Editor's Notes

True North Perspective
Vol. 6, No. 2 (259)
Friday, January 14, 2010

Twilight of the American liberal

Death by a thousand (self-inflicted) cuts

"And if those of us considered to be on the left do not re-dedicate ourselves to our vigilance, to eliminate all our own suggestions of violence, however inadvertent they might have been, however mild they might have been, then we too deserve the repudiation of the more sober and peaceful of our politicians, and our viewers, and our networks.
"Here, once, in a clumsy metaphor, I made such an unintended statement about the presidential candidacy of then-senator Clinton. It sounded as if it was a call to physical violence. It was wrong then, it is even more wrong tonight. I apologize for it again and I urge politicians and commentators and citizens of every political conviction to use my comment as a means to recognize the insidiousness of violent imagery ..." — Keith Olbermann

Keith Olbermann responded to Saturday's shooting of American Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords (and close to 20 others) with a passionate call from arms, a nine-minute plea to "both sides" of the American political discourse to pull back from the rhetoric of violence, as if it is mere imagery that has bred the climate of fear that has seen the American people shed their civil liberties as willingly as they shed their shoes and dignities at their airports.

Olbermann's was a noble and humane call for a return to mutual respect, with an equally noble mea culpa for his own excesses. (The video is at right.)
Noble and humane, Olbermann's call was also blind and utterly wrong-headed.
Really, it is hard to know what is more pathetic: that Olbermann so earnestly calls for reason from the unreasonable or that he lumps his own misdemeanours in with the high crimes of his enemies.
The so-called American left in action. Cartoon by Matt Bors, Comics.com, December 13, 2010.
Sadly — no, not sadly, tragically, and like most of his fellow-travellers on the so-called left wing of mainstream American politics — Olbermann just doesn't get it. He won't or can't see the truth of what it is that he is up against.
Saturday's dead and wounded are only "collateral damage" to the billionaires behind the useful idiots in the Tea Party; to the unrepentant war-criminals of the Bush administration; to the looters who brought the American banking system to its knees, then raided the coffers of the American people to pay for the damage; or to the heirs of Goebbels, on Fox News and talk radio, telling and re-telling lies without any shame whatsoever.
These are the people with whom Olbermann hopes to drive some pact, so that like Chambelain home from Munich, he can claim to have bargained for peace in our time.
Like Chamberlain, he might get the treaty but he won't get any more peace than did the then British Prime Minister.
These are not "honourable men" who believe in the American experiment in republican democracy. They no more have at heart the interests of the American people than they did those of the Iraqi people in 2003. Make no mistake: despite the ritual hand-ringing, they are not in the least bit sorry that Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head on Saturday, because that was a victory. Sarah Palin may have taken down the gun-sights from her website, but she is not going to stop demonizing her opponents, nor will her allies stop working to create a climate of terror — because, after all, the strategy is working.
Saturday's shooting was not the result of a specific plot. No one hired the shooter or provided him plans.
What was the result of a plot, or rather, of several decades of plotting, was the atmosphere of fear, paranoia and resentment in which the shooting took place. When you want to destroy a democracy, when you want to shatter civil society, you need to make people afraid; and there's little more terrifying than the knowledge that there really are crazy people with guns out there who want to get you.
Sarah Palin's website, prior to the shooting, above.
"We're on Sarah Palin's targeted list. But the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they've got to realize there are consequences ..."  — Rep.Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., to MSNBC in March of last year.

(It's not just victims of implicit and explicit threats who have been raising the alarm, either. In April of 2009, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security itself issued an internal report warning of the rise of right wing extremism. Sarah Palin and friends can offer as many "sincere condolences" as they like, but they can't honestly claim to be surprised by what has happened.)

Sowing fear is a strategy of fascists.
That's right, I said it. I used the F-word.
I did so deliberately and I will use it again. The movements falsely claiming the "conservative" label in American politics are fascist and it is time (more than time) to say it out loud. It is time to call liars, liars, hate-mongers, hate-mongers, and fascists, fascists.
If liberal (and even conservative) Americans hope to save their republic, they need to face the fact that a climate of fear and paranoia — of terror has been deliberately fostered in the collective consciousness of the United States ever since 9/11. This shooting only furthers that end. Fascism requires a climate of fear in order to thrive, in order to rally gullible, but fundamentally decent, people to the twin banners of fear and hatred.
Olbermann's well-meant plea for mutual respect, and especially his pathetic self-flagellation, might momentarily make his fellow liberals feel good about themselves, but his enemies will rightfully mock him behind his back, even as they offer pious yet vague sympathies to the dead and wounded in public.
The brown-shirts are not yet marching in the streets of the United States of America, but if the majority in that country is not willing to pull the blinders from their eyes very soon, they will be.