Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Hypocrisy Two-Step

I read Steve "The Machine" Benen's defence of Elizabeth Warren against some typically unhinged conservative attack lines this morning, and it got me thinking.

A narrow and pedantic point, first: I don't think Rick Manning actually is using the word "hypocrisy" incorrectly.  To be sure, the charge of hypocrisy he is levelling against Warren is total bullshit, but that's because he's straight-up lying about what Warren has actually said and done.  If I called George Osborn a hypocrite for decrying domestic violence despite him holding his extended family captive in a windowless basement so he can drink deep from their arteries in strict rotation, it wouldn't be the word itself that would be the problem, but the invention of a mode of behaviour out of whole cloth.  I'm not saying Osborn doesn't have an underground lair filled with emaciated thralls kept alive merely to provide him with an alternative to consuming back-benchers live on camera, I just assume they'll be no-mark peasants, rather than members of his Secret Barony of the Ebon Heart.

However, both Benen (and Krugman before him) are right in the wider context that any attempt by a wealthy American to actually suggest wealthy Americans should use that wealth to stop the country falling apart and all the peons starving to death is immediately condemned as being a hypocrite.

Obviously, this is a feature, not a bug.  It's the second stage of Operation: Plutocrats Uber Alles that's always and everywhere underway, but is close to total success over in the States.  Stage one, of course, was to ensure that meaningful political participation in the US is all but impossible without being a millionaire oneself (or being close friends with a whole mess of them). Stage two is to ensure any millionaire with interests outside their economic bracket is labelled a hypocrite, and hence discredited.  Watching media outlets like Politico pretend not to understand this as they help out their obscenely wealthy overlords is endlessly frustrating, but it's not particularly difficult to work out what's going on.

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