Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sometimes, it is about how you say it scientists at Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences have found that outrage talk is endemic among commentators of all political stripes, but measurably worse on the political right.

Hands up, the first person who's surprised. But wait a minute.

Granted that these folks are scientists and I'm not, the example they give of "outrage talk" from both the left seems to me to be at least flawed, and maybe even totally incompatible with the example from the right

Those examples are

"Whether it’s MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann spitting out his coffee because of some conservative transgression or radio host Michael Savage venomously impugning the character of immigrants, cable television, talk radio and blogs overflow with outrage rhetoric, and even mainstream newspaper columns are not above the fray," they said.

Well, as I say...wait a minute. Keith Olbermann spitting out his coffee (it's called a Spit Take, o bright sparks of Tufts Uni) is by definition an attempt at a comedic reaction. We can discuss whether or not it succeeds as comedy in any given case, but a person who uses the spit take is at least trying to be funny. I would argue they're not even being satirical, but (more importantly) they're certainly not spewing venom. Just coffee, I guess.

But Savage, on the other hand...well, take a look at the most recent handful of quotes as tracked by Media Matters, just as some examples. Forget whether or not you agree with what he's saying, that's not my point (and if you're reading my blog, there's like a one percent chance that you do, anyway). Look at how he's trying to say what he's saying. Is he even trying to make a joke? Forget failing/succeeding, is he even trying?

My point is not that Keith Olbermann has never said anything that went over the top, rhetoric-wise. He has and he's been quick to admit it. My point is, rather than spotlighting the finding that the right is considerably meaner than anything on the left, these scientists appear to have thought they had to tie their own hands by assuring us of their finding, "Oh, but the left is mean too!"

Well, no wonder that's their finding...if they're counting a spit take in the same category as Michael Savage saying that immigrants expect free education, that they are to blame for the bedbug epidemic (and that leprosy, tuberculosis & cholera will follow in their wake). And yes, both of those are real.

It's that old demon bugaboo false equivalence, and unfortunately, it is very, very...President Obama. I do not think we will ever rise above this tragically dark cloud until we accept the truth that when we are talking about vitriol, we are talking, overwhelmingly, about the right.

This is not to say that no one on the left ever has their little slips of frustration, either (including me). But with the right, I think, it isn't little slips. It's their everyday mode of discourse, 24/7.

But of course, I'm not a scientist.

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