The Power of (Right Wing) Myth

-->
Bush Administration, conservatism

Regarding Bush’s Vietnam speech and other manglings of history — Glenn Greenwald wrote last week:

On a different note, is the curriculum for history classes in some American states restricted to learning about Hitler and the Nazis and 1938 and Hitler and Germany? It must be, because there are many right-wing fanatics whose entire understanding of the world is reduced in every instance to that sole historical event — as though the world began in 1937, ended in 1945, and we just re-live that moment in time over and over and over:

Love war? You are Churchill, a noble warrior. Oppose war? You’re Chamberlain, a vile appeaser. And everyone else is Hitler. That, more or less, composes the full scope of “thought” among this strain on the right.

These words gave me an epiphany: The key to understanding right-wing rhetoric can be found in an episode of the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

In “Darmok” (originally aired 1991) the crew of the Enterprise encounters the Tamarians, a people with an incomprehensible language. “We come in peace,” say the Enterprise crew. “Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra,” reply the Tamarians. “Temba, his arms wide.” The Next Generationers are baffled.

But then Captain Picard and Dathon the Tamarian have an adventure together battling an invisible beast, and during this adventure Picard has a “Helen Keller at the water pump” moment and realizes that Tamarians speak in metaphors taken from stories. For example, “Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra” refers to two enemies, Darmok and Jalad, who became allies at Tenagra. As a phrase, it means “Let’s put aside our differences and be friends.” So after much suspense and drama and the death of the unfortunate Dathon, by the end of the episode Picard knows enough Tamarian to say, “Bye. It’s been real.”

When I saw this episode I wondered how a people who speak only in metaphors could develop technology. I imagined them trying to fix plumbing, saying “Toona and the floods of Wippawop” to mean “who’s got the basin wrench?” It seems cumbersome. But let’s worry about that some other time. The point I want to make here is that when righties talk about history, they are not talking about what actually happened in the past. Instead, they are evoking historical persons and events as archetype and allegory.

Thus, when they speak of Winston Churchill, they are not speaking of the real Winston Churchill. They are speaking of what Winston Churchill represents in their minds, which is the stubborn refusal to back down from a fight. In fact, the real Winston Churchill wrote a letter to Prime Minister David Lloyd George in 1922 advising him that British troops should abandon Iraq.

I think we should now put definitely, not only to Feisal but to the Constituent Assembly, the position that unless they beg us to stay and to stay on our own terms in regard to efficient control, we shall actually evacuate before the close of the financial year. I would put this issue in the most brutal way, and if they are not prepared to urge us to stay and to co-operate in every manner I would actually clear out. That at any rate would be a solution. … At present we are paying eight millions a year for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano out of which we are in no circumstances to get anything worth having.

But instead of actually studying the life and words of Churchill for understanding, righties simply evoke the man as an archetype of bulldog, never-give-up tenacity. I’ve read that Bush keeps a bust of Churchill in the oval office, for inspiration. And perhaps there’s something like tantric identity yoga going on here; Bush imagines himself to be the great Churchill, the wrathful dakini of Stubbornness.

Very likely righties associate Churchill with his great oratory of World War II and know little else about him. They don’t stop to consider that in his “blood, sweat, and tears” speech Churchill was talking about a major military power capable of raining bombs on London (and, in fact, preparing to do so). Hitler’s Germany and today’s Iraq are in no way equivalent — except in the minds of righties, for whom “Hitler” has become the Demon Enemy whose spirit infests the bodies of all enemies, whoever they are and whatever their capabilities and intentions.

By the same token, Neville Chamberlain is the archetype of cowardly appeasement. Righties may know little else about the man except that he “appeased” Hitler — not an uncommon practice among right wingers of the 1930s, who considered Hitler and Mussolini to be swell guys who hated communism as much as they did.

In fact, former White House correspondent Lynne Olson argued awhile back that Bush was a lot more like the real Chamberlain than the real Churchill:

Like Bush, and unlike Churchill, Chamberlain came to office with almost no understanding of foreign affairs or experience in dealing with international leaders. None the less, he was convinced that he alone could bring Hitler and Mussolini to heel. He surrounded himself with like-minded advisers, and refused to heed anyone who told him otherwise. In the months leading up to war, Chamberlain and his men saw little need to build a strong coalition of European allies to confront Nazi Germany – ignoring appeals from Churchill and others to fashion a “grand alliance”.

Unlike Bush and Chamberlain, Churchill was never in favour of his country going it alone. Throughout the 1930s, while urging Britain to rearm, he strongly supported using the League of Nations – the forerunner of the United Nations – to provide smaller countries with one-for-all and all-for-one security. After the league failed to stop fascism’s march, Churchill was adamant that Britain must form a true partnership with France and even reach agreement with the despised Soviet Union, neither of which Chamberlain was willing to do.

Like Bush, Chamberlain laid claim to unprecedented executive authority, evading the checks and balances supposed to constrain the office of prime minister. He scorned dissenting views, inside and outside government. When Chamberlain arranged his face-to-face meetings with Hitler in 1938 that ended in the catastrophic Munich conference, he did so without consulting his cabinet. He also bypassed the House of Commons, leading Harold Macmillan, a future Tory prime minister and then an anti-appeasement MP, to complain that Chamberlain was treating parliament “like a Reichstag, to meet only to hear the orations and to register the decrees of the government”.

Olson goes on in this vein for a while — really, there are a number of startling parallels between Bush and Chamberlain, so do read the whole thing. About a year ago Keith Olbermann also made some Bush-Chamberlain comparisons on Countdown.

In the rightie mind, any attempt to avoid war is “appeasement.” In his new book A Tragic Legacy, Glenn Greenwald writes (p. 177) that when Ronald Reagan signed the INF treaty with the Soviet Union in 1988, rightie editorialists everywhere evoked Neville Chamberlain and accused Reagan of “appeasement.” Earlier, in 1984, Newt Gingrich scorned Reagan’s rapprochement with Gorbachev as “the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolph Hitler met with Chamberlain in 1938 at Munich.”

Got that? All “enemies” are Hitler (whatever you think of Gorbachev, he’s hardly Hitler). So much as meeting with “enemies” is Chamberlain and Hitler at Munich. So how do we deal with nations whose interests don’t harmonize with ours? Rightie mythos leaves us with no option but war.

Speaking of Reagan — this past January, conservative Ron Dreher spoke on NPR about why he became a Republican:

My first real political memory came in 1979. It was listening to Jimmy Carter tell the nation about the failed hostage rescue mission. I hated him for that. I hated him for the whole Iran mess, shaming America before our enemies with weakness and incompetence.

When Ronald Reagan was elected president the next year, I stayed up late to hear his victory speech. America was saved. I was 13 years old, and I was a Reaganite from that moment on.

My generation came of age politically under Reagan. To me, he was strong and confident. Democrats were weak and depressed. Like so many other Gen-X’ers, I disliked people I thought of as hippies, those blame America first liberals so hung up on Vietnam. They surrendered to the communists back then, just like they want to do that. Republicans were winners, Democrats defeatists. What more did you need to know?

The point of Dreher’s essay is that the Iraq War caused him to realize, suddenly and painfully, that the dirty bleeping hippies (whose spirits infest the dark nightmares of righties, who still fear them, even though I haven’t spotted a live one since about 1974) had reasons to be opposed to the Vietnam War. This, apparently, had never dawned on him before. Dreher seems to have believed that hippies oppose war for the same reason swallows return to Capistrano — it’s just the nature of the beast.

I call today’s righties the “Reagan generation” because so many of them are Gen-X’ers whose first memories of politics and national events involved Carter and Reagan. They weren’t so much taught politics as imprinted with the Reagan mythos. For them, all Democrats are Jimmy Carter, an archetype of wimpy passivity. Reagan represents confidence, action, sunniness. The two of them together represent opposing forces that tell the entire story of American politics. Nothing more needs to be understood or thought through. Democrats bad, Republicans good, end of argument.

The actual persons Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan are/were far more complicated than the Carter and Reagan archetypes, of course, and they both have/had their virtues and flaws. Today’s righties have forgotten the “Reagan and Gorbachev sign the INF treaty” story, and it has passed out of rightie mythos. They also persistently overlook Reagan’s raising of taxes after he lowered them and his quick skedaddle out of Lebanon after the Marine barracks tragedy. What’s important to them is not what Reagan actually did as President, but what he represents emotionally and mythically.

In fact, the mythical Carter/Reagan dichotomy — Carter as murky, depressed, weak, passive and Reagan as clear, sunny, strong, and active — is exactly the yin/yang dichotomy. I could write a whole ‘nother post on gender politics and the many associations of liberalism with femininity and conservatism with masculinity, never mind reality. In fact, I did write that post awhile back. But for now, I just want to point to this as another layer of the right-wing subconscious and postulate that men with gender insecurity are more likely to lean right than left.

So yesterday, after years of denying historical comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam, President Bush delivered a speech comparing Iraq to Vietnam. To which much of America responded, WTF? Today America’s newspapers are peppered with complaints from historians that Bush’s speech distorted the facts of the Vietnam War. But of course; what actually happened during and after the war was not the point. He was speaking to those still inclined to support the war, and to them, Vietnam represents national disgrace. It also represents allowing the forces of darkness to scamper unhindered over the land. When Bush spoke of “killing fields,” for example, rightie listeners could relate. There was a movie about that, after all, never mind that the killing fields of Cambodia didn’t happen because America withdrew from Vietnam, but because we were bleeping there.

“It is undoubtedly true that America’s failure in Vietnam led to catastrophic consequences in the region, especially in Cambodia,” said David C. Hendrickson, a specialist on the history of American foreign policy at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

“But there are a couple of further points that need weighing,” he added. “One is that the Khmer Rouge would never have come to power in the absence of the war in Vietnam — this dark force arose out of the circumstances of the war, was in a deep sense created by the war. The same thing has happened in the Middle East today. Foreign occupation of Iraq has created far more terrorists than it has deterred.”

Ah, but let us not bother with facts. Facts are for wonks and women. Real men, heroic men, listen to their hearts, or perhaps something else located along the lower part of the brain stem. We need not fear actual consequences of our actions. Our quest is to re-enter the heart of darkness and slay the demon therein, even though he is probably us. And if we fail, the failure will not be ours, but will be the Democratic Party’s. Win/win.

We lefties sometimes persist in trying to reason with righties. I’ve given up, mind you, but there are those who still try. But I say this is futile. As with the encounter between the Enterprise and the Tamarians, we don’t understand each others words. “We want what’s best for America,” we say. “Chamberlain and Hitler at Munich!” they cry. “Sam Waterson and John Malkovich in Phnom Penh! FDR at Yalta!” Perhaps they would listen to us if we convinced them we were channeling the spirit of John Wayne at Iwo Jima.

