Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Is he being ironic?

I have been told - by people whose judgment I respect - that left wing bloggers - or at least certain ones - should be dead to me. But, guys, I am an educator and I jest cain't quit you.

Local lawyer and blogger Mike Plaisted is rather lathered up over my refusal to accept the idea that conservatives promote "hate" and are responsible for - or at least contribute to - murder.

It's quite rare to find so many misstatements in one place. Let's see if Mike can take instruction.

He [this means me]even goes so far as to say that the Nazis in Germany had more in common with the left than the right.

No. I said that it is an anachronistic fool's game to connect Nazis or fascists to current political movements in the United States. I do think that fascism was a form of socialism, but that doesn't mean that there is much use in calling it left or right as we use those terms in this country in this century.

The guy who killed legal abortion provider Dr. George Tiller has lurked in the shadows of the right-wing’s favorite anti-woman emotional wedge issue – the right of women to make up their own minds about what happens inside their own bodies – for years.

Women are no more likely to be pro-choice than men and there are certainly people on the left who are pro-life - although not many since the Democratic Party has pretty much chased them away.

The guy who shot up the Holocaust Museum is an old-school right-wing lunatic in the white supremacist/John Birch Society mode, howling at the moon about the control of the world by the Jews and interracial dating, proudly exercising his Second Amendment rights to wreak havoc in a public place (talk about open-carry!).

He is also a self avowed socialist whose alternative target was apparently the offices of The Weekly Standard. I have no idea what he thinks about the Second Amendment. Given his apparent admiration for Nazi Germany, the odds are not much. If you don't think that anti-semitism can be found on the left, go to an ANSWER rally, listen to WMCS or to Jermiah Wright and hundreds like him.

And, for those who might not swallow that load of bullshit, they made the "point" that the left has its own extremists, resulting in – well, no one who has caused death with the bright light of world peace, universal health care, choice, etc. in their hearts, but, you know, they made us feel bad. Or something.

Mike is apparently not a student of human history. Movements from the left have often been quite bloody in their pursuit of paradise on earth. Domestically, Mike has apparently never heard of the Weather Underground, Black Panthers, SLA, ELF, etc. All of these, incidentally, were organized political associations and not lone nuts. (Of course the most infamous lone nut of our times was a communist who killed the President.) I would not blame the anti-war movement and its often overheated rhetoric (in which Mike indulges just about everytime he logs on) for the murder of a military recruiter but, were I to follow Mike's standards for intellectual responsibility, argument and civility in discourse, I don't see why I wouldn't.

he defends circus clown Glen Beck

No, I said that picking out some foolish statements by a second tier entertainer doesn't prove much.

He also says it was no big deal "calling" an abortion provider a "baby killer" (he’s talking about Bill O’Reilly) – apparently, you can be a professor at Marquette without knowing the difference between an unborn fetus and a "baby". Actually, now that I think of it, such delusion might be a job requirement.

There is no such job requirement, although the Church with which we are associated does believe that abortion is a grave moral wrong and that "baby killing" is not an inaccurate way to describe - in particular - the type of abortions that Tiller performed - elective abortions in the third trimester and to the point of birth. You can apparently, it seems, graduate from the University of Wisconsin Law School without appreciating the distinction between condemning a reprehensible practice and calling for murder.

White supremacy is not a ‘right wing’ view [sez who? It certainly always has been.]

Once again, Mike is a poor student of history. Back when we had white supremacists in mainstream politics, they were often on the left. William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Bilbo, Margaret Sanger, J. William Fulbright, the younger Robert Byrd and so on. Opposition to affirmative action or support for a more modest welfare state aren't racist.

Al Gore taking the nation to school on climate change (oh, Rick, you're not really a climate change denier, are you?) supposedly "could...prompt violence on the part of environmental radicals", he says in a comment. To Esenberg, information is not only power -- it's hate.

Actually, what I said was that if you buy into this notion that people who cause extreme and exaggerated statements are responsible for nuts who use those statements as an excuse to let their inner freak flags fly, you could just as easily blame Al Gore as Bill O'Reilly. I believe that we have seen - although not recently - an increase in global temperature and that the hypothesis that this can be related to greenhouse gas emissions has scientific merit. I also think that Al Gore's claims regarding the issue are exaggerated and his movie is full of false claims. Part of the argument against people like O'Reilly is that they exaggerate their points and express them in a hyperbolic way. That's Al Gore, too. Personally, I would not blame either one of them for the actions of lunatics.

Did Howard Dean say at some point that the Democrat/Republican contest was one between "good and evil", as Esenberg claims in a comment? So what if he did? Did he craft a whole show around the idea and drive it for years, as Sean Hannity does everyday to make the same point about how evil Democrats are?

