The Air, the Air Is Everywhere

rightwingoverse I’m hoping Salon and Tom Tomorrow don’t mind my borrowing a panel of today’s strip, but I haven’t seen anything that better sums up the current state of the Right than the panel at left. What’s hysterical about it is that it’s not exaggerated.

The Right cannot merely disagree with Democrats and with the Obama Administration. No; every point of disagreement (which is everything the Obama Administration is doing, because it’s them doing it), no matter how minor, is framed not as a bad idea but as The End of the Universe as We Know It.

For example, at the Los Angeles Times Jonah Goldberg explains the role of the Environmental Protection Agency in the evil plot to bring America into the grip of dictatorship. Because the EPA (Goldberg says, ominously) has given itself the power to regulate everything, including the air you breathe.

Nominally, the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement last Friday only applies to new-car emissions. But pretty much everyone agrees that the ruling opens the door to regulating, well, everything.

According to the EPA, greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide — the gas you exhale — as well as methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. It is literally impossible to imagine a significant economic or human activity that does not involve the production of one of these gases.

Ah, how diabolical. The EPA can regulate everything that involves carbon dioxide, which is pretty much all air-breathing life forms on this planet.

For a little background, read the New York Times editorial on the EPA policy:

The formal “endangerment finding” names carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases as pollutants subject to regulation under the federal Clean Air Act. This in turn sets the stage — after a 60-day comment period — for broad new rules touching major sectors of the American economy and profoundly influencing how Americans use and generate energy.

The finding is also likely to accelerate the progress of climate legislation in Congress and will give the United States the credibility it lost in international climate negotiations during the Bush administration. The next round of talks is scheduled for Copenhagen in December.

The decision has been a long time coming. Two years ago, the United States Supreme Court ordered the agency to determine whether greenhouse gases harmed the environment and public health and, if so, to regulate them. Scientists at former President George W. Bush’s E.P.A. largely agreed that greenhouse gases are harmful and should be regulated. In December 2007, the agency forwarded an endangerment finding to the White House, where senior officials promptly suppressed it, refusing even to open the e-mail to which it was attached.

Talk about judicial activism! The Supreme Court was in on the plot two years before Obama became President! Of course, what you don’t see anywhere in Goldberg’s column is anything resembling a reasoned, documented argument why the EPA’s policy regarding greenhouse gasses is not the best approach for, you know, protecting the environment.

BTW, here’s the background on the Supreme Court decision, which passed by a 5-4 vote, the usual dissenters (Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas) dissenting. More here and here.

But, you know, there’s a list that goes on and on. The marginal tax rate for millionaires is bumped up by 3 percent, and the wingnuts start screaming about econo-fascism. (Because, you know, calling it socialism isn’t working.) What you don’t get is anything resembling a reasoned, factual discussion of Obama’s actual tax policies (as opposed to the fantasy Obama tax policies the Right complains about) and why they might not be a good idea.

For that matter, someone explain why wingnuts scream bloody murder when someone suggests paying taxes is patriotic. They say they love America, but they don’t want to pay to maintain it? Isn’t that a bit like saying you love your children, but not enough to be bothered to feed and clothe them?

A rightie might argue they are only opposed to taxes that are too high or unfair taxes — taxing some people at a higher rate than others. OK, fine. Then stop fomenting hysteria and attempt a reasoned, factual discussion. (Clue: A fact is generally defined as something that has objective, verifiable reality; it is not anything you want to believe because it fits your prejudices.)

In other news, the lying aggregate of fecal matter known as “Newt Gingrich” went ballistic because President Obama not only shook hands with Hugo Chavez; he smiled and shook hands at the same time. Satyam Khanna points out at Think Progress that lots of presidents have shaken hands with dictators and smiled while they were doing it.

Gingrich said on NBC,

How do you mend relationships with somebody who hates your country, who actively calls for the destruction of your country and who wants to undermine you?

Which brings me back to the cartoon at the top of the post. We turn once again to Richard Hofstadter, here quoting Theodore W. Adorno:

The pseudo-conservative, Adorno writes, shows “conventionality and authoritarian submissiveness” in his conscious thinking and “violence, anarchic impulses, and chaotic destructiveness in the unconscious sphere … 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.”

How much more spot on can one get? They’ve somehow simultaneously staked claims on both “love it or leave it” super-nationalism and “hate the Gubmint” anarchism, which may be unprecedented.

18 thoughts on “The Air, the Air Is Everywhere

  1. I was particularly taken by the tea-partier I saw on You-Tube; he was waving the American flag _while_calling_out_”Secede!”_ (Sorry, I don’t have a URL.) That’s not a well-reasoned position, is it?

