A Rant. I say mean things about Republicans. If you’re a Republican friend of mine, rest assured I’m not talking about you. Or at least I hope not.
The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” (Ron Suskind, NY Times, quoting a senior Bush administration official in summer 2002)
We all know that politicians lie. Left, right, up, down, didn’t have sex with that woman, Iraq was involved in 9/11, God hates the gays (except, maybe, the ones getting head from self-righteous congressmen)…liars. All of ’em, to some extent.
“What I don’t know is why the president can’t produce a birth certificate,” Blunt said. “I don’t know anybody else that can’t produce one. And I think that that’s a legitimate question — no health records, no birth certificate.” (Rep. Roy Blunt, R-MO)
Anyone who doesn’t deliberately have their head up their own ass knows, if they’ve been paying even a quark of attention, that Obama has produced his birth certificate. It has been verified as legit. Not only that, announcements of Obama’s birth from a local Hawaiian newspaper in 1961 have been found. The McCain campaign last year investigated the non-citizen stories looking for ways to attack Obama, and discarded them as pointless nonsense.
The folks saying that Obama was born in Kenya are lying, stupid, or both. Just a few minutes ago, I read that even Fox News anchor Chris Wallace thinks that CNN’s Lou Dobbs — who is ranting about this issue — is acting like a “grassy knoll nut.”
But the lying continues, some of it from prominent GOP leaders, and it fills journalistic space that could be used to report about things that are true and important.
Why is that?
Is it because they believe the shit they’re slinging? Mostly, no.
It’s because lying is what they do, and they don’t just do it for what might be considered expeditious reasons, as most politicians do it. Clinton’s denial of getting a Lewinski was expeditious, he did it simply to cover his ass. The first George Bush’s promise not to raise taxes was expeditious, he did it to get elected. Basic, pragmatic, in-the-moment lying, as most people lie, with no grander scheme or philosophy in mind, just self interest.
But liars like the “birthers” do it because it has become the primary modus operandi of the contemporary Republican party. The GOP has adopted the lie as it’s go-to tool in the public discourse, putting aside the need to actually debate issues and produce evidence of their stances in favor of bludgeoning the public with meteor storms of disinformation and the utter demonization of those who disagree.
…in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. (Adolph Hitler, Mein Kamp)
In contemporary politics, this trend really began during the Reagan era, he being the man who proclaimed we wouldn’t negotiate with terrorists, when actually he negotiated with them, and armed them, to release American hostages.
“A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not. As the Tower board reported, what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages.” (Pres. Ronald Reagan, 3/4/1987)
Of course, that sort of lie wasn’t new or exclusive to the Gipper’s administration. Kennedy had the Bay of Pigs. Nixon had…well, pretty much most of what he did. But Republicans, and those calling themselves “conservatives” in general, prior to the Reagan years still maintained a certain integrity and dignity, a stateliness that American leaders generally held to. It was a time when Republicans and Democrats in congress debated more than they argued, when genuine friendships between political opponents were common, when respect was given.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not saying things were idyllic in Washington prior to Reagan, nor that dishonesty and vituperation weren’t perennial problems. We’re talking about the country that gave us Joe McCarthy, after all (and acolytes Nixon and Reagan, who as a stool-pigeon for McCarthy in Hollywood ratted out his friends as dirty commies).
But Reagan’s ascent mainstreamed a mindset combining rampant corporate materialism and a deepening holier-than-thou religiosity as hordes of ostensibly Christian folk started to hate the unfortunate, embrace war and violence as preferred ways of dealing with the world, and trust in the powerful moneylenders now running the temples to do the right thing by their fellow man.
With that eruption of self righteousness and intolerance, the Right started to calcify into a monolithic entity possessing a single “official” viewpoint, attacking not just the political ideas of their opponents, but degrading the opponents themselves as contemptible and corrupt.
Those on the other side no longer simply held different views, they were in league with our enemies, had no morals, and wanted to destroy America. They were not to be debated, they were to be feared and crushed, so that good, God-fearing, American folk could live happy lives under their benign corporate kings.
Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power. (Benito Mussolini)
At the same time, Republican ranks fell in line to a frightening degree with an attitude that not only was everything the other side wanted to do corrupt and evil, but anything their own side did was right and divinely ordained. When the Left acts, the Right obstructs and attacks, no matter what the Left is trying to accomplish. When the Right acts, its members prove more limber than Cirque du Soleil contortionists as they defend and justify those acts, even when proven wrong, even when the acts go counter to their own philosophies.
I feel liberated, and I’m just going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don’t think deserve having their water carried. Now, you might say, “Well, why have you been doing it?” Because the stakes are high…There have been a bunch of things going on in Congress, some of this legislation coming out of there that I have just cringed at, and it has been difficult coming in here, trying to make the case for it when the people who are supposedly in favor of it can’t even make the case themselves — and to have to come in here and try to do their jobs… (Rush Limbaugh, Nov. 8, 2006 after major Democratic gains in Congress)
A rare, possibly unique, moment of truth for Limbaugh, who has been the most influential and perpetual voice for the Republican Party since the 1980s. He flat out admitted that he’d been going on the air every day arguing vehemently in support of policies he didn’t actually agree with. And why would he do such a thing?
Because the policies came from his side. And just as anything the Democrats do is bad, everything Republicans do has to be sold as good, even if they’re just polishing turds.
