Saturday, April 17, 2010

The tradition of skepticism in American history

Rich Lowry has a very good column pointing out that both the right and the left have their own paranoid fears about the power of the government. Today there are the tea party activists who fear that we're one step away from a total federal takeover of the entire economy. In Bush's administration you had paranoid fantasies about the Patriot Act or Naomi Wolf writing how we were just one step away from a dictatorship. As Lowry points out, our founders rebelled against England not because our tax burden was so onerous but because they were suspicious of the trend towards too much government power.
As Bernard Bailyn demonstrates in his classic "The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution," our forebears prized the thought of the 18th-century "country" opposition in England, which considered the government a clear and present danger to liberty -- corrupt, conspiratorial and insatiable.

America's leaders viewed Revolutionary events through this prism. "They saw about them," Bailyn writes, "not merely mistaken, or even evil, policies violating the principles upon which freedom rested, but what appeared to be evidence of nothing less than a deliberate assault launched surreptitiously by plotters against liberty, both in England and in America."

This is the taproot of American paranoia. It's not in status anxiety, or economic dispossession, or racism: It's in flat-out distrust of governmental authority. As the Patriot Act shows, in America even the statists can summon a robust fear of government. And would we have it any other way? Would we prefer the natural deference to authority of a Japan, or a political culture as favorable to central government as Russia?

Now, literal paranoia is a noxious thing; it gives us the domestic terrorism of the New Left in the 1970s or the militia movement of the 1990s. But a bristling skepticism of government and a keen vigilance about our liberties should be treasured national qualities.

How you view particular expressions of them depends on your politics. I considered the left's tirade against the Patriot Act overwrought and ill-informed. But we certainly could have used such implacable suspicion of governmental powers when J. Edgar Hoover was waging his dirty war of domestic spying against Martin Luther King Jr.
This has been a thread throughout our history and it's woven into the very fabric of our nation. And such skepticism is healthy. And as the size and power of the government keeps growing, there is every reason for our doubts about the wisdom of this trend to stay active.

31 comments:

Tacitus Voltaire said...

i think that's well said, Betsy - our constitution was founded on distrust of concentrated power

i've said it here before, and i'll repeat it: it is the duty of every patriotic american to distrust the government

now, back when i was saying it on these pages during the bush administration, that was considered an unpatriotic "liberal" sentiment. now that that teabaggers have rediscovered distrust of government again, maybe the readers here will be able to reconsider it

there are only two things that bother me, though, about the tea bag movement - 1) all the things they "know" for sure that just ain't so, and 2) the selectiveness of their distrust

i ask you - how can you get hysterically alarmed over laws that restrict the ability of insurance companies to kick people off of insurance, and require people to get covered, yet at the same time remain perfectly serene about intelligence agencies being able to access your supposedly private business records without "warrant or notice"?

it simply doesn't make sense

Tacitus Voltaire said...

here

http://www.politicalcompass.org/uselection2008

is an interesting page which attempts to graph the candidates of 2008 on the axes of authoritarian/libertarian vs left/right

while the conclusions are, obviously, subjective, it might give those of the right wing an opportunity to see obama as the left actually sees him, rather than the right wing hallucination of left wing views that they (you all) usually judge us by, since you almost never take the trouble to find out what we really believe

tfhr said...

TV,

Dissent is a much different matter than stating that "the war is lost" or calling the troops or the President "murderers", "Hitler", or comparing them to the SS or Khmer Rouge.

In 2004 when a bloated and sweaty Al Gore, screaming and spewing spittle, declared that the President of the United States had,"...betrayed this country!", he lied for the intended effect it would have on a room full of party loyalists gathered to greet prospective candidates John Edwards and Wesley Clark. His outrageous and unsupported claims of conspiratorial treachery were designed to stoke the partisan fires for the coming election. That is not honest dissent but recklessness to the point of undermining a war effort while troops are locked in battle.

