Glenn Greenwald responds to my taunting and I didn't even have to threaten to wave my private parts at his auntie. Of course, my real beef is with Peter Daou of Salon, who is, in my opinion, wasting his reader's time and his own valuable e-space by touting Greenwald's bilge as a "seminal" work. As I have noted from the outset, it is a free country and Mr. Greenwald is surely free to engage in whatever name-calling he thinks necessary in order to boost his traffic.
Greenwald's response will not surprise anyone who has endured countless similar internet exercises over the years, or has access to a balky high-schooler - it is the standard mix of cheap shots and attempts to shift the goal post. However, we did unearth a comic gem which we will share shortly.
To recap - Greenwald put up a generic Bush-basher in which he explained his "theory" that Bush supporters are "Authoritarian Cultists" with two distinguishing characteristics: any conservatives who criticize Bush are re-labelled as "liberals" and cast out. This being a cult of personality rather than ideas, no deviation from the Bush Party line is endured - rather than being "true" conservatives, these Cultists simply parrot Bush's latest pronouncements. Let me excerpt him:
And in that regard, people like Michelle Malkin, John Hinderaker, Jonah Goldberg and Hugh Hewitt are not conservatives. They are authoritarian cultists. Their allegiance is not to any principles of government but to strong authority through a single leader...
To which I said, roughly, yeah, yeah. Following James Taranto (or Jonah Goldberg), I wondered whether Greenwald actually had any evidence to back up the notion that the folks he named - Malkin, Hewitt, Hinderaker, Goldberg, and Goldstein (mentioned elesewhere) - actually engage in relabeling. I also wondered how he explained the devation of these Cultists from Bush orthodoxy on, for example, Harriet Miers or immigration. To round out the challenge and test the predictive power of this "seminal" advance in social/polticial science, I suggested that Greenwald examine the specific case of Heather Wilson (R, NM), who broke with Bush on the NSA program - have any of the Cult members he mentioned re-labeled her?
Greenwald responded with this bit of comic luminescence:
To the extent that an argument can be discerned, Tom is claiming (as did Taranto) that the examples I cited of conservatives being labeled "liberal" as a result of anti-Bush blasphemy -- I cited John McCain, Chuck Hagel, George Voinovich, John Sununu, Bob Barr, and Andrew Sullivan -- are, for one reason or another, not really compelling examples of that trend. Tom, as well as Taranto, exhibit a good amount of intellectual cowardice by purposely refusing to say whether they actually dispute the existence of this phenomenon or whether they simply think that I provided insufficiently clear examples of it. But they claim that the examples I provided were poor and that the links I included for these examples did not support the overall claim.
Emphasis added, and don't you have to love a guy who thinks it is intellectual cowardice to hold off on forming an opinion until facts are presented? I am requesting commenters to help me incorporate this dicta into a new banner for the left; the current suggestions are:
(a) The reality-based community, where facts are for cowards;
(b) This is the reality-based community - we don't need no stinkin' facts.
I don't know yet how hard Greenwald will push his newest theme, but it seems kind of catchy.
That said, where are we? Greenwald asserted the existence of a cult including Hinderaker, Hewitt, Malkin, Goldberg, and Goldstein; I asked for "real evidence of Cult leaders actually re-labeling Bush critics as 'liberal' "; and Greenwald offered, hmm, Rush Limbaugh, consultant Frederick Mann, Newsbusters (with Brent Baker re-labeling Arlen Specter), blogger "Rousseau", and some NRO readers writing to J Pod.
The case is clear! If Greenwald had been arguing that in this broad and beautiful land there are a few stray examples of political point-scorers castigating their opponents by re-branding them as "liberal", I can't imagine he would have started an argument; certainly I would not have disputed him - geez, I'll bet that somewhere out on the internet, someone has declared Howard Dean to be King of the Leprechauns, but I am not going to announce the discovery of a broad new movement committed to that notion.
But chalk that up to my cowardice! Greenwald said this:
Now, in order to be considered a "liberal," only one thing is required – a failure to pledge blind loyalty to George W. Bush. The minute one criticizes him is the minute that one becomes a "liberal," regardless of the ground on which the criticism is based. And the more one criticizes him, by definition, the more "liberal" one is."
Either not many people have criticized Bush, this is an awfully quiet cult, it's a vocal but very tiny cult, or Greenwald is a bit short of evidence. Tough call! And where (dare I ask?) are they examples of Hinderaker, Hewitt at al engaging in re-labeling? Where is the evidence that Heather Wilson has been re-labeled? Isn't a theory meant to have a bit of predictive power? Where is Greenwald's rationalization of the fact that the Cult leaders he mentioned have broken with Bush in the past, and are doing so right now on the port deal? Why am I continuing with these rhetorical questions, and will I ever stop?
I will. Let me attempt to bring the argument up to date by presenting The Annotated Greenwald. My suggested revisions are in brackets:
Now, in order to be considered a "liberal," only one thing is required – a failure to pledge blind loyalty to George W. Bush. The minute one criticizes him is the minute that one becomes a "liberal," regardless of the ground on which the criticism is based. [However, even though one becomes a "liberal" the moment one criticizes Bush, the Authoritarian Cultists may not publicly re-label the object of their opprobrium for days, weeks, years, or ever. But it's what they're thinking!]
And on the Blind Adherence concept, let's try this for greater clarity:
Is there anything more antithetical to that ethos than the rabid, power-hungry appetites of Bush followers? There is not an iota of distrust of the Federal Government among them. Quite the contrary. Whereas distrust of the government was quite recently a hallmark of conservatism, expressing distrust of George Bush and the expansive governmental powers he is pursuing subjects one to accusations of being a leftist, subversive loon. [Except, of course, when they forget to label the opponent a leftists loon, and when the Authoritarian Cultists themselves break with Bush, as with Harriet Miers, immigration, spending, the Dubai deal... .]
And in that regard, people like Michelle Malkin, John Hinderaker, Jonah Goldberg and Hugh Hewitt are not conservatives. They are authoritarian cultists. Their allegiance is not to any principles of government but to strong authority through a single leader. [We all know this is true, so no one's intellectual courage will be insulted by the presentation of supporting evidence. Remember, this is the reality-based community!]
Well, it was surely bold of Greenwald to offer up his paucity of evidence in order to demonstrate the faith-based nature of his case. I am not at all worried that his latest effort will insult the courage of his target audience.