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How The Right Is Turning ‘Political Correctness’ Into Another Tool Of The 1 Percent

You may have noticed that when the right isn’t busy being outraged at the left for being outraged by comments by Republican reality stars, radio hosts and elected officials, they’re busy being outraged at the left for “offensive” comments about Republicans.

The current target is MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, who featured a brief segment on her show last weekend with panelists joking about Mitt Romney’s black grandchild. This was an issue so urgent, apparently, that Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus felt the need to demand an apology from the host just hours after the story broke.

While Republicans spent most of the last few decades being revolted by the idea of “political correctness,” there is now a conscious effort on the right to set the terms of discourse and play the role of the offended victim, whenever doing so is convenient. Then, just as quickly, conservatives will switch back to defending outrageous comments from the right and attacking “PC” thought by framing themselves as the defenders of free speech.

“Political correctness” is a term that — if you believe Wikipedia — originated in the Stalin-era USSR to describe acceptable thought to the regime. In the ’90s it became an epithet the right used to describe the intolerance of left-wing academic thought as progressives tried to reshape society to protect and encourage those who have been historically discriminated against. The great educator Herbert Kohl pointed out that the smear was meant “to insinuate that egalitarian democratic ideas are actually authoritarian, orthodox and Communist-influenced, when they oppose the right of people to be racist, sexist, and homophobic.”

The idea that rich, powerful people need to be protected from both bullying and the consequences of bullying comments often targeting minorities requires an agility and intellectual dishonesty that has been perfected by the right-wing media and spread to the movement’s more outlandish politicians, who thrive on the perpetual outrage of the Tea Party movement.

The perfect example of this is, of course, Sarah Palin. In 2009, she encouraged conservatives to “screw the political correctness.” A few months later she was demanding that President Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel be fired for allegedly using the word “retarded” in a meeting.

The right is investing in the outrage industry. Fox News is the Standard Oil of outrage, but a new breed of organization, born and thriving in social media, is designed to gin up and sustain outrage by using features unique to online marketing.

Ben Shapiro, who some call the right’s next Andrew Breitbart, is the face of a new venture called TruthRevolt, which is funded by The David Horowitz Freedom Center.

“The media must be destroyed where they stand,” its mission statement reads. “That is our mission at TruthRevolt. The goal of TruthRevolt is simple: unmask leftists in the media for who they are, destroy their credibility with the American public, and devastate their funding bases.”

The group’s blog is updated several times a day with stories that reinforce the right-wing worldview and fume at those who say things they disagree with. Additionally petitions help the site build its mailing list with campaigns against villains who refuse to honor “religious liberty” by expecting reality stars not to say things like homosexuality leads to bestiality.

TruthRevolt is a new project and characteristic of Shapiro’s desire to “fight fire with fire” and by using a tactic the right used to decry.

Twitchy — which was started by the Pope of Outrage Michelle Malkin and was recently purchased by the owners of Town Hall — is apparently trying to fight fire with a mob wielding digital torches.

After Melissa Harris-Perry gave in to the demands to apologize for the segment on her show, Twitchy decided the apology didn’t count because it was tweeted with a hashtag. What would the Founders think?

Being mentioned on Twitchy doesn’t just make you the target of vague scorn. It’s a batsignal to the right wing that you need to be attacked directly. Active Twitter users who have been vilified by the site are likely to see abusive mentions for days.

Perry, who is the product of an interracial relationship, is primarily a target because she’s on (slightly) left-leaning MSNBC. The right is in the process of racking up scalps from the news network.

Now-former MSNBC host Martin Bashir responded to Sarah Palin’s comparison of debt to slavery by describing a practice in which slaveowner Thomas Thistlewood forced one slave to defecate in another’s mouth as punishment. He concluded his point by saying, “She confirms if anyone’s truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, she would be the outstanding candidate.”

The right wing went into outrage overdrive to condemn the host, who apologized twice before leaving his job, likely involuntarily. Bashir suffered from a lack of a political base—and the fact that his indefensible comments involved human waste and a woman’s mouth.