Gore called the President of the United States a criminal in his conduct of the war. His intent was to do Bush harm and as such, it would be appropriately deemed slander though this abuse was tolerated under the guise of free speech, not because Gore could back up his deliberate and calculated smear with a single fact.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/09/politics/campaign/09GORE.html

Outrageous comments and pronouncements from men like Al Gore, Harry Reid, Dick Durban, and John Murtha gave aid to our enemies. These men were well aware of that aspect but placed political ambition ahead of the welfare of troops, as did the mouthpiece and fundraiser of the left, Moveon.org, when it created and paid for the libelous attack ad that it ran (at a special partisan discount rate) in the NYT. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/Decision2008/story?id=3581727&page=1

If you want to wax indignant about criticism coming from a conservative movement, that's fine with me, but remember the context of it all and don't forget for a second that we see your vile hypocrisy for what it is. And while you're at it, why not drop this bizarre sexual reference you use to impugn people you know nothing of? Given your frequent use of the term, I suppose "tea-bagging" is a popular and common pastime in your own social circles, TV, and as such it may have different meaning for you but it's nothing more than crass name calling here and we already have plenty of that from you.

Pat Patterson said...

I'm relieved with TV's link as that means that instead of Trotsky or Lenin as comparisons to Pres Obama it should be Mussolini or the ever ineffectual Peron and his Peronistas.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

bloated and sweaty Al Gore, screaming and spewing spittle

i think you may want to have your doctor check the strength of your prescription

Tacitus Voltaire said...

typically, tea bag members of the republic party will only accept dissent and patriotic distrust of government when it comes from their side

this is nothing more than a selfish nine year old's approach to debate

Dr Weevil said...

Typically, people who call others "teabaggers" (or variations on the same) are foul-mouthed morons who need to go away and leave the conversation to the grownups. There's no excuse for using that obscenity (or any other) on the site of a high-school teacher.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

if the people who go to rallies sporting bags of tea mean to remind us of anything more than the boston tea party, or if the common english phrase "tea bag" means anything more than a small sack of porous paper containing tea, i shall leave it to 16 year olds to obsess themselves with

at my age i have long lost interest in any sniggering preoccupations with louche double-entendres

Tacitus Voltaire said...

Republican leaders and Tea Party officials have distanced themselves from and condemned the insults. Amy Kramer, coordinator of the Tea Party Express, told Fox News Sunday, "I absolutely think it's isolated ... It's disgraceful and the people in this movement won't tolerate it because that's not what we're about." House Minority Leader John Boehner called the incidents "reprehensible" and said that they were isolated and shouldn't reflect on the Tea Party as a whole. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told NBC Sunday that the protestors' actions weren't a "reflection of the movement, of the Republican Party when you have idiots out there saying stupid things." Some Tea Party supporters e-mailed McClatchy Newspapers denying the incidents or suggesting that they were staged by Democratic agents provocateurs, though without providing any evidence to support their claims.[147][148]

On March 21, 2010, Springboro Tea Party founder, Sonny Thomas, posted racist comments on the group's Twitter webpage, including a slur against Hispanics. "Illegals everywhere today! So many [vile racist term deleted] makes me feel like a speck. Grrr. Wheres my gun!?", said one post. The posts triggered cancellations by several local and statewide political candidates scheduled to speak at a Springboro Tea Party rally on April 17. Other Tea Party officials say the posts were "classless" and way out of line, and that they don't represent the Tea Party movement as a whole.[149]

On March 22, 2010, a Lynchburg Tea Party activist, attempting to post the home address of Congressman Tom Perriello on a local blog, incorrectly posted the address of Perriello’s brother and encouraged readers to "drop by" to express their anger against Rep. Perriello’s vote in favor of the health care bill. The following day, a severed gas line was discovered in Perriello's (brother's) yard and FBI investigators determined that it was intentionally cut as a deliberate act of vandalism. The website issued a response saying the activist's action "was not requested, sanctioned or endorsed" by the group.


is this the future of the once-mighty republic party? wasting time distancing themselves from vile fleas that have attached themselves to respectable teabag protests?

by the way, i would think a stronger term than "classless" would be required for a term that, while printed in the wikipedia article, is so vile that it would have been inappropriate for me reproduce on Betsy's forum

if "classless" is the best that teabaggers can do for a term like thay, they need to try harder to show that they are in the mainstream of american society

tfhr said...

Teabag Voltaire,

1. Provide a link for that garbage you reproduced in your 6:44 PM rant.

2. Your fascination with "tea-bagging" is perverse and prevents you from contributing anything worthwhile here.

Pat Patterson said...

TV has gone to that highly reliable source, Wikipedia, and run a cut-and-paste that once again reveals no thought or curiousity. Even the section he borrowed from has a warning posted that much of the info is in dispute and needs clarification and resolution.

Betsy Newmark said...

