Greenwald on John Dean

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Glenn Greenwald reviews John Dean’s Conservatives without Conscience:

Dean contends, and amply documents, that the "conservative" movement has become, at its core, an authoritarian movement composed of those with a psychological and emotional need to follow a strong authority figure which provides them a sense of moral clarity and a feeling of individual power, the absence of which creates fear and insecurity in the individuals who crave it. By definition, its followers' devotion to authority and the movement's own power is supreme, thereby overriding the consciences of its individual members and removing any intellectual and moral limits on what will be justified in defense of their movement.

This is essentially a paraphrase of Lakoff’s “strict father” summation of the conservative mentality. Greenwald continues:

there is seemingly no limit -- literally -- on the willingness, even eagerness, of Bush supporters to defend and justify even the most morally repugnant abuses -- from constantly expanding spying on American citizens, to a President who claims and aggressively exercises the "right" to break the law, to torturing suspects, imprisoning journalists, and turning the United States into the most feared and hated country on the planet.

And as radical as the administration has become, it is clear that the administration has not even come close to reaching the level of extremism which would be necessary for its supporters to object -- if such a limit exists at all. If anything, on those exceedingly few occasions over six years when his followers have dissented from the Presidents's decisions -- illegal immigration, Harriet Miers, Dubai ports -- it has been not because the administration was too radical, extremist, militaristic and uncompromising -- but insufficiently so.

He writes later about the conservatives’ inability to tolerate dissent:

Virtually every political opponent of the administration's of any significance -- Howard Dean, Al Gore, John Kerry, the Clintons -- is relentlessly branded as a liar, mentally unstable, corrupt, seditious, and sympathetic to the Enemy.

And even those who devoted much of their adult lives to military service to their country (often in ways far more courageous and impressive than most Bush supporters), or even those who have been longtime Republicans and conservatives, have their characters relentlessly smeared and motives and integrity impugned as soon as they criticize the administration in any way that could embarrass the President -- Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, the war critic Generals, Joe Wilson, Scott Ritter, Wesley Clark, John Murtha, John Paul Stevens, and on and on and on.

It is a movement devoted to the destruction of its enemies wherever they might be found. And it finds new ones, in every corner and seemingly on a daily basis, because it must. That is the food which sustains it.

Greenwald’s conclusion, that “Dean's book is a uniquely valuable tool for understanding what the so-called "conservative" movement has become,” whets my appetite.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on July 24, 2006 1:12 PM.

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