Tuesday, September 16, 2008


In an interesting coincidence, during the week of the Republican Convention the AMC cable channel ran all of Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" movies.

Interesting, because it helped us place in perspective the reaction of the Media-Left axis to the nomination of Sarah Palin.

People of ordinary sensibilities everywhere recognize more sound criminal jurisprudence in a Dirty Harry movie than in all the decisions of the Warren Court.

The Left doesn't merely fail to get this, but views such sentiments as primitive and imbecilic, the neanderthal response of the uneducated, the boor, the rustic, the unworthy.

Recently we suggested that Palin could be the next Reagan.   So far, she seems to qualify in many respects, including one especially relevant to this analysis.   Before Reagan's election as President, liberals reacted to him in a manner similar to their reaction to Palin.   That reaction, in turn, is similar as well to the Left's dismissal of the message of Dirty Harry:   something contemptible.   Something our kind of people don't want, that intelligent people reject.

The media even disparages Palin in the same way they did Reagan -- referring not to the candidate's current, or highest, professional position, but consistently backing off a notch or two down the resume, to make each look less able or prepared.   In the media's narrative, Reagan pre-presidency was always a "B-movie actor."   Palin now is always the "small-town mayor."

Of course, there's one massive difference between media-Left reaction to Reagan in 1980 and to Palin today.   They never took Reagan seriously and never thought he'd win.   The entire cultural archipelago of the Left -- the media, universities, the public education establishment, national leadership of mainstream churches, "public interest" groups, fellow-travellers of all of the above -- were shocked speechless when he won.   Suddenly they realized they had existed all along as castaways, denizens of remote islands in a vast political and cultural sea with which they were not merely out of touch, but whose existence they had scarcely perceived.

Until the election they had understood Reagan not as a threat, but a joke.   After initial bewilderment and demoralization, their reaction exploded without leavening of nuance.   Institutions of the Left began taking people of mainstream views seriously indeed, cracking down hard on the conservative and traditionally-minded whenever possible.

Campus "speech codes" seeking to suppress questioning of liberal shibboleths never existed until after the Reagan election.   Attempts to reframe the nation's political discourse began in earnest.   People theretofore universally described, even by the most politically liberal urbanites in the pre-Reagan age, as "bums" and "shopping bag people" suddenly became "The Homeless" at the stroke of noon on January 20, 1981, the better to have a new victim class for whom to demand largesse of an enlightened government.

Having learned a lesson with Reagan, the Left now takes Palin most seriously, understanding her as a threat, trying to destroy her at the outset.

Yet if the Liberal Establishment understands Palin as a threat, it understands little else about her, and thus remains handicapped by not comprehending what it confronts.   Reading much of anti-Palin reaction the last two weeks reveals in many instances only the coarsest analytical paradigms.   Here's Mark Morford, San Francisco Gate columnist, writing on September 5:

Repubs know -- or rather, desperately hope -- that there remains a simply huge number of very ill-informed, reactionary Americans out there who are still operating on the lowest possible intellectual and cultural strata . . .

Orwell, in 1984, described a totalitarian regime's wholesale dumbing down of the English language, as an instrument of political control, to eliminate vocabulary and syntax conveying abstract concepts of even modest complexity.   Thus, Orwell explained, the concept   "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," in the new language could be rendered by only one word:  crimethink.

In looking at Sarah Palin and what she and her supporters represent philosophically, the Left comprehends only analogs of crimethink.

Which brings us back to the fictional Lt. Harry Callaghan, SFPD.

There is something in the psyche of ordinary people of good will that causes us intuitively to view Dirty Harry blowing away a serial killer as a good thing, not a bad one, as justice being done, as right vanquishing wrong, as vindication of the weak and innocent over the brutal and guilty.   It is this capacity that's missing in people on the Left  --   a moral and mental blind spot that always leaves the rest of us wondering, "What's wrong with these people?"

It's what limits their understanding of Palin's appeal, and what has made her, to date, so difficult a target for them.

Some of you are thinking:  "See!   I told you!   The dynamic behind Palin's popularity is an ignorant, fascist appeal, like the appeal of a Dirty Harry movie."

Of course you think so.

That's precisely the point of this piece.

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