Saturday, February 2, 2013

I Guess the National Review Didn't Get the Memo on the Banality of Evil: "President Obama Commemorates the ‘Senseless’ Holocaust"

Perhaps the National Review's Eliana Johnson has never heard of "the banality of evil?"

I came across the above piece over at the great site Stonekettle Station. I cosign Jim Wright's thoughts on this matter.

When I encounter information which does not compute (or is pure fuckery), and that subsequently causes no small amount of cognitive dissonance, I have a habit of raising my eyebrow a la Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy of Star Trek fame.

The National Review was once a bastion of "respectable conservatism." Whatever one thinks of Obama's policies and his neoliberal bent, it is clear that he has sent the Right into a death spiral where they are exhibiting signs of a disassociative disorder that manifests itself as political derangement.

In a pathetic effort to score political points by suggesting that President Obama does not understand the horrors of Nazism and the Holocaust, the National Review has (predictably) also dug up its tired Benghazi talking points.

The President apparently does not understand the "logic" of exterminating millions of people. This is some type of shortcoming according to the National Review's Eliana Johnson.

Moreover, and by implication, he cannot understand the "Holocaust" of losing Americans in Libya. I kid you not...the loss of a group of American CIA operatives and a diplomat who chose to brave harm's way are the equivalent of millions of innocent people machine gunned, stabbed, bludgeoned, immolated, tortured, starved to death, experimented upon, and otherwise debased and robbed of life. Bizarre.

There is another very problematic (and quite subtle move) in Johnson's essay at The National Review. As someone who studies political communication and discourse, the following sentence signaled all sorts of ugliness to me:

"Nazism may have been an ideology to which the United States was — and to which the president is — implacably opposed, but it is hardly 'senseless.'"

Johnson's choice to emphasize that Obama is opposed to Nazism is very revealing. 

Rather than assume that Barack Obama, the President of the United States, a black man, and product of post World War 2 America's civil rights consensus, would a priori, not buy into Nazism, she chose to emphasize that the President does in fact oppose that ideology.

To Johnson's audience the assumption is the opposite, i.e. Barack Obama supports racial fascism. This is no minor point given the Right's obsession with narratives of white oppression, and its desperate efforts to depict Barack Obama as a racial fascist and eugenicist in their opposition to universal healthcare, obsession with fictitious "death panels," and habit of depicting him as "Hitler" (or other legendary political villains).

What would William F. Buckley think about how low the National Review has sunk?

I had many disagreements with his politics; however, I never thought of Buckley as a lost soul, or a person detached from reality. If the elite opinion makers on the Right have become so out of touch with empirical reality, is there any hope for their rank and file plebians, or the Tea Party GOP in mass?


Miles_Ellison said...

Buckley himself was a racist. During the Civil Rights movement, he was writing editorials stating that the South must prevail and that "chaos and mobocratic rule would result if the black population of the South were given the vote." He also stated that the 1963 bombing of the Birmingham church that killed 4 black children "dramatically set back the cause of white people." Finally, he said that the "cultural superiority" of whites entitled them to take any measures necessary to prevail politically and culturally in areas where they do not predominate numerically.

Buckley is the architect of modern conservative thought. It would be a massive act of cognitive dissonance for him to despair about the racist direction of the National Review, since he's responsible for it.

Dick Destiny said...

Buckley used to give you the impression he was a learned man. The right doesn't have any learned men anymore, -maybe- a few people who get to masquerade as such. Being learned, historically accurate in a scholarly way, that's anathema to them.

chauncey devega said...

No doubt about that. Even though he "apologized" later on. Got to rewatch his debate with Baldwin. I think he would be embarrassed that the NRO got so sloppy and lowered the bar relative to the foolishness of populist conservatism.

chauncey devega said...

Was modern conservatism ever grounded historically? Provocative question...

Dubious Brother said...

Yes, grounded in the plight of the aristocracy

Miles_Ellison said...

I guess I have to be the one to ask. What was "sensible" about Nazism, exactly?

Paul Sunstone said...

I never cared for Buckley's politics, save for the time he banished the John Birch Society to the wilderness. Of course, they've slunk back now that he's long dead.

chauncey devega said...

And now they are back via the Koch brothers to the Tea Party? Ain't nothing new in the game.

chauncey devega said...

What would Burke say about the contemporary Republican Party?

Dubious Brother said...

He would laugh heartily while high-fiving Leo Strauss, maybe shaking his head a bit, saying "these guys may not be filled with 'uncommon knowledge and high mindedness' that I hoped for, but they'll do."