Tradition requires a year-end listicle. We could just tick off the news events to which rightbloggers reacted ridiculously over the past 52 weeks — from gay marriage victories to Rand Paul’s filibuster to the Boston Marathon bombing to the George Zimmerman trial to Obamacare.
But everyone else is doing that. So we figured: How about we count down Rightblogger 2013, not based on the stupid things they did and said, but the stupid ideas behind what they did and said?
Apart from the novelty of taking them seriously, we think it’ll be useful because if there’s one thing the past decade has shown us, it’s that today’s rightblogger lunacy is tomorrow’s Republican policy. Read on, and 2014 will be less of a horrifying surprise for you, or at least less of a surprise.10. Obama didn’t really win in 2012. In some cases this was an out-and-out conspiracy theory: Rachel Alexander at TownHall, for example, told us that the “most realistic explanation” for Obama’s five-million-vote victory was “voter fraud in a few swing states.” In some black districts, Obama got all of the votes, far behind the 93 percent of the black vote he got nationally. And if the instances of alleged fraud didn’t add up to the margin of victory — or were in fact total bullshit — Alexander asked, “how many instances occurred that were not discovered?” It is, in its way, an unanswerable argument.
But in most cases, it was conspiracy-theory-with-an-explanation: Maybe Obama got the votes they said he did, but they weren’t the right kind, or were come by dishonestly, in contrast to American political tradition.
At the Wall Street Journal Peggy Noonan explained that it was just the Obama campaign’s techspertise that won the election — which rendered the result invalid, because when “his team outcomputerized the laggard Republicans,” this “left him and his people looking more like cold technocrats who know how to campaign than leaders who know how to govern. And it has diminished claims of a popular mandate.” Not like when Bush won in 2000.
Also at the Journal, James Taranto coined the term “President Asterisk,” claiming Obama was only sorta elected because of — get this — the IRS scandalette, as the taxmen’s alleged suppression of Tea Party groups’ electioneering (by making them unsure whether or not they’d get a tax exemption for it) really turned the election for Obama. Come to think of it, we didn’t see anyone in a tricorner hat and knee breeches all through the fall of ’12 — and what warriors for Romney those guys would have been! Taranto was echoed by conservatives from Forbes to Free Republic.
Others claimed the U.S. Census faked job reports numbers for Obama to sway the voters. The alleged result doesn’t look like anything that would get a Romney voter to change his mind, but it incensed conservatives from the New York Post to Darrell Issa. “IF THESE CLAIMS BY ‘RELIABLE SOURCES’ ARE PROVEN TRUE, THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION WILL BE DEALING WITH ANOTHER HUGE SCANDAL,” cried Glenn Beck’s The Blaze. Yeah, this time for sure..
Some retreated into even more overt fantasy. PJ Media’s Bill Whittle actually created something called “Virtual President,” in which Whittle appeared in videos as a right-thinking President to give speeches — sort of like a home version of The West Wing, or Rupert Pupkin’s basement.
This should be no surprise. Rightbloggers have been questioning Obama’s legitimacy as President since before his first victory, with claims that he wasn’t born in the United States, that people only voted for him because he’s black, etc. Why would they be moved by something as insignificant as election returns?
9. Conservatism becomes a men’s rights movement. After the gender-gapped 2012 election, it was clear that female voters had an adversarial relationship with conservatives. Republican party officials are trying to deal with that — not with legislation, so far, just with messaging.
But rightbloggers don’t see the need to go even that far. In fact, they’ve gone in the opposite direction, countering the “war on women” idea with the notion of a “war on men.”
Suzanne Venker at Fox News said after the election that men feel “women aren’t women anymore” because her fellow XX-chromosomals had been “raised to think of men as the enemy,” and thus insisted on jobs and respect, which is anti-male aggression because “men want to love women, not compete with them.”
