Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Liberal" concern trolls: Bob "the Daily Howler" Somerby

One of the more annoying of that brand right now is the Daily Howler, aka, Bob Somerby. He had a significant influence on the thinking of liberal media critics during the last decade. He's been cited favorably for his insights by Paul Krugman, Joe Conason, Gene Lyons and Joan Walsh, to mention some of the more distinguished ones.

But lately he's been spending a lot of time defending Tea Partiers from criticism over their manifestations of white racism coming from what he calls bigoted liberals who love to hate regular done-home white folks. So far, he's staying in concern troll mode, pretending to give friendly advice to those hate-filled, bigoted libruls. I'm not sure how long he can keep up the pretence.

One of the more clear signs that Somerby had warm and fuzzy feelings for the crackpot right was in his 04/09/2010 Howler when he said of Glenn Beck, "Most of his work comes from fever swamps - but some of his work is quite erudite." (my emphasis)

That statement is a real givaway, a "tell". Beck's work is not "erudite." It's hack conspiracy theory and Mormon fundamentalism. The use of copious footnotes and obscure references is a characteristics of far-right propaganda and pseudoscholarship. Somerby is certainly aware of this. He himself has pointed out that Mad Annie Coulter in her books uses lots of footnotes: it's just if you check them out, they often don't say what she is citing them as an authority for saying.

In making his praise of Beck's alleged erudition, Somerbye was defending the honor of his Tea Party mega-crush Pam Stout, a retiree and Tea Party activist who says Glenn Beck makes her think.

He was enchanted with her charms as reported by David Barstow in Tea Party Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right New York Times 02/15/2010:

Worried about hyperinflation, social unrest or even martial law, she and her Tea Party members joined a coalition, Friends for Liberty, that includes representatives from Glenn Beck’s 9/12 Project, the John Birch Society, and Oath Keepers, a new player in a resurgent militia movement.

When Friends for Liberty held its first public event, Mrs. Stout listened as Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff, brought 1,400 people to their feet with a speech about confronting a despotic federal government. Mrs. Stout said she felt as if she had been handed a road map to rebellion. Members of her family, she said, think she has disappeared down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories. But Mrs. Stout said she has never felt so engaged.

"I can't go on being the shy, quiet me," she said. "I need to stand up."

The Tea Party movement has become a platform for conservative populist discontent, a force in Republican politics for revival, as it was in the Massachusetts Senate election, or for division. But it is also about the profound private transformation of people like Mrs. Stout, people who not long ago were not especially interested in politics, yet now say they are bracing for tyranny.
Stout heads a group calling itself the Idaho Tea Party Patriots. They provide a link to a site called the Tea Party Journal that as of this writing features on its home page this article by Ron Miller, Restore Honor by Rejecting Racist Claims 08/27/2010. He agrees with Somerby that them thar libruls are full of hate and are very destructive:

In a few days, the "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial, headlined by Fox News personality Glenn Beck, will bring hundreds of thousands of people from around the nation to Washington, DC. This time, there will be no protest signs, only an outpouring of support for America’s heritage and its heroes, and a recommitment to its core values of individual liberty, free enterprise, and virtue.

But you wouldn't know it from all the screeching coming from the Left, especially the self-proclaimed black leaders who want to once again make the entire affair about race. Well, I’m done with these charlatans and criminals, who have never spoken for me and never will.

They have insulted my friends and neighbors with their baseless charges, and betrayed my black brothers and sisters across America with their evil theology, bankrupt ideology, and their frantic search for bogeymen that has them discovering racism in audio greeting cards.

Generations of black people are broken in body, mind and spirit, or they are dead, because these self-anointed leaders are more concerned with keeping resentment and bitterness alive than striving for grace, unity and hope.

In their hands rests the blood of untold millions of black children never born, or born without a father in the home, the thousands of young black men who didn't live long enough to see their thirties, the despair of millions trapped in schools and communities that deprive them of even the basic tools for survival. These men and women have no shame in rendering us wholly dependent on the very nation they accuse of being irredeemably racist.
Somerby evidently plans a series of posts to defend Beck's White Power movement. On Monday, he started off trashing Digby, which is getting to be an almost daily preoccupation of his.

Somerby regularly attacks liberals now for challenging white racist aspects of the Republicans' and Tea Partiers' political appeals. They, of course, would be glad to see it left unchallenged. President Obama missed yet another opportunity to challenge that demagoguery head-on when he first took a stand in defense of freedom of relgion in the Park 51 Community Center ("Ground Zero Mosque") case, then the next day came out and said he wasn't saying that it should be put there.

But racism, xenophobia, anti-Muslim hysteria and rightwing demagoguery are a reality in US politics. And Somerby's position on it is clear: any liberal who criticizes that conduct is bigoted and full of hate. It's hard to see how he can maintain the "concern troll" stance much longer, since he clearly is on the side of the Tea Party demagogues in this.

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