Overton Straitjacket

by John Holbo on November 8, 2013

Approximately a bazillion commentators have pointed out, rightly, that the right-wing of the conservative movement holds sway over the political right, in the US; whereas the left-wing of the left-wing party, the Democrats, is so wimpy, comparatively, that it sounds funny even calling the Democrats ‘left-wing’, per se. Of course, conservatives say the opposite. They are the moderates blah blah blah. I don’t know what truth would have the tremendous force needed to burst their epistemic bubble, so let’s move on, talking among ourselves.

Here’s a non-obvious (perhaps because it is incorrect) thought about the dynamics of having a right-wing dominated by its extreme right-tip, to the point where it doesn’t really have much of anything but a right-tip. You’d think it would automatically NOT be like that. You’d think such a dominant right-tip would not only generate a more moderate middle but also an ‘acceptable’ right to its right. That is, whatever is the center of political gravity – which is now on the extreme right – would sort of end up ‘moderate’, by definition, so long as you adopt a relative definition. That is, folks would figure that if Ted Cruz is ok, then Ted Cruz’ dad is probably ok. Because, what the hell, they aren’t THAT different. (By contrast, Obama really didn’t seem much like Jeremiah Wright. The shocker there was going to have to be that this association proved he believed stuff totally different from what he said.) Overton Window 101. But this doesn’t actually seem to be the way of it. Rather, what we get is this big weight of conservative opinion, this huge clump of conservative grass-roots, right at the edge of what is considered at all acceptable, in US political discourse. There is a very narrow range of things you can say without being, on the one hand, a RINO squish; or, on the other hand, having to say it was all ‘taken out of context’ when David Corn or Media Matters gets wind of it. [click to continue…]

Speak, Memory

by Corey Robin on November 8, 2013

All that’s solid melts into air.

Schocken Verlag* was a German publishing house established in 1931 by Jewish department store owner Salman Shocken. In 1939 it was shut down by the Nazis. It slowly made its way to New York, where it eventually became Shocken Books. In 1987 Shocken was acquired by Random House. Eleven years later, Random House was acquired by Bertelsmann.

During World War II, Bertelsmann was the largest publisher of Nazi propaganda, including “The Christmas Book of the Hitler Youth.” It also made use of Jewish slave labor in Latvia and Lithuania.

Confronted about the company’s past in 2002, a Bertelsmann spokesman said, “The values of Bertelsmann then are irreconcilable with the company today. The company is now a global player in the media industry.”

Because the one thing the Nazis definitely were not were global players.

“Common sense tells us,” wrote Nabokov, “that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.”

*I learned of this history in the London Review of Books, and gleaned additional details from Wikipedia and the BBC.