Losing the Narrative, Always

29 Aug

I don’t understand how or why normal people cede the narrative on cultural issues to the cynical-hysterical ultra-right. I’m thinking specifically about the Park51 non-Ground Zero non-mosque, but it happens all the time. The right wing noise machine starts out with its daily talking points, Drudge, Fox News, which then morphs to talk radio and occasionally blogs. By the time the day is over, many people repeat the lies as fact, and they become the basis of the debate. All normal people are left to do is to try and rebut the lies, but the damage has already been done – the narrative has been set.

That’s why we’re busy rebutting the notion that this is an evil victory mosque set up by an extreme terrorist sympathizing imam who is taking money from al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and other Muslim terrorist groups that don’t get along at all. It’s why the Republicans who are demagoguing this nontroversy frame it as not so much a question of religious freedom, but one of feelings. Oh, sure it’s legal and they can’t be legally stopped, they argue. But that’s hallowed ground, near the Amish Market deli, the OTB, and the topless bar. That place is sacred! – it’s two blocks from Ground Zero, around the corner from two extant mosques in the neighborhood. It’s not that all Muslims are terrorists, but all the 9/11 terrorists were Muslim!

It’s a load of reverse-political-correctness bullshit. Hell, Carl Paladino – the forwarder of horse porn and emails containing the word “nigger” – the guy who idiotically calls the Governor a “drug addict” – the guy who wants to herd the poor and unemployed into decommissioned penitentiaries – the tea partier who wants to create a nouveau New Deal make-work program – the guy who (also) called Shelly Silver the anti-Christ – the guy who thinks the poors are so dirty that the state should teach them hygiene – the family values bullshit artist who has cheated on his wife, and fathered a child she didn’t give birth to – the candidate who wants to turn “three men in a room” to one man in a room – the guy who likened health care reform to 9/11 (I thought 9/11 was too sacred to sully or politicize).

Aside: Just look at that list – it says a lot that an admitted madman (see Beale, Howard) who has said, done, and advocated the things listed above in just four or five months is gaining traction in the Republican primary race. Then again, Lazio is MIA.

I’m sick and tired of the center-left being on the defensive from the get-go on these types of nontroversies, and it makes me quite depressed about the state of our republic that this kind of bullshit can happen so easily, and with such formulaic regularity. Whatever we’re doing isn’t working.

Meanwhile, a New York cabbie with 15 years’ experience named Ahmed Sharif was slashed by alleged drunken douchebag/asshole/slasher Michael Enright of Brewster, NY. Sharif had answered “yes” when Enright asked him if he was Muslim. It may have been alcohol-fueled, but it was also fueled by hatred and fear. That hatred and fear, in turn, was fueled by vicious demagogues like Carl Paladino, Pamela Geller, and other fascists like the little peasant on WBEN at 9am.

31 Responses to “Losing the Narrative, Always”

  1. Jeremy August 26, 2010 at 8:30 am #

    Substitute “active Democrats” for “normal people” and you’ll have your answer. “Normal people” don’t care about this issue. It’s the right whipping up anger over something meaningless and the left trying to rebut anger with facts. Welcome to Thursday.

  2. BobbyCat August 26, 2010 at 9:33 am #

    I agree with your rant, including the point that the “mosque” issue is the kid of emotional issue that the right wing blows out of proportion to enflame their base before an election.. GOP operatives like Frank Luntz search for issues like the mosque, Willie Horton, Reagan’s welfare queen, Bush’s WMD’s to whip Americans into a frenzy. The expiration of Bush’s tax cuts for millionaire’s is now called a “tax increase”, regulation on offshore oil drilling is called a “new tax on energy”, Black is called white, right is wrong, up is down. The Republican right is depending on 20% of know-nothing Americans to swing their way. Carl Paladino is doing it the old fashioned way, using the tea party base to whip up racial animosity against an admittedly dysfunctional Albany. Paladino’s base believes he is on their side. Ha!

