Lowering Standards, Ctd.

by Christopher Orr | September 9, 2009

How far can the Weekly Standard sink? Time will tell, but the cover of its current issue gives a pretty good sense of its depth at the moment. Accompanied by the cover line "Here the People Rule," the illustration--it's a bit small here, but I'll gladly link to a larger version if I find one--is of, well, an angry white mob. Though the central figure looks relatively temperate, he is flanked on one side by an enraged older woman holding brass knuckles and on the other by an equally furious man crushing a pamphlet entitled "health care." (Saddest touch: The flanneled man in the center, in addition to his anti-Obama pin, has a copy of The Weekly Standard tucked into his coat pocket. Subtle.)

This is the populism of the contemporary right: unconcerned about helping the working class to acquire decent, affordable health care, or to keep up with their mortgages, or to retain jobs in the automotive sector; but eager to stoke their inchoate fears and anger in an effort to flannelize what remains a party committed overwhelmingly to the concerns of accumulated weath. (Any who doubt this need only have another look at the GOP stimulus "alternative" proposed by Jim DeMint, which consisted of $3.1 trillion in permanent tax cuts targeting corporations and wealthy individuals.)

The cover story, by Mary Katharine Ham, offers a "full list of documented violence from the August meetings," and while incidents were indeed relatively few and, for the most part, minor, by the end of Ham's exhaustive recounting of which ones were exaggerated, and which ones may have been started by Obama supporters, and which ones remain hazy, readers might be forgiven for feeling assaulted themselves. Moreover, Ham's authority comes entirely from hindsight: The fact that no serious act of violence occured doesn't mean it couldn't have (or might not still) or that the people whose concern she mocks--principally Chris Matthews--were wrong to be concerned. The drunk driver who makes it home safe is hardly an authority on automotive safety.

More interesting is the editorial by Matthew Continetti--Sarah Palin's soon-to-be biographer--which is an almost perfect distillation of the GOP pose that Conor Friedersdorf took apart so neatly in the post I linked to yesterday--that is, that the idea that health care protests are an organic, bottom-up phenomenon, rather than one aggressively, and cynically, fomented by conservative elites. "Popular outbursts serve as a check on, and corrective to, our elites' behavior," Continetti argues, continuing in this vein for a thousand words or so. The fact that Continetti is himself an elite, like his colleagues at the Standard and, one assumes, the overwhelming preponderance of his readers (that desperate insertion of the magazine into the pocket of its flannel-clad cover boy notwithstanding) are at no time acknowledged. But they do give a slight ironic lift to his otherwise tired conclusion: "As for the elites, especially the liberal elite: They remain deaf, dumb, and blind."

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