: I just opened the most upsetting email, one of many that responded to my view of Fahrenheit 9/11. It said in part:

Wake up Mr. Jarvis, we are a nation divided! It is us vs. them! What rock have you been living under for the past few years? I am much more afraid of Bush, Ashcroft, and the rest, then [sic] I am of any terrorists.

Now that is truly frightening. This man — a guy named Robert who lives in Moscow, ID (supply your own irony) — truly believes that his enemies are his fellow citizens and his President, not the terrorists who murdered 3,000 of my neighbors before my eyes.

What the hell is happening to America?

Or is it really happening to America?

Or is it happening to an extreme fringe?

When I was on CNN the other night, the only thing I said that surprised Aaron Brown and Jeff Greenfield — and it took them physically aback — was when I responded to the old saw that we are a divided nation and said, “It’s our fault.”

It’s our fault — in media and politics — when we paint America as a nation divided and it’s as if we want it to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is why I have such a problem with Michael Moore‘s Fahrenheit 9/11: It seeks to divide.

It demonizes. And it picks the wrong demons. It’s us vs. them, but the them is us.

I hated it when the right wing demonized Bill Clinton. So, you know what? That pretty much makes me honor-bound to hate it when the left wing demonizes George Bush. For I do not believe that the half of America that elected the one is evil while the half that elected the other is angelic.

I can’t stand Michael Moore for looking at America as inspiration for leftist invective just as I can’t stand Rush Limbaugh for looking at America and spewing his right-wing rants.

I hate it when my colleagues in media talk about how we all hate each other when I see absolutely no reporting that backs that up; I can’t stand being turned into a one-dimensional fool by my own business.

Am I going to light a candle and ask, “Can’t we all get along?” No. The issue isn’t us. The issue is how we are portrayed by politicians, political activists, and media. They’re wrong about America.

So it’s time to turn the tables and treat them as they treat us: Let’s cut them out of one-dimensional cloth, for they truly deserve it.

It’s time to treat Michael Moore as the extremist that he is. Simple-minded, simplistic, mean, venemous, a hate-monger who does nothing to advance the debate and aims instead to divide. Add your nominees on the left.

And the same goes for Rush and Jerry Falwell and others who spew their hate and half-facts and bile and intolerance. Add your nominees on the right.

They are extremists.

We’re not.

And media are their dupes or, worse, coconspirators.

But we the people now have a medium to call our own. We need to use it to reclaim the reasonable middle.

  • I feel your pain. But, in fact we are two nations–and not the two we used to be (and still are–the haves and have nots). The elections a few years ago showed the exact fracture, the reds and the blues. And the split has become incresaingly noticeable. You yourself imply that which you deny when you point to Moore and Rush L. as representative of this split…yes. Both are extremes but they are but icons, representatives for what has taken place in our country.

  • odrady

    Wow, Jeff; that was amazing. I think your observations are spot on…

  • PJ

    Well said. Was it this polarized in the late ’60s-70s? Can’t remember.
    I read somewhere that moveon.org urged all their members to see it the first weekend, so I’m hoping that’s why those first crowds seemed so…scary. And the anti-MM book is zooming up the Amazon charts.

  • You’ve touched on the main reason why the media is held in such low regard…big media doesn’t describe a world (or world-view) that its audience recognizes as reality. Why should I believe what they say about what’s happening across the country or around the world when they get what’s going on in my hometown totally wrong?

  • DividedWeFall

    My husband and I were just talking about this last night. You are right on Mr. Jarvis! Much respect to you.
    My husband and I very rarely get our news from major media anymore. We gather news from blogs and other sources, compair the information and try to find the truth somewhere in the middle. Very time consuming but well worth the effort.
    Please, please keep doing what you’re doing, we will be with you every step of the way!

  • syn

    I hear you Jeff, they are extremists. Two days after 9/11, a born and bred New Yorker former friend of mine tried to tell me the ‘WTC was just a building, we should move on.’ In addition, Bush was going to ‘lead us to war in order to secure his re-election.’ I had to point out to my former friend that a mutual firefighter friend Capt. Pat Brown died that day trying to save the innocent lives in that building and we are already at war sue to the fact that America was attacked on our soil without provocation.
    Radical Islamofascist terroists are the enemy, not Bush.
    I also believe MM is telling Americans we deserved to be attacked and is enforcing division for a purpose other that looking out for the public’s interest.

  • B. Smith

    I’d really like to believe that the apparent division in this country, is in large part, due to media coverage. I know many people who are neither right nor left. They take more of a moderate view. Sadly, this point of view is not as titillating as the extremes. As far as I’m concerned Bush is much too conservative and Kerry much too liberal. It seems these days all of the moderates are gone. Are they?

  • MortifiedPenguin

    Jeff, good luck. You’re going to need it. You’ve set yourself up for some nastyness.
    That said, even though we have different politics, your stance on Moore is quite laudable and it does make some of the over-the-top stuff from the Clinton years (some of which I engaged in, I will admit) fell, er, frankly, um, embarrassing.
    There is hope for a saner body politic, although it is kind of fuzzy at present. Not sure exactly how it will all work out but when guys like you are able to stand up and say “Enough” perhaps it a step in that direction.

  • MortifiedPenguin

    And I am mortified at my grammatical errors. fell=feel, perhaps it=perhaps it’s.

  • Angelos

    “big media doesn’t describe a world (or world-view) that its audience recognizes as reality”
    A perfect statement, Martin.

  • Cog

    Exactly, the most vocal opponents of what happened to Clinton are now leading the Bush hatred.
    Maybe we should demand that the Al Qaeda beheadings are shown in their entirety just like the 9-11 footage was for a brief period.
    Those who fear Bush more than Zarqawi are imbeciles.

  • Dexter Westbrook

    I suggest we need to use this standard of judging, or something like it:
    1. Is the person willing to say his/her opponents are people of good will, acting in good faith, and that disagreements might be sincere, rather than motivated by greed/evil/misanthropy?
    2. Is the person willing to acknowledge and correct mistakes?
    3. Does the person express respect for his or her political opponents?

  • Jeff,
    Why all the vitriol? The same reason as the rage of the terrorists against the U.S., I believe. People are feeling marginalized, left out, they have missed the big boat and are trying to sink it rather than catch up to it.
    The terrorists missed the industrial revolution, science, capitalism, democracy and prosperity, so they try to destroy all of that in Western Civilization.
    When Clinton was in power, the radical right felt marginalized and tried to destroy him and get back in power. It was shameful vitriol. I regret my feelings of rage at the time. I refused to see him as human. I am sorry.
    Some of the more radical liberals are marginalizing themselves in a different way. W

  • chuck

    My own impression is that these hate wars are almost always fanned, if not created, by the media, artists, writers, etc., i.e., precisely the folks who claim an enlightened morality.
    I’m thinking about the communists, the nazis, the Serb nationalists, and so on. A women from Croatia related to me how suddenly, overnight it seemed, they were hearing hate rants on the radio, then came the Serb invasion. Quite typical I think.
    Watching the leftists take over a larger part of the democratic party has left me disgusted and driven me out. As to why intelligent folks fall into this nonsense, it isn’t such a mystery: they run in crowds and don’t engage in unorthodox thought. It has always been so.

  • Fret not, Jeff… like the ad says: “America is alive and well and living in Vermont.”
    Some people take comfort in the idea of a divided America. Some people pay their bills that way, even.
    Never confuse irresponsibilty with the truth, like our good friend MM is wont to do.

