In Which Salon Is Half-Right

Salon managed to opine yesterday that conservatives have no ideology. Obviously we (at this site) are committed to the doctrine that almost no one has an ideology. Salon is therefore half right—only half because it’s clear that they believe liberals are, contrariwise, committed ideologues. The article is silly, but may be worth reading in full, if only as another example of “it turns out people who are different from me were the problem all along” writing.

Complaining that conservatives spend all their time hating on liberals, while probably true, nevertheless betrays a terrifying lack of self-awareness for a liberal writer (in this case, Amanda Marcotte). This whole article is designed to get passed around by people who hate conservatives. I mean, if you didn’t want to hate conservatives, you probably wouldn’t be reading Salon.

But look, Marcotte says. We’re different from them.

“While liberals certainly say nasty things about conservatives, the level of dehumanization that goes the other way simply isn’t there.”

So let’s look at that claim. In 2016 Salon has called conservatives troglodytes,  neanderthals, monstersinhuman, and evil. That’s just the last year, but they’ve been doing this for a while. Here’s a great Salon quote from 1999: “…troglodytes account for a substantial fraction of conservatism as a whole” (followed by the chivalrous coda: “let’s be generous and assume they don’t represent the dominant trend on the right”).

We were all mad (alongside Salon, which covered this extensively) when Ted Nugent called Obama subhuman, but Salon then called Trump a chimpanzee; also the Joker (yes, the mass-murdering clown), “a giant slug from the seventh moon of Neptune,” and a monster too many times to count.


Why can’t the Dumbfuckistanis be civil, like us?

And that’s just Salon, and that’s just twelve months. I don’t know what your friends have been talking about or what your Facebook feed looks like, but it’s probably a lot of worrying about whether Trump voters “should be allowed to breed.” Can you remember just a month ago when the big trending topic was a votes by age map and a witty comment like: “Hooray! Republicans will soon all be dead!”? Can you remember after Brexit when all your friends said we should just disenfranchise people who would vote differently from us?

Obviously anyone can cherrypick misbehaviors, and part of our problem is that some schmuck writes a blog post saying Trump voters are a different species and the post is soon deleted but lives in perpetuity in the gleeful schadenfreude of “they behave badly” articles. But calling Trump voters subhumans is so very very common among people I know that if conservatives are more insulting than liberals it is simply because we have redefined conservative attacks as being a priori worse than conservative attacks. Calling Clinton “a nasty woman” is miraculously worse than calling Trump a space slug. Libtard  is a more offensive term that Repugnican because someone went and redefined the offensive level of one root word. This is a definition problem, not a Tea Party problem.

xxtweet1But, really, the fact that a liberal writer has underestimated how poorly her demographic behaves is not my main issue with the article; my main issue with the article is that in the midst of complaints that Republicans have no political beliefs, that unlike sympathetic liberals they cannot comprehend or even perceive worth in their opponents, in the very tweet that Marcotte is quoting as evidence (reproduced here), the tweeter is in fact expressing a political opinion. She calls, quite explicitly, and with a hashtag, for free speech. It’s true she contrasts free speech with liberal, so-called “PC” policies, but that doesn’t make a demand for free speech a nihilistic hatred of liberals.

Marcotte cannot perceive an explicit “positive” call for political action simply because it comes from a Trump supporter—this is probably the real news of the piece.

(Also isn’t it only a paranoid reading that considers “trading in the welfare check for a paycheck” (in another tweet Marcotte quotes) to be anti-liberal hate? Isn’t the point that the tweeter hopes that under xxtweet2Trump’s economic policies we who suffer from unemployment and struggle through on welfare checks will soon have cushy jobs?)

Look, I am aware that it turned out that Republicans really were more dangerous than Democrats (which surprised me because like most of us I live in a filter bubble where everyone’s a leftist, so all crazed, hate-filled fanatics I know are, by definition, leftist crazed, hate-filled fanatics). I’m not disputing that Republicans managed to get a crazed, hate-filled fanatic elected; the contrast with Obama, whom I may disagree with but nevertheless respect is obvious. I’m not even really here to make fun of Salon (which spent 2016 hoping and then celebrating that Trump was the Republican candidate because he would be so easy to beat. Ha ha ha!).

I’m just saying they’re half right. The Trumpeteers have no ideology, just a demographic. And Salon has no ideology, either, just a demographic; someone with an ideology may have had to self-reflect for once, and no Salon writer ever will.


  1. > all crazed, hate-filled fanatics I know are, by definition, leftist crazed, hate-filled fanatics

    Hey, you know me.

    > the contrast with Obama, whom I may disagree with but nevertheless respect is obvious

    History will remember Obama as the president who declared that it was okay for the federal government to execute American citizens without a trial. Whatever horrible crimes Trump will commit in the next few years, it can at least be said that he has not yet done anything that appalling.

    Regardless of how dumb Salon is, I do think one could write an intelligent piece about how Trump represents a shift from conservative ideology to explicit identity politics for white people (and people have written them).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Judging by few people seem to care about Obama’s assassinations, I doubt if history will remember him for this at all. I will give him credit, that he has handled Trump’s ascension with more class than most people in the American left (or, hilariously, the American right). Too bad he expanded the powers of the executive branch to permit murder and then handed the reigns over to a literal madman!

      I certainly agree that there has been a “me-too” shift in Republican politics towards identity politics, and this is something that should be recorded, addressed, and analyzed. I suspect (although I am not really knowledgable enough about the history of the Republican party to be secure in this), that these identity politics, pretty clearly grafted from the internet left, are just a newer manifestation of a longer-term switch from a policy-driven to demographic-driven voter base. The rise of the Moral Majority may be the original watershed here.

      When I said all crazed, hate-filled fanatics I knew were leftists, I meant on the margin.


  2. >Judging by few people seem to care about Obama’s assassinations, I doubt if history will remember him for this at all.

    Possibly. I don’t know how many people cared about the internment of the Japanese at the time, but people do remember it now. Today’s morals are not always a great bellwether for tomorrow’s.

    >The rise of the Moral Majority may be the original watershed here.

    Possibly. Or Nixon’s southern strategy. Or neither. It is difficult for me to judge zeitgeists I have not lived though.

    I do think it is worth distinguishing between two types of identity politics. 1) Demographic signalling, which you are always talking about. Eg, ‘I am a college educated white who lives in an urban area, therefore I will be a liberal so that nobody will confuse me for a poor rural white and so I can better fit in with my surroundings.’ and 2) Normal run of the mill identity politics, Eg, ‘I am a female. Hillary Clinton is a female. Isn’t about time we had a woman president?’ The first one can probably accurately be applied to literally everyone’s beliefs, but that should not dilute the second type, which does not apply to everyone.

    The moral majority, like any political movement or any belief system, really, could be accused of demographic signalling. I don’t know how fairly one could accuse them of normal identity politics. They definitely were Christians supporting pro-Christian legislation, but on the other hand, of course they were supporting legislation that went along with their beliefs. I do not think one can be an evangelical Christian and pro-choice in the same way that a black could be opposed to affirmative action or a woman could be opposed to an equal rights amendment. Evangelical Christianity is not just a demographic, it is a belief system. It makes sense that people who believe in it would band together to promote legislation consistent with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Although I think you’re largely correct, we have to deal with the fact that Evangelicals just voted for someone who holds approximately zero of their values, but who signals allegiance to their demographic.


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