Michele Bachmann And The Politics Of Ridicule
Democrats and Republicans alike, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi maintains, "are making the mistake of laughing at (Michele) Bachmann."
In a profile which is thoroughly entertaining, if less-than intellectually rigorous, Taibbi portrays a candidate whose support among tea party supporters and "brilliantly fortifying lack of self-doubt.... mixed with pathological, relentless, conscienceless lying" makes her a legitimate threat to seize the Repub nomination for President. Mary Cecconi, who once defeated Michelle Bachmann in a school board race, added "I think Michele honestly believes whatever she says in the moment," which suggests a politician who can credibly make any remark advantageous at the time.
Taibbi cites Bachmann's "TV-ready looks, her easy confidence in public speaking, her quick command of a mountainous database of (frequently bogus) facts." Warning critics not to laugh at Bachmann, he then mocks her supporters, arguing
tales by Bachmann work precisely because there are a great many people in America just like Bachmann, people who believe that God tells them what condiments to put on their hamburgers, who can't tell the difference between Soviet Communism and a Stafford loan, but can certainly tell the difference between being mocked and being taken seriously.
Taibbi maintains that if we wrongly conclude that the Minnesota Republican "is uniquely crazy" and "laugh at Michele Bachmann for going on MSNBC and blurting out that the moon is made of red communist cheese, these people don't learn that she is wrong." But while ridicule of Bachmann (and especially of her supporters) is counter-productive, failing to analyze critically her comment and record also would backfire.
Another GOP presidential candidate, the subject of considerable criticism, would understand. Newt Gingrich's candidacy is not tanking; it has tanked. And, with some justification, he blames it on the abuse heaped upon him since he began his quest. The former House Speaker wrongly believes that he was targeted because Democrats fear him, but evidently knows that reports about campaign aides deserting him, as well as his Tiffany line of credit (and an obnoxious, but effective, glittering incident), contributed to his demise.
While attributing coastal elitism Taibbi primarily to others (in his last sentence, appearing to include himself), Taibbi doesn't quite understand conservatives, in images of pop culture, recognize that
Here liberalism is a matter of shallow appearances, of fatuous self-righteousness; it is arrogant and condescending, a politics in which the beautiful and the wellborn tell the unwashed and the beaten-down and the funny-looking how they ought to behave, how they should stop being racist or homophobic, how they should be better people. In an America where the chief sources of one's ideas about life's possibilities are TV and the movies, it's not hard to be convinced that we inhabit a liberal-dominated world.....
Frank wrote seven years ago, when conservative talk radio was not as dominant and social media practically non-existent. But he asserted, in a way Taibbi does not, the value of confronting the self-serving arguments of the conservative elite, rather than the constituency that elite targets. And it is not only Bachmann or Sarah Palin whose rise would be aborted by such scrutiny, but that of Riok Perry and other manipulators on the right.
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