Thursday, August 18, 2005

Fixing a watch with a mallet

One of my favorite sayings is "To the man with a hammer, all the world looks like a nail." I think it applies perfectly to the way the wingnuts are going after Cindy Sheehan.

Their well-oiled smear machine knows how to take down its enemies: insult, belittle, lie, obfuscate, etc. It works well when taking on politicians, who are rarely viewed with any sympathy. Character assassination is seen as the lingua franca of politics, so they get away with it no matter how outlandish the charges. If you can't take the heat and all.

So it should come as no surprise that hate-mongers like Bill O'Reilly and Michelle Malkin would follow standard operating procedures when Cindy Sheehan's protest made waves. (Posting her divorce papers? Classy.) Sheehan isn't a politician, so when Americans see her, many see themselves, and they don't take kindly to the vicousness and vitriol. The backlash doubled her visibility, and drew others to her cause.

But the right wing goon squad has no other arrows in its quiver. When the foam-at-the-mouth crowd goes after a sympathetic adversary, and the public reacts with revulsion at the empty, fearful amorality their savagery reveals, they are simply unable to adapt. Instead they grab bigger hammers.

Exhibit A -- Ann Coulter on Cindy Sheehan:
To expiate the pain of losing her firstborn son in the Iraq war, Cindy Sheehan decided to cheer herself up by engaging in Stalinist agitprop outside President Bush's Crawford ranch. It's the strangest method of grieving I've seen since Paul Wellstone's funeral. Someone needs to teach these liberals how to mourn.

Call me old-fashioned, but a grief-stricken war mother shouldn't have her own full-time PR flack. After your third profile on "Entertainment Tonight," you're no longer a grieving mom; you're a C-list celebrity trolling for a book deal or a reality show.

Like the other 1800-plus soldiers who died trying to help Dubya work out his Oedipal struggle, Casey Sheehan was in a sense a martyr. By doing their one-size-fits-all nasty bit to his mother, they are making her another, but with far greater visibility. Part of Sheehan's power is that she seems to know that the harder the right whacks her, the more effective she becomes.

Now they have swung the ugliest hammer in their toolkit. It will be interesting to see what sledgehammer they reach for next.


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