Gore Derangement Syndrome

I think you’ll enjoy Paul Krugman’s column today — “Gore Derangement Syndrome.” I don’t entirely agree with this part of it, however.

What is it about Mr. Gore that drives right-wingers insane?

Partly it’s a reaction to what happened in 2000, when the American people chose Mr. Gore but his opponent somehow ended up in the White House. Both the personality cult the right tried to build around President Bush and the often hysterical denigration of Mr. Gore were, I believe, largely motivated by the desire to expunge the stain of illegitimacy from the Bush administration.

Maybe sorta kinda. The true believers never saw a stain of illegitimacy, of course. Righties don’t think much of elections, except as a kind of ritual; a motion that has to be gone through (one way or another) so that a government can call itself “democratic.” Righties never believed Bill Clinton was the “legitimate” president, even though he won two elections decisively. They spent eight years trying to take him down and nullify those elections, any way they could. And when the American people continued to support Clinton, William Bennett was all over media pushing his book The Death of Outrage and complaining the American people had lost their sense of morality.

In other words, to a rightie “legitimacy” is not something conferred by the expressed will of We, the People. It is conferred by decisions made behind closed doors in right-wing think tanks and disseminated to the true believers through right-wing media. And they’d been smearing and vilifying Gore for years before the 2000 elections.

And now that Mr. Bush has proved himself utterly the wrong man for the job — to be, in fact, the best president Al Qaeda’s recruiters could have hoped for — the symptoms of Gore derangement syndrome have grown even more extreme.

The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right. In 1992, George H. W. Bush mocked him as the “ozone man,” but three years later the scientists who discovered the threat to the ozone layer won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 2002 he warned that if we invaded Iraq, “the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.” And so it has proved.

But Gore hatred is more than personal. When National Review decided to name its anti-environmental blog Planet Gore, it was trying to discredit the message as well as the messenger. For the truth Mr. Gore has been telling about how human activities are changing the climate isn’t just inconvenient. For conservatives, it’s deeply threatening.

They won’t admit he’s right, of course. Their lips would fall off first. But yes, they are threatened. They want to look at the world and see their vision perfectly reflected back at them, as in a mirror. When the world reflects back something else, they can’t stand it. They’re like the evil stepmother in Snow White when the Magic Mirror told her someone else was more beautiful than she was.

This is why the Right wants to destroy Al Gore — they are jealous. All admiration and adulation belongs to them.

Today, being a good Republican means believing that taxes should always be cut, never raised. It also means believing that we should bomb and bully foreigners, not negotiate with them.

So if science says that we have a big problem that can’t be solved with tax cuts or bombs — well, the science must be rejected, and the scientists must be slimed. For example, Investor’s Business Daily recently declared that the prominence of James Hansen, the NASA researcher who first made climate change a national issue two decades ago, is actually due to the nefarious schemes of — who else? — George Soros.

Which brings us to the biggest reason the right hates Mr. Gore: in his case the smear campaign has failed. He’s taken everything they could throw at him, and emerged more respected, and more credible, than ever. And it drives them crazy.

Krugman himself has been the target of rightie search-and-destroy missions. Andrew Leonard writes at Salon, in a review of Krugman’s new book The Consciences of a Liberal:

For those who go the extra step of publicly making their living inveighing against conservative triumphalism, the reward has been ridicule and scorn. In “The Conscience of a Liberal,” Krugman recounts how after the 2004 election, some colleagues told him that it was time to ease up on his constant hectoring of George W. Bush. “The election settled some things.” …

…If they can bring themselves to skim through its pages, conservatives, naturally, will not find much to like in “The Conscience of a Liberal.” Perhaps one of the best things you can say about it is that Krugman will drive them mad with rage (kind of like Al Gore winning a Nobel Peace Prize).

See also Kevin Drum, Robert Parry, Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast, Skippy, the Carpetbagger, and Matt at Think Progress.

