Thursday, June 03, 2010

Crackpots and conformity

Dude, what did you put in that tea?

Gene Lyons looks at The tyranny of partisan groupthink Salon 06/02/2010, making the point that a figure like Rand Paul has to be taken seriously enough to refute his ideas rather than simply dismissing them because they are out of what current conventional wisdom assumes to be acceptable mainstream thought.

That doesn't mean that we need to treat crackpot ideas as anything other than crackpot. Or to argue endlessly with fanatics who have no intention of changing their minds, maybe not even the ability to do so. Or with people who have so little judgment about public affairs and news that they take Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck as reliable sources for factual information.

He cites a headline suggesting that far-right "libertarian" Rand Paul is crazy over his Bircher-style opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act:

Sophomoric is more like it. As the 47-year-old ophthalmologist was still in diapers back in 1964, he has no firsthand memory of the beatings, nightstick and dog attacks, murders and assassinations that accompanied the last days of Jim Crow. But anybody styling himself a "libertarian" ought to understand what "legal segregation" consisted of: systematic, state-sponsored denial of black citizens' constitutional rights.

Turning away black customers wasn't personal preference; across most of the South, serving them was against the law. Actually, I suspect that Dr. Paul does know that, and that his seeming naiveté masks a coded appeal to voters -- thankfully, a diminishing number -- who prate about "states' rights" as a means of expressing racial resentment.
Lyons refers to a column Merdity Oakley (itself apparently not freely available online) which provides examples from the days when the Pauls' brand of "libertarianism" dominated the Deep South:

Struck by the ritual nature of today's political rhetoric, Oakley reprinted several letters that first appeared in Little Rock newspapers during the traumatic Central High School integration crisis of September 1957.

Continue reading
"Dedicated left-wingers of the Supreme Court are remaking the Constitution and our lives," one man wrote. "The Court is now the combined creature of New Dealism and Modern Republicanism, bent on changing our constitutional government into a centralized, all powerful, socialist, labor welfare state."

Sound familiar? How about this? "When (President Eisenhower) came on TV last Monday night, it caused more people to have murder in their hearts by just looking at him than any other man that has ever lived."

Exchange Eisenhower for Obama, and both could have appeared yesterday.
Ed Sebesta has created a web archive where the White Citizen's Council newspapers of 1955-61 are available. It's article sound like a template for a lot of Beck's and Limbaugh's cracked commentary, though it often uses more explicitly white supremacist language.

Today's Tea Partiers, of course, are also known to use racially-charged language at times, too, as Mark Potok reportsin TeaParty.org Founder Labels Obama With Racial Terms Hatewatch 05/28/2010

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