If you were in the presence of a man having a heart attack, how would you respond? As he clutched his chest in desperation and pain, would you call 911? Would you try to save him from dying? Of course you would.
But if that man was Rush Limbaugh, and you were Sarah Spitz, a producer for National Public Radio (update: Spitz was a producer for NPR affiliate KCRW for the show Left, Right & Center), that isn’t what you’d do at all.
In a post to the list-serv Journolist, an online meeting place for liberal journalists, Spitz wrote that she would “Laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out” as Limbaugh writhed in torment.
In boasting that she would gleefully watch a man die in front of her eyes, Spitz seemed to shock even herself. “I never knew I had this much hate in me,” she wrote. “But he deserves it.”
Spitz’s hatred for Limbaugh seems intemperate, even imbalanced. On Journolist, where conservatives are regarded not as opponents but as enemies, it barely raised an eyebrow.
In the summer of 2009, agitated citizens from across the country flocked to Town Hall Meetings to berate lawmakers who had declared support for President Obama’s health care bill. For most people, the protests seemed like an exercise in participatory democracy, rowdy as some of them became.
On Journolist, the question was whether the protestors were garden-variety fascists or actual Nazis.
“You know, at the risk of violating Godwin’s law, is anyone starting to see parallels here between the teabaggers and their tactics and the rise of the Brownshirts?” asked Bloomberg’s Ryan Donmoyer. “Esp. Now that it’s getting violent? Reminds me of the Beer Hall fracases of the 1920s.”
Richard Yeselson, a researcher for an organized labor group who also writes for liberal magazines, agreed. “They want a deficit driven militarist/heterosexist/herrenvolk state,” Yeselson wrote. “This is core of the Bush/Cheney base transmorgrified into an even more explicitly racialized/anti-cosmopolitan constituency. Why? Um, because the president is a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama. But it’s all the same old nuts in the same old bins with some new labels: the gun nuts, the anti tax nuts, the religious nuts, the homophobes, the anti-feminists, the anti-abortion lunatics, the racist/confederate crackpots, the anti-immigration whackos (who feel Bush betrayed them) the pathological government haters (which subsumes some of the othercategories, like the gun nuts and the anti-tax nuts).”
“I’m not saying these guys are capital F-fascists,” added blogger Lindsay Beyerstein, “but they don’t want limited government. Their desired end looks more like a corporate state than a rugged individualist paradise. The rank and file wants a state that will reach into the intimate of citizens when it comes to sex, reproductive freedom, censorship, and rampant incarceration in the name of law and order.”
On Journolist, there was rarely such thing as an honorable political disagreement between the left and right, though there were many disagreements on the left. In the view of many who’ve posted to the list-serv, conservatives aren’t simply wrong, they are evil. And while journalists are trained never to presume motive, Journolist members tend to assume that the other side is acting out of the darkest and most dishonorable motives.