November 18, 2009

Another of the media’s enforcers of Acceptable Opinion was unleashed the other day, this one at the Huffington Post. There Sam Stein exposed the terrible extremists—including Tom Woods, Charles Goyette, and Thomas Naylor, the three I focus on here—who have been featured on the Glenn Beck television program.  I”€™m not a big fan of Beck myself, but the people HuffPo chooses to single out for its Two Minutes Hate tell us all we need to know about approved (and disapproved) opinion in America. 

First, Stein introduces us to Thomas Naylor, a man of the Left who learns that even leftists are dangerous “€œextremists”€ so long as they support political decentralization. Naylor, a 72-year-old professor emeritus of economics at Duke University, runs the Second Vermont Republic, which takes the position that the United States has grown so large as to be politically and socially dysfunctional. Politics needs to be returned to a human scale, he argues, and in his mind that includes an independent Vermont.

To a normal person, that’s a debatable, if infrequently considered, question. To an automaton who enforces Acceptable Opinion, it’s grounds for burning the heretic.

Now how about actually letting Naylor speak for himself?  He recently wrote:

We have slept through the annihilation of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine, a war with Islam, the rendition of terrorist suspects, prisoner abuse and torture, the suppression of civil liberties, citizen surveillance, corporate greed, pandering to the rich and powerful, global warming, full spectrum dominance, imperial overstretch, and a culture of deceit. Massive military spending, multi-trillion dollar deficits and Wall Street bailouts, mounting trade deficits, and a precipitous decline in the value of the dollar have gone virtually unnoticed.

During our long period of slumber the United States government has lost its moral authority. It is owned, operated, and controlled by Wall Street and Corporate America. The United States has become ungovernable, unfixable, and, therefore, unsustainable economically, politically, militarily, and environmentally. It has evolved into the wealthiest, most powerful, most materialistic, most racist, most militaristic, most violent empire of all times.

Sammy, just so we can all be sure we”€™re saying precisely the things you and the other Enforcers would like us to say, can you explain to us exactly why this opinion is to be forbidden?

We will never receive an answer to that question. It is not the job of the Enforcer to answer questions. It is only his job to enforce. And according to the bloggers who have picked up on Sammy’s story, the exceedingly kind and gentlemanly Thomas Naylor, whom they do not know the first thing about, is hateful for refusing to believe we live in the best of all political worlds.

Not Sam Stein, though. Stein, who smears a 72-year-old retired college professor who never uttered a hateful word in his life, is full of nothing but love, baby.

Then it’s on to Tom Woods, who is normally attacked in this kind of context on the grounds that he once went to an event at which some guy in the bathroom was on the phone with his cousin who said something offensive. It’s crazy and “€œradical”€ for Woods to claim there really wasn”€™t a “€œCivil War,”€ says Stein, and to argue that more inflammatory names for that war are, strictly speaking, more historically accurate.

Naturally, Stein makes no attempt to explain what Woods means. Enforcers don”€™t explain. They enforce.

Woods”€™ simple point is that if a Civil War involves two or more parties engaged in a contest over control of the same government, then the American Civil War was no such thing. Even Sam should be able to understand that.

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The other, related problem with Woods—and yes, his entire career is indeed summed up in a couple of unexplained, out-of-context sentences—is that the conclusions he draws about that war are not of the customary angels-and-devils variety.  There is, I trust I need not remind the reader, but one acceptable interpretation of American history, in which the learned experts at the Huffington Post will instruct us until the end of time.

The Internet is the great equalizer, though, and any fair-minded person can find out about Tom Woods for himself. This bio doesn”€™t really sound like the person being described at HuffPo, does it?  Lots of “€œextremists”€ (whatever that means) getting reviews like these?  How about the antiwar anthology Woods wrote with left-liberal Murray Polner, the $50,000 book prize he won, the books he’s published with Columbia University Press, Basic Books, and Random House, his two New York Times bestsellers, the 11-volume encyclopedia of American history he co-edited, the dozen foreign-language translations of his books, the dozens of mainstream outlets in which he’s been published, or his degrees from Harvard and Columbia, including the Ph.D.?

