I disagree with Glenn Greenwald often enough, but he’s dead right about this. The premise of Jon Stewart’s “Million Moderate March” is vacuous. There’s no inherent virtue in political “moderation.” The “moderates” weren’t the ones who were right about whether we should have marched into Iraq; it was the so-called extremist peaceniks who had it right from the start. The “moderates” aren’t the ones who are right about the priority we should be giving to the threat of global climate change; again, the people who are correct on this issue are labelled as “extremists.” And contrary to Jon Stewart’s foolish assertion, while it may be “moderate” to reject charges that the Bush Administration committed war crimes, it’s also wrong. Because in fact they committed war crimes. (Nor are the current administration’s hands much cleaner on this score, and those who point this out continue to be marginalized.)
There are many senses in which “moderation” is a virtue. We should generally strive for equinamity in our dealings with one another. Courtesy, extending the benefit of the doubt, eschewing extreme rhetoric when it isn’t necessary—these are all things that make human social life possible. But as a term in politics, “moderate” has come to mean something quite orthogonal to all of this. When Jon Stewart claims a parallel between the racism of the “tea party” movement and its insane alternate-world beliefs (Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim Stalinist, etc) and the idea that the Bush administration committed war crimes, what he’s promoting is a “moderation” that is about nothing more than identifying the range of socially-acceptable beliefs and planting one’s self safely in the center of that range. It has nothing to do with discerning or respecting the truth, and everything to do with assuring one’s social status. In that sense it is radically self-centered—not actually “moderate” at all.