Now You're Talkin'!
Even though he doesn't quite grok what he's doing, Matt's starting to catch on, at least at some level:
So, yes, the Taliban is misogynistic and so are most religious traditionalists. And, yes, the Taliban is nationalistic and so are right-wing political parties in most democracies. And, yes, the Taliban is enthusiastic about war-fighting as a way to achieve policy aims and so is Bill Kristol. This is all true...'Nuff said!
And reasonable Matt Yglesias- not the shrill Kos - has said it. There are eerie similarities between the Taliban and the American right wing.
Did I take what Matt said out of context? I did indeed. Isn't his point the exact opposite - that there are important differences between the Taliban and the American right? Yep.
So? I'm not talking about the substance of the post, but rather its use of rhetoric. Matt can go ahead and hedge all he wants - and he does - but rhetorically, it doesn't matter in the slightest. Why? Because Matt has described a dismaying number of ways in which the right wing sounds terribly Taliban-ish. Rhetorically speaking, simply by engaging the notion that radical Islamists can be compared to the right wing GOP, the creepy similarities between their worldviews and values simply can't be avoided. Not reason, not logic, but the rhetorical structure of the argument creates a deep association which lingers on even after Matt goes through the exercise of explaining it away.
To repeat what I've said a zillion times: The problem the United States is having with its right wing is only partly amenable to reasoned discourse - a playing field upon which liberals will always win. But we also require, among other things, a sophisticated contemporary liberal rhetoric of persuasion - which neither mainstream Democrats nor many liberals possess with any coherence, crispness, wit, or consistency.
What Matt inadvertently did here gives me hope that things could change. Matt can claim as often as he likes that he is not in any real sense equating the Taliban and William Kristol and be quite sincere about it. But simply because Kos - secondhand - got him to talk about it, that is exactly what he is doing.
And that is exactly what we want the right to do as well. We want them to defend their extremism by debunking the comparison with Taliban. Talk about it in detail, please! Tell us all about the important differences between al Qaeda's homophobia and Focus on the Family's. Explain all the nuances so we understand.
And the more they explain how different they are, the more the two are rhetorically associated. And invariably, the more plausible the comparison becomes.
Special note for those of you who care about the actual point of Matt's post, as opposed to its rhetoric: I think he's wrong.