Saturday, April 08, 2006

Worst 'worst-of' list ever

Right Wing News (motto: "We don't drink the Kool-Aid, we make it") has two lists of the 20 Worst Figures in American History. One is from a survey of various righty bloggers and the other is a similar survey from lefty bloggers.

(Note: I have no idea how old these lists are, since they aren't dated. For all I know, this was blogged all over the place three years ago. All I know is that I Googled "worst bloggers" and this came up. And "worst-of" lists are an essential part of this blogger's balanced breakfast.)

Just for kicks, let's compare the two lists and see what each say about their respective stances:

Conservative bloggers:

Honorable Mentions: Ted Bundy (5), Jane Fonda (5), John Wayne Gacy (5), John Walker Lindh (5), Joe McCarthy (5), Michael Moore (5), Boss Tweed (5)

17) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (6)
17) John Walker (6)
17) Lee Harvey Oswald (6)
17) Robert Byrd (6)
16) Aldrich Ames (7)
14) Richard Nixon (8)
14) Aaron Burr (8)
12) Al Sharpton (9)
12) Charles Manson (9)
8) Timothy McVeigh (10)
8) Lyndon Johnson (10)
8) Hillary Clinton (10)
8) John Wilkes Booth (10)
7) Alger Hiss (12)
6) Noam Chomsky (13)
4) Jesse Jackson (14)
4) Jimmy Carter (14)
3) Bill Clinton (15)
2) Benedict Arnold (19)
1) The Rosenbergs (15) & Julius Rosenberg (5) (20 total votes)

At the top of the list is a couple convicted of (and executed for) espionage; the man whose name has become synonymous with traitor; and, uh, Bill Clinton. Two strikes, one baller.

Notice also how key Democrats and liberal commentators share space with (and often outrank) serial killers, assassins and terrorists. I know I always equate Charles Manson with Al Sharpton! And, of course, Hillary Clinton is certaintly in league with John Wilkes Booth. Both did have something to do with presidents, after all.

The righty list is padded out with the usual liberal protesters, writers and other easy targets--as if one-fifth of the worst-ever Americans got that way simply by exercising the most American right, free speech. And how seriously can you take a list that contains someone who hosted Saturday Night Live? You could argue that it's terrible comedy, sure, but that doesn't equate it with terrorism.

The criteria for this vote was apparently, "Choose your worst Americans based on such attributes as criminal behavior, unconstitutional actions and boldly ending the Great Depression."

For some contrast, here's a look at the lefty list:

Honorable Mentions:
Boss Tweed (5), Roger Taney (5), James Earl Ray (5), Charles Manson (5), Rush Limbaugh (5), Jerry Falwell (5), Roy Cohn (5), Dick Cheney (5), John C. Calhoun (5)

20) The Rosenbergs (3) + Julius Rosenberg (3) (6 total votes)
20) Pat Robertson (6)
20) Oliver North (6)
20) William Randolph Hearst (6)
20) Aaron Burr (6)
20) Aldrich Ames (6)
18) George Lincoln Rockwell (7)
18) Robert McNamara (7)
14) Richard Mellon Scaife (8)
14) Lee Harvey Oswald (8)
14) Charles Coughlin (8)
14) Strom Thurmond (8)
13) Ronald Reagan (9)
12) George Wallace (10)
11) Andrew Jackson (12)
9) Jefferson Davis (13)
9) George W. Bush (13)
6) Benedict Arnold (14)
6) Henry Kissinger (14)
6) John Wilkes Booth (14)
3) Timothy McVeigh (16)
3) Nathan Bedford Forrest (16)
3) J. Edgar Hoover (16)
2) Richard Nixon (25)
1) Joseph McCarthy (26)

This list heads off with an impressive array of figures who undermined American ideals: Tailgunner Joe, Nixon, the overzealous head of the FBI, the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, and America's most notorious homegrown terrorist. No blowjobs or Sean Hannity at the top of this list! The names here refer to those who really undermined the United States, be it through shadow government, questionable war or straight-up secession.

Indeed, this list contains a handful of esoteric names (such as Roger Taney, the Chief Justice during the dreadful Dred Scott decision). Even I had to look up some of them, being that the organizations they formed have eclipsed their founders' fame. The liberal list suggests a more educated sampling than its conservative counterpart.

Either the lefty list is more in tune with the actual contributions of historical leaders, or there are simply too many important right-wing losers to need to pad out the list with anyone who has ever voiced an opinion different than Ann Coulter's. It's probably both.

In any case, lists like these only cement the differences between Red and Blue, and how one side should learn some serious historical perspective from the other.


Nick said...

At the same time, both lists are very partisan. Where is Ted Bundy on the Left's list? The Right did name McVeigh, though not as high as the Left, wich I would rank him about as high as the Left, maybe higher. Was Richard Nixon really worse than McVeigh? I think the Left has some priority issues as well.

