MSNBC set a new standard for polemical overkill Wednesday night with Chris Matthews’ much-hyped documentary “Rise of the New Right,” which turned out to be a stale, lumpy porridge of innuendo, cheap shots, revisionist history and guilt by association – seasoned, of course, with the network’s requisite dollop of Palin-bashing.
This embarrassing, unenlightening hour did not totally lack value, however, as it should at least extinguish any lingering illusions that Mathews is somehow involved in the practice of journalism.
As defined by Matthews, this ominous “New Right” that is rising consists of pretty much anyone who opposes President Obama or his policies for any reason – Tea Party activists, congressional Republicans, camouflage-clad militiamen toting weapons in the woods, white racists, birthers, televangelists, the John Birch Society, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh and, of course, Sarah Palin.
Matthews seemed downright indignant that these people have the temerity to so angrily oppose a government that (as he noted more than once) was duly elected. He was also mightily disturbed that these malcontents hurl mean names at the president and brandish placards with offensive, over-the-top caricatures of him.
Yes, Chris, you’re right, that is quite a change from the Bush years, when the folks on the other side (what should we call them … hmmm … the Old Left, perhaps?) wished George W. nothing but godspeed, lollipops and rainbows.
So what does Matthews think unifies this New Right cabal? Why, their belief in the right to bear arms, that’s what. Oh, and they also like to wave the old “Don’t Tread on Me” flag from the Revolutionary War, which, Matthews pointed out, features a coiled rattlesnake.
Guns … snakes … conservatives … yes, viewers could clearly follow the dubious dots that Matthews was now happy to connect, handing down with a back-handed judgment about these venom-loving gun nuts that he thinly disguised as a question:
“Could this rage on the right lead to violence?” he asked, with enough sincerity in his voice to almost foster the illusion that he really cared about exploring the answer.
Why yes, Chris, that great-grandmother in Des Moines who came to her senator’s town hall meeting last summer to express fears about the impact of Obamacare is just one missed dose of Metamucil away from picking up an AK-47 and heading into the hills. And, don’tcha know, a certain moose-hunting hockey mom is lurking up north, humming the score from “Evita” while she whips up a batch of IEDs in her kitchen.
What Matthews and MSNBC did Wednesday night was engage in the classic Big Lie, trying to discredit Tea Partiers by associating them with a sordid array of political wingnuts and crazy fringe groups. And this Big Lie was cable news at its worst – an hour of misleading, unsupported conjecture disguised as news, erected around a preconceived thesis driven by ideology instead of reality.
If Mathews and MSNBC found solid evidence to justify their classification of these disparate anti-Obama groups as a singular menacing movement, they must have left it back in the edit bay. We certainly didn’t see it on the air Wednesday night. Indeed, perhaps the most disturbing thing about this whole misadventure was that when it came to providing proof to support their thesis, they barely bothered to even go through the motions.
Of course, that did leave time to include unflattering newsreel footage of two beacons of this supposed New Right -- Joe McCarthy, who died in 1957, and Barry Goldwater, who died in 1998.
And here, all this time, we thought the only place where dead people were still able to organize politically was Chicago. Thanks for clearing that up, MNSBC …