Tag Archives: crazy people

The GOP Race To The Bottom

I rarely quote material from sites like Daily Kos–not because I worry about their essential veracity; I don’t. Despite Republicans’ dishonest insistence on equivalence between media spouting right-wing fantasies and those engaging in leftwing spin, factual assertions on sites like Daily Kos are almost all independently verifiable. They do, however, report from a decidedly liberal perspective, and since this site isn’t intended to cheerlead for any particular political perspective other than my own, I rarely cite to them.

I’m breaking that rule today, however, because I was intrigued by a recent post. File this under “be careful what you wish for.”

The article began by tracing GOP conspiracy theories–fluoridated water, Eisenhower as a committed Communist, etc., through QAnon and Jewish Space Lasers (which is evidently a real theory kicking around in wacko circles, and not simply another Marjorie Taylor Greene mental seizure.)

Apparently, however, there’s a political downside to encouraging your base to disdain anything remotely resembling reality. As the post puts it: When you’ve taught your base to believe nothing but the crankiest of crank conspiracies, how do you get them to listen when you need them?

In the last week, Republicans have noticed that the up = down machine has put them in a position where 90% of the people dying from COVID-19 are their people. That’s because 90% of Democrats are already vaccinated and 99.5% of those dying are unvaccinated. Who are those unvaccinated? Oh, right, the Republican base that’s been taught scientists, doctors, and experts can’t be trusted.

Over the course of that week, Republicans who still think of themselves as party leaders have begun to get louder about suggesting to their followers that maybe, just maybe, taking five minutes out of their day to not die would be a good thing.

The post then took a couple of paragraphs to explain the Republican dilemma:

For Republicans who ever actually cared about the traditional Republican agenda, eh. That’s all gone. For those who care about nothing but their own personal power, they’re out of luck as well. Just ask former Rep. Scott Tipton. Tipton was a conservative Republican who checked all the boxes. He voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He frequently angered environmental groups with a push to privatize public lands. He was solidly against reproductive rights as well as gay marriage, supported by wads of cash from the oil and gas industry, and he easily won election for 10 years. Then Tipton was knocked out of his primary by a woman who claimed to have inside knowledge about Hillary Clinton’s upcoming arrest as well as secret documents that would reveal the QAnon truth about the pizza-ordering  cannibals in Congress.

Marjorie Taylor Greene didn’t step into a seat that was formerly held by a Democrat. She ousted Rep. Tom Graves, who had one of the most conservative ratings in the House. Cawthorn took over Mark Meadows’ former seat in a district freshly gerrymandered to make it super Republican safe, but in doing so Cawthorn actually defeated well-funded conservative businesswoman Lynda Bennett, who was the choice of not just Republicans in the state party but also endorsed by Donald Trump. It’s easy to say that Cawthorn won in spite of posting an Instagram photo celebrating his visit to Adolf Hitler’s vacation residence while explaining that a visit to see “the Führer’s” home was on “my bucket list.” But a more truthful framing would be that Cawthorn won because of his unabashed adoption of white supremacist positions.

What most Republicans in leadership positions today are just beginning to discover is that they are the alt-right. The white nationalist agenda that was cautiously courted along the fringe a decade ago is now the mainstream. If there is still a pro-business agenda, it exists only so much as it locks in racism. If there’s still a social conservative agenda, it survives only as a means of tacking a halo onto actions of hate. And the media outlets that Republicans were counting on to keep the base in line have discovered that it’s even more lucrative to feed them to the volcano god who pays Tucker Carlson’s bills.

As the post concludes, “There’s always another Boebert in the weeds.” No matter how obediently crazy the incumbent, no matter how slavishly devoted to Trump and/or the “big Lie,” there’s always someone willing to mount a primary challenge–someone even more anti-reason, anti-science, anti-Black, anti-Semitic–someone even less-tethered to reality.

These days, the crazier the candidate, the more likely s/he is to win a Republican primary–and in most places, the less likely to win a general election. Even with the GOP’s frantic rush to gerrymander everything in sight, there is a limit to how many red crazy districts they can carve out.

Isn’t there?

 

But Reality Is So Complicated…

Paul Krugman devoted a recent column to the conspiracy theories that have emerged to “explain” the coronavirus. My only quibble with the column was its narrow focus; I’ve come to the conclusion that a substantial percentage of Americans find reality so intimidating, messy and/or incomprehensible, the only way they can make sense of it is to assume that someone or some group must be intentionally responsible for the aspects of that reality they most fear.

It can’t be random–“those people” must be engaged in a purposeful effort to harm or mislead them.

We really haven’t come very far from colonial days, when clerics opposed the newfangled smallpox vaccine because smallpox was undoubtedly sent by God, and inoculating people against it would constitute interference with God’s plan. Just substitute “those people”–the Deep State, the bankers, the Jews, the DNC, whoever–for God.

It’s just really hard for some people to accept randomness, and the fact that–as the undignified saying goes–shit happens.

As Krugman writes

We still don’t know how much damage Covid-19 — the coronavirus disease — will do, but it’s reasonable to be very concerned. After all, it appears to be highly transmissible, and it is probably a lot more lethal than ordinary flu.