    Having said all of that, I can empathize with the sensitive open wounds of Ground Zero people and the insensitivity of the Imam. If he didn’t anticipate the backlash, he should have. If he did predict it, why did he choose to ignore it?. You should not trample on people’s feelings just because you have a right to. The families of those murdered at City Grill should not be lectured about what a tough life the shooter had. Nobody wants to hear it. Nor do they, in turn, want to hear about their loved ones criminal records. Sensitivity matters. But one thing we can agree on: Carl Paladino has none.

  3. LC Scotty August 26, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    What do you do if the country fractures and you don’t like either camp?

    • Alan Bedenko August 26, 2010 at 10:07 am #

      Move to Ontario

  4. joker August 26, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    NY cabbie clashed because he’s a Muslim….3,000 people slaughtered on 9/11 because why?

    • Alan Bedenko August 26, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

      3,000 people were slaughtered on 9/11 because they were Americans.

      The cabbie was slashed because he’s a Muslim.

      Are you suggesting any of the following:

      1. Only by matching al Qaeda’s 9/11 body count can we actually win;
      2. We must fight ignorant terroristic homicidal bigotry with ignorant terroristic homicidal bigotry;
      3. That because 9/11 was perpetrated by Muslim terrorist fanatics, all Muslims are guilty for 9/11?
      4. That because 9/11 was perpetrated by Muslim terrorist fanatics, it is reasonable for drunken douchebags from Brewster to slash Muslim cabbies?

      Because for you to have shat your comment, “@joker”, one of those must be true. Which one is it?

      • Alan Bedenko August 26, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

        @joker, your “question” implies approval and justification for the slashing of a Muslim cabbie because of 9/11. Correct?

  5. Ethan August 26, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    3,000 people slaughtered on 9/11 because why?

    Oh, I don’t think you really wanna go there; people like you can’t handle the truth and the complexity thereof: proximal causes; distal causes; interactions of those; the possibility that America ever does wrong in the world; the use of religion to achieve political ends; &c.  All far to difficult for you to grasp.  

    No, if it’s not a simple, one-dimensional explanation–“They hate our freedoms!!!”–you probably don’t have the attention span, background information, or cognitive resources to grapple with the myriad answers to that simple question.  

    But to be sure: neither the cabbie <nor the victims of 9/11 deserved to be hurt or killed.

  6. joker August 26, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    In your eagerness to gain political advantage, Ethan and Alan, the quick descent into scatological insult and unabashed hatred over what was, after all, a question, speaks volumes about why Democrats in Washington and Albany are about to take a historic shellacking this November. The dumbfounding inability to recognize the fact that some Americans have issues with Muslims right now is astounding.

    • STEEL August 26, 2010 at 2:53 pm #

      It is dumbfounding that right wingers are so fast to apologize for asshole criminals like this guy. Why don’t you answer pundit’s question?

      • joker August 28, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

        Cabbies are murdered in New York City every year. I’ve never seen Pundit write about it before. So does he care about New York cabbies or only Muslim ones who are slashed by mentally disturbed filmakers who may or may not have some sort of stress disorder picked up recently in Afghanistan? The questions are equally absurd.

      • Alan Bedenko August 29, 2010 at 4:58 pm #

        Cabbies are murdered every year in New York?  I’d like to see the citation.  I’d also like to note that the law treats the mens reus of “robbery” differently from the mens reus of “religious animus”.  When a douchebag kills a cabbie because the cabbie is of a particular sect, that’s a bit less common than “cabbies murdered every year”, and notable given the fact that very prominent political figures from one specific political party have been calling Muslims everything but the anti-Christ in recent weeks. 

  7. Ward August 26, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    Regaining the narrative, occasionally:

    In 2008, of 1,606 hate crimes motivated by religious bias:
    65.7% were committed against Jews;
    7.7% were committed against Muslims.

    Given that there are between 4 and 7 million Muslims in the U.S., the rate of hate crimes against Jews is three to eight times that against Muslims.