TV - I'm establishing a new rule. I'm just not going to publish comments that use the "teabagging" epithet for those who participating in protests against the size of government. You know very well that the only reason that opponents of the tea party movement use that phrase is to get their sophomoric chuckles over using an explicitly sexual metaphor. It's disgusting and insulting and I'm just sick of hearing it either from commentators on TV who should know better or from people commenting on my blog who just want to irritate and insult those with whom they disagree. If you enjoy using the term so much, go to the leftist blogs where your lamentable sense of humor would be better appreciated.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

that opponents of the tea party movement use that phrase is to get their sophomoric chuckles over using an explicitly sexual metaphor

you get to set the rules on your blog, Betsy, but as to your imputation of my motive, which you claim to know - you are incorrect

tfhr said...

Geeze TV - grow up.

Pat Patterson - That's precisely why he so seldom includes a link as his sources and material usually undercut his effort.

Dr Weevil said...

So what was your motive, TV?

Tacitus Voltaire said...

Dr Weevil said...
So what was your motive, TV?


well, i appreciate somebody asking me a civil question instead of imputing thoughts and motives to me and all other liberals

have you heard how every member of the GOP has, for over 20 years now, insisted on referring to the democratic party as the 'democrat party', and to their colleagues on the other side of the aisle as 'democrat politicians'?

we just sigh and let them make themselves sound like a bunch of ignorant good ol' boys

now, i don't want to personally insult you, Dr Weevil, so please excuse me, but you could have ignored insignificant things and concentrate on the substance of what i was saying. instead, you guys managed to amply demonstrate how much of an unholy pissy fit you could work yourselves up into over a triviality

it proved very instructive to my audience

Tacitus Voltaire said...

Dr Weevil said...
So what was your motive, TV?


but, i should add, once i had started, instead of asking me to stop like grownups with manners would, tfhr immediately launched into schoolyard taunts that made him sound more like a junior high school student during recess than anything else. and you, dr, didn't exactly distinguish yourself either, i am sorry to say

i don't respond to childish taunts as a reasonable replacement for requests

Dr Weevil said...

Funny you should mention that, TV. I was going to use the very example you just used to prove the opposite of what you just alleged.

I am a member of the GOP and I do not use 'Democrat' as an adjective because, for some reason I do not understand, it really annoys a lot of Democrats (the noun) and I see no point in gratuitously annoying the other side. When you say that "every member of the GOP" uses 'Democrat' as an adjective, you are simply lying: there are hundreds of thousands of exceptions like me who grant you a courtesy that you are entirely unwilling to reciprocate.

You are also conveniently ignoring the fact that 'Democrat' as an adjective is not an obscenity: other than not being the preferred form, it's very hard to see what could be wrong with it. On the other hand, you, and thousands like you, have repeatedly used a word that you must have known is a gross obscenity, and refused repeated requests to stop it. And you have the nerve to accuse others of "adolescent" behavior? Why was it a shock and a horror when one or two people in a crowd allegedly called Barney Frank a 'f*gg*t' or a 'h*m*' (the story changed from one to the other after a few days, which makes me wonder whether it even happened), but perfectly acceptable for ten thousand people over the last year to call Tea Partiers the word I don't want to use here? The latter is far more obscene. The two I just quoted imply that someone is (a) homosexual and therefore (b) contemptible, which is bad enough, but the T-word is far more explicit: like some other words that I would be instantly banned for using here, it specifies a particular sexual act most people (and not just heterosexuals) find (at best) bizarre. Yet somehow one whole side of the political spectrum has decided that it's OK to use it on their enemies. It's an amazing phenomenon, and a spectacular instance of mass hypocrisy, that people would have the nerve to object to 'Democrat' as an adjective while using that word.

As for politely asking you to stop using the word, I believe I have done so on previous threads. I have certainly more than once asked lefties on this very site who use the word to stop using it, with very little success. And you didn't use it just once, but at least half a dozen times in the last week, like a potty-mouthed child.

You want reasonable argument, try avoiding the "childish taunts" yourself. Until you demonstrate otherwise by (among other things) not pretending that all Republicans use 'Democrat' as an adjective, I will consider you nothing but a common troll.

Pat Patterson said...

Uh, after two vague reponses I think it is fair to ask again, "So what was your motive, TV?"

tfhr said...

Dr Weevil,

TV's issues with foul language are explained, in large part, by this revealing commentary posted at Sadly, No!

