Scary Guys Named Saul and other short notes

Last week I linked to Bill Mahr’s rant about the Republican aggrandizement and demonization of Saul Alinsky. (“The centerpiece of this campaign,” Newt Gingrich said in a televised debate, “is American exceptionalism versus the radicalism of Saul Alinsky.”) Tuesday, Media Matters explained why most of what is said about him is pure fantasy.

But as I explained in Propaganda Lessons From the Religious Right, the real Saul Alinsky doesn’t matter. To rally an audience that believes in the Devil’s dark conspiracy against all that is Good, you only have to identify his agents and trace their connections. It goes without saying that they are united in seeking all manner of Evil; no evidence is necessary.

If you want to see this technique in action, watch any Glenn Beck chalkboard presentation. Beck loves to identify left-wing “leaders” that most liberals have never heard of, like Frances Fox Piven. In Beck’s world, the Left is like some enormous system of Masonry, where you won’t be told who the real masterminds are until you get initiated into the 33rd level.

One reason Saul Alinsky fits so snugly into this demonic role is his name, which sounds both Jewish and foreign, like Trotsky. This might explain why Gingrich’s pitch worked in South Carolina but fell flat in Florida, where guys named Saul don’t seem all that scary.

Via the Other 98%, this historical analysis:

After “I’m not concerned about the very poor” I was planning to collect the various Mitt Romney gaffes, but Zoltan already did.

To be fairer to Mitt than President Obama’s critics typically are, the headlines Mitt makes are usually worse than what he was trying to say — even though what he meant was bad enough.

  • Corporations are people, my friend” had nothing to do with corporate personhood. He was just claiming that corporate profits ultimately get distributed to people. The fact that it’s mainly to rich people like himself isn’t a problem for Mitt, and even with that proviso I’m not convinced. Apple is sitting on $100 billion, for example, and doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to either distribute it.
  • I like being able to fire people” was about being able to change health insurance companies rather than being stuck in government monopoly. A fair point, except that (1) Like RomneyCare, ObamaCare isn’t organized as a government monopoly. Most people will continue to choose among private insurance plans. (2) Would Mitt raise a finger to stop health insurance companies merging into a private monopoly? (3) Saying “fire people” with a smile indicates that Mitt identifies mainly with the powerful.
  • I’m not concerned about the very poor” was a clumsy way of repeating Gingrich’s food stamps vs. paychecks point: the lazy poor get enough government help already. Either guy would be more convincing if his policies didn’t sum up to cutting taxes for the rich and cutting benefits for the poor. And I’m still waiting for anybody to explain why supply-side economics didn’t create jobs during the eight years when Bush tried it. I like Joan Walsh’s response: “The safety net is not a hammock.”

On the other hand, commenting on all discussions of inequality with “I think it’s about envy” is just as bad in context as you would have imagined from the headline.

Fox News really shouldn’t mess with the Muppets.

Atlantic’s Elizabeth Wurtzel makes it into this week’s short notes on the strength of good writing. As an unmarried person who seems wistful but not very hopeful about marriage, Wurtzel sees Newt Gingrich’s marital history as an island of reality in the plastic world of too-perfect political marriages.

Marriage is like Churchill’s description of democracy: the worst relationship, except for all the others. Men hate monogamy, women are pretty wayward too, being alone is absolutely awful, no one can imagine spending the rest of their lives trying to decide how to spend Saturday night after about age 36, kids seem logical, no one will love us when we’re old, we all need reunion dates, and of course, 50 years down the road, even discounting the ten or so years (hopefully not in tandem, but maybe) that were awful and that we spent making and canceling an appointment with a family lawyer almost every day at times, looking back, we had a life, and it meant something. Even though…. Even though there was a lot of even though. From the outside that looks like a happy marriage, and even happiness.

Onion News Network reports the heart-breaking story of Caitlin, a “brain dead” adolescent. Completely unresponsive to her parents, she could do little more than roll her eyes and type texts into her phone. While making the difficult decision to euthanize her, her mother says, “We just keep reminding ourselves that the real Caitlin is already gone.”

Who really writes your laws? When a Florida representative proposed a bill written by the corporate-sponsored American Legislative Exchange Council, she forgot to remove the ALEC mission statement.

If government can force abortion-seeking women to get an unnecessary ultrasound, why can’t it force men seeking Viagra to get a rectal exam?

I knew I’d seen these candidates somewhere before:

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  • Wisefather  On February 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    American Exceptionalism is the puffery used to excuse misadventure abroad and inaction at home. In a recent post I analyze the American Exceptionalism concept and contrast it with a healthy patriotism that could help unite the public against those few who are ruining America.


  • By Authority and Belief « The Weekly Sift on February 6, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    […] Scary Guys Named Saul and other short notes. Why Gingrich doesn’t care who the real Saul Alinsky was. Mitt’s gaffes are bad, just not as bad as they sound. Fox can’t win against the Muppets. Should unresponsive adolescents be euthanized? And the Republican presidential candidates take a 3-hour cruise. […]

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