Tom Perkins’s letter to The Wall Street Journal last week, in which he compared liberal attacks on the one percent to the Holocaust, was an anthropologically useful document that displayed the deranged persecution complex that afflicts large segments of America’s superrich in the Obama era. Lest you think Perkins is merely one slightly addled old man, who has slipped into a Howard Hughes–esque cosseted stupor, today the Journal devotes an editorial to defending him.
The Journal concedes that Perkins’s chosen metaphor may have gone a tad too far (“The comparison was unfortunate, yet provocative”). But, the Journal's editors argue, the fact that so many people disagreed with it proves the basic thrust of his argument: “The vituperation is making our friend's point about liberal intolerance — maybe better than he did.” Liberals are mocking wildly rich people who compare their plight to the victims of the Holocaust, and even if this mockery does not currently rise to the level of persecution of the Holocaust itself, really the spirit of the thing is about the same.
The editorial proceeds to defend its thesis by rattling off a list of terrible things that have happened to one percenters in the Obama era. The actual policy agenda that harms the rich — the restoration of Clinton-era tax rates for incomes over $400,000 a year, higher investment taxes to help fund Obamacare, regulation of Wall Street — is curiously absent from the list. Instead the Journal wanders through a farrago of partisan fever dreams. For instance:
Maybe the critics are afraid that Mr. Perkins is onto something about the left's political method. Consider the recent record of liberals in power. They're the ones obsessed with the Koch brothers and other billionaires contributing to conservative causes, siccing journalists to trash them and federal agencies to shut them down.
“Siccing journalists to trash” the Koch brothers can be translated as “a number of news reports and opinion commentary has criticized the Koch brothers.” Just like what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany! I follow the right-wing media pretty closely, and I have no idea what federal agencies shut down the Koch brothers, though I would simply point out that, ipso facto, they have not been shut down.
President Obama's IRS targeted conservative political groups for scrutiny in an election year and has now formalized that scrutiny in new regulatory "guidance" for this election year.
Actually, after it initially looked like the IRS was targeting conservatives, it emerged that the agency was simply looking for political groups of all persuasions abusing their nonprofit status, and employed search terms for liberal groups like “progressive” or “occupy.” IRS targeting of the right has become the dead body of Vince Foster, about which the Journal also harbors suspicions.
The most hilarious item in the Journal’s Nuremberg indictment is Obama’s alleged excoriation of the rich:
Obama doesn't merely want to raise taxes on the rich to finance the government. He says "millionaires and billionaires" simply make too much money and deserve to be punished.
One good clue that somebody is mischaracterizing a source’s words is if they omit important context from the quote. Here the Journal hasn’t merely omitted context, they’ve omitted the entire quote. Or, rather, they quote three words — “millionaires and billionaires” — and then simply assert the parts about Obama thinking the rich make too much money and need punishment. They truncated the entire quote.
The Journal’s editorial underscores that the widespread mockery of Perkins, far from piling on a bewildered plutocrat, actually understates the broader problem. Perkins’s letter provided a peek into the fantasy world of the right-wing one percent, in which fantasies of an incipient Hitler-esque terror are just slightly beyond the norm. The Journal editorial defines persecution of the one percent as the existence of public disagreement. Liberals are mocking Perkins, therefore Perkins is basically right. For Perkins to be wrong — for the rich to enjoy the level of deference the Journal deems appropriate — a billionaire could compare his plight to the victims of the Holocaust and nobody would make fun of him at all.