Depending on how you look at it, 2015 has been either a terrible year for American politics or a disastrous year for American politics. Thank goodness, then, for our friends the rightbloggers, who made everything a little better by trying to make it worse — and managing to fail in some spectacular ways. Laughter really is the best medicine, even for decline and fall. So let us savor some choice examples:
10. Manspreading is an uncivil right! Twenty-fifteen saw rightblogger discourse (which has never exactly been female-friendly) adopt a querulous Men’s Rights/MRA edge. Take the reaction of PJ Media’s Helen Smith to a New York City subway campaign against “manspreading” — the obnoxious habit of bros airing their junk by jutting their knees in front of adjoining seats. You’d think this would be non-controversial, but when one of the program’s supporters jokingly called the campaign “subway shaming,” Smith pounced: “So, if it’s okay to subway-shame men, is it okay to slut-shame women?” she cried. “Slut-shaming is ‘defined by many as a process in which women are attacked for their transgression of accepted codes of sexual conduct.’ So now men are attacked. Why is one form of sexism okay and the other not? And don’t give me the crap about the patriarchy…the war on men is alive and well in NYC.” Next: How complaining about raised toilet seats feminizes society.
9. Planned Parenthood fantasy camp. An anti-abortion group’s Planned Parenthood sting videos got rightbloggers all steamed up about their fetal friends, especially after Carly Fiorina confused the videos with real life at a Republican debate. Sensing the moment ripe for a conciliatory gesture, A.D.P. Efferson of The Federalist tried to bridge the gap between herself and the pro-choice friends she pretended to have. For her essay, “Why Good People Support Planned Parenthood,” Efferson brought in expert testimony: “Shedding light on this idea is Clay Jones from Biola University, who has spent the last several decades studying the psychology of genocide. His research exploring human depravity…” If you guessed the outreach didn’t go well after that, congratulations: “Jones explains it this way: ‘When you read genocide studies you find that most murderers also did many nice things: walked the family dog, baked cookies, gave gifts’…” See, baby-killers? She gets where you’re coming from! Now let’s have a little chin-wag about your role in the upcoming Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings.
8. Elect Me — Who Knows, Maybe This Time I’ll Do Better. Speaking of Fiorina, remember when some people thought she might be the Republican nominee? That was weird, especially since by consensus her greatest achievement was almost destroying Hewlett-Packard as CEO. Some rightbloggers tried to talk their way around this — by, say, omitting all mention of HP — but Bloomberg columnist Megan McArdle came up with what I consider the greatest save since Otter’s defense of Delta House: “Critiques of Fiorina’s tenure seem excessively focused on the outcome.” (McArdle also found “persuasive” the argument that “if Fiorina wasn’t the best CEO in history, she certainly wasn’t the worst, either.” May we all be graded on so generous a curve!)
7. The Night They Drove Some Dickhead Down. After Dylann Roof mass-murdered a bunch of black people in June, many citizens and even some Republican politicians got serious about getting rid of their Confederate bric-a-brac, including the Battle Flag. But the Old Standard had defenders among the rightbloggers. At National Review Charles C.W. Cooke wept over the removal of the flag from…the roof of the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard. “The General Lee is a piece of America’s cultural history,” sniffed Cooke, “and civilized people do not vandalize their antiques.” Well, their collectibles, anyway. Cooke continued:
Questions abound: Must the owners of Monticello take Wite-Out to Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, lest the more egregious passages offend our modern sensibilities?; Must the custodians of vintage Aunt Jemima boxes throw them into the Mississippi to atone for their ugly anachronisms?… Just as to burn an unwanted book is not to kill its author, to paint over the roof of an attitude-laden car is in no way to go back in time and to eradicate that attitude from the record.
Purty talk, Mr. Englishman, but them flags is a-comin’ down, bringing true sons of the South and their strange sympathizers one step closer to Yankee tyranny.
6. Speaking of Civil War… Hollywood screenwriter Roger L. Simon has been with PJ (formerly Pajamas) Media for ten wonderful years, and in 2015 he was apparently eager to step up his game: After the January Charlie Hebdo killings, for example, he suggested the White House was infested with an Islamic terrorist sleeper cell. But his best work came in September: While most rightbloggers had been content to predict defeat in 2016 for Hillary Clinton, or that her presidency would be a failure, Simon suggested Clinton’s election could lead to a “full scale depression like the 1930s,” “urban riots that make Baltimore and Ferguson look like Kiddyland,” and, finally, “yes, remote a possibility as it may be, a violent civil war between between sides in a hugely split society.” Look, if anyone was paying attention to predictions like these, you think Bill Kristol would still have a job? That leaves one question, though — once Clinton’s nominated and starts topping some general election polls, what does Simon do for an encore? Cue the wrath of God from The Ten Commandments! Now that’s entertainment.
