Posted on | March 2, 2010 | 31 Comments
While I responded jocularly when Dennis Prager’s column was first published, a reader e-mailed today to suggest that maybe Prager would actually like to discuss this at greater length, so I sent this e-mail to Prager’s producer, Allen Estrin:
Dear Mr. Estrin:
In his Jan. 26 syndicated column, Dennis Prager responded to Charles Johnson (Little Green Footballs), mentioning me – “in 28 years as a talk show host and columnist, I had never heard of Robert Stacy McCain” – as having been one of the reasons that Johnson claimed drove him out of the conservative movement.
While I am not exactly famous, neither am I utterly unknown, having spent more than 10 years as a news editor and reporter for The Washington Times and co-authored the 2006 book, Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime and Corruption in the Democratic Party with my longtime friend, Lynn Vincent (who subsequently collaborated with Sarah Palin on her recent bestselling biography).
Now a successful independent blogger at TheOtherMcCain.com, I am a frequent contributor to The American Spectator and also to the Green Room blog at HotAir.com. In the past year, I have provided extensive coverage of the Tea Party movement. This week, for example, my American Spectator column addressed Frank Rich’s smear of the Tea Party movement.
Because of my own experiences with Charles Johnson – who responded to my coverage of the 9/12 March on DC by smearing me as a “white supremacist blogger,” inciting a rather notorious two-week blog war – I think Mr. Prager might be interested in my perspective on the smear tactics used against conservatives. These may be summarized briefly:
- Bad Faith – The accusation that conservatives are motivated by bad faith (mala fides) is essential to the Left’s attacks. Stigmatizing and marginalizing conservatives is much easier than debating them. Cogent arguments about policy become unnecessary to advancing the Left’s political agenda if they can dismiss its opponents as racist, sexist, homophobic, etc.
- The Ransom Note Method – By carefully selecting “evidence” of bad faith, the Left is able to present a distorted image of its conservative targets. Out-of-context quotes and controversial biographical data are cherry-picked and re-assembled (in the manner of a kidnapper assembling a ransom note) to present the target in the most damning possible light. This method is particularly effective against conservative talk-radio personalities who engage in polemic battle with leftists. This is why Media Matters devotes such enormous resources to monitoring talk radio in hopes of grabbing a 40-second “gotcha” sound-bite.
- The ‘Links and Ties’ Method – More than simple guilt-by-association, the Links-and-Ties Method involves presenting a chain of incidental connections to suggest a sympathy of views that does not actually exist. To wit: Target A once spoke at Event B which was sponsored by Group C, co-founded by Person D who once made controversial statement E. By this method, it is implied that Target A actually endorses Statement E.
- Telescoping and Telepathy – The actions, statements and associations of a conservative target acquire a trans-temporal permanence in the smear attacks of the Left. Once a target is associated (however incidentally) with controversy, this association can be repeated endlessly as evidence of bad faith, no matter how many years intervene. Furthermore, if the target is associated in Year X with a respectable person or organization that becomes controversial in Year X+5, that association can be cited in Year X+10 as evidence against the target – even if the target had no involvement in the cause of controversy. Finally, all evidence of bad faith accumulated by these methods is presented as indicative of the target’s deepest and unwavering personal convictions, as if the accuser were possessed of telepathic mind-reading abilities.
- Deny, Denounce, Repudiate – The key to these attack methods is the presumption of the target’s guilt. The accuser, having carefully selected the evidence to be discussed in the manner of a prosecutor making an indictment, demands that the target deny the accusation, denounce the bad-faith views involved, and repudiate the persons and organizations to whom he has been connected by the links-and-ties method. As anyone who has been targeted by such attacks can attest, it’s rather like being accused in one of Stalin’s infamous Moscow “show trials.”
Repeated successful use of these tactics is tremendously advantageous to the Left, tending to prevent conservatives from cooperating effectively in their opposition to the Left’s agenda. If a target (e.g., Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Andrew Breitbart, et al.) can be isolated and rendered sufficiently “controversial,” other conservatives understandably will become reluctant to associate with that person. Conservatives are made to feel defensive and as a result may become suspicious of their colleagues, overly cautious in their activism, and hesitant to speak out on behalf of fellow conservatives targeted by the Left.
It is important to understand that the Left’s use of these methods is systematic and progressive. Once a targeted group or individual has been rendered sufficiently “toxic” by smear tactics, the Left then moves on to other targets, gradually expanding the list of those who have been delegitimized as too controversial for participation in the political mainstream. Conservatives who fail to fight back against these smears are thereby granting the Left the ability to decide who is or is not “mainstream.”
There is ultimately no safety in silence. Those who hesitate to defend the Left’s targets today – whether those targets are Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin or James O’Keefe – will regret their caution when they themselves become targets tomorrow. I hope that Mr. Prager will be interested in discussing this subject on his radio program. If not, I hope at least you will forward to him this e-mail from someone he never heard of before.
Robert Stacy McCain
C’mon, Dennis: Join the Flemish Menace!
UPDATE: Thanks to our Kansas commenter for the tip that this post seems to have excited the ever-excitable Charles Johnson and his dwindling band of unbanned minions.
Here’s a helpful hint for happiness in the blogosphere: Don’t ever get a Google alert for your own name.
The very fact that you would consider getting a Google alert for your own name probably indicates a tendency toward personal vanity. All that is then necessary for your enemies to goad your fragile ego is occasionally to write a sentence like, “Charles Johnson is a sociopathic narcissist,” and it will ruin your entire day.
If there are bloggers out there tempted to include the sentence “Charles Johnson is a sociopathic narcissist” as an auto-tag in every future post — well, far be it from me to impede your First Amendment right to free expression.