What The Durbin Kerfuffle Reveals About The Right Wing

Ken AshfordRepublicansLeave a Comment

Yglesius said it for me:

A little while ago Dick Durbin noted on the Senate floor that torturing prisoners was the sort of thing Nazis or Communists would do, and that the United States, trying to be one of the world’s good guys, should hold itself to a higher standard of conduct. The right-wing noise machine, deploying some now familiar tactics, decided that the correct response would be to deliberately misrepresent what Durbin was saying and express a lot of outrage that someone would fail to understand that contemporary America is not, in fact, just like Nazi Germany.

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It’s interesting as a case study in the operation of the smear machine, but really more telling as an instance of the ethical black hole into which the contemporary right has fallen. Nowadays, every time somebody raises the topic of immoral torture-related policies undertaken by the Bush administration the instant conservative reaction is to transform the conversation into a debate about the appropriateness of the critics’ rhetoric. Every time, the point of the defense is not to defend the conduct in question, but simply to note that someone, somewhere, at some time has done worse things. We’re better than Saddam Hussein! Our prisons aren’t as bad as Auschwitz! People may be detained arbitrarily without hearings, appeal, due process, or POW status, but it’s no Gulag!


This, then, is your “intellectual and moral seriousness,” your eternal “truths about human life and dignity”: if it’s better than Hitler, it’s a-okay with them. “The new moralism” . . .  seems to be different from the old moralism in that morality, in the sense of not doing bad things, doesn’t really play a role.