Monday, April 22, 2013

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Catherine Mary Stewart, 54.

And here's some good stuff:

1. The number one justified conservative complaint about the press: how "conservative" and "right-wing" are used interchangably for both folks like Ronald Reagan and Mitt Romney, on the one hand, and Hitler, on the other. During the tail end of the Soviet Union, the faction which wanted to keep communism as it was regularly was referred to as, yes, conservative. Philip Klein was annoyed by it on Friday.

2. Emily Bazelon on Miranda.

3. Good journalism: excellent look at House and Senate recruiting, from Shane Goldmacher.

4. If you want to know why gun measures keep losing despite polling that shows their popularity, you definitely want to read David Karol.

5. And I was hoping to get to this on Friday, but I'll just link instead: Travis Waldron is correct about baseball salaries. The proper liberal response to the rise in baseball salaries after 1975 should be, it seems to me, that business can thrive when the workers thrive (while the proper conservative response should be: hey, markets are really powerful and in many circumstances do an excellent job).


  1. The problem with Klein's otherwise reasonable point is that during the '60s and '70s left wing was used for everyone from stoned out hippies to commies to the weathermen. This is not exclusively a right wing problem, but a shorthand journalism problem. Which people like Klein then use to advance their argument about left wing bias in the media.

  2. Klein may have a point, there simply aren't enough "wings" to describe the complexity of the political world. Still, the terms "right-wing" and "left-wing" have their uses and they're not about to disappear. (And it's not like conservatives are loathe to lump together disperate persons under the rubric "left-wing" or even Socialist.)

    Part of the problem is that virtually every political system, party, or organization has its own factions, its own left and right wings (and further complexities). You get people who declare that, say, no PLO members or no Communists are "moderates," and they may be right in the sense that none correspond to the definition of a moderate Republican or a moderate Democrat, but that's not the relevant spectrum. Its nonsense when people say it to suggest that there is no political differentiation within political organizations that they don't like. Were the Communist leaders in Russia "conservative"? Yes, by the end of the Brezhnev era, the sole concerns of most Soviet leaders were law and order and preventing any sort of fundamental change to the system as it existed. In that sense, they were the opposite of Stalin, who ruled via turmoil. Even the Nazi party was riddled with factions. Most were based on personalities, but some had policy implications. Leopold von Mildenstein, who was in charge of Jewish affairs in the SS before being shunted to the Propaganda Ministry, saw the final solution in terms of deporting the Jews to Palestine. He was still a Nazi, among Nazis he was the Zionists' favorite. There were significant differences between his ideas and those of his successor in that office, Adolf Eichmann.

  3. When is Hitler ever described as a "conservative"?

    And how is using "right-wing" to describe both Ted Cruz and Hitler any different from using "left-wing" to describe both Bernie Sanders and Stalin?

    1. "When is..."

      I don't keep files, but if you're looking for this stuff, you really do see a ton of it.

      And while there are sometimes Sanders/Stalin types of language, it's way, way, more common on the other side.

      I agree that a large part of it is just quirks of language. My guess is, however, that this really is one (rare) place where if more reporters were conservatives that they would be more likely to find different language.

    2. In fairness, the use of "conservative" to refer to opponents of change in the late USSR was used by the Russians themselves. (As was the classification of free-market reformers as being on "the Left.") This was the result of peculiar Soviet conditions and did not survive 1991, after which Left and Right became used in a more conventional sense in Russia, e.g., the Union of Right Forces.

      Like John, I think that while descriptions of Hitler as "right-wing" or "far right" are common, I cannot recall seeing him described as "conservative." No doubt I could find such references in mainstream sources I looked, but I would guess they are relatively rare.

  4. I'm not sure I agree with Klein's complaints about the media's use of "right-wing." First of all, the very nature of left-right terminology leads to relatively benign people being lumped together with monsters. Calling Ralph Nader left-wing doesn't imply you're equating him with Stalin, and I doubt he'd take it that way himself.

    Second, "right-wing" isn't generally taken as an insult by today's rank-and-file conservatives. For example, RedState describes itself with the subtitle "Conservative Blog & Right Wing Views."

    Finally, I have to quarrel with the implication behind Klein's statement, "Last I checked, Nazism was not exactly about opposition to a strong role for government." Last I checked, "opposition to a strong role for government" is far more about how American conservatives like to describe themselves than how they actually are. Furthermore, the conventional conception of the left-right spectrum suggests that if you go far enough in either direction, you end up at some form of totalitarianism, and that the center-right and center-left share basic (small-d) democratic values.

    For the past several years, Jonah Goldberg and other conservatives have been attempting to redefine the left-right spectrum so that the left gets all the figures no one likes, not just the USSR and Arab terrorists, but also a whole range of individuals who would traditionally be classed as far-right, from Hitler to the Westboro Baptist Church. To accept this revisionist view you have to adopt the American right's mythology about itself, particularly the idea that it favors "smaller government."

    The conventional left-right mode of classification may have its limitations, but at least it's an equal-opportunity offender.


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