Monday, January 10, 2011

It's Crazy

Paranoid schizophrenia has intrigued me ever since my psych rotation in med school. Talking with affected young adults, hearing their crazy theories, I couldn't help but think -- they all seemed exceptionally intelligent on some level -- that their insanity came about because, for some brief moment of clarity, they'd seen things as they really are, and it blew their minds. It made me think that we all need patches to the holes that appear in the curtain, lest we see behind it. Glenn Beck, Religion, Reaganomics, Glenn Beck, teabaggerism, Glenn Beck, talk radio, Glenn Beck...

There's a word for those of us who try hard to keep our eyes open and our minds unclouded: depressed.

(It happens that, at the same time in med school, I was reading L. Ron Hubbard's book, Dianetics, and it sounded exactly like the stuff pouring out of schizophrenic brains. In Elron's case, however, I'm guessing it was a deliberate con job.)

Be that as it may, it's interesting that the beliefs of those so affected seem (from what little I know of it) to follow such similar patterns: belief in mind control, implanted devices, hearing voices; seeing dire patterns where there are none, conspiracies, plots, hidden signs. Commonly, too, there's a religious undercurrent, and I find that of interest as well: in what ways does the mumbler on the street corner, the passer-out of rambling and capitalized literature past whom we hurry with downturned eyes, differ from others whose claims took hold? Jim Jones, David Koresh, Joseph Smith... Luck? Off by a couple of phrases from connecting with the extant level of illness of those around them?

Anyway, here's the thing: we generally accept that the paranoid schizophrenic has a determinable disorder of the brain. Chemical, in some way. Anatomic perhaps. And, given that most -- if not all -- human disorders have a spectrum of expression, might it also be the case that the most recalcitrant political conspiracists among us are similarly dyschemified-- just a bit less, to varying degrees?

Is birtherism in the face of all the evidence, for example, not a certifiable condition of a disordered mind? What about climate-change denial? And it's really hard, impossible in my view, to reconcile young-earthism with any sort of rational thinking at all. So maybe it's not their fault: they're just a little further toward the far end of that chemical line than others of us, led around by different molecules. The more I think about it, the less the word "sane" has any meaning. There is no "sane"; probably no "line" either. Just points on a circle.

This is relevant in instances of political murder. The guy who shot the Congresswoman and killed a child, among others, seems to be a schizophrenic, all right. Predictably, people like me find a connection with incessant right-wing hate speech; while the purveyors of that speech, and those who love to listen to it, immediately crank up their who-me. As George Packer wrote yesterday:

.... It would be a kind of relief if Loughner operated not out of any coherent political context but just his own fevered brain.

But even so, the tragedy wouldn't change this basic fact: for the past two years, many conservative leaders, activists, and media figures have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents. Not just arguing against their opponents, but doing everything possible to turn them into enemies of the country and cast them out beyond the pale. Instead of “soft on defense,” one routinely hears the words “treason” and “traitor.” The President isn't a big-government liberal—he's a socialist who wants to impose tyranny. He's also, according to a minority of Republicans, including elected officials, an impostor. Even the reading of the Constitution on the first day of the 112th Congress was conceived as an assault on the legitimacy of the Democratic Administration and Congress.

This relentlessly hostile rhetoric has become standard issue on the right. (On the left it appears in anonymous comment threads, not congressional speeches and national T.V. programs.) And it has gone almost entirely uncriticized by Republican leaders. Partisan media encourages it, while the mainstream media finds it titillating and airs it, often without comment, so that the gradual effect is to desensitize even people to whom the rhetoric is repellent...

(Interestingly, one Republican senator has spoken out about the rhetoric. But he felt the need to do so anonymously.)

My point, at long last, is this: people spew political hate because it works. Witness teabaggers, beguiled and bamboozled by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. It works, in large part, I'd argue, because of the fallibility of the human mind (poorly designed as it seems to be.) Some people can deal with honest discourse, others can't. Some can accept people with whom they disagree without the need to demonize, to destroy them, others can't. And if I'm right -- that there's a spectrum, that paranoid schizophrenia is but a point on a nomogram -- then people like the RWS™ and those who enable and excuse them simply can't have it both ways. They can't gloat at the successes of their hateful and conspiratorial speech and, at the same time, deny it has an effect.

The guy is crazy, they say. It's not my fault. Don't expect me to change my tone, they announce. I'm not responsible for how people react to it.

Really? Does that make any sense at all? Believing your words have power over people, and denying it at the same time?