  • Alice

    Wow. Jeff, you are on fire. And this has got to be a record for the most comments in a comment section with which I am in near total agreement. Blogs are revolutionary and thank God for them. If you don’t read blogs like Andrew Sullivan, this one, Blackfive.net, Iraqthemodel, then you don’t have all the information you need about the war, and the rest of the world for that matter. There are so many stories of incredible bravery and victory on Blackfive that you rarely see in the mainstream media. And I defy any editor to tell me it’s not news. If you are an editor who feels that way, email me right now.
    I agree that there is a divide, as shown by the last election results. But I think the divide is illusory in that there are a great many perfectly reasonable people stuck in the middle with no one to vote for. So it’s perhaps that things are too greatly oversimplified in the media. Context is rarely offered. But here’s the tough question: Will people buy media where context is offered? Can we find journalists capable of offering it? And I’m not ranking on journalists on that one. Check out research done on J-school grads and their political beliefs and motivations for becoming journalists and you will see a quite homogenous group, largely liberal. On issues such as abortion many journalists have reported that they don’t even know anyone who isn’t prochoice. So I am seriously concerned that some journalist can’t do better.

  • Jeff,
    > So whether you like Stern or not — and
    > clearly, many don’t and many do — you should
    > pay careful heed to what the government is
    > doing right now. It is chilling free speech.
    > And that is always dangerous, whether it
    > happens in Iran or in America.
    Maybe it’s time you toned down the rhetoric on the whole Howard Stern thing, so people don’t become confused?

  • jon

    you may not feel as threatened by GWB as (much as?) others, but categorically denying those belief and feelings is not convincing. For those living outside of NYC and DC the “terrorists” are a more and more distant threat, overtaken by more immediate problems. As with most anything, time heals the wounds and replaces the fears…
    For many, Bush policy and actions have a much more direct impact on lives than “terrorists”.
    I saw F911 thought it sad, funny and thought provoking, I also had some problems with it (broad strokes drawn from specific facts; an unfortunate racism) the point it made (as did Bowling for Columbine for that matter) about creating and using a culture of fear for political aims was crucial.
    I also think that wrapping oneself in 9/11 and justifying any action based on the prevention of another 9/11 is dangerous…

  • Alice

    Jon, Of course there are reasons to disagree with Bush and the nation he would create for us. I have no problem with that statement, but it is really important that we not do the whole Bush-is-just-as-bad thing. It’s a viewpoint that can not be defended with intellectual integrity when he is compared to BinLaden, Hussein, Hitler, etc. It’s as stupid as calling me, a liberal, a communist. And it also takes attention away from the fact that there are many beautiful, innocent people who struggle to live under the vise of Islamofascism, and their pain is not something your average American has ever had to endure. As a good liberal, I must point that out. There seems to be a theme in Moore’s work that suggests we should all just relax and stop being so afraid. I can agree with that in many ways, like about letting your kid go outside to play, like I could when I was little. He seems to think that’s why Americans buy so many guns. Yet, he simultaneously wants for us to be paranoid about Bush the puppet master/idiot-pawn. It’s kind of hard to figure out how to agree with him, ironically. The terror alerts aren

  • djangone

    Wish I could smoke the pipe with you on more than simply thinking that Michael Moore is too simplistic and that his reach exceeds his grasp–as I do.
    If it were only a matter of black and white, it’d be easy to agree with you. But it’s not. Degrees matter. When the right sets up a cable news network, Rev. Moon sets up a newspaper, the AM radio waves are one-way, nonstop garbage, the churches are grabbing for school boards, it’s simply a bigger–and much more cynical–takeover than anything the left has ever conscienced to attempt. The operative word in that last sentence is ‘more.’ Both sides have made their cynical grabs. In practice, there’s no contest which has done more.
    Sitting in the center, I’m in daily shock at the right. I’m not a fan of Pelosi or Harkin or Kucinich, but for god’s sake, where’s the middle anymore? The left is less left now, more like me, while the right, well, take a quick trip through Freeper land or revel in the ‘Saint Rachel Corrie Pancake’ posts on LGF and gauge how far the right has descended. Where’s the heat coming from again?
    Comparing the attacks on a middle-left president like Clinton to the attacks on a radical-right president like Bush, again, doesn’t contemplate degree. I’m heartened to hear some posters say they were embarrassed by their attacks on Clinton. It was simply the silliest thing I’ve ever seen. But as to whether these attacks on Bush are justified, well, the gravity of the current situation is magnitudes of ten darker than any consequence of Clinton’s lies.

  • Sydney Carton

    To a large extent, Jeff is right that the media don’t report an accurate picture of events in America (maybe because they’re part of the problem). But there is no doubt that there is a huge divide in this country, between leftists who desire a return to power and the days of September 10th, and people who realize that things are new in the world. There are major divides between secularists and religious people. There are major divides between internationalists and patriots. There are divisions between hedonists/relativists and those who want to uphold traditional values. There are divisions between statists and populists. Most of these divisions easily can be lined up into a general division between the left and the right. And I think that for the most part, it’d be crazy to ignore these divisions.

  • Sydney Carton

    There is a book coming out now which basically fantasises about ASSASSINATING PRESIDENT BUSH.
    How far are you willing to go, Mr. So-Called Moderate?

  • onecent

    Sitting in the center, I’m in daily shock at the right……that’s a laugh. Perhaps reviewing your comments posted below under the “and more Moore” posting you might want to retract your crap about “sitting in the center”. I’ve copied it for all to examine:
    If on the other hand it opened in a nice white-trash rightie mothership like Enid, Oklahoma, there’d be a chance of tobacco spittle getting tossed on the screen, and it just wouldn’t build be the happy experience you want for an opening weekend. And who’d listen to righties anyway as they try to string three sentences together to describe the film?
    Not exactly the words of a centrist, or an educated, or an intellectually principled person. More the words of an idiot who trolls sites until expelled or ignored.

  • billg

    Fantastic post.You remember that democracy requires tolerance and compromise, while so many others have forgotten.
    Re: Moore — I assume he’s in it for the money. He’s hit on a formula that guarantees profit,so he will continue pandering to the prejudices of his audiences.
    On a more general note, it is a common mistake to link right-wing with conservative and left-wing with liberal. In the context of American culture, conservatives and liberals both share the same faith in the decisions of the people, in democracy. Today’s right-wingers and left-wingers do not merit those labels. They do not trust the people or democracy. They believe that they know the direction of history and that this knowledge gives them a moral imperative to use any means to ensure that their vision of the future comes to pass. In that fundamental belief, they do not differ from today’s Islamic terrorists, the fascists and Nazis of our parents’ generation, or the other bigots and tyrants that have defiled human history.
    These people lack faith in the American people. The American people need to prove them wrong.

  • Erg

    Lets see if I understand this. Apparently Limbaugh’s demonizing Clinton for 8 years was fine. Apparently Coulter’s calling all liberals traitors was fine. Apparently half a dozen Clinton bashing book was fine. Rhetoric comparing Clinton and Janet Reno to Hitler, claiming Clinton murdered Vince Foster, claiming he murdered 34 people, claiming he smuggled drugs in Arkansas (something reported on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page) is fine. Apparently blaming Clinton for attacking Iraq is fine. Apparently claiming that the CLinton administration carried out the Okhlahoma city bombing to declare martial law was fine.
    But when Liberals first start coming out with Bush bashing books (middle of last year was when it started), when a weak Air AMerica, can barely reach 5 stations started 5 months back, why its the evil liberals attacking. How dare they attack out President ?
    I have not seen 911, and probably will not because frankly I cannot stand Michael Moore and disagree with him. But plase spare me the sudden concern about a badly divided country, about personal counter-attacks. Please spare me that we’re being unpatriotic in criticizing parts of the Iraq operaion, when Clinton was lambasted for Bosnia, KOsovo, Iraq. ANd spare me the sudden concern about Presidential bashing.
    Yes, I know if Kerry is elected, he will get the same invective. In fact, its already started. And you know what, I don’t care.

