s Glimpses of the Devil might be of some value. On second thought, this would be unlikely since analysis and illustration are contraindicated. Amulets and incantations may be needed to purge so ghostly a calenture. Perhaps gushing hydrants of holy water will do the trick. One thing is for sure: Reason doesn’t seem to work. For as Jonathan Swift is reputed to have said, what a man has not been reasoned into, he cannot be reasoned out of.