#

Tacitus Voltaire said,

January 26, 2010 at 21:25

the only thing- that the T*******s have right is that this is a class struggle

the only class consciousness i have ever seen in t********s is the consciousness that they really hated that nerdy know it all that they are conscious of having beat up in high school algebra class who is now a software engineer

seriously, t*******s are not interested in class struggle – they are interested in becoming the ruling class

http://www.sadlyno.com/archives/27936.html

Denigrating the political opposition with unacceptable language seems to go hand in hand with his acceptance of class warfare as an acceptable means to an end.

tfhr said...

***Warning***

I should have warned others here that the link to TV's comments at Sadly, No! contains a great deal of filthy language, as is common elsewhere on the site. Sadly, No! also delivers a horrendous racial slur against Walter Williams.

http://www.sadlyno.com/archives/30118.html

Calling black conservatives "Uncle Toms" is the lowest of the low. It reveals both a level of racism and a desire to stifle free speech and independent thought that most people simply cannot believe would exist in this day and age in America. I'm glad to see that TV did not chime in with the other "comments" made on the Walter Williams hit piece, but I wonder what makes him gravitate to such a site.

After looking through the archived thread where TV made his case for class warfare and a glance at the horrendous homepage containing perverse content and racial slurs, I had had enough.

TV, you can be known by the company you keep. I wonder if you accept the disgraceful treatment of Walter Williams as reasonable discourse. How do you explain such a thing?

Pat Patterson said...

Didn't 'Sadly, No1' cover for Deb Frishch for months until even they gave up on her?

Tacitus Voltaire said...

repeatedly used a word that you must have known is a gross obscenity

the common english phrase used to describe a small paper packet containing dried tea leaves is not a "gross obscenity"

you and tfhr seem to have had no scruples in repeating the expression in your taunts, to the extent that now that it is banned, i needed to substitute asterisks when quoting both of you, which you can clearly see, above

please check the beam in your own eye before casting aspersions about the mote in others

Tacitus Voltaire said...

tfhr

i am impressed that you have learned the phrase "class warfare", and i have every confidence that someday you will understand what it means

Tacitus Voltaire said...

Dr Weevil said...
Typically, people who call others "teabaggers" (or variations on the same) are foul-mouthed morons who need to go away and leave the conversation to the grownups. There's no excuse for using that obscenity (or any other) on the site of a high-school teacher.


here we have an example of dr weevil freely reproducing an expression that, for some reason, he has decided is a "gross obscenity" that should not appear in a public place

Tacitus Voltaire said...

dr weevil, i challenge you to cite for me any single example of a sitting member of the GOP referring on the air to the democratic party as anything but the "democrat party". i have been listening carefully for many years and note the discipline with which the republic party has enforced their version of the appellation

i will continue to call it the republic party until i hear a change in rhetoric on the part of GOP office holders on t.v.

tfhr said...

TV,

Congratulations to you for finding a way to equate the term "Democrat" with a vile sexual descriptor. I don't know why you would do such a thing but that's all you've achieved here.

As for your aforementioned commentary on "Sadly, No!", I hope you don't talk like those other people that post there; To do so would be to degrade yourself.

Suddenly I'm feeling bad for you, TV. Was your high school experience so traumatic that bullying or derision at the hands of the "cool" kids pushed you into the arms of racists and perverts, as demonstrated at "Sadly, No!"?

Celebrate your good fortune at being a capable, if not wildly successful software engineer. It sounds as if you still have an axe to grind over days long ago when your status of "geek" was unrewarded, and worse, a point of derision. Let it go. High school is over for you and the real world awaits!

tfhr said...

Pat Patterson,

Sadly, Yes.

There's quite a history on her:

http://debfrischtimeline.blogspot.com/

Pat Patterson said...

I think, remembering the dismembering of Groucho's quote, we should now refer to TV as our Spooner.

"You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

tfhr said...

TV,

You're not going "Frisch" on us, are you?

This sounds like a threat:

Tacitus Voltaire said...

tfhr

i am impressed that you have learned the phrase "class warfare", and i have every confidence that someday you will understand what it means

2:32 PM


Wow! Are you planning something with that rope I sold you? http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/39750.html

Dr Weevil said...

Bing hits for "my Democrat opponent": 165.

Bing hits for "my Democratic opponent": 23,900,000.

(I'm sure there are some 'false positives' in that second group, but the disproportion is clear.)

Credibility of TV's assertion that "every member of the GOP has, for over 20 years now, insisted on referring to the democratic party as the 'democrat party'": 0.00000.