Lots of Griping on the Western Front

This is what Freedom!® looks like, folks:

Yes, it looks a lot like a Monty Python skit.

It may be we won’t need reinforcements after all, as the Cliven Commandos appear to be on the brink of taking each other out.

The armed anti-government play-warriors who built a military force around a racist redneck rancher in Nevada have split into rival factions and are now at the brink of civil war, calling each other crazies and traitors and spreading rumors that Eric Holder planned a drone strike on them. . . .

. . . In this Waco-wacko Woodstock of woolly-bully mountain men, the irony and the insanity spiked last weekend when leaders of the most prominent militia group, the Oath Keepers, began complaining of armed madmen “in the camp running amok.” They eventually pulled back from their positions, claiming they had received intelligence suggesting that the Obama administration’s attack drones were incoming.

That “redeployment” pissed off other armed patriots who stayed behind in Nevada, who now call the Oath Keepers and their prominent leader, Stewart Rhodes, cowards and traitors who might actually be working for the U.S. government. “They committed a deliberate act of desertion,” Blaine Cooper—a de facto leader of the remaining militiamen—said in his own video, embedded at the top of this post.

They appear to sincerely believe Eric Holder has ordered a drone strike to take them out, and the fact that this hasn’t happened yet is attributed to the mighty power of their stalwart resolution. I’d also hate to think what they all smell like by now. I’m thinking that if they don’t shoot each other soon either the fumes or the summer heat will at least cause them to redeploy back home. No need to waste taxpayer dollars on drones.

Speaking of crazy, I’m closing in on finishing The Book, and there’s a chapter on True Believers and Mass Movements that these guys fit right into. I’ve been helped a lot by a book called The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science by Will Storr (Overlook Press, 2014). This book actually is a kind of meditation on why people believe crazy things, and it is absolutely fascinating. I just wish Storr had spent some time with 9/11 truthers, who I think qualify as enemies of science, or at least enemies of things like gravity and principles of architecture.

Storr suggests that our brains haven’t evolved as far beyond the age of myth as we’d like to pretend, and we all live inside our own personal myth. Our experiences are framed by our personal, mythical (and usually self-flattering) narratives, not data. We feel emotions and impulses, generated in the subconscious, that we cannot explain, so we make up stories to explain them. We create our stories from our biases, however, not from objective fact, and that’s how we interpret the world. And we all do this.

I would argue that some of us are better at critically examining what we want to believe, though. We may hear a rumor about X, and we may want to believe it, and we may flirt with believing it. But then we cast about for something approximating objective fact to support X, and if we don’t find it we (possibly reluctantly) put X aside, clinging to a hope that maybe it’s true while acknowledging that it probably isn’t.

Others of us, apparently, lack self-critical filters and embrace whatever we want to believe as the Holy Truth. And if you can find others who have embraced the same beliefs, you’ve got yourself a mass movement, or at least a Band of Feedback Loopy Brothers.