>> Monday, February 15, 2010
The Other Scott already noted Glenn Reynolds's tendentious link and Steven Taylor's pithy rebuttal of its underlying "logic," but I wanted to focus on the quotation from Reynolds's reader in the update, because it points to a fundamental disconnect between the rhetoric of the right and the left:
I'm guessing the "she's a socialist" part won't get talked about much in the MSM. But if she had been a conservative it'd lead every evening news cast for two months.The crucial difference between this mass-shooting and other recent ones is that, for example, Nidal Hasan didn't consider himself a liberal, nor did he devote himself to liberal causes—he was, it seems, someone with pretensions to Islamic jihad. Scott Roeder, however, shot George Tiller in the service of a mainstream conservative cause. The difference, obviously, is not in the media's furtherance of a narrative, but in the non-incidental relation of particular ideologies with acts of violence.
Conservatives complain 1) when liberals ask that any brown person with a funny name not be labeled a jihadist until evidence of such is unearthed, and 2) when mainstream news outlets link the murder of prominent abortion doctors to conservative causes. They fail to see the lack of equivalence: liberals don't espouse jihad against the United States, but conservatives do inspire those on their fringes to engage in politically motivated violence. The politics of the George Tiller murder are an indictment against conservative rhetoric because that rhetoric made Tiller a target; whereas the personal politics of Amy Bishop are utterly irrelevant in the absence of a vocal and sustained opposition to the existence of the university and the tenure system among liberals.
That conservatives are working a false equivalence is made evident by Reynolds's pathological desire to find evidence that will allow him to turn this tragedy into mere political gamesmanship. Unlike his acolyte Althouse, whose affected contrarianism runs so vast and deep she'll write anything if she thinks one rube will do a double-take reading it, Reynolds plays politics to win. He wants to own the narrative, and because his platform trickles up into all the right places, he mostly has a legitimate claim to it. In this case, he hikes over to RateMyProfessor.com—a site that allows angry students to vent anonymously after they receive grades they deserve—and finds a comment in which an undergraduate calls her a "socialist" and before you know it, all the usual suspects are employing "socialist" as an anarthrous occupational nominal premodifier, e.g. "socialist Alabama professor," "socialist serial killer," etc. On the strength, then, of a single comment by an upset undergraduate, conservative hacks are folding socialism into what they imagine her profession to be—be it a professor or a serial killer—in an attempt to create the impression of equivalence between ideology and act where none actually exists.
At least not yet. (The day still being young and all.)
UPDATE: More here.