But not to worry, say right-wing pundits and news organizations: It’s all a hoax, a conspiracy by the liberal media to make Donald Trump look bad. Administration officials and Trump himself have echoed their claims.

These claims are, of course, crazy. Among other things, Covid-19 is a global phenomenon, with major outbreaks ranging from South Korea to Italy. Are the South Korean and Italian media also part of a conspiracy to get Trump?

I agree with Krugman that this particular reaction was predictable to anyone who  follows the right-wings long-running war on facts, especially when facts prove  inconvenient or conflict with the right’s preferred version of reality.

And as Krugman also reminds us, much of their insistence on attributing unwanted outcomes to nefarious evil-doers rests on projection.

In the case of Covid-19 the usual suspects were, in part, engaged in projection. After all, they themselves engaged in a concerted effort to politically weaponize the 2014 Ebola outbreak against Barack Obama, whose response was in reality smart and effective. By the way, in the aftermath of that outbreak the Obama administration put in place measures to deal with future pandemics — all of which Trump scrapped.

Denial, as my grandfather used to say, isn’t just a river in Egypt.

Climate change? As recently as the 2018 midterms, a survey found 73 percent of Republican senators denying that man-made climate change is happening. The success of Obama’s economic measures?  Right-wing politicians and pundits insisted that the numbers were being cooked. (Those evil “deep state” folks, no doubt…) Etc.

But fair is fair: this sort of nonsense is hardly confined to the crazy people on the right, although clearly, the right has a majority of the crazies.

For example, a troubling percentage of his supporters are absolutely convinced that if Bernie isn’t the nominee, it will be due to a plot by “the establishment” to rig the process. Despite the results of Super Tuesday, it is evidently inconceivable to them that a majority of Democratic voters might prefer Biden or someone else–that large numbers of voters might honestly believe that Bernie would be less likely to beat Trump and more likely to doom Democrats’ down-ticket prospects.

As a column from Talking Points Memo put it,

To hear many Sanders surrogates describe it, the establishment and power brokers closed ranks and pushed Biden into the lead. But again, this just pretends like millions of voters don’t exist, or function as pawns of party elites. So you have one theory of political agency for Sanders supporters and another for everyone else. This stands no kind of political scrutiny.

Party workers making anti-Bernie arguments are engaging in typical (small-d) democratic campaigning, not “rigging” an election. Similarly, doctors aren’t conspiring to hide the “dangers” of vaccinations. Scientists aren’t part of an international cabal engaged in falsifying data on climate change. The government isn’t running a secret program entailing the discharge of dangerous airplane “contrails.”

Elvis’ death wasn’t faked, and there really isn’t a monster hiding under the bed.

In fact, there’s no one here but us flawed human beings trying to make sense of the shit that happens in a complicated world.

 

Facebook Is Making Me Suicidal

I’ve been trying to escape the torrent of stories about the constitutional crisis Trump has precipitated by claiming “Executive Privilege” over the entire Mueller Report and refusing to allow White House functionaries to testify to Congress.

The administration’s escalating assault on constitutional and democratic norms has plunged me into a depression–not just because there is an insane moron in the Oval Office, but–more critically– because not a single Republican Senator is willing to place fidelity to the country over fear of electoral retribution by the party’s rabid base.

Not a single one. They are all fellow-travelers to treason.

As my introductory diatribe probably indicates, I spend a lot of time muttering and despairing…so, recently, I went to my Facebook feed for distraction. (That wasn’t the brightest thing to do, because most of my Facebook friends are as politically irate as I am.)

Here’s what I saw on just a quick scroll:

  • A picture of the student who died in the most recent school shooting, in Colorado. He was three days from high school graduation, and rushed the shooter, saving others. I’m sure the f**ing NRA sends thoughts and prayers.
  • An economic analysis of Trump’s steel tariffs, showing that the cost of each American job created was $900,000. (That is not a typo.) I couldn’t tell whether that number included the extra couple hundred dollars Americans are paying for their washing machines thanks to those tariffs…
  • A NYTimes report that Trump lost 1.17 billion dollars over a decade–the paper obtained tax information detailing the massive losses by our self-proclaimed “deal maker” and also showing that he didn’t pay a dollar of tax during that period. (Now if we could see the more recent taxes he’s so frantic to hide…)
  • Several posts about new anti-choice legislation in Ohio and Georgia. The Georgia version would impose criminal penalties on women who couldn’t prove they didn’t cause their own miscarriages, and would charge women who left the state in order to get legal abortions elsewhere with conspiracy to commit murder.
  • Several posts highlighting despicable statements and blatant lies from Mitch McConnell, aka the most evil man in America. (No, Mitch, it wasn’t Obama’s fault that Russia interfered with our election.)
  • News reports about a group of Neo-Nazis who shoved their way into a Holocaust Memorial ceremony in Arkansas, shouting “Five Million More!” (I’m sure our American Fuhrer would say the group contained some “very fine” people.)
  • A news report that Betsy DeVos’ Department of Education rejected 99% of the applications for loan forgiveness filed by students who were bilked by bogus for-profit “educational” institutions.
  • And this story about a Texas Republican representative who labeled vaccinations “sorcery.” After reading this one, I couldn’t go on.