This theory was spread in books such as Men on Strike by Dr. Helen Smith, wife of rightblogger kingpin Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, who litters his own site with #WARONMEN stories like “#WARONMEN: Orange is The New Black’s Creator Doesn’t Seem To Be a Big Fan of Men.” Unflattering male characters on TV are apparently a key element of feminist oppression, to be fought via hashtag at every opportunity (“#WARONMEN: Amid fury, Clorox pulls post insulting new dads”).
Deep thinkers offered more sweeping explanations. John Hawkins of PJ Media explained “How Modern Life Transforms Men into Wussies,” lamenting that though “the average man may have seen hundreds of thousands of murders on his TV screen and committed tens of thousands more playing video games… he has also probably never struck another human being in anger in his entire adult lifetime.” This too was the fault of women, because they started working, and as a result of that tens of millions of men who would have been desirable mates with good jobs whose value as men on the dating market has dropped precipitously.” Thus, men just give up, both as life partners and as sparring partners.
The Wall Street Journal‘s James Taranto also spread the war-on-men gospel, which prompted angry responses from women, which Taranto took as proof of the war on men: “The objective of these ideologues,” he said, “is to destroy the lives of men,” or at least of men who say rude things about them in public, which is nonetheless unladylike of them, Taranto judged, and thus war-on-men.
If you thought the war on women who war on men was something you’d rather not get involved with, rightbloggers explained that there were dire consequences for abstention: The war was reducing men’s sex drives, which would cause our replacement stock of babies to fall dangerously low; why, said Patrick Howley at The Daily Caller, it’s getting to the point where liberals won’t let you catcall women in the street, an important element in the childbirth process.
If this reminds you of the misogynistic gush men’s rights activists have been peddling for years, congratulations, you’ve figured it out: Rightbloggers are pushing conservatism so hard against the tide of the times that they’ve wound up in the dark, swampy world of PUAs and male ressentiment. It may not win them any electorally-useful converts, but at least when the brethren inside the tent piss (against the interior walls of the tent, because it’s more butch), it’ll be a manly spectacle.
8. Straight people: The new civil-rights victims. As gay rights racked up big wins in 2013, rightbloggers were caught flatfooted; it seemed the simple slurs and Biblical perorations of yesteryear weren’t going to cut it anymore (though many stuck with it out of sentimental attachment). Some of the more flexible brethren took up a new anti-gay-marriage angle based on discrimination against straights.
A few cases of businesses getting sued for refusing to accommodate gay-marrying customers — such as the well-covered cases of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, and baker Jack Phillips in Denver, Colorado — got rightbloggers waving their we-shall-overcome signs.
“For the Left, tolerance does not mean tolerance,” said Dennis Prager at National Review. “It means first, acceptance. And second, celebration. That is totalitarianism…” At Hot Air, Tina Korbe bemoaned an Illinois ruling that Catholic Charities couldn’t deny adoption services to gay couples, which she thought “demonstrates an appalling willingness to allow an adult agenda — the mainstream acceptance of gay behavior — to supersede children’s interests.”
And not only was the case of a photographer forced to cover a homosexual wedding a violation of the photographer’s religious rights, wrote Rod Dreher at The American Conservative, it was also a freedom of speech issue — “To compel a writer, photographer, painter, composer, or what have you, to put her talent into the service of something that violates their conscience is a serious wrong,” Dreher wrote, showing a touching innocence of the commercial art world.
One might ask why they think gay Americans’ civil rights are less worthy of protection than black Americans’ — to whom, at this writing, you can’t refuse service on the grounds of their blackness. The best place to look for an answer came from that branch of conservatism called libertarianism. Joshua Cook, for example, argued at The Greenville Post that gay marriage will “force other states to recognize gay marriage when they choose not to, force taxpayers to pay for benefits, and violate one’s religious freedoms,” and thus may be resisted on libertarian grounds. “Rational libertarians cannot say ‘government get out of marriage,'” added Cook, “and in the same breath, ‘but let’s expand government for gays.'”