Share
108 Comments

98 Comments

  1. biggerbox  •  Aug 23, 2007 @1:02 pm

    As I recall that TNG episode, the alien captain ends up dead, killed by the monster because Picard didn’t know the metaphorical way to shout “Look out behind you!!”

    Sadly, it’s our troops and thousands of Iraqis who are ending up dead because we didn’t know how to communicate “invading would be a really, really stupid idea” in the mythic metaphor of the Right. (Actually, given my limited understanding of the ‘language’, I’m not sure it is actually even possible to express the concept of a war being a bad idea. I think any attempt ends up coming out as ‘Chamberlain, his arms wide.’)

    By choosing which interpretations to give their metaphors, rather than acknowledging historical fact, they gain the full power of a delusional system – freedom from reality, and reinforcement of their prejudices, allowing them to act with utter confidence and ruthlessness. Or, as the Tamarians might say “Bush and Cheney in the White House.”

  2. John W  •  Aug 23, 2007 @1:14 pm

    Great Post.
    I agree. I think this whole country views reality through a filter of movies, urban myths and legends as opposed to what actually happened or is happening.

    That’s why we have presidential debates where we have so called journalist asking so called leaders what they would do if they were Keifer Sutherland in “24.”

  3. Forrest  •  Aug 23, 2007 @1:19 pm

    maha said (about “righties” thinking) “Real men… listen to … perhaps something else located along the lower part of the brain stem.”

    Yes, indeed, maha, MUCH lower and to the front. Wussie, girly-men surrender-monkey lefty-liberal men like myself tend to listen higher up, in the reason and rational region. Ya know, I just hate myself for this. Why, oh why, do I listen to my brain and not my bone? Simple:

    Because if there is one thing I know I cannot trust, it’s my “manhood”. If there’s one thing I know I can trust, it’s reason and critical thinking.

  4. spinoza  •  Aug 23, 2007 @1:20 pm

    And then there is the whole MIA Rambo thing.

  5. Jay Parks  •  Aug 23, 2007 @1:20 pm

    Brilliant! Very well written, with good flow, fascinating analogies, and an interested new model for the often perplexing thing called conservative “thought.”

    My wife studies Japanese literature, much of which revolves around “The Tale of Genji” the world’s first written novel (first circulate in print, as opposed to verbally, around 800 AD). Another Japanese art form is the haiku, several forms of ultra-short poems. Because the haiku are so short, they need clever ways of cramming as much information as possible into a few brief sound bites. By cultural consensus, most classical Japanese haiku do this by repeating phrases lifted from the famous tale of Genji. Readers recognize the repeated phrase, and insert the associated images and emotions. Thus, a tiny poem carries much larger nuances of meaning, association, feeling, and mood.

    As you can see, this is a fairly interesting parallel to your “Darmok” analogy. In the case of Japanese haiku, the situation evolved through artists attempting to squeeze meaning into a tiny form.

    In the case of both advertising and TV news sound bites, the promoter is also in the position of squeezing maximum information into a tiny form. In retrospect, it is hardly surprising that they came to use the same techniques employed in the haiku form.

    Here then, is the question: Does the over-reliance of the metaphorical reference stem from the popularity of the media? Or is it an endemic weakness to that type of thought, which merely found an ideal biome in the environment of sound bite news?

    Thank you for the fascinating article.

  6. Bryan  •  Aug 23, 2007 @1:25 pm

    Great article. I’ve noticed this pattern myself, but you pieced it all together wonderfully and clearly.

  7. Mike McPhillips  •  Aug 23, 2007 @1:31 pm

    I agree. Brilliant. I wish more people had the opportunity to consider your thoughts.

  8. drip  •  Aug 23, 2007 @1:33 pm

    When Bush ran in ’00 I asked his supporters how they could support the guy. He didn’t sound like a conservative to me. In fact, except for the crap about Jesus and tax cuts, he said things that sounded alot like Clinton. As time went on, of course, his real views came out, but in the mantime he spoke not of anti choice, but Dred Scott. He spoke not of tax cuts, but of John Kennedy. It was all some kind of code that I didn’t get.

    An even wierder part of this, and you touch on it, is that if you know a lot about say Churchill, or Kennedy, or Dred Scott, or Cambodia, the analogies make no sense but it would take an hour to explain why its a stupid analogy and the people who need to hear it won’t listen anyway. Its all emotion and no thought.

  9. Will  •  Aug 23, 2007 @1:37 pm

    I’ve got to take issue with your Generation X crack, because, you know, I was under the impression that a lot of you “dirty bleeping hippies” crossed the bleeping line to vote for Regan. I was four at the time. What was your excuse? What many young leftists like myself despise about our notional hippie forbears (speaking of symbols rather than substance), is that their idealism was just a rebellious pose to be shucked when no longer fashionable.

    Just as the right uses the ludicrously broad brush of WWII to paint every conflict black and white, so too do leftists often tar two generations of their own children as a bunch of deluded slobs. Young people need work- it’s no secret that getting an 18 year old to the polling station often requires a damn draft. But for those of us in the baby trough, the unreflective nostalgia of our forbears for WWII, Viet Nam, or the Regan Era all rings false. False and gross.

  10. My name is url  •  Aug 23, 2007 @1:39 pm

    Cultural life in this country has been turned into a La-La Land of symbolic language and images and that lack real content but are powerful-sounding. To some degree or another, all of us inhabit this world of symbols and illusions. But to those without real critical thinking skills (which includes, but is not limited to, the far-right) this is the totality of their reality. Read Deer Hunting With Jesus by Joe Bageant, particularly the chapter “Republicans By Default” to see just how pervasive and interlocked this system of propaganda and myth is (and thanks to Maha for recommending this book).

    The thing about righties, though, is unlike most in the U.S. they actually have strong feelings about politics and “national destiny”, which is a dangerous mix for those who can’t distinguish between thought and emotions, nor between myth and reality. It’s bad enough that most people in this country just amble along in a television-brainwashed stupor–these guys are capable of doing serious dirty work for those who wish to make this country a military dictatorship.

    Their completely twisted (and childishly oversimplified) view of Churchill and Chamberlain just epitomizes how wrong their view of world events is. As Maha points out, most of their ilk thought Hitler was just swell, and viciously opposed U.S. intervention in Europe against the Fascists. They were on the wrong side of history then, and they’re on the wrong side of history now.

  11. Lisa  •  Aug 23, 2007 @1:44 pm

    Very interesting post! I think the thing we humans crave most is quick judgements, and the sound bite delivers on that. Even those of us on the left express ideas in terms of simplistic (and therefore inherently incomplete or untrue) metaphors.

    That’s why a blue dress with stains on it will get more attention than an S&L scandal. One is a simple, vivid symbol for sex, the other is a complex issue demanding thought and attention.

    And now, we look forward to the day when Bush is “Mirab, his sails unfurled” from the White House.

  12. maha  •  Aug 23, 2007 @1:47 pm

    I was four at the time. What was your excuse?

    In 1980 I was 29 and voted for Carter. I make no excuses for that.

    You have my meaning backward. I did not intend to say that all Gen Xers supported Reagan. Rather, my point was that a disproportionate number of today’s righties are Gen-Xers who first noticed politics in the Carter/Reagan years. I stand by that, too.

  13. sniflheim  •  Aug 23, 2007 @1:50 pm

    I recommend a recent book–In Command of History: Churchill Writing and Fighting the Second World War. I’d tell you about it but my head is like a sieve these days. Or in Tamarian: Gipper, 1986.

  14. Chris  •  Aug 23, 2007 @1:53 pm

    That was a particularly memorable ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ episode. Under the heading of utterly trivial, however, it’s ‘Tanagra’, as per the town near Thebes and the not-so-famous ancient Greek battle, not ‘Tenegra’. :)

    It’s a shame you’ve given up trying to talk to those with the opposite political views, as this means you’re left talking only to those people who agree with you… somewhat harder to promote change.

    Still, leave the diplomacy to the diplomats I suppose…

    Best wishes!

  15. maha  •  Aug 23, 2007 @1:58 pm

    It’s a shame you’ve given up trying to talk to those with the opposite political views

    I will speak with anyone capable of rational discussion, whatever their political orientation. This, however, leaves out all hard-core righties. One occasionally finds a “soft” rightie who is willing to engage in actual conversation, but it’s rare.

  16. Proud American Liberal  •  Aug 23, 2007 @2:02 pm

    Great article! That SNG episode was when the writing for the whole Star Trek “Enterprise”(pun intended) was nearing its zenith.

    I seem to remember a lot of writing about how Reagan sometimes couldn’t tremember whether he was in a movie or in real life. I suppose that may have been the onset of the Alzheimer’s, but it was sure indicative of the neocon mindset.

  17. Hugh G. Rection  •  Aug 23, 2007 @2:18 pm

    Of course…The righties HAVE to play the myth card. That truth stuff doesn’t work so good for them. Besides, the myth is so much more useful..it works on everything…

    As for “talking” to most righties, you’ll never get too far, as they have a myth for that too…known as the “other” , or as “those people who hate America and are stabbing us in the back”.

    The most I expect to accomplish is to attack all their intellectual dishonesty, and to pull them into a legitimate debate…..which usually doesn’t last too long, as it becomes obvious real quick that their philosohpy is a house of lies….

  18. moonbat  •  Aug 23, 2007 @2:21 pm

    This is perceptive, brilliant, and needs to be seen by many more people. I somehow missed that particular episode of TNG, and I was a real Trekkie back then. Make it so, Number 1.

    I touched on a piece of this, the role of emotion in political speech, by mentioning Drew Westen’s book, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation – but your insights take this to a whole ‘nother level. Great work.

    I was going to add that in addition to mythologizing the past, righties live in this past, but I think lefties are often guilty of this as well, just not as much. I’m tempted to say the critical distinction is between those who apply critical thinking versus those who don’t, but even this doesn’t fully capture it.

    Righties selectively remember the past and use it for emotional comfort, and so their thoughts and words are about this emotional context, not about what really happened. Their preference for this mythical past over the real-world present means they can never see the present as it really is. We lefties are guilty of this too, but we at least regard this as a danger and a bias to avoid; the right instead believes in the certainty and righteousness of their illusions, fully going along with their seductiveness.