  2. Right wing propaganda is based on one-sided control of the debate, through ownership of the media and corporate control. Disinformation works when the truth has no outlet.

  3. It’s simple, really: Their fealty is to a tribal notion that they call “America” which may or may not have anything to do with the reality in the political entity called the United States of America.

    This notion is not written down anywhere; it’s in the heads and guts of the people who are in the tribe. Who’s in the tribe? Well, the people in the tribe decide that.

    I’ll give you an example: One of their most important tenets is “law and order.” Sure, we’re all in favor of law. But what is “order”? Laws are written down. You can read what they are; you can find out what the penalties are for breaking them; if you don’t like a law, there’s a clearly written-out process for changing it. But what is order? Where can I read it? Who decides? How do I change it? You can’t. It’s an informal set of rules, agreed on by people you don’t know and can’t appeal to, that says that if they don’t like what you’re doing they can hassle you.

    Their version of “America” is kind of like that. Whatever Rush, Newt, Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin tell them America is, that’s what America is.

  4. Richard Hofstadter’s writings were promoted to my senior class in 1963 by my high school history teacher; how vindicated he would have felt to know that Hofstadter’s work remains so relevant today.
    Who knew it would come to this?

  5. What’s hysterical about it is that it’s not exaggerated.

    Wouldn’t the tri-corn hat be a bit of an exaggeration… Or is that just for emphasis?

  6. Well, Cheney in his assurances that torture was justified because Intelligence got info which prevented another (9/11) has now joined other of history’s monsters who justified atrocities they committed with “the end justifies the means.”

    Fundamentalism, whether a branch of a religion or a political party, is a narcissistic faith/belief system concerned most of all with the wrongs suffered by the righteous and the purification of their ranks. (I’ve been applying that little piece of insight to the recent rants of righties and found it to be right on.)

  7. The key thing about the right wing noise machine is way their talking heads eliminate the distinction between fact and opinion. Opinion is something that is an interpretation of fact – right wingers treat them like fact.

  8. There isn’t much I can add, either to the posting or to the great comments. A great deal of energy is expended with wingnuts in distinguishing between fact and fiction, between fact and opinion, which are all confused together in their minds. They live in an imaginary, tribal America, that only bears a loose relationship to the real one. Where the two relate, and where they contradict is when it comes time to pay the bills.

    There is a powerful disconnect between “support the troops” and “love your country” versus the anti-tax seccessionists, that needs to be highlighted and drummed into their darkened minds. Robert Reich gave an example of this on his blog a few days ago, when he described a lunch he had with an attorney whose lapel bore a “Support The Troops” button, while the same attorney went on to describe how he sets up offshore tax shelters for his clients. Even well educated people are oblivious to this disconnect.

    The quote by Adorno in Hofstadter really hit home for me:

    The pseudo-conservative, Adorno writes, shows “conventionality and authoritarian submissiveness” in his conscious thinking and “violence, anarchic impulses, and chaotic destructiveness in the unconscious sphere… 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.”

    I get this at the societal level, but also at the personal level. This type of conservative plays to win, and win at any cost. They revel in being vicious, it’s a kind of sadism that genuinely brings them delight.

  9. That comic strip is great, it used to be in a left wing rag my wife subscribed to, always worth reading.

    “where senior officials promptly suppressed it, refusing even to open the e-mail to which it was attached” – what did they think if: we don’t open it, it doesn’t exist?

    I think the right is really overreaching on most of this bullshit, which is why you don’t really see “elected officials” of the party (other than Michelle Bachman) trashing Obama near as much as the has beens: Newt, Rove, Cheney, Army, etc.

  10. Righties ought not bitch about paying taxes, since about half of what they pay goes to that glorious war machine they love drooling on about.

  11. I don’t have anything to the contribute to the above except that didn’t we all grow up with a story about these rightwing crazies. It was either called Henny Penny or Chicken Little–the sky is falling, the sky is falling.

    And, isn’t “The Air That I Breathe” a song by the Hollies?

  12. More from Adorno:

    The goal toward which the pseudoconservative mentality strives — diffusedly and semiconsciously — is to establish a dictatorship of the economically strongest group. This is to be achieved by means of a mass movement, one which promises security and privileges to the so-called “little man” (that is to say, worried members of the middle and lower middle class who still cling to their status and their supposed independence), if they join with the right people at the right time. This wish appears throughout pseudoconservative ideology in mirrored reflection. Government by representation is accused of perverting democracy. Roosevelt and the New Deal particularly are said to have usurped power and to have entrenched themselves dictatorially. Thus psuedoconservatives accuse the progressives of the very thing which they would like to do, and they utilize their indictment as a pretext for “throwing the rascals out.” They call for a defense of democracy against its “abuses” and would, through attacking the “abuses,” ultimately abolish democracy altogether. Pseudoconservative ideology harmonizes completely with psychological projectivity.