How about Woods’s treatment of Lysander Spooner’s antislavery interpretation of the Constitution? How does that square with Stein’s absurd version of things? Or how about this essay?

Then there’s the slight problem with Stein’s smear of Woods—who, it is insinuated but not directly stated, is probably racially insensitive—that most white supremacists don”€™t have black godchildren.

But the Enforcer doesn”€™t like complicating factors. Woods bad.

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My favorite attack is the one on radio host and author Charles Goyette, who is taken to task and condemned as a “€œ9/11 truther”€ simply for observing that the government’s official 9/11 story is “€œworse than Swiss cheese.”€ Oooh! Off to the Memory Hole with him!

Um, Sam, no one (and I include here the majority of the American people who, like me, do not describe themselves as “€œtruthers”€) thinks the government has told us the whole 9/11 story.  But good for you—how refreshing to encounter a progressive with such confidence in George W. Bush and our elected leaders! Why, they”€™d never withhold information from the people. I mean, Dick Cheney, withhold information?

So those four words are why we should never, ever listen to a word that radio veteran Goyette says. Here, on the other hand, is what a normal person would have noticed and reported about Charles Goyette: five years ago he was dumped from the Clear Channel radio network for his opposition to the war in Iraq. They expected their right-of-center hosts to toe the so-called right-wing line. He refused, and lost his job.

That’s kind of interesting, isn”€™t it? To a normal person, yes. But we”€™re talking about Sam Stein the Automaton here. What you find interesting, he just finds distracting. To him, one phrase Goyette uttered on one program—surely you haven”€™t already forgotten those awful, unforgivable four words!—over the course of years in radio is pretty much all you need to know. Disclosing Goyette’s antiwar stand that cost him his job would only confuse Sammy’s delicate readers at the Huffington Post, who need their character assassination in the simplest comic-book style—Goyette bad.

Here’s Stein’s problem, and motivation. The decentralist ideas, including state nullification of federal laws, that these people promote are on the march. There is no doubt about that. State nullification of federal laws, in the Jeffersonian tradition, is being openly discussed—and carried out—once again. Right now it is the job of the Sam Steins of the world, who do not want us entertaining such unauthorized thoughts, to start throwing things. His stupid and libelous article is an example.

But mark my words: within five years nullification will be a regular feature of American life.  We”€™ve already seen dozens of states nullifying federal legislation pertaining to various aspects of civil liberties. That’s only going to grow, what with increasing frustration among Americans regarding the one-party regime that rules them: no matter who gets elected, it’s the same bailouts, the same police state, the same spending, and the same wars. Add to that the growing realization that nothing else has worked, and you will start to see Americans looking to other methods.

This is absolutely forbidden, from Sam Stein’s point of view. Sam Stein wants us to carry on with all the ineffectual things we”€™ve tried for decades now. That’s the way he likes it. Anyone proposing anything different can expect the Enforcer routine: He’s an extremist! Avert your eyes, citizens!

Sam, it isn”€™t going to work. No one cares about your opinion. If HuffPo dismisses someone as an extremist, normal Americans consider it a badge of honor.

Note that no neoconservatives are attacked in the Stein piece. So it’s all right, or at least within the range of acceptable opinion, to favor (as many neocons do, some quite vocally) preemptive war, the deliberate targeting of civilian areas, lying to the population to win their support for war, and the killing of at least hundreds of thousands of innocents while displacing millions more. That’s all right.

On the other hand, people who oppose all these things on moral grounds, but who believe that a system in which the perpetrators of these atrocities enjoy monopolistic control of all political decisions for 300 million people might not be the most humane form of social organization—now these people need to be smeared.

Surprise us, Sammy, and write us a column someday whose every thought we couldn”€™t predict in advance. I bet you can”€™t, and I”€™m sure you won”€™t. What would an Enforcer of Acceptable Opinion be without exquisitely conventional opinions?

As usual, peel a so-called progressive and what do you find? Another dime-a-dozen automaton shilling for the regime.


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