  19. moonbat  •  Aug 23, 2007 @2:23 pm

    aw, crap – screwed up the anchor tag (#17)…

  20. maha  •  Aug 23, 2007 @2:25 pm

    moonbat — in my capacity as Comments Queen I fixed the anchor tag. :-)

  21. My name is url  •  Aug 23, 2007 @2:27 pm

    As a card-carrying member of Generation X, I thought I would weigh in on this…

    My first political memory was the 1980 presidential election. I had just started kindergarten and was aware that an election was happening (probably from television). I asked my mom who she was voting for. Carter, she told me. So I said, “then he’s going to win?” “No, Reagan probably will.” I was so disillusioned.

    Nevertheless, by the time I was old enough to have opinions about politics and world issues, I was pretty solidly liberal/Democrat and have been since. Hell, even in junior high school I used to rip a born-again Christian friend of mine apart on things like abortion, evolution, and school prayer.

    I don’t know exactly how I absorbed all the political opinions I did during the 80′s, but I always knew that the right-wing and conservatives in general were full of crap. Further, practically all my friends did too (save for that one guy, who later actually did come around in a big way). An anti-authoritarian generational ethos was just pervasive. We all mocked televangelists, abortion nuts, and (the first) George Bush. And I’m from a fairly conservative part of the country, too.

  22. Batocchio  •  Aug 23, 2007 @2:35 pm

    Very nicely put, Maha. Conservatives really like the image of a strong leader, and often ignore facts and history. Giuliani talks really tough but his policies would be disastrous. Thompson plays folksy and “jes folks” when he’s lead a pampered life (as did Reagan and the present Bush). The GOP need their strong daddy figure. Churchill was also quite the bigot in his earlier years, and after the war he was the wrong leader for Britain and they tossed him out. That’s not to discount what he did during WWII, but the need for hero worship is acutely strong among authoritarians, most of whom are Republicans (not surprisingly). While I’ve seen many writers touch on these themes, your post captures them very nicely and clearly (and it’s timely!). And the Hitler of the day is…

  23. phastphil  •  Aug 23, 2007 @2:38 pm

    One of my few favorite Star Trek episodes.
    Now you’ve done it. I’ve been saying I should go out and buy
    George Lakoff’s “Metaphors We Live By”. Now I will.
    Great post!

  24. bastard_amber  •  Aug 23, 2007 @2:39 pm

    I truly think this is one of the best articles I have ever read on my computer screen.

    And LOL funny.

    Seriously, keep up the good work.

  25. Jack H.  •  Aug 23, 2007 @2:48 pm

    Insightful post. The false dichotomy supported by mythic historical archetypes tied to mythic historical events is in virtually every 30%er rant when you look for it.

  26. Dave  •  Aug 23, 2007 @2:49 pm

    I whole heartily agree with this post. A couple years ago i was trying to comprehend how it was conservatives could so easily dismiss facts and reason for blind faith in all that the Bushies have been doing, and it dawned on me that conservatives are hot and bothered over male authoritarian archetypes who never express any doubt.

    As well symbolic male role models, prefeerable wearing hats, Fireman, Police officer, Army man etc..

  27. RT Firefly  •  Aug 23, 2007 @2:51 pm

    You write “But instead of actually studying the life and words of Churchill for understanding, righties simply evoke the man as an archetype of bulldog, never-give-up tenacity. “

    Regarding the “studying of words” aspect, righties and our MSM talking heads seem to rarely consider the meaning of words. If something sounds reasonable, they no longer look for meaning, instead just accepting the new phraseology. For instance, I recall that as all the supposed justifications for the Iraq invasion were rapidly proving to be false (WMD and ties to OBL), the media talking heads and pundits started to refer to the war as a “war of choice.” But, what does “war of choice mean”…what reasonable inferences may be drawn? If it was indeed a choice, doesn’t that mean it did not need to be waged? Doesn’t that mean that Iraq posed no imminent threat to our national security? And, if it did not need to be waged and we were not immediately threatened (instead choosing to do it), how is a “war of choice” not a war of aggression?

  28. Dr Zaius  •  Aug 23, 2007 @2:54 pm

    What an excellent post. Crooks and Liars linked me here, and I found the article quite brilliant. I think I’ll subscribe to the RSS.

  29. My name is url  •  Aug 23, 2007 @2:58 pm

    RT Firefly:

    By the end of 2003 they went from “we have no choice but to invade Iraq” to “it was our choice to invade Iraq”. It was seamless, instant, and total. And no one made any bones about it.

    Four legs good, two legs bad better. They just never notice or care. They can’t think.

  30. eric  •  Aug 23, 2007 @3:02 pm

    Excellent post and genuinely original insight.

    I say, “Sokath, his eyes uncovered”.

  31. JohnJ  •  Aug 23, 2007 @3:14 pm

    Thank you. I hate to admit it but you just SOFTENED my opinion of the righties. I gave up trying to find a justification for their warped view besides personal greed; that is I thought they didn’t actually believe their own BS since it had no logic to it, but espoused that stuff to justify their need to be in charge. Now I see that at least there is most likely a (childish, ignorant) reason for their beliefs.

  32. pluky  •  Aug 23, 2007 @3:15 pm

    But all human language is metaphor. Some terms’ components are very far removed from their tangible referents, but the links remain. Open an etymological dictionary, and ‘unpack’ a few words to see what I mean. Our problems arise when: we confuse our metaphors with reality; we disconnect them from reality losing sense of what they actually imply; or, worst of all, we coin them out of our phantasies of what we want to be real.

    Metaphor is a powerful tool. Through it complicated ideas and emotions can be related with the sparest of allusions. However, rigorous critical examination of their use is required lest internal delusion lead to acceptance of external illusion.

  33. aimai  •  Aug 23, 2007 @3:16 pm

    This is just a *stunningly* great post. I just had to delurk to tell you how brilliant I think it is.
    aimai

  34. DemoChristian  •  Aug 23, 2007 @3:22 pm

    Brilliant. You are not only correct in your analysis but apt in your comparison.
    Just as the Children of Darmok communicated in metaphor, they had to actually think differently than the humans of the TNG universe.
    And Conservatives generally think in a different fashion than progressives, liberals and the humans of our reality.
    While most of us who do think, rather than blindly allow others to do so for us, think of history as a series of causal / effective events and actions, the Conservative mind does not. It sees major events as the results of a sort of fluid dynamics of power relationships.
    To them there is an ebb and flow of power that conserves the total. Therefore some will always be subjegated by others and only an overwhelming concentration of power in one area prevent that power from being washed away to other areas.
    You can see the truth of this proposition in the rhetoric of power that conservative pundits and politicians employ. “Us or them” leaves no room for accomidation or compromise. “Emboldening” becomes more important than “arming” as it allows the enemy to siphon away that which is most fluid in a power struggle: resolve.
    I have friends who are Conservatives. We cannot talk politics because their words carry different refferants than mine I say Viet Nam and mean unprovoked war that diminishes all and defied all attempts to forsee the aftermath. They mean a war that dirty hippies and liberal media kept our brave boys from winning, causing the world too see us as weak!

  35. Tony  •  Aug 23, 2007 @3:30 pm

    I can’t see how this is a trait peculiar to the right-wing… and especially *all* of right-wing argument. Aren’t many in the left-wing just as guilty of ignoring the negatives of those they honor… and glossing over the successes of those they condemn?

    Yup.

    This blog entry is a grand example of that which it seeks to highlight. Selective intellectual honesty and moth-eaten blanket statements make for good partisan backslapping, but that’s about all. Change some of the right-wing references to “politicians”, and add a truths about Carter and Clinton, and this might last a commentary on politics in the US.

  36. Kelly Logan  •  Aug 23, 2007 @3:31 pm

    I have done quite a bit of work trying to talk to those on the far-right on forums from the older BushCountry.org to issue off-shoots like discussglobalwarming.com. Maha nails the problem I had so often, which was that there never seemed to be any real information behind what they said, just these catch-phrases and myths.

    It’s like being a parent driving with the stereotypical backseat of children saying over and over “are we there yet?” No matter how definitive or informative of an answer you give, it will not mollify children with no realistic sense of time or distance. You have to relate your answers to things that they understand, or to find a way to engage them to figure out the answer themselves.

    It is not impossible to talk to these people, but it requires first confronting the difficult task of re-engaging their thought processes. Find related questions that do not confront their mythos and pat answers and you can find some very bright and interesting opinions. Just be prepared to have them fall back into metaphor and myth at any moment and don’t take it personally when they do.

  37. maha  •  Aug 23, 2007 @3:31 pm

    But all human language is metaphor.

    Well, language is all conceptualization. One learns in Zen 101 that language is not reality. I touched on this in the Wisdom of Doubt series. And all words may be connected to metaphors. But the language itself, the syntax, may or may not be metaphorical. “Who’s got the basin wrench?” is not a metaphorical statement if you really are inquiring about the identity of the person possessing the basin wrench.

  38. maha  •  Aug 23, 2007 @3:47 pm

    I can’t see how this is a trait peculiar to the right-wing…

    I didn’t say it was exclusively a right-wing trait. However, it is damn certainly common to the right wing.

    and especially *all* of right-wing argument.

    I think is it, but note that I make a distinction between “right wing” and “conservative” in the classic sense. This is something I write about a lot, most recently here.

    Aren’t many in the left-wing just as guilty of ignoring the negatives of those they honor… and glossing over the successes of those they condemn?

    This isn’t about ignoring the negatives of those they honor, which of course lefties sometimes do also. It’s about the difference between logos and mythos, which is another matter entirely.

    We lefties (with exceptions) tend to explain and analyze issues rather than “believe in” one view or another. Righties, on the other hand, tend to pick up narratives to explain to themselves what they are supposed to believe. They tell stories, in other words. This isn’t an original idea of mine; it’s a widely observed phenomenon.

  39. myiq2xu  •  Aug 23, 2007 @3:57 pm

    Unfortunately for Wingnuttia, Hollywood makes movies, not documentaries. Movies not only “dramatize” history, they rewrite it.

    Classic Example: “The Delta Force” with Chuck Norris. In real life, a TWA plane was hijacked, one passenger (a US sailor) was killed, and after protracted negotiations, the hostages were freed.

    This happened in 1985, when Reagan was in his second term as President.

    But in the movie, Chuck Norris leads a Delta Force unit that rescues the hostages and kills all the terrorists.

    Guess which version the Wingnuts believe is real?

  40. Kelly Logan  •  Aug 23, 2007 @4:07 pm

    pluky – Yes, all language is in some sense metaphorical, just as it is all abstract, by definition. But the problem is in using a metaphor to prove an argument instead of facts.

    A good use of a metaphor is as a tool of understanding, to help someone understand details of your argument that they may not have experience with. This leaves the other person more informed as they have a connection to information that they may not have made as easily.