  • djangone

    One other thing comes to mind.
    You know that old saw that goes, Would you recognize Jesus if you saw him today? Remember how the first time you heard it it made you wonder, hmmm, am I trusting my own judgment as much as I should?
    Let’s give it a little update for effect. Would you recognize the worst president in American history if you saw him today?
    In other words, there’s a problem with setting yourself up as a referee. Even Franklin Pierce got votes. Slip Pierce into Bush’s suit, give him Fox, WaTimes, WSJ, AM radio, pulpits nationwide, Judith Miller, the rest of the right media, wrap him in a flag, give him a lapdog in Britain and a Congressional majority and would you still know him for the void he is?

  • Barry

    Jeff, some very very good thoughts in your post.
    It has been observed so often that it is practically a cliche: the nominating process for both parties tends to select for (relative) extremists, because they are the ones who can rally the politically active party faithful; then both sides tend to run towards the middle in the general election. Clearly, there is still a significant fraction of the electorate that can be described as “moderate” because those are the fabled swing votes that are being so eagerly sought after.
    In the current polarized political climate, extremists are making the most noise by far, and moderates are getting lost in the general cacophony. This is the type of climate in which the Michael Moores and Rush Limbaughs of the world can flourish.
    As a social liberal and a fiscal/foreign policy conservative, I’m in a real quandary this year. Honestly, I don’t really trust the Republicans on social/civil liberties issues (Ashcroft et al are an utter disaster on this score) and I don’t really trust the Democrats with economic or defense policy.
    By the way, for a useful elucidation of how the country is divided these days that goes beyond the usual red state vs. blue state descriptions, check out this article in Commonwealth:
    Based on the 2000 election results and US Census data, the author divides the country up demographically into ten distinct regions, each with its own defining economic and social concerns. It’s very interesting reading, and describes political strategies for both Democrats and Republicans based on this model. I came away from it with a much deeper understanding of the current situation.

  • Alice

    dj, You know why churches can seize school boards? (And I agree that that is frightening.) Their candidates often run unopposed. Is the Bush administration kidnapping liberal candidates who wanted to challenge them? It’s not a conspiracy as much as apathy on the part of the voter. It’s not a conspiracy if a liberal radio program tanks. It’s not a conspiracy if FOX is successful (and I don’t like it) when so many pseudo-pacifistic journalists won’t report on the successes in the war on terror and on the war in Iraq because they are trying to be the BBC, which is ironically in serious trouble, for, well, sucking. And you are certainly entitled to your opinion and to comment at will, but

  • djangone

    I’m not a left-winger in so many ways, shall I recount them? It’s possible to distrust and have little respect for the right whatever your own political beliefs.
    It’s also possible to mock them. Fun too. So thanks for resurrecting one of my better posts for me. Go back and grab the one about ‘waking up with Joe Bob Nascar fan’ while you’re at it.
    The Economist is closer to me ideologically than Mother Jones. Why? Because I say so, because I vote so. That is, after all, what determines it, not who we think are fools.

  • Jon Juzlak

    Jeff seems to hope that this new medium (the Internet) could lead to less partisanship, It seems to me that most political sites and blogs are actually quite partisan. Indeed that makes sense — most people who are satisifed with mainstream media will stick with that. People who are not satisfied, both of the left and right will go to alternate sites that are more biased. So the Internet accomodates more bias, not less.
    Incidentally, while I believe Jeff claims he’s centrist, in certain views (war on Iraq, for example), he seems very determinedly non-centrist. The key point should be agreeing to disagree –on Iraq, not everyone who supports the war is a bloodthirst imperialist, not everyone who opposes it is a leftist America hater.

  • lux

    For a lot of Americans, home-grown hate is in fact more of a threat to their day to day lives than that of extremists 3000 miles away.
    Jeff, you’re a white, upper-middle-class, heterosexual Christian. You’re about as mainstream as America gets. I don’t think you can understand the visceral fear some of us have when confronted with a bunch of Christian Republicans who are passionately convinced they’re right.
    I’ll try to explain to you why I do think there are two Americas.
    People like Bush and Ashcroft make a big deal about being deeply committed Christians. And the more I hear about things like Bible study classes being held in the White House or Bush being quoted that Jesus is his favorite philosopher, it makes me very scared. It makes me feel excluded and left out, like their vision for America is one that I’m not welcome in. And given the grand tradition of Christian proselytizing evangelism, when there’s a lot of fervent Christians in power, it’s not that crazy to be concerned exactly how far those powerful Christians will push their authority.

  • billg

    You can’t have faith in any ideology, left or right, and still believe in democracy.
    Abandon the notion that there is a single ideology that has all the answers. It doesn’t exist.
    If you believe in democracy, put your faith in the people. If you believe in an ideology, any ideology, acknowledge you do not believe in democracy.

  • djangone

    Also, take a look at your other post above. I’m not sure you’re saying what you think you’re saying.

  • Kat

    Lux–I’m scared shitless of those God forsaken atheists who want to destroy my right to be a Christian. You have removed Christianity from schools–now you are shoving that islamic shit down my kids’ throats and calling it cultural diversity. I don’t like the atheist preaching anymore than you like Christianity. However, I’m not attacking your stupid beliefs.
    Mark Steyn sums up you lefties perfectly. Maybe all you are lacking is a checkered tea towel. After all, you are on the side of the beheaders.
    {I can understand the point of being Michael Moore: there

  • Hunter McDaniel

    I’ll gladly confess to having despised Clinton, and I don’t mind if Democrats feel the same way about Bush. But I would much rather live under Bill or Hillary than binLaden/Zarqawi – I mean, isn’t that bleeding obvious? Why then, is it so hard for the left to admit the same with Bush?
    I also think Jeff needs to give Rush a break. He may be full of himself at time but he doesn’t merit the hatemonger label. You may not agree with him, but he at least tries to make an argument.

  • Alice

    lux, I’m a huge proponent of separation of church and state because I think it’s better for both. In fact I would argue that one of reasons Islamofascists are created is because of a lack of that separation in the Middle East. So, you make a good point about Christians who would erode that divide by fighting for the Ten Commandments to be in a courthouse foyer. I also have issues with religious organizations being given tax dollars. But these are not radical desires when you compare the US to many European countries where there is little separation by American standards. Are they serious problems, sure. In Germany they have crosses on some public classroom walls. In Sweden there is an official state religion. But they are not crazy things for a Christian conservative to seek when compared to countries that are very close to us in the spectrum. Compare that to the kind of violence brought down on Muslims who step out of line by doing something like interpreting a passage in the Koran differently. We don’t experience that violence at the hands of Christians, with the exception of a very rare abortion clinic bombing. Or think about what happened to Rushdi. How about women who don’t want to live under the strict Muslim code? Death, mutilation, and jail are common for that infraction. So please be afraid of both, but more afraid of the Islamofascists. Oh and because they know we’ll never live like that, they’ll kill us in the thousands, or maybe in the future it will be just a few hundred at a time like in Madrid.

  • lk

    If you get upset by an American thinking in politics it is “us vs. them”, how do you feel reading the news and seeing Americans murdering their own children. Extremists are creeps, but fun because it is easy to get their goat, and I do. Next right winger you see, just say “I went to see F 911”. For the lefty, say “God Bless George Bush” Those simple sentences can cause apoplexy. It’s like exploding frogs with firecrackers.

