Thursday, September 3, 2009
Well, I'll give Republicans credit for this: they're nothing if not brilliant. Okay, not brilliant, in the sense of intelligent. Tactically, more like. Unrepentant and unrelenting in their willingness to manipulate public opinion with no regard to the truth. It's really very impressive. Machiavellian. Disciplined. Deception elevated to high art, if low road.
Somewhere, sometime, in an epiphany of evil, Republican planners had an insight of such depravity that one must stand in a sort of awe. Give credit. Admire the surpassing cynicism and the lack of morality; the willingness to play on the weakness of the system they profess to honor and defend. It's complicated, and simple. And if my words are a little hyperbolic, I'm completely convinced of what I say.
The Republican insight, in its satanic simplicity, is this: in America, you don't need a majority to win the debate. Beautiful, huh? It distills two important truths: 1) The media have become indifferent to careful and thoughtful reporting. It's too hard, it requires intelligent reporters, and it has no effect on ratings, which are, of course, all they really care about. 2) It's incredibly easy to manipulate people of strong religious conviction: the more fundamentalist, the better.
It doesn't take genii (which is lucky, because there are none that I can see, on the right) to develop a long-term plan. First, cozy up, flatter, nurture, and stroke the religious right. Pander to them. Take up their causes. Who cares? It's not about actually believing the stuff. It's about creating a devoted stable of the credulous and gullible. And what are religious fundamentalists if not that? Give me a young-earth creationist, and I'll give you someone who has no use for -- has a profound and proud distrust of -- fact. Someone to whom facts and reason are, very literally, anathema. Someone who considers intelligence "elitist," and who not only hates thoughtfulness in others but takes existential comfort in their own lack of it. Good. Exactly what's needed.
Next, reinforce and expand this group as much as possible (knowing, of course, that it doesn't require taking over the whole country with credulity: a handful of states is quite enough.) Get them on school boards, run them in small time offices. Do everything possible to turn public schools into hothouses of fundamentalism: because the more kids are allowed to think for themselves, the less likely is the plan to work. (Thus the current mind-blowing -- except in the context of this post -- response to the President's plan to address school kids with the message to work hard in school, have goals, listen to their teachers. What greater threat to creating credulous crowds of captured and cowering combatants than a president inspiring kids to rise above themselves? Can you imagine any other place on earth where a message of setting personal goals [not goals set for you by others] would be considered evil? Oh yeah. In the sort of fascist societies they seem to see happening here! Or theocracies. How telling it is that the reaction is not just from a few crazy people, but from actual state party leadership. Not to mention the usual RWS™. It's beyond my comprehension that people say, and others believe this crap.)
There's a certain irony, of course: you'd think the natural tendencies of followers of Jesus would be to care for the poor and the needy and the sick, to help one's fellow man, to want peace and love in the world. You'd think they'd be Democrats. (And, once upon a time, they were. Until Republicans hatched their plan.) You'd think, in particular, they'd want to reform health care so it serves the needs of everyone. So in currying these folks you have to recognize their more fundamental need: easy answers. Clarity, not charity. In the heads of religious fundamentalists is soil most fertile for felonious fooling. Fear and paranoia are part and parcel of fundamentalism, no matter the religion. It doesn't take much to use it for other purposes. Claim the the other party is godless, is against their much-needed and fact-free answers to life's most disturbing questions.
Although it was evident in the recent presidential campaign, where Sarah Palin stoked people's fears and paranoia, rallying the "us versus them" inclinations of the religiously rabid, it wasn't until this summer that it came fully into focus.
With military precision, the hoards were marched into so-called town hall meetings, outrage fanned like a Southern lady's face in August. And, predictable as Rush Limbaugh's need for oxycontin, the media put the most fact-free lunatics front and center. For a few weeks, if you wanted to get some air time -- and not just on Fox "News" but on the actual news outlets (what passes for them nowadays) as well -- all you had to do was hold up the most hate-filled sign, pack the hottest heat, weep the wettest tears for the loss of "your" country. Your views would be treated with the same seriousness, given the same credence and weight as someone who actually knew what he or she was talking about.
Better still: by following the strategy you can get elected to national office some truly insane people. Or, if not insane, people willing to say anything. (Whether they believe it, is something I have a hard time deciding. Growing up, as I did, and remaining, mostly, among people to whom fact and honesty were of actual importance, I have a hard time understanding, as a good example, when a United States Senator claims "President Obama is obsessed with turning terrorists loose in America." The statement is so far off the rails that any of the possible explanations are hard to accept: he actually believes it; he's willing to lie outrageously. He is, of course, exactly the desired result of the long-term plan; as are those who elected him. He's not the only one.
And they're the ones the media loves. ALL the media.
The result of all this is a perfect substrate for brewing paranoid discontent. Credulous and naturally frightened people, and a press wholly unconcerned for and, now, incapable of seeking and saying the truth. So the looniest and most frightened, the least accountable and the least connected to reality are given enormously disproportionate coverage, creating the illusion that they represent the wishes of "the people." And it takes hold, enough to result in our genetically cowardly and self-interested congressional "leaders" backing away from what's patently right. Needed. Indisputably.
In America, you don't need a majority to win the debate.