In response to guest blogger Eric's post at "Legal Fiction" on Iraq democratization, which included a rebuttal of the right-wing's charges of liberal racism, our fine host says:
To comment on a small part of a big post, I don't think we should take the right-wing accusations of us being "racist" in this "brown-skin democracy" issue seriously at all. I want to call it a red herring, but that's not the right term. A red herring is something that distracts from the real issue. But, in this case, they're not necessarily distracting from the problems of democratizing Iraq; they're shifting the issue into an attack on us, and pretending Bush has the moral high ground. And how do we typically respond? By wasting time rebutting the charges.
But that's exactly what they want. Bush knows that racism isn't the cause of our disagreement with him. If anything, he might believe that it's because we hate him and want to see him fuck up, but not because we're racist. Anyone with a brain knows that bringing democracy to Iraq and the middle-east will be very difficult; and in Bush's case, his handlers finally got around to telling him. Bush doesn't really believe this garbage, he's just trying to get us on the defensive. And it works every time.
The secret is to stay alert and understand when an issue has conversion power or not. By "conversion power", I mean the ability to convert a moderate or uninterested party to a particular point of view. Right-wingers can rant about it all they want, but nobody will be converted to their side because they think that liberals are anti-Muslim racists. And the worst thing we can do is take absurd charges seriously; thus giving them at least a small level of credibility. If someone calls you a "momma's boy", the worst thing you can do is act upset about it and try to deny it.
Another case in point is the Swift Boat issue that helped sink Kerry. The charges against him were crap. Anyone who knew the details knew they were crap. And even if we didn't, Kerry's accusers were complete unknowns who did not deserve the credibility. Credibility is something that's supposed to be earned over time, not handed out like fliers to anyone who wants it. And our biggest mistake was in not fully and completely laughing it off. As it was, we ignored it at first, and then tried to rationally rebut it later. But it was too late, and doubts set in for many moderates and uninterested people. They didn't necessarily believe the accusations, but they thought it made Kerry look untrustworthy. What we should have done is had Kerry aides and Kerry's old war buddies on the talk shows laughing at the Swift Boaters and making jokes about their claims. By ignoring the charges or taking them seriously, we allowed them to fester. Laughter would have put them back where they deserved; in their local VFW, wallowing in their beer about the liberal traitor in the White House.
I should also add that even legitimate charges can often be dealt with by laughing them off. Republicans do this all the time. We now know that Iraq was severely damaged by the post-war looting, which was preventable. The Iraqis were already wary of our intentions, and the rampant looting made good intentions look bad and greatly undermined our authority. Allowing the looting looked bad, both in hindsight and foresight. But how did the Bush Admin deal with it: mockery. Journalists and commentators laughed with Secretary Rumsfeld when he expressed disbelief that Iraq could have so many vases. Even now, many right-wingers refuse to even contemplate that looting was a problem. They addressed a very legitimate, very serious concern by mocking it. Yet, we seriously defend against ludicrous charges of racism.
The moral: We shouldn't waste breath and bandwidth defending charges that are clearly absurd. And the "liberal racist" thing is so bad that it seriously deserves the laughter. They do the same thing on Affirmative Action and welfare programs, and it's as laughable then too. The right-wing's motto seems to be "Don't be attacked for something you can attack the other side for." And our reaction should be mockery of the hypocrites, not reasoned rebuttals.