Best of TAP 2010: Bouie's Review of American Taliban.

The mark of a good journalist is the acuity -- and intellectual honesty -- to identify propaganda wherever it's coming from, and that's why one of my favorite pieces this year was Jamelle Bouie's Homegrown Mujahideen, which took on Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas for his hyperbolic comparison of the religious right in America to the Taliban.

It's not just that, as a liberal journalist, I have a soft spot for David-and-Goliath stories. It's that in this instance my instinct would be to join the histrionic voices equating American conservatives with the Taliban. Then I read Jamelle's piece:

Now, it's true that certain tendencies on the American right have analogues in fundamentalist Islam; for example, and as Moulitsas points out in his chapter on sex, right-wing conservatives share a hatred of pornography with fundamentalist Iranian authorities. Of course the similarities end there; conservatives boycott pornography, Iran punishes it with death.

But, this gets to the huge, glaring problem with American Taliban; ultimately, any similarities are vastly outweighed by incredibly important distinctions and vast differences of degree. I'm no fan of the right wing, but the only possible way it can be "indistinguishable" from the Taliban is if conservatives are stoning women for adultery, stalking elementary schools to throw acid in girls' faces, and generally enforcing fundamentalist religious law with torture and wanton violence.

How supremely rational.

From time to time it's important to be reminded that the mob lies within each of us, and for being the voice at the threshold to say, "Hey, guys, maybe pitchforks are a little much," I think Jamelle's piece is one of TAP's top contributions to the liberal conversation this year.

-- Gabriel Arana

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