If we know there are crazy people out there -- especially if, in fact, sanity and its opposite are like height and weight and skin color and musical ability, spread among us: we're all crazy -- isn't it incumbent on those who have the greatest audience to take a little care, to show at least a modicum of restraint? Can they claim power and pretend it doesn't have any effect? On humans, in all their frailties? Might they consider it useful -- moral and ethical, even, if such things had meaning to them (evidence lacking) -- to find a less hateful, less apocalyptic way to make their point? Is that all they've got? Or, worse, is this kind of result they actually want? Elimination of liberals? Explicitly? Because that's what they're saying. Notwithstanding their self-righteous and deeply offended protestations to the contrary, how does that deserve a pass? Can they claim they don't know their audience, when they fine-tune their message to the crazy channel? Reload. Eliminate. Take them out. They mean to destroy you. Reëducation camps. Become "armed and dangerous." No effect? No responsibility? None and none?

Would you walk through a room full of the immuno-deficient if you were coughing up mycobacteria? Wouldn't you at least put on a goddamn mask???

If you smoke in a room full of straw men, are you absolved of the fire?


Anonymous said...

Let's see...climate of hate?

Well, maybe...

Bobby Boxcar

Sid Schwab said...

Yeah, right. Equivalency. An occasional sign vs non-stop vitriol from an entire coordinated news network, funded, planned, carried out non-stop, to millions of eager listeners.

I love it when Michelle Malkin or Ann Coulter boo-hoos about hate. Excellent source material.

Of course there are people who show their hatred for Palin, etc. I don't exactly hate her, but I sure as hell hate what she does, how she does it, and the sort of politics she stands for.

But if you think those individual examples are in any way similar to what Fox "news" does, what right-wing radio does, what spews from the mouths of the crazies in the halls of congress day in, day out, packaged and delivered continuously, supported and encouraged, never called out by the apparatus of the Republican party, paid for by a group of billionaires deliberately intending to take down the left by any means.... well, then you're the perfect re-named continuation of the sort of contrarian silliness we seem to collect here.

Not. The. Same.... Period.

Plus, when you set fires, lots of people get hot. It's about who's setting the fires.

Sid Schwab said...

P.S.: any comment on, you know, the actual point of the post?

Anonymous said...

Your point that conservatives are crazy? I disagree, and think you are irresponsible for making a medical diagnosis with no exam.

Equivalent? You decide--libs call for the gang rape of Palin. I haven't heard your evidence of constant hate from talk radio, but do you really compare rape with "Obama is a socialist?" Really?

PS--he admits being attracted to socialists in one of his many autobiographies.

Bobby Boxcar

Sid Schwab said...

Okay, BB, your bona fides as a RWS advocate are now well and truly established. Mainly because, to the extent that you didn't miss the point entirely, you misconstrued it. Where did I say conservatives are crazy? Here, or anywhere in this blog. I proposed that all humans are somewhere along a line, or circle, of crazy, and that those who spew hatred should bear responsibility.

And, once again (and finally, since it seems, like everyone who posts here from the right -- who are so similar in their denseness that I must assume they're the same -- the rantings of one person or another on either side don't in any way form equivalence to the institutionalized violent rhetoric on the right. Period. None.

And, for the record, I (as opposed to the screamers on the right) have said several times we need a strong two party system, with a credible conservative voice among them. That's exactly what we don't have at the moment; and my position bears no resemblance to what your pal Michelle, or Sean, or any of them, say about liberals.

Either make sense, or do what the other trolls have done: go away, with or without coming back with a new name and the same old "I know you are but what am I" style of argument.

What a waste of my time. Yours, too, for that matter.

Tsu Dho Nimh said...

it's interesting that the beliefs of those so affected seem (from what little I know of it) to follow such similar patterns: belief in mind control, implanted devices, hearing voices; seeing dire patterns where there are none, conspiracies, plots, hidden signs.

I have a book from the 1800s that had been in the library of the California Asylum for the insane, and one of the inmates scribbled all over it with his thoughts.

And they are the same, but embedded in the culture he knew: Lincoln was sending spies that lurked in the walls of the asylum. The words in the books seemed to trigger semi-related outpourings from this patient. There were coded meanings to everything he saw, mysterious patterns.

I should dig it out and transcribe things. If nothing else, it's a look into how little has changed.

Anonymous said...

Rush Limbaugh: "I tell people don't kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus – living fossils – so we will never forget what these people stood for."

Senator Phil Gramm: "We're going to keep building the party until we're hunting Democrats with dogs."

Rep. James Hansen on Bill Clinton: Get rid of the guy. Impreach him, censure him, assassinate him."

John Derbyshire intimated in the National Review that because Chelsea Clinton had "the taint," she should "be killed."

Ann Coulter: "We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too."

