Do People in More Liberal and More Conservative States Have Different Personalities?

Chris Mooney has posted an interesting take on that "personality map" that everyone's been talking about.

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Southern States Waste No Time Gutting Voting Rights After Supreme Court Overturned Voting Rights Act

I don't think I need to point out just how obvious these people are being, do I?

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This Really Is Big Brother: The Leak Nobody's Noticed

This McClatchy piece (written by some of the same people who got the Iraq war run-up story so right while everyone else got it wrong) is as chilling to me as anything we've heard over the past few weeks about the NSA spying. In fact, it may be worse:

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White House Magical Thinking on Striking Medicare-Cutting Deal With Republicans

If you are curious as to what the White House really thinks about the fiscal cliff, I'd have to guess that [Obama senior adviser] David Plouffe would know:

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How Conservatives Manipulate People Into Voting Against Their Best Interests

American right-wing populism is an interesting phenomenon that's coming to the fore once again in its usual nativist and racist form, but also as smooth misrepresentation of "tax reform"; clever, misleading public relations messaging about fair trade; and some fairly outlandish paranoia about conspiracies to erase the borders. Various permutations of these fairly common right-wing themes abound among conservative politicians and thinkers alike. But conservative populism is an oxymoron.

As Phil Agre wrote in this much discussed article about the definition of conservatism, "Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy ... [it] is incompatible with democracy, prosperity and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world."

Modern conservatism's most successful strategy was to merge public relations and politics into a seamless operation in which it could use modern marketing methods to convince people to vote against their own interests. In that sense, right-wing populism is just another marketing campaign for the aristocrats. And it's working:

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The GOP Has Become the Party of Moral Depravity

Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a groundbreaking paper back in the 1960s about the alleged weaknesses of often female-headed African-American families. He described a culture of loose morals and indulgent self-destructive behavior which the right successfully demagogued into a decades long, thinly veiled racist attack on government welfare programs. The common wisdom was that welfare institutionalized and rewarded failure leading to an immoral social order. Throughout the period there were sustained conservative attacks on those who defended such programs and participated in the vast cultural transformation of the era, characterizing these behaviors as "moral depravity."

As recently as the early '90s, Moynihan himself was busily coining snappy slogans to illustrate liberalism's essential immorality, the most memorable being "defining deviancy down":

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The Art of the Hissy Fit

I first noticed the right's successful use of phony sanctimony and faux outrage back in the 90's when well-known conservative players like Gingrich and Livingston pretended to be offended at the president's extramarital affair and were repeatedly and tiresomely "upset" about fund-raising practices they all practiced themselves. The idea of these powerful and corrupt adulterers being personally upset by White House coffees and naughty sexual behavior was laughable.

But they did it, oh how they did it, and it often succeeded in changing the dialogue and titillating the media into a frenzy of breathless tabloid coverage.

In fact, they became so good at the tactic that they now rely on it as their first choice to control the political dialogue when it becomes uncomfortable and put the Democrats on the defensive whenever they are winning the day. Perhaps the best example during the Bush years would be the completely cynical and over-the-top reaction to Senator Paul Wellstone's memorial rally in 2002 in the last couple of weeks leading up to the election.

With the exception of the bizarre Jesse Ventura, those in attendance, including the Republicans, were non-plussed by the nature of the event at the time. It was not, as the chatterers insisted, a funeral, but rather more like an Irish wake for Wellstone supporters -- a celebration of Wellstone's life, which included, naturally, politics. (He died campaigning, after all.) But Vin Weber, one of the Republican party's most sophisticated operatives, immediately saw the opportunity for a faux outrage fest that was more successful than even he could have ever dreamed.

By the time they were through, the Democrats were prostrating themselves at the feet of anyone who would listen, begging for forgiveness for something they didn't do, just to stop the shrieking. The Republicans could barely keep the smirks off their faces as they sternly lectured the Democrats on how to properly honor the dead -- the same Republicans who had relentlessly tortured poor Vince Foster's family for years.

It's an excellent technique and one they continue to employ with great success, most recently with the entirely fake Move-On and Pete Stark "controversies." (The Democrats try their own versions but rarely achieve the kind of full blown hissy fit the Republicans can conjure with a mere blast fax to Drudge and their talk radio minions.)