    A bad use of a metaphor is to replace details of your argument entirely. This leaves the other person less informed than they were to begin with, because now instead of a connection to information, they have a mental dead-end that supercedes any understanding they may have been able to make otherwise.

  41. sniflheim  •  Aug 23, 2007 @4:16 pm

    Tony, I actually find that the (U.S.) right-wing command of its grand narratives and catchphrases is fairly distinctive and definitive–it even imposes itself on the Democrats to a great extent. The Democrats are paralyzed in the face of cries of “appeasement” and “coddling terrorists” as they have been on earlier squawks of “soft on crime” and “taxing and spending.” Now the right’s narratives are swallowing them up along with much of the press and maybe our democracy…. It’s a little like something Arthur Koestler once wrote about.

  42. Griff  •  Aug 23, 2007 @4:47 pm

    Maha,
    Great post! True believers, whether of the whacko right or post-modernist left can’t be argued with. It will make you as crazy as they are.
    Griff

  43. umlando  •  Aug 23, 2007 @5:10 pm

    Damn clever. I wish I had thought of this essay. I’m going to bookmark your page and probably wish the same thing again later.

    I was especially struck by the cardboard cutouts in Bush’s speech yesterday. It seemed to me he was on a stage, pointing at props, rather than standing with veterans, talking about the past and history.

    Bush’s set designer (speechwriter) put in a bit about the Killing Fields, and Bush repeated it, but he has never to my recollection expressed his concern for the loss of life in SE Asia before.

    In fact, it seems to me that his wing of the GOP has been complaining of late that the US didn’t kill enough SE Asians. That, if only we had, things would have been better.

    Or, in Tamarian, “Helicopters on the Embassy roof.”

  44. Sven  •  Aug 23, 2007 @5:13 pm

    That was delicious…and geeky.

    It really does all come down to “Siegfried and Hagen at Worms.”

  45. dpkesling  •  Aug 23, 2007 @5:24 pm

    I have just finished rereading William Shirer’s book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I would highly recommend this book to anyone as authoritative scholarship by a correspondent actually in Germany, present at many of the events described. You’ll discover that the current administrator is seriously very Nazi-like in what they do. Further, you’ll have a much more critical view of pseudo-scholars’ erudition.

  46. Dave  •  Aug 23, 2007 @5:32 pm

    Fabulous post, Maha. Something else occurred to me while reading it…. I always believed that Jesus spoke mostly in metaphors, to convey difficult concepts to unsophisticated and unlettered people who were used to getting their news from story tellers, and I never understood why people who consider the bible to be historical fact couldn’t grasp that concept. And here you go, laying the answer at my feet. Brilliant.

  47. nonny mouse  •  Aug 23, 2007 @5:35 pm

    Language and war has always been a problem. I had an old (meaning he was old enough to have remembered it) friend tell me of a debacle during WWII, with Brits and Americans fighting the Japanese in the Pacific. The Brits were under fierce attack and radioed in to the Americans for help. But, being Brits, they phrased it along the lines of:

    ‘Having a spot of bother here, old chums. Would you mind awfully popping over to help us out a wee bit?’ – which those who speak ‘Brit’ can jolly well translate into American as ‘We’re getting our asses kicked to shit, get yours over here pronto, bring lotsa guns!’ But the Americans, not being au fait with ‘Brit-speak’ didn’t think it was anything more than a mild update.

    The Yanks never showed up.The Brits were slaughtered wholesale. Few survived.

    All because the English and the Americans may use similiar words, but don’t understand each other’s language all that well.

  48. Gordon  •  Aug 23, 2007 @5:42 pm

    Great post, even by your own high standards.

    So – do we start using Family Guy and Simpsons episodes to counter them?

  49. Peter Gaffney  •  Aug 23, 2007 @5:47 pm

    I’ve got to believe Bush is making a mistake invoking Vietnam. I think the primary association people have with Vietnam is “quagmire” rather than “potential victory undermined by lefty opposition at home.” The counter-argument is that at this point Bush is only concerned with hanging on to to the far right, because he’s irretrievably lost everybody else — he figures that to keep the operation in Iraq going, all he has to do is keep enough support in Congress to sustain a veto. But in fact he also needs to avoid turning soft opposition to the war into something more vehement; Democrats in Congress COULD get mad enough (or brave enough) to cut off funding.

    When will human beings finally get it through their heads that a foreign army can’t beat a determined local insurgency (at least without being absolutely ruthless)? We’ve got example after example — France in Algeria and Vietnam, America in Vietnam and Iraq, Russia in Afghanistan and Chechnya, Israel in Lebanon. (Are there any good counter-examples — other than little countries like Panama and Grenada? I suppose you can go way back to the Boer War — in which my grandfather fought, as it happens, as a soldier in the British Army — or the Philippine Insurrection.)

    And yet the Administration is still gearing up to attack Iran. Even though we have no troops for it. Even though experts say there’s no certainty that an aerial bombing campaign could take out their nuclear capability. Even though we don’t have (as we did in Iraq) a hope of gaining the support of the Iranian people. Even though attacking Iran would be bound to render our position in Iraq even more untenable. Even though Iran would surely fight back with the only weapon at its disposal — terrorism, directed against America and probably Israel. This is not just a matter of the immorality of inflicting death and destruction on untold thousands of innocent people; it’s a matter — I firmly believe — of almost guaranteed failure. Catastrophic failure, most likely. (I don’t even believe Iran is unalterably committed to being our enemy; after all, by toppling Saddam we’ve done it the biggest favor imaginable, and now our continued presence in Iraq serves as a buffer against the Saudis.)

    Could it really be that all these people care about is perpetuating a state of war, to hold on to power and to continue generating big profits for the corporations in the Military-Industrial Complex, regardless of victory or defeat? I honestly don’t believe that. Those are partial motivations, I don’t doubt, but I think Cheney et al — those who are pushing for this war — really believe they can drop a few thousand tons of bombs on Iran and walk away with a clear, painless (for us) victory, eliminating Iran’s nuclear potential and probably causing the fall of the Iranian government.

    Somebody needs to tell them they’re wrong.

  50. Evan  •  Aug 23, 2007 @6:01 pm

    except in the minds of righties, for whom “Hitler” has become the Demon Enemy whose spirit infests the bodies of all enemies, whoever they are and whatever their capabilities and intentions.

    I like to refer to this as the “Designated Hitler” rule.

  51. Telstar Logistics  •  Aug 23, 2007 @6:32 pm

    Smart post! I’ve always liked that episode.

    Actually, you’ve hit on a very insightful question. And as it happens, there is a great and very detailed historical example of what happens when a society relies (too) heavily on metaphor, and what impact that has on its concept of science: Pre-1900 China.

    The Chinese believed that all reality could be explained through metaphors that describe the relationship between their five cardinal elements: Wind, Water, Earth, Metal, and Fire. (No Earth Wind and Fire jokes here, please.)

    In academic jargon, this is called correlative thinking (as in, making correlations), and it was the dominant strain of thought for Chinese scientists for centuries. You can read a good summary of this here.

    All of which is to say:

    a) You’ve hit upon a fascinating question

    b) There’s a very long and detailed historical case study you can examine to understand the impact of metaphor on science, and

    c) In general, the consensus is that correlative thinking stunted the development of Chinese science, because it proved very simplistic and limiting. It was less about understanding reality than it was about comparing things within the context of pre-determined frameworks. This is often cited as one of the reasons why, even though China invented lots of cool stuff (gunpowder, magnetic compasses, etc.), as a culture, its scientific understanding of the world remained extremely limited.

    Draw whatever political conclusions from this that you will…

  52. Lynne  •  Aug 23, 2007 @6:42 pm

    A star turn, Barbara. Brava!

  53. XPM  •  Aug 23, 2007 @6:46 pm

    Last night on Situation Room, Blitzer helpfully pointed out the despite Bush’s claims, the Khymer Rouge forces were defeated by “the South Vietnamese army”.

    Oops.

  54. Matt  •  Aug 23, 2007 @7:52 pm

    Regarding that Star trek episode, I think they lifted that idea from the author Gene Wolfe’s book The Citadel of the Autarch. The protagonist ends up in a military hospital, and in the next bed lies a soldier of the enemy side. It turns out the enemy shares the same language, but they can only speak using phrases from the Great Book which controls their society. So, they have a library of several thousand aphorisms to chose from, and nothing more. Nevertheless there is a great scene where the soldier tells a story to the ward, and the nurse, who is familiar with their “language”, is abe to translate his stock quotes from the Book into what turns out to be a version of the parable of the Prodigal Son.

  55. riskman  •  Aug 23, 2007 @8:07 pm

    “Does the over-reliance of the metaphorical reference stem from the popularity of the media? Or is it an endemic weakness to that type of thought, which merely found an ideal biome in the environment of sound bite news?”

    It’s endemic. As someone else said, all emotion and no reason. Stuck at about age 6 (the followers) or puberty (the leaders).

    Authoritarian right-wing followers want someone to tell them what to do, and they subscribe to basically magical religion. It helps to remember that many of them can’t read very well and have forgotten what little they may have been taught in school.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/21/AR2007082101053.html

    Authoritarian right-wing leaders use metaphor to rile up their follower’s emotions. And what the leaders believe in is they’re gonna get what’s their due and to hell with everybody else.

    There’s a book about this, with decades of hardcore research behind it:

    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

    For direct application to current politics, see John W. Dean’s Conservatives without Conscience.

    Most of these people haven’t even developed to the conventional stage of getting along because it’s best for everybody; witness their willingness to shred the constitution whenever the leaders find a way to scare the followers. This is why paleoconservatives who actually believe in small government, lower taxes, individual liberties, and conventional stuff like that eventually come to disagree with the RWAs.

    Few of them have developed to the stage of rational thought sufficient to write a constitution; witness their complete failure at nation-building in Iraq. The few who have work on Wall Street or are corporate executives, and are using their reason to make money for them and their cronies.

    Some Democrats are conventional. More are rational. Some are post-modernists; lost of greens are.

    They’re still different from conservatives for reasons explained here:

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=tQRUu_4W2j8

    Or try this apparently independently invented version of
    the same thing:

    http://politicalcompass.org/

    Anyway, I think not talking to conservatives or right wing authoritarians is a mistake. Sure, you’re never going to convince them rationally. But most of them hardly ever heard any new opinions! Hearing anything at all that is out of their usual ambit, especially from someone who they might have some other reason to respect, could have some small effect on them. This doesn’t mean you have to talk to them about politics. Talking to them about *anything* is worthwhile. And if they bring up politics, don’t be silent. State your views. Don’t let them shout you down. Hold your ground. Don’t think you’re going to convince them, but make it clear you have your own opinion. That alone can make a tiny crack in their certainty.

