An Absence of Rational Thought

Left-wing pundits often like to criticize right-wing pundits for being paranoid, but paranoia is clearly a phenomenon not constrained to the right. Bob Herbert’s recent piece in the New York Times ( reveals a particularly irrational strain of paranoia, not to mention a myopic perspective and a near-total absence of rational thought.

Whatever Mr. Herbert’s former achievements, his writing seems to have lost nearly all connection to reality. I hadn’t heard of the Tea Partiers who showered a Parkinson’s victim with money, but that hardly sounds like cause for much concern, certainly not comparable with the beatings endured by civil rights advocates in the sixties. Besides, I thought liberals were in favor of redistribution of wealth.

I am convinced that the whole racial epithet business is just as much bull feathers (as Dan Rather would say). Andrew Breitbart has offered to donate $10,000 to the United Negro College Fund if anyone can produce any video evidence of a racial epithet being hurled. As of this writing, no one has come forward to claim the prize for the UNCF.

Still, let’s consider: even if there was one guy who yelled it, or even several guys who said bad things out of the millions of Tea Partiers across the country, who cares? One guy? Seriously? Saying the Tea Party movement is a bunch of racist, bigot, homophobes because of one racist (who, for all we know, could have been planted to make the Tea Partiers look bad) is like saying the Civil Rights movement was a bunch of philandering whorehounds and skanks just because Martin Luther King, Jr., serially cheated on his wife. That would, of course, be unfair. There were a lot of decent people in the Civil Rights movement, and even MLK had his positive attributes. Unless I am much mistaken, this has been just about the largest, most non-violent protest in the long history of man’s relation to man.

Look, racism is repugnant wherever it is found. When left to fester unopposed, it has resulted in many of the most shameful, awful incidents in human history. Under no circumstances should racism be allowed to take hold in American politics, and especially not in mainstream political discourse. Even this one incident, if it actually happened, should not be taken lightly. However, it should certainly be put in proper perspective. One kook out of millions is a fairly decent batting average. In fact, I would argue that such a low proportion is in fact evidence for the classiness, not bigotry, of the Tea Party movement. Have you read any left-wing blogs lately?

Mr. Herbert says of the Republicans, “This is the party that genuflects at the altar of right-wing talk radio, with its insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry.”

As evidence he points out that Glenn Beck “called President Obama ‘racist’ and asserted that he ‘has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.'”

This is very nearly self-parody. If calling someone racist and accusing them of hate is evidence of “insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry,” then who could possibly be more committed to hatred and bigotry than Mr. Herbert himself? To my knowledge, Glenn Beck only called the President racist once, while Herbert has already called different people racist twice this month (see link above and

If these constitute the worst abuses our “civil rights leaders” can come up with, then I think it’s time to reexamine where the real paranoia resides.

19 thoughts on “An Absence of Rational Thought

  1. ___0_ Reply

    Let's take a look at some of the people who have been elevated to leadership or figurehead positions by the "tea party" right wing:

    Mark Williams: believes Obama is an "Indonesian Muslim and a welfare thug"
    Michael Vanderboegh: openly called for violence and an armed march on DC
    Victoria Jackson: believes Obama is a communist, because she heard it on Glenn Beck's show
    Glenn Beck: his whole shtick is fact-free, wild-eyed paranoid ranting
    Sarah Palin: anti-intellectual celebrity
    Rush Limbaugh: celebrity bigot

    I'm sure there are well-meaning people who are organizing against Obama's policies, but it's not at all surprising that the "tea party movement" would attract people with paranoid, violent and racist tendencies. How many data points of deranged right wingers do you need before you can identify a trend?

    • Justin Caw!der Reply

      Woahhhhhhh woah. Okay, I will say this: I don't care anything about the tea party movement except to understand its significance. It is a gathering of normal people who are ticked off. I am ticked off, but I stray from gathering with groups of people, it just isn't me.