“My role is to accept his apology and be humble enough to accept it and move on,” the ever-humble Palin said on Fox News. “But I just hope that unprovoked attacks like that don’t result in people being hesitant to jump in the arena anyway.”

A few weeks later, Palin was defending the “free speech” of a guy who suggested homosexuality could lead to sex with animals.

The former Republican nominee for vice president is worried about those who might be hesitant to speak out in favor of policies that benefit the rich and enforce historic discrimination. But she’s not as concerned about a gay teen who may be hesitant to go on living because his desires make him someone society is encouraged to despise.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

<i>Who</i> Had A Terrible Year? History Will Remember The GOP’s Miserable 2013

It would be easy to imagine President Mitt Romney’s first year-end press conference beginning with a question like, “Mr. President, which do you consider your greatest accomplishment, the record stock market, the nearly unprecedented deficit reduction or the best year for job growth since 2005?”

Instead, President Obama’s last press conference of 2013 was mostly about getting the president to admit that he’d had a terrible year, in hopes he might curl up into a ball and beg Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to save freedom.

Of course, a Democratic president shouldn’t be celebrating skyrocketing returns for investors that go almost entirely to the richest—who have never been richer—or deficit reduction when millions are still out of work. And it wasn’t until the end of the year that job growth also started to include some wage growth.

But by key Republican metrics, 2013 was a banner year for the president.

Instead of noting this, Republicans are celebrating their success at helping to turn public opinion against President Obama in his fifth year in office.

After years of trying to conjure a scandal for this White House, Republicans were even eager to attack the president from the left on Syria and government surveillance. The right-wing media amplified the complaints of the small group of “anti-war” Republicans not because they were rejecting the warmongering and abuses of power of the Bush administration, but to score points against a man they despise for beating them soundly — twice. This specious strategy became obvious when the administration’s sudden progress toward disarming Syria — and Iran — was met with silence or the sorry trope of “appeasement.”

Regardless, the president did the most damage to himself this year with the launch of HealthCare.gov, which shook the nation’s confidence as it sputtered and crashed for two whole, crucial months. Now that the site is working for most people and millions have signed up for health insurance, Republicans are hoping they’ll be able to make 2014 about the failings of Obamacare.

The chances of another HealthCare.gov-sized fiasco are minimal, so the focus will be on making the inevitable troubling anecdotes of reform drown out the droves of people with health coverage for the first time in years—or their lives.

And Republicans will have to do this knowing that they will be responsible for five million people being denied health insurance because red states refused to expand Medicaid. Because if anecdotes about some of the 27,000 being denied coverage who are expected to die for a lack of insurance start to get some attention, there goes that plan.

Which leads us to what people will end up remembering about 2013…

History will not forget that the president’s website did not work for a while. But it will also recall that this Congress was the least effective in recorded history.

It will remember that Republicans shut down the government and held the economy hostage for for 16 days, shattering consumer confidence just as a real recovery seemed to be forming, because the Tea Party wanted “something” — which they didn’t get.

It may remember that the leaders of the Republican Party in both the House and Senate publicly declared war on the far right of their party as they faced insurgencies that made governance impossible and a half-dozen primary challenges of incumbents that could easily cost their party the Senate, for a third time.

It should remember that even though Republicans were forced to go along with letting some tax breaks on the richest end, they protected billions in tax breaks as they kept the sequester’s automatic cuts in place, gutting medical research, child care, public housing and food assistance for the poor, and cutting off more than a million unemployed Americans at a time when it was completely unprecedented to do so.

If Republicans fail to act on immigration reform, history will definitely recall that the only immigration legislation that passed the Republican House this year would deport millions of law-abiding undocumented workers who were brought here as children. Instead of embracing the efforts of Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) — who risked his career to help forge reforms that would dramatically slash the deficit and expand the economy — they turned the senator against himself and celebrated the policies of a congressman who is obsessed with the size of undocumented immigrants’ calves (yes, legs… not livestock).