5. The gay cake jihad. Heterosexual-hegemony-wise, it was a bad year for rightbloggers: Before Obergefell v. Hodges, decided on June 26, there was the controversy over the RFRAs meant to protect states from having to acknowledge the public accommodation rights of gay people — specifically, the dreaded forced-wedding-cakebaking that conservatives predicted would turn America into a gay concentration camp. Timothy P. Carney denounced “the awesome power wielded by the anti-religious freedom side [hyphenation sic]” thusly: “Tolerance isn’t the goal. Religious conservatives must atone for their heretical views with acts of contrition: Bake me a cake, photograph my wedding, pay for my abortion and my contraception.” Students of history will know that’s how Hitler started. Maybe next they’ll demand pedicures.
4. First gay marriage — then gay snack food. Obergefell was more than a victory for same-sex couples — it was a victory for comedy. The best of the related reactions, for my money, was that of Ed Straker — whom some suspect of being a ringer, but I haven’t found proof and in any case his publisher American Thinker seems to take him seriously: Enraged by a promotional run by Frito-Lay of Rainbow Doritos for Pride Month, Straker endorsed a boycott but took it a step further: “Furthermore,” he said, “I think we should push other companies to launch pro-heterosexual campaigns. Perhaps we could persuade a hot dog maker and a hot dog bun company to do a joint effort promoting man-woman relationships. Until we try sexualizing food like the left does, we’ll never know.” Maybe in this scheme the girls get the hot dogs and the boys get clam dip. That’ll grow ’em up right!
3. They call you crazy; we call you on Election Day and ask if you need a ride to the polls! If you heard about the alleged Jade Helm plot to take over swaths of Texas under cover of ordinary U.S. military exercises, you might imagine such conspiracy thinking was exclusively the province of fringe figures like Alex Jones, Rep. Louie Gohmert, and Governor Jim Abbott. Surprise! Rightbloggers got in on it too. “This is why I love Texans,” said Instapundit’s Elizabeth Price Foley. “And kudos to Abbott for doing what he thinks is right, knowing the onslaught of mainstream media criticism to come. A healthy dose of suspicion is warranted, especially with this administration.” “In this atmosphere of earned distrust, it is appropriate for elected officials to ask questions about even benign and well-meaning military exercises,” agreed David French at National Review. Translation: Shine on, you crazy diamonds, and make sure you’re registered to vote.
2. Obama by gaslight. Throughout his presidency rightbloggers have gone after Obama for all kinds of nonsense — like having Marines hold umbrellas for him, or for bowing to foreign leaders, or saluting with some sort of drink in his hand, and so forth. Unsympathetic observers may consider this petty and desperate. But that’s just what Obama wants you to think, argued Jim Geraghty at National Review, who suggested Obama was “gaslighting” Republicans by being so nonchalant about the things that enraged them:
Free community college? Hey, it’s never going to become law, so why not propose it and make Republicans look mean for not enacting it? Goofing around with a selfie stick? Go right ahead. Chewing gum at an international summit? Hey, what are they going to do, impeach him?
In this atmosphere, it’s no wonder Republicans are furious. A midterm election victory that was supposed to constrain President Obama’s ability to enact his agenda has only emboldened and liberated him…
Also, Geraghty went on, due to the “insanely imbalanced media landscape…almost any Republican expression of anger is portrayed as irrational, deep-seated hatred.” Even when the president is clearly chewing gum! The “zero fucks” theorists never knew how right they were.
1. The Greatest Donald Trump Comparison of All Time. As mainstream conservatives panic over the increasing possibility that rightwing id monster Donald Trump will be the GOP nominee, rightbloggers have feverishly tried to slow his rise. Most recently they’ve begun associating Trump with things they know their readers will consider undesirable. Obama’s an obvious choice, but perhaps stale from overuse; Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, and Jon Stewart have been used, too, to no avail. But at National Review, Peter Wood came up with a doozy:
Compare Mr. Trump with the episode in 1968 when William F. Buckley Jr. responded to a taunt by Gore Vidal on ABC in televised commentary on the Democratic Convention in Chicago. The famous exchange — Vidal calls Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” and Buckley responds by calling Vidal a “queer” — is receiving fresh attention in the documentary Best of Enemies. Buckley, in the words of Hendrik Hertzberg writing in The New Yorker, “immediately regretted” the slur, “and eventually wrote that he had returned to his dressing room in a state of despair.” But “Vidal had no such regrets about calling his opponent a crypto-Nazi. He knew he had triumphed.”
Buckley, the man of traditional values, despairs because his flash of verbal anger is a failure of self-control. Vidal, a man of the new era, exults because his taunt succeeded in breaking his opponent’s reserve. Today, Trump plays the part of Vidal, sneering at those over whom he would triumph…
That’s right: Someone at America’s top conservative publication said Donald Trump reminded him of Gore Vidal. Pretty crazy — but don’t worry, they’re bound to top it — 2016 is an election year!