      That said, Rush Limbaugh is a great American. I double-dog dare you to prove what you said about him. The rest of the people you named I will not bother to defend.

      • wgary

        I can understand that. I recognize the Tea Party's significance just as I do the many gatherings during the Bush years to protest the war(s). Both gatherings were/are arguably made of normal ticked off people.

        Everyone has an opinion and I respect yours. However, I would also say that, just by comparison mind you, that the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, you recall President Obama's pastor, is also a great American.

        Also should you try finding quotes or etc to prove that he's racist, you might consider that there are also a host of quotes that could be found from Rush Limbaugh's that can also be "taken out of context."

      • Riley Matheson

        Let's imagine this: Imagine a white pastor saying the exact same things against blacks that Wright has said against whites. Personally, I don't really care about Wright. I mean, I think he's an idiot (as is evidenced by his belief that the government invented HIV to kill blacks). I don't necessarily think he's evil–after all, he seems to believe quite sincerely everything he says, and I don't fault someone for expressing their honest, sincere opinions. Nevertheless, he's so obviously wrong about a lot of things that he's hardly worth paying attention to, and it's undeniable that any white person who said such things would be equated with David Duke.

      • wgary

        Just to be clear, I don't believe Jeremiah Wright or Rush Limbaugh are great Americans. My argument was that if Rush Limbaugh makes the cut, then the standard is set low enough that Jeremiah Wright would have to make it in.

        Both of these men have evidence stacked against that suggest they're racist.
        <If one makes it in, so does the other.>

        Both of these men push outright ridiculous claims that demean our US government and our society, like the government created HIV or that democrats started the economic crisis just so that they could elect Obama (to say nothing of that death panel nonsense).

        Both have passionate followings and both probably have their hands in with charitable organizations, I don't know for sure about Limbaugh, but it's possible and of course Wright's church does the feeding homeless thing.

        Both these men are rather "extreme" in their beliefs and practices and both pander, at least to me, to groups with racist undertones. Seeing as to how both of these men do more to divide than they do to unite, I don't like either of them, respect either of them, and certainly don't consider them great Americans, but if you're going to set the bar that low so that Rush Limbaugh gets in, keep in mind what else you're allowing to get in. A little comparison can do wonders.

      • Riley Matheson

        But, wgary, can you find something racist that Limbaugh has said? And, really, I mean just one thing. And if you can find something, does it really compare to Wright?

      • wgary

        Sure, I'll give you a few.

        "Take that bone out of your noise and call me back." (to an African American caller)
        There are only so many ways to interpret this.

        "The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies." This may not be clear, but certainly a racist interpretation wouldn't be invalid

        and finally, perhaps, the most damning
        "I mean, let's face it, we didn't have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing." Perhaps the others were within a threshold of plausibility, but this seems pretty clear to me. Effectively, according to Rush Limbaugh, the enslavement of a race of peoples designed over the belief of superiority ascribed to European Americans (aka Caucasian or white) wasn't a bad thing. Now while Limbaugh hasn't proposed bringing slavery back, he's justifying slavery.

        Do these things compare to Wright? Certainly, claims of both men can be found to be just as ignorant and ill-informed. Both have racially tinged backgrounds/histories. Both, as far as I'm concerned, lie. Wright lies about the US attacking African American communities, in one form or another. Limbaugh lies about qualifications of African American institutions and African American elected officials.

        The difference between these two men is quite trivial. Wright only came to attention due to Obama's connection to him. Had McCain had a similar connection to Rush Limbaugh, McCain would have come under the same or at least similar scrutinies.

