Joe Klein is on extremist alert. He has put together a list of characteristics he believes are typical of “left-wing extremists” and now has one for the right-wing. (Matt Yglesias and Ross Douthat chime in helpfully.) A “right-wing extremist” would exhibit “many, but not necessarily all, of the following attributes,” of which I have selected just a sample:
–believes that capitalism creates perfect justice, and that any attempt to tax or regulate it constitutes “social engineering.” (Doesn’t believe in evolution, but does believe in social darwinism.)
–sees transnational non-governmental groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as “the next threats” to U.S. sovereignty. Calls them Transies, derisively.
–believes global warming is a left-wing myth.
–believes that homosexuals are condemned to hell.
Of his list he says:
This is just a partial list, off the top of my head…but I’m sure, as with lefties, these guys simply don’t exist, either.
Of course, the number of people who are actually as keen on capitalism as Klein sets out here is unbelievably small to the point of being almost non-existent. Anyone as zealous for capitalism as this wouldn’t care to talk about justice, much less perfect justice, since the preoccupation of market zealots is not justice by some sort of liberty-cum-property. The people who “don’t believe in evolution” usually aren’t hard-core market fanatics, and the people who are hard-core market fanatics typically have no problems with evolution because they are not usually creationists of any kind. To the extent that anyone does hold these views, these views are held by radically different kinds of people. The next time you run into a Young Earth creationist libertarian, you give me a call, because you have surely encountered a rare and endangered species.
There may be people who refer to members of Amnesty and Human Rights Watch as “transies.” It’s just that no one has ever met any of these people, because they exist in a Joe Klein-specific dimension. I’m not even sure what transie is supposed to mean. Is it short for “transnational”? I have no idea, because I have literally never seen anyone use it, and if I am not familiar with something it probably doesn’t have anything to do with right-wing extremism.
There are people who think that certain explanations of global warming are myths and, yes, these are myths propagated by people on the left. There are many people who are not at all convinced that the remedies proposed by certain environmentalists will either do any good or will be worth the enormous costs they will impose on society. There are very, very few people, if any, who dogmatically insist that absolutely no global warming is taking place, since for many of us who oppose ratifying Kyoto global warming over the ages is an established reality that occurs periodically. For the record, we are also people who are aware that it was a lot, lot hotter in the Mesozoic Era (somehow the planet managed to putter along just fine), so we are also not inclined to reject evolution out of hand.
As for people being condemned to hell, that is, of course, for God to decide, but if Scripture can be relied on at all for understanding what God desires for man it is not that remarkable that those who believe Scripture to be inspired would assume that anyone persisting throughout his life in what would be considered mortal sin would fare poorly on the Day of Judgement. By the way, that standard also applies to the sinners who are reading Scripture, and they know that they will be judged by an even higher standard because they were given much and knew what was expected of them. So if this view makes believers into “right-wing extremists,” right-wing extremism is doing quite well in its recruiting.
I think it is only fair that we have a list of traits for the “centrist” extremists (who are, I wager, far more dangerous, because people inexplicably trust them with power and influence). A centrist extremist exhibits many, if not necessarily all, of the following:
–thinks Joe Lieberman is a thoughtful, independent-minded, moral person.
–thinks John McCain is an honest straight-shooter who wants to reform government.
–regards campaign finance reform as one of the burning issues of the day (see previous trait).
–views religion as the cause of more bloodshed than anything else in history.
–views Christianity as potentially quite dangerous, but considers Islam to be the “religion of peace.”
–thinks any idea of one religion being superior to another in any respect is wildly dangerous and proof of extremism; presumably also thinks that all answers to all questions are equally valid.
–understands all foreign conflicts as the product of “ancient rivalries” and “centuries of fighting” that cannot be rationally understood by modern man.
–pays no attention to the religious and ethnic aspects of a society until after invading the country in question, whereupon he discovers ethnic and religious diversity and the importance of culture (he then reverts to the previous point).
–asks silly questions such as, “Where is the Muslim Martin Luther King?”
–writes things like, “the world is flat” or “I used to see the world as a landscape of rolling hills.”
–indulges in wild swings of unreasonable optimism followed by stormy moods of disenchantment and confusion.
–thinks that free trade is good for American workers.
–thinks that mass immigration is good for American workers.
–believes that Harry Truman was a great President.
–compares every new and interesting presidential candidate to JFK.
–thinks that talk radio and its “climate of hate,” not government abuses, inspired the Oklahoma City bombing; is constitutionally incapable of criticising the government about much of anything except cover-ups, waste, gridlock and partisanship.
–never trusts in any dogmatic statement, but believes that the truth always lies “somewhere in between” two extremes, which he has conveniently pre-selected so that the happy middle matches his own views precisely.
–thinks that partisanship is the cause of nation’s political woes, and consequently thinks that bipartisanship is the solution to most, if not all, of those woes.
–doesn’t like negative campaigning.
–thinks we should have invaded Iraq and then intervened in Darfur.
–makes lists of characteristics of extremists to emphasise his own reputation for moderation.
–describes opponents as extremists to maintain the fiction that he represents the logical center of every debate.