He did. He also said he hated Republicans and a number of other things. He did not craft a whole show on the idea. He only ran the Democratic Party. If you are looking for people on the left who have crafted shows, books and movies on demonizing their political opponents, you need to look to Al Franken, Randi Rhodes, Keith Olberman, Michael Moore, etc.

People like Beck and O’Reilly (and Limbaugh and Hannity and Sykes and Belling, etc.) don’t argue issues; they demonize opponents. Obama isn’t just wrong, he’s evil. ... This is the black-and-white fantasy world these people create for themselves and their emotional, fearful, imaginary target demographic: the angry-white-male who feels he is being emasculated and made powerless by other races, immigrants, feminists, gays, Democrats and anyone else who seem to be dancing happily in the streets while they sink further into their Lazy-Boy in High Life-enhanced depression.

Coming from a guy whose blog is largely given over to adjective label vituperation, I think we may have a bit of displacement going on here. Judging from his blog, Mike is about the angriest white man in Milwaukee. This post alone consists of claims that people he disagrees with are nuts, engaged in lunacy and have a "twisted penchant for unnecessary death. They are "hateful," "irrational," " beer-soaked depressives, etc. Worse, they are murders "who know if they spew enough poison in the air, a few of the more unbalanced in their audience will go off the reservation and act on the logical consequences of their hateful words and campaigns. This is the way they want it. " (Emphasis mine.)

Really, Mike, can we a little self awareness here?


illusory tenant said...

"[James von Brunn's] alternative target was apparently the offices of The Weekly Standard."

That's not in the least surprising, nor is it evidence of mitigating leftist sentiment. These people view The Weekly Standard as an organ of conspiratorial Zionism.

As adept students of American political history, I'm surprised that neither you nor McIlheran seem to be aware of this.

Mike Stollenwerk said...

its the absence of open carry rights in DC that leaves high value targets like ther Holocaust museum and people in it at risk - DC's gun carry ban has gotta go!

jimspice said...

It will be interesting to see how the right tries to disown the Minutemen murders.

Dad29 said...

You can apparently, it seems, graduate from the University of Wisconsin Law School without appreciating the distinction between condemning a reprehensible practice and calling for murder

My father, a '32 MULS grad, told me that UW-Mad LS grads were "confused."

Dad29 said...

Jim, I imagine that the Right, in general, is as "responsible" for Ms. Ford's actions as the Left, in general, was for the actions of the Weather Underground and SLA.

jimspice said...


I, for one, immediately denounced the actions of these far-left groups, though I'm fairly sure my conservative kindergarten classmates discounted my condemnation out of hand.

Rather than looking 40 years into the past for a liberal scapegoat, it might be more useful to target a more contemporary perpetrator. I'd suggest about the closest you could come is the uber-environmentalist movement which bomb offices and spike trees. They don't get my approval, nor the approval of any of the liberals with which I associate. Tree sitters and whale watchers, sure. But the appropriate response to extremists on either end of the spectrum is for the mainstream movement to own them, and denounce them. Not evade and cast aspersions toward the other side.

Rick Esenberg said...


You know I could point out that people who are concerned about conspiratorial Zionism are just as, if not (these days), more likely to be found on the left, Or I could say that your observation proves my point. It suggests that von Brunn was motivated by this anti-semitism and hatred of Israel which are not right wing principles at all.

But, really, what's the point? What is your point? Do you really think that a socialist, anti-semitic, 9-11 truthing, socialist, racist neo-Nazi has anything to do with the left and right in the US or, for that matter, planet Earth> Or are you just ankle biting?

Mr. Spice

You might want to address the anti-military nut who took out a military recruiter the day after Tiller was killed. But, in my book, you don't have to because I wouldn't blame the anti-war movement for him. Nor would I think you need to own him.

Dad29 said...

Well, Jim, my personal denunciation of this crazy dame is herewith posted.

Could you find a story a bit less obscure next time?

jimspice said...

Dad29: Obscure for about another 24 hour news cycle, I'd guess.

Mr. Essenberg: Thanks for letting me off the hook. But seriosly, that's the problem with the unidiminsional liberal-conservative/left-right continuum: too simplistic. In mapping ideology, it would be more accurate to utilize a multi-axis measuring tape. This, however, introduces its own problems, specifically, our difficulty in
thinking in dimensions beyond the traditional three or four (length-width-height-time); imagine a fuzzy, moving, multi-colored buckyball -- difficult to grasp.

The Political Compass offers a nice little online ideology quiz that at least incorporates two dimensions of political ideology -- economic and social -- as defined as one's view of the role of government in various aspects of life. They even have a Facebook app. After you take the quiz you get the opportunity to see where you fit in relation to political figures of various leanings. Highly recommended.

Curt said...


