This Wacky World

It’s a good news/bad news sort of day. For example, the Connecticut Senate voted to abolish the death penalty. Score one for civilization. On the other hand, the Arizona Senate is considering a bill that would eliminate programs that promote energy efficiency. Why? Because “clean energy programs in Arizona are a plot by the United Nations to create a single world government in order to control people’s lives.”

Maybe we could just sell Arizona to some other country. I’m thinking China would take it if Mexico won’t.

Coca-Cola announced it is withdrawing support from ALEC in the face of a threatened progressive boycott. I’m starting to think that if we’d had social media 30 years ago the right-wing coup would never have gotten off the ground.

On the other hand, Krugman sees ALEC influence in New Jersey.

John Cole has a long and thoughtful post about why he switched from being a wingnut to being a sane person. As he explains why he used to support the Bush Administration, key part to me is “I believed it. I identified with it. It was part of who I was for years. It was my deference to authoritarianism after years in the military. It was tribalism.”

This is why reason doesn’t work on wingnuts. They are a tribe, and wingnuttiness is part of their tribal, and hence personal, identity. Any disagreement with the tribe, any attempt to show that everything they stand for is nonsense and lies, is an existential threat that must be stamped out by any means necessary.

So no matter how patiently one might try to show them that whatever they believe is irrational and a pack of lies, they will simply retreat further into la-la land and retort with whatever non sequiturs and ad hominems they find handy.

Cole says that what finally got to him was the sheer meanness of the Right.

And while Republicans may very well have been crazy for decades, the outright ugliness, I think, has escalated beyond measure. The hideous treatment of Graeme Frost was the final straw, I guess. It was just the last, final, “WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?” moment. You see the same thing from the same folks as they viciously attack Trayvon Martin for his horrible sin of being gunned down in cold blood.

Something like that seems to have happened to Charles Johnson back in 2009, which in many ways was a more remarkable conversion. I don’t remember that Balloon Juice was ever as hard, screaming, foaming-at-the-mouth Right as Little Green Footballs used to be. It’s like Johnson woke up from a bad dream.

Speaking of bad dreams — Item One

A top adviser to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned the Bush administration that its use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” interrogation techniques like waterboarding were “a felony war crime.”

What’s more, newly obtained documents reveal that State Department counselor Philip Zelikow told the Bush team in 2006 that using the controversial interrogation techniques were “prohibited” under U.S. law — “even if there is a compelling state interest asserted to justify them.”

Item two — Curveball goes public

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, who openly admitted to fabricating intelligence about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is breaking his silence with appearances in a BBC documentary that began airing this past Sunday and will conclude next Sunday.

Not that I expect many people to notice …

19 thoughts on “This Wacky World

  1. Why is Krugman’s article not the screaming bold headline story on the front page of the NYT? Oh, yeah……….well………..

  2. A number of years ago, my wife had an amazing career opportunity that involved moving to Phoenix. We seriously considered leaving our home in the Pacific Northwest. Now, just about every week I have a chance to thank my lucky stars that we decided to stay put. I can’t imagine quite how awful it would be to live in that cesspool of psychotic legislators, governed by Jan Brewer, and knowing that a majority of my neighbors were probably unhappy with John McCain because he isn’t crazy enough.

    In a sane universe, Arizona would already be exporting solar-generated electricity to other states, but in this one, they are talking about UN conspiracies. Oy.

  3. “This is why reason doesn’t work on wingnuts. They are a tribe, and wingnuttiness is part of their tribal, and hence personal, identity”

    Exactly, the Travon incident is a perfect example. Here you have the right taking the side of a thrice arrested Barney Fife who murders an unarmed teenager in cold blood. On its face it is laughable, why can’t they see that had Zimmerman left that kid alone we would never had known either name. But they insist on taking the side of the shooter, why? It must be part of their tribal identity as you explain. They just blindly choose the side of the shooter because as we all know only good patriotic republicans carry guns and shoot unarmed black teenagers?

  4. War Crimes!
    I think Cheney’s new heart is about to suffer it’s first attack!
    And to think, it took his first one 30 some-odd years to realize it was as superfluous in his body as his appendix.
    I think his brain left and joined his heart not long after.

