Why They Exaggerate

From all the screaming on the Right, you’d think Senate Dems were a tribe of ax-wielding Visigoths. Rush made a really creepy rape analogy. The usual stuff.

Steve M. reminds us that righties always see themselves as picked-upon (but noble) victims. Whatever happens is never their fault.

Bullies claiming to be bullied — does that remind you of anything? It reminds me of a wife beater who gets a restraining order against the wife he beats, and who otherwise claims that he’s the real victim. Fight back against a guy like that, even strictly in self defense, and he’ll show off every tiny bruise as proof that you’re the monster, not him.

Explains why they so fervently embrace George Zimmerman as one of their own.

Paul Rosenberg writes about the rightie proclivity to exaggerate. Any misstep on the part of the Democrats is “worse than Watergate” or “Obama’s Katrina.”

Case in point: As early as April 2010, Media Matters had counted eight different things that had been touted as “Obama’s Katrina,” including the BP oil spill (Limbaugh, Drudge, Fox.etc. vs. facts here); the GM bankruptcy (Politico, June 8, 2009); the H1N1 flu (Rush Limbaugh, Nov. 3, 2009); the Fort Hood shootings (Human Events, Nov. 11, 2009); the Christmas underwear bomber (Pajamas Media, Dec. 29, 2009); the Haiti earthquake (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 25, 2010); the Kentucky ice storms (Confederate Yankee, Feb. 1, 2010); and even housing policies in Chicago back when Obama was a state senator (Mickey Kaus, Slate, June 30, 2008).

They’re also prone to comparing anything they don’t like to slavery. While I don’t entirely agree with part of his premise, Rosenberg makes one interesting point. The Fundamentalist right, Jerry Falwell et al., did not immediately jump on abortion as their signature issue right after Roe v. Wade. At the time, they were still locked in the final battles of their war on racial desegregation. Many seem to have embraced pregnancy enforcement only when they realized segregation was lost.

For several decades now, conservatives have clung to abortion as their great moral equalizer, which they consequently just love to equate with slavery. Ever since its meteoric rise in the late 1970s, the religious right has clung to the abortion issue as the foundation of its claims to moral superiority — and for good reason, since their true, sordid origin story lies in fighting to preserve segregation, as Max Blumenthal explained in the Nation magazine at the time of Jerry Falwell’s death (“Agent of Intolerance“). …

…Remarkably, Falwell and his ilk were so focused on defending segregation, that they rebuffed early Catholic attempts, spearheaded by Paul Weyrich, to turn their attention to abortion. They only broadened their issue agenda to include abortion some years later, as they came to realize they needed allies who had little motivation in helping them preserve the separation of the races.

I well remember there was plenty of antipathy to abortion among religious and political conservatives even before Roe v. Wade (1973). But the degree to which the Right has made abortion the ground of Armageddon itself might be partly explained by their position on what they think is moral high ground. They’ve lost or are losing every other moral/social issues fight of the 20th century, but they’ve still got abortion. Plus, it gives them an excuse to slut-shame sexually active women. So they aren’t likely to let go of abortion anytime soon, even if it’s beginning to cost them elections.

My quibble with Rosenberg comes up in this paragraph:

What connects all these patterns is that they involve bad things that conservatives were responsible for in the past, things they still, apparently, feel appropriately guilty about. but cannot consciously admit to, and hence, keep on trying to find liberal versions of, in order to unburden themselves by pushing their guilt onto others. It’s an example of what psychologists and psychiatrists know as “projection,” and the rest of us know as “the pot calling the kettle black.” But often it’s actually even worse than that — it’s not just the past bad behavior that’s being projected, but ongoing bad behavior as well, in part because of this same refusal to come to terms with past mistakes.

Yeah, sorta, but I don’t think it’s guilt they feel. Maybe, but I doubt it. It’s more like existential fear. They are so utterly invested in their own moral certitude that it has become who they are. Any challenge to their inner core of white-hot righteousness about whatever is a mortal threat.

This accounts for another tendency, the way in which admired historical figures must be assimilated by the Right. Thus the absurd argument that Martin Luther King was a rightie — they sure didn’t think that when he was alive — or the belief that John Kennedy was a conservative, even though he called himself a liberal. It must not be that anyone who was “good” could not have been one of theirs, and not one of the hated liberals.

16 thoughts on “Why They Exaggerate

  1. Yup, maha!
    It ain’t guilt.
    It’s existential fear!

    And projection is their tool.

    JFK may not have been a flaming Liberal.
    But he was a Liberal.

    MLK Jr., was a flaming Liberal!
    He died, going to speak about the economic rights of municipal workers!
    And, about the futility of the Vietnam War.

    To claim them as their own, is as disingenuous as a Liberal claiming the Reagan was an anti-war President because he met with Gorbachev, or the George W. Bush was a supporter of the arts, because he paints.

