BLOOM: Don’t denounce Ted Nugent

J. Arthur Bloom Deputy Editor
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Inviting Ted Nugent to appear on the campaign trail is like carting around a moon bounce. He adds very little of substance, but he’s a big draw for the children.

Of course, it’s rare for a moon bounce to call the President of the United States a “subhuman mongrel” (for which he has sort of apologized).

The now-infamous quote, which is now being used to beat any GOP politician over the head who ever said something nice about the “Cat Scratch Fever” rocker, was from this interview with Guns.com. More than a month ago.

That’s right, this is more than a month old. And yet yesterday, there’s his brother Jeff on Erin Burnett, telling Ted to “tone it down.” “I’m very serious about helping Ted calm his rhetoric down, to be more fact based than attacking individuals in an inappropriate way,” said Jeff Nugent, a supporter of background checks.

To the extent that the controversy keeps the Nuge in headlines, gives us another two-minutes-hate — or a month plus — of moral outrage, and offers sensible GOP politicians like Rand Paul the chance to appear very concerned about inexcusable remarks from the bard responsible for classics like, “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang,” and “Kiss My Ass,” it’s good for everyone. The media was clearly going a little stir-crazy, judging by the amount of pixels devoted to the racism of Miley Cyrus dance routines or Macklemore’s sexual politics, and it can be cathartic to pretend to be shocked by a real-live right-wing dinosaur.

Conservative pundits don’t seem to agree. According to many, we have a serious situation on our hands, and he once wrote a song called “Wango Tango.”

Our own Matt Lewis reflects, “Having the right enemies is hardly a qualification for robust support. That’s because you and I will (fairly or not) be associated with the people we support. When we endorse the wrong person, their actions reflect on us.”

My friend Tim Stanley says he’s embarrassed by Nugent, and asks “When did conservatives become prisoners to idiotic vulgarity?” He’s a very smart guy and it is to be devoutly wished that GOP lawmakers heed his reading list — more Irving Babbitt, less Mark Levin — but he knows the answer to that question. In part it happened when conservatism became Con$ervatism, Inc, but it’s largely due to the press not regarding a distinction between people like him and people like Nugent. A Democrat can demonstrate their reasonableness through compromise, that doesn’t work for the right.

James Poulos gets a little closer to the heart of the problem:

Sadly for conservatives … there’s still no media personality bashing the Republican Party from the right who compels people to take him or her seriously. … I think the only person to do it for any length of time is Pat Buchanan, and he, like Nugent, is a relic of an era as dead as his old pal Hunter Thompson. Unfortunately for those who complain that Nugent bears the brunt of media bias, it’s not the media’s job to make way for conservatives who can protect themselves from criticism by whacking the GOP on occasion. The media’s job is to make stars, end of sentence, end of paragraph. Can a bona fide star today be politically right of center?

Poulos admits the answer is probably not, but why not?

I’m certain that if they went toe-to-toe on different cable news channels, Ted Nugent would beat William F. Buckley in the ratings. But the mainstream media isn’t what produces conservative stars today. Nugent is a creature from another era, but he’s got one foot in the conservative star-production machine that has an alarming tendency to reward radicalism and hyperbole rather than substance. The conservative movement does in fact have much to answer for over the latest Nugent imbroglio.

But is it the main problem here? I think not, and this is where Stanley and Lewis fail to appreciate the gravity of the situation.

Let me introduce you to Wendy Doniger, a professor famous for saying, about Sarah Palin, “her greatest hypocrisy is the pretense she’s a woman.” “Subhuman mongrel” is stronger, but it’s without a doubt a dehumanizing remark. Penguin Books has recalled her recent book from India, after accusations that it was racist and an overly sexual reading of Hinduism. Yet liberal reporters are flocking to defend it, nearly every major publication weighing in. John Nolte made the point that Bill Maher can call Palin a c**t and get away with it.

The sensible conservative’s response to all of this is to say that we’re the mature ones and the price of being right is accepting a double standard, therefore we must calmly explain ourselves and call out the crazy people when asked to do so. But think about how long this has been going on, and how often the media’s double standard works on behalf of the civil service state:

The State Department really was crawling with communists — Joe McCarthy has been proved right in almost every specific case — and yet the media still portrays our good senator from Wisconsin as a drunken, pugnacious paranoiac (with no small dose of stereotypes about Irish people). Bob Woodward really was effectively a water-carrier in an FBI succession struggle. There really was a black nationalist who advocated genocide working at the Department of Homeland Security; it took months before he was fired, and the only networks to cover it were Fox and RT.

We must stop pretending that television news and the New Yorker have any kind of moral authority to arbitrate the national dialogue about race or the role of government. Conservative pundits should at least think twice about denouncing people like Nugent, because the game is rigged.

It isn’t about whether what Ted Nugent said is offensive. Of course the things Ted Nugent says are offensive. He’s Ted Nugent. It’s that you can’t be a conservative without the media expecting to you have a position on the author of “Love Grenade,” and the moment he mouths off you’ll be expected to have a “dialogue” or a “conversation” for a month afterward that amounts to an education in the irredeemable bigotry of your most cherished beliefs. Why on earth does it make sense to play into this?

The thing Poulos, Stanley, Lewis et al need to appreciate is that the difference between them and the be-soulpatch’d rocker, to right-thinking members of the media, is one of degree, not kind. And their beliefs are still bigoted, still racist, and still reactionary. They may think they have more in common with the Queen of England than the Nuge, but they don’t get to set the narrative.

Perhaps Greg Abbott understands this, perhaps he just doesn’t care; for now, he’s moving on. In either case, bless him.

To cop the very un-conservative William Jennings Bryan, entreat and petition no more. Defy them.