  • James

    i’m lost. how can producing a biased piece of film be equated to marching the nation to war under biased causes? they were lies and they knew it — from hans blix (oh no, he was biased because he didn’t agree with the president), to wespons inspectors on the ground (oh no, they were biased because they didn’t agree with the president) to fabricated information from chalibi (he wasn’t biased because he agreed with the president) i appreciate the effort at putting out the fires of division (i don’t recall your voice particularly strong then –so i can only think that your fear now is the mobilization of the left that obsession with getting even brings)
    these really are the motifs the engender disgust.

  • sbw

    Mixing metaphors: the air clears instantly when someone hits the nail on the head. I feel better for you having labeled the behavior for what it is.
    But, Jeff, you need assure people that, having identified Moore for what he has done, you are not turning the middle ground into a place of venomous hatred against him. You’re just telling him you won’t play his game or any like it.
    BTW, as Thoreau said that for every thousand willing to hack at the branches of evil only one is willing to hack at the root. The root of evil is not that Moore or Falwell can do this, but that the rest of us take so much time to identify it for what it is.

  • billg

    It’s simple: If you trust the peoples’ ability to make the right decisions, you believe in democracy. If you trust an ideology to give you the right answers, you cannot believe that the right answers will come from the freely expressed voice of the people.
    What the so-called left and so-called right in this country have in common is a conviction that their ideology has the answers and a contempt for democracy.

  • djangone

    Yes, it’s possible to make a right-winger get apoplectic by saying you’ve seen F9/11. Witness, well, everything you’ve seen in the last four days.
    But you don’t have to be a very far left to gaze in wonder at those who’d bless Bush. Only 42% of this country approve of him, man! That’s ‘approve.’ Say ‘God bless,’ and some portion of that 42% would also turn and gaze in wonder.
    On the whole, based on the numbers at this point, you’d merely have to be in a rather large majority.

  • djangone

    Hey, how’d I get saddled with the nutbag?

  • Jim C.

    Extreme fringe? It contains Al Gore and Ted Kennedy. That makes it mainstream.

  • jon

    Alice, I think the point M Moore is trying to make (I think) is that GWB is using fear of one thing (Al Qaida,or general terrorism, say) to distract the public from another (a revenge war against iraq). He may not have all the facts on his side, but he does have a few.
    it also seems to me that your state of unease is understandable but partly the point MM is making…there are many reason to be afraid, but fear is an awful state of mind to make rational choices. MM rhetoric doesn’t clear the air, but it does give the left a blowhard of its own :)

  • Well said, Jeff.

  • shane

    Well said Mr. Jarvis.
    Im just wondering, is anyone else so tired of this crap that they plan on sitting out this election? If Kerry, Bush and Nader are my only choices, Im staying home this time around.

  • btm

    Having not seen the film (I’m living in Japan at the moment, soon to return. The national news here did a piece on the movie last night though, and all the clips were of overweight, poor-spoken Americans waiting in line to see the film…) I can’t really comment on the content. But I have a quetion: doesn’t a film like this simply further polarize those who are already polarized? Isn’t it the far-right and far-left who put Michael Moore up on either a pedestal or a gallows?
    I would contend that the vast majority of Americans might find the film thought-provoking while still seeing the propagandic nature of it. Are Americans ready to slit each others’ throats over differences in political opinion? Over tax-cuts or tax-raises? If the govt. were to start drafting men to serve, then you might find some sever reactions.
    It’s like abortion or the phrase “under God”: are these really issues that will cause an irrepairable rift in American society? No. We all have our opinions about these issue but we will not let minor disagreements such as these endanger the future of our country, no matter how close the media would like to pretend we are to rioting in the streets.
    I do beileve that the general public is somewhat ignorant and easily manipulated by the media, but at the same time I believe they are intelligent enough to realize that a nation united (even though we may have different opinions) is far stronger that a nation divided.

  • Brian H

    Hurrah! Finally someone who understands. I DESPISE Falwell and Moore. Rush makes me heave and sneer at the same time. Ted Kennedy has begun to fill me with disgust and contempt. And so on.

  • cheekygeek

    I am non-political. However, the email you got is not scary at all. What is scary is that you don’t see it. Horrific as it was, two towers coming down in NYC was superficial damage to this country. Crappy legislation like the Patriot Act and other moves to limit protections long available under the Bill of Rights was not done by the terrorists. It was done UNDER THE COVER of a response to the terrorists.
    History will not be kind to this administration and what it has done to over 225 years of democracy. I can’t imagine what this administration would do with the shackles of re-election concerns removed. The mind boggles.

  • check out recent postings on vision2020, the local (moscow, idaho) political email list http://vision2020.moscow.com/passpage.asp?ArchiveType=new and see if you can find this robert guy. he sounds familiar.
    Ry Jones
    Moscow, Idaho

  • Sydney Carton

    The Patriot act is worse than 9/11?
    Bad laws can always be repealed or overturned. But those people who died will never come back.
    I’ll take Jeff’s advice to treat you like the extremist that you are: SCREW YOU.

  • Richard

    Hello! I can share your reaction to Robert from Idaho in part– certainly a global terrorist organization is about the scariest thing going. However, I do think that our Government has overreacted in dozens of ways– the US Patriot Act, illegal detentions, I could list many things. (Oh, yes, a certain stupid bloody war, too.)
    These have been done because Bush & crew are too unimaginative to fight terrorism. Just about everything they have done has weakened our security and actually helped promote the recruitment of terrorists. They have done all this to prove to us their machismo. They also have, as others have noted tonight, been playing a game where they use our fear of terrorism to keep us paralyzed and to get re-elected.
    About us being a nation divided in two: actually we have many divisions, now as we always have. Yes, the divisions are more acute under this strain. You are NOT right to blame the media for causing this– they are just reporting on an existing phenomenon. (Blame the messenger?) You really want to order the media to say every night that we are all one sweet country under God and everyone agrees with everyone else— so if they do this it will make it so?
    A really good President would talk to the different groups in this divided society and help heal and bring them together.
    The same thing he/she would do in international relations so we can build true partnerships again. Bush is a FAILURE at this. I feel OK about Kerry. He has my vote although I don’t know how he will succeed. I do know that Bush panders to the Holier-than-Thous so it makes one puke. Poor Nancy Reagan begging for more stem cell lines and getting rebuffed.
    Here’s a division: I think we should pull all our troops out of Iraq in 6 months or less, and let the rest of the nations (Arab and others) take a shot at it for awhile.) Our kids have bled enough for rich corporate pilfering of the Iraqi economy. Yes, we don’t give a shit about Democracy and Freedom. Bush has lied too much to us : he wants profit, not Iraqi Freedom.

  • djangone

    Under ‘don’t blame the media’ for the poisoned debate, file this. A major conservative publication actually put this out yesterday.
    How can we expect liberals not to compare the right to Nazis when the right is making the comparison themselves. Yes, this is a repeat of something from another thread. From The Weekly Standard:

    YOU CAN FILE THE LESSONS of Mussolini’s rise under “H” for Hegel, the idea that extreme movements always beget extreme counter forces. It was the far left, by relentlessly chipping away at the foundations of Italian life, that gave birth and power to the far right–as it did a decade on when Hitler rode nearly the same path under similar circumstances.
    This is what seems most pertinent today, as “activist” groups like Moveon.org and demagogues like Michael Moore and angry men like Al Gore and George Soros rail so irrationally against both the president (comparing him to Hitler and Mussolini in a variety of contexts) and the structures of daily American life…
    …Either this November or in four years, George W. Bush is going to be turned out of office; even the judge agrees with that. Someday, though, a populace provoked by the left’s constant fire-breathing may look for a dragon slayer who won’t go quite so easily.