    Besides, what do right wing followers really respect? Power! And standing up for your opinions means to them you have power.

    Chinese man in front of tanks in Tienanmen Square.

  56. maha  •  Aug 23, 2007 @9:23 pm

    Anyway, I think not talking to conservatives or right wing authoritarians is a mistake. Sure, you’re never going to convince them rationally. But most of them hardly ever heard any new opinions!

    I have been talking to them for years, but the only ones I ever encounter are the hard core true believers who come here from links on right-wing sites. I will try to converse with any who seem capable of conversation, but that hardly ever happens. With most of ‘em you might as well try to teach physics to a wolverine.

  57. Repchillean  •  Aug 23, 2007 @9:26 pm

    Churchill on Iraqs Kurds:

    “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes” – Churchill 1919 memo

    source the Beeb: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2719939.stm

  58. maha  •  Aug 23, 2007 @9:39 pm

    Most whites of Churchill’s generation were racist, even white supremacists by our standards. It was the culture they were raised in.

  59. Swami  •  Aug 23, 2007 @10:45 pm

    Great post and great comments. It’s reassuring to read such intelligent and insightful comment and to know that Bush isn’t getting over. And I’m enjoying watching Bush unravel.

  60. Jolic  •  Aug 23, 2007 @11:00 pm

    It has nothing to do with left or right… it has to do with mythicist, romantic thinking versus rationalist thinking. There are an awful lot of rightists whose opinions can be swayed by emotive imagery of their war heroes and their fight against England… and the same is true for leftists who tend to be swayed by the Mother Goddess and the Dying Earth and Gaia and Icarus and Orpheus and so on and so on and so on.

    Human delusion is epidemic and we all suffer as a result.

    Now is the time to cast off the shackles of mythicism… we need to think clearly and directly about the issues that face us. Metaphoric reasoning is good for poetry… it is deadly for a democracy.

  61. Michael Gardner  •  Aug 24, 2007 @12:22 am

    Great post. Interesting facts and comparisons you draw. I’ve never throught of rightees as being like that but now that you’ve put it that way I have to say I agree. In Australia the rightees are down right twisted in their thinking and always leave you wondering where they got that policy / decision from? Maybe thats why up till recently the left opposition has had so much trouble countering them, the logic of the right is so strange as to be alien….unable to communicate a response that legible…

  62. brownbuffalo  •  Aug 24, 2007 @12:31 am

    Another excellent post. I was 18 in 1980 and voted for Reagan. I grew up in Indiana in a very Pro-Republican environment. We loved Richard Lugar. Thought he might be President one day. We thoroughly disliked Birch Bayh, and boy would that young whippersnapper Dan Quayle teach him a thing or two. Basically I hated the Democrats because they were Democrats. It didn’t matter what Carter did. He could have saved all those hostages personally and I still would never have voted for him. There was a Democrat judge that lived in our neighborhood and I hated him.

    Remember the “there’s a bear in the woods” commercial? That was really all it took to tell me that the Republicans generally and Reagan in particular were right for America. Many of the Neoconservative talking points at that time sounded … like the way a free American society should conduct its affairs. They sounded like a right-minded recipe for Freedom. All we needed were our bootstraps and big government off our backs.

    But, 1980 was also the year I left home and went to college. By 1984 I cast my first vote for a Democrat, but only on the local level. (Seemed to me that giant PCB incinerator outside of town wasn’t really the best plan, even if it was what Westinghouse wanted.) But hey, on the National level, who was I going to vote for? Walter Mondale?! But, even as many folks who traditionally voted Democrat switched their support to Reagan in ’84, I began to suspect he and his administration were not all I had been led to believe. I took real exception to Edwin Meese, although James Watt as Secretary of the Interior was also exceedingly off-putting. Anyway, buy the time ketchup was officially declared a vegetable and the details of the Iran-Contra affair started to come out I said good-bye to the GOP and never looked back.

    My point, to the extent I have one, is that while it is true that I wasn’t “so much taught politics as imprinted with the Reagan mythos” and fully possessed the “Democrats bad, Republicans good” world-view, it took about 5 years to disabuse me of these factors. I came around. And if I can do it, heck, there’s still hope for the rest of them.

  63. Fuhrc  •  Aug 24, 2007 @1:50 am

    ‘righties’ are the ones who like to make all heroes Chamberlain and all enemies Hitler?

    If I had a dime for every “Bush is Hitler” quip spewed by a leftist over the last 7 years I’d be richer than Halliburton.

  64. paradoctor  •  Aug 24, 2007 @2:11 am

    I liked the moment in “Darmok” when Picard and Dathon first addressed each other. Dathon spoke in poetry, Picard in bureaucratese, to their mutual perplexity.

    The Tamarian language was indirect, but they made up for it by being gifted with very precise aim – which is indeed a poetic virtue. I therefore suggest that when we address some wavering purple-stater, we too speak poetically, with precise aim.

    My critique of right-wing thought is not that it is poetry – for we too have our allusions and myths – but that it is _bad_ poetry. They’re Tamarians with bad aim.

  65. Wookie  •  Aug 24, 2007 @2:16 am

    I’m a Gen X’er – Ronnie Raygun’s presidency spanned my grade school, high school, and even my college years. I agree that many my age grew up with the Reagan mythos, but I have also met many other Gen X’ers that think that the 80s were when the Boomers sold out, became lawyers, corporatized anything and everything in site, took over (eg Bush I (WWII) -> Clinton (Vietnam), and generally screwed things up. They were shown to have no morals or scruples, divorced at the drop of a hat, were the “me” generation, banned everything that they had all done the decade prior (smoking? war on drugs? drinking/driving), making them the hugest of hypocrites and self-indulgent cry babies our nation has ever seen. Just because they propped up a (literally) mentally decaying puppet like Reagan only confirms what many Gen X’ers already know: the hypocritical Boomers were and are ruinous to this nation and we won’t outlive their legacy. This war is another example: the Boomers actually let this happen AGAIN? Unbelievable.

  66. KW  •  Aug 24, 2007 @3:02 am

    Fascinating! (As Spock would say, if I may mix my Star Trek generations.) I was just bemoaning to a friend tonight that you just can’t seem to engage people in logical debate anymore. This theory goes a long way toward explaining why. It’s logic and reason vs. myth & metaphor.

    I tried once to communicate with the righties in my family – I responded to one of those pseudo-patriotic internet forwards with an impassioned plea for people to do more than slap yellow ribbons on their SUV’s if they really supported the troops, starting with asking why Bush was cutting their benefits. They responded with “If you hate America so much why don’t you move to France?” It really is futile trying to talk to them.

  67. stevie  •  Aug 24, 2007 @3:26 am

    The wingnuts claim of every enemy being Hitler is merely a ‘bait and switch’ propaganda ploy, very Rovian.

    It’s used to attack critics as being ‘unpatriotic’ while simultaneously distracting from, or muddying of the truth that right-wingers supported Hitler and Mussolini in the 1930′s and early 40′s and attempted to overthrow FDR in 1934 in order to install a Mussolini-style corporate-government (fascist). They were very much heavy players in the American Fascist movement, they would be its leaders. This includes Prescott Bush and Union Bank’s support of Hitler – these fatcat cruds bankrolled Hitler and helped get him installed in power.
    Mighty similar to how the Repugnant corporate-style government looks today.
    (Google plot to overthrow FDR)

    P.S. Reagan Youth are idiots.

  68. Jay  •  Aug 24, 2007 @5:08 am

    This is a wonderful, very astute analysis of right wing and Republican rhetoric in the United States. At times, however, I worry that the analysis glosses over the distinction between popular and media driven rhetoric and the actual basis for policy decisions.

    I do not think Bush, Cheney, and other Republican leaders actually believe the things they say. I think they manipulate the sort of mythoses described here in order to achieve their goals for other unstated purposes.

    This is often a failing, unfortunately, of the left. People on the left, in the U.S., can be very effective at breaking down and poking holes in the rhetoric of the right, as this post does. But we seem to think that such analyses suffice, when in fact they gain no political ground for the left.

    In this way, the left is stuck in an Enlightenment paradigm, where it believes one need only present the facts and the truth and people will be moved. On the other hand, the right knows that there is no truth, that reality is malleable and relative; and so politicians on the right manipulate the truth and reality like the savvy postmodernists that they actually are.

    What the left needs to do is forget about the truth and invent a mythos, which can supplant the mythos of the right, which can persuade the same American who are currently presuaded by the mythos of the right. Only then will the left and Democrats be able to stear the U.S. in a different direction.

    So ultimately, I suppose, it really is not relevant how bogus the right wing and Republican mythos is. It is effective. And that’s what counts. The left must learn to stop believing it knows the truth, above all others, and start inventing myths.

  69. maha  •  Aug 24, 2007 @7:09 am

    It has nothing to do with left or right… it has to do with mythicist, romantic thinking versus rationalist thinking. There are an awful lot of rightists whose opinions can be swayed by emotive imagery of their war heroes and their fight against England… and the same is true for leftists who tend to be swayed by the Mother Goddess and the Dying Earth and Gaia and Icarus and Orpheus and so on and so on and so on.

    So when was the last time you heard a President of the United States explain a policy decision by referring to the Mother Goddess and the Dying Earth and Gaia and Icarus and Orpheus and so on and so on and so on?

    You are right that I am talking about mythos versus logos, but you are wrong when you think the Right doesn’t have a particular problem mixing up the two. It’s a well-documented phenomenon that the American Right tends to think in terms of narratives and archetypes, and the Left generally does not. See this speech by Bill Moyer for further explanation.

    That said, I argue that mythos should not be eliminated, because sometimes “mythic” versus “rationalist” thinking is appropriate. This is something I discuss here, for example.

  70. maha  •  Aug 24, 2007 @7:15 am

    If I had a dime for every “Bush is Hitler” quip spewed by a leftist over the last 7 years I’d be richer than Halliburton.

    Show me a major political figure, nationally known pundit, or even a blogger who gets more than 500 hits a day who has said that. Good luck finding one.

  71. maha  •  Aug 24, 2007 @7:41 am

    This is a wonderful, very astute analysis of right wing and Republican rhetoric in the United States. At times, however, I worry that the analysis glosses over the distinction between popular and media driven rhetoric and the actual basis for policy decisions.

    Possibly, but as much as we can tell about the “thinking” that was behind the invasion of Iraq, I’m not sure the Bushies themselves fully understand the actual basis for their policy decisions.

