We hope it’s been long enough since listicle season (only a few days, but hell, your attention spans have all been shot to pieces by the internet, right?) that you won’t mind if we present part 2 of the roundup we began last week.
Herewith items 5 through 1 in our list of the dumbest ideas that were the basis of rightblogger rage throughout the last twelve months:
5. Benghazigatemania! In October, 60 Minutes aired a report in which, according to Bryan Preston of the PJ Tatler, CBS News “finally got around to investigating Benghazi,” and confirmed that “the administration that ignored warnings and left Ambassador Stevens and three other brave Americans to die lied about Benghazi and was re-elected.”
Rightbloggers were ecstatic. “60 Minutes is normally a reliable Democratic Party news outlet,” asserted John Hinderaker of Power Line, “but tonight it turned its back on its friends in the Obama administration with a scathing report on the Benghazi scandal.” “Phony scandal eh? Since when does ’60 Minutes’ cover phony scandals,” crowed Scared Monkeys. “60 Minutes doesn’t cover phony scandals,” answered Steve Doocy of Fox & Friends.
This was the break they’d been waiting for. Benghazi hadn’t stopped Obama from getting reelected, and the Congressional hearings on the matter in May didn’t get anywhere, but at last Obama would be found guilty, in the court of public opinion if nowhere else, of killing those people on September 11, 2012.
“60 Minutes confirms Benghazi is a real scandal, and you’ve been lied to,” headlined William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection. Later he added, “Update: 11-8-2013: 60 Minutes backs off Benghazi witness story.” Turned out star witness Dylan Davies’ story hadn’t checked out. Stories like “Behind 60 Minutes’ Bungled Benghazi Report” started appearing in places like National Review.
“Conspiracy theorists may wonder if the entire ’60 Minutes’ expose was designed to fail and be discredited, giving the Administration a chance to smear everyone interested in the Benghazi story as an obsessive on a careless mission to draw blood from Team Obama any way they can,” reported John Hayward at Breitbart.com “That’s quite a stretch, given the cost to the career reputations of Logan and her producer. On the other hand…”
This suspicion of complicity became a certainty when the New York Times published a story about Benghazi that contended Al Qaeda didn’t have much to do with it, and that the attack was in fact “fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam,” as the Obama Administration had said. “The New York Times Whitewashes Benghazi,” headlined Thomas Joscelyn at The Weekly Standard. “This article seems less like an investigation than a ham-fisted attempt to whitewash the records of President Obama and – maybe more importantly – potential 2016 presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,” said David Bossie at Breitbart.com. “N.Y. Times’ Benghazi Whitewash Backfires, Spotlights Obama/Clinton Coverup,” declared William F. Jasper at The New American, mainly on the evidence that people like him were still mad about it.
You might wonder why we’re all still talking about this. For rightbloggers, Benghazi is the smoking gun, something that connects Obama with the death of Americans in the cauldron of the Middle East conflict — not in the traditional way of having sent troops there, on which presidents always (well, usually) get a pass, but by a nefarious something-or-other — dereliction of duty, love of Muslims, or the whole video issue, which to them was proof that Obama was trying to cover something up (“the U.S. government blamed the attack on America itself” — Barry Rubin, PJ Media), which meant he must have committed a crime.
Given the confusion of the attack, it’s easy to believe something other than a normal fuck-up had to have been going on — if you’re motivated to think so. And they’re not short of motivation.
And as long as House Republicans and Fox News are still on the case, they may yet live in hope.
4. The little scandals that couldn’t. In case Benghazi doesn’t work, rightbloggers throughout 2013 collected dozens of other scandalettes that, though not as bloody, might do in a pinch to get Obama.
Maybe you remember the IRS scandalette, involving Tea Party groups who were mad that the IRS was slow about giving them tax-exempt status — as if they were common political operatives or something, despite their fanciful hats and knee-breeches. John Fund of National Review said this constituted “The Real Voter Suppression of 2012” because “at least two donors told me they didn’t contribute to True the Vote, a group formed to combat voter fraud, because after three years of waiting the group still didn’t have its [tax-exempt] status granted at the time of the 2012 election.” In addition to these at-least-two donors, “several conservative groups I talked with said they were directly impacted by having their non-profit status delayed by either IRS inaction or burdensome and intrusive questioning.” Not just burdensome questioning, but also inaction! It’s a wonder the Republic still stands.
Miraculously Obama wasn’t hauled off in irons for this, but rightbloggers still shake their wattles over it; “Is President Obama ‘too big to jail?'” asked Wayne Allyn Root at Fox News, who went on to tick off several scandalettes including “The AP scandal,” described by Root thus: “Obama and paranoid buddies like Attorney General Eric Holder are even illegally spying on their adoring Kool-Aid drinking friends in the media.”
