Sorry, John, leaders of the Religious Right aren’t nice

In a blog entry I otherwise largely agree with, John Aravosis of AMERICAblog, who indisputably gets an A-plus on the A-list of liberal bloggers, made some fairly extraordinary comments about how “nice” right wingers can be in person.  I’ll have to admit that upon first reading this — well, actually on the second reading (the first time through I just assumed I was hallucinating), my jaw fell so far down that my dental work became caught up in my keyboard, necessitating a surgical procedure known as a keyboardectomy.

I’ll be forwarding the medical bills to your attention soon, John.

Here’s what Aravosis says:

Then people got irate that I noted that Harris was rather nice in person. I went one step further and reported a conversation I had with another friend last night who knows Harris quite well. The friend, who is a good liberal, told me that I’d be surprised, on a personal level Harris is one of the nicest people my friend knows. I report that fact, and big surprise, all hell breaks loose. I am now, apparently, broadcasting that Katherine Harris is actually a wonderful human being. No, I said she’s nice in person and has a reputation, even among liberals, of being an incredibly nice person. That doesn’t mean I think she’s a wonderful human being, it simply means that whatever she is, it’s a lot more complicated than folks would like to present.

Read Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” then get back to me and see if you still miss the point.

Then I make the larger observation that the nastiest of Republicans can be some of the nicest people, and vice versa for Democrats. If you live in DC and actually meet “famous” political types, you’ll likely know what I mean.

Newt Gingrich, for example. I just appeared on O’Reilly, went back to the green room, and Newt starts telling me what an amazing job I did. Mind you, I was debating gay rights with O’Reilly, Newt knows this, and is still praising me. It was weird, trust me. But it was also fascinating that Newt would be that nice one-on-one.

Then there are the gun nuts. Joe can tell you stories about them. Awful people. But incredibly, shockingly nice on a personal level. And how about arch-bigot Jesse Helms, famed for being wonderful in person. Same goes for Pat Buchanan. Yes, they’re horrible people, but they’re FAMED for being wonderful people in person. That’s fascinating, it’s not something you’d expect, and I noted that fact. And of course, lots of folks freaked out again in the comments, this time saying I thought conservatives were good people and Democrats bad people.

I like John Aravosis.  I think he does great work.  If I were gay, I’d probably have a crush on him (as well as having yet another reason for not being attracted to Ann Coulter).  But this time I think he seriously screwed the pooch.  

Let me hasten (after pausing ever so briefly to massage my still sore jaw) to distinguish myself from that class of liberals, the ones Aravosis says have been sending him hate mail, who are offended by the very idea of a liberal saying something positive about conservatives.  That’s nuts.  As I’ve mentioned before, we have a lot of Republican customers here at The Last Chance Democracy Café, some of them extremely conservative, and, for the most part, they’re great folks once you get past their politics.

But calling Newt Gingrich nice?!

Calling Katherine Harris nice?!

Sorry, but these aren’t nice people.  Nice people don’t serve their wives with divorce papers while they’re undergoing cancer treatment, as Gingrich did.  Nice people don’t conspire to wrongfully disenfranchise black and Hispanic voters by the thousands, as Harris did.  And there are, of course, numerous other examples that could be offered as to each.

One has to wonder, if Cotton Mather had served Aravosis milk and cookies and said some nice things about his blog (kind of unlikely, I’ll give you) before burning another batch of witches at the stake, would he have called him nice?

The real problem here, of course, isn’t in Aravosis’s heart and soul, but in his word selection:  He isn’t really suggesting that Gingrich and Harris are nice people in the “a good person down to the soul” sense the word generally implies in popular culture; what he’s trying to say, without much doubt, is that they are “pleasant” in person.

When a woman, trying to fix up a friend, says about a man, “He’s really nice,” she’s implying something more than that he has good table manners and a pleasant demeanor in light conversation (although one of the alternatives in the formal dictionary definition could cover such a limited endorsement).  In the real world, she is telling her friend that she thinks he’s in general a good guy.

John Aravosis clearly doesn’t think Newt Gingrich is a good guy. But when he calls him a nice person that’s precisely what he’s implying.  And in all fairness, he really can’t get too bent out of shape when readers call him on it (although they should call him on it politely).

And, yes, it is true, as Aravosis clearly meant to say, that even the scariest right wing fanatics are often pleasant in person; it’s one of their armaments.  But this tends to be the pleasantness of a person who has a knife hidden behind his back as he warmly shakes your hand. 

And no, that’s not nice.  That’s not nice at all.

(And by the way, I agree with tristero: Aravosis really should have kicked Katherine Harris in the shins when he had the chance.)

8 Responses to “Sorry, John, leaders of the Religious Right aren’t nice”

  1. iowametal76 Says:

    People say W is “nice” in person too.

    So fuckin what.

    As you said, that’s merely a weapon he/they use. They’re still horrible people.
    And yes, in this case, I am self-righteous.
    I’m also correct.

