Heroes and Villains


In early October, Peggy Noonan wrote about the passing of the great William Safire, in a Wall Street Journal article entitled, Keeping America Safe From the Ranters. In it, she bemoans the loss of “the Elders” of journalism, and warns us that the guard is changing, and not necessarily for the better:

We are in a generational shift in the media, and new Elders are rising. They’re running the networks and newspapers, they own the Web sites, they anchor the shows. What is their job?

It’s to do what the Elders have always done, but now more than ever.

Ms. Noonan goes on to give two examples of how discourse is changing (one from a left-of-center mainstream media type, and one from an extremely right-of-center marginal kook) as evidence of how current political conversations are becoming more coarse and inflammatory. From these two small molehills, her handwringing conjures up a mountain of danger:

I see it this way. There are roughly 300 million people in America. Let’s say 1% of them, only 1 in 100, are composed of those who might fairly be called emotionally unstable—the mentally ill, those who have limited or no ability to govern their actions, those who act out, as they say, physically or violently. That’s three million people.

Let’s say a third of them are regularly exposed to political media rants from right or left. That’s a million people.

What effect might “they want to see you dead” and “the Republic is falling right now” have on their minds?

I find Ms. Noonan’s estimate intriguing: One million Americans so mentally unstable as to be potentially violent or a physical danger to others (although she does not distinguish between those who are currently receiving treatment or hospitalized and those who are presumably roaming the streets mainlining Ed Schultz, Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann).

Think about that for a moment. One million of our fellow citizens (unless Ms. Noonan numbers you and me among those she fears) lumbering around zombie-like, so infused with hate and fear of “the other side” and incited by bloggers, Twitterers, and Bill O’Reilly, that they are willing to attempt to do violence to our political leaders? Really?

Is political debate getting coarser? Probably. Each generation claims that it’s true, anyway. But it’s also getting more and more open and accessible, which is why we are seeing the rise of things like talk radio, citizen journalism, and Tea Parties. And Peggy Noonan must live in a pretty rarified atmosphere, if she fears the hoi polloi of Power LinePatterico, and Pajamas Media; and the riff raff of Fox News Channel.

Sure, there’s crime in America. That’s why we have police forces. And sure, there are people who hate Americans and wish us ill. That’s why we have our peerless military. And of course there are kooks who are going to hate whoever is President and even possibly wish him harm. That’s why we have the Secret Service.

But Ms. Noonan, if you believe that the lives of our top politicians are vastly endangered  because of these Ranters you fear, then I think you yourself might be among that one million people you worry about.



4 Responses to Heroes and Villains

  1. Gerry Ashley says:

    Excellent piece! One has to wonder if Ms. Noonan has an equal amount of concern over the stability of an American President who surrounds himself with advisors he has to sleaze into position in a manner that avoids any Congressional vetting process.

    Is it not worth a moment of her time to consider the stability of an American President who spends more time apologizing for the success and accomplishments of this great nation than he does focusing on an effective jobs recovery policy?

    And where is the mental stability of a Speaker of the House who doesn’t give a rat’s ass what the people want, but rather what SHE wants to impose on the people?

    Does she ponder about the mental health of a Senate Majority Leader who stands up in the middle of the Senate Chambers during the height of a war and announces that the war is lost, so let’s bring home the soldiers now? That is positively the actions of a traitor to bring aid and comfort to the enemy in times of war like that.

    Ms. Noonan, it is NOT the lives of our top politicians that are endangered by the ranters and the common citizens. Look around, Ms. Noonan. It’s the lives and freedom of the common citizens that are endangered by our top politicians who are so paranoid about perpetuating their own reign that they feel America needs to have a civilian army “as powerful and well-armed as the regular military.”

    Who do you think poses the bigger threat, Ms. Noonan? I mean, really?

    • Doug says:

      Here, here!

      The very suggestion that freedom of expression is an incitement to violence ( and therefore needs to be “controlled ) is a far more dangerous proposition than anything the left or right can say.

      Senator Reid was never taken to task for his statement, which provided aid and comfort to the folks who were trying to kill my son. Since my son was ostensibly a pawn of the Bush administration, that’s just fine with the left.

      If any conservative says anything that might question the left, that’s a problem for the new deal crowd.

      Race Hustlers Al and Jessie just got away with some very incendiary and false accusations against Rush. Not a peep from the left.

      Imagine the outcry for a minute if Rush had attributed some racists statements towards either Al or Jesse that could not be proven. Heck even if they could be.

      Al and Jesse never apologized and were never held accountable for their witch hunt against the falsely accused Duke Lacrosse players. The left never cried out.

      Matthews calls for a co2 pellet to be shoved into Rush’s head to make it explode. Not a peep.

      We do have a civilian army that is as powerful and well armed as the “regular” military.

      It’s called the Militia and they have been stockpiling guns and ammunition at an unfunny rate since the election.

      Ammunition manufacturers can’t keep up. They are trying because they like money too. They just don’t have the capacity to meet the demand.

      Wal Mart near me can’t keep ammunition in stock and this state went blue FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!

      i have to wonder if all this panic buying of fire arms and ammunition is because folks are afraid they won’t be able to punch paper at the range or go hunting.

      Both the calls from the left to curtail free speech and the stockpiling of war material have my full attention. I hope that I am wrong about the two being related.

  2. […] about Rush Limbaugh as of October 16, 2009 Heroes and Villains – grandrants.wordpress.com 10/16/2009   In early October, Peggy Noonan wrote about the […]

  3. […] a previous post, I discussed Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal article eulogizing William Safire, and came […]

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