[Commentary] Why Do Conservatives Keep Tattling On Themselves?

Conservative, or at least, people who identify with far-right movements, keep tattling on themselves. I’m not talking about the Capitol insurrectionists who posted their plans online, then publically shared selfies and live streams of their crimes. This is about the Republicans who hear words and phrases like “racist,” “liar,” and “conspiracy theorist,” and react as though their names were called.

When someone tells you who they are, listen the first time.
[Photo by Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images]

First, the most recent example. Reporter Andrew Feinberg called this out on Twitter. CNN‘s Brian Stetler spoke about the claims of ‘censorship’ from right-wingers. He addressed several who have claimed that they’re being ‘silenced’ when they’re forced to comply with the terms of service of the social media sites they post on, or when they’re not given a platform for, specifically, COVID-19 disinformation.

The quote was, “Reducing a liar’s reach is not the same as censoring freedom of speech.”

Predictably, conservatives got offended. Stetler did not address whether someone should be free to speak on conservative political views — their views on taxes, education, and second amendment rights weren’t touched. He specifically addressed lies — lies about the pandemic, false claims about the election, and Q-Anon disinformation.

If someone says liars’ reach should be limited, and you think that means conservatives being deplatformed, what conclusion can we draw about how you identify conservatives?

Before that, there was this story. Sean Patrick Maloney addressed the attack on the Capitol, and specifically, stories about GOP legislators leading tours through the building prior to that. He described unnamed members who “believe in conspiracy theories and want to carry guns into the House chamber.”

Now, a person who does not feel that they believe in conspiracy theories would probably not feel like that statement was about them. Lauren Boebert, however, took the bait.

Not one name mentioned — just someone who 1) believes in conspiracy theories, 2) wants to carry a gun in House Chambers (that’s several Republicans right now, so not a definitive identifier), and 3) gave pre-insurrection tours. Boebert seemed to think all of those identifiers described her — and yelled it from the proverbial rooftops.

Last but by no means least, let us go all the way back to President Joe Biden’s inauguration, not yet two weeks gone. Washington Post reported on his words, which addressed white supremacy and domestic terrorism, and the right-wing response, which was, to a great extent, to get really hurt feelings.

Biden said, “And now, a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.”

Senator Rand Paul called this “thinly veiled innuendo” about Republicans. Tucker Carlson complained about a lack of definition for the term “white supremacist.”

To quote WaPo Philip Bump, author of the piece linked above, “Biden wasn’t looping Republicans generally in with white supremacists and extremists. Carlson is doing that. Paul is doing that.”

It’s spot-on — in each of these stories, the rush to judgment came from the people who thought they were being judged. When someone says “white supremacist,” or “racist,” or “liar,” or “conspiracy theorist,” or some other term, and you don’t identify with that group, you don’t generally feel the need to complain you’re being talked about. If someone hears “extremists and domestic terrorists” and immediately gets offended, they’re only outing themselves.

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