This contempt for the alleged objects of illegal attention is telling: After years of yelling at the Lame Stream Media, rightbloggers are not very convincing at pretending to love freedom of the press — just as their outrage over government surveillance was unnoticeable during the Patriot Act/Bush era, but loudly professed in the wake of the NSA scandal — a real one, that, but also bipartisan, and unlikely to be seriously addressed so long as Republicans have hope of ever running the government again.
Root closed, “Forget impeachment, it’s time for criminal prosecution.” Yet no one besides rightbloggers is joining them with pitchforks and rope. Why? Because the scandalettes are, like the birth certificate and the Whitey Tape and other such controversies these guys have marveled over since before Obama was elected, shaky as hell.
Yet (or should that be “So”?) rightbloggers keep coming up with new ones. “NEW OBAMA SCANDAL ERUPTS: TRUMP TARGETED,” declared Jeffrey Lord at The American Spectator. (Short version: the New York State Attorney General sued Trump University; Obama met with the New York State Attorney General; presto! A high crime and/or misdemeanor!)
From last September’s Congressional shutdown, we got “Judicial Watch Files FOIA for Information Related to Closing of WWII Memorial” from PJ Media. Apparently Obama’s Park Service thugs had no Constitutional right to put up barricades after the Republicans shut down the government. Wait’ll Mr. and Mrs. America get a load of that! And Umbrellagate!
It got so anything Obama did that they didn’t like could be called a scandal. National Review‘s Stanley Kurtz told readers about that time in 2008 when Obama’s campaign “launched a series of novel and troubling assaults on its critics” — that is, complained to the Justice Department and the FCC about what they contended was an illegal campaign ad — and called it, “Conservative Media Predicted Obama’s First-Amendment Scandals.”
This is ridiculous, but Kurtz could be confident that his readers would take it at face value, along with the alleged murder of Michael Hastings and the other scandalettes rightbloggers have loaded onto their Bills of Particulars over the past few years, in hopes that one of them would stick (“Impeach Obama Rallies Heat Up As 2013 Scandals Surge,” wrote Christopher Zara at International Business Times, back in June).
If they don’t add up to an indictable offense, they at least provide a soothing alternative reality in which our middle-of-the-road President is actually a diabolical master criminal, and they, not the majority of American voters, were right about him all along.
(For more, check Conservative American’s “Obama Scandals List” — they have 2,325. Sample: “Obama Lied About Need to Take on Entitlements ‘Quickly!'”)
3. Obamacare is impossible. In October, rightbloggers jumped on the botched debut of Obamacare. Then, over time, as the government health insurance program toted up nearly 2 million enrollees, rightbloggers jumped on the botched debut of Obamacare.
Well, what would you do in their place? The rollout lent a shade of credibility to the rightblogger claim that the Affordable Care Act was not only a bad idea, but an impossible one that could never be realized, notwithstanding that most of the civilized world already have national systems. Convergences of rightblogger tropes and actual events aren’t so common that they can afford to abandon any one of them at the first sign of change.
At the Wall Street Journal, James Taranto compared Obamacare to the invasion of Iraq, which he meant unfavorably. “One of the strongest critiques of the Iraq effort… is that it took hubris to suppose that the U.S. could simply export democracy to a distant land and expect it to have a quick, benevolent and transformative effect on the entire region,” he wrote. “That was frequently characterized as the ‘neocon’ view. If so, isn’t ObamaCare the perfect example of ‘neocon’ hubris in domestic policy?” Given that Taranto had previously written, “no philosophical breakthroughs have occurred over the past decade to render the moral and legal justifications for the war untenable in retrospect,” that might be taken as an endorsement, so Taranto also compared Obamacare to Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina — worse than that, actually: “President Bush didn’t push Hurricane Katrina through Congress without a single vote from the other party” — so people wouldn’t get confused, or at least not confused in a way he didn’t intend.
Most of the characterizations weren’t that sophisticated, relying heavily on simple, easy-to-use similes and metaphors, which is largely why, when you look up “Obamacare” and “train wreck” in Google, you get about 738,000 results. “Obamacare has become a punch line, a joke, a catastrophic catastrophe, squared,” essayed J. Christian Adams, one of the more ambitious of the brethren.
As the feds scrambled to pull things together, the brethren ran to each repair site and yelled at the workmen. First they complained that some people had to change their non-ACA-compliant plans under Obamacare. Then, when the government said okay, the people who had to change their non-ACA-compliant plans under Obamacare could keep them for an extra year, rightbloggers complained that was illegal, enlisting to argue the proposition such distinguished jurists as Bush’s torture defender John Yoo.
