Can't We All Just Get Along?

Dean Barnett

5/15/2007 11:51:31 AM - Dean Barnett

There must be something in the water in right wing Blogistan. Maybe we’ve caught a touch of that “rage virus” that the important new movie “28 Weeks Later” documents.

Yesterday, two of the right wing blogosphere’s heavyweights squared off. Glenn Reynolds started things off with a little jab over the widespread appeasement of Muslim sensibilities, commenting, “Sooner or later, you know, fundamentalist Christians are going to pick up on this lesson, engage in similar behavior, and make similar demands. Because, apparently, it works fine.”

This greatly agitated HotAir’s Bryan Preston who shot back with a nasty right cross, “I get the warning and humor of (the) line, but frankly I’m tired of it. Prof. Reynolds needs to hit the books.” Then Bryan got angry, making an extensive case for why Glenn was wrong and chiding “major bloggers” for not “getting it” in regards to what makes Islam different. For what it’s worth, I agreed with most of Bryan’s substance if not his style. For a minute there, Bryan’s anger over this little dust-up reminded me of the good old days when everyone on the right was so civilly discussing the Terri Schiavo situation and Bryan was calling Glenn “InstaPilate.”

As far as yesterday’s festivities are concerned, Glenn’s little jibe violated one of my fundamental rules of snarky writing: If you find it absolutely necessary to tweak an ethnic group, make fun of your own. With that small exception, save the ethnic cracks for your private gatherings and correspondence.

Additionally, I find the substance of Glenn’s statement to be off. Fundamentalist Islam and Fundamentalist Christianity are completely different. Every sect has its whack-jobs and weirdoes. In my tribe of the Jews, my own dear Aunt Susan proudly carries that banner. But the threat posed by Fundamentalist Islam and the antics it’s already inspired like flying 767’s into skyscrapers are unique. Casually comparing that threat to some vague and non-specific Christian bogeyman, even in jest, will offend some folks.

In spite of the foregoing, I found Bryan’s angry counter-post to be over-the-top, although still an enormous step forward from the “InstaPilate” days. One of the things I like about the right wing blogosphere, especially when compared to the left wing blogosphere, is the civility. We can disagree and remain cordial. None of us write in a style that could best be characterized as “angry.” We eschew name-calling, at least among ourselves. (Obviously we’re willing to call John Edwards names, but that’s different.) Disagreeing with Glenn was fine. Saying he needed to hit the books and that he just didn’t get it was needlessly personal.

On a related note, there’s the Red State blog’s “open declaration of war against the Republican House leadership.” The official casus belli is the appointment of Ken Calvert to the House appropriations committee. According to Erick Erickson,

“The House Republican Leadership just does not get it and they will not take us seriously until we flex our muscle against them. We must scalp one member. That member's name is Ken Calvert.”

On the merits, Erick is right. Calvert is by all appearance one of our more shady representatives, and not the kind of guy who should be getting plum committee assignments. Nevertheless, the prose is needlessly purple and hostile. I’m not going to war against other Republicans. I don’t even go to war against Democrats. Especially when there’s a real war going on, such rhetorical table pounding isn’t my cup of tea.

And then there’s this email that Erick sent out today to fellow bloggers:

A reporter called to get my response to this:

(Rep.) John Linder told the reporter less than ten people called yesterday about Calvert and that it does not matter anyway because he does not trust anything bloggers have to say.

So, now you know where you rank with John Linder.

Students of the left wing blogosphere will find this message and Erick’s entire campaign strikingly similar to a Markos Moulitsas operation. The sense of grievance and the naked lust to empower the blogopshere are things that could have easily sprung from Kos’ modem.

Which brings up a deeper question – Is there room on the right for a Kos? I don’t think so. If you look at the top tier of right wing bloggers, they’re almost unfailingly civil. One of the things that made Bryan Preston’s post yesterday so notable was that it flirted with incivility. Erick’s declaration of war goes quite a bit further. If there’s an appetite for manning the barricades on the right and attempting to make the right wing blogs the kingmakers that the left wing blogs are, I’m missing it.

Additionally, the right wing blogosphere, including both bloggers and readers, are well within the conservative mainstream. The reason Kos and company got traction in the first place is because they were way outside the Democratic mainstream. Remember, it wasn’t so long ago that Dr. Dean was the only Democratic presidential candidate who ran as an unambiguous opponent of the war in Iraq. In other words, there was room on the Democratic mainstream’s left for a movement to pop up. That movement found its expression in the left wing blogosphere. There’s not a similar dynamic available on the right. That’s why any movements of this sort will be redolent of personal pique and ambition.

And there’s one other thing, just speaking as one lonely blogger: I’m not into Action Alerts. I’m not into telling you how to protest something or telling you to call Congress. I find the very rare political conference calls that I attend to be a nuisance, even though they do provide a handy opportunity to watch “Family Feud” on the DVR while officially spending my time constructively.

I’m a writer, not an activist, and I have no interest in changing. Although, come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind 600,000 visits a day like Markos gets.

Compliments? Complaints? Contact me at