The Max Cady Contingent

August 3, 2007

Once again, right-wing bloggers have done a brilliant collective impersonation of Max Cady as played by Robert De Niro in Cape Fear, chained to a sinking boat, ranting and raving gibberish and glaring in rage even as the waters rise above their heads.

The latest blub-blub hubbub started when The New Republic had the temerity to run some “Baghdad Diarist” entries, written pseudonymously by a U.S. soldier in Iraq, that chronicled some unappealing aspects of the way people behave under conditions of extreme and continuing fear and tension. Michelle Malkin (who else?) and a host of other bloggers, urged on by the Weekly Standard and squawk radio, started howling that the articles were obviously fiction, probably not even written by a soldier. As usual, said charges were attended to with great concern by the Washington Post, which never saw a winger blogger it didn’t love to flap along with.

The New Republic, which had everything to lose from another Stephen Glass-type scandal, disclosed the name of the author, Army Private  Scott Thomas Beauchamp, and did another round of fact-checking. One big error emerged: one incident that was supposed to have happened in Iraq actually happened in Kuwait. Everything else stands.

Unfazed by having their bone taken away from them, wingerbloggers have continued to chew the empty air as though something solid remained for them to worry at. And now it turns out that the Weekly Standard, which has been in full-froth mode about the New Republic’s supposedly shoddy fact-checking, based its attack piece on the word of a former gay-escort and porn-movie star who is currently under investogation by the Marines for allegations of fraud. Too rich!

I like Andrew Sullivan’s summation:

I truly have no explanation why the rightwing blogosphere has managed to largely ignore and deny actual claims and cases of torture and abuse by US soldiers but have gone batshit over some trivial, unshocking, verified soldier stories by a man who, unlike Barnett and Malkin, is actually serving his country. But this is my best shot: Their president and their Congress and their movement have lost a war, wounded America’s moral standing in the world and caused tens of thousands of deaths and a greater risk of terrorism across the globe.

After four and a half years of this nightmare, who are you going to blame but The New Republic?

As Matt Yglesias has pointed out, this winger-generated shitstorm serves two functions: it confuses the issues and creates the sense among inattentive people that there’s some kind of doubt about Beauchamp’s credibility, and it makes others all the more reluctant to step forward and talk about what they’ve seen, lest they find themselves the target of another slime attack by wingnut jihadis.      

Max Cady was a scary villain, but at least he stayed down after the boat sank. Malkin and company, having left credibility far behind, are always ready to pop back up and chain themselves to yet another sinking ship. What will the next one be? I have no idea, but I do know this — we won’t have to wait long to find out.

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