    So watch what your fire-breathing or a Hitler is gonna emerge from the right, and when he does, it’s your own damn fault, got that? A dictator as a dragon-slayer. That’s a new formulation for me. Beware of Club For Growth candidates named Beowulf.

  • EH

    It should be pointed out that to say one is more afraid of Bush than a terrorist is not to call them equally bad.

  • Right on Jeff! Well said!

  • Andy Rosen

    Stern, the digusting shock jock, potty mouth, has just announced that:
    1. He’s producing a new tv show for brown teeth bloggers.
    2. He’s getting engaged to Michael Moore.
    3. He’s been doing his show for 25 years (he’s not sure), and some time around the super bowl when Janet Jackson exposed her breast (fachacta 40 yr old boob he says), and it was the most downloaded clip. The esteemed FCC headed by Powell squandered $2 billion. And, Janet was not fined, but Howard is the victim. Clear channel is in bed with George bush. (Jeez, get to the point, this is old news.) We have a slacker president with more vacation time than eisenhower. Who’s next? The average 5 yr old knows the f word. The FCC witch hunt is going back 3 years. Satellite companies promise no censorship. Who doesn’t enjoy oral sex? No press members raise their hands.
    He’s adding 9 new stations to his network: (he’s not going to satellite), pittsburgh, san diego, west palm beach, rochester, orlando, houston, austin, tampa and fresno.
    Big freakin’ deal. Jeff, you owe me a mcd cheesesteak with mustard.

  • Kim

    Liberals hate fellow Americans more than Islamists
    Demonizing Liberals by Mona Charen. It’s being pushed by both sides creating a hate hate atmosphere in the media.

  • Walter Wallis

    Demonizing Clinton?
    Let’s see. Several blatently illegal fundraising schemes, not proven only because the full executive power of government was used to thwart the investigation. Remember lost billing records?
    Criminal political use of FBI files, 900 illegally copied to the Democratic National Committee system and no one knew who ordered the crime? A crime that sent a Republican to prison for copying one FBI file.
    Sexual harassment of subordinates the equivalent of which sent a Black DI to prison for 25 years and that would have cost any CEO his job and subjected his company to million dollar judgements papered over as “Bimbo Eruptions.”
    Nope – not fair and balanced, not all the same.

  • djangone,
    Do you even read the stuff to which you link?
    The Weekly Standard article is a cautionary one; it states that extremism begets extremism on the polar opposite side of the political spectrum.
    It’s not a threat; it’s warning against the bad effects of extremism. I think it could also apply to how the extremist reaction from the right to Clinton led to a strengthening of leftist extremism.
    What’s controversial about that?

  • shark

    The guy lives in IA, he doesn’t feel the threat of terror.
    It’s something that happens “in the big cities”

  • Trump

    Once again, you lump in Limbaugh with Moore.
    Your ignorance is astounding. DO you listen to Limbaugh or just to what people say about him? I suspect the latter.
    Jeff, I challenge you to show me where Limbaugh is like Moore. I’m not talking about some milquetoast defense like “he engages in spin” – because so do you. So do we all.
    Jeff, show me the LIES (not opinions that turn out to be wrong, there is a difference), the deliberate distortions, the half-truths spun together to create a deceptive picture that Rush uses. Show me the hate, the invective and the disregard for fairness from Limbaugh.
    Do it, or stop lumping him in with the Moores, Coulters, Frankens of the world.
    Put your money where your mouth is Jeff. I’m sick and tired of liberals using the “Limbaugh excuse” and getting away with this crap. Put up or shut up Jeff.
    Or do liberals like you not bother to back up what you say?

  • Jeff,
    Good stuff, and I agree with you point-by-point. Here are a couple of thoughts to consider in the discussion.
    1. The current political structure gains from the meme of a divided America. It makes it so much easier to frame issues.
    2. The media gains from the meme of a divided America on several levels. One, it makes coverage of politics easy. Two, it frames politics in a good-guys, bad-guys sporting event, which is what they think people want.
    I learned the hard way in life that behavior is often governed by illusions. That’s the case here, and the public is sick of it.

  • djangone

    ‘Extremism begets extremism,’ thank you. Very true. But Hubris, the portion of the piece that I pulled happens to actually be in the piece. It’s so embarrassing to WS I can’t imagine it’ll stay up, and I’m surprised to find anyone defending it. So let me ask you: Do you agree that the left is going to force you to pull a Hitler out of your ranks?
    When you and Shark come around, I can rest my case. Post away guys. Foot>red laser dot>squeeze trigger. Or in Shark’s case, FOOT>RED LASER DOT>SQUEEZE TRIGGER!!!!

  • djangone,
    I will post away, thanks.
    You’re skilled at burying mini-strawmen within your arguments.
    Do you agree that the left is going to force you to pull a Hitler out of your ranks?
    Ah, the slight shift in argument from the one that was actually made to the future extremist coming from “your ranks.”
    I must have missed the memo where everyone to the right of middle was forced into an amorphous lump. Does that apply to the left too? Are you responsible (and grouped with) everyone to the left, including any Marxist pedophiles that happen to be lurking around?
    The article argues that leftist extremism encourages the rise of extremism on the right (of course, the opposite is also true). That doesn’t mean a current GOP politician is going to bust out the Uzis. It means that in an escalating extremism arms race, a fascist could be born and supported. You should be impressed that a conservative author recognizes this danger.
    Or do liberals like you not bother to back up what you say?
    trump, I probably wouldn’t be defined as a “liberal,” but I’m really tired of people categorizing and labeling. Who are, precisely, “liberals like” Jeff? He seems pretty darn unique to me.
    In answer to your question, here’s an example of Limbaugh’s Moore-esque behavior.

  • djangone

    The extremism that gets created by extremism isn’t always across the divide. It’s only been nine years since Tim McVeigh, and we seem to have forgotten that the anti-government rhetoric that fanned the flames of his rage didn’t come from the left. He acted out during the giddy heights of mid 90’s, post AM radio takeover me-too-ism. One could go back a few decades and say the same of Manson, where the flame-fanning did come from the left–or SUV bombers for that matter. This is my problem with his logic.
    Look, as to strawmen, I dislike arguing so broadly from the extremes, or to even bring up bogeyman McVeigh, but what are we talking about here? The article is talking about blaming the left for fascism. Strawmen? The references to Mussolini and Hitler are in the article. I didn’t put them on the table, and my own examples pale by comparison. Ick. That first paragraph of mine was awful to write, but such is the freshman-level reasoning of the article that nothing but freshman-level responses can be made to it.
    And the author’s putting Hitler squarely in the right’s camp, which is suicidal and downright goofy of him.

  • djangone,
    Thanks for the response.
    I could have missed it, but I don’t think the article was arguing that this is the sole cause of extremism. Moreover, it isn’t presenting an excuse for extremism of any kind, just an explanation for the dynamics that might give rise to fascism.
    For example, if I say the German people are not genetically evil, but X political forces gave rise to the Nazi party, and warn against similar forces, I’m not cheering that process on.
    The author warning about a future fascist springing up – it isn’t suicidal; actually, it’s refreshing that he considers that possibility, even though some (obviously) will take it as him threatening it/advocating for it.

  • Robert Ryland

    I love your phrase “the reasonable middle.” If only we had a political party that represented us. I urge everyone who feels the same to check out this email to Andrew Sullivan: http://www.andrewsullivan.com/index.php?dish_inc=archives/2004_06_13_dish_archive.html

  • Matt S.

