Sometimes it’s tempting to make generalized statements about Conservatives just not being too bright. After all, a recent Ohio State University study found that a majority of conservatives polled believed Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report was one of them. How can they possibly not see he’s mocking them?
But that’s painting with way too broad a brush. Many conservatives are extremely bright, and historically good ideas have come from both sides of the isle. It’s even too broad to refer to Conservatives as “them.” I still consider myself politically conservative on many issues. And it’s certainly not that the left is without its lunatic fringe. But what is it about the right’s message that draws in the bulk of the intellectual sheep—the people with opinions so malleable that they just believe the rhetoric fed to them without further consideration. And why do they seem to swallow the right’s rhetoric instead of the left’s? Especially considering that conservative policy is particularly punitive toward the lower economic classes.
I’m coming to think that this is by design of the right-wing machine. They have figured out that these people respond emotionally without a lot of rational consideration, and they play to that. This is the pitchforks and torches crowd. And why do you want these people in your camp? Well, there are a significant number of them, and they vote. Plus, they are more loyal than a Labrador Retriever and defend their turf like a Pit Bull. Even if it’s the turf where they get beaten and starved.
The folks like Limbaugh, Hannity, and O’Reilley have mastered the art of whipping this crowd into a lather. They stoke the fires that keep these people going and cement their misguided loyalty. This is arguably manipulation by the conservative punditry. However, while that might be a little ethically questionable, I can’t bring myself to say it’s wrong or should be illegal. I might argue that since it’s unlikely these people are going to suddenly start listening with their heads instead of their hearts, that the left might do well to pitch to them as well. MS-NBC tries feebly with the likes of Ed Schultz and Chris Matthews, but they just aren’t in the same league as Rush Limbaugh.
However, I do think that the conservatives pundits do need to at least begin to act responsibly with an eye toward the possible implications of their actions. To wit: Bill O’Reilly spent time on 28 episodes over the past few years railing against George Tiller, the recently murdered doctor who performed late term abortions. Tiller was compared to Hitler and Stalin. O’Reilly even went so far as to say that anyone who didn’t stop Tiller had blood on their hands. It was O’Reilly who coined the term “Tiller the baby killer,” a name that seems to be all over the web posts from those applauding the killing.
Now I can’t quite get myself to holding O’Reilly directly responsible for Tiller’s death. But presumably O’Reilly (et. al.) knows he is playing to the bleating sheep chorus. Therefore, I think he has to be cognizant that beating the drum for action for these folks is likely to inspire some of them to act. And it only takes one.
If I mention to my neighbor that it would be a piece of cake to rob the Mini-Mart in town and he does so, I don’t think I’m guilty of larceny. But if I’m aware that my neighbor’s on the gullible side, and I mention 28 times that robbing the Mini-Mart would be the right thing to do… well, the line gets a little blurry doesn’t it?