Some took the initiative to make problems up. At the New York Post, Bob McManus said incoming New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had a “huge ObamaCare problem,” because the program meant less business for cash-strapped city hospitals. For example, “both the government and insurers have been heavily incentivizing ‘wellness initiatives’ — quit-smoking and diet programs and so on — meant to dramatically cut hospitals out of the picture.” Fewer sick people means less income. Talk about unintended consequences!
Every hiccup in implementation was declared evidence that the program couldn’t work. When, more recently, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor allowed a stay to one of the many parties fighting the contraception feature in Obamacare plans, National Review‘s Kathryn J. Lopez said hopefully, “Perhaps Justice Sotomayor’s interest in the religious-liberty violation facing the Little Sisters of the Poor is an opportunity for all of Congress to reconsider what they’ve done in passing this monstrosity, with all its implications, including on religious freedom.”
This all-or-nothing approach may keep rightblogger spirits buoyant, but as enrollment continues — and more states and their citizens are signed on to the Medicaid feature of Obamacare — it looks less likely that the program will be repealed. We expect that in the years to come, opposing the Affordable Care Act will be like opposing Social Security and Medicare — something rightbloggers endorse, but which their avatars in the Republican Party try to keep on the down-low, lest they piss off the millions who rely on it.
2. Ooga booga to the nth power. We’ve written in the past about rightbloggers who believe black Americans all conspire to Kill Whitey. But in 2013 the message really metastasized, thanks in large part to the Trayvon Martin case, which presented an invitation to fantasize shooting a mouthy black kid that many rightbloggers found impossible to resist. It says something that after the trial was over, many of them predicted a wave of anti-white assaults that never materialized; it was as if even the vicarious thrill of George Zimmerman’s acquittal couldn’t ease their fear of black people.
They stayed jumpy. When about a month ago there was an uptick in the “knockout game” practiced by some black urban hoods against white victims, the usual suspects again cried race war. After a short break, they got flustered again when a white guy was charged with a federal hate crime for allegedly knockout-gaming a black guy.
“It’s Only a Federal Hate Crime When a White Guy ‘Plays’ It,” roared Kimberly Paxton of The Daily Sheeple. “The ‘Knockout Game’ Is a Hate Crime, But Only if You Are White!” cried Robert Lindsay of Beyond Highbrow. “THE KNOCKOUT GAME FINALLY RESULTS IN HATE CRIMES CHARGES”, proclaimed Human Events. “After months of silence regarding the black-on-white violence common to the ‘knockout’ game… federal authorities have charged a white man with a hate crime,” complained AWR Hawkins at Breitbart.com
Actually, a couple of black guys have been charged with hate crimes for knockout-related offenses recently, though under local ordinances — and hate-crime charges frequently get made against black people. But the real significance for rightbloggers in this case is that the suspect is white, and Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are black — and you know how those people stick together.
“DOJ whistleblower J. Christian Adams has extensively documented the level of poisonous ideology that has infected the department under the direction of Eric Holder, who has turned the agency into a lawless tool of racial politics,” claimed Arnold Ahlert at FrontPageMag. “In this case, the thug is white and the victim is black,” reasoned The Jawa Report. “That makes this a hate crime, while the others, apparently, are not to this Administration.” “In this administration it appears that color always does matter,” snarled Scared Monkeys. Etc.
It’s a common and persistent complaint. Whenever black folks have the bad taste to bring up their alleged mistreatment by white society, someone like Rod Dreher of the American Conservative will ask, what about white people problems? “The time that stands out to me was years ago, when I was applying for a newspaper job that I really wanted, and was told that I was perfect for it,” sobbed Dreher. “Then the paper stopped returning my calls. Finally, an executive there told me that either the editor-in-chief or the publisher, can’t remember which, decreed that a minority or a woman must be hired for that job. It was humiliating and infuriating to me. All I was to that newsroom executive was a white male.” We’ve all been there, haven’t we?
And so the brethren stay poised at the barricades, looking for signs of black privilege about which to loudly complain. It may seem a counterproductive political strategy as the percentage of whites in America is shrinking, but we don’t think it’s really a strategy at all; we think it’s something they just can’t help.
1. Reality TV and Twitter ads as signifiers of manliness. Butchitude is especially significant to conservatives who, from cowboy Ronald Reagan to flightsuit George W. Bush, have relied on a Marlboro-man, Daddy-party image to put their ruinous policies over. But recent years have made traditional chest-beating a tougher sell than previously. On the internet, feminists can actually make themselves heard, for one thing, and their direct derision at “mansplaining” has taken its toll on American Manceptionalism. With Republicans out of power and politically, you should pardon the expression, impotent, rightbloggers find themselves with no war to sell, indeed with no argument from butchness to propose.
