… know-nothingism — the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise — has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party’s de facto slogan has become: “Real men don’t think things through.”
As Senator Obama said, “It’s like these guys take pride in being ignorant.” Truly, to a wingnut, Ignorance Is Strength.
Thomas Frank has a new book out called The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule. There’s an excerpt in the August issue of Harper’s and also one at Salon. This is from Salon:
Fantastic misgovernment of the kind we have seen is not an accident, nor is it the work of a few bad individuals. It is the consequence of triumph by a particular philosophy of government, by a movement that understands the liberal state as a perversion and considers the market the ideal nexus of human society. This movement is friendly to industry not just by force of campaign contributions but by conviction; it believes in entrepreneurship not merely in commerce but in politics; and the inevitable results of its ascendance are, first, the capture of the state by business and, second, all that follows: incompetence, graft, and all the other wretched flotsam that we’ve come to expect from Washington. …
… The conservatism that speaks to us through its actions in Washington is institutionally opposed to those baseline good intentions we learned about in elementary school.
Its leaders laugh off the idea of the public interest as airy-fairy nonsense; they caution against bringing top-notch talent into government service; they declare war on public workers. They have made a cult of outsourcing and privatizing, they have wrecked established federal operations because they disagree with them, and they have deliberately piled up an Everest of debt in order to force the government into crisis. The ruination they have wrought has been thorough; it has been a professional job. Repairing it will require years of political action.
Too many Democrats have been in on the scam, of course. But, basically, we’re looking at the anti-government right wing; the descendants of Richard Hofstadter’s pseudo-conservatives. These are the people of whom Hofstadter wrote back in the early 1960s,
The difference between conservatism as a set of doctrines whose validity is established by polemics, and conservatism as a set of rules whose validity is to be established by their usability in government, is not a difference in nuance, but of fundamental substance.
Writing in 1954, at the peak of the McCarthyist period, I suggested that the American right wing could best be understood not as a neo-fascist movement girding itself for the conquest of power but as a persistent and effective minority whose main threat was in its power to create “a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.”
And quoting Theodore W. Adorno:
The pseudo conservative is a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions and defending them against more or less fictitious dangers, consciously or unconsciously aims at their abolition.
You can argue that there are two kinds of wingnuts — those who are in on the take, and those who are merely dupes. But I suspect a large part of those who have a personal vested interest in wingnut causes also are True Believers who can no more see the harm they do than they can fly to the moon on a pig. So, how much of what they do is calculated, and how much is social pathology, is very hard to measure.
The True Believers are a minority, but they are a minority with a lot of power because they’ve been underwritten by the Big Money interests that benefit financially from the destruction of government. (This, I take it, is the subject of Frank’s book, and also ties in with much of what Naomi Klein has been writing lately.) So, their point of view, if you want to call it that, has been vastly overrepresented in mass media, to the point that large parts of the population hardly know there is any other point of view.
There’s no more important task ahead of us than to discredit whatever you want to call “conservatism” these days in the minds of that part of the population capable of seeing reason. And I believe there is a substantial population capable of seeing reason if reason is ever presented to them. They can be bamboozled about foreign policy, but we see time and time again that when the Right tries to sell the American people on an idea that runs counter to their personal experience or something they’ve seen with their own eyes — on Social Security, New Orleans, Terri Schiavo — the American people on the whole are capable of seeing lies as lies.
From now until the November election, lots of progressives are going to be complaining about Dem politicians, especially Barack Obama, and how they are no different from the Right for this or that reason. And I agree ain’t nobody in politics who is pure. But, although we all may disagree with Obama sometime, on the whole he is less about “simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem” than any presidential candidate I can think of in a very long time. He’s not the whole answer, but he’s a step in the right direction. Er, away from the Right.
On a related note: Some “creative agency” in Los Angeles came up with an “Obama salute,” which looks stupid to me. Gavin at Sadly, No says the “salute” is a joke. (I didn’t get very far into his links before I decided I did not want to know what the joke is.)
As Gavin says, “So an ad agency not affiliated with the Obama campaign has released a joke logo.” But the word from Wingnutland os that the “salute” has already been embraced by the Obamabot Cult. The wingnuts are all over this, as Dave N. says, like stink on shit. It’s the sort of issue wingnuts, who are stuck in pre-adolescence emotionally, just love — trivial and easy to ridicule.
