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Liberal McCarthyism


I have to agree with Greenwald that this would-be smearing of John Tyner is an embarrassment. The basic thrust of the article is to invoke “Koch” the way wingers invoke “Soros” — to preemptively discredit any critic whether or not there’s any actual direct connection and without engagement on the merits. In addition, the personal details couldn’t be less damning. Indeed, his relatively consistent libertarianism makes him a far more credible critic of the TSA practices than conservatives who criticize the new TSA procedures (which might affect them!) as a respite from cheerleading arbitrary, illegal torture performed by the executive branch.

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  • Left_Wing_Fox

    Agreed as well. I like The Nation, but what the hell were they thinking? Fears of privatizing the TSA? Reflexive partisanship? Disappointing.

    • DocAmazing

      Actually, yeah, it’s laid out pretty overtly in Ames’ and Zaitchik’s article: the “opt out” movement is all about airports opting out of TSA security (with its potential to become unionized) and hiring private security services. The connection to Tyner is not made very solidly, but the overall picture is pretty clear. The reason the Koch name keeps coming up is that the brothers are very active in their financial support of various libertarian and right-wing organizations–much more so than Soros. (See also Olin and Scaife.) Little too much false equivalence going on here.

      • David M. Nieporent

        Ames and Levine presumably don’t agree with the new security measures, but that would put them in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with people they don’t want to agree with. So they desperately tried to gin up some reason why their left-wing opposition is different than conservative or libertarian opposition, and came up with the usual left-wing answer: intentions. Left-wing opposition is motivated by good intentions, and conservative opposition isn’t, so the latter is illegitimate.

        The problem is, they were so desperate to “prove” this theory that they needed to come up with an argument why conservatives had bad intentions. The usual conservative “bad” intention is money, so that’s what they ran with. The problem is, their conspiracy theory was based on a false premise: that there’s some way to “opt out” of these new security measures. There isn’t. Yes, airports can opt out of TSA control, but they can’t opt out of these measures. Ames and Levine either didn’t know that or deliberately tried to confuse people, by conflating the notion of opting out of the backscatter machines with the notion of opting out of TSA-run security at an airport.

        • Brad P.

          You guys really are over thinking this. This has very little to do with the TSA specifically.

          Mark Ames has been running with this Koch-led libertarian take over of the world conspiracy idea of his for a long time now. For example, Will Wilkinson is an extremely liberal libertarian, very similar in opinion to Tyner. In the hit piece Anatomy of a Libertard (google it if you haven’t read it already), he goes off on a Glenn Beck style rant to attempt to tear down Wilkinson, when most mid-level political writers are going to have the same sort of political and corporate associations.

          Mark Ames and The Nation were just reacting in the manner they have been for some time now: stir up popular support behind fear of sinister motives, then reap the readership as people return to see what the dastardly libertarians are up to next.

          There is nothing special about the TSA blow up other than most liberals actually agree with the libertarian sorts on this issue.

          It is as if Glenn Beck spent a show explaining how big state socialists and not capitalists tend to prefer immigration controls, and then explain how some crusader against immigration is trying to bring big brother down on all of us. Cognitive dissonance ensues, people don’t know really which side to fall on, and I would imagine there would be a lot of apologetics.

          That is why I am particularly impressed with Scott’s treatment of this. He identified this for what it was, wholeheartedly condemned it, and didn’t even hint that there might be some truth in it. That is intellectual honesty, credibility and the reason I return to this site.

          Returning to the topic at hand, nothing special to this article about privatising the TSA, they just blundered on what issue to throw out their latest “Libertarians are taking over the world” frightfest.

        • DocAmazing

          Yes, airports can opt out of TSA control, but they can’t opt out of these measures. Ames and Levine either didn’t know that or deliberately tried to confuse people, by conflating the notion of opting out of the backscatter machines with the notion of opting out of TSA-run security at an airport.

          Just skimmed the article, eh? What Ames and Zaitchik (didn’t see Levine there, but thanks for playing) pointed out is that the Koch-associated groups are trying to confuse people by conflating opt-out from the TSA measures with airports opting out of using TSA (and not private security firms).

          If you’re going to nod energetically when someone tosses around an accusation like “McCarthyism”, at least read the article in question.

          • DocAmazing

            I stand corrected on the “Levine” part. I was reading another piece by Zaitchik just before i posted. The remainder, though, stands: misinterpreting the basic thrust of the article does you no credit.

  • Anonymous

    Ames has long deployed the theory of causation deployed elsewhere by the likes of Glenn Beck–some sort of nebulus ‘connection’ is a deeply explanatory causal link. While he’s done some decent work occasionally, at root he’s a pretentious hackish gasbag.

    • wengler

      And I will pretend that Republican candidates didn’t get some nine times the monetary support of Democrats in the last election cycle.

      There are no connections here boys, move along.