    Leave our icon’s alone!!!
    You have your own!
    Every sh*ty President after Teddy, except for Ike.
    And even , wasn’t all THAT great!!!

  2. Yeah, I don’t see a lot of guilt or shame on the right either. Although I think this is a case where you have to make a distinction between authoritarian leaders and authoritarian followers. It’s easy to explain why Rush Limbaugh exaggerates, for instance. He’s a demagogue, and that’s what demagogues do. The more interesting question is why the exaggeration works–why the followers follow.

    And there I would note that a lot of white folks to this day get strangely defensive when you talk about slavery. Which makes no sense unless you take any discussion of slavery as an accusation. I still think there’s more fear and resentment than guilt in that reaction, but it is pretty peculiar.

  3. JFK was definitely liberal (from a comment here):

    ..It is he who first proposed Medicare and the Civil Rights Act — LBJ was completing the Kennedy program when he got them passed after the assassination. JFK also was aggressively in favor of arms control and toning down the dangerous confrontation with the Soviets. There was a reason the right wingers of his time hated him and accused him of treason. His domestic policies were liberal and would still be too much for the tea party conservatives of 2013.

    An entire book could be written about the themes you touch on, the mostly unconscious workings of the right wing mind, with a special chapter devoted to re-imagining the past or the present. It’s fascinating to me how wingnuts re-imagine history to suit their biases – holding up JFK as a conservative, for example, and conversely, imagining the present day democrats as communists to the left of Stalin or Mao. The two work together: without a perceived threat in the present, there’s no need to distort the past.

    Whatever the subject du jour is, of course it must be just out of reach of recent consensus memory, so the picture is fuzzy enough that they can distort it, without too many calls to return to reality. JFK and 1963 certainly qualify.

    Likewise the conservative “research” concluding that FDR’s New Deal made the Depression worse – an astounding re-writing of history that of course appears after the majority of people who lived through it have passed on.

    It’s as if, what’s passed (the life and death of JFK or MLK, or a negative rewrite of the New Deal) has to be somehow absorbed and integrated into a narrative that makes the right winger feel justified, whole, indomitable, and numerically superior, no matter how contrary to their belief system the actual event actually was. In this way, they can feel superior, bigger, more righteous, to whatever threats they perceive before them today.

  4. Hell, they even appropriate the label “liberal,” as in, yesterdays “true liberals” are now in the conservative ranks, and aren’t so bad. But, today’s Progressives, well, evil incarnate…

    Projection is probably less about shame or guilt and more about preemption. If you can tilt the narrative to believing your opponent actually has your faults, then since the human mind can’t wrap itself around the concept of two competing groups with the same set of faults, preemption wins. Very much like the first product with specific attributes on the market usually captures the lion’s share of the market until the second product distinguishes itself somehow, even if only by price. We humans are like that, if left to our subconsciouses; even those of us who DO think aren’t as independent of human tendencies as we would like to believe!

  5. I don’t think it’s even fear. They’re just assholes. They have been told for 30 years that they are Americans and we are not. They literally cannot deal with not getting everything they want always.

    And Steve M. has them dead to rights – they remind me more and more of my first wife every day.

  6. George Orwell — ‘He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.’

    They so want to be in control… They can taste it! Kind of like The Mummy in the Boris Karloff version, when the car pulls away.

    If they ever actually get control, the country is doomed. Orwell wasn’t nearly creative enough to ponder what they have in mind!

  7. I’m guilty of painting ‘righties’ with a broad brush from time to time. The talking heads for the right are the source of the ‘disinformation’ – the term invented by Nixon as I recall. Rabid righties have their own reality, shaped by the rabid right media. But if I may parse conservatives into three groups, the first being the right-wing media, the second being the rabid loudmouths, the third category is the misinformed mass of conservatives who hear all this crap, distrust liberals intensely, but know they can’t trust their own sources of information.

    IMO, the motive for the exaggeration is to affect the third group. The objective reality is that ultra-conservatives have succeeded in getting elected to Congress far beyond what their ‘true’ support and endorsement by voters really is. The method has been to get extremists on the ballot of the General Election by sandbagging the ‘moderate’ republican in the primary. If this can be done, (and it has – over and over) the GOP candidate can’t run on his extreme ‘2nd Amendment Option’ rhetoric – he has to be the only option to the greater evil – ‘the liberal candidate’ (cue boos and hissing).

    Sorry for taking the long way ’round the barn but here’s my point about the motive for the orchestrated campaign of exaggeration and misinformation about democrats, liberals and progressives. The architects of the modern ultra-conservative movement have to prevent non-rabid republicans from considering any other candidate but the republican. Thus, the opposition must be demonized at every turn by any means available.