    • wgary Reply

      Just a thought…
      It seems as if many of these left wingers, that gathered so much attention, gathered so much attention because they were so extreme and I would argue so fragmented. These groups can't at all be called a movement or a part of one. As an example, how much momentum did they pick up? The Tea Party movement, well, is actually a movement and while I don't think they necessarily reflect the "pulse" of the nation, they're still substantial. They have had an influence on Congress. You can't say the same of Cindy Sheehan or Code Pink, can you? These groups by the way, denounce popular left-wing leadership, including President Obama, because they and he aren't left enough. I think what —O– or whatever was trying to communicate was that the Tea Party movement panders to many groups in this country that do believe and practice some rather "backward" ideas and I'll leave it to you to define backwards. Somehow, I suspect we could come to similar definitions, I have hope anyway.

      • wgary

        I'm afraid I'm just going to have to disagree with you on that point. Cindy Sheehan was attacked in no small volume of newspaper editorials and other major publications by liberals. In fact, she made a foe of one particular person, many liberals are quite fond of, aka Nancy Pelosi. If she and Code Pink, which certainly didn't pick up any steam from the Democratic party, to say nothing of support, constituted a movement, then it was no more of a threat than the Tea Party is now. By that I mean, once the media had its fill, they no longer had a coherent voice. (Now, this is past tense, the Tea Party has a little longer to go before the media gets tired of it) As for Van Jones, if you take his word, then it's a moot point because he outright denied it and then proceeded to apologize for any misunderstanding. If you don't, then consider this, it's highly unlikely that Obama appointed him because of his alleged views regarding 9/11 and more likely that he appointed him due to his rather stellar qualifications with respect to green jobs and green technology. And yes, I agree believing US government perpetrated a fantastically elaborate conspiracy, (are we even capable of that, considering how poorly we allegedly run other operations), is more ridiculous than the birther pushers.

    • ___0_ Reply

      OK…… on the left we have Code Pink, Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore, all of whom are committed to nonviolent protest. On the right… we have the Hutaree Militia, people breaking windows and cutting gas lines, and widely broadcast sociopaths like Beck and Limbaugh. Look at the weirdos who showed up for the "Conservative Woodstock" recently. At this moment in history, Conservative America is a total freakshow, a carnival of callousness. When you revel in ignorance and portray your political opponents as nazis and communists and retards you don't leave much room for negotiation, because who wants to negotiate with retarded communist nazis? The GOP had their 8 disastrous years from 2000-2008, and now their time is done, because they have proven conservative governance to be hopelessly corrupt and inept. Democratic rule isn't looking a whole lot better at this point, but at least they haven't started any new wars, yet.

      • ___0_

        Yes, I am forgetting "images from the Republican convention in 2004" … I was there, and it's moronic and/or dishonest, take your pick, to compare anything that happened there to the very real violence perpetrated by armed and paranoid right wingers over the last 5 decades. Has anyone from Code Pink ever walked into a right-wing fundamentalist church and started shooting people?

        I'm not calling the entire conservative tradition ignorant, just its contemporary incarnation. The GOP elite has been cultivating ignorance and racial fears since the civil rights movement, and now the freaks want to run the show.

  2. wgary Reply

    Not to split hairs, but I have to point out how exceptionally tawdry or gross it is to make fun of the incident concerning the man with Parkinson's disease. "Besides, I thought liberals were in favor of redistribution of wealth." Such a comment belittles how wrong it was that this incident happened. It was wrong, period. To try to justify it, make little of it, or applaud those who did it is also wrong, but with great discomfort I recognize that this is simply my opinion and that furthermore that you have the right to think this incident was "right."