      • Anonymous

        Your larger point is in some sense valid, but a bit of a non-sequitor. The ‘nebulus connection’ I referred to was the connection to Tyner, which is Scott (and Greenwald’s) complaint. Since Ames and Levine has essentially rescinded it and admitted it was an unfair, speculative smear, I stand by my comment.

        • DocAmazing

          Of course, the smear of Tyner was not the biggest part of the article (Greenwald’s mathematical response notwithstanding) nor the point: there is, in fact, a conspiracy to encourage the privatization of airport security functions, pushed through Drudge and the usual suspects in the Libertarian press, and financed, in part, by the Brothers Koch. That part isn’t speculation. So: regarding Mr. Tyner–he is owed an apology. Regarding the rest: despite the appearance of the bark on that tree, the forest is still very real.

  • Brad P.

    “Liberal McCarthyism”. Strong words.

    I just hope that folks on this side of the aisle will afford this sort of graciousness in the future when it comes to issues they disagree with libertarians about.

  • va

    The Nation posed the right question in the first place: why now? I’ve known about Chertoff selling these things for like years, but now it’s an issue? But, yes. The Nation just found the wrong answer. It’s not that there’s a Koch conspiracy, it’s that conservatives are like pigs: you (Drudge) make a loud noise and then start herding them; sometimes (often) you hit on something popular (or “popular”) that catches extra attention.

    The Nation wrote this piece, at bottom, to pose an answer to why the right is capable of making an issue of anything it wants to (while the left isn’t). They were wrong. Oh well.

  • charles pierce

    1) The TSA employees get a court ruling that may allow them to unionize with the Treasury workers.
    2) Almost simultaneously, a “spontaneous movement” blows up to which the conservative response is “privatize security” and profile the brown people.

    Tyner aside, I don’t believe in that much coincidence.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Right, but “Tyner aside” would be a completely different article than the one that they wrote.

  • Jonathan
  • brian

    Nation writers supporting the porno TSA! that means they support the atrocities that the TSA is comitting on citizens…and how many know the Underwear ‘bomber’ incident, used by Chertoff to get dumb americans to install the pornoscanners, was let thru security at Schipol airport? Just ask Kurt Haskell as to how that happened:

  • brian

    Kurt Haskell, the underwear bomber and the sharpy dressed man…the incident that led to dumb americans embracing porno scanners and sexual groping a airports

    The media refuses to air this story just as it aggressively defends porno radiation scanners…how pathetic!

  • Nice post Scott. The kind of “generosity and openness” (to quote Damon Linker in his new book) that should be a hallmark of liberalism.

    BTW, here is a post on the Koch’s that might be of interest: http://pileusblog.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/defending-the-kochs/

    • DocAmazing

      A fascinating article, if by “fascinating” one means “predictably ass-covering”. The author acts as though the Koch brothers are a necessary counter-balance to some large left-wing donor network (Could it be…Soros? Could it be…SATAN?) that is filling the academic aphere with left-wingers.

      Look, acting like wingnut welfare is a) nonexistent or b) ineffective is a great way to make friends (as Mr. Potts’ comments above demonstrate), but it isn’t the least bit true, and it isn’t the least bit helpful. There is a large network of right-wing foundations that finance the Puke Funnel. Murdoch loses money on a lot of FOX operations in order to coordinate the message. The Olin and Scaife Foundations pump in quite a bit. Then there’s the Kochtopus (which butters Megan McArdle-bridesmaid Will Wilkinson’s bread, but let us not digress). There is no–repeat, no–corresponding network on the left. Acting like there is helps only the Puke Funnel.

      I realize that effectiveness coupled with divisiveness is the cardinal sin among many liberals–hence, the attacks from the ostensible left on Michael Moore and Alan Grayson. In the present case, we have a pair of writers who have uncovered much of what we know about the funding streams of the Teabaggers published in a magazine that has done heavy lifting for the Left for decades slammed because they imputed motives to a guy without sufficient documentation. Their point still stands: the current wave of outrage at the TSA from the Libertarians and the Right is orchestrated and intended to stymie unionization among TSA workers. We can continue to focus on the wrong done to Mr. Tyner, or we can look at the bigger picture. Finessing the role of the Kochtopus is mere comedy.

  • Funonymous

    This has been an interesting week, since two of my favorite op ed writers/journalists are fighting, when I always thought Ames and Greenwald were more or less on the same side of most issues. Reading some of the history of The eXile expat newspaper in Russia would be a good idea for all interested, as Mark Ames and his former partner and Editor Matt Taibbi are the furthest thing from right wing crypto operatives. Ames was the first person to shed light on the Koch money/Right Wing Billionaire co option of the nascent tea party movement, not to mention risking his life to report truthfully on the oligarchs of russia before being tipped off that he would be killed if he didn’t GTFO pronto. It is also possible for the TSA newsstorm to be both an issue that upsets civil libertarians as well as allowing rich libertarians a vector to push for the privatization of the state security apparatus, which makes them richer and fits in line with their push to privatize everything. Just another example of the left/right paradigm obfuscating reality and making tenuous enemies out of those who would be tenuous allies.

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