  2. byiny Says:

    God, I wish everyone would get the hell off hn’s back. Nice is a very superficial word. I hardly think he doesn’t realize that these people are not really nice inside, but merely act nice. Please get over it. People are acting as if he’s gone over to the dark side - he didn’t say he’s going hetero and marrying Katherine Harris. John does so much good and so much legwork for the rest of us, and now he’s being relentlessly attacked for one frivolous post. And do you really think the best thing would have been for him to kick Katherine Harris in the shins? Guess what you would be hearing the next day in the news: “Crazy blogger attacks congresswoman at DC party. Just as we’ve always tried to tell you, bloggers are just crude idiots who sit around in their pajamas making up shit”. Would you rather have it that way? John did us all a service by representing the blogosphere in a classy and professional way. Enough already.

  3. byiny Says:

    (And by the way, I agree with tristero: Aravosis really should have kicked Katherine Harris in the shins when he had the chance.) Do you really think that? Here’s what we’d be hearing on the news all day long: “Crazy blogger attacks congresswoman at DC party. Just as we’ve always said, bloggers are crude, low-class idiots who sit around in their pajamas all day and make shit up.” Would that have been better. I wish everyone would get off John’s back already. Nice is a superficial word. I’m sure John realizes that these people are not so nice inside, but were merely acting nice. Give the guy a break. He’s done too much good to be attacked relentlessly over some frivolous post. People are acting as if he’s jumped ship, gone hetero and is going to marry Katherine Harris. Enough already.

    Reply from Steve: I usually don’t reply to comments, feeling, I guess, this real estate belongs to the reader, but . . .

    Did you really think either tristero or I were seriously suggesting John should actually have kicked Harris?  Seriously, pal, go to the part of your brain marked “humor” or even “weak attempts at humor” and switch the button from “off” to “on.”

    And while you’re at it, you really read this post as some sort of blistering attack on John . . . ? 

  4. hizzhoner Says:

    Gotta weigh in on this…

    John seems to think that a person can be separated from their acts…their behavior….they can be a “pleasant person” while committing unspeakable acts. If they are capable of doing unspeakable things and disassociating themselves (as a person ) from those acts then they are bipolar at best and pathological at worst….which, of course, doesn’t exactly make them a :nice: person..

    Newt, Dubya, sweet Katherine and many others have learned how to manipulate people to get them to “like them” …it’s a confidence game.

    Pet a snake often enough and you’re going to get bitten…it’s their nature.


  5. poppy606 Says:

    I completely agree with John, and think people have lost sight of what he is saying. I may be reading it wrong but this is my take on his comments.

    Firstly, when you meet someone for the first time without knowing that person, you form an initial opinion based on many things, including attitude, body language, the tone of conversation etc. First impressions may be completely wrong and you may come to dislike this person as you find out more about them. Their beliefs, principals politics etc. I guess in this instance you would say “Can’t stand that guy/girl but on first impressions they appeared quite nice.”

    The opposite can sometimes be true for people you initially dont like. One of my best friends I didnt like at all when I first met her. Shows you how first impressions can be wrong.

    I believe John was simply saying is that when meeting these people in person, they can seem “quite nice” So what?! Lighten up people or you run the risk of sounding like the people you are critisizing in the first place.

    Give a guy a break.

  6. MarcCuster Says:

    Ah, yes, the nice people. Adolph Hitler was considered to be nice in person. He was noted to be charming to some, good with children, even stylish. One only has to look at some of the “select” films of him at the Berghoff. He even loved his dog Blondie. Let us not forget some of those tender moments he was filmed with Eva. But like Bush, if you worked for him and did something wrong, he treated you like a worthless piece of rat doo doo, using vile foul lanuage and physical threatening gestures.

    But calling Newt Gingrich nice!

    Calling Katherine Harris nice!

    As long as you don’t know that much about the person, anyone can be fooled. What is done in private, or in front of the camera may not be the real person. These people have been trained. Good manners does not always equate to being a good person.

  7. Again Says:

    they can be a “pleasant person” while committing unspeakable acts. If they are capable of doing unspeakable things and disassociating themselves (as a person ) from those acts then they are bipolar at best and pathological at worst

    sorry, sudden association (”committing unspeakable acts”)

    Traudl Junge

    Junge later said she felt great guilt for “…liking the greatest criminal ever to have lived.”
    She said, “I admit, I was fascinated by Adolf Hitler. He was a pleasant boss and a fatherly friend.”


    A modest and charming young man

    As time passed, Mrs. Popp found him very helpful: Hitler would help her around the house, beating carpets, bringing in the coal or filling her list at the market. The Popps found Hitler to be a modest and charming young man who kept himself and his room very clean. The Popps’ children and parents were also “very fond of the young man” and felt that Herr Adolf Hitler was a “nice” person.

  8. AnotherRich Says:

    We should all remember that being slicker than #%!t is the stock in trade of all confidence men and hucksters. I would be greatly surprised if the religious right yahoos mentioned above were not able to turn on some charm when required.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.