July 11, 2006

Conservatives, you have some work to do

Glenn Greenwald has become on of my regular reads. This post is just more about how horrible the right wing has become. As he notes, lefty's have their own idiots, but you don't have to look for obscure professors to find them among the right. Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, and others are prominently displayed in prime-time and talk radio.

Well, take a look at what passes for discourse. One right winger fippantly suggests that the five justices who voted against Bush in the Hamdan case be strung up. And that seems to be a common refrain among the right. Others say that we should hang the NYT's reporters. Others joke about nuking the middle east. The least violent seems to be the Malkins and Horowitz's who merely want to publish the home addresses of people they don't like.

This is way off the beam. Nothing resembling the America I grew up with. And I hold the conservatives largely responsible. It is you who have allowed the Fox discourse and talk radio to dominate our political landscape. It isn't that it is new to have wingnuts spouting hatred. It is new to have these asshats commonly excused by the so-called conservatives.

10 comments:

Gordon N. Trenchard said...

I agree that there are some extremem conservatives out there, but don't you think your going a bit far in more or less blaming all the problems of America at the feet of conservatives.

Bruce said...

If there is a sensible brand of conservatism left it is being consumed by the right wing attack politics that pervade talk radio and blogs.

The online presence of the angry conservative base is simply an extension of the talk radio network the right built years ago. The right wing bloggers simply need to hit on the same "we're the victims" themes the talk radio jocks have been ounding home for years.

Streak said...

Gordon,

I understand your point, but I am suggesting that all conservatives have allowed this to happen. Michelle Malkin brags that conservatives police themselves, unlike liberals (according to her) when people like Ward Churchill or Michael Moore say something remotely offensive. But conservatives don't police themselves, as is evident by the popularity of Ann Coulter, Malkin, O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and even more scary people. Conservatives have made them into celebrities. Coulter's books hit the top seller lists each putrid volume out. Malkin defends Japanese internment and also becomes a conservative icon. Hannity and Coulter both suggest that liberals are enemies to America. And these appear to be the mild ones. The others are advocating executions, or nuclear (sorry, nukular) attacks on Muslims.

Maybe I am wrong, but I don't see reasoned conservatives standing up and speaking out against this.

ubub said...

What if we take Michelle Malkin's boast at face value? What if conservatives do indeed police their own? That seems to suggest rather strongly that they don't consider the kinds of comments you cite as anything but consistent with a conservative ethos.

Streak said...

Gordon,

I saw from your blog that you are a conservative PhD student in American history. There are a few PhD's (or close) who read this blog, though not many conservative.

Maybe you could give us a good defense of conservatism here?

How do you define conservatism?

How do your views change the way you approach American history? Would that approach mean you teach it differently than liberals? What themes would you emphasize?

What major contributions to American history do you attribute to conservative thought?

Gordon N. Trenchard said...

Okay, my reponse to all these comments was rather lengthy, so I just posted them on my blog if you want to see them. Basically, I would note that many conservatives had attacked Coulter and her ilk, and she is not representitive of conservatism.

Monk-in-Training said...

The horrible thing is that, many if not most of these same vicious Conservatives label themselves as Christians. I don't understand how they can follow the One Who told them to pray for their enemies and say the things they say. Amazing.

Streak said...

Bruce, I think Gordon will agree that talk radio and the right wing attack machine are not good.

Monk, that is the part that bothers me most. The fact that people claim Christianity, yet essentially say that Jesus didn't mean it when he said they should love their enemies or turn the other cheek. Just as he didn't mean that thing about the rich guy and the camel.

Gordon N. Trenchard said...

Okay Streak,
How would a liberal approach history differently from a conservative? I really do not know. Politics often has a subtle and surprising way on how one approaches history. Personally, I want to be known as a historian not a conservative historian, and I think it is problematic to approach history with an agenda (although it's also difficult not to). Frequently there is no way to predict how someone's politics will affect their historical work. Eugene Genovese created the argument of "paternalism" which describes slaves and masters as accommodating each other and generally (in my opinion) downplays the horror of slavery. At the time Genovese came up with this idea he was a Marxist. In my own work, I think my political views might give me a different perspective on certain events, but not radically so. I probably take the role of religion in history more serious than some, but many liberal scholars do as well. I guess the biggest impact my political beliefs have in my teaching style is that I always hated it when professors refused to accept that other viewpoints existed then their own, and as a result I seldom reveal my viewpoints on debated subjects (I realize when I start lecturing this will be more difficult). And I guess my interest in exposing people to different viewpoints has led me to design my first solo course by taking into consideration the perspectives women, Blacks, Indians, when many historians still completely ignore these viewpoints for the period my course is on (that’s not the case for most other periods of American history). And, in my first solo course I'm actually using two textbooks, one that is fairly traditional, and another that is somewhat Marxist influenced. But, in the end I don't think I'll be a radically different professor of History than most. Perhaps if I were teaching in a more left wing field like Latin American history it would make a bigger difference.
My complaint is that academia can be at times a very unfriendly place toward conservatives. I think this does a disservice to conservative students who frequently end up deciding the have nothing to learn from their professors, which leads them to anti-intellectualism and academic mediocrity (I hate to say it conservative students are generally not as good of students as liberals). And as a conservative scholar you really live in fear how someone might interpret your beliefs into some type of hate speech. I mean would you like to teach at a college where 95% of the faculty thought that Ronald Reagan was a "great" president?

Streak said...

Sure, bias is unavoidable.

You said: I guess the biggest impact my political beliefs have in my teaching style is that I always hated it when professors refused to accept that other viewpoints existed then their own, and as a result I seldom reveal my viewpoints on debated subjects (I realize when I start lecturing this will be more difficult).

I think we all recognize this problem, but it has nothing to do with ideology, right?

And I guess my interest in exposing people to different viewpoints has led me to design my first solo course by taking into consideration the perspectives women, Blacks, Indians, when many historians still completely ignore these viewpoints for the period my course is on (that’s not the case for most other periods of American history)

Sounds actually unlike the conservatives I have known in the profession who all want to downplay race and class.

My complaint is that academia can be at times a very unfriendly place toward conservatives. I think this does a disservice to conservative students who frequently end up deciding the have nothing to learn from their professors, which leads them to anti-intellectualism and academic mediocrity (I hate to say it conservative students are generally not as good of students as liberals). And as a conservative scholar you really live in fear how someone might interpret your beliefs into some type of hate speech. I mean would you like to teach at a college where 95% of the faculty thought that Ronald Reagan was a "great" president?

Some of what you describe I understand, though I suspect that some of what you attribute to hostility toward conservatives is sometimes simply hostility to bad thinking. Not that conservative=bad thinking, but you said yourself that many are bad students. If so, how can they tell the difference between an ideological prejudice and an intellectual rejection of a poorly presented argument?

The other problem is a real difficult one to get past. One of my students didn't like me (I found out from another student) because he assumed that I was a liberal who didn't like his conservative ideas. I knew he was conservative, but in fact liked him and had no problem with his viewpoint. In fact, he got an A, still convinced that I didn't like him.

Anyway. As for your last statement, let me say that after six years of Bush, I am starting to see Reagan as a good president. All is relative, I guess, but at least Ronnie understood some of his limitations and had some very smart people around him. Smart and pragmatic.

It is amazing to say it, but Bush lacks even the Presidential IQ of Reagan. But you are right, it would be difficult to teach at an institution where Reagan was the model for Presidential politics. But I would hope that all historians look for more nuance than that, and that has been my experience.