The anger Republican strategists are inciting when they attack the NYT is not that the terrorists now know what everyone knew. What angers the beehives of conservative drones is that they are reminded of what they always knew about America but deny: the underlying faults in the myth of American exceptionality. It's not the world that Republicans fear having the knowledge of American atrocities on the battlefield or in the prison cell, it's not the terrorists that Conservatives fear having the knowledge of American illegal tactics, it's the American people.
And if the American people have to know - and yes, they have to know - the Right's well aware of the craven bully trick, a combination of killing the messenger and what I call the Nila Hake: I can call my momma a bitch, but you can't. This serves two memes - it reinforces that Progressives are not American, and if they're not American they have no right to criticize. Utterly cowardly, utterly effective. Liberals are responsible for ruining the Rightwing's cherished myth of American exceptionality by demanding the government try to match that myth by actions. Like most Conservative illogic, it's based on a self-serving, self-fulfilling prophesy.
But what really drives them rabid is their dim awareness, scratching beneath the foam, that it's the Progressive/Liberal/Pacifist traditions that give the myths of American exceptionality their perpetual forward momentum. Rugged individualism only resonates if a presumption of fairness is present. The melting pot welcomes immigrants. A kind and generous people doesn't produce uniformed sadists grinningly smirring shit on captives in an imperial war of choice. It was Progressive Liberals that freed the slaves, that gave women the vote, that brought the country out of depression. It was Progressive Liberals that confronted and defeated Jim Crow, that gave workers the minimum wage and workmen's compensation and paid holidays. It's Progressive Liberals that say the job isn't done. What drives the Rightwing nuts is their static reptilebrains is the knowledge that the America they idolize like a boy with a Playboy centerfold could not and would not and will not exist without Progressive Liberals.
E.J. Dionne, in an op-ed today in the Washington Post, defends the Progressive tradition:
But the progressive and the reformer have a problem with what passes for unadulterated patriotism. By nature, the reformer is bound to insist that the country, however glorious, is not a perfect place, that it is capable of doing wrong as well as right. The nation that declared "all men are created equal" was, at the time those words were written, the home of an extensive system of slavery.Run on the tradition. Progressivism made America the great country it is, Progressivism is the only thing that can make America greater. And stronger and kinder and fairer. And open and tolerant and peaceful and welcoming. It'll drive Conservatives nuts. Which is why the NYTs must be attacked when it reminds Conservatives of the illogic of their illusions.
UPDATE: Conservative Exceptionalism