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Book Learnin' Equals Hate
November 7, 2003
By Gil Christner

James Traub in the New York Times magazine writes:

Scrutiny of the New York Times best-seller list discloses a new and important trend: Bush-hating has eclipsed Clinton-, Democrat- and liberal-elite-hating.

His proof? At the time he wrote his article, Michael Moore's book had the number one spot, while Bill O'Reilly's was number two. And to add fuel to the fire, he mentions Al Franken's tome holding on at number three, plus Molly Ivins and David Corn, who also have books high on the best seller list. (However, to rub salt in his, and O'Reilly's, wounds, as of this writing Franken had indeed overtaken Bill in the #2 spot.)

This brings up two interesting points, which may actually be two sides of the same coin. The first is, this may be the first time in months, if not years, that left-leaning books outnumber those that lean to the right. But Mr. Traub (and indeed, a number of pundits who are aghast at the current spate of "Bush Hatred," as if it's some kind of disease instead of a made-up phenomenon to obfuscate passionate political discourse) chooses not to report that Lefty and Progressive Thought is actually being chosen at will by the populous at large. No, instead, they like to announce that "Hatred Is Hip."

And the second interesting thing is, one wonders aloud and with the shaking of one's head in amazement, where these horrified pundits were a while ago when Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh were spewing their own brand of "passionate discourse?"

Evidently what's sauce for the goose is just plain scandalous and dreadful when applied to the gander. Mr. Traub is shocked - shocked! - to find that after years of brow-beating by the Rightists, the Lefties in this country might fire back with the same force and fervor. Mr. Traub goes on:

For those of us of hopelessly moderate temperament, dipping into the inky depths of these volumes offers something of the wicked and barely licit pleasures of a Victoria's Secret catalogue. I had forgotten, for example, until David Corn reminded me, that President Bush contemptuously dismissed his own E.P.A.'s 268-page study admitting that global warming posed a grave threat to this country by saying, 'I read the report put out by the bureaucracy.' Hatred is delicious.

We guess, however, that Mr. Traub was happy to have Ann Coulter remind him that half of America's population is treasonous. But that's not the problem. The problem is that Lefty thought is being belittled and rejected as "Bush Hatred," when it is only being couched in the same terms and form that the Rightist platform has been presented in for the past 10 years.

To give Mr. Traub credit, he does admit that the Rightists have been Haters themselves, beginning with Newt Gingrich back in the previous millennium. Liberals, and liberalism itself, got blitzed by Newt Gingrich and his minions a decade ago. But as President Bush himself likes to say, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." [Note: actually, the exact quote is, "Fool me once... shame on... shame on you... fool me... can't get fooled again," which, we imagine, Mr. Bush took from rehearsal tapes of The Who].

Mr. Traub continues:

And so liberals are fighting back against Bush with the same vitriol that has been dumped on them…It's satisfying; but I don't see how it can be a good thing, either for public debate or ultimately for the electoral prospects of the Democrats, to have liberals descend to the level of rabid conservatives.

Ah, at last, we get to the nugget of the entire argument. The Left should not engage in the same tactics that the Right has been using for years, because, after all, it's, uh, er… well… that makes them "haters!" Yeah, that's it! Bush haters! Nasty, disgusting, Bush haters!

Of course, labeling someone a "Bush hater" is an excellent device for polemic-spewers. It's yet another way to demean and dismiss without actually dealing with the issues being brought up.

The specific issue at hand is that Lefty thought is starting to make itself seen on the best seller lists, and, we can assume therefore, in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. But Mr. Traub doesn't want to discuss that phenomenon. It seems that if Lefty's become as popular as Rightists, it's not because the value of their ideas is perceived by at least half of the country as something worthwhile, but because people just "loves to hate."

But the sudden rash of jeremiads and their stunning popularity raises a question: why are so many liberals, including sane and sober ones, granting themselves permission to hate the president?

Mr. Traub does not sees Leftys' discussion of their political stances as people expressing their opposing viewpoint to the current administration, oh no. They are "giving themselves permission to hate the president." Funny, we thought it was called debate.

Luckily there are those that can see the best seller phenomenon as something else besides the rise of "hate." Publishers Weekly actually reports on it semi-objectively:

"This year's market [for political titles] seems stronger than ever," said Simon & Schuster publisher David Rosenthal…"I don't think I've ever seen so many books by the left on the bestseller list. It's rather astounding…There seems to be [a strong current of] divisiveness in the country, and louder debate than ever before. The liberal and progressive trend started before 9/11 and was a result of a divisive administration and their policies. Karl Rove does not a kinder and gentler book buyer make."

Is loud debate the same as hate? We don't think so. We agree with Molly Ivins:

Did you know that it is quite possible not to hate someone and at the same time notice that their policies are disastrous for people in this country? Quite a thought, isn't it? Grown-ups can actually do that…

One could hope that grown-ups would stop labeling opposing viewpoints as "Hatred," and actually debate the merits. But even if that is asking too much, there is no denying the reality that Lefty thought is making a strong appearance on the best seller lists. Call it Hatred, call it Vitriol, call it a cab for a ride to the airport, but it is a reality that a huge amount of Americans want to consider another side of the story.

And we don't think that's particularly hateful.


Gil Christner is a writer and actor living in Los Angeles. He's the guy on the Disney World commercial that lies to his wife "We're on the Tower of Terror even as we speak" when he and his buds are actually playing golf, as if hitting a little ball was so much worse than riding an amusement park ride.

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