It was inevitable, perhaps, that rightbloggers’ totems of masculinity would get weirder and thinner. And the Robertson family on Duck Dynasty is a perfect example: These rich sporting goods magnates who discovered that pretending to be rednecks on TV was a good way to sell merch became a big rightwing deal in 2013.
At first they were pushed as avatars of godly, conservative family-values, particularly in contrast to the less godly redneck family on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. From our perspective this sounds like pre-teens arguing over who would win in a fight between the Flash and Batman, but the brethren took it way more seriously.
“America, if you want to know what the establishment media and the beneficent federal government think of you, tune your television sets in to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” declared Charles Hurt at Breitbart.com; in contrast, “The Robertsons have remained faithful to their roots, traditions, and, most importantly, their religion,” said Hurt. “In one episode aired recently, the patriarch [Phil Robertson] observed: ‘Uptown living, you’ve got to call 911. Where I am, I am 911.’ Truly, an observation worthy of Alexis de Toqueville or the Federalist Papers.”
Later when it turned out that patriarch Phil’s de Toquevillean pronouncements included comparisons of gays to pig-fuckers and a strange observation that black people were never “singing the blues” back before desegregation, the network suspended them, and rightbloggers discovered a new Constitutional amendment allowing fake rednecks to stay on reality shows no matter what their network wanted.
The network later allowed Robertson pere to skate with some cosmetic diversity bullshit, and this the brethren considered a great victory over two of their primary hate-objects, the media and gays. Tony Lee of Breitbart.com promised conservatives would remember who stood and who failed to stand with the Dynasts: Sarah Palin’s, Bobby Jindal’s, and Ted Cruz’s support Lee contrasted with “the silence of the Republican establishment, its leadership, and the Republican National Committee. The latter focused instead on Kwanzaa and promoting amnesty…”
Yes, fake rednecks winning a fake fight was their idea of a political watershed — and a model wearing pajamas in an Obamacare ad was their idea of a provocation. A few weeks back we covered the weird obsession rightbloggers had with this single, unremarkable image, which they dubbed “Pajama Boy” and seemed to consider either offensively gay or offensively gay-except-we’re-not-offended-by-gays-at-least-officially-haha-j/k.
In any event, rightbloggers were convinced Obama was using the photographic image as voodoo to corrupt America in the cojones region. Victor Davis Hanson‘s blargh-gasm at PJ Media, for example, attacked the “nerdy-looking child-man dressed in infantile pajamas” and everything he represented, which per Hanson included “Michelle Obama,” “Al Sharpton,” “Chris Rock,” “Jamie Foxx” (“jokes about how fun it was to play a character killing white people”), “male sodomy,” “Miley Cyrus,” “Silicon Valley,” “[the] Upper West Side,” “the grating nasal-twanged voices of our young talking heads on the news shows,” etc. Hanson also claimed no one watched Oprah, listened to rap, or went to the movies anymore, and perhaps on his planet they don’t.
If the controversy was unseemly in week one, it got even weirder in week two. When Power Line’s John Hinderaker found out Taylor Swift had sent an Instagram of herself wearing pajamas, he flipped out: was Swift “the only person in the USA who doesn’t know that plaid onesies, paired with hot chocolate and nerd glasses, have been mercilessly mocked by millions for the past week,” he wondered? Or was she “subtly sticking up for Obamacare”? The idea that she might have just been wearing pajamas didn’t occur to him.
“How can the Obamacare promoters recover from this colossal public relations blunder?” asked Bayou Renaissance Man. He seems to have missed the point — not to mention the last five years of American politics (as covered by us!). One of the Democrats’ great weapons in the Obama era has been the overreactions of their enemies. If one of these guys goes up to a normal person and starts raving about Duck Dynasty or Pajama Boy, he probably won’t win a fan for his cause.
But maybe it doesn’t matter. Really, our whole list suggests that rightbloggers aren’t interested in winning hearts and minds at all. Why should they be? Those people who don’t already agree with them are low-information voters, as Rush Limbaugh has told them, and thus unlikely to be swayed by rightbloggers’ highly developed argument — which is that Fake President Obama is leading Benghazi jihad with violent blacks, man-hating feminists, and totalitarian homosexuals against patriots but will be defeated by Duck Dynasty and Sarah Palin. Much better, then, to repurpose that argument as a fable to tell one another during the long, voteless nights. It’s not like politics really means anything, anyway.