    Hard to believe this great explanation of the tea party phenomenon was written 60 years ago!

  13. Another quote from Adorno’s book on authoritarianism:

    Finally, our attention should be directed toward an economic area which is of the utmost importance for the formative processes of fascism. This is taxes. It is perhaps the point at which pent-up social fury is most freely given vent. With the high scorers, this fury is never directed overtly against basic conditions but has nevertheless the undertone of desired violent action. The man who bangs his fist on the table and complains about heavy taxation is a “natural candidate” for totalitarian movements. Not only are taxes associated with a supposedly spendthrift democratic government giving away millions to idlers and bureaucrats, but it is the very point where people feel, to put it in the words of one of our subjects, that this would does not really belong to the people. Here they feel immediately that they are required to make sacrifices for which they do not get any visible returns, just as one of our subjects complains that he cannot see what he can get out of the war. The indirect advantages that each individual may draw from taxes paid are obscure to him. He can only see that he has to give something without getting anything back, and this, in itself, seems to contradict the concept of exchange upon which the free market idea of liberalism is built. However, the extraordinary amount of libido attached to the complex of taxes, even in a boom period, such as the years when our subjects were interviewed, seems to confirm the hypothesis that it draws on deeper sources of the personality as much as on the surface resentment of being deprived of a considerable part of one’s income without visible advantages to the individual. The rage against the rational tax system is an explosion of the irrational hatred against the irrational taxation of the individual by society. The Nazis knew very well how to exploit the complex of the “taxpayer’s money.”

  14. Oops! I accidently posted this comment on the torture post – which I haven’t even read! Here it is in the correct post.

    I’ve thought about this issue a little longer and must add how dangerous it is. We seem to have some 30 – 40% of Americans who simply can not process or comprehend complex information. They have become a subservent to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the rest of the noise machine. Anything written or broadcasted in the media is simply dismissed as “liberal.” Look at some issues: global warming is a “hoax” on the part of profiteering liberal scientists (I don’t understand the profiteering part); health care, we can’t have the government “run” health care, thats socialism (the incredible fact that perhaps that leaves 20% of us with no health care doesn’t get mentioned); gun control, the government can’t resrict our right to bear arms anywhere, regardless of the number of people murdered on our streets every day. This is just off the top of my head, but the point is problems exist in America today and these folks have disabled our system of government by using opinions as fact. Its dangerous!

  15. Adorno, of course, was well acquainted by this phenomenon– he was a Jewish intellectual who fled from Germany in the late 30s.

  16. How else can this phenomenon be described?

    There is one history only consumed by “elephant droppings”, and an entirely different history consumed by “donkey droppings”. Both are contaminated by the “GMO” of propaganda, disinformation, partial truths and outright lies; a montage of ignorance and mendacity, which cannot be recalled because of internal inconsistencies that defy memory, or resolution and maintain the story tract intact.

    These are marks of the end of shared history for the country. The exposure of a national schizophrenia and delusion to a world well acquainted with the pathological cancer the country presents on the world stage in its current guise of hegemonic dominance. It’s too bad the intellectual construct that powers and motivates the drive toward hegemony is fraudulent and bankrupt, unable to respond to its own inconsistencies and failures, and will, in the end, bring the civilization that spawned it collapsing into the mire it created.

    The would-be hegemon has consumed or destroyed all economic richness that once could have provided salvation. The only surviving wealth intact is what itself holds, and the sharks circling are near feeding frenzy for those remaining morsels of wealth, and when those are gone, maybe the dark ages were brighter after all. But never again will the ecology supply the resources necessary to rebuild anything comparable to this passing civilization; the low hanging fruit is no more.

    Such is the measure of mendacity, and the cost.

    Survival will depend upon the ability to know, reason, critically asses, conclude, devise and build upon basic economic processes in a rational manner. This will not come to pass until the present economic perception is shown to be bankrupt and false; economic collapse may be the best opportunity for the growth of a more ecological and sustainable economic theory. It will be necessary also to revisit and relearn basic economic thought from the originators of economic philosophy directly without relying on recent academic frauds to interpret the writings, no other recourse is as valid as direct exposure to the original. If you do not know from where you were, there can be no knowing where you are headed.

  17. Gingrich said on NBC, How do you mend relationships with somebody who hates your country, who actively calls for the destruction of your country and who wants to undermine you?

    Funny, that’s what I ask myself about Gingrinch and the rest of the Repig Hate Machine.

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