    Jeff I agree wholeheartedly with your comments, but what benchmark should/could be used to identify when a fringe groups opinion moves to the center of their specific parties platforms…there is the catch…the existing benchmark is in part how much coverage is shown in the media. By that benchmark, Michael Moore is much closer to the center of the liberal platform…and this scares me frankly. A lot of very smart people are not questioning facts because the facts they are hearing are ones they want to hear to support their point of view. Guess that is human…well..that is one thing both sides have in common anyway… :)

  • Rich

    I am a moderate republican, I too despise the extreemist of both sides of the aisle…Rush, Moore, et al, are destroying what is good of our country by emphasizing that which is bad. This is the evil of our times…

  • djangone

    My apologies for lumping you in with Shark. You didn’t deserve that.
    That final sentence’s portentous ring,

    Someday, though, a populace provoked by the left’s constant fire-breathing may look for a dragon slayer who won’t go quite so easily.

    sounds like the author’s way to ‘end with a bang.’ He was engaging in what he thought was par for the genre, a little hanging suspense. I’m giving him a lot of credit by saying that, however, because to take him at his word does him little credit, and gives me the unworthy feeling I’m doing a ‘gotcha’ on someone who wasn’t sure of the implications of what he was saying himself.

  • djangone,
    I guess we’re down to a disagreement, necessarily guided by our respective opinions, on the intent of the author.
    I can live with that.

  • pb

    Thye Bush administration is single-handedly riling up every person on the planet who has a grudge against the US. Why should we support that?
    Then you’ve got Ashcroft, Powell Jr and Delay who are very, very scary! Iraq is 10,000 miles away. It is not a threat.

  • Rich

    here is a thought provoking essay that I think you all should read…it’s about what could happen if we do lose the war on terror…
    I strongly suggest that you read this and think long and hard about the Patriot Act, and what can happen if we don’t pursue and destroy those who would defeat and destroy our way of life.

  • shark

    I sincerely hope that’s some video game or pop culture reference and that you’re not trying to incite violence towards me….

  • djangone

    Ahh, Shark, always there to keep my expectations for humanity nice and low. Keep working on it, you’ll get it someday.

  • Tongue Boy

    Lets see if I understand this. Apparently Limbaugh’s demonizing Clinton for 8 years was fine. Apparently Coulter’s calling all liberals traitors was fine. Apparently half a dozen Clinton bashing book was fine. Rhetoric comparing Clinton and Janet Reno to Hitler, claiming Clinton murdered Vince Foster, claiming he murdered 34 people, claiming he smuggled drugs in Arkansas (something reported on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page) is fine. Apparently blaming Clinton for attacking Iraq is fine. Apparently claiming that the CLinton administration carried out the Okhlahoma city bombing to declare martial law was fine.
    Fine with who? Can you develop a coherent argument with citations showing how the mainstream of the Republican Party used these incendiary accusations to help oust President Clinton from the Presidency? Hell, does anybody even remember the name of that dude who tried to sell most of this stuff? This bile certainly didn’t get circulated to the secret cell of the VRWC of which I’m a member; I feel totally dissed now.
    Meanwhile, the Senate puts normal business on hold so that Tom Harkin, Tom Daschle, Bill Nelson, Ernest Hollings, et al. can stampede to the nearest theatre to get their daily fix of conspiracy theory.
    The infection is moving deep into the brain. Can the patient survive?

  • shark,
    I believe djangone was making a metaphorical prediction that we would shoot ourselves in our feet with our arguments; don’t worry, no threat.

  • shark

    don’t worry djangone, I’ll stop laughing at your posts long enough to tell you what your mistakes and/or lies are…

  • Alice

    Well, all I can say is that I have enough energy and brains to protect my country from attacks on sep. of church and state, attacks on our civil rights, etc. while simultaneously supporting the democratization of the Middle East and hopefully creating room for a reformation of the Muslim religion. Now I just need someone to vote for.
    We must stop terrorism at its roots, therefore we must promote- through action- democracy in the Middle East. If you want less terror for you, but not for your grandkids, then call Bush just as bad as Bin Laden and say you are more worried about him. I’ll take Thomas Paine’s advice and handle the mess you would ignore so my ancestors won’t have to. And when the next terrorist attack involves a loaded Metro train heading for DC, Madrid-style, and you change your minds, I’ll welcome you with open arms.

  • steve alexander

    If you think “Moscow, ID” is ironic, perhaps you missed this story –
    (sorry for the nasty link)
    The Upshot?
    A non-resident alien persecuted by the feds for posting information on a website.
    He was a student at the University of Idaho in
    you guessed it – Moscow, ID.
    Had you even heard of this?
    Do you think This’ll be the last abuse of
    power in the latest “War” on something???

  • Quaker in a Basement

    Well, this seems like a good spot to put in a plug for my favorite of all liberals: Studs Terkel. The man is as lefty as they come, but he can sit down and have a conversation with the most conservative of conservatives. He gives and gets respect without compromising his own principles.
    Maybe if I live to be as old as Studs, I’ll figure it out.

  • Alice

    Steve: I read that article and it was impossible to tell what was going on with the guy. If he did indeed violate his student visa, then he should be deported. If our government was wrong, we should look at why the mistakes were made and compensate him. We can fight abuse of power AND pursue every single terrorist in AQ until they are all dead or in jail. Just like we can fight Islamofascists without banning headscarves in public schools, like they are attempting in France and Germany. Aren

  • Robert E. Bihlmayer

    Allow me to be blunt: the notion of the vast, “reasonable middle” is a fiction promulgated by those whose idea of “reasonable” means “compromising basic principles for the sake of compromise.” much as the Israel/Palestinian “peace talks” became increasingly impossible to take seriously as they moved closer to confronting the issues utterly inimical to compromise (e.g. the status of Jerusalem), the notion of a “reasonable middle” depends on delaying the parsing of irreconcilable differences to some future date. what major issue of our times is not actually a moral issue in political drag? e.g. Jeff’s shibboleth of obscenity as “free speech,” abortion, resistance to Muslim terror, acceptance of homosexuality…and what compromise is possible between moral absolutes? your “reasonable middle” depends on all parties being willing to live indefinitely with being neither defeated nor victorious on the issues which DEFINE which “side” one is on, and that simply is not realistic in view of human nature.

  • djangone

    I agree with you. The heavens are falling, but I agree with you. Until your last sentence.
    My question is whether it’s also human nature to find this condition untenable. I’ll go back into that intolerable liberal education of mine and dredge up Keats on ‘Negative Capability.’ That’s negate-ive capability, the ability to hold contradictory (negating) opinions at the same time.

    …at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason-Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.

    I’d say it’s human nature neither to be patient nor impatient. It’s humanity’s greatest gift to imagine things not in evidence, inferring a back of the house from the front, or the fulfillment of our hopes.
    You’re also talking in terms of issues, whereas this particular debate is about anything but. It’s about the heat. Again, positions (left, right) are different than temper (calm, enraged, or in my case sarcastic).

  • Rush Limbaugh is not Michael Moore.
    Jeff Jarvis thinks that “It’s time to treat Michael Moore as the extremist that he is.” Adding that Moore is “Simple-minded, simplistic, mean, venemous, a hate-monger who does nothing to advance the debate and aims instead to divide.” So far so good. But then he adds this “And the same goes for Rush”. Well, no, the same does not go for Rush Limbaugh.
    Limbaugh does not trade in deceit, Limbaugh often does advance the debate in rather complex ways. Limbaugh isn’t a hater, and he seeks to pursuade, which he often does, as countless thousands of phone calls over the years bare witness. And his show is full of information, often read from newspapers and magazines.
    Jeff Jarvis simply doesn’t have his facts straight here. He’s showing his lefty journalist social cohort bias here, and he’s not dealing off the top of the deck with the reader.
    This is a meme which is floating around the center-left — and its a false one. A real slander on Limbaugh. Time to kill it in the crib.
    The Rush = Moore meme got a big bump from CNN’s reporter Jeff Greenfield late last week:
    “I think this is — there’s no pretense that this is a fair movie. To me, it’s like a Rush Limbaugh rant. Rush Limbaugh takes facts and shapes them around his point of view. I also think that how you see this movie to a great extent depends on how you see the war. Jeff’s blog, which a lot of us read, has been relatively looking for positive news, I think. You remind us that the media can sometimes be negative. People who look at this war and think it was a mistake from the beginning, or worse, are going to love this movie. But he doesn’t pretend that it’s fair.
    Rush Limbaugh responds to Greenfield here.
    I’ll get back to this story over the course of the week.

