Crazy Talk from 'Motor City Madman'

The downward trajectory of what passes for political discourse has become nearly impossible to keep up with. Thanks to anti-intellectuals like Rush Limbaugh who use name-calling as a substitute for logical argument, it appears that anything goes. Don’t like the president’s nominally liberal policies? Call him a socialist. Question where he was born and — by extension — whether he is eligible for office. Create conspiracy — as happened at the NRA convention, where gun lovers accused Obama of lying in wait until his second term when he can convene a massive police state to confiscate all weapons.

So, it really should be no surprise that a confirmed nut-case like Ted Nugent — a man who is known as the Motor City Madman — ignores the notion of rational discourse and goes right for the anti-intellectual stratosphere, as described by Sam Stein of “In a video spotted by Right Wing Watch, Nugent doesn’t mince words when describing the sitting president’s administration, which he describes as ‘vile,’ ‘evil’ and ‘America-hating.’” Nugent goes farther, raising the specter of assassination and Sharron Angle’s “Second-Amendment remedies” by comparing the administration and Democrats to coyotes.

“It isn’t the enemy that ruined America. It’s good people who bent over and let the enemy in,” he said on the tape. “If the coyote’s in your living room pissing on your couch, it’s not the coyote’s fault. It’s your fault for not shooting him.”

Much of the outrage that has bubbled up in the wake of Nugent’s comments has focused on his belief that Obama’s re-election would mean that Nugent would “either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” But it is the above quotation that I find more chilling. Duly elected officials and members of an opposing political party are “the enemy,” in Nugent’s unwieldy metaphor, and not opponents or political foes. They also are coyotes, or invasive and predatory scavengers that can only gain a toe hold when we allow it. “If the coyote’s in your living room pissing on your couch, it’s not the coyote’s fault. It’s your fault for not shooting him.”

“Shooting him” — those are Nugent’s words and the natural extension of the central metaphor from which he works. Shooting them like a coyote is not enough. Nugent adds: “We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.”

Nugent’s mouth should never have triggered the kind of political storm that it did. So why did it? The two main reasons, I think, are that wildman Nugent is such good copy and that we have a fourth estate that is fixated on even the smallest scandals. So Nugent ends up getting big play.

But this approach misses the big picture. Consider Sen. James Inhofe’s response to Nugent’s comments (again, quoted from Stein at “Anyone could put an interpretation on like that,” the senator said in response to the concern from some that Nugent’s remarks may have been a threat to the president. “I just didn’t hear that because that’s not what he said and it is confusing because it’s hard to say, why would he be dead — and now we’re talking about Ted, not the president — and I didn’t quite understand it.”

This is about more than Nugent and about more than Obama, however. It is about a pattern of loose language and violent metaphor on the right that includes the infamous “Second-Amendment remedies,” Sarah Palin’s use of rifle sites on her web page, and so on.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating for restrictions on speech or any kind of penalties for the speaker. But I think it is important to point out the larger language patterns at the center of the rightwing crusade (and to a somewhat lesser degree their left-wing and liberal counterparts), patterns that devalue both disagreement and compromise and elevate paranoia and certainty to almost religious status. Principle is important, perhaps the most important thing in politics. It informs the way we approach issues and what we are willing and unwilling to do. Principle in the current atmosphere has given way to dogma and the irrational discourse.

Hank Kalet is a poet and the regional editor for Patch in Central Jersey. Email; blog;

From The Progressive Populist, May 15, 2012

News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2012 The Progressive Populist
PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652