I usually like your interaction with the left. I'm one of those "fuzzy buckyball types." Economically conservative, socially (get government out of the business of social engineering from both ends). And I like the reasoned, middle of the road approach of your site. But Mike is seriously unhinged. He is one of those people that Jim should feel the need to "own and denouce"

Both sides have nutcases, violent or otherwise, who cause much more harm than good to their causes.
There are many people on both sides that you can have reasonable discussions with on some subjects, and others whom I may not describe as reasonable, but you can still hold civil discussions with. But Mike would fit neither of those, and I'm with the crowd that thinks you would be best off not dealing with him in any way.

I don't think Jim needs to "own" any left wing nut, and more than I need to "own" a right wing nut. I just think we all could spend more time denoucing the nuts closest to us. I don't hold my lefty friends responsible for Mike's unhinged, illogical, and pointless rants, and I don't think I need defend any equally idiotic (that is a tough threshold) people on my side. We will all be better off when we can treat them like the crazy uncles of the left and right. I won't hold your idiot's against you if you won't hold mine against me.

Mike Plaisted said...

Rick wants to know if I can "take instruction". Two years into it and the professor thinks he's f-ing John Houseman. Talk about "seriously unhinged".

It's nice to see such a careful, if selective, disection of my post here. It gives Rick another opportunity to say the same things all over again, without anything new to really prove his point about the supposed equivalency of left "hate" with right hate. The suggestion that Al Franken, Al Gore (please identify one wrong fact in "An Inconvenient Truth". Still waiting.), Keith Olberman and Michael Moore hold a candle, hate-wise, with the daily barrage of Beck, O'Reilly, Coulter, Limbaugh, Belling, Levine, Hannity, Sykes, Savage, et al, is crazy. But so is defining any part of the left as anti-Semetic, but that's the right-wing meme these days. If you repreat a lie often enough, it becomes perceived as the truth, which has been the right-wing shtick since Reagan.

You can't take random (allegedly) stupid things said once in a while by lefties and compare it to the 24/7 campaign of misinformation and personal destruction that the right-wing echo chamber has conducted since Clinton in 1992. It is designed to dehumanize and delegitimize elected Democrats -- especially the most successful ones like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. As I said in my post (and Rick did not respond to), the wing-nuts don't just yell about how Obama is destroying the country; they taunt their listeners to get off their ass and do something about it.

There is nothing like that going on on the left. To pretend we have such a message, much less the capacity to diseminate it is a deliberately distortion. To deny that the hatefully-intense right-wing messages distributed on so many free platforms is at least partially responsible for the violence of the infirm, if believed, is simply self-delusional.

George Mitchell said...

There is a broader point raised by this interaction — and many that unfold on several other blogs. Namely, it is hard to have a meaningful exchange in this medium. Too many participants are intent on scoring points, playing gotcha, etc.

When the blogosphere has an impact, it most often is associated with hard news and factual information that the MSM has blown off or with analysis that is authoritative.

So, when Rick comments on legal issues it is compelling regardless of your point of view. Or, when he or other brings facts to the fore that previously were not known, that has an impact.

On the other hand, when Rick correctly dissects the likes of Plaisted, the predictable result is a petty food fight.

What we need is more legal analysis and perspective from Rick and more hard news from him and others.

Plaisted and others who are locked in to a perspective don't really add much.

Dad29 said...

our difficulty in
thinking in dimensions beyond the traditional three or four (length-width-height-time); imagine a fuzzy, moving, multi-colored buckyball -- difficult to grasp.

Some of us refer to Satan now and then.

Rick Esenberg said...

Yeah, George, you are making the point - as I don't think you have before - that this type of engagement is not worthwhile.

The notion that Mike Plaisted is unaware of the devastating attacks on An Inconvenient Truth - by a court in the UK and all sorts of scientists - seems implausible to me, but maybe he truly doesn't know.

I don't claim that my side is morally superior or smarter than the other side. Of course, I think we are more often right, but I don't think that people on the left are evil, have no souls, lust for unnecessary deaths, are nuts and lunatics, desire murder, etc. (Imagine if I had to respond to more than one post.)Indeed, if they are willing to acknowledge that they have no monopoly on the truth and are willing to - even if they are critical - engage what others say in good faith, I can learn from them.

In fact, as I have said before, colleagues that I respect and love to interact with, friends and family (including my beloved daughter in law and one of my best friends in the world) are big lefties. So its kind of hard for me to deal with people who are so sure they are right that they think heaping vituperation on others is interesting or instructive. The problem with most of this medium is that it's boring. It doesn't have to be, but very few people are willing to engage and I fear that I largely chase the wrong ones.

I do it because I think I see something in them that wants to have an honest and respectful debate, but I seem to be wrong more than I am right. In that sense, maybe I'm like Obama who overestimates other people's willingness to be reasonable. Maybe they taught us that in Langdell.

I know that I write things that I sometimes wish I hadn't and that, like everyone else, I certainly overestimate my own reason and evenhandedness. But the stone stupid enthusiasm for the idea that people like me encourage hate and murder has gotten to me. It's made me question whether talking to these people is worthwhile.

