Dec 27, 2003 1:43 am


Here's an interesting column by Sidney Blumenthal on Salon (get the day pass).

It's pretty interesting. I like his historical perspective on the origins of right-wing invective as well:

The origins of this garish imagination of fear lie deeper than the recent escapades of Newt Gingrich, running back to the Salem witch trials of the 17th century, the Know Nothings of the 19th century, and Father Charles Coughlin and Sen. Joseph McCarthy of the 20th. In 1964, when the first contemporary right-wing candidate, Barry Goldwater, was nominated by the Republican Party, the historian Richard Hofstadter wrote an essay on"The paranoid style in American politics." He emphasized style because it had become the essence of this brand of politics:"Style has more to do with the way in which ideas are believed than with the truth or falsity of their content." But this did not mean that the right-wingers of Hofstadter's time did not engage in elaborate displays of"pedantry" and accumulations of"evidence." They piled up"evidence" to create a thoroughly coherent if fictitious black-and-white picture in which enemies within conspired and only those who had a special night-vision to identify these satanic hosts could resist them in the name of patriotism.

The same year that Hofstadter published his piece on"the paranoid style," an obscure conservative named John Stormer published the" carefully documented story of America's retreat from victory" in the face of the liberal-internationalist-Communist conspiracy. It was titled"None Dare Call It Treason." The book, timed to coincide with the 1964 presidential campaign, was turned into a bestseller by the John Birch Society, a far-right-wing group, which boasted that it had distributed 6 million copies within eight months of its publication. (To this day, the Birch Society sells Stormer's book on its Web site.)

Nearly 40 years later, in the summer of 2003, the bestselling book on the right was entitled"Treason," by Ann Coulter."Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason," she wrote." ... Everyone says liberals love America, too. No they don't. Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or without, liberals side with the enemy." Positioned discreetly next to her book on the New York Times bestseller list was a tiny dagger signifying bulk sales from unknown sources. Coulter's argument was a conservative perennial, down to the spirited defense of Joseph McCarthy. Both Stormer's and Coulter's works cited mounds of"evidence." Both warned ominously against liberal betrayal. The principal difference between"None Dare Call It Treason" and"Treason" was not in sophistication, nuance, erudition, persuasiveness, or literary quality, but in the expanded capacity of conservatives to disseminate the word far and wide through their own alternative media and in the elevation by the mainstream media of the extremist as entertainer.

It's an interesting article. Go read it.

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