And if Obamacare continues to be successful in controlling our health care costs—thus minimizing our long-term debt problems—as it saves lives and expands coverage, history will note the GOP’s only contribution to the effort was obsessive sabotage and a plot that denied millions of the nation’s poorest but hardest-working people health insurance and drove up the price of insurance in those states.

But at least Republicans can celebrate approval ratings, right? The president’s numbers are at a low for his presidency.

Yay! LOL.

Or perhaps, history will note that the GOP started the year with approval numbers that were about as bad as the president’s are now. And they only got worse.

GOPapprovaldecember22

“With Television You Just Sit—Watch—Listen. The Thinking Is Done For You.”

Sometimes the archives disgorge clear and convincing documentation proving what everyone already knows: in the latest case, a series of official memos revealed how media strategist Roger Ailes conspired with top Nixon White House officials to create a television enterprise that would directly promote Republican politicians and ideology — something very similar to what Fox News Channel became when he founded it a quarter century later. The 1970 memoranda, which even bear handwritten notes from Ailes to Nixon aides such as Watergate scandal convict H.R. Haldeman, were written long before the advent of cable and the arrival of Rupert Murdoch could at last make his dream real.

Straightforwardly titled “A Plan For Putting the GOP on TV News,” the memo lacks both a specific date and the names of any authors, but the context indicates that a Republican Party official wrote it during the summer of 1970. It belongs to a “318-page cache of documents detailing Ailes’ work for both the Nixon and George H.W. Bush administrations” discovered in their respective presidential libraries by John Cook, a reporter for the Gawker website, which first reported their revelations.

“Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication,” Ailes wrote at the time. “The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit—watch—listen. The thinking is done for you.”

It is no secret, of course, that the founding genius of Fox News spent most of his career as an exceptionally effective media consultant, public relations director and adman for the GOP. His earliest achievements as a partisan propagandist, chronicled by journalist Joe McGinniss in his classic book, The Selling of the President, involved remaking Nixon for the 1968 presidential campaign (which he won). And it is also no secret that long before he started Fox News with Murdoch, Ailes attempted to mount a similar enterprise with Joseph Coors, the beer magnate and lavish funder of ultra-conservative institutions.

Both the Nixon news channel, which never launched, and the Coors news channel, which operated briefly before folding in 1975, were designed to promote coverage with a right-wing slant on local TV stations. By providing free, prepackaged video “realities” to station managers who needed programming – and might well be hospitable to GOP propaganda – Ailes hoped to bypass the gatekeepers of news at the three national networks, whom he and Nixon both perceived as irredeemably liberal.

Having successfully marketed a “new Nixon” to America, Ailes was eager to find new and better ways to sell him and his party again four years later. The memo that he deemed “excellent” now seems quaint, with its specially designed editing truck and its emphasis on “news of importance to localities” that would also promote Republican politicians. But Ailes believed that he could make the scheme work, even if the liberals complained about “news management” by the White House, and pitched Haldeman for the job.

Ailes and Nixon never launched the GOP TV channel, perhaps because their relationship with Nixon suffered a rift after the publication of the McGinniss book. But the memos also show that the White House wanted to keep Ailes in their tent – which may explain why Coors paid him to work on the Television News Incorporated, as the short-lived right-wing network was known.

Cook also found evidence that Ailes was at least marginally involved in dirty tricks for the Nixon reelection campaign – in particular, a memo he wrote urging that sources be planted in the George Wallace camp if the former Alabama governor decided to launch a second independent candidacy in 1972. Other amusing tidbits from the archives show Ailes pushing for tougher regulation of campaign commercials, micromanaging Nixon’s lighting of the White House Christmas tree for maximum heart-tugging, and even urging Nixon to promise in a “major address” that “poverty, air and water pollution will be eliminated in America totally by 1980.”

Of course, that was back when Republicans – even Nixon Republicans – were actually concerned with reducing poverty and protecting the environment. Their party has changed radically for the worse, and so has their reigning media mastermind.