His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it. (from an OSS psychological profile of Adolph Hitler)
Another important figure in Republican attitudes is Newt Gingrich. Though his influence has waxed and waned more than Limbaugh’s, he was truly the mastermind of the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. He managed this because he had a crystalline sense of how to use propaganda to both capitalize on the self-righteous attitudes growing in the ranks, and to do all that he could to undermine, and even destroy, the other party.
Gingrich was like a prophet to the fired up stormtroopers. They all wanted to be like him, to think like him, to act like him, to talk like him. Exactly like him, as a matter of fact.
The following is from Gingrich’s 1996 GOPAC memo, “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control”:
As you know, one of the key points in the GOPAC tapes is that “language matters.” In the video “We are a Majority,” Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: “I wish I could speak like Newt.”
That takes years of practice. But, we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases…
The “list of words and phrases” was propaganda so fine it ranks up there with Orwell’s “doublethink” and “Newspeak.” Or should that be Newtspeak?
This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media. The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used…
…The list is divided into two sections: Optimistic Positive Governing words and phrases to help describe your vision for the future of your community (your message) and Contrasting words to help you clearly define the policies and record of your opponent and the Democratic party.
It was a simple idea. The Republicans would frame the debate by using terminology that it chose, terminology that inherently implied the righteousness of the Republicans and the cravenness of the Democrats. Here are some samples:
Republican: building, care(ing), children, citizen, commitment, common sense, confident, courage, crusade, dream, duty, empower(ment), fair, family, freedom, hard work, humane, lead, legacy, liberty, light, listen, moral, peace, pioneer, principle(d), pristine, pro- (issue): flag/children/environment/reform, prosperity, protect, pride, reform, rights, share, strength, success, tough, truth, vision….and we/us/our.
Democrat: abuse of power, anti- (issue): flag/family/child/jobs, betray, bizarre, bosses, bureaucracy, cheat, coercion, corrupt(ion), crisis, cynicism, decay, destroy, devour, disgrace, endanger, excuses, fail(ure), greed, hypocrisy, impose, incompetent, intolerant, liberal, lie, mandate(s), obsolete, pathetic, radical, red-tape, self-serving, selfish, shallow, shame, sick, spending, stagnation, steal, taxes, threaten, traitors, waste, welfare…and, of course, they/them/theirs.
Listen closely, even today, and you’re gonna hear these words a lot, used precisely as Gingrich prescribed. And if you hear Republicans whiningly wonder why our public discourse is so poisonous now, show them a fucking mirror.
Gingrich’s best known piece of GOP agitprop was of course the “Contract With [On] America.” This was the flag he raised for the troops to rally around, a bullet point list of simple to understand ideas that could penetrate the minds of people used to getting their political thought in thirty second sound bites. A short list of goals for all Republicans to embrace as their vision, not because it encompassed the important things the country needed, but because it solidified and homogenized the political thought of GOP voters into a single stream of policy.
That unwavering single-mindedness, that blind loyalty, has been the Right’s single most powerful weapon in seizing power. “THIS is what we stand for!” they can bellow and ditto all the live-long day. And through either rank pragmatism about keeping power or sheer cognitive dissonance about what their leaders are actually doing, they all mean it.
The Left, on the other hand, is made up of lots of people with lots of different agendas. “THIS is what we stand for!” they can crow, and every damn one of them will have a different thought in his head about what “THIS” is.
This sort of philosophical Balkanization is a good thing, a healthy thing, a sign of mental activity in the nation’s political brain. Ideas come into conflict with each other and have to defend themselves; the pool is stirred so that it does not stagnate.
Unfortunately, it also means that the Left finds it very difficult to present a homogenized front as the Right does, and until recently that lockstep stance kept the GOP in power.
The institutionalized lies, the self-righteousness and intolerance, the medieval religiosity, the “my party, right or wrong” philosophy, all escalated over the years of growing GOP power, culminating in the Bush/Cheney/Rove empire, as much at war with those who dared speak dissent in our own country (the most basic of our American rights) as they were with…well, most of the rest of the world, really. Even members of their own party came under vicious attack if they spoke up against something the administration was doing, a trend that continues even now as independent Republican thinkers are labeled “RINOs” (Republicans In Name Only) and punished by their peers.
Fortunately, after the incompetence and corruption of the Bushies, the broad and disastrous impact of enacted Republican policy finally became blindingly obvious, and the GOP was relegated to the corner with its dunce cap.
Though the shrinking pool of folks still identifying as Republicans had not, America, as a country, had finally seen through the Big Lie. For now.
And how have the Republicans reacted to losing their keys to the kingdom?
They have refused to accept the legitimacy of a president duly elected, without question or controversy, according to the bedrock laws of our nation.
They have screamed hyperbolically through the media and on the floor of Congress that the fact that the new administration is justifiably pursuing its own agenda and not doing what they would do is tyranny, and have at times even spoken of armed uprisings against the government if they don’t get their way. A GOP candidate in Virginia actually said, “We have the chance to fight this battle at the ballot box before we have to resort to the bullet box. That’s the beauty of our Second Amendment rights … Our Second Amendment rights were to guard against tyranny.”
That’s what happens when you’re that deep into the Big Lie, that lost to a good/evil, us/them, binary world view lacking sophistication, integrity, and compassion. You start to think that if your side loses an election, that’s tyranny, and is grounds for armed rebellion against the country you claim to love.
A new poll says that only 42% of Republicans believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. What of the others? Shall we say it’s the fault of their leaders for misinforming them? Or shall we blame them for allowing themselves to dwell in an abyss of lies?
I say both.