    As for the the real issue here, are there sane, reasonable, well-informed American citizens in the Tea-Party movement? Of course, anyone who would suggest otherwise is deluded. I believe the issue that so many liberals, independents, and actually other conservatives take with this movement is its unusually heightened appeal to those American citizens who showcase racism, homophobia, xenophobia, ignorance, and a total obliviousness to reality (for instance, birthers, Obama was born in the states, let's please move on). There's quite a few videos that evidence this kind of behavior on Youtube and there are more than enough pictures to beg the suggestion that the minority of "kooks" are in greater numbers than, were I a conservative, would be comfortable with. As for the evidence of the racial epithets hurled at congressmen, do we really need any more? Are we suggesting that Barney Frank would lie about being called a faggot? Are we suggesting that Representative John Lewis, who's had his fair share of being discriminated against during the sixties would lie about being called a nigger? Are we suggesting that the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and other arguably well-established and well-respected institutions would report falsely on the incidents? If we are, how long must we suspend reality? Yes, people with low opinions of honesty do lie about being discriminated against and we shouldn't believe naively everything we hear, but given the context and considerable documentation, really? As for the $10000, did it ever occur to you that perhaps many of the people who have viable documentation know nothing of the offer? Has the NAACP ran ads or is it just on their website, or in some small space in a newspaper?
    The important thing for me, many liberals, conservatives, independents, and etc. is that much of the GOP leadership hasn't come against these baseless attacks explicitly and many of we liberals suspect as in any political contest, that the reason proceeds from an understanding that as kooky as these people may be, they're still votes.

    • wgary Reply

      I could agree to just about all of that, but just for the sake of, I don't know, completeness, I think it's necessary to point out that even if the verb "to offend" is active, there are insults, for which it is perfectly reasonable to take offense, because they are in fact offensive terms. Otherwise, I'm on board.

  3. Justin Caw!der Reply

    Here's the deal, Duke. I want these non-contributing zeros that I see daily around this campus, who cuss, insult people, and generally act like idoits, to get the beam out of their eyes first. Get my drift?

  4. lulz Reply

    That's the video of Tea Partiers mocking a man with Parkinsons. It comes at around the 1:00 mark.

    Rationalizing that as "well, it's not as bad as people went through during the Civil Rights Era" does not make this kind of behavior acceptable. Nor do I really think it's fair to judge the whole Tea Party Movement based off of this one incident. But still, these individuals should be ashamed of themselves and I think it's awful to not denounce their behavior. You somehow making think that we should accept this because you "thought liberals were in favor of redistribution of wealth," makes you nearly as bad as these insensitive idiots.

    • lulz Reply

      What? Did you read my comment? I said "Nor do I really think it's fair to judge the whole Tea Party Movement based off of this one incident." Meaning, I think it's unfair to judge the whole Tea Party based off of this one incident in which just a few people acted.

      And I was not calling out the Republican leadership. I was calling out the author of this article, who says that the incident "hardly sounds like cause for much concern" and shakes it off.

      • rdchesto

        Hey thanks for posting that link, although I have to disagree with you about the seriousness of the incident. Nothing really happened. The Parkinson's victim was not even mocked or made fun of, as some are claiming. All that happened was that some overexcited people awkwardly placed a few dollar bills on him. Anyway, now that we've both seen the video, I'm sure we can agree that the incident is, in fact, "hardly … cause for much concern."

  5. ___0_ Reply

    I hear that Breitbart is now claiming that there's video proving that there were no racial slurs, but the video was actually shot when Lewis and Carson were leaving the Capitol, not when they were arriving an hour earlier. There are at least 4 witnesses, including Lewis, Carson, Heath Shuler, and Richard Trumka. Reporters verified that Barney Frank had been called a faggot earlier in the day by the near-hysterical crowd of protesters. Why is it so difficult to believe that the same protesters would call Lewis a nig**r? It's not like there aren't many other documented instances of casual racism emanating from the tea partiers.

    Racist comments, including a slur about Hispanics, posted on the Twitter page of the Springboro Tea Party were particularly hurtful to Alana Turner.

    “Illegals everywhere today! So many spics makes me feel like a speck. Grrr. Wheres my gun!?” said the March 21 posting on the site managed by the group’s founder, Sonny Thomas.

    Turner said the comments upset her because she and Thomas have a 6-year-old son who is part Hispanic.

    “Basically, it’s like he’s saying he hates his son,” Turner said.

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