    But, a sneaking suspicion tells me he’s not exactly sweating this – since we’ll be told (AGAIN!) that we must look forward, never backwards!

    After all, we must band together with our brothers in AZ who are in a fight for all of our lives, as they are battling “… a plot by the United Nations to create a single world government in order to control people’s lives!”
    If anyone wanted an answer to the question, “Just how f*cking crazy are these people?” – I think that ought to answer the question right there!

    Oh, and since we’re going through the John Birch Societies “1950’s-1960’s Hit Parade,” when will the flouride in the water debate rear its ugly head again?
    Oh, and, can “Kill a Commie for your Mommie,” be far behind?

  5. Gulag, I kinda think there’s a reason why evidence is now starting to trickle out about the the Bush/Cheney war crimes. When President Obama took office, the economy was in free-fall. Couldn’t he have done two things at the same time–righted the economy AND tried the Bush Administration for war crimes? Maybe. But at that stage, I believe he was hoping for some bipartisan cooperation on the part of the Republicans, cooperation he certainly would not get were he to launch an investigation against Bush and Cheney. In retrospect, did he make a bad call? I’m not so sure he did.

    The rot went so wide and deep–Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell, Rumsfeld, the Office of Special Plans, collusion with oil companies, the Pentagon, and who knows who else–Republicans could, and predictably would, screech that Obama was hell bent on destroying the Republican Party, the military, and the country. And many folks would have seen it just that way.

    Reason I think things are starting to trickle out now is because 1) this is an election year, 2) Republicans have clearly demonstrated they have no intention of cooperating,and 3) it damages the Republican brand by tying it back to the Bush Administration.

    Would I have rather seen those guilty SOBs standing in the dock? You bet I would. But then I remind myself that no one is entirely worthless when they can serve as a bad example.

  6. I’ve often thought there should be a “Recovering Right-Winger” website or 12 step group these people could go to, some way to reach out to those who are starting to doubt, and to give them the courage and de-programming to step away from the madness. Someone needs to step forward with this and build a support organization and brand like “AA” (alcoholics anonymous) which is instantly recognized by nearly everyone in the country, and to which people can encourage their afflicted friends and relatives to check into.

    It’s heartening to read about Cole’s and Charles Johnson’s recovery. I hadn’t heard of Little Green Footballs in years, and so his particular awakening is a welcome surprise for me.

    Arizona, oy. Isn’t this also the same state (of many) that is trying to eliminate or has eliminated programs that teach ethnic studies? Whatever, such a cesspool of sunlit militant ignorance.

  7. “Clean energy programs in Arizona are a plot by the United Nations to create a single world government in order to control people’s lives”

    …reads like it was typed by Mad-Eye the yellow lab, who illustrates your post. It’s a kind of platinum standard of teh crazee.

  8. Just last night my wife and I were talking about the Trayvon Martin case in terms of who people identify with. I basically identify with Trayvon’s family, in terms of imagining myself in their position, trying to imagine how they must feel, and so on. Black men of various ages obviously tend to identify with Trayvon himself. It didn’t even occur to me at first that anyone would identify with George Zimmerman, but it’s become sickeningly apparent that many, many wingnuts do.

    My wife also teaches the New Testament in her humanities class, so we also sometimes talk about how weird it is that anyone as tribalistic as our conservative brethren would claim to be a Christian. As far as I can tell, one of the main points of Jesus’s teaching is to move beyond a tribal morality to a universal morality. But I’m just a liberal secular humanist, so what do I know?

  9. moonbat,
    It’s too bad “AA’s” taken by alcoholics, otherwise ‘Authoritarians Anonymous’ would be a nice fit!

    The first step would be the worst:
    ‘You must find another way of dealing with someone who disagrees with you, besides wanting to belittle them, stomp on their heads, shoot them in their heads, stick a shiv in their hearts, castrate them, and then want to do the same with their family and friends.”

