BY DON LAZERE
In his rant that was the defining moment of his confirmation hearings, Brett Kavanaugh charged that he was the victim of a political “hit” orchestrated not only by vengeful Clinton Democrats but by millions in “dark money” spent by “outside special interests.” (He didn’t speak the name George Soros, but the multitudes of right wing conspiracy theorists were quick to. See Paul Waldman, “The Real Purpose of the ‘Paid Protester’ Lie,” Washington Post, Oct 9, 2018.)
No one in the media, or even Democrats, bothered (or were allowed?) to question his use of the phrase “dark money,” which implies secrecy, when the opponents organizing and raising money against him had been anything but secret or “outside.” Most depressingly, no one posed the glaring question to him of what special interests were organizing for and financing him (overtly or secretly), and how much they have spent.
I am sickened to death by the perfection by this Republican ruse of “tu quoque” (or “tu solus”—only you) on every occasion to project onto liberals/leftists every legitimate charge against themselves, and by the failure of both the Democrats and mainstream media to do minimal fact-checking to debunk this demagogy. I wrote a chapter titled “Right-Wing Deconstruction: Mimicry and False Equivalencies” in my book Why Higher Education SHOULD Have a Leftist Bias researching the kinds and amounts of “dark money” spent by Soros (and debunking the spurious allegations of Soros’ villainy, starting with his having been a Nazi collaborator) compared to the Koch Brothers.
The best broad analysis I have seen of this trick was by Thomas Frank in the chapter “Mimesis” in Pity the Billionaire, which invokes the children’s rhyme “I’m rubber, you’re glue/Whatever you throw bounces off me and sticks to you.”
And a trenchant commentary on the same pattern was written by journalist David Brock in his Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative, confessing to having been deluded as a self-described “right-wing hit man”: “I unconsciously projected onto liberals what I knew and saw and learned of the right wing’s operations.”
Gae Lyn Henderson wrote a good DD post about this a few weeks ago and Gerri McNenny wrote about this yesterday. But can we maybe think further about devising possible ways of putting this issue on the agenda of mainstream politics and media (in addition to incorporating it in our teaching and scholarship)? Could we issue some kind of press releases or op eds addressed to targeted MSM? From my misguided younger history working in journalism and publicity, I know that this kind of direct communication with specific media can be effective. We could at the same promote awareness of DD as a resource for media.
Maybe one of these days, I’ll also repost on DD my golden oldy “Ground Rules for Polemicists,” which also attempted to curb such rhetorical double standards.
I encourage [fellow Republicans] to use the language that the left has deployed so effectively to advance its agendas, Radical professors have created a ‘hostile learning environment’ for conservative students. There is a lack of ‘intellectual diversity’ on college faculties and in academic classrooms. The conservative viewpoint is ‘underrepresented’ in the curriculum and on the reading lists. The university should be an ‘inclusive’ and intellectually ‘diverse’ community.”