Glenn Reynolds has an interesting post, citing Marshall Wittman, about how both the religious right and the religious (i.e. intolerant, doctrinaire) left have polarized discourse in this country, and policed dissidence from the party line. Marshall thinks the left is worse. Like Marshall, I've experienced vitriol from both sides in my time. I will say this: the hate and viciousness directed toward me from the left in the 1990s for daring to be a gay man who was not a liberal does indeed exceed the hate and viciousness of the right for a small-c conservative who has become alarmed by the excesses and errors of the Bush administration. No right-wing group has picketed a book-signing with posters depicting my face behind the cross-hairs of a gun, as the gay left did. No one on the right has gone nuclear on my private life, as the gay left did. No one on the right has threatened to find me in Ptown and split my skull open, or called me the anti-Christ, as some on the gay left have. Yes, I get homophobic hate mail from the right all the time; and many conservative blogs have blackballed or slimed or smeared me in various ways. But that's, sadly, what you get for being provocative and opinionated on the web. Bottom line: Hugh Hewitt is not as hateful as Eric Alterman, as any reader can see for themselves.
So why my recent concentration on the far right? It's pretty simple: they're in power. They control all branches of government and a hefty chunk of the media. They deserve to. They did all this legitimately and democratically. But, in my book, that means an independent writer should concentrate more on that extreme right now, while not ignoring the other, because they're the ones running the country. I guess I'm also more angered by the right these days because I care more about conservatism than about liberalism. It's my philosophy, damnit, which means I get more upset when I see it desecrated or abandoned. And that also helps explain my being more touchy about being called a leftist than some. That may be a failing of mine. I'm an Irishman, bred in no-holds British debating rules, who has a bit of an inner drama queen. Glenn is a low-key law-professor with a dry sense of humor. Styles vary. But circumstances matter. As a thinker, I try and stick to principles. As a writer, I try and joust against those in power, whoever they are, to keep them honest and expose their flaws. Ideologues stick to their side, regardless of context, principle, or the balance of power. And that, I think, is something Marshall, Glenn and I can all agree on.