    I think they manipulate the sort of mythoses described here in order to achieve their goals for other unstated purposes.

    Yes, and they are brilliant at it. I’m not sure that a lot of them aren’t taken in by their own propaganda, however.

    This is often a failing, unfortunately, of the left. People on the left, in the U.S., can be very effective at breaking down and poking holes in the rhetoric of the right, as this post does. But we seem to think that such analyses suffice, when in fact they gain no political ground for the left.

    Show me where I claimed I gained any “political ground.” I don’t know of anyone who thinks that way. I’m simply pointing to an observable phenomenon.

    In this way, the left is stuck in an Enlightenment paradigm, where it believes one need only present the facts and the truth and people will be moved. On the other hand, the right knows that there is no truth, that reality is malleable and relative; and so politicians on the right manipulate the truth and reality like the savvy postmodernists that they actually are.

    There we part company. You’re expressing an idea that is popular, but stupid. The way most of us understand reality is malleable and relative, but behind the relative there is an Absolute. The challenge of clear thinking is not to be limited by the the parallax effect of individual perspective. (See Mahayana Buddhism on this point.) And I don’t think most rightie politicans are “savvy postmodernists” as much as muddy thinkers. They are postmodernist only in the sense that that’s the only way they know how to think. A truly “savvy” person can step outside of his own thought processes and analyze them.

    What the left needs to do is forget about the truth and invent a mythos, which can supplant the mythos of the right, which can persuade the same American who are currently presuaded by the mythos of the right.

    The mode of expression is not what distinguishes truth from falsehood. Myths can express truth (see Joseph Campbell); factual statements can be used to express falsehood (see most propagandists). I agree that the Left needs to develop narratives to reach out to people; Bill Moyers has made this same argument. I suggest, however, that you’ve got some work to do yourself to clarify what “truth” is.

  72. Bruce Dearborn Walker  •  Aug 24, 2007 @9:20 am

    What a load of BS. You set up a straw man and then spend several hundred words cleverly belaboring it. The conservatives are much better at discourse than this, and that is why they are running things. “Everything I need to know I learned in WWII.” Are you really so arrogant as to believe that anyone who doesn’t agree with you is that stupid? Evidently you are, because they are in charge and you are writing witty articles telling yourself how moronic they are. You need to get a clue as to how things really work, so that enough people will vote for you to put you in charge. The cockamamie ideas expressed here, no matter how well worded, only reveal your basic misunderstanding of the entire situation. Go on writing about how your enemies are too stupid for words. I’m sure it’s satisfying. So is masturbating. They have a much better handle on how things work, and that’s why they are in power. Misunderestimating your opposition is a great way to keep them there.

  73. BurfordHolly@aol.com  •  Aug 24, 2007 @10:00 am

    Churchill is a symbol like Jesus that the GOP is hijacking. For the GOP, Jesus is better known as Caucasian Jesus, and Caucasian Jesus is rabidly pro-war, just as long as its war against brown people. To them, Jesus means exactly what they want it to mean.

  74. nessie  •  Aug 24, 2007 @10:09 am

    Conservatives believe the world started in 1937?? Talk about a rewrite of what’s been going on the last 7 years. All I’ve heard from the left is that conservatives are fascists and that Bush is Hitler. Everytime they compare the Bush Adminitration to some past world leaders and what they did, it’s always a comparison to Nazi Germany. You got a few posters who have already done that in the above comments section.

    It’s the left who believe the world started in 1930′s Nazi Germany, but nice try. I see you found lots of sheeple to agree with you.

  75. maha  •  Aug 24, 2007 @10:24 am

    All I’ve heard from the left is that conservatives are fascists and that Bush is Hitler. Everytime they compare the Bush Adminitration to some past world leaders and what they did, it’s always a comparison to Nazi Germany. You got a few posters who have already done that in the above comments section.

    Which ones? I don’t see any Bush = Hitler comparisons in the comments above. You are imagining things. I see a couple of commenters bring up U.S. right-wing support for Hitler in the 1930s, which is verifiable fact, and Prescott Bush’s business dealings with the Third Reich, also verifiable fact, although not terribly relevant.

    People across the political spectrum of America have a lazy rhetorical habit of comparing everyone they don’t like to Hitler and fascists. I don’t like lazy rhetorical habits. “Everytime they compare the Bush Adminitration to some past world leaders and what they did, it’s always a comparison to Nazi Germany” is another one. In fact, I compared Bush to Neville Chamberlain, not Hitler, in the post above, so you’re wrong.

  76. maha  •  Aug 24, 2007 @10:26 am

    The conservatives are much better at discourse than this, and that is why they are running things.

    You mean like the way Republicans won the 2006 midterms and are still controlling Congress? Oh, wait …

  77. Chris  •  Aug 24, 2007 @10:32 am

    60 comments overnight… I can’t keep up with the pace of your blog! :)

    “One occasionally finds a “soft” rightie who is willing to engage in actual conversation, but it’s rare.”

    All the more important to engage these in conversation, surely, as they are your point of access to those further to the right. Although this makes it sound like I support the left, which I don’t. I support neither left or right, as I find grave flaws on both sides of the equation. But I do favour dialogue as a mechanism for addressing political problems, even while acknowledging its limitations.

    Best of luck! :)

  78. BobKincaid  •  Aug 24, 2007 @10:56 am

    The “Darmok” episode is one of my favorites and you’ve certainly used it to “nail the dismount.”

    Saying “Repiglicans are stupid” is too easy. Figuring out why they’re so idiotic is another matter entirely, and a much tougher nut to crack. You’ve started a definite seam in the shell.

    I’ll likely dovetail this post with another I just saw this evening on “Head-On With Bob Kincaid.”

    Thanks for the great thinking! It’s what makes me proud to be a liberal!

  79. angryrat  •  Aug 24, 2007 @11:54 am

    Aren’t you scared? It is chilling to think that grownups who are in power operate this way. Thirteen year old adolescents? Maybe. But adults? Something went terribly wrong in this world.

  80. xpara  •  Aug 24, 2007 @12:02 pm

    It’s “blood, toil, tears, and sweat”. Amazing how we put the “toil” out of mind.

  81. Remus Shepherd  •  Aug 24, 2007 @12:59 pm

    From now on, “Maha on her blog” will mean, “I think you have some insight on these lunatics”. Well done.

  82. Bruce Dearborn Walker  •  Aug 24, 2007 @2:32 pm

    re: comment 77: The Democrats, even though they now control congress, have been completely unable to move the conservative football. They have failed to end the war, and have even been manuvered into supporting the surge. Their (and, again, your) inapprehension of both discourse and reality is faulty; and your sophmoric cleverness merely highlights your disconnect. What have the Democrats truly accomplished with their control of congress? The red state Democrats were voted in primarily out of a distaste for the corruption or do nothingism of certain Republicans, but they know their constituancy and have and will continue to vote in support of the war on Jihadism. Your straw man argument is very well written, entertaining, and incorrect. You are more interesting, but the other side are more correct, in terms of discourse and reality, and that is why they continue in power despite of the Democrats control of congress. They ride roughshod over certain constititutional limits, with the ultimate consent of the constituancy, and will continue to do so and be able to do so because they understand where the line is, and you do not. While they are correct on defense, they are incorrect on issues such as immigration, and events on trade are beginning to get away from them, however, the Democratic party line is even less palatable to the average American on these issues too. It is possible the GOP will be able to hold the line on inflation, but the middle class is thinning out, and a permanant underclass seems to be taking hold. This is already a problem, it may begin to be a serious problem, by which I mean a civil war on our own territory. However, notice which side is pure, innocent, and anti-gun. Notice which side is pro-second amendment and understands the occasional necessity for organized conflict. Which side will you bet on if the shooting starts? Which side will you BE on if the shooting starts? When cleverness and reality meet, always bet on reality.

    Once again, just because you disagree with your opponents, that does not of necessity mean that they are stupid or evil. Do not dehumanize the red staters, they are the only ones truly on your side.

  83. maha  •  Aug 24, 2007 @2:43 pm

    The Democrats, even though they now control congress, have been completely unable to move the conservative football.

    That’s true, and it’s something I write about a lot here. They need a two-thirds majority to override Bush and the Republicans to get anything done, and they don’t have it. Next Congress, maybe.

    I agree with your contention that the Right has done a better job getting its message to the public, and this is something I write about a lot as well, but smarts has less to do with that than does discipline and money.

    Indeed, this particular post does not claim that righties are stupid, exactly. It says that they confuse mythos and logos, which is a different matter from simple intelligence and is a point that, apparently, flew right over your head.

    So, dear, while not all righties are stupid, I suspect you are. And now that I’ve let you have your say, good-bye.

  84. Jay  •  Aug 24, 2007 @9:12 pm

    Hmm. I surprised you disagree so strongly with the comments I made about your post, which I enjoyed very much and found to be very educational. (See my post #69 and your reply #72.)

    It seems like we have a simliar understanding of how right wing rhetoric works, but disagree about how coherent the actual policy decision making is behind the rhetoric. In the case at hand, I think it’s easy to look at the war in Iraq and see a debacle and conclude this is a sign of an administration which has no idea what it’s doing. People don’t ask so much, why might this debacle be acceptable to the Bush administration? What is there to gain from it? Fore example, the cash cow for the defense industry, being one obvious answer.

    You also ask, where I see you saying that the left gains ground by focusing on poking holes in the rhetoric of the right (as I understood your original post to be doing). I don’t think you explicitly say that anywhere. But, as wonderful and insightful as your post is, I do preceive it to be taking part in a commonplace left political practice of poking holes in the political rhetoric of the right, rather than engaging in compelling myth making (if you prefer the word “narrative” that’s fine with me, myth’s are narratives and I don’t see a significant difference in the use of the two words here). I worry that the left spends too much time on its analysis and not enough on creating new narratives. I see insightful critiques like yours all the time. But rarely do I see effective new narratives.

    Lastly you question, my critique of the word “truth” and suggest that there is some sort of “Absolute” behind the malleable reality that most of us live in. To this end you cite Joseph Campbell as an authority on how myths can express “truth.” And you even call my relativist view of reality “stupid.” And think I give the right far too much credit for the cleverness of its relativism.

    For what it’s worth, I do have a Ph.D., in critical theory and philosophy, and I have actually thought a lot about what “truth” is and what people are doing when they use this word/concept. Obviously, this is a topic that requires a great deal of discussion to say much meaningful about it. But in short, I would say that I think “truth” is a word people use to label their biases which they most take for granted. This does not mean there is no concrete reality (as anti-relativists always fear). It simply means reality is unstable, changing, multi-faceted, and unable to be pinned down in any “Absolute” underlying structure. This sort of point of view is shared by many prominent physical theories of the universe, so I do not see why it shouldn’t apply to human history and culture. To this end, I think Joseph Campbell, though brilliant and fascinating, has an overly rigid idea how how myths work (that their meanings are relatively stable and can be classified and that they reveal underlying and unchanging truths that cross cultures).

