A lot has been said lately about the presumed “cognitive dissonance” coming from the right. In fact, I think what we’re seeing is not so much cognitive dissonance as it is arguing in bad faith. We’re observing different levels of a lie, as various right wingers first deny, then hide, then attempt to justify a single, consistent, and damning fact.
They don’t think liberals have the right to be liberal. Or at least, not in public where Right Wingers can see them.
If I’m to understand the rationalizations coming from the right, from both the dizzy heights of Rush Limbaugh to the depths of the right-wing blogosphere:
The Right Wing does not engage in inappropriate behavior. John Lewis and others like him (if you know what I mean, and I think you do) made up that stuff about being called “nigger” or spat on because that’s just what those people do! (They’re always complaining.)
…And I don’t even think this was genuine, I think all of this was strategized. I don’t think that anybody spat on Cleaver, I don’t think that anybody called Barney Frank the ‘F’ word, I don’t think anybody called John Lewis the ‘N’ word. There’s no evidence of it other than them. Rush Limbaugh, 3/24/10
Our side doesn’t do this kind of stuff! This is all made up, 95% of it is being made up, and it’s being done to divert everybody’s attention. Rush Limbaugh, 3/25/10
He was lying. Andrew Breitbart on John Lewis’s claim that he was called a “nigger” while walking through a crowd of tea partiers. 3/29/10http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201003290055
And if too many witnesses were present to deny the actual utterance of the word “nigger,” or Emmanuel Cleaver being spat on is actually captured on camera, or Tea Partiers are filmed insulting and mocking a counter-demonstrator with Parkinson’s Disease, Democrats probably staged those incidents to garner sympathy. It was Democrats who threw bricks through the windows of their own headquarters in various locations across the country, and liberals who insinuated themselves among the tea partiers to shout “nigger” and spit and wave inappropriate signs and publicly make fun of a disabled man. Liberals do this just to make conservatives look bad.
...if someone shouted something so grotesque, it was either a plant, an infiltrator, or a freak who attached himself to a group that wants no part of him. Pam Geller, Atlas Shrugged, 3/21/10
Anyone remember the Democratic Party fanatic who attacked his own Democratic Party offices than tried to blame it on Republicans a couple of years back? Free Republic post 3/22/10
…What’s gonna happen here is that Obama-ites and SEIU people are going to be fake members of the tea party. They’re gonna dress up, they’re gonna be clean, they’re gonna look just like all the other tea-partiers do, and they’re gonna start throwing eggs,and they’re gonna start beating people up, what have you, and they’re gonna start shouting the ‘N’ word whenever they have the chance, they will do anything to discredit the Tea Party…Rush Limbaugh, 4/2/10 http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201004020053
If the right wingers who did this stuff actually brag about it afterwards, (like the blogger who inspired the vandalism of Democratic Party offices) or find themselves restored to sanity and gracefully apologize (like the guy who pelted the Parkinson’s patient with dollar bills), then the liberals and Democrats in question obviously deliberately incited this perfectly understandable behavior by being liberals in front of innocent-but-passionate right wingers. Nancy Pelosi did not walk through that crowd with John Lewis as a gesture of solidarity and courage after Lewis was heckled and called a “nigger” by the Tea Partiers. Liberals can’t be courageous! They’re bad! It was part of a fanatical plot to incite violence against herself.
…and yet, here she was last Sunday, walking through that crowd. She was so afraid and she was afraid of the rhetoric, but she decided to ratchet it up by walking through a sea of people…Glenn Beck 3/26/10
…There’s no reason that that group of people from Congress had to walk through the crowd. They never go to the Capital that way, they get there through the underground tunnels! They want, and Pelosi carrying that big gavel with that excrement-eating grin on her face, they were trying to provoke everybody into an incident! Rush Limbaugh 4/2/10
The very act of being a liberal is, they believe, so outrageous, so vile, that it qualifies as an intolerable provocation that puts the onus on what happens next squarely on the shoulders of the liberal rather than the righteous right-winger who hits, spits, yells epithets, or hurls bricks.
This last explains much about the increasingly vicious tenor of right wing rhetoric. It explains that woman who, during the 2008 presidential campaign, decided to take a stand by denying Halloween candy to the children of Obama supporters. It explains the doctor who recently decided to turn away Obama-supporting patients, the volunteer gun safety instructor last year in Tulsa who ordered liberals out of his class, the recent Tea Party embrace of a man who lost part of a finger in the service of repeatedly punching a counter-demonstrator in the face. It explains footage of tea partiers mocking and shouting down sick people who dare to express what tea partiers perceive as “liberal” views in support of healthcare reform.
In the minds of many of these people, liberals shouldn’t express liberal opinions, vote for liberal leaders, or, if elected, pass liberal legislation, and those who do should be punished for it. The proper and reasonable response to liberals, in their mind, is not to attempt to change liberal minds, or to out vote them, but to silence liberals through sheer lung power or raw intimidation. Make the everyday lives of avowed liberals as difficult as possible. Turn liberals away from the doctors’ offices or publicly funded safety classes. Make the children of liberals cry.
Since abusing a liberal is so natural, so patriotic a response, liberals who are openly liberal are deliberately inviting vandalism, spitting, name-calling, and even physical attacks.
All the other things – expressed doubts about President Obama’s birthplace or religion, claims that he’s using “unconstitutional” methods to pass healthcare legislation – all that’s just smoke, just excuses.
What it boils down to is a rejection of the notion that any but their own views have a place in the public square.