Was Bush or Clinton worse than David Todd Lee who raped and killed numerous women in Louisiana? I think not.

Yes, Red states could learn a few things from Blue states. But Blue states could also learn a few things from Red states, such as a perinnial child rapist should be given more than 2 years in jail.

Ian McGibboney said...

Actually, Nick, that's DERRICK Todd Lee.

And yeah, I agree that the ranks would be different had I been in charge of them (Nixon, for example, wouldn't have been so high...after all, he managed a few good things while in office). But that doesn't change my general point, which is that the left's worst-of lists contains people who really did bad things that threatened this country's survival and reputation, while the right's list contains a large fraction of people they find simply annoying. Noam Chomsky? Are you serious?

Nick said...

Both lists are compiled by people who, for the most part, polled dumbasses.

Michael said...

There's also the fact that evidence has begun to come to light suggesting that one of the two people at the top of both lists was probably wrongly executed (Ethel Rosenberg).

As an historian, I would certainly question the priority given to the Rosenbergs. The Soviets had multiple sources inside the Manhattan Project, not to mention the inherent lunacy of believing that once that djinn was out of the bottle, we'd be able to keep its identity secret. Depending on just how far-reaching the repercussions are, I might be inclined to put I. Scooter Libby and/or Big Dick at the top of my list, for blowing the cover of the CIA analyst who was working on nuclear non-proliferation--just as the rhetoric starts heating up on Iran's programs and we need hard information we can no longer get as easily as we could before the White House decided to play politics with the identity of a covert operative.

McVeigh would also move up a couple of notches, I think. Tricky Dicky was sleazy, yes, but not that sleazy. And I have to give him props for opening relations with China and creating the Environmental Protection Agency, among a few other accomplishments.

I don't think Reagan would make my top-20 list. He was more clueless than evil. Some of his staffers, on the other hand...

Ian McGibboney said...

Reagan and Nixon are largely partisan choices, just like Clinton and Noam Chomsky on the other list.

Reagan himself wasn't inherently bad, but just malleable enough to become the symbol for everything that the GOP has come to represent in the past 26 years. He's solid proof that image is virtually everything in politics. To this day, I know solid liberals who have a very romanticized view of him. Even I did once, being a 1980 baby (though I stress that I'm a Carter-era child).

I'm also aware of the Rosenberg controversy. And while they probably wouldn't make my personal list, I do give the righty bloggers SOME credit for putting them ahead of Clinton. I can imagine that was really difficult for them.

I have a feeling that such a list will become irrelevant anyway in the upcoming months. Will it be possible for one administration to monopolize the entire chart? The Bush White House seems determined to find out.

Michael said...

I still don't understand the vitriol that Noam Chomsky generates on the right. I mean, yeah, the man's a pompous blowhard, but that covers an awful lot of the tighty rightosphere, too. But unlike people like Limbaugh, or InstaHack, or Michelle Malkin, hardly anybody even reads Noam Chomsky. Even fewer of those who read him understand what he's saying. And his influence on anything outside of his discipline? Practically nil as far as I can tell.

Fair point, though, on Right Blogistan's not putting the Clenis at the top of its list. That took some guts.

Flamingo Jones said...

Reagan may be a partisan choice...but for a lot of people he legitimately belongs on the list. If you get a chance to see the documentary called "Dear Mr. President," it's worth a watch. It has a lot of insight into Reagan's urban policies....or rather, lack of urban policies. Plus, a political documentary narrated by Snoop? Can't beat that.

Ian McGibboney said...

Michael, I could probably count on one hand how many times I've ever read Noam Chomsky. Indeed, I generally don't read or watch most of the pundits that I'm often accused of blindly following. On the other side of the token, I also tend not to consume Rush, Malkin or that look-at-me-I'm-popular-because-I-know-how-to-make links man you refer to as InstaHack.

Flamingo, don't get me wrong: I am no fan of Reagan. Though I haven't seen the documentary, I know plenty about the man whom Desmond Tutu referred to as "the pits as far as blacks are concerned...nauseating." Though I have yet to fashion my own list, I'd say Reagan would be about 20. That's no acquittal of Reagan, just an indicator of how much worse it's gotten.

As for Snoop, I think he should narrate all documentaries.

Michael said...

New profile pic, Ian? Looks good!

I didn't figure you were a regular Limbaugh listener/Malkin watcher/reader of InstaHack. There's no reason you would be (and plenty of reasons you wouldn't). My point was that the righty blogosphere makes Chomsky this big liberal bugaboo--when hardly any liberals even read him. Whereas a fair number of the right-wingnuts that Left Blogistan would be inclined to put on our list of righty bugaboos for being bigoted, hateful, and out-of-touch are very widely read and/or followed (and popular) on the right. Chalk it up to the reality-based thing, I guess: we worry about people who actually have a major impact, whereas the right mainly worries about people they don't like, even if they're not truly impactful.