    Respectfully, I honestly disagree that there is anything stable about reality or the way political discourse connects with it. And I do think that in recent decades the right has been more effective at understanding the changing and malleable nature of political discourse and using this understanding to its benefit.

  85. Jay  •  Aug 24, 2007 @9:32 pm

    I also just noted that you take the Democratic success in the 2006 elections (comment #77) as a sign that I’m incorrect in asserting the right is more effective with it’s use of political rhetoric.

    I think 2006 and even the 2008 presidential election, should a Democrat win, is and will be bumps in an ongoing move of the U.S. to the right, including the increasing conservatism of the Democratic party itself. For the last four decades I think the right has been organizing and shifting American political discourse. I think Bill Clinton was himself a pause in our ongoing shift to the right (and engineered the fiscal conservative shift of the Democratic party). What the right wants to do is undo all of the great liberal policy shifts of the 20th century, from The New Deal to civil rights legislation. It has been very effective so far and I don’t see much standing in its way. Certainly the current Supreme Court is very frightening and not likely to get better, even with a Democratic president (who will not have a chance to change the overall makeup of the court). Yes, there will be set backs in some elections. But that does not mean the large historical trend is shifting.

    But I hope you’re right.

    P.S. I just discovered your blog and enjoy it a great deal. So I am not trying to dismiss any of your ideas. I just don’t know that I entirely agee with all of them.

  86. Daniel Brown  •  Aug 24, 2007 @10:14 pm

    The same dynamic that allows archetypes in the hands of the right to “trump” facts/reason on another level allows the right to equate flag burning with treason.

  87. maha  •  Aug 24, 2007 @11:04 pm

    Jay — Sorry I pushed your ego button.

    It seems like we have a simliar understanding of how right wing rhetoric works, but disagree about how coherent the actual policy decision making is behind the rhetoric. In the case at hand, I think it’s easy to look at the war in Iraq and see a debacle and conclude this is a sign of an administration which has no idea what it’s doing. People don’t ask so much, why might this debacle be acceptable to the Bush administration? What is there to gain from it? Fore example, the cash cow for the defense industry, being one obvious answer.

    I caught onto the cash flow scam a long time ago, son. I’ve been calling Iraq the Mother of All Money Laundering Schemes for some time now. You have to get up pretty early in the mornn’ to get ahead of me.

    However, it’s also obvious that the war, long term, is not turning out the way the Bushies expected. They wanted a glorious and short little war that would help cement Republican political power, followed by long years of easy profit. When Bush did his victory prance on the decks of the Abraham Lincoln (May 1, 2003) I believe he honestly thought there would be little else to do but watch the value of Cheney’s stock options soar. This is not exactly what happened, is it?

    This administration does a few things very well, but running the government, or managing Iraq, are not among those few things.

    I worry that the left spends too much time on its analysis and not enough on creating new narratives. I see insightful critiques like yours all the time. But rarely do I see effective new narratives.

    I agree with this, and I’ve discussed this in the past also, such as here and here. However, writing a new narrative was not one of my purposes in the post above.

    I’ve been running this blog for more than five years now. It’s a common annoyance to have someone drop by for the first time, read one post, and assume that because I don’t discuss their pet issue in that one post I must not have ever thought about it. Don’t assume.

    Lastly you question, my critique of the word “truth” and suggest that there is some sort of “Absolute” behind the malleable reality that most of us live in.

    I’ve been a student of Zen Buddhism for 20 years. Let’s just say the Absolute and I have had close encounters.

    People understand everything in a relative, one-sided way. I get that, believe me. The social psychologist say that “reality” as most of us understand it is a social construct, and I agree with this completely. But when you say nothing exists outside of the relative, I must forcefully and heartily disagree, based on experience. And you can disagree with me, if you like.

    And in the relative world there are some constants, such as two plus two equaling four, what goes up must come down, etc. When you are managing a business or a government, you really can’t make your own reality. You can effect a perception of reality, but sooner or later bills do come due.

    I also just noted that you take the Democratic success in the 2006 elections (comment #77) as a sign that I’m incorrect in asserting the right is more effective with it’s use of political rhetoric.

    You assume incorrectly. The Right has been brilliant at imposing their messaging on the American public. That has been one of my major themes on this blog, for the past five years.

    I think 2006 and even the 2008 presidential election, should a Democrat win, is and will be bumps in an ongoing move of the U.S. to the right, including the increasing conservatism of the Democratic party itself.

    There’s not much further Right the nation can go and remain a democratic republic, which is why a whole lot of us are trying to pull the nation Left, in hopes that it will come back to the Vital Center. Demographically, there is data that point to a big swing to the Left in the next few years. But it’s not going to be quick or easy.

  88. Layne  •  Aug 24, 2007 @11:52 pm

    Thank you for that very insightful (and deadlly accurate) smackdown of right-wing thinking.

    The key passage is your mentioning of Reagan’s signing the INF treaty in ’88. What righties saw at the time saw as appeasement, righties today blissfully ignore, instead choosing to hold their Holy Ronnie (“Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev!!”) on a pedestal as a symbol of chest-beating manliness and all-American values.

    Like you said, it’s not really what they did, it’s the myth they left behind. Which is why Carter is better remembered for chasing away killer rabbits with a rowing paddle instead of organizing the first (and longest-lasting) peace treaty between Israel and its (then-) biggest aggressor, Egypt.

    Which is why “24″ creator Joel Surnow “can hardly think of [Reagan] without breaking into tears…I just felt Ronald Reagan was the father that this country needed. He made me feel good that I was in his family.” (from New Yorker article)

    And why Romney evoked Surnow’s vacuous spawn during the Fox GOP Debate: “I want Jack Bauer to fight the war on terror.” Nevermind that Bauer is fictional, not a very intelligent man (who works for a catastrophically incompetent intellingence agency that causes more problems than it corrects), and resorts to torture and maiming regardless of the consequences. It’s all about the myth: Bauer the Great American, who won’t cave to those evil, Hitlerian terrorists.

    I would highly suggest you all read the New Yorker article re: Surnow. A true eye-opener that proves that not only is “Hollywood Conservative” NOT an oxymoron, or that the “24″ writers’ room is probably comprised of cigars, John Wayne movies on repeat, and IPOD’s full of great Reagan speeches, but that there IS a difference between myth and reality (as the comments from REAL intelligent analysts will demonstrate), and that it would behoove most conservatives to just ONCE in their lives pick up a book and learn that there is a such thing as cause and effect.

    And I guess it’s not worth mentioning that Reagan helped arm the same terrorists we’re now fighting against?

    Ughh. I need a cigarette.

    Surnow’s Wet Dream:
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/02/19/070219fa_fact_mayer?printable=true

  89. Jay  •  Aug 25, 2007 @2:53 am

    Well, it seems like we sort of agree about the right. But not much about the left. I think it’s easy to look at all the failings of the Bush administration and declare it a washed up administration. But it seems to me that this administration has effectively moved the country further along to the right and further along in the Republican agenda. The Supreme Court has been solidly established with a conservative majority for years to come. Taxes on the wealth and business have been radically reduced (even more). Medicare reform turned into a big pay off for pharmaceutical companies. Americans continue to be spied on without warrants (and now with the approval of the Democratic Congress). Torture is okay. Habeas corpus remains in questions even for Americans citizens who are declared “enemy combatants.” Affirmative action has been further and further eroded. So, whatever the Bush administration has gotten wrong or not accomplished, I think it has still been pretty effective at moving forward a great deal of the agenda of the right. Focusing on its failings may be missing the point. I don’t see where the left and especially the Democrats are doing much to reverse these trends. I think they are finally waking up to the depth of the problem, but I think it will take decades to change (just as the Republicans struggled for decades to get us where we are now).

    As far as perceptions of reality go, I do not think it is the same thing to say reality itself is relative and to say there is no reality external to the individual. You assume the later. It is a commonplace misundertanding and simplification of any serious relativistic philosphy. Of course there are external realites that individual, organizations, countries, governments, etc., must contend with. But that does not mean that those realities are not relative and malleable and that there are not feedback loops with the discourses one articulates about those realities.

  90. Anna Feruglio Dal Dan  •  Aug 25, 2007 @5:58 am

    The post that made me overcome my lazyness and hit subscribe to the feed.

    Just a minor correction to whoever quoted the wonderful chapter in The Citadel of the Author about the Tale of the Asian – IIRC, the translator was actually a female soldier, not a nurse.

  91. maha  •  Aug 25, 2007 @7:50 am

    Jay:

    But it seems to me that this administration has effectively moved the country further along to the right and further along in the Republican agenda.

    Yes, of course it did that, but therein are the seeds of its own destruction. By succeeding, it is failing. It has not only bleeped up the nation, but it has sufficiently pissed off enough of the electorate that (some say) the Republican Party is in danger of becoming a regional rather than a national party. They finally pushed the right-wing agenda past the point of toleration, and scales are finally falling off eyes.

    As far as perceptions of reality go, I do not think it is the same thing to say reality itself is relative and to say there is no reality external to the individual. You assume the later.

    No, I don’t. That’s not what I said at all, and I can’t imagine where you got that impression.

    Of course there are external realites that individual, organizations, countries, governments, etc., must contend with. But that does not mean that those realities are not relative and malleable and that there are not feedback loops with the discourses one articulates about those realities.

    Certainly, language itself can only explain the relative, which is why there are koans. Conception and perception are not reality, however. Language is not reality. These are interfaces, not the thing interfaced with. What is on the other side of the interface? That’s what I’m pointing to. So far, you’re only seeing the interface.

    By the same token, we all cocoon ourselves in many layers of bullshit, but even so reality manages to break through and bite us in the ass now and then. (If you haven’t had such an experience, just live a few years longer. The Bite will get around to you eventually.) I see the “accomplishments” of the Bush Administration as that bite in the national ass.

    For the past several years the American Right has dominated the nation’s political discourse, and their almighty agenda has sucked all the air out of anyone else’s agenda. But the irony is that the right wing agenda only “worked” and seemed plausible as long as it was modified and kept within certain bounds. When the Right came to be in control of both the White House and Congress, and they had a free hand to put their ideas into practice, they demonstrated to the world how colossally stupid those ideas really are.

    So, by succeeding they failed, and that failure presents an opportunity to the Left to build some success. And this is all very Taoist.

