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Enemy of the State

If I may pile on a bit late, the truly odd thing about Sean Hannity’s “Enemy of the State” feature is the specific locution — state — which is so deeply at odds with the quasi-populist tradition of the American right. Not enemy of the nation, enemy of the country, enemy of the people, enemy of America, but enemy of the state. The particular blend of authoritarianism and anti-statism that’s typical of American conservatism from Tailgunner Joe to Liberality for All is incoherent, but at least it gives crypto-fascists the comfort of staying crypto.

Hannity by contrast has simply lost it. On the most obvious level, he seems confused about the fact that he’s not an agent of the state and has no business proclaiming who the state’s enemies are. Yes, the Pravda-like qualities of Fox News and the ease with which one can go from being an unofficial spokesman for George W. Bush at Fox to being an official spokesman for him in the West Wing may induce confusion, but surely Hannity is aware on some level that he’s not a government employee. The episode reaches its bizarre peak when Hannity issues the demagogue’s standard disclaimer — “[Sean] Penn can say whatever he wants” — such a cliché that Hannity must be honestly unaware of how nonsensical such a disclaimer is when branded with a chiron branding the speaker an enemy of the state for his words.

Then Hannity states, oddly, that Penn “speaks only for himself and other bad actors” when expressing the sentiment that Hannity is a “whore” and the Bush administration personnel “bastards.” That’s crazy. Lots of people, including your humble blogger, think Hannity is a bastard and that Bush’s key aides are bastards. The Stalinist aesthetics here, moreover, are absurd. Since when is Penn a bad actor? Since he began expressing political views conservatives don’t like? Give me a break.

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