The Dim-Post

October 27, 2008

Packer on Insanity of Blogging

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:51 am
Tags: ,

New Yorker contributor George Packer, the author of The Assassins’ Gate blogs about the general insanity of the right-wing bloggers in regards to the Obama candidacy:

Much of it has appeared on popular right-wing Web sites, including National Review Online, disclosing the “news” that Bill Ayers wrote “Dreams from My Father,” Obama was involved in domestic terrorism during the South Africa divestment campaign of the early 1980s, Michelle Obama used the word “whitey” in recorded conversation with Louis Farrakhan, Obama has had a female lover as well as a gay lover with a criminal record, he was fed answers during the first debate via a clear plastic device in his ear, and his birth certificate was forged, casting doubt on his citizenship (which is why he’s now in Hawaii—to preserve the cover-up, not to visit his very ill grandmother).

Wading for a few minutes through the sewage of these Web sites reminds me uncannily of the time I’ve spent having political discussions in certain living rooms and coffee shops in Baghdad. The mental atmosphere is exactly the same—the wild fantasies presented as obvious truth, the patterns seen by those few with the courage and wisdom to see, the amused pity for anyone weak-minded enough to be skeptical, the logic that turns counter-evidence into evidence and every random piece of information into a worldwide conspiracy. Above all, the seething resentment, the mix of arrogance and impotent rage that burns at the heart of the paranoid style in politics.

The problem isn’t lack of education—it’s that of a self-isolating political subculture gone rancid. I heard an Iraqi engineer claim that American soldiers allowed Kuwaitis to steal hundreds of Iraqi cars as revenge for the first Gulf War. I heard a Shiite cleric argue that the Kerry campaign was behind suicide bombings. Bloggers like Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who peddled the Ayers theory, and Ann Althouse, a law professor who pushed the plastic-device story, hold diametrically opposed views to those of Islamists and Arab nationalists. But their habits of mind are just the same.

We’ve seen a similar phenomenon in New Zealand during this campaign, although right-wing bloggers and the blogosphere in general is a lot less influential here than it is in the US. And during the whole Winston Peters scandal a couple of left-wing bloggers – like Chris Trotter – jumped on board the ‘vast media conspiracy’ bandwagon. I’d actually argue that Trotter, with his love of conspiracy theories, hysterical hyperbole and comparison of anyone who disagrees with him to Adolf Hitler is basically a right-wing blogger who through some accident of history has wound up supporting the left.

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15 Comments »

  1. I agree! All those right wing bloggers are bigots. Therefore anybody who is a bigot must be a rightie. And anybody who is a leftie cannot, by definition, be a bigot.

    Comment by malcolm — October 27, 2008 @ 10:23 am

  2. Not all right wing bloggers, surely? I don’t agree with many of Ele’s positions, but Homepaddock is calm and considered. And ‘though DPF is prone to dogwhistling, it’s his mad commenters that pursue conspiracy theories vigorously. Not that I go into the comments there much – I got very bored with being apostrophized as lying, stupid, immoral, whatever, leftie, as ‘though there is no nuance in left wing thinking. On the other side, Idiot / Savant, for whom I have enormous respect, is rather inclined to characterising anyone earning more than $60,000 as a wicked, evil rich person. It gets tedious after a few repititions.

    Find the nastiest ‘right’ blogger, and conflate all right wing blogging with him / her? That’s rather lazy.

    I think the better way to characterise this behaviour is to think of the set of bigoted conspiracy theorists, and then to recognise that both Trotter and Whale Oil are members of that set.

    Comment by Deborah — October 27, 2008 @ 10:25 am

  3. I’d argue that DPF and Homepaddock are not right-wing bloggers, but rather bloggers who are also right-wing. I’d also argue that I’m not being completely serious.

    Comment by Danyl Mclauchlan — October 27, 2008 @ 11:24 am

  4. I think that’s the key point really Danyl – Homepaddock and DPF need your permission to escape the driftnet.

    Is there a tribunal where other worthy righties can be given the same political rehabilitation?

    Comment by Malcolm — October 27, 2008 @ 11:42 am

  5. I’d argue that DPF and Homepaddock are not right-wing bloggers, but rather bloggers who are also right-wing.

    I have known DPF and Homepaddock for years and years, DPF back to at least 1996 and Homepaddock to at least 1993.

    DPF has always been a mainstay of the Net, he virtually ruled the NZ Usenet in the 1990s (Alliance candidate Janice Graham described him as “the master of the Net” at one stage circa 1997) and thus his graduation to his blog is a logical and welcome progression.

    Homepaddock is more problematic. Like me she is a journalist by profession,and I find it very hard to cope with her extremely partisan bloggings as to me, journalists should be politically non-partisan.

    To see her become an apologist for a political party is rather sad, in my opinion.

    I’d also argue that I’m not being completely serious.

    This is why your blog is so popular!

    I’d also argue that I’m not being completely serious.

    Comment by poneke — October 27, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

  6. I wonder if you’re not being too hard on Trotter? I certainly thought his defence of Winston was bizarre but he’s otherwise an interesting and informed commentator albiet partisan. A key point of difference between loons and people with strong views is the extent to which their references are published/able and not divination.