  92. riskman  •  Aug 27, 2007 @10:55 am

    #57 “I will try to converse with any who seem capable of conversation, but that hardly ever happens. With most of ‘em you might as well try to teach physics to a wolverine.”

    For every one who comments, ten more don’t have the nerve, and some of them are fence-sitters who will read and go away thinking a little bit, even if it’s only “that maha didn’t back down!”.

    #61 “Now is the time to cast off the shackles of mythicism… we need to think clearly and directly about the issues that face us. Metaphoric reasoning is good for poetry… it is deadly for a democracy.”

    Unless you’ve got a way to drag everybody up to a rational level all at once, we need to learn how to use metaphoric reasoning to sway those who are stuck in magic and myth.

    #61 “It has nothing to do with left or right…”

    Yes it does. All the green myths you mention have to do with the earth as a whole, which is something hard-core rightists couldn’t care less about, except in the sense of a really big mine. Of course, postmodernists have their own myth that everybody’s myths are equivalent. They’re not. Some do more harm than others. Some can actively help. Myths used to motivate reason are a lot better than myths used to motivate hate.

    We used to have Democrats who could do this.

    Little girl picking daisies, mushroom cloud.
    “In your heart, you know he might.”

    Sure, it was reprehensible, but it won the election for LBJ.
    You’d think after 40 years Democrats would be able to do this without the reprehensible part.

    Maybe we should be pushing mother Earth. After all, conservation is one of the few issues that something like 75% of the U.S. population backs. Use the Christian version: stewardship of creation. There are religious groups, many of whose members are otherwise right wing, doing just that, with some effect.

    #67 ““If you hate America so much why don’t you move to France?””

    You know, without the French navy sitting off the coast at Yorktown, Cornwallis wouldn’t have surrendered to Washington, and we wouldn’t be a country. How about we all stay here and get back to what Washington wanted?

    #68. The wingnuts claim of every enemy being Hitler is merely a ‘bait and switch’ propaganda ploy, very Rovian.”

    They project in a psychological sense all the time, because they’ve denied their own hate and aggression, but they can’t get rid of it, so they see it in other people, especially anybody who opposes them. Notice how many right wingers who think gays are destroying marriage turn out to be closet gays themselves? Projection may be a pretty reliable barometer of what they’re really up to.

    69. “I do not think Bush, Cheney, and other Republican leaders actually believe the things they say. I think they manipulate the sort of mythoses described here in order to achieve their goals for other unstated purposes.”

    Unfortunately, a lot of them really do believe it. That’s what makes them especially dangerous, because they can better convince right wing followers to follow them. Some don’t, such as Rove; he’s a cynical manipulator. But notice he’s not the front man; he found W. to do that. We don’t like to believe people like W. really believe what they say, because it sounds so absurd to us. But think back to junior high school, or better try thinking like you did in junior high school, and then it won’t seem so incredible. That’s how many right wingers think.

    Sure, what they’re really out for is power and money for themselves. But they really do believe “it’s our due” as Cheney said, because they believe they’re the only ones hard-headed enough to see things as they really are, which is it’s us against everybody else and only the toughest win.

    Ketchup is a vegetable?

    The French navy at Yorktown!

    FDR and freedom from fear.

  93. maha  •  Aug 27, 2007 @11:49 am

    Yes it does. All the green myths you mention have to do with the earth as a whole, which is something hard-core rightists couldn’t care less about, except in the sense of a really big mine.

    I’ve never heard of anyone advocating action on global warming based on “green myths” rather than science.

    The tendency of righties to engage in “narratives” more than do lefties is fairly well documented, actually. And yes, many lefties have suggested that we need to learn to communicate in narratives also.

    The big problem with trying to communicate with most righties is that no amount of empirical evidence will shake them from their myths. Try to explain facts to them, and you end up feeling like the Enterprise crew talking to the Tamarians. I honestly do not believe you find the same tendency to an equal degree on the Left.

  94. Brad Samuel  •  Aug 28, 2007 @4:34 pm

    Having just returned from India where I got the chance to read daily news narrative from another perspective I had a “Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra” moment. One article referenced a high level Indian delegation meeting with Condelezza Rice. In the article, Condelezza was strongly encouraging India to drop its stance of “non allignment” as it was “no longer relevant.” Of course non allignment is a foreign police stance that reflects India as a young nation as well as a multiplicity of cultures that are among the oldest in human history. “Non allignment” is central to the Indian ethos and has its origins thousands of year before the Raj. It has evolved through and between occupations, wars, and spiritual events that suggest an almost constant manifestation of “Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra.” Rice’s comments, read by me, in that context in my room at the Royal Bombay Yaught Club with my children clamoring for my attention seemed like Worf in drag urging #1 to interpret their communications as hostile.

    It seems that contact and an understood communication with the sentient forms of the universe was so important to the Tamarians that Dathon was willing to sacrifice self for the possibility of that.
    Likewise, Gandhi was willing to starve to have Muslims and Hindus live in a country where they might listen to one another’s metaphors. India was/is not ready for that. India is “Darnok leaves Jalad at Tenagra.” The U.S. is “Darnok kills Jalad at Tenagra and blames someone else.”

  95. kuvasz  •  Aug 30, 2007 @4:46 am

    To paraphrase the ending in “The Man Who Shot Libety Valence.”

    “This is America, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

    What we see all around is the affect of people misjudging connotation for denotation.

  96. Jeff  •  Sep 1, 2007 @4:08 am

    Chinese man in front of tanks in Tienanmen Square.

    Hippie with flag in front of guards at Kent State.

    I’ve seen these juxtaposed somewhere, probably on the Web. That would certainly cause some heads to explode, but it might be an effective narrative; certainly it’s no good for the left of center to keep running away from the ’60s.

    Will: As far as I know, most of the hardcore hippies kept the faith. Others simply seem to have figured that the work was done when the Vietnam cease-fire was signed. You may be disappointed in the Boomers, but directing hatred at them and repudiating the Sixties movement (as even the left side of Gen-X seems to have done) was clearly wrong-headed, as well as leading to an retro-oriented “alt-culture” that became downright sclerotic a long, long time ago.

  97. Terry Phillips  •  Nov 15, 2007 @9:18 am

    I really doubt this will be posted. I know you people believe in freedom of speech…as long as it is speech you approve of.

    The following are the reasons I am an (I)ndependent.

    1. I Believe the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech. Mention the First Amendment to a liberal Democrat the first thing they will start telling you about is the “separation of Church and state”. The “separation of Church and state” is a lie. I defy anyone to find this phrase in the Constitution or the Amendments. It does not exist. Prayer is religious speech.

    2.It is the NEOCOMunist Democratic liberals (BACKED BY THE ACLU) that wants the phrase” One nation under God removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. Likewise their earlier counterparts the Nazi SS destroyed every religious symbol they encountered.
    (You don’t know your history as well as you thought do you?)

    3.I am a capitalist. The Democratic liberal left hidden agenda is to use the current laws to change the our country to a socialist government system.When you attempt force them to admit the truth they deny that there is a conspiracy.YEAH RIGHT!! And Hilary Clinton don’t give head either does she? YEAH RIGHT!! Anyway, based on Bills action a few years ago it would seem she sucks at that too!!

    4. I am against affirmative action. Affirmative action is nothing more than institutionalized racism. Giving someone an advantage simply because of the color of their skin is racist, regardless of any excuse to justify it. If you attempt to defend affirmative action you are a racist.

    5. I believe it is wrong to attempt to oppress people and violate their civil rights. The NAACP which are all democrats have called for a boycott of South Carolina. They are attempting to oppress the people of South Carolina using the same tactics the nazis used on the Jews by preventing them from exercising the right to sell their products or services. This is a right granted and protected by the constitution and the amendments.
    Leave it to a so called civil rights organization to attempt to violate the civil rights of an entire state!.

    6. I am against abortion. The PRO CHOICE liberal democrats have mercilessly slaughtered well over FOURTY EIGHT MILLION unborn babies since the early 70′s.( CAN YOU SAY AMERICAN HOLOCAUST?) Most of the live fetuses were ripped limb from limb from their mothers womb by a powerful vacuum or large forceps. The others were victims of partial birth abortion they were turned in the womb and removed from the womb all except the top of their heads. Then a pair of scissors are plunged into the base of the skull the scissors are opened to enlarge the hole. Then a vacuum is inserted into the hole and the brains are vacuumed out until the child dies. Some die alone in a dumpster with no one to fight for them. The children are then sent to the land fill to be buried in a mass grave or they are incinerated as medical waste just like the Jews in the Nazi concentration camps.

    Consider this. If you took 48,000,000 ( the number of babies that the nazicrats have murdered) and divide that by 3000(the number of people murdered on 911) it would equal 16,000 then divide 16,000 by 365 and that would equal 43.8.

    What this means is that the naziecrats have murdered enough babies that it would be equal to having a 911 attack every day for 43.8 years.

    Another fact. The nazicrats have murdered more than 8 times the number of people killed by Hitler,Saddam, and Osama combined!!!

    Now! you tell me who the terrorist are!!
    One more fact. The naziecrats have murdered 10,000 times more babies than American soldiers that have been killed in the war on terror!!!

    So there you have it socialism, institutionalized racism, oppression, mass murder with the bodies incarnated or buried in mass graves. It seems to me the only thing missing is a swastika.

    Yes it is true!! Hitler was a left wing nut job…just like you!

  98. maha  •  Nov 15, 2007 @10:10 am

    Mr. Phillips: The phrase “separation of church and state” is a metaphor coined by Thomas Jefferson to explain what the First Amendment means. So although that phrase is not in the Constitution, anyone with a modicum of knowledge of American history (i.e., not you) understands that the First Amendment establishment clause requires government to stay out of the way of religion, and religion to stay out of the way of government. Hence, they are separated. It’s better for both that way.

    God doesn’t appear in the Constitution either, btw. Chew on that for a while.

    Re Democrats and Communism. Sir, you are nuts.

    Re: Abortion. One cannot claim to favor liberty andat the same time intend to demote pregnant women to the status of brood animal. You are either an anti-choice authoritarian or a pro-choice libertarian, in the true sense of the word. “Anti choice libertarian” is an oxymoron.

    FYI, Hitler was opposed to socialism. He was a RIGHT-wing nutjob. More like you than me.

    Comments are now closed.

10 Trackbacks



    About this blog



    About Maha
    Comment Policy

    Vintage Mahablog
    Email Me
















    The Mahablog

    ↑ Grab this Headline Animator



    Support This Site





    site design and daughterly goodness

    eXTReMe Tracker












      Technorati Profile