Out of Control

Sorry I’ve been away — my back is not letting me sit in a chair for very long, which makes keyboarding a bit tricky. Ice packs are helping, though.

Anyway — Attaturk has a video of a man at a Senator Charles Grassley townhall meeting who is saying,

The president of the United States, that’s who you should be concerned about. Because he’s acting like a little Hitler, I’d take a gun to Washington if enough of you would go with me.

Grassley is silent. Attaturk links to similar incidents with other Republican politicians. He also documents some Republicans who not-too-implicitly encouraged constituents to use violence to enforce their political will.

Last night, Rachel Maddow showed us that extremist anti-reproductive rights groups are encouraging people to assassinate more abortion doctors.

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American popular culture long has promoted an almost romantic ideal of the little guy picking up a gun and taking on some evil that is either being protected by the establishment or is the establishment itself. Think of Charles Bronson’s ” Death Wish” films, for example, or most westerns, or “Dirty Harry” and its many clones. Indeed, American gun culture has invested guns and gun ownership with powerful symbolic meaning. Add to that decades of demagoguery and manipulation of public opinon by right-wing forces that respect democracy only as long as they control it. And what you’ve got is a significant number of people who are primed to become domestic terrorists.

Grassley is silent, and I say he is silent because he is intimidated. The anger is out of his control. If he were to tell people to put their guns away and rely on the democratic process, they’d turn on him. It’s not lost on Republicans, I suspect, that when John McCain attempted to calm down his audiences during last year’s presidential campaign, the audience tuned him out. It was Sarah Palin who fed them all the red meat they wanted, so she became their champion.

At the Washington Monthly, Steve Benen asks (reasonably)

But reading over these specific lies, and thinking about them in relation to the other insane attacks we’ve seen as part of the health care reform “debate,” it occurs to me to ask right-wing opponents of reform a simple question: “Why would Dems want that?”

And by “that,” I mean any of the various nightmares that insurance companies and GOP hacks have come up with. Why would Democrats want “death panels”? Why would they support widespread “rationing”? Why would they try to force bureaucrats between patients and their doctors? What possible incentive could they have?

They’re politicians. They want to do well, but they also want to keep their jobs (i.e., win re-election). It’s in their interests to pass legislation that would benefit the country, and which voters will like. Does it make any sense to think Democrats would take this rare opportunity to approve legislation that would kill off seniors, while making things drastically worse for tens of millions of people? Why would Dems want that?

But this is a line of reasoning that was lost a long time ago. To many, liberals by definition are people with an insane plan to raise taxes for the sake of raising taxes, who encourage people to go on welfare, who get off on throwing money out the window in buckets, who burn Bibles, and of course want to take their guns away. And it’s thought liberals/Democrats want to do these things because they “believe in” doing them. One picks one’s tribe by faith, not reason.

So here we are. The politicians and pundits who feed the beast don’t control it. Or, to use another metaphor, they’ve played with fire, and now the fire is out of control. We’re going to be very, very fortunate if there aren’t more assassinations and mass shootings.

18 thoughts on “Out of Control

  1. The situation is no longer a health care debate. It is a focus for whatever general discontents and insecurities any particular frightened person has at the moment.

    At a town hall meeting for a NC state senator yesterday evening, it was clear some present did not know the difference between federal and state programs/issues. The lack of facts on where money comes from (thinking the state lottery was completely funding our $11,000,000 k-college budget segment) and where it goes (not aware state retirement is already funded by employee contributions) made it clear that the only real interest was in not paying any more in taxes.

    The fog of war/lies is making intelligent discussion impossible. Demagoguery is the order of the day. The fact that we have elected officials on video lying their heads off ought to be the material for a wonderful hour of television newsmen doing some of the functions of journalism, but don’t count on it.

    Which brings me to the media: they discuss attitudes, not the issues. It must be very cheap to produce talk shows as opposed to basic news and video clips. Either that or we are just seeing the man behind the curtain.

