Into the abyss

13 03 2007

What is the Matrix?

[What is the matrix? by t-mix at Flickr under Creative Commons licence.]

Great article by Gary Kamiya at Salon (click through the ad for a day pass). Gary’s one of my favourite writers (when he focuses on communicating ideas rather than jetting off on rhetorical flourishes), and in this piece he looks at what the U.S. right’s embrace of Ann Coulter really means.

If you’re not a connoisseur of the increasingly unhinged political discourse in America, here’s the basic story: Coulter, one of the right’s shriller firebrands, set off a media storm when she called Democratic Presidential nominee John Edwards a “faggot”. And she didn’t say it just anywhere. This family moment came at the annual meeting of the American Conservative Union’s Political Action Conference, the largest gathering of core conservatives on the U.S. right’s calendar.

In the aftermath, she was loudly denounced by liberals and some conservatives. Some right wingers even launched a petition to put pressure on conservative and university organisations to stop inviting her to deliver speeches (h/t Tim F. at Balloon Juice).

But, as many liberal commentators and bloggers have pointed out, the right can no more easily disentangle itself from Coulter than conjoined twins can wish themselves separated. As Kamiya says, the hatred that Coulter represents and which is her only talent, is the very reason the modern right has embraced her:

[T]his isn’t really about Coulter at all. This is about a pact the American right made with the devil, a pact the devil is now coming to collect on. American conservatism sold its soul to the Coulters and Limbaughs of the world to gain power, and now that its ideology has been exposed as empty and its leadership incompetent and corrupt, free-floating hatred is the only thing it has to offer. The problem, for the GOP, is that this isn’t a winning political strategy anymore — but they’re stuck with it. They’re trapped. They need the bigoted and reactionary base they helped create, but the very fanaticism that made the True Believers such potent shock troops will prevent the Republicans from achieving Karl Rove’s dream of long-term GOP domination.

Kamiya goes on to link this to the right’s Quixotic culture war. He makes a couple of great points about how the extremism now leading the Republicans (and, might I add, the media!) by the nose is far from conducive to sustained electoral success. While 9/11 was a stab of adrenalin into the right-wing bloodstream, allowing them to foist an incipient authoritarianism on the country, the moderates that comprise the bulk of the body politic are beginning to turn away in droves.

Then he makes a great point.

Yet despite their supposed beliefs, a kind of nihilism,an intellectual sterility, emanates from the Coulters and Limbaughs of the world. This is in part due to the fact that they are, at bottom, entertainers, stand-up comedians of resentment. Their riffs are so facile and endless that they devour whatever actual beliefs supposedly stand behind them. Incapable of compromise or nuance, lashing out robotically, never finding common ground or examining their own ideas, they are shills of negativity, forever battling cartoonish monsters in a lurid, increasingly unrecognizable world. [Emphasis added]

My summary hardly does the article justice; read the whole thing.

The interesting thing for me from a Kiwi perspective is that we’ve started to see this brand of authoritarianism being imported to New Zealand. I’m still sorting out my ideas about this and will post my thoughts when they’re more solidified. For now, let this, from Investigate Magazine‘s blog,, whet your appetite. It’s about a recent study finding that polar bear numbers in an area of Canada are on the rise despite concerns about declining numbers in the wider Arctic.

Momma polar bear with her two cubs is pretty cute huh?

A perfect icon for urban liberals to fret over as the sup their Starbucks.

She might not be so cute close up though. She might well think an urban liberal or two would make a tasty change from seals to feed to her cubs.


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