Sean Hannity should really have a serious sit-down chat with his publisher.
His latest screed, Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama's Radical [sic] Agenda, isn't titled as provocatively as his previous books Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism (2004) and Deliver Us from Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism (2005). His new title doesn't pretend to pit liberty against liberalism (as if that were even possible) or try to equate liberalism with evil, and this oversight may prompt his audience to wonder if Hannity has gone soft. Without that important wingnut-friendly inflammatory title, non-partisans may accidentally buy his book, possibly causing Hannity to see his name scrawled on Glenn Beck's chalkboard of craziness as a fellow-traveler of the mushy moderates.
When one considers what lies [pun intended] beneath the covers of Hannity's rant, however, he has nothing to worry about. Conservative Victory could more accurately be titled Conservative Vitriol for its bitter belittlement of all things liberal:
MediaMatters counted 21 separate categories of "falsehoods, smears, and distortions" among the book's 230-or-so pages, and they quote and debunk 25 separate errors. Hannity's pages-per-error count of 9.2 may make him seem reasonably accurate in comparison to his fellow conservative writers, but the more dynamic political fiction tomes from Beck, Coulter, D'Souza, Goldberg (either one), Limbaugh (either one, although Rush hasn't been able to find a suitable ghost writer for the past 17 years), Malkin, O'Reilly, Palin, and Savage have set a very low bar. Let's look at just one of Hannity's sentences, the first one quoted by MediaMatters:
Only months into his presidency, he had so infuriated average Americans that a series of Tea Party protests emerged across the nation, attended by everyday people who were outraged and horrified by Obama's every decision: his reckless federal spending, his seizure of control of private industry, his cap-and-trade legislation, and his obsessive quest to nationalize one-sixth of the American economy through socialized health care. [Page 4]
The MediaMatters critique only addressed the falsity of Hannity's claim that healthcare reform is either nationalization or socialism--of course, it is neither--but there are at least four other falsehoods packed into that single sentence:
1.) Obama didn't actually cause the tea protests by "infuriating average Americans." The teabag protests were caused by endless lies from Glenn Beck, funding from corporate lobbyists, and relentless cheerleading from Fox News.
2.) If "average Americans" were "outraged and horrified by Obama's every decision," his approval ratings wouldn't be where they are: 48% approval, 45% disapproval (Gallup, 3/29).
3.) It wasn't "reckless federal spending" for Obama to continue Bush's policy of propping up the financial system in order to avoid another Depression, or to recognize that Keynesian pump-priming was the best available tool of fiscal stimulus.
4.) Cap and trade is "not a polarizing term" despite GOP efforts.
As one example of the other distortions left unaddressed by MediaMatters, see this paragraph from the book's preceding page:
Actually, it is an exaggeration to say that. There's not a serious argument to be found here, although plenty of Hannity's hyperbole is on display.
"[O]ur future...has never been in greater jeopardy"? Not even during the American Revolution, when we took on the world's most powerful nation? The Civil War, when we bore arms against our brothers and our neighbors? World War II, when we mobilized our entire nation to defeat a worldwide axis of fascist dictatorships? Perhaps the Cold War, when we were often on the brink of thermonuclear holocaust? No, Hannity thinks that Obama's (centrist) agenda of compromise (with the GOP) is so radical that it endangers our future. More than anything else. Ever. Without exaggeration.
It's no less ridiculous for Hannity to claim that "our national survival" is at stake as "Obama and the American left" are trying to "rob everything" from us. JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, SEAN...were you asleep during the previous administration? How do you manage to ignore with the war crimes, the violations of international law, the multi-trillion-dollar Iraq debacle, the torture, the murders, the black sites, the habeas corpus violations, the secret searches and seizures, the Patriot Act, the "watch what you say" reminders from the White House? You're going into a fucking tizzy because--what?--we now have a middle-of-the-road
Obamacare Romneycare program instead of anything even remotely resembling universal health care, or a public option, or single-payer? (Also, see the comments above about "reckless federal spending.") Have you no shame? No integrity? Or is it self-awareness that you lack?
All of this just goes to make my point that a political position isn't "reasonable" because it's voiced by a Republican, or "sensible" because a conservative says it, or "moral" because it issues from the pen of a Christian. Those words all have meanings, but they are rendered void when applied to tripe such as Hannity's rants.
Are commentators on the Left necessarily any better? No...the key word being necessarily. We have our own purveyors of hyperbole and vitriol: James Carville, Al Franken, and Michael Moore are a few of the best-selling ones, but the main difference is the (relative) lack of COMPLETELY MAKING SHIT UP on the Left as compared to the Right. I've lost track of how many times I've spent hours researching a right-wing chain email to discover (as in the infamous list of Obama's "mistakes") that it's a morass of manufactured outrage, selective quotation, deliberate misinterpretation, outright lies, and other easily falsifiable bullshit.
Today's paradigmatic conservative syllogism looks like this:
Major premise: I don't like Obama because he's a Kenyan Muslim radical--I'm afraid!
Minor premise: Teabag TV and talk radio tell me that he's a socialist!
Conclusion: Therefore, Obama is a Kenyan Muslim radical socialist...now I'm angry and afraid, although I still don't know what socialism is!
(If you can identify the logical flaws in this argument, then you're better off than Hannity's core audience.)
I don't want to go all Lakoff here (see my reviews of Moral Politics, Thinking Points, and The Political Mind for more on his analysis), but it really does seem that the right-wing psyche is much more amenable to making the leap of blind faith from hearing something to believing it without ever passing through any sort of thought or analysis.
What could the Right do about this disparity? How about finding some conservative writers who can hold their own with those on the Left; I'm thinking of Eric Alterman, Thomas Frank, Glenn Greenwald, William Greider, Paul Krugman, Lewis Lapham, Bill Moyers, Robert Reich, et al. There are thoughtful and reasonable conservatives out there--Bruce Bartlett, John Dean, David Frum, Christopher Hitchens, and Andrew Sullivan come to mind--but Hannity doesn't make the cut.
If anyone would like to suggest additions to this list, I'm all ears...