George Orwell said, “…the common man to be controlled must remain an ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation and orgiastic triumph.” And, can’t forget Orwell’s Ministry of Truth Slogans: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength. What are these but instructions on how to control a population, which is the real goal of today’s conservatives.
Obama’s job is really cut out for him and it’s going to be a tough one given the fear, hatred, unreasoned adulation and love of orgiastic triumph prevalent in American society today.
Personally, my head swims when confronted with wingnut speak. They scream about the blessedness of limited government at the same time as they tell me that the fertilized egg I’m temporarily incubating belongs to the government. They consistently contradict themselves which leaves me unable to get past my dropped-jaw.
As opposed to the BDS and assassination chic the Left engages in, right?
All — Comment #2, by William Teach — can somebody explain what the bleep he’s talking about? What is “BDS” and “assasination chic”?
“BDS” = Bush Derangement Syndrome
“Assassination Chic” = According to Michelle Malkin… “It’s a staple of the unhinged Left, whose writers, playwrights, artists, documentarians, and politicians can’t get enough of BDS-infused merchandise, jokes, child brainwashing, and signage.”
These definitions floated to the top when I used Google. I guess then there must be “CDS” (Clinton Derangement Syndrome) in which wingnuts try to pin Bush’s failures on Clinton to this day…
Whoops forgot to mention that BDS was coined by Charles Krauthammer in a 2003 column.
Lurker: Thanks. I did eventually figure out Bush Derangement Syndrome. But now that 66 percent of Americans share our view, by now it ought to be clear that there’s something pathologically out of whack with anyone who still approves of Bush.
As far as the “assassination chic” charge goes — in reality, assassinating Bush isn’t something most of us even want to joke about. We want him indicted, tried and convicted, not dead. It’s the Right that thinks it’s “chic,” or at least clever, to openly wish other people dead.
A bit of alternative history (as lived): It seems the McCarthy/Dulles Bros./Harriman/Lodge cabal of the ’50’s Republican party were the founding sponsors of the “John Birch Society” which gave political cover to the ideology. After the Dulles Bros. lost Cuba to Fidel Castro and were dis-empowered by the JFK Democrats from Washington power circles, the subjugation and reforming the Republican party from a broad-based coalition of political views began.
Goldwater’s 1964 takeover of the party showed the feasibility as well as undermining the liberal and centrists partisans from exercising control of party function. Nixon was the last centrist to exercise control of the Republican party, his removal from power effectively left the Republican party in the hands of the conservative ideologues and the machinations of the John Birch fellow-travelers.
It should be historically noted that when GHWB contested for the leadership with Reagan, a meeting was held at the behest of Walter Annenberg at his Palm Springs estate shortly after GHWB issued his only true statement in his life, re: VooDoo Economics of Reagan. Annenburg and Bush both subscribed to John Birch ideology, the leadership was Reagans, the power was Bush/CIA in the shadows, nary a foul word was exchanged between from that day forth.
Shortly thereafter, John Birch Society ceased to exist, the takeover of the Republican party was complete and JBS was no longer needed as a political vehicle. The candidates were chosen at that meeting, the rest is smoke and mirrors.
Also in the ’80’s, the upper level managers of the corporate world staged a takeover, usurping the ownership interests of corporations, a hidden coup. They extended their takeover into government management behind the Reagan/GHWB facade, were quiescent during Clinton’s administration and were given carte-blanche by the Cheney/George the turd administration to undermine and eviscerate government function until nothing effective remained of government function. This fulfilled the wet dreams of the Council for Foreign Relations, Bildeberg Group, and Trilateral Commission and several other corporate sponsored groups to the wholesale takeover and control of government function, a.k.a. fascist rule.
This is, in short, what the republic is faced with, and what it must deal with if it is to survive. The corporations and their management must be brought to heel, their economic power be dispersed, and their influence be dismantled. Another source of trained managers must be developed to conduct the management of government that must exclude both corporate managers and military trained managers from government service.
The great wealth must be taxed to moderate levels by whatever means, e.g. earning/income and estate limitation taxes, other historical forms of liquidation of the opposition if other means prove ineffective.
Chinese Proverb: May you live in interesting times….
I have never, ever heard a Bush opponent joke about assassinating him. What a foul, hypocritical comment, from someone apparently brainwashed by the likes of Ann Coulter, and the radio and TV haters who primed Mr. Adkisson of Tennessee to murder people he believed to be liberals.