Ann Coulter: "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building."

Bill O'Reilly: "ll those clowns over at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send over the FBI and just put them in chains."

Clear Channel radio host Glenn Beck said he was "thinking about killing Michael Moore" and pondered whether "I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it," before concluding: "No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out -- is this wrong?"

Palin: "don't retreat, instead- RELOAD!"

Jesse Kelly (Gifford's tea party opponent): "Get on target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly."

Michael Savage: "Only vigilance and resistance to this baby dictator, Barack Hussein Obama, can prevent the Khmer Rouge from appearing in this country"

Erick Ericksson: "At what point do the people ... march down to their state legislator's house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp?"

Sharron Angel: "If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies."

Joyce Kaufman: "If ballots don't work, bullets will."

Michelle Bachmann: "Be armed and dangerous"

But they don't endorse violence!


Sam Spade said...

Great list, Eugene.

Now Bobby, Frank, SeaSpray, etc: you're all cordially invited to find comparable quotations from lefties with similar stature (or as close as you can get). So for Beck, Limbaugh or O'Reilly I suggest Olberman or Maddow. For Bachman look to... Kucinich? I don't know who can fill her shoes on our side.

Anonymous said...

A disclaimer:

Sam, the list was garnered from about 30 seconds of research in Yahoo. There was what you could call a superabundance of material; so I did not have to make any special effort I could take credit for.

Anybody could have done it, and the list could be a hundred times longer because the republican Insane Clown, Teabagging Party suffers from moral diarrhea of the mouth and soul.

Still, I was glad to make it available to a timely discussion.


Anonymous said...

Bill Ayers, Unabomber, Lee Harvey Oswald, Ted Kennedy.
can't remember anything they said, but they killed more people than all the ones you listed.
and I know about Laura Bush's accident.


Anonymous said...

The TeaBagger Republicans, "The small-town enemies of everybody" forked tongue scramble to disown the consequences of their own words is in full swing.

On the one fork we hear the rhetoric of denial: having done what so-called conservatives were screaming for, (see addendum below) the murderer is now discarded, like used toilet paper. The cry is now, “He’s obviously insane.”

But why is he insane? I suppose they must mean, “Because he listened to us.”

Well of course; anybody who listens to, and believes, what republicans say is obviously insane.

Which brings us to the other fork of the tongue:

SSWoman, and The DrekMan for instance – one to mocks the murders, the other spreads the blame for them.

In fairness, it must be said that The DrekMan must actually be regarded as "honest" in comparison to the SSWoman; he is baldly outrageous and open in his hatred.

SSWoman mantles her hatred in holy-mouthing while she turns a blind eye to her party’s obvious intention to incite fear anger and violence in their mesmerized constituents.

Some of those named below are now issuing “Explanations” about what they “really” meant to say – hoping to God the public will buy new lies and not turn on them.

Their intention is not obvious? Read on!

An addendum - excerpts from TPM's Guide To
2010's Violent Rhetoric.

See full article @

Dale Peterson, Republican candidate for agricultural commissioner of Alabama, ran an ad in May which he posed with a rifle and declared, "I'll name names and take no prisoners."

Rick Barber (R-AL) drew attention to his Congressional campaign with a TV ad in which he and "the Founding Fathers" discussed the current tax code. At the end of the ad, in which the cameras zoom in on colonial-era pistols several times, one of the Founders says, "Gather your armies."

Richard Behney, a tea partier from Indiana running for former Sen. Evan Bayh's seat, told a group of Second Amendment activists that they didn't have to resort to armed insurrection -- "yet." …I'm cleaning my guns and getting ready for the big show. And I'm serious about that, and I bet you are, too. But I know none of us want to go that far yet, and we can do it with our vote," he said.

Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R-NV) "People are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying, my goodness, what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you, the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out," she said.

Michele Bachmann (R-MN) In March 2009, she said on a radio show: "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us having a revolution every now and then is a good thing. And the people -- we the people -- are going to have to fight back hard if we're not going to lose our country."

Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) told Politico that he hunts Democrats. Asked about the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, he said, "We hunt liberal, tree-hugging Democrats, although it does seem like a waste of good ammunition."

Rep. Allen West (R-FL) almost hired a Florida talk-radio host, Joyce Kaufman, as his chief of staff. But Kaufman withdrew after media coverage of some of her more fiery statements, such as:

"I am convinced that the most important thing the Founding Fathers did to ensure me my First Amendment rights was they gave a Second Amendment," she told a tea party crowd last summer. "And if ballots don't work, bullets will."


Anonymous said...