    IMO, the category into which WhaleOil fits is best described in a 1961 publication…

    I don’t disagree with Deborah’s views on DPF, except that David can’t still be surprised by the frothy madness that exists within his coterie of supporters so why don’t he exercise some discretion?

    Comment by Paul Williams — October 27, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

  7. So by that logic, The Standard are right wing bloggers who happen to support Labour? As are some of those who blog on Frog Blog? In fact, you’d have to say that 75-80 percent of all political blogs, whether ostensibly from teh left or the right, are right wing bloggers.

    Ian Wishart and Nicky Hagar are just two sides of the same coin.

    There are crazies all over. By an accident of history, left-wing-crazies are just more socially acceptable than right-wing-crazies.

    Comment by AW — October 28, 2008 @ 9:23 am

  8. Ian Wishart and Nicky Hagar are just two sides of the same coin.

    I don’t buy this – can you point to anything Hagar has written about National that is comparable to Wishart’s elaborate communist lesbian conspiracy?

    Comment by danylmc — October 28, 2008 @ 9:36 am

  9. Well, Hagar’s vast right wing conspiracy of old white men funded by secret business interests.

    Comment by AW — October 28, 2008 @ 10:53 am

  10. the insanity of some right-wing blogs over Obama was matched by the almost universal insanity in the liberal blogosphere over Hillary Clinton. So i’m not inclined to pay much attention to the present bleatings of liberals punidts over how rancid some commnetary on the right is.

    i don’t know how representative all this internet bile really is of broader public opinion. And picking out individual instances of craziness in Rep or Dem supporters seems to be good sport on one level but when that dominates over engaging with the saner members of the polical tribes it just degenerates into smugness.

    Maybe the Reps at some point might like to discover the internet. A few minutes trawling thru some pro-Obama sites like DailyKos should give them plenty of ammunition.

    Comment by Neil — October 28, 2008 @ 11:26 am

  11. Hagar’s not Wishart’s opposite, not by a long shot. I don’t agree with everything Hagar says/writes, but he’s got significantly more substance to him and his arguments that Wishart’s ever managed.

    Comment by Paul Williams — October 28, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

  12. Before I go any further, a disclaimer: I’ll read maybe a page of either Hagar or Wishart before concluding that either of them use fundamentally flawed arguments. I don’t read any more than that, because, well, who has the time to waste on that type of drivel?

    As far as I can see, Hagar argues: reasonable-reasonable-reasonable-freakycrazy-reasonable-freakycrazy-reasonable.
    And Wishart also argues: reasonable-reasonable-reasonable-freakycrazy-reasonable-freakycrazy-reasonable.

    Both of them have a type of person who really spooks them, and who they think can’t understand a type of person who is different. For Wishart, it is (among others) lesbians, and for Hagar it is (among others) wealthy business people. So Wishart thinks that lesbians can’t have any sympathy for non-lesbians and are out to progress a lesbian agenda to the exclusion of anything else. And Hagar thinks that wealthy business people can’t have any sympathy for non-wealthy-business-people, and are out to progress a wealthy-business-person agenda, to the exclusion of anything else.

    As I said above, it is more socially acceptable to run the line about business people than it is to run the line about lesbians. But both are wrong.

    And commentators/bloggers/whomever on the left tend to say, as Paul has done above, “I don’t agree with everything Hagar says/writes, but he’s got significantly more substance to him and his arguments that Wishart’s ever managed”.

    While commentators/bloggers/whomever on the right tend to say, “I don’t agree with everything Wishart says/writes, but he’s got significantly more substance to him and his arguments that Hagar’s ever managed”.

    Comment by AW — October 28, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

  13. While commentators/bloggers/whomever on the right tend to say, “I don’t agree with everything Wishart says/writes, but he’s got significantly more substance to him and his arguments that Hagar’s ever managed”.

    ‘Seeds of Distrust’? Just saying. I have very little idea what Wishart has done *ever* really, except his two latest books ‘government full of feminazi marxists’ and ‘Helen Clark is watching you right now’, and that TV show he had. As far as I know, Hager has 3 books, the gist of which were: ‘government fiddling with GE under our noses’ (slightly scandalous); ‘government running secret spy bases’ (slightly scandalous) and ‘Brash is spun up to his eyeballs’ (not as scandalous as lying about emails).

    Comment by StephenR — October 28, 2008 @ 3:48 pm

  14. And similarly, Wishart ran David Benson-Pope being a bully at the school he taught at, David Parker maybe not filing company returns properly, and just last week Yang Liu and Ministers advocating his citizenship. My point is not that any of these are the biggest stories around, or that they are ultimately shown to be big scandals. Simply that Wishart and Hagar both start with some small fragment of the truth that could be a story, then turn it into a big conspiracy indicating how bad the other team is.

    Comment by AW — October 29, 2008 @ 9:07 am

  15. I must admit I don’t always check where stories (mentioned above) originate…wonder what would happen if Hager was more of a day-to-day guy…

    FWIW, Hager did in Labour with the afore-mentioned ‘Seeds of Distrust’…

    Comment by StephenR — October 29, 2008 @ 10:15 am


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