But it's about more than simple political distraction or savvy public relations. It's actually a very well developed form of social control called Ritual Defamation (or Ritual Humiliation) as this well trafficked internet article defines it:

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The Two Faces of the Blogosphere

What most journalists and others who observe the new phenomenon of political blogging fail to understand is that the "blogosphere" is actually two rather sharply distinct spheres.

It shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise when Time named the right-wing blog PowerLine "Blog of the Year" in December 2004. After all, PowerLine had been widely read by the mainstream media because of its role in a big journalism story--the Dan Rather "Memogate" affair.

In the days after the infamous September 8, 2004 broadcast, PowerLine was among the first to point out the anomalies in the alleged National Guard memos. The notoriety stuck, although a later investigation by the Columbia Journalism Review revealed that the PowerLine bloggers--as well as others who gained national media attention, like Buckhead from Free Republic and Charles Johnson of LittleGreenFootballs--were uniformly wrong as to the details, and only right in the larger sense that the memos could not be authenticated.

Nonetheless, from that point on, the right-wing blogosphere became the go-to place for nifty blog stories, leaving the less-celebrated lefty blogs largely ignored by the mainstream media.

What most journalists and others who observe the new phenomenon of political blogging fail to understand is that the "blogosphere" is actually two rather sharply distinct spheres. These roughly mirror the country's political divide and are organized in very different ways.

The right blogosphere operates largely as part of the greater Republican message machine. Many of its bloggers are already part of that infrastructure, working as journalists for conservative publications, writing books and lecturing. Independent bloggers on the right hail from all walks of life, but the leading voices are either part of the political machine itself, like Mike Krempasky of RedState, or closely connected to the conservative media and think tank infrastructure, like Hugh Hewitt, Michelle Malkin and the PowerLine bloggers. The right blogosphere is a reflection of successful top-down Republican message control, and as such these bloggers are welcomed warmly into the fold.

As Garance Franke-Ruta writes in the April issue of The American Prospect, the right-wing blogosphere has also recently become useful to long-established political operatives such as Morton Blackwell, mentor to iconic GOP campaign strategists Karl Rove and Lee Atwater. In the recent Eason Jordan affair, the right blogosphere was credited with forcing the former chief news executive of CNN to resign over a controversial off-the-record comment. It turned out that many conservative blogs were part of this larger concerted effort. In the wake of this success, conservatives are now running what Franke-Ruta describes as "Internet Activist Schools, designed to teach conservatives how to engage in guerilla Internet activism," or what some people used to call "dirty tricks."

By contrast, the left blogosphere is populated by "citizen bloggers," who work in non-political occupations for a living and blog for reasons of personal interest. This sphere actually operates as a unique and potentially powerful political constituency rather than a part of the Democratic Party apparatus. Unlike their counterparts on the right, the lefty blogs have had to crash the party, but because they did it with energy, votes and money, they are making themselves a power in their own right.

In the last election cycle the "netroots" exerted their influence through prodigious fundraising, contributing greatly to the Democrats' fundraising efforts. Howard Dean's primary campaign also demonstrated that the Internet was a rich source of small individual donations that collectively added up to many millions. But throughout the campaign, blogs such as Daily Kos and Eschaton were able to raise the six figure sums that normally only fat cats like Bush "Pioneers" could generate. And along with that money came a large group of engaged and informed netroot activists who were able, in the weeks leading up to the election, to marshal a boycott of national advertisers virtually overnight to protest Sinclair Broadcasting's plan to air a blatantly partisan documentary about John Kerry. That action led to a precipitous downgrading of Sinclair stock, enough to cause the company to abandon its plans.

Lefty blogs also spend a lot of time discussing various ways for the party to hone its political message in the hopes that these ideas will percolate up from the blogosphere and gain the attention of the powers that be. They have found that through the amplification of many blogs linking to certain themes and concepts over time, good ideas rise to the attention of those who have the power to put them to work in the mainstream media.

Because of these sucesses, some progressives believed that the recent efforts by Republican members of the Federal Election Commission's (FEC) to regulate blogs as paid political speech may have been motivated by partisanship. As it turns out, the new proposed FEC rule changes, still subject to public comment, continue to exempt blogs from regulation.

With all of the potential for fundraising, "guerilla activism" and massaging, perhaps neither party wants to unduly inhibit their sector of the blogosphere.

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