  • djangone,
    The adept use of temper can affect positions.
    Hard/competitive temper can lead to a stalemate. On the other hand, cooperative temper can lead to understanding and something resembling compromise.
    For example, I think we started with the former, then tentatively danced toward the latter.
    Actual conversation is a good thing. Opinions are, and should be, malleable. Honey is better than vinegar, and all that.

  • djangone

    That you posted about ‘honey’ just after PrestoWhatever did some kind of revisionist retake on Rush is a littlle humorous.
    (BTW, Presto, the world knows all about Rush by now. Fifteen years in is a little too late to buff that turd.)
    Anyway, Hubris, that’s what I like about Gergen, Brooks–even, gasp, Arnold. Maybe it comes down to: the minute someone’s a RINO to the right, he’s all honey to me. Naaah, I can tell when someone hasn’t had the ‘100% Norquist Approved Beef’ stamp put on his head without having to be told. There’s a clarity to the eye and other visceral evidence of thinking rather than script-reading.
    If temper could affect my position I’d be an EarthFirster. It’s difficult not to join the hard-left, but I really just don’t look good in tye-dye.

  • Barney Lerten

    Hear hear, Jeff. Reminds me of the thing I wrote months ago, “The Moderate’s Manifesto,” which ran on a friend’s Website, http://www.utterlyboring.com – though I do wish we could stand FOR flexible, adaptable moderation, and not so loudly AGAINST the extremists. Then we become just another shrill voice, when sometimes, it’s the calmest voice that deserves the greatest attention in a room full of divisive shouters.

  • megapotamus

    Jeff, no one ever demonized Bill Clinton. As a rapist and otherwise a serial violator of womens physical integrity and public reputations, as a traitor selling nuke secrets to Red China, as an officer of the court who lied under oath and as a politician who sold all sorts of favors to the highest bidder including but not limited to pardons, there was never any need. If you are so concerned about polarization of the nation you should look at yourself and others who shut your eyes and plugged your ears to the traitorous, violent lunatic curr you inflicted on the nation for eight years. Truth hurts, don’t it?

  • Good post, Mr. Jarvis. While I agree with you in concept, I don’t understand this habit (seen elsewhere, often) of comparing Rush to Moore. We all know Moore’s main m.o. is to stitch together some pieces of information, and explicitly leave out others, to create an impression that is easily disputed or disproven. This does not describe Rush, or Coulter. They don’t practice deception; one may not like them, or their politics, but I challenge anyone who wants to make this comparison to provide conclusive evidence of a pattern of deception on their part.
    Now, obviously Rush and Coulter do rail against the Left, and bitch and moan and complain, and fume and sputter and even make one laugh, but on this point I would compare them to, oh, Dowd or Krugman. Maybe even Ted Rall, for invective level. Of course all of those last three are also unable to defend their sometimes ridiculous arguments, as regular readers of say Instapundit know well; Rush and Coulter, however, are pretty solid in their arguments.
    We should be careful about drawing the conclusion that the use of invective and even hyperbole proves anything about the quality of one’s arguments. One has nothing to do with the other.

  • This response posted at NewsTrolls. http://www.newstrolls.com/cgi_bin/website/view.cgi?dbs=Article&key=1088772600
    I watched Fahrenheit 9/11 a few days ago and I was struck by how tame, how moderate, the film really is. While it is anti-Bush, the film is unabashedly pro-America, pro-military, pro small town family values. What the film laments is not America, but how far America has drifted from its ideals.
    People in the United States live in a bubble, a coccoon of media isolation, that skews their view of the world and obscures how the world views them. What constitutes radical liberalism or leftism in the United States is viewed as nomal and mainstream in the rest of the world.
    The American right, by contrast, has little if any counterpart in most democratic countries. Voters in these nations would not countenance a Persident who claimed to be guided by God, who felt that the only response to adversity is to ‘get tough’, who uses the military as a normal and everyday extension of diplomacy and political will.
    The media environment in the United States has fostered this rightward skew, so much so that it is now said to have (to the astonishment of any external observer) a left-leaning bias. That the media could be perceived as left can only follow what amounts to the normalization of the extreme views of the right. People like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh are not merely the fringe; they get airtime, are responded to by respected critics, and are generally depicted as offering a viable and reasonable point of view, one that we may disagree with, but one that certainly belongs on the spectrum of political views.
    But what they – and a succession of pundits before them – have done is to push the spectrum to the right, making the obscene acceptable, and the everyday on the left, unthinkable. The other other nations people outside the U.S. can see that have done this are nations in which the religious and fundamental right has also prevailed by provoking prolonged external conflict and by normalizing the views of the radical, nations like Iran, like Iraq, like Palestine and Israel.
    America is divided, and I see no hope for this changing any time soon. If anything, the cleave will only widen as the American left takes steps to regain the political spectrum. Michael Moore’s tentative first steps are just a minor indication of what the left can do to normalize its own world view. Imagine an America where commentators talk realistically about nationalizing banks, disbanding the armed forces, providing free public health care to all, imagine an America where this sort of discourse is as normal and everyday as the discourse about whether angels exist, whether the ten commandments should be placed in courthouses, whether there ought to be prayer in school.
    It is going to happen gradually, but it is going to happen, because the veil that has been drawn over the American people by its media is finally beginning to be lifted. Able to see outside for the first time in a lifetime, Americans are seeing how unusual it is in the world for religion to be so deeply entwined in democratic discourse. They are seeing, for example, for the first time how deeply militarized their culture is – they see, for example, that other nations don’t salute the flag, other nations don’t employ military bands in formation at sporting events, other nations do not use military metaphors to discuss such unrelated fields as education and health.
    The rest of the world is waiting, wanting to embrace Americans in the world community, not hostile to American culture and ideals (as may be portrayed in U.S. media), not jealous of American achievement and standards of living. Ask any Canadian, for example, and while they will report, in poll after poll, that they like American people and American values, they have no desire to be Americans. And though it may seem amazing to Americans, the reason why off-shoring has become such a trend is that there are skilled workers in India who, on the whole, would rather stay in India and live as Indians.
    The American press depicts a world hostile to the United States, so much so that they only explanation the administration can give for something like 9/11 is that “They hate us.” But it’s simply not true. It is not America that these people hate. It is the face of America that the current administration, and the U.S. media, and the U.S. corporate network, projects to the world. The America of small-town Illinois, flags flying from the Post office, a brass band playing in the gazebo, Coke and milk and applie pie, the America of Haight-Ashbury, the Summer of Love, silicon chips, Mercury Mustangs and road trips, Norman Rockwell and casting your vote or having your say – we love that. Really, we do.
    People around the world have known for a long time what Michael Moore says and Americans are just beginning to realize is true. There has always been a threat to America, usually more imagined that real, always a foreign enemy that demanded that liberties be sacrificed and the consolidation of power continued, always a threat to keep the people off-balanced and afraid, always an England, a Spain and Mexico, Mexico, a Germany and Japan, a U.S.S.R and Vietname and Cuba, and Iraq and a Taliban and an Al Qaeda.
    American iconography is built around responding to these threats, a minuteman and a patriot, an Alamo, “54-40 or fight”, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”, an Iwo Jima, a Berlin Wall, a World Trade Center. America has come to a point where it can scarcely define itself without pointing to these ongoing, ever-present wars – but the rest of the world is moving beyond that, moving beyond the veil of fear, and bringing, and embracing, those Americans who want to take this step forward.
    America has not yet had a 1989, it has not yet had People Power, a Velvet Revolution, or even a Tiananmen Square. It has not yet seen the showdown between the people who simply want to live their lives in peace and a central government determined to keep them off-balance, afraid, militarized, docile, uninformed, prejudiced, bitter and angry. Rather than lead the way into a new sort of democracy, the United States is likely to be one of the last nations in the world to shed the tentacles of power, religion and corporation that create and propogate conflicts and strife simply to extend and consolidate their hold, their wealth, and their influence.
    People for whome this veil has been lifted see the ‘terrorist threat’, see Iraq and Korea and similar ‘enemies’ for exactly what they are: the same picture playing out, where religious zealots tweak and provoke and fight against each other to perpetuate fear and hatred in order to consolidate the hold on their own people. Saddan and Bin Laden and the rest do not want to destroy the United States – which, on the face of it, is a laughable ambition – they want to influence and sway and ultimately rule their own populations through fear, religion, nationalism, and unbridled military might.
    The enemy the Unites States is fighting when it fights in Afghanistan or Iraq is itself, in a mirror. It is a fight that must be provoked on a pretext, because there are no real issues to fight over, a fight that can never be won because the very existence of the war makes the enemy stronger. The war is a sham – but, as Moore and others point out, the casulties are desperately real: the people jumping from the WTC, the children firebombed in Baghdad, the American sons and daughters returning home in flag-draped boxes.
    We pay the price, says Moore, so that they can consolidate and extend and entrench their power.
    And so America’s population divides. Because there is not a middle ground, a compromise, in this war of ideas. When Bush says, “You are either for us or against us,” he is not polarizing the debate, he is reflecting a reality that already exists, that the people who object to the war, the aims of the war, the conduct of the war, the conseuqences of the war, are the true enemies. Bush may be fighting Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and who knows who else next year, but the real enemy is the peace activist sharing donoughts and stories and friends, the protester marching in Seattle or New York or Rome, the independent journalist, the loose-cannon film-maker.
    Bush has declared war, and mark my words, the battle is engaged. And maybe, someday soon, America will get its Prague Spring. And be welcomed, once again, on the side of democratic nations.
    We on the outside are waiting, with our arms open.

