Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Roots Of Bin Laden Denialism

 by Simon Maloy/Media Matters

Sean Hannity is terribly vexed. In his mind, Democrats are weak on national security, for no other reason than they're Democrats. It's a foundational belief -- not just for him, but for a good portion of his and the rest of Fox News' conservative audience.
So how does he deal with the fact that Osama bin Laden met his end under a Democratic president? Denial.
The president's role in the hunt for Bin Laden has been well documented. The New Yorker published an exhaustive account of the raid on the Al Qaeda chief's compound in Abbottabad and the president's decision-making in the months leading up to the moment when he personally authorized it. More recently, Vice President Biden divulged that he had advised the president not to approve the mission, but was overruled. And yet, Hannity is insisting not just that Obama did not want Bin Laden killed, but that there exists taped evidence to prove it. The psychology at work here is fascinating.
The death of Bin Laden has proven to be an intractable problem for a conservative commentariat that relies upon facile and outdated stereotypes of the opposition. Say what you will about the Obama administration's expanded use of drone warfare and targeted assassinations, but it certainly does not comport with the flower-child caricature that has served as a foil for talk radio tough guys. And the death of the world's most prominent anti-American terrorist is not easily explained away.
So when Bin Laden met his end under a Democratic commander in chief, the right birthed an exotic array of explanations that attempted to square the circle. The most ambitious effort, of which there are undeniable echoes in Hannity's comments last night, was launched by an obscure right-wing blogger who (citing an unnamed and almost certainly imaginary White House "insider") claimed that the military had actually overruledObama's attempts to abort the Bin Laden raid.
Despite the obvious holes in the argument (i.e. treason), the "overruled" theory was picked up by more prominent right-wingers, including Atlas Shrugged blogger Pam Geller, who is a frequent guest on Hannity's television and radio programs. Geller promoted the story and stood by it even after it was pointed out that she was essentially accusing top military commanders of crimes punishable by death.
But that's the pathology. The assumed cowardliness and weakness of liberals and Democrats is integral to the worldview of Hannity other right-wing bombasts. So when a Democrat shows strength on national security, any alternate theory that keeps the delusion alive -- no matter how illogical or counterfactual -- is treated as more plausible than the truth.
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