Indeed, if you tracked gay rights at libertarian flagship Reason, you’d find their writers frequently treat them as a problem, not as a reason to celebrate. Which makes sense: the gay public-accommodations push appears to mirror the logic of the Civil Rights Act, which the adventures of Rand Paul remind us isn’t libertarians’ favorite part of the Constitution piece of federal legislation.
“Senate Mulls Outlawing Anti-Gay Job Discrimination; What Will Come of Freedom of Association?” asked Scott Shackford at Reason about ENDA. “Libertarians who believe that hiring policies – even discriminatory ones — fall under the First Amendment’s ‘freedom of association’ provision may end up getting lumped in with the religious right on this one,” said Shackford — adding “(not that this is a new thing)” to point up how unfair it was. And if gays continue to insist upon equal access to public accommodations, said Reason’s A. Barton Hinkle, “it will cease being absurd to suggest that requests for tolerance are actually demands for approval – and that those who claim to celebrate diversity actually insist upon ideological uniformity.” Who’s the bigot now?
Libertarians are never this solicitous of the feelings of people who have, for example, lost their unemployment benefits, but then those people are not part of the target audience. Those who were got the message: “The homofascist rainbow-shirts are at it again,” said Matt Barber about gay cake fascism. “They’ve unsheathed, once more, their anti-Christian long knives.” They’re for freedom too! At National Review, Mark Steyn told pansy jokes for freedom: “How do you make a fruit cordial? Be nice to him. Or else.”
Now, social conservatives and libertarians alike, let’s forget our not-so-differences, and get together to fight the real enemy: Social Security and unemployment insurance.
7. Culture war goes wide, deep. Rightbloggers are always on culture-war alert, but in 2013 they surpassed themselves. It seemed no corner of the entertainment industry, no matter how apparently innocent, was exempt from their deep, deep analysis and patriotic complaints.
Some of it was expected. As has been customary since she made an Obama ad in 2012, Lena Dunham, the Janeane Garofalo of the ’10s, came under heavy fire. Here’s a ripe sample from Jeffrey Lord at The American Spectator: “It is exactly that America that sent Tyrone Woods to fight Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi so that Lena Dunham can sit at peace in Brooklyn with her tattoo and her sleeveless T-shirt and her wink-wink on-camera prattlings about first-times.” Whatever gets you off, Jeff.
But some of the brethren went on reconnaissance missions to the ends of the cultural empire, generally in full attack mode.
William A. Jacobson of Legal Insurrection railed that “BuzzFeed Politics has combined ‘the culture’ and savvy crafting into a highly effective tool for undermining Republicans with subtle and not-so-subtle mockery.” At Breitbart.com, Warner Todd Huston was enraged that a Law & Order: SVU plotline echoed the Todd Akin case, and thundered, “How often do you think characters on Law & Order: SVU have worn flag pins?”
At PJ Media, John Boot reported on “4 Ways The New Star Trek Shills for Surrender in the War on Terror.” Elsewhere Boot told us “Iron Man 3 Treats Islamist Terror Like a Joke.” If patriots can’t count on loud, dumb fantasy movies, what can they count on?
The Black Arts were also considered. “Oprah’s “The Butler” Is Chock Full of Racist Lies (Video),” cried Jim Hoft at The Gateway Pundit. At PJ Media, David P. Goldman held forth on “Jay Z’s American Fascism… Jay Z appeals to the same kind of rage that Hitler and Mussolini exploited during the interwar years.”
At Protein Wisdom, Jeff Goldstein roared, “It’s out in the open now. There’s no longer any real pretense of objectivity. Each time the progressive media ‘report’ favorably on something they characterize like this (fairly or not) — and no switch comes down to sting their hands — they grow ever more emboldened.” He raved on about “neo-Stalinist progressives” and declared, “this is the propaganda war being launched against you, against me, against we, the people. Or at least, one prong of that war. Because it goes beyond the mere normalizing of a video game playing out a fantasy based (at least partially) around that narrative…” Yes, he was actually talking about a video game, in which some of the villains talk about Jesus and the Founding Fathers. Ice cream, Mandrake! Children’s ice cream!