  • Susan

    I think Walt Kelly said it best when Pogo noted:
    “We have met the enemny and he is us.”

  • Michael

    Jeff Brokaw:
    Crazy-Like-A-Fox News Viewer
    Ann Coulter (archive)
    May 13, 2004
    You say, “I challenge anyone who wants to make this comparison to provide conclusive evidence of a pattern of deception on their part.”
    Objectively review the above cited column and you’ll see the evidence you asked for. It’s just one of many examples, but proves the point conclusively: Ann Coulter deals in deception.
    Lumping her in with Limbaugh is an insult to Limbaugh.

  • my own political leanings are more libertarian, and i hate the police state bills that get passed, but i do think there’s something to the have/have nots. my wife and i were just talking about selling some investments, and she says “oh crap, are we under a year? we’re going to pay through the nose!” and i said “no honey, bush is president, capital gains tax is half of what it used to be.”
    ah yes. somethings are different. my gut says “tax me more, make my schools better.” and my pocketbook says “f**k those morons.”
    i think greed is the only deadly sin. we’re all screwed.

  • Michael –
    Thanks for the link. I read that Coulter piece and don’t find any deception within – care to be more specific?

  • Alice

    Stephen, That was one of the best examples of the self deprecating and fantasy-based perspective on ‘our problem’ and why the world ‘hates us’ I’ve ever read. As a liberal, I found it condescending, ridiculous on more levels than I can possibly fit into a comment section, and a terrific indictment of the American left that I so desperately want to save. If you believe this, please travel more, read more history, and open your mind. I used to believe that junk and then I spent about twenty years traveling, married a European, and developed a much more balanced and realistic conception of this country and how we compare to others.

  • Orson

    I see the left in denial about terrorism (see Graham Allison’s new book “Nuclear Terrorism” http://www.nypress.com/17/26/books/AlexanderZaitchik.cfm). Allison unmasks the myths, authoritatively, myths about the pending danger, conluding that a nuclear terrorist attack on the US is more likely than not in ten years – thereafter it is inevitable. (But Kerry has taken up his policy recommendations.)
    What’s sadly missing in the debate (YES! because of the media) is dicussion of the enemy – who are they? why do the kill us?
    THIS situation is a legacy of 90s political correctness: we can’t talk about the War on Jihadism and instead emply rediculous euphemisms like “War on Terror.” Why? Because then it finger the Muslim – and you can’t say that!” Then we meekly call the Religion of Jihad a “Religion of Peace.”
    WE are living the Orwellian nightmare where the theatened can’t clearly discuss threats for fear that someone (“the other” no less in PoMo-speak) will be offended. Therefore, we offend our imagined enemy instead of realistic ones.
    Instead we fear imaginary threats like Chrstians in government – who have objctively lost enormous amounts of power over the past two decades. The left can’t think straight because their religion IS power! – and their only bases left are the big cities, the media, and the universities. All others have gone over to the Dark Side (well, not big business – but profit seeking is immoral, so they belong to the Dark Side by default).
    We are reaping what we sow (i.e., relativism, confusion, blindness).

  • Orson

    To Stephen Downs-
    You’re simply miseducated about America. The left in the US denies American exceptionalism, wanting us to be secualr welfare-state socialists like Euros. We’re not! GET OVER IT! The right reverves it and seeks to spread it.
    For a quick “look see” at AM exceptionalism, read the last Independence Day issue (2004) of US News and World Report. Columnist Michael Barone grasps it. de Tocqueville did too!

  • Orson

    Another journalist who “gets” American eexceptionalism is John Leo. He finds Bush hatred is definitely a multiple of Clinton hatred. In fact, he argues that hate-speech (against Bush) has gone mainstream:
    “As a test of the state of ‘Bush the Nazi’ rhetoric, I went to Google and typed in ‘Bush is a Nazi’ and got 420,000 hits, well behind ‘Hitler was a Nazi’ (654,000 hits) but then Hitler WAS a Nazi and had a 75-year head start. (Computer searches like this are very crude instruments. They sweep up many references that cannot fairly be listed as slurs. But they do offer a rough idea of the amount of name-calling.)

  • Orson

    PrestoPundit: Ditto. Jeff doesn’t know what he’s talking about where Rush is lumped with Moore’s deceit.
    Jeff panders instead instead of having the courage for honesty or knowledge.

  • notthisgirl

    Wow Jeff Jarvis – I think you live in my town!
    And, BTW, I’m one of those *rabid* Republicans too!
    Liked this article.
    I’ll bet the theatre on Olcott Square has been somewhat sparsley populated during the showing of this film.

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  • David N Miles

    Get over yourself. Comparing Michael Moore to Rush Limbaugh is stupid, because unlike Michael Moore, Rush doesn’t pretend to be partial. He’s HONEST about who he is and what he believes in. Michael Moore is an asshole who can’t even contain his hatred of his own country long enough to appear somewhat credible.

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