  10. Stephen S: Jesus’ core teachings are indeed about loving everyone, but these same teachings are wrapped in doctrines that encourage a we vs them mentality: you’re either Saved (one of us) or you’re Damned (the other). This we vs them mentality is also encouraged by the way fundamentalists practice day to day Christianity – from within a tiny island or microcosm of Christianity set within a hostile, sin-ridden World out there. Safe in their church sanctuaries (interesting word, refering to a piece of church architecture, but overloaded with meaning), they often talk about “The World”, which is tribal shorthand for the hostile place out there utterly removed from Christ and sanity.

    It takes a fair amount of spiritual maturing and broadening to realize that the opposite poles of “sanctuary” (holiness) and “the World” (the shadow) exist within every individual, and that Jesus’ moral teachings are universal and perennial. It takes even more maturity to realize that doctrines are really second or third hand thought, and limiting. The whole fundamentalist experience is not unlike learning how to read and write and multiply in grade school – important basic skills taught in a highly structured environment – but that it becomes time at some point for most to graduate beyond this and further develop into an adult human being.

  11. This is why reason doesn’t work on wingnuts.

    Because whether you are right or wrong in your argument is irrelevant — you’re offending them by questioning things, because in an authoritarian system you’re supposed to “know your place” and obey. You’re not an authority figure and not entitled to think for yourself or ask questions.

  12. Gulag – I love your humor, esp regarding the First Step in “Authoritarians Anonymous”. If I can take what you said, but provide a little more serious spin to it —

    Authoritarians don’t see themselves as authoritarians, even if they know what the word means, and most do not. Their habit of bullying others is unconscious, in that they often don’t know any other way of acting, even though they get enjoyment out of it. I prefer instead the initials “RR” – for “Recovering Right Winger”, or not-too-subtley, “Recovering Republican” – because this is more immediately understandable by the practicing authoritarian.

    I say all this as someone who used to bully others when I was very young, and so I know from firsthand experience how unconscious it is. It was a cruel but necessary karmic lesson, that I, in later years, got on the receiving end of some serious right wing bullying, so I could finally see what it feels like. Karma is indeed a bitch.

  13. “Personal identity” is right on. They have attached their egos to their ideology. Case in point – a few years back Clarence Thomas was asked why he was against affirmative action to which he replied that since his admittance into university was not a result of affirmative action, if affirmative action were in force, people would automatically assume that it was because of affirmative action that he got into a university. Talk about a fragile ego.

  14. moonbat: You’re right of course. When you put it that way, it’s quite easy to see how Christianity can become so tribalistic. I have a bad habit of thinking about Jesus more in the way that Thomas Jefferson did, but I know that’s un-American.

  15. Re: John Cole, and using reason, you’re right, part of it *is* tribalism, but there’s another issue that’s important.

    Once you feel *good* about something, it’s very hard to change your mind. To change your mind would be like ripping away that goodness and replacing it with pain.

    (For some reason, this strikes me as a Buddhist kind of thing – though that might be my misperception as much as anything else. “See, this is why latching on to stuff that makes you happy is dangerous.”)

    That’s why it was hard for a lot of people to admit that the war in Iraq was such a hideous mistake and such a dismal failure.

    Maybe that’s just the other side of tribalism. A working “tribe” has strong rewards for its membership… (Generic)you feel good when you live up to the ideals of the tribe and the tribe rewards you directly. So, there’s this reinforcement at many stages of those good feelings.

    • (For some reason, this strikes me as a Buddhist kind of thing – though that might be my misperception as much as anything else. “See, this is why latching on to stuff that makes you happy is dangerous.”)

      That’s a very Buddhist kind of thing, actually. It’s not saying that you shouldn’t be happy, but that you shouldn’t cling to things because you think you need them to be happy. This include clinging to ideas of who we think we are an what we think life is supposed to be.

  16. “See, this is why latching on to stuff that makes you happy is dangerous.”

    I think that’s an amazing insight. It’ll be my mahablog takeaway for today.

    • Statistics tell us that something like 90 percent of homicides are committed by men, and I’ve heard (on Criminal Minds, I think) that most serial killers are white men. Yet it never occurs to white men that anyone might be afraid of white men as a classification.

  17. People also cling to things that they fear. If you fear something, you have to be on your guard against it. So it’s always on your mind.

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