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Thursday, July 19, 2007
(9:44 AM) | Stephen:
Floating Fortress Of Fascism

Johann Hari went on a cruise. Not just any cruise, mind you, but the National Review cruise: 500 of that magazine's most dedicated readers traveling in style with the magazine's writers and editors. It was a safe place for conservatives, a place where they could let their feelings show freely.

The article hasn't really made a big splash in the blogosphere, though, what with the Republican filibuster, the NIE showing, again, that Al Qaeda's most effective recruiter is George Bush, and the continuing carnage in Iraq. But this article should be required reading for pretty much everyone. It doesn't show how every conservative acts or thinks, but how movement conservatives do, what is said among members of the core of the GOP when their guard is let down.

Things like this:
"Of course, we need to execute some of these people". . . .Who do we need to execute? She runs her fingers through the sand lazily. "A few of these prominent liberals who are trying to demoralise the country," she says. "Just take a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason to show, if you try to bring down America at a time of war, that's what you'll get." She squints at the sun and smiles. " Then things'll change."
Ah, the sun, the sand, the desire to murder one's fellow citizens for their legal opinions. It' must have been a lovely cruise.

To my left, I find a middle-aged Floridian with a neat beard. To my right are two elderly New Yorkers who look and sound like late-era Dorothy Parkers, minus the alcohol poisoning. They live on Park Avenue, they explain in precise Northern tones. "You must live near the UN building," the Floridian says to one of the New York ladies after the entree is served. Yes, she responds, shaking her head wearily. "They should suicide-bomb that place," he says. They all chuckle gently. How did that happen? How do you go from sweet to suicide-bomb in six seconds?
Notice the embrace of methods - suicide bombs - that are condemned when used by brown people.

At a panel discussion featuring National Review editors:
There is something strange about this discussion, and it takes me a few moments to realise exactly what it is. All the tropes that conservatives usually deny in public - that Iraq is another Vietnam, that Bush is fighting a class war on behalf of the rich - are embraced on this shining ship in the middle of the ocean. Yes, they concede, we are fighting another Vietnam; and this time we won't let the weak-kneed liberals lose it. "It's customary to say we lost the Vietnam war, but who's 'we'?" the writer Dinesh D'Souza asks angrily. "The left won by demanding America's humiliation." On this ship, there are no Viet Cong, no three million dead. There is only liberal treachery. Yes, D'Souza says, in a swift shift to domestic politics, "of course" Republican politics is "about class. Republicans are the party of winners, Democrats are the party of losers."
And at dinner, where seats are assigned so that people get to know one another and have chances to meet different National Review staffers:
They rush through the Rush-list of liberals who hate America, who want her to fail, and I ask them - why are liberals like this? What's their motivation? They stutter to a halt and there is a long, puzzled silence. " It's a good question," one of them, Martha, says finally. I have asked them to peer into the minds of cartoons and they are suddenly, reluctantly confronted with the hollowness of their creation. "There have always been intellectuals who want to tell people how to live," Martha adds, to an almost visible sense of relief. That's it - the intellectuals! They are not like us. Dave changes the subject, to wash away this moment of cognitive dissonance. "The liberals don't believe in the constitution. They don't believe in what the founders wanted - a strong executive," he announces, to nods. A Filipino waiter offers him a top-up of his wine, and he mock-whispers to me, "They all look the same! Can you tell them apart?" I stare out to sea. How long would it take me to drown?
Yes, yes, the Founders wanted a "strong executive." That's why they revolted against the King of England, you see. And notice the quick shift to racism. If prejudice and hate are always bubbling at the top, then it's easy for them to come out. "Dave" not only thinks that Filipinos "all look the same," but that everyone around him believes that as well.

But the important thing to notice in this exchange is that when confronted with their own beliefs, these people cannot deal with it. When these conservatives - the National Review writers included - are put in a situation not anticipated by predigested talking points, they don't have anything to say. Their whole worldview is designed so that they no longer have to think or engage the world around them critically. Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and George Bush's speechwriters have ensured that they don't need to worry their beautiful minds over facts, other people's opinions - or even the idea that Filipino waiters are people at all.

Not every self-identified conservative acts like this, in public or private. I mean that, not only as boilerplate courtesy. My own family has conservatives in it. Yes, my shame runs deep - but I do pray for them! But I wasn't raised to hate or fear. I wasn't taught that laws can and should be set aside for the "right people."

Even though not every conservative is like the sociopaths enjoying the good food, entertainment and casual talk of the need to eradicate brown-skinned Muslims, these people do exist. And what they say needs to be exposed. The casual conservatives need to understand just who it is that drives their movement, that provides their political and "intellectual" leadership.

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