After deriding public health science as a “scam,” the Representative, one Jonathan Strickland, doubled down on the crazy, telling a pediatrician who works with impoverished children that he was a practitioner of “self-enriching science.” He then engaged in a couple of other illuminating twitter exchanges:

Replying to @RepStickland and 2 others
You are wrong in all particulars, Congressman. As a civil servant, I would expect that you would listen to experts (Peter surely is a leader here) and be…civil. BTW “self enriching science” is myth for almost all of us, but has likely saved your ungrateful life more than once.

Jonathan Stickland@RepStickland
Typical leftist trying to take credit for something only The Lord God Almighty is in control of. Repent!

David Gorski, MD, PhD
✔@gorskon
Notice how, to these “parental rights” antivaxers, it’s all about THEM: THEIR rights. THEIR religion. THEIR freedom. The child’s right not to be medically neglected, not to be left unnecessarily vulnerable to disease, never even enters the equation. It doesn’t occur to them.

Jonathan Stickland@RepStickland
Replying to @gorskon and 3 others
… You can’t seem to understand the notion of freedom and liberty…you have no right to come between me and my doctor of choice, or between me and my religious beliefs. Leave us alone.

Personal responsibility and parental rights confuse you, I get it. You’re a brainwashed commie, not all your fault.

 What makes all of this so frustrating is the absolute inability to have a rational conversation, grounded in reality and evidence, with the dangerous and demented cult that is today’s GOP.

They aren’t interested in policy, they disdain science, and they’re contemptuous of the rule of law. They have invented a “Christian” theology that is consistent with their fears and hostilities. They are motivated entirely by their visceral hatred of the women and minorities that they fear are “replacing” them.

Bottom line: Facebook didn’t distract me. It just reminded me that I’m powerless to “change the channel.”

You Do Know Those Things Never Happened, Right?

It’s the time of year for “summing up,” so in that spirit, I thought I’d share an amusing (albeit also depressing) roundup  from Right Wing Watch, listing some of the crazy predictions from various rightwing cranks that—surprise!—failed to materialize during 2015.

You’d think the fact that none of these things happened would cause at least a few of these characters to reign in the crazy, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. They are too far gone.

Some of the predictions were doozies.

Several Religious Right pundits jumped on a nonsensical and convoluted tale about how blood moons and the Shemitah, a biblical day of debt relief, would lead to some sort of disaster in America on September 13.

Apparently, prophecies about ancient Israel are also applicable to the U.S. because–wait for it—the Founders made a covenant with God. (An assertion that would undoubtedly have surprised the Deists among them.) The catastrophe most frequently predicted was a 30% or greater decline in the Dow Jones.  Unaccountably, the stock market actually gained around that time.

There was a rash of dark warnings about God’s vengeance in the wake of the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage (and adding insult to injury, the White House’s LGBT Pride Month celebration with rainbow lights). Prominent among them was the prediction that Hurricane Joaquin would strike Washington, D.C. and New York. (It didn’t hit either city). Other “prophets” predicted violence in the streets. (Well, there was, but it was totally unconnected to same-sex marriage.) The WorldNutDaily predicted that “millions” of Americans would emigrate.

Pat Robertson warned of financial calamities as a sign of God’s judgment for the Supreme Court marriage equality ruling and Massachusetts-based pastor Scott Lively said the Antichrist could emerge around September 23.

(Gee–I thought Obama was supposed to be the anti-Christ…but he “emerged” way before then….)

My personal favorite was the Jade Helm conspiracy. Jade Helm was the name given to a routine military exercise scheduled to take place in Texas; Texas being the epicenter of insanity these days, Republican politicians fed fears of a “federal invasion” of Texas. One poll found that one in three Republicans, including half of Tea Party supporters, agreed that “the government is trying to take over Texas.”

Not to burst your bubble, fellas, but the federal government already HAS Texas. (Although I personally would favor giving the Lone Star State back to Mexico, if Mexico would take it….)

Ever since President Obama won the 2008 election, right-wing activists have claimed that he is on the verge of creating a private army akin to Hitler’s Brownshirts.

With 2015 coming to a close, it looks like Obama has just one year left to create such a force, but conservative talk show host Michael Savage has a pretty good idea of what Obama has in mind. Savage, who believes that Obama is bent on committing anti-white genocide and rounding up conservatives, has alleged that the president intends to create a personal force composing of Syrian refugees, Black Lives Matter demonstrators and members of the Crips and the Bloods, whom he thinks will be armed and deputized by Obama.

There’s a lot more.

We can probably explain all the unhinged hysteria by recognizing that there are people in our country who reject modernity, who are threatened by the very existence of gay people and many other “others”, and who really, really, really resent having a black President.

They’re also obviously bat-shit crazy, and I’d feel sorry for them if most of them weren’t armed.