Ed Brayton complains, tongue-in-cheek, about CNN's theft of his Wingnut of the Week segment. He also notices some confusion at CNN over the meaning of wingnut and moonbat. That stoked my curiosity about the etymology of moonbat. Here's Safire in The Times:
There was enough of an e-maelstrom about the coinage of moonbat to lead to the origin. This included the entry in Wikipedia, a free online cooperative encyclopedia that was recently the subject of a New Yorker article and is giving the professionally edited Britannica fits. (Curiously, Eric Raymond, described in the magazine as “the open-source pioneer,” is quoted accusing Wikipedia of being “infested with moonbats.”)
The online source reports that “the phrase was popularized in 2002 by Perry de Havilland of Samizdata.net, a libertarian blog. . .originally rendered as ‘Barking Moonbat,’ suggesting that certain issues seem to trigger a reflexive response from some people much like wolves howl at the moon.”
Reached at the blog he founded, de Havilland says he began using the term in 1999, during his “preblogging days.” He holds that it is nonideological: “Although the term has become beloved by conservatives to describe people on the left, and certainly I think the quintessential moonbat is Noam Chomsky, it is really quite an ‘ecumenical’ term of abuse for dogmatists of any ilk — left, right or libertarian.”
But coiners can’t be choosers; when it comes to political Americanisms, usage determines meaning, and the overwhelming use of moonbat is in derogation of what used to be called “the loony left.” Loony comes from luna, Latin for “moon,” root of lunatic, one supposedly influenced by the moon.