soft bigotry, meet low expectations, part II

Conor Friedersdorf continues to muck around in the Big Hollywood fever swamp. He links approvingly to this piece, entitles his post “The NEA Flirts with Propaganda,” and says “This is another item getting most of its play on Andrew Breitbart sites and Fox News — and it is plainly a story that the mainstream media would do well to cover.”

This is strange advice. Conor fails to actually quote what is exactly supposed to be so nefarious and improper that was said in that now notorious conference call. The full transcript has been kicking around for some time, and the best anyone can come up with is this passage:

“All of us who are on this phone call were selected for a reason, and you are the ones that lead by example in your communities. You are the thought leaders. You are the ones that, if you create a piece of art, or promote a piece of art or create a campaign for a company, and tell our country and our young people sort of what do and what to be into, and what’s cool and what’s not cool.”

Excuse me for a moment.

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Yes, that’s it. That’s that horrible piece of unAmerican propaganda currently poisoning our government and causing Lady Liberty to weep bitter tears. That’s it; that’s what Conor thinks is worthy of national media attention. Do I even need to go on? Don’t bother looking for recriminations or punishment for artists who don’t produce pro-Obama artwork, or do produce anti-Obama (or anti-Democrat, or anti-government) artwork. There’s no such coercion anywhere– you know, the kind of coercion that the people pimping this pathetic story so desperately want to find. What’s there is precisely the kind of vague, empty bureaucrat speak that suffuses not only every branch of government, regardless of the party of the sitting president, but also every corporate conference call promoting “synergy” and collective effort for collective goals.

Let me ask you a question– do you think that it would be workable for the members of government bureaucracies to not work to meet the goals of their department’s leadership, so long as those goals aren’t illegal or unconstitutional? I’m not talking about elected officials; I’m not talking about members of the legislature; I’m not even talking about the cabinet level officials that should counsel the president away from actions they find detrimental to the country. I’m talking about low level bureaucrats who were hired to actually, you know, do what the government tells them to do– and which the sitting government is empowered to do by the fact that they won the election. I’m asking if Conor or anyone else thinks that employees of branches of government should not talk about effective ways for those branches to carry out their agendas. Perhaps it would be nice for certain strains of conservatism which see government failure as success, but for the actual day to day prosecution of government, not so much. Would Conor write that the Department of Defense flirts with propaganda if it endeavors to fulfill the wishes of the president? I don’t think so!

Oh, by the way– that conference call? Yeah, it’s actually about the President’s National Day of Service, which does not involve the NEA’s puny $155 million dollar budget. Conor didn’t bother to actually fact check the post he was linking to so enthusiastically. (Neither, I’m willing to bet, did the other commenters on the post at the American Scene; reading them, I suspect that they just took at face value that something really evil was happening.) As SEK from the Edge of the American West blog says, the actual ends that this call is trying to achieve are an increase in community service, such as seeing more young people at blood drives. This is the alleyway the drunken husk of conservatism has crawled into, opposing service to one’s country and community as tantamount to socialism.

Now, that’s what matters– the fact that what was said was absurdly trivial, and that the conservatives screaming and carrying on like they’ve found a dead body in Joe Biden’s trunk are actually completely wrong about what they think the call is about. But, yes, the hypocrisy rankles. It does indeed bother me that the ideology responsible for having people sign written pledges declaring their support for President Bush before they see our elected officials speak now complains about this. It does indeed piss me off that a few short years ago, Republicans were routinely doing things like calling for Howard Dean’s hanging for criticizing the war in Iraq, and yet now they stand enraged over this meaningless conference call. It does indeed make me angry that the president himself declared that anti-Iraq war argument “gives comfort to our enemies,” and yet now I read Conor Friedersdorf calling for national prominence on this nothing of a story. Yes, indeed, it makes me angry that a party and ideology that represented nothing more forcefully or loudly than the notion that dissent was unpatriotic and treasonous, and that supporting the president and his aims were our solemn duties, now turn around and complain about something like this. Yes, that makes me angry.

This was not a great post from Conor. But it’s of a piece, sadly, with what we’ve come to expect from conservatives who are laboring away in the wilderness of a collapsed and empty party and ideology. What a sad, pathetic display the last several months have been from our conservative commentators. Again and again, we see posts that operate from a conservative position, yet assume so little of conservatism and conservatives that were I to write them they’d be seen as horribly elitist and condescending. The assumption that conservatism is a vehicle driven by dishonesty, a lack of integrity and opportunism suffuses our conservative blogosphere, and yet never is there a consideration that perhaps this means the ideology should be abandoned, or that perhaps some credit should be given to its counterpart for holding itself to a higher standard.

This isn’t the soft bigotry of low expectations, really. This is the harsh bigotry of no expectations. Sad to say, the bigotry is brought not against the party being held to no expectations, but to its antagonist. Sad, and strange.

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