The New Normal
From Esquire magazine comes a sad, but true analysis of the events of the past week --- and the past decade and a half:
[T]he most remarkable thing about what happened in Oklahoma City is how little it matters today. The president of the United States gave a fine speech Wednesday night in Tucson at the memorial for the people Jared Loughner shot. The only mention of Oklahoma City in connection with the president’s speech was to compare it with the speech that another Democratic president had given in the aftermath of the memorial service for the 168 people that Timothy McVeigh murdered in 1995.
People mostly remembered that Bill Clinton once had made a passing mention of what he called “the purveyors of hatred and division… the promoters of paranoia” on the airwaves. (At the actual memorial service, Clinton quoted Scripture and talked about healing.) This time, many people struck pre-emptively; Rush Limbaugh may be self-medicating his wounded ego for the rest of his life over what he imagines Clinton said about him. There was a lot of what was called “defensiveness” on the activist Right, but it was nothing of the sort. They were on offense, just the way they have been since they took that heat in 1995. They abide by the order Stalin gave to the Red Army when the Germans invaded in 1942: Ni shagu nazad.
Not a step back.
The activist Right wants this rhetoric for 2012. It wants the same dark energies that helped it win the House last fall. It wants to be able to say the same things with impunity that it’s been saying since 2009, as though Tucson never happened. Oklahoma City might as well have happened to the Hittites.
Which is how nothing ever changed. Which is why Oklahoma City wasn’t enough.
The political culture is not what it was in 1996. It’s worse. The wild-assed, Clinton-centric conspiracies — death lists! Vince Foster! Mena airport! — look positively quaint compared to the grand paranoid delusions spouted on television and on radio these days. And the casual mainstreaming of vicious mendacity isn’t the property talk radio alone; we have just seen installed a Congress full of thunderous loons. Against all odds — and, arguably, against all decency — what Bill Clinton so carefully criticized has degenerated into a time in which the governors of major states talk glibly about secession, and automatic weapons are casual accessories at political rallies….
(Perhaps the crowning irony is the fact that, of all the repercussions from the Oklahoma City bombing, the most lasting is probably those provisions of Clinton’s own 1996 antiterrorism act that were strengthened and codified five years later into what became the constitutional nightmare that is the USA PATRIOT Act.)
I've been following this story of the radical right very closely since Oklahoma City. But as I mentioned the other day, I didn't realize what a huge role it has come to play in their popular imagination. They believe they were wronged, and it's fed their militant paranoia ever since then.
It is worse. But perversely, because it is worse, people are less alarmed by it. It's fairly obvious to me that this has been normalized. And it's been normalized to the point where what people now find alarming is someone pointing it out.
American voters say 52 - 41 percent that "heated political rhetoric drives unstable people to commit violence," the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. Liberals rather than conservatives are more responsible for such rhetoric, voters say 36 - 32 percent.
No, that's not a joke. But I'm not surprised. I often get accused of being divisive when I write about right wing lunacy. It makes people feel uncomfortable.
But then, they haven't usually seen this.
h/t to balloon juice