  2. Something has been really nagging at me lately and I finally just gotta say it. Years ago, in one of my psych classes, a prof demonstrated how easily some people can be hypnotized. To me, one of the most amzing aspects of his performance was post-hyp0notic suggestion, where subjects performed ridiculous acts in response to “cue” words–when they were no longer in a trance state. But the strangest part about post-hypnotic suggestion was that when the prof asked these subjects why they had crowed like roosters or leaped up from their chairs or danced around the room, they gave a variety of rational-sounding reasons for their behavior, but not a one of them said, “Because you told me to.”

    Radio is an intimate medium; Rush Limbaugh is not speaking to a crowd of people–he is speaking directly to me. Television is a passive medium; Sean Hannity does all the work, and I simply absorb. No thinking required. But the words stick. Oh, yes, they truly do.

    Ever tried to talk reason to a teabagger? Ever tried to have a rational discussion with a ditto head? Ever tried to explain facts to a Birther or Deather? They cannot hear you. The hypnotist–either implicitly or explicitly–has already told them, “Listen only to my voice.”

    FYI, yes, for years afterward, I had great fun hypnotizing people at parties. Until I finally realized how dangerous it is to mess with people’s heads on purpose.

  3. So right. I was mystified when Steve asked “But why would Democrats do that?”

    The answer for them is of course “Because they are Democrats!”

  4. ED: Sorry Muldoon, I’m an amateur hypnotist to, but if you’re ethical you’re not messing with people’s heads. And there is always a choice involved even when you’re in trance. Always.

  5. You knocked it out of the park again… Hope the back gets better. After my acute stage I’d always found that pushing it to a point just short of inflammation was better for it than being sedentary… therapy to get out of the woods then stretching and exercises to maintain.

    Why would Dems want that?

    The circular and lazy reasoning that predominates the entire right (except for the psy-ops cadre who are very smart and rich has it that they want that because they are Dems and they are Dems because they want that. They’re just Dems and that’s what Dems do. End of story… and the effort to try and find out.

    This is hardly about the issues and is more of a venting thing by which some other group fulfills their need for a generalized other onto which all the ills and foibles of society can be blamed. It is a big, complicated confusing world out there so simplifying it into manichaean black and white serves two purposes — they can think of theselves as the good guys and they get their scapegoat. None fo this has anything to do with the issues.

    So Grassley has made a pact with the devil and we all know what regret that ultimately brings about. Nevertheless, I’m having a hard time telling who the devils really are…the ignorant, manipulated masses…the wannabe Charles Bronsons or those Republican snakes who think they can enable the rabble and still maintain plausible deniability.

    I keep going back to Canneti’s Crowds and Power, a seminal work on mass psychology and can’t help but think that this will just bring about the accretion of a larger “mob” or public opinion that has nothing but disgust for the disruptive, gun-toting, rightees who regularly crack jokes about shooting Obama (yeah, sure…hahaha). So it could well be a good thing to let this go on and give what might be a tsunami a chance to form. If it can be kept civil rather than a mirror image of Dems town halls (see McCains recent town hall) all the better.

    We could not be at a more perfect juncture or alignment of the stars. A financial meltdown and high unemployment caused by de-regulation and mass corporate greed. Most people really get this. There are reasons for hope.

  6. I tried to talk to a tea-bagger at a party…had her going with “I do not want some insurance company CEO getting between me and my physician. That’s socialism!” and she thought I was agreeing with her. LOL. Not one of the brightest bulbs in the pack.

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  8. MNPundit–you are absolutely right: “If you’re ethical, you’re not messing with people’s heads.” The point I failed to make was that as an amateur hypnotist, I personally did not always make a distinction between ethical and unethical behavior.

    And yes, even a hypnotized subject can choose to not act against his/her own moral code, sense of right and wrong, or self-interest; however, the devil is in the details. Those who limit their sources of information to the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Becks and their ilk, have already made a choice that may not be in their best interests.

