The title is a reference to a Native American parable -- the story exists in various forms. It's a story that has found significant resonance, particularly lately. Here it is:
The Wolf You Feed
An elder Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me.. it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith."
"This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too", he added.
The Grandchildren thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied... "The one you feed."
It's the first thing I thought of when I came across the Eugene Robinson piece Feeding the Lone Wolves (hat-tip Peter1a). Read the piece -- it's well worth it -- but here's a key excerpt:
In April, a prescient Department of Homeland Security memo predicted that the election of the first African American president and the advent of economic hard times could worsen the threat from "right-wing extremist groups." In particular, the memo warned of an increase in anti-Semitic activity by extremists who buy into the whole Jewish-banker-secret-cabal paranoid fantasy -- and would blame "the Jews" for engineering the global financial crisis, just as they blame "the Jews" for everything.
For days, some conservative commentators tried mightily to paint the memo as an underhanded attempt by the Obama administration to smear its honorable critics by equating "right-wing" with "terrorism." It made no difference to these loudmouths that the number of hate groups around the country has increased by more than 50 percent since 2000, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. It didn't matter that the memo was backed up by solid intelligence and analysis. For these infotainers, the point isn't to illuminate a subject with light but to blast it with heat.
An equally disturbing piece came from NY Times Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman in his article The Big Hate:
Today, as in the early years of the Clinton administration but to an even greater extent, right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment.
Now, for the most part, the likes of Fox News and the R.N.C. haven’t directly incited violence [...snip...] But they have gone out of their way to provide a platform for conspiracy theories and apocalyptic rhetoric, just as they did the last time a Democrat held the White House.
And at this point, whatever dividing line there was between mainstream conservatism and the black-helicopter crowd seems to have been virtually erased.
It's no mistake that Krugman goes on to say "that supposedly respectable news organizations and political figures are giving aid and comfort to dangerous extremism." The selection and use of the words "giving aid and comfort" directly echo the hint of treason that fanning the flames of domestic lunatics and terrorists deserves.
Conservatives who coddled the right-wing extremists during the Bush years -- a period during most of which the Republican party had total control of all three branches of government and ran roughshod over the Constitution and the rule of law -- are now freaking out, trying not only to distance their embrace of the far-out lunatic fringe but to actually paint the latest wave of right-wing domestic terrorism as left-wing in nature. Zachary Roth of TPM Muckraker wrote a good piece detailing this most recent disconnect from reality, with one of his latest updates pointing out the formal definition for something which we've seen not only among Conservatives and their punditry, but also from the Bush Administration and their "legal counsel" -- a trick and technique that has found a home, and vast application across the range of tunable, malleable conservative reality: The "No True Scotsman" fallacy.
Reader JD points out that conservatives are indulging here in what's known as the "No True Scotsman" fallacy, advanced by the British philosopher Antony Flew, by redefining the meaning of a term in order to make a desired assertion about it true.
Change the definition -- move the goalposts -- and voila!, the facts no longer apply.
Except for the fact that people have died, blood has flowed, and incitement to violence has kept stirring the pot and baiting the unsettled, disturbed extremists into action. To quote once more from the Krugman piece, "Politicians and media organizations wind up such people at their, and our, peril."
Or, to put it even more simply, it's all about the wolf you feed.