May 25, 2009

If you want an example of how "centrism" is its own specially blinkered ideology, check out the rant from David Zurawik, the Baltimore Sun's media critic, yesterday on CNN's Reliable Sources with Howard Kurtz:

OLBERMANN: You saved no one, Mr. Cheney. All you did was help kill Americans.

In the name of God, go.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KURTZ: David Zurawik, what do you make of a cable culture where some of these anchors and hosts get really, really mad, or upset or emotional, and it seems to work for them?

ZURAWIK: Howie, they're speaking for a visceral response. And honestly -- I don't want to overstate this, Howie, and you know from time to time I do -- risk that. But it's really that path lies fascism.

I mean, what we need as a democracy is reliable information. This is the opposite of it.

And by the way, that clip of Olbermann just really, I think, encapsulates it. This is a bizarro world or cartoon version of Edward R. Murrow with the cadence and this arch rhetoric and all this, but he is saying madman stuff.

So, heated debate is the sign of fascism? Sounds like Zurawick has been reading Jonah Goldberg.

A clue for David Zurawick: Keith Olbermann may have been contentious and even tendentious, but there's a factual case behind his observations that Dick Cheney likely did not save any lives -- after all, 3,000 Americans died on his watch on 9/11, and there is simply no public evidence whatsoever that the measures he enacted afterward actually thwarted any serious terrorist acts -- and his actions in promoting the invasion of Iraq in fact cost thousands of American lives, and over a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians' lives.

That's called robust debate. Fascism, on the other hand, entails the antithesis of debate -- it argues for the elimination of the opposition, not engagement. And it acts accordingly. When we see Keith Olbermann organizing or simply encouraging street thugs to go out and beat up Dick Cheney and his supporters, then he might have a legitimate concern about fascism.

Moreover, there's nothing quite as overheated, as contentious and tendentious, as calling people fascists, is there? -- particularly when you use the term as carelessly and thoughtlessly as Zurawick does here. Hello, pot, meet kettle.

But the really bizarre aspect of this is that Zurawick is really most upset about MSNBC in general, who he attacked throughout the segment (he doesn't like their weekend fill-in programming, but exactly what kind of media critic tries to claim that fill-in programming is evidence that MSNBC doesn't staff its national bureaus? Besides an utterly ignorant one, that is?).

Moreover, Zurawick seems to think the MSNBC invented the ideologically leaning opinion-news format that has him so worked up:

ZURAWIK: It's not therapeutic. They really target people, their opposition.

Even Rachel Maddow, who is the nicest, with her snide smile and arched eyebrow and mocking, they target people and hold them up for ridicule. It's exactly what happened in propaganda in the '30s in Europe. I'm not kidding you.


ASHBURN: And I think that's true. I also think that the bottom line is this is not good for society. I mean, this constant inflammation and fighting on issues, you learn in kindergarten that this is the way you're supposed to behave.

ZURAWIK: You're absolutely right. I couldn't agree more with that.

The effect on society and on this democracy of this angry, polarizing, bitter kind of putdown conversation is dangerous. And it's from the very people who say they're news channels.

Just wondering:

Has Zurawick managed to tune in Fox News at any point in the past 13 years?

Has he happened to notice that their entire style over those years has been predicated on "targeting people and holding them up for ridicule"?

Has he ever clued into the fact that "putdown conversation" is what not just Fox but all of talk radio is predicated upon?

And during those years -- before MSNBC dropped the "Fox lite" routine and forged its own path -- has Zurawick ever managed to point out what Fox was doing was "exactly what happened in propaganda in the '30s in Europe"?

The answer, of course, is "Nope."

Because for "centrists" -- who largely are just conservatives who can't stomach the racism and bigotry that permeates movement conservatism, so they call themselves something else -- this kind of behavior only matters when liberals do it.

Centrists have their own biases. Most of all, they like to adopt the fallacy of the middle whenever it becomes obvious that liberals have an important point to make, and wail and gnash that they're engaging in "extremism" -- a charge they never seem to make against conservatives. Funny how that works.

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