  9. As a Fed employee for 31 years, I had to sign a loyalty oath that said I would not engage or allow other people to engage in any discussions about overthrowing the US of A government. As I have heard some of these republicans, I think they are violating that loyalty oath, which they have to sign, too. We should be taking action that leads to their losing their job (and health care) for violating that oath.

  10. American popular culture long has promoted an almost romantic ideal of the little guy picking up a gun and taking on some evil that is either being protected by the establishment or is the establishment itself

    You mean like “The man who shot Liberty Valence”?

  11. “Why would they do that?” is exactly what troubled me so deeply a few years back.

    People are willing to say the most wildly crazy things, to hold the most hateful beliefs, because they aren’t thinking.

    It’s insane to think about how people will accept such quiet hatred – those who encourage it, and try to benefit from it are even worse, but just accepting it, just letting it go by, is bad enough.

  12. Just this morning an older lady I know (in her eighties) was lamenting the state of affairs in this country. Why, back when she was a girl in the Great Depression, people were out of work, but they were glad to do chores just for a sandwich. No one expected a handout! They were willing to do anything to earn a few pennies. Not like today, where THOSE PEOPLE expect Welfare and taxpayers to buy their food and houses.

    It’s always THOSE PEOPLE, those faceless, nameless souls who are lazy, ungrateful, greedy pigs. It’s always US against THEM. But a finer Christian woman you’ll never meet…aaarrrghhh!

  13. I’ve said this here many times before, all of this phony discontent is nothing more than thinly veiled racism. All one has to do is look back at the healthcare debate during Bubba’s first term. We had lots of whining and predictable republican demagogue slogans Hillarycare, Socialized Medicine and the inciting fear in the old folks, etc. But there were no shouts of Fascism, Tyranny, Hitler, death panels, euthanasia. We started to hear the beginnings of this mob action at McCain’s town halls once it was apparent Obama would be the nominee, long before healthcare (he’s a muslim). We saw McCain’s running mate accuse Obama of: “paling around with terrorists” long before healthcare. We saw it kick into gear during the Teabagging parties before healthcare. Now we see it at full speed disguised as a debate on healthcare. This problem is as old as our country, having an African American president is intolerable to a good majority of the “majority” in this country. And now the racists are desperate, they imagine (with the help of the right wing-nut media) their power slipping away, these are the acts of an ignorant and desperate mob.

  14. Another reason why so many people seem willing to believe such things is Christianity’s dogma of original sin. If you believe that all persons, beginning at the exact nanosecond of conception, are inherently and intrinsically evil to the core–not ignorant or deluded, but willfully evil–then it’s not hard to think that the other tribe would do apparently counterproductive things just because they enjoy inflicting pain or suffering.

  15. Feel better maha. 🙂
    Once madness starts, it frequently gains momentum. I see that happening here. You’re right. They have unleashed a monster and now don’t know how to reign it in.
    Someone with guts in the Republican party, a leader, needs to get out in front of people, particularlly those in the media, and say, “Enough!” Sadly, there are no leaders, and no one with any guts.
    It’s not long before this mob reaches critical mass. And then, you can bet, there will be deaths.
    Cue the crocodile tears…

  16. Maha,

    I know money’s an issue, but if you can, I once again recommend finding a certified yoga therapist to help you with your back. Mine has been a godsend.

    As for your post: I am so depressed. People are right, Nazism is afoot. They just haven’t identified its true proponents: Beck (couldn’t watch the whole excerpt, it made me sick), Hannity and co.

  17. As per the adage “I’ll know it when I see it”, that IS terrorism.

    About your back problem, I have been prone to severe muscle spasms in my back for over 20 years, they seem to happen about twice a year, for no apparent reason. Last year, I began taking two tablespoons of hemp seed oil, twice a day; one at breakfast, and one at bedtime. Hempseed oil is rich in the three omega’s, and they are anti-inflamatory.
    You can buy hemp seed oil in most health food stores, it is usually in a refrigerated case. It is pressed from organically grown hemp seeds grown in Canada. It contains no THC, costs about $16.00 per 16 oz bottle.
    I can’t say it will work for you, but I have no more back spasms……….

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