Gotta have an enemy to rally around. A villain to loathe which can coalesce and coordinate your allies through the shared loathing. It makes life easier for organizers on the one hand, but it also makes the messaging simpler. If people are motivated by hatred, they won't think too much about the quality of the rhetoric they're encouraged to regurgitate. The argument is, after all, about this evil person, and less about the actual issues.
We fell into this pattern in the Bush and Cheney years - and still do. It's easy to do and helpful in some ways. The downside is that when you come out the other end, you don't necessarily have a well coordinated positive message to rally around. In the case of right-wing furor over the likes of the Clintons and Al Franken, I think to large extent this dynamic was manufactured from on high.
What's blowing my mind right now is watching this happen over health care. It started happening towards Howard Dean, of all people, but it now seems to be all about Jane Hamsher (going after Dean was looking overly ambitious, I guess).
This is a woman who, for years, has been one of the leading voices in the progressive new media - and in the face of personal adversity directly relevant to the health care debate. Even a casual glance at the user diaries here of late makes it clear that many, many self-dubbed liberals or progressives have made the entire health care issue about her personally - and both the timing and the uniformity of the arguments and attacks suggest to me that this, too, is an instance where this outrage is being deliberately manufactured - or at the very least fanned. Hamsher is being turned into some kind of demon with consistent messaging, and too many Democrats are eagerly responding to having their buttons so pushed.
The most recent wave started with this - right from the upper echelons:
And led quickly to this:
Then the gloves were off, apparently:
And now, diarists (recommended ones, naturally) aren't even bothering to hide the fact they they consider Hamsher herself the issue:
And, sure enough, we're getting the accompanying mindlessness that comes with making the issues themselves a distant second to a cult of anti-personality. Two particularly ridiculous arguments in favor of the Senate bill have popped up like mushrooms all over the internet along with the Hamsher-demonizing. They are, frankly, so freaking dimwitted, those who voice them must simply be parroting it from each other, as I can't imagine somebody putting them forward if they spent just half a second thinking about them. They are:
1. If you are against the Senate bill, you are therefore in favor of the status quo. Yeah, right. If you are against the Senate bill, like I am, it's because you believe it will likely make the situation even worse than what we've got. If your executioner offers you a choice between being buried alive and shot in the head, rejecting the buried alive option does not make you pro-shot-in-the-head. This is such an in-your-face logical fallacy, one wonders if it has its own name.
2. What's wrong with the mandate? We give our tax money to corporations all the time - like with Medicare and contracts to build roads. This is a different flavor of dumb. In this case, its not as immediately self-evident, it's just a sign of someone who doesn't bother to spend half a second thinking about how the system works.
There is (and I can't believe this has to be said) a big difference between giving money directly to a corporation, and having that money go through a governmental entity and process. Really clever people might recall that "public option" idea. Let's take the road construction comparison, eh? The government does not mandate that every taxpayer has to write a check and mail it to the paving company. What's the difference? When the state collects taxes and wants to pave a road, it has say in the process. It can put out for competitive bidding. It can make demands, such as expecting that contractors pay prevailing wages.
And again, if the folks making these arguments across the blogosphere would stop and think half a second, they'd get that.
But hate turns off the cognitive functions, and that's why its so much easier to pump people up with hatred of one person if you want them to be your willing propaganda army.
A lot of people in the supposedly progressive movement should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be so easily turned into some kind of foot soldiers of raw hatred against someone who continues to work tirelessly for the very causes they purport to stand for. It's freaking twisted.
God knows I'm ashamed of them.
UPDATE: No, no... I'm not talking about "disagreement" obviously, or I would've posted this ages ago. I'm talking about hate, and how its used to make Hamsher herself the subject. Even the other currently reco'd diary that I link to leads with Hamsher, focuses its thesis on Hamsher, draws on Hamsher-hate to generate readers and recommends, and uses its "point-by-point refutation" as supporting material.
UPDATE #2: If you haven't yet, you should recommend this other currently-on-the-rec-list diary by wmtriallawyer. It's absolutely perfect, and if there was any sense to all this, it'd be the last word on the subject.