  8. OT, the Battle Front Shifts to People’s Minds:

    Having failed to defeat the Affordable Care Act in Congress, to beat it back in the last election, to repeal it despite more than 80 votes in the House, to stop it in the federal courts, to get enough votes in the Supreme Court to overrule it, and to gut it with outright extortion (closing the government and threatening to default on the nation’s debts unless it was repealed), Republicans are now down to their last ploy.

    They are hell-bent on destroying the Affordable Care Act in Americans’ minds.

    A document circulating among House Republicans (reported by the New York Times) instructs them to repeat the following themes and stories continuously: “Because of Obamacare, I Lost My Insurance.” “Obamacare Increases Health Care Costs.” “The Exchanges May Not Be Secure, Putting Personal Information at Risk.”

    Every Republican in Washington has been programmed to use the word “disaster” whenever mentioning the Act, always refer to it as Obamacare, and demand its repeal.

    Republican wordsmiths know they can count on Fox News and right-wing yell radio to amplify and intensify all of this in continuous loops of elaboration and outrage, repeated so often as to infect peoples’ minds like purulent pustules.

    The idea is to make the Act so detestable it becomes the fearsome centerpiece of the midterm elections of 2014 — putting enough Democrats on the defensive they join in seeking its repeal or at least in amending it in ways that gut it (such as allowing insurers to sell whatever policies they want as long as they want, or delaying it further)….

  9. Yeah, moonbat… I always liked the, “it’s a train wreck”, shriek. It leaves me puzzled on how it can be a train wreck before it was even launched. I would have loved to engage one of the clowns mouthing that negative bullshit and ask them to explain exactly how it is a train wreck. I guess it makes for a good fear inducting sound bite, but it’s a completely hollow statement.
    I love watching Jon Steward when he compiles video of all of the identical talking point phases to show how coordinated the Repugs efforts are.

  10. Thanks, uncledad. That brought back memories, when it was recorded in 1980, I had hair like that too. It was a pipe dream of the same sort that brought us out to the country.

    I think what Stephan wrote above rings true, there is a big difference between the leaders and followers. Just looking and listening to my conservative friends, I think, for the followers, it’s mostly a psychological phenomenon. Paranoia is the common man’s narcissism. Most of us are remarkably unremarkable. If you give us a chance to be a hero or preferably, just act the part, we all want to sign up. So, all the impending calamities and injustices take on Biblical proportions and not one follower wants to question the exaggeration, because that same exaggeration transforms a follower into a soldier in the great battle between Good and Evil. The best part is that it can all come to pass in front of Fox news, in the comfort of their own home, errr, bunker.

    I think this is why some people get so angry if you question their “facts.” Those facts are the key to their identity as someone special, who has God’s ear, instead of just another poor schmuck in a sea of banality.

    I have an old friend who has gone over to the other side in the past decade. He spouts right wing talking points and considers himself much more gifted and insightful than the rest of us. He ALWAYS “improves” the numbers, etc. You can count on it. But, it is useless to point that out. Virtually all of my “conservative” friends are the same way. Their empirical world has closed in on itself, like a black hole.

    On the lighter side, one of my whacko friends posted a “short history” that outlined how Democrats were once the racist party. It cited their historical opposition to the 13th and 14th amendments. But, they just had to offset the guilt of the recent Republican voter suppression. So, they cited Democratic opposition to the 18th amendment, which according to the constitutional scholars who prepared the post, “guaranteed voting for all.” The 18th amendment, was of course, the one that established Prohibition.

    For me, the frightening and disheartening implication is that it no longer matters what is true and what is not. Making stuff up and bumping the volume, is far easier and more effective than the mere truth.

  11. goatherd & other commenters,
    As evidence of the monotone madness of our Reich-Wingers, I offer to all of you Senator John Cornyn’s (R – Bunghole) twitter response upon hearing of the peace treaty with Iran:
    “Amazing what WH will do to distract attention from O-care.”

    Yes, BHO went and signed an historic peace agreement with Iran, just to distract attention from O-Care.

    IT BURNS WITH THE HEAT OF A BILLION SUNS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. I doubt that people who are incapable of shame have a capacity for guilt. Fear, yes. My perspective is that losers develop such an overwhelming desire to feel a sense of victory that they’ll do anything to achieve it.

  13. Well, now that there’s a peace treaty that will insure that Iran won’t have nuclear weapons, how do we go about making sure that TX, SC, GA, LA, OK, MO, KS, etc., don’t get them either?

  14. On the lighter side, one of my whacko friends posted a “short history” that outlined how Democrats were once the racist party.

    Well, of course this is entirely true, but also irrelevant. The parties are not what they were in the 1860s, and in a lot of ways they’ve actually switched positions. The Democrats used to be the southern party too, after all.

  15. What happened to the rapture?
    We don’t hear much about that any more.
    I can remember when an upside down american flag was considered a rude hippy thing. Now its a popular right wing gravatar. After thanksgiving, I’ll be away for about 10 days. I kinda look forward to a break from the right wing insane asylum.

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