Friday, December 12, 2008

Extremity Matters

Commentators I like – and to whom I link – often say that ideology matters. That’s true, but only to a point, as I argued here and here. Political frames – like any others – are not only about kind, but also degree. Size also matters. Extremity matters.

Another data point to this effect is the op-ed in today’s NY Times by Thomas Schweich. Like Comey, Goldsmith, Whitman, O’Neill and Powell, he was, it seems, nobody’s idea of a leftie. Nonetheless, he ran afoul of – or, more accurately, struggled with – the children’s crusaders of the Right who were the acolytes of the “hard” wing of the Bush Administration – the Cheneys, Yoos, Addingtons, et al. Schweich’s problem wasn’t his party affiliation, but his possession of expertise. Like millions of good, card-carrying Commies in Cambodia or China in a previous era, he was suspect precisely because he actually knew something.

America’s government in the last eight years became infested by a homegrown equivalent of the Khmer Rouge or the Red Guards. In a goofy stew that was equal parts ignorance and ideology, they ginned up their own sort of Cultural Revolution, sending down – or, at this comparatively early stage, simply freezing out – even the former revolutionaries (Reagan variety). You helped overthrow Chiang in 1949? That was then, this is now. Now, you wear glasses.

1 comment:

july4cat said...

So true. Things are always messy once you get to know them, so the best way to stay pure ideologically is simply to get rid of all those who care to know the nuts and bots. The obsession with purity (I use this word in its most general sense) has cost humans dearly, but I doubt we can find a cure for it in the foreseeable future, if ever.