Mainstreaming Crazy

by digby

The Jerome Corsi book seems to have been effectively rebutted by both the campaign and Media Matters. But I think that there are a couple of important things about this aren't being explored as fully as they might be.

Tim Ruttan in the LA Times, with a good take-down of Corsi and the book, explains the book's theme this way:

Corsi is frank about his motives for writing "The Obama Nation." As he told the New York Times this week: "The goal is to defeat Obama. I don't want Obama to be in office."

That's clear enough from the text. You can pretty well sum the whole thing up this way: The Democratic candidate is a deceitful jihadist drug addict who, if elected, plans to impose a black supremacist, socialist regime.

That really hits all the highlights of the underground (and not so underground) campaign against Obama. It could only appeal to people who are willing to believe, for whatever reasons, that these things might have some basis in truth --- presumably those for whom some combination of his name, the term "black Muslim," Jeremiah Wright and "liberal record" add up to that incendiary image. But the job of a book like this isn't necessarily to get people to buy the book, but rather to legitimize some of these existent themes by having it be publicly discussed. It's another way of getting out the word, that's all. They don't care if the media is refuting it or not --- after all it's the "liberal media." Why would anyone think they would tell the truth? In that respect, regardless of the factual pushback, they have already succeeded.

Indeed, they're "debating it" right now on Lou Dobbs. Dobbs just made the point that none of the "attack" books about John McCain are on the NY Times best seller list like Corsi's book and that must tell you something. Mission Accomplished.

But there is something even more salient, I think, which Rutten mentions in passing. He points out that Corsi is actually quite the fringe character, a nut who associates with 9/11 truthers and racists. But then there's this:

"The Obama Nation" was written and printed because major American publishing houses have decided that there's money to be made in funding right-wing boutique imprints modeled after the Washington-based Regnery, which has made a small fortune stoking the hard-right furnace with combustible prose. Corsi's book is published by Threshold Editions, a division of Simon & Schuster, which hired right-wing political operative Mary Matalin to edit the imprint. Random House has a similar imprint in Crown Forum, and Penguin Group USA has Sentinel. Their business model -- and this is all about business -- is predicated on the existence of an echo chamber of right-wing radio and television shows willing to promote these publishers' products -- however noxious. Beyond that is a network of conservative book clubs and organizations willing to place the sort of advance bulk orders for controversial books that will guarantee them a place on the bestseller lists.

It's just that sort of order that made "The Obama Nation" No. 1 on Sunday's New York Times bestseller list, and essentially "laundered" Corsi onto the respectable broadcast media's guest list.

Rutten says this is all about making money, and I don't disagree that there's probably some money to be made by the wingnut welfare recipients in the food chain. But money isn't the motive of the people who buy those books in bulk. They are making an investment in Republican politics. And the most telling thing about it is that one of the most mainstream Republican figures in the country -- so mainstream that she regularly appears with her Democratic operative husband on Meet the Press with their two daughters at Christmas time --- gave her imprimatur to a book written by a known delusional, right wing racist. On that side of the dial the separation between the mainstream and the violent fringe isn't even one degree.

Dave Neiwert has, as you all undoubtedly know, written reams about how the right mainstreams its extremists. And this is one case where I think it's come fully to fruition, right out in the open. Corsi is not just a right wing ideologue. He's a full fledged nutcase, and yet he was hired by a major publisher, "edited" by a star GOP villager, to write an incendiary book of lies about the Democratic presidential candidate. They aren't even trying to keep their fingerprints off this thing.

In fact, the default position among Democrats, Republicans and the media is that the only kooks in the country with whom it is unacceptable to be professionally or financially involved are on the left. And "the left" is defined so broadly that it includes groups like MoveOn and Vote Vets. The right, in contrast, has fully integrated even their extremist fringe into the mainstream and everyone accepts it.

Sure, people are saying that Corsi's book is full of holes. So what? It's "out there" and it's getting more press every day. And in all of that, nobody's calling out Mrs Carville on the fact that she shepherded these extremist lies into the mainstream. (Or her husband, for that matter.) Yet MoveOn taking out an ad that has the word "Betrayus" in it is worthy of a congressional censure.

As long as the villagers are in agreement that the only people who are truly beyond the pale in American politics are on the left, then this will continue. Mary Matalin will still be considered a perfectly respectable person by both the "right" and the "left" (as if there's any discernible difference among the cognoscenti) and there will be no professional or social repercussions. Meanwhile even staid, old organizations like the ACLU suffer from the myth of being some sort of far left fringe organization and Democratic politicians run for cover when the right wing publicly "tars" them with guilt by association.

This is an ongoing problem that we see being played out once again in a national election. And I don't think the progressive movement has fully come to grips yet with just how powerful this image of scary left wing freaks still is in the national imagination --- or how thoroughly the right's extremist views have been accepted by the political establishment. It's something that needs to be addressed in a much more cohesive way.