Some pleaded with the culture people to heed the call of their country and deliver doubleplusgood propatainment. At Acculturated, Mark Judge asked “whether producer Matthew Vaughn and director Josh Trank have the guts to do one thing: To make The Fantastic Four about the family versus communism.”
It wasn’t all reactive. At Real Clear Politics, Tevi Troy asked, “Can Republicans Close the Pop Culture Gap?” and decided, “A move towards hipness must come from the party leaders themselves” — what a wonderfully Soviet locution! — then offered as examples, “Marco Rubio, a hip hop fan, or Paul Ryan, who is partial to heavy metal.” With aim like that, they’ll be on the barricades for a long, long time.
6. The poor have got it easy. For decades it’s been an easy bet to get middle class Americans to endorse beating up the poor to save themselves. Then the middle class started rapidly becoming poor, and that schtick hasn’t been so much of a winner. But when it comes to the least of their brothers, rightbloggers are diehard skinflints — even global recession can’t make them throw a bum a dime. So as people started talking about “income inequality,” the brethren just floored their communications vehicles in the other direction.
Rob Port of Say Anything rushed to inform readers that “48% Of North Dakota Welfare Spending Is On Fast Food, Eating Out, ATM’s And Movie Rentals” — as if ATMs and the McDonald’s dollar menu (“restaurants” and “movie rentals” comprised only eight percent of the tab) were luxuries.
“If you can get by without working, why work at all?… now just about anyone, of any color or stripe, with access to unemployment benefits, welfare, or food stamps can ask themselves that question too,” claimed productive citizen Greg Gutfield. But he wasn’t just against welfare cases — he also condemned minimum-wage workers who wanted a hike in pay: “The concept of a living wage (which is essentially dramatically increasing the minimum wage) will create entry-level workers who never move up or off that first rung. Why bother moving up if the wage moves up for you?” Those lazy shits will just keep that street-cleaning job, rather than moving up to a Fox TV host gig like Gutfield did.
At least you might say National Review‘s Katrina Trinko was, in her pathetic way, trying to be helpful when she suggested, in lieu of a higher minimum wage, that “fast-food workers should look to change corporate cultures. One idea would be to pressure fast-food companies to allow tip jars, so that people who wanted to pass on more to the workers had a way to do so.” And if the boss won’t let you have a tin cup inside, you can always take it outside and rattle in on a street corner.
And at Bloomberg, Megan McArdle had an inspirational story for the paupers: “When I was moving out of my parents’ home and into the 435 square feet of paradise where I spent my last years in New York, I was seriously panicking,” she reminisced. “…if I’d had better-paying options, I might not have dared to take that job at the Economist, because financially, it was a huge struggle: My disposable monthly income, after loans, rent and taxes, was in the low hundreds…” Yet McArdle, whose father, according to Wikipedia, is “former managing director of the GCA (General Contractors Association of New York) during the Koch, Dinkins, and Giuliani administrations,” and whose mother was “a real estate broker for Prudential Douglas Elliman,” persisted, and is now rolling in dough at Bloomberg. Why can’t you lazy fry cooks follow her example?
If nothing else, rightbloggers said, poor people should get married — that made them rich, and so it should do for you! If the acquisition of a marriage certificate leaves you no richer than before, then alas, you are beyond help — except by that bastard Obama, who, bow-tie wingnut Roger Kimball told us, has created “a coalition of the super rich & the poor against the middle class.” Kimball linked to Victor Davis Hanson, who explained “the poor can usually find low-cost care through Medicaid, federal clinics and emergency rooms,” and also are “eligible for both debt relief and cheap (and often subsidized) mortgage rates that remain near historic lows,” while “the real losers are frugal members of the middle class” — that is, those few who are still trying not to be poor, despite all the advantages of poverty rightbloggers have been telling us about.
(To be continued next week.)