9 thoughts on “Gore Derangement Syndrome

  1. I can hardly wait for the election, and I pray that Hillary wins in a landslide of historic proportions, and I hope that a vast majority of those fascist Republicans are swept out of Congress. How sweet that will be! Can you imagine it?

    First thing I’ll do is turn on Fox news and get Brit Hume’s reaction. And Hannity’s. And then Bill O. And then I’ll look for comments from Rush.

    But wait. Maybe I won’t hear a single word, because their heads exploded!

  2. Not only do righties take a dim view of fair elections, but because they see themselves are morally superior to others, they think it’s perfectly OK to subvert the electoral process, or for that matter any democratic process. It’s also fun to them, as are all forms of sadism.

    In any disagreement with a rightie, it’s important to cut through their veneer of alternative “facts”, opinions and conclusions and to get to the emotional heart of their position: they simply cannot accept being wrong. Being wrong for them is losing, and losing is both threatening and infuriating. If they are shown to be wrong, this challenges their self-righteousness, which calls into question their self-justified intrinsic visciousness, which is their tool of power, their sadistic way of dealing with what is to them, a hostile world. Being powerless is terrifying to these people, and so they will dig in and fight back even more.

    Righties (ideologues actually) lack a commitment to truth, to follow the truth no matter where it comes from or where it leads to. No one possesses the truth, not the left nor the right, nor anyone in between. It is bigger than any of that. When you’re committed to the truth, this means occasionally being wrong, and having to adjust your life to this fact, something that’s very hard for an ideologue of any stripe to do.

    What this also means, is that ideologues tend to get left behind, unwilling to bend and change, washed up on some beach of falsehood, while the tide of life and truth has moved on. This is what happened to the Communist Party, it’s also what happened to George Will in that amusing video in an earlier posting – it was fun watching him being odd man out, as the various journalists snickered at his position (what a change from the last twenty years). The problem occurs when these rigid people get into power and wreck the lives of thousands or millions beneath them.

  3. In any disagreement with a rightie, it’s important to cut through their veneer of alternative “facts”, opinions and conclusions and to get to the emotional heart of their position: they simply cannot accept being wrong. Being wrong for them is losing, and losing is both threatening and infuriating. If they are shown to be wrong, this challenges their self-righteousness, which calls into question their self-justified intrinsic visciousness, which is their tool of power, their sadistic way of dealing with what is to them, a hostile world. Being powerless is terrifying to these people, and so they will dig in and fight back even more.

    Wow, that’s good. So post something about that someday, willya?

  4. Thanks maha – I know, I’ve got several ideas like this, half-baked, still cooking. I hope I can develop them and tease them out here. I wish I could clone myself and give my clone the joyous task of simply thinking and writing. Thanks for the encouragement/prodding.

    That bit you quoted is mostly based on my take of (mostly) a far right coworker, who provided me with endless insights over a six year period. Between this real world experience, and the writings of John Dean, Bob Altemeyer, and Sara Robinson – I feel as though I have at least a masters degree in right wing psychology. It’s second nature to me, because I lived through it, but I realize not everyone has this background. And yes, I should find a way to share more of it with others. Thanks again for the prodding.

  5. I second the accolated to Moonbat’s post. That is certainly what I’ve walked away with after ongoing exercises listening to wingnuts, often summarizing this as “They can’t be wrong.”

    This reminds me of something.

    Working in a tech company there was a single developer who was quite good but he had a few habits that led one manager to characterize him as a “right person.” That did not mean ideologically right with respect to right-left orientations but rather that he HAD to be right.

    Naturally, this made those who he’d stomped on at one time or another acutely aware of his pronouncements to the point that someone would inevitably catch him being wrong. Among those were a contingent from the UK, a fun-loving, irreverent bunch. They would catch him but rather than confront directly they’d express doubt then let him run with his replies. It was almost like a mouse playing with prey that it could easily finish off were there no need for entertainment. They’d slowly but surely back him further into a corner before lowering the boom, exposing exactly how he was wrong.

