When my children were little, cries of “He started it!” and “He did something worse!” were staples of household debate.
I think about those arguments between four and five year olds when I hear complaints from the political Right about the “liberal media,” and retorts from the political Left about “false equivalence.” Most genuine journalists ignore both, figuring–reasonably enough– that if both extremes of the political spectrum are unhappy, they probably got it right.
That said, I was struck by a comment made by David Niose during a recent interview. Niose is legal director for the American Humanist Association and a past president of both the American Humanist Association and the Secular Coalition for America.
In his remarks, Niose shared his concerns over the disproportionate influence of corporations on American politics, and especially on the current upsurge in anti-intellectualism (an unfortunate American mainstay), but along the way, he also made a point worth considering about the relative influence of the crazies on the Right and Left. As he noted, anti-intellectual left-wingers, such as Marxists invested in “dialectical materialism” and other Leftist ideologues who insist on doctrine over facts, are routinely dismissed and politically irrelevant. Meanwhile, Republicans who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old can and do get elected to political office.
Extremists and zealots of any stripe are equally dangerous, but in the U.S., the political Left has rarely gained much traction. (And no, raising the ire of Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin doesn’t make one a Leftist–I doubt either of them could define socialism.) Over the past quarter-century, however, the Crazy Right has become positively mainstream in many areas of the country.
The nutso Right and Left may exhibit equivalent insanity and ignorance, but only one of them currently influences–and debases– the national narrative.