    Your photoshopped caption on the cabbie picture reminded me of, “Daniel Pearl beheaded because he’s Jewish.” An act perpetrated, of course, in the name of Allah, and most certainly not a “nontroversy”.

    • Bbill August 26, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

      Given that there are between 4 and 7 million Muslims in the U.S., the rate of hate crimes against Jews is three to eight times that against Muslims.

      Care to cite your source for this statistic? Doesn’t your “three to eight times” assertion assume that Jews and Muslims comprise the same population percentage? Or is this just something you heard on WBEN?

      • Ward August 26, 2010 at 4:28 pm #

        Just a little thing made up by the FBI, bbbbill.
        http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/civilrights/hate.htm

        And, no–my arithmetic makes no such assumption. I did not learn arithmetic in the same school system as you, apparently. (Perhaps not even in the same millenium.)

      • Bbill August 26, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

        Thanks for the link.

        Of course those stats were from 2008, the year before the right wing went around the bend cuckoo violent. Pretty safe guess the 2010 stats will paint a different picture.

      • Ward August 27, 2010 at 10:38 pm #

        Sorry, Bbbbbbill–as you know from going to the FBI’s stats, 2008 is the latest available year.
        Feel free to make up your own from then on, comme d’habitude.

    • STEEL August 26, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

      I didn’t realize that Daniel Pearl was murdered in the US by an American – Oh wait! – he wasn’t, he was murdered by fanatics in another country which, as it happens does not provide the freedoms and prosperity that our system does, a system by the way, that tries to eliminate prejudice based on race and religion. With that in mind it is odd that anyone would condone a crime like this that is based on bigotry. Are you making excuses for this criminal?

      • Ward August 26, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

        Pearl was murdered by a fanatic whom “Geoffrey” Holder wants to try in the former shadow of the World Trade Center. That ought to work about as well for you Dems as the “This Is Not A” Mosque.

      • STEEL August 26, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

        So you really don’t believe in the American system

      • Ward August 27, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

        That sentence was so hella-lame it didn’t merit the effort of punctuation, eh Steelie?

    • kris August 26, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

      Why do you hate our freedoms?

  8. BobbyCat August 26, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

    These pages reminds me of pissy cat fights in High School. C’mon girls. Waaay too little content but a truckload of attitude. Eeeeee.

  9. BrianS. August 26, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

    Why do you all insist on giving aid and comfort to the enemy?

    • kris August 26, 2010 at 9:59 pm #

      We live in ‘Murica. We are fighting for those freedoms everyday on mideast soil.

      • BrianS. August 26, 2010 at 10:59 pm #

        You’re so right. We are there winning hearts and minds. More importantly, we’re fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here.

  10. joker August 27, 2010 at 8:34 am #

    isn’t barack obama the commander and chief of the american armed forces? and has been for the better part of two years?

  11. Dave A August 28, 2010 at 10:02 am #

    Al-Jazeera’s been reporting on the mosque controversy; the loud public uproar against it does nothing but feed Al-Qaeda’s narrative that the U.S. has made this a worldwide war on muslims. We’ve become the terrorists’ recruiting tools.

  12. Max August 29, 2010 at 8:38 am #

    There’s also a huge contradiction in the GOP’s blatent opportunistic hijack of this issue in that they’ve historically championed property rights over others. They appear to be willing to trample the community center developers’ rights in the name “not hurting somebody’s feelings” which is usually a barb reserved to their opposition. Mike Bloomberg had it right from the beginning and the chattering class would be best to leave this one alone.

  13. lulu September 2, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    My narrative: In my daily life it is easy to be a compassionate, politically-middle (identifying with different parties on differing issues) socially liberal and fiscally conservative American woman who believes in tolerance and acceptance of differences. It is sad that such qualities are missing or hidden in the choices presented for political representation in this country (on all levels). Living with such a belief system also does not bode well for many of the “conversations” that occur in blog comments, but I hope some of you will appreciate this contribution to the “conversation.”

  14. lulu September 2, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    Just realized that the quotes around conversation were unnecessary – my bad.

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