Frank: Ayers and probably Oswald prove that lefties sometimes perform violent acts. I don't doubt that. However these events took place over four decades ago. The Unabomber was obsessed with technology, not politics, and he's fairly old news too. As for Kennedy I guess you're talking yet again about Kopekne. Yes, he killed her accidentally in a social setting. What does that prove about present-day politics?

The question is, do any political or media lefties encourage violent acts? You know that's what I'm asking, and you know I'm right: you can't find examples of this.

Here's yet a better list of overtly violent rhetoric, this time all from GOP congressmen, candidates, and their staff. There is nothing like this going on in Democratic politics.

Sid Schwab said...

I published the above because I think I know who it's from... But, once again: identifying moniker, please.

Anonymous said...

If I drive off a bridge and leave an innocent young woman to asphyxiate(not drown, there's a difference) can I serve in the Senate for 6 terms, get buried in Arlington with full Military Honors,and umm thats about it...


Sid Schwab said...

Frank. Frank.

I post nearly all your stuff, for its entertainment value. Rightly or wrongly I sense a certain level of irony and that you are being deliberately stupid as some kind of joke on all of us including yourself. Usually there's something that gives me a chuckle, for its deliberate outrage.

But that one seemed like you actually believe it's some sort of useful addition to this thread, in some way relevant to the discussion. Please tell me I'm wrong. Please tell me it's your usual attempt at outrage for outrage's sake. Let me believe you just forgot that part.

Anonymous said...

Maybe actually endorsing shooting an individual would catch your attention?

""That Scott down there that's running for governor of Florida," Mr. Kanjorski said. "Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him and shoot him. Put him against the wall and shoot him."

That's our peaceful left for you. Maybe there's a story about dummiecrats decrying this?

Bobby Boxcar

Sid Schwab said...

Maybe there's a story about dummiecrats decrying this?

Other than, you know, not reëlecting him, you mean?

BB, you might have noticed that everyone who's posted here acknowledges that there are crazy people on both sides. You might have missed that.

And I guess you're aware the guy you quoted was booted from office, right? Not reëlected. Quashed by his electorate. As opposed to, say, Michelle Bachmann with her calls to be "armed and dangerous..." Any difference there?

And you might have missed the fact that when it happens on the left, you have to dig pretty deep to find it. More importantly, it's not institutionalized and made a game plan like it is on the right. That (former) congressman is hardly a hero of the left. Who's heard of him?

On the other hand, what about Rush Limbaugh? Heard of him? Think he has more of an influence? Ever heard anyone take him on (and not back down two minutes later?) How about Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn fricking Beck? Any national Democratic candidate for Vice-President ever tell people to "reload?" Tell her flock that the right aren't real Americans? Any lefty in national office call for armed revolution because they disagree with the right?

This line of argument is, not to put too find a point on it, stupid bullshit. We're talking equivalence. There is none. Dig up another backwater crackpot, and I'll say it again.

So, unless you think you can demonstrate something equivalent, on the left, to right wing haters with a national audience of tens of millions who are not only not called out by the right but are revered by and kowtowed to, I'm thinking you've shot your wad.

But come on back any time. With something useful. Otherwise, don't expect to see it in print.

Sid Schwab said...

Ironic followup: I just read today's NYT, and whose opinion piece on political violence should appear, but that of Paul Kanjorski.

I wrote them a letter. Since I doubt it'll be published, I'll reprint it here:

To the Editor:

It's ironic, to put it gently, that you chose to print the thoughts of former Rep. Paul Kanjorski on the matter of political violence. Have you forgotten that it was he who suggested that Florida Governor Rick Scott, when he was running for office, should be put against a wall and shot?

Whereas I find it hard to imagine how a state could elect a convicted defrauder to its governorship, I'm even more surprised that the NYT couldn't find a more credible opinion on the subject of violence than that of Mr Kanjorski.

Sid Schwab said...

BB: I saved you the embarrassment of posting that last comment. You can thank me later. Your claims that no R leaders have called for violence, repetitive as they are, are simply laughable. But, obviously, there's no amount of evidence, of quotations that will get through your blood-brain barrier. Nor, as I've said repeatedly, do quotes from a lefty website mean anything. I assume you've looked at the right wing sites and found the same, and more. RIght? Right?

I'll give you the honor of repeating one more time, in the insane belief that, like teaching a dog to sit, doing so enough might get you to understand, if dimly, what I've been talking about. Shorthand, to save us both the time: RWS™. No equivalency.

And thanks for appreciating my comment above.

Don't bother to respond. Your input in this thread is over. Try again in another, if you think you can bring anything new to the table.

Sid Schwab said...


Sid Schwab said...

Reference material.

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