Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Who's Pathological?

A few days ago, I suggested that conservative bashing of the New York Times is an act of rhetorical communion for members of the right wing, something to be done more to affirm one’s own part in a wider community than as an attempt to communicate about anything like the truth.

Almost on cue, Mark Hyman gives us proof of this, in
one of his ugliest and most inane swipes at the Gray Lady.

Covering ground that is already well-worn, Hyman attacks the New York Times for its recent story on financial tracking of terrorists. But going beyond even the garden variety conservative prattle, he actually accuses the editors of not caring about the lives of their fellow citizens and says Bill Keller, Executive Editor of the Times, is responsible for any and all future deaths related to terrorism.

Hyman attributes all this not to an overzealous desire to get a journalistic scoop, but to “pathological” and “visceral” hatred of George W. Bush. He doesn’t offer an explanation of why, if Bush hatred were the motivating factor of its editorial decisions, the Times would have run so many cheerleading stories that passed along the administration’s party line on Iraqi WMDs in the lead-up to the U.S. invasion.

He also doesn’t offer any explanation for why it’s the Times that’s responsible for future terrorist casualties, not the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, or Washington Post,
all of which published similar stories on the same day. (The conservative WSJ editorial board has groped for a way of attacking the Times while defending its own story, but as Media Matters for America has documented, their argument doesn’t hold water.)

He doesn’t explain why the New York Times is responsible for all future terrorist attacks, but the New York Daily News isn’t, even though the Daily News recently published accounts of a foiled terrorist plan over the objections of law enforcement officials. (As Media Matters for American notes,
Hyman is hardly alone in his hypocrisy here.)

Nor does Hyman offer any examples of specific pieces of information that the Times story gave terrorists that wasn’t already in the public domain.
Even former counterterrorism officials from the Bush White House acknowledge that the Times story didn’t disclose any new or unknown information.

And the
Columbia Journalism Review notes that even when conservative critics have tried to point out specific facts the Times’ story supposedly disclosed, they’re wrong. In some cases, the facts have been out there for years (and even been published in the New York Times long before now).

Not that any of these facts is relevant. After all, as I suggested earlier, attacking the Times has little or nothing to do with the facts. The attacks aren’t based on what the Times did in this instance, but on what it has been rhetorically constructed to represent in the conservative pantheon of Devil-terms. The Times stands for abstract concepts, such as New England elitism, urban liberalism, the established media, multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism, and a host of other perceived threats to the Republic.

And since the coming of the Bush administration, I suspect that the Times is also demonized as a representative of the “reality-based community” that so irks conservatives (as Stephen Colbert says, facts have a well-known liberal bias).

What makes Hyman’s particular invocation of this conservative mantra especially despicable is his personal vilification of the Times’ Executive Editor, accusing him and his colleagues of “literally sacrific[ing] American lives” to express their irrational hatred of the president, and encouraging viewers to blame him for any future terrorist acts.

This is a classic case of the rhetorical creation of a scapegoat. Don’t blame the president who brushed off a warning about an al-Qaeda attack against the U.S. with the petulant comment “O.K., you’ve covered your ass, now.” Don’t blame the members of the administration who hyped intelligence known to be at best dubious (and in some cases, known to be wrong) in order to talk the nation into instigating a war against a country that posed no imminent threat. Don’t blame the elected representatives of the G.O.P, whose consistent position has been to champion a counterproductive war. Don’t blame would-be pundits who call for jihad against the infidels as the only way to protect ourselves, but berate anyone as un-American who questions what might else have been done to reduce terrorism or to prevent 9/11 in the first place. Hell, don’t even blame the terrorists themselves: blame the evil New York Times.

Once again, Hyman projects his own issues (visceral and pathological hatred) onto a target, a target that symbolically represents the things Hyman himself hates. And in doing so, he makes the vilest of accusations imaginable.

The only conclusion I can draw is that what Hyman says about Keller applies to Hyman himself:

[He] and his crew are consumed with such pathological hatred they will forsake
anything moral, good and ethical in order to achieve their political goals.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 2.86


At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Herbert Birdsfoot said...

Well, apparently Clinton is too far in the past now to be blamed for everything.

Actually, I think Hyman is blowing it from a right wing strategy standpoint. Their spin is more successful when the audience doesn't realize the message is coming from the right (think John Stossel). By using such harsh language, Hyman will turn off alot of mainstream viewers (though his faithful followers will lap it up), and by calling his targets Bush haters, he has clearly identified the political bias in his message.

Oops! I hope I haven't revealed any strategic leftist secrets to Mark Hyman!

At 12:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ted, you really hit the nail on the head with your conclusion in this post. For those on the right, it's all about shifting the blame to avoid any reason for introspection.
Thanks, and keep bustin' Hyman.
Mike B. in SC

At 10:08 AM, Blogger Ted Remington said...

Hi Herbert and Mike!

I agree Hyman is using harsh language, and attacking the NYT for "hating Bush" when the vast majority of the country disapproves of the president themselves is not likely to get much traction.

On the other hand, attacking the Times for supposedly revealing security issues, Hyman is offering a reason (as bogus as it might be) for viewers of various political stripes to sympathize with the conservative worldview that an independent press isn't to be trusted. He's trying to make the NYT an enemy in the eyes of a broad audience, and to the extent he succeeds, he strengthens the chance that viewers will be receptive to future arguments made by conservatives that invoke this particular belief.

I also think that, as I say, attacking the NYT is simply an ingrained instinct in for conservatives--something that is done for the sake of doing it as much as for achieiving a specific goal. It's an act of communal identity.

I hope you're right, though, and that his over-the-top ranting will make people not only question him, but perhaps those who make similar arguments.



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