    It was a wondrous thing to behold. I fully expected his head to spin like Linda Blairs in the Exorcist. Perhaps it was a cruel thing to do but given the misery he’d caused, no one really seemed to object. Glee was concealed behind barely detectable grins.

    Expectedly, this person was and is far to the right ideologically. That was but one unfortunate example in a single workplace without the type of high stakes inherent when these types are pervasive in government and media. Whenever possible their noses need to he rubbed in the truth in much the same way that the touch of a cross scars a vampire. There is no shortage of opportunities.

    I do not believe that these types exist in the numbers that todays wingnut rhetoric suggests, they’ve only been enabled in government and whipped into a paranoid frenzy as Bush and others have fanned the flame of fear.

    Say what you want about him, but Alec Baldwin aptly characterized Bush as the type of little guy that can be found in every gang of vandals or thieves. The little guy shimmies up a rain gutter and enters through an open window on an upper floor, then from the inside opens the front door to let the rest of the gang in.

  6. It was refreshing to see the same joke surface in blogs, editorials and political cartoons regarding SCOTUS ruling on the Nobel Peace Prize and giving it to Bush I really don’t believe it was plaigarized but rather the result of many people thinking along the same lines simultaneously.

    Please excuse if this is slightly OT (off-topic) but I heard on the radio this morning that Larry Craig pled guilty to charges then later said that he just wanted to make the who thing go away as quickly as possible (or something to that effect…don’t have direct quote handy).

    At least there’s one on the right that understand how discomfort (dare I say torture?… though wingnut bloggers claimed he was figuratively “waterboarded”) would cause someone to falsely to charges.

    Now that Craig agrees, what about the rest of them?

  7. Gore described himself a year back, if I recall, as ‘a reovering politician’. That’s where he is now, emotionally, intellectually & spiritually. He seriously wants to change the world for the better. But he has no stomach for politics, and I don’t blame him.

    So why aren’t the righties thrilled? Al is not running! He may be more dangerous out of politics than in. If I read things right, Al wants to unleash a groundswell, populist global movement that democracies can’t ignore (and survive the next election).

    The threat is a left-wing environmental Jerry Faldwell, a true apostle of an envoronmental crusade, with purse strings and election clout, an understanding of how politics works on the inside but no longer addicted to politics himself.

  8. What amazed me, as an outsider (an Englishman who has lived in Japan for over 30 years), when I first started to read American blogs – I started oddly with that not altogether ingenuous Englishman Andrew Sullivan – was the fact that in the States global warming was widely regarded as a ‘political’ issue, and that if you were on the right (like AS), you had to accept, along with a host of other ridiculous things, that global warming didn’t really exist – not because you’d examined the issue, but because it proved your right-wing credentials.I couldn’t see why you couldn’t be politically conservative and accept realities that were independent of political beliefs, whether of the left or the right. There is of course political idiocy in every nation, but I had never before come across idiocy on such a huge scale, and idiocy that was being entertained by people who seemed to have some claim to being intelligent – like AS or George Will. And coupled with this idiocy was, and is, a quite extraordinary dishonesty and a lack of any of the virtues that are important to maintaining a free and humane society: watching Kristol and Krauthammer’s dishonourable and wholly contemptible little double act is an education of a very disturbing kind – I am seriously reminded of those extreme right-wing intellectuals who helped the Nazis to power. In England I knew the poet and essayist C.H. Sisson, who was extremely conservative but who was also a wonderfully honest and humane man, and whose conservatism derived in part from his horror at what he saw happening in Germany when he was studying there in the Thirties: the conservatism of the more vociferous members of the American right has very little to do with any genuinely conservative political philosophy and a great deal to do with neo-liberal economics and simple chauvinism, and it is a pity that people like Sullivan don’t seem to grasp that.

  9. Addition: it’s the rightists’ fundamental FRIVOLOUSNESS that offends most, really – a frivolousness that permits their dishonesty and inhumanity. (It is fair to say that AS has changed some of his positions, but still I find it very difficult to trust him.)

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