Rick Esenberg said...

Mr Spice says:

But seriosly, that's the problem with the unidiminsional liberal-conservative/left-right continuum: too simplistic.

Thank you. I've taken that quiz and I appreciate the complexity it introduces although it is predicated on libertarian assumptions and is limited by that but, then, any quiz would have some sort of foundational limitation. It's value is that it forces us to think past our normal assumptions about which teams we are on.

illusory tenant said...

"What is your point?"

That's my question to you.

You suggested this fellow's apparent antipathy to The Weekly Standard is incongruous with his white supremacist, anti-Semitic views. But it isn't. It's exactly in accord with them. Call it ankle biting if you will, but I've seen the same attempted distinction drawn elsewhere, and it needs debunking.

Dad29 said...

Well, Mr. Spice...CNN reported the story, taking its cue from a couple of Lefty blogsites. Here's the pertinent text:

"The nation’s largest Minutemen group has distanced itself from Ford, we should say, and we’ve learned that within Minutemen circles, she is considered a bit of a loose cannon..."


Mike Plaisted said...

Well, Dad, it's always easy to "distance" yourself from someone after the fact, isn't it? Operation Rescue has been doing it with Roeder (without being all that upset with the result); other right-wing (yes, I said right-wing) white supremacists have been doing it with von Brunn and now the racist paramilitary Minutemen with Forde.

They are in the fold until, ooops, they go off and do something, get caught, embarrass the movement and end up in jail. Then those left behind can "distance" themselves. But the damage is already done and somber press release doesn't quite hide the noise of the internal cheering.

Clutch said...

Plaisted misrepresents Esenberg, so far as I can see, in at least the following respect: by depicting him as aiming to show that the Nazis were more left than right. The actual claim, as Esenberg correctly notes here, was that it's just a wash -- there's as much reason to describe Nazis as leftists as to describe them as rightists (as modern US parlance would use these terms), and best of all would be not to attempt any such comparisons.

This claim may be false -- I think it is -- and even crashingly false, but that's the claim he makes. Attacking a different one won't accomplish anything.

Esenberg misrepresents Plaisted in at least the following respect: as holding that "conservatives promote 'hate' and are responsible for - or at least contribute to - murder." Framed this generally, that is not the claim. The charge of inspiring and pandering to violent extremism is directed at some conservative commentators (the term is almost too charitable in some cases). Plaisted's accusation as it bears on Esenberg seems to be that he credulously -- even disingenuously -- performs apologetics for some of these hate merchants (or some instances of hate-pandering, if you prefer focusing on the sin rather than the sinner), and not that he is a hate merchant himself.

That charge may be false. It may even be crashingly false.* But that seems to be the charge. Raging against "the stone stupid enthusiasm for the idea that people like me encourage hate and murder" won't accomplish much, I think.

* I think it is false, but not, regrettably, by a whole lot. Substitute "incandescent stupidity and dishonest commentary" for "hate-pandering", and I'd consider it occasionally and approximately correct.

Rick Esenberg said...

The charge of inspiring and pandering to violent extremism is directed at some conservative commentators

Actually he blames "the overheated right-wing lunacy that permeate mainstream radio, Fox News and various blogs every time there is a Democrat in the White House." This apparently includes Limbaugh, Hannity, Belling and Sykes. It includes people who think that aborting babies about to be born is rather nasty. I am not sure who it doesn't include other than those groovy Democrats who are dancing in the streets.

Clutch said...

This apparently includes Limbaugh, Hannity, Belling and Sykes.

Okay. Are they the sum total of conservatives? I thought "These people and their comments aren't representative of conservatism" was your line, not mine.

It includes people who think that aborting babies about to be born is rather nasty.

I'm sure it includes some of them, yes. I can't think of any reason to assume it meant all of them, nor even most.

Heck, I think that aborting babies about to be born is rather nasty. (The nature of awful situations is that sometimes the best course of action, or in any case a permissible one, is nasty.) I just don't think that using the gigantic megaphone to shriek "Killer!" again, and again, and again, and again, is a sensible response to the particular nastiness of it. Nor do I find it absurd to suppose that someone who had done so should face public scrutiny for the possibility that their actions contributed to subsequent violence.

Dad29 said...

Plaisted, do you live on this planet?

You seem to think that it is the duty of "organizations" to denounce its (semi-affiliated) "members" for "being loose cannons."

I cannot recall such a thing, aside from Buckley's summary dismissal of the Birchers and Ayn Rand from the conservative movement, although I have a vague recollection that the AFL did toss a number of CIO officials for their open Communist membership.

But lead on, Plaisted. Denounce all those on your side of the tree who are 'loose cannons,' (indicted or not). Give example, that others may follow!