Due to an ongoing health crisis in the family, blogging will be 'on and off' as time and circumstances permit for the foreseeable future. I also beg your indulgence if I am slow in responding to emails. New posts will appear below this notice.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Conspiracy Mania

When Republicans began questioning President Obama’s birth certificate four years ago, it seemed at first like a petulant reaction to a lost election, a flush of nativist and racist anger that would diminish over time. But the preposterous charges never went away. As this election cycle shows, many in the Republican Party continue to see the president as the center of a broad and malevolent liberal conspiracy to upend the truth.

To live and seethe in that world of conspiracy theories means rejecting any form of objective reality. When unemployment numbers make the administration look good, they are obviously “cooked.” When poll numbers put Mr. Obama ahead, they are skewed. Birth certificates are forgeries. Safety-net programs are giveaways to supporters. Health insurance reform is socialism. And campaign donation disclosure is antibusiness.

It’s an upside-down version of life, and it is not innocuous. When desperation leads political critics of the president to discredit important nonpolitical institutions — including the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Reserve and the Congressional Budget Office — the damage can be long-lasting. If voters come to mistrust the most basic functions of government, the resulting cynicism can destroy the basic compact of citizenship.
Read the rest here.

It is rare in the extreme for me to be able to say that I substantively agree with an op-ed piece in the NY Times. But while I have major issues with some of the entities they name in here, like the Federal Reserve, their main point is a fair one. The political right is drifting into an alternate reality of dark conspiracy theories that appears largely motivated by a visceral hatred for President Obama. Throughout the course of history there have always been a certain amount of kooks and nut jobs that populate the political fringe. But when the nuts take over one of the two major political parties we have a serious problem.

In 1960 the John Birch Society accused President Eisenhower of being a conscious agent of The International Communist Conspiracy. This obviously lunatic pronouncement was immediately and vociferously denounced by almost every respectable member of the conservative movement lead by the late William F. Buckley at his National Review magazine. The result was that the extremist element on the right was isolated and began a rapid decline into political irrelevance. That isolation and irrelevance lasted until the election of Bill Clinton when it began to slowly regain strength and a certain amount of respectability in conservative circles. Today right-wing extremism has gained a level of power in American politics not seen since the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920's. Republican members of Congress and US Senators are afraid to call out the Birther nuts for fear of political retribution. Some are openly sympathetic with to this extremist insanity.

I don't know how far this is going to go, but I am increasingly alarmed by a movement that made it possible for a Republican candidate for president to ask aloud during a campaign speech, to wild cheers, whether or not the time had come for a second amendment solution to Barack Obama's presidency. When that sort of thing is happening we have reached a dangerous point in our political society. My question is where are the voices of reason in today's GOP?

8 comments:

Phil said...

Where are the voices of reason in the GOP?

How about Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Tom Coburn, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Rob Portman, Marsha Blackburn, Mia Love, Rick Scott, Mitch Daniels, Susana Martinez, Mary Fallin, Bob McDonnell, Jeff Sessions, Jon Kyl, Marco Rubio - just off the top of my head?

Maybe the better question is, where are your posts lamenting that fantasies about assassinating George Bush, or moron conspiracy theories about 9/11 being an inside job, or even the garden-variety refusal to chalk up the mistakes of the Iraq War to incomplete information, wrong conclusions, and simple incompetence instead of evil designs by the Bush Administration against the American people show the Democrat party has been taken over by extremists? (Don't get me wrong; it's your blog, and you can post whatever you like. My question is rhetorical.)

After all, for every Todd Akin, there's a Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Tom Harkin, and Claire McCaskill. And for every Sharron Angle (she lost her election, by the way, and she wasn't running for President), there's a Barbara Lee, Anthony Weiner, Jim Moran, and Jim McDermott.

But I guess they don't count. Better for "independents" to lean all over the GOP; after all, we wouldn't want any Republicans in power, anywhere, seeing that a few people not even in politics wondered how we had almost a million jobs created in the household survey last month, something that hasn't happened in 30 years, when the economy is growing at 1.3%. Why would anybody listen to such a thing? Don't they know somebody who successfully ran one of the largest corporations in the world for 20 years is a stupid nutcase?

Better to elect Democrats, who won't even let you buy a 20-ounce soft drink, or buy a light bulb or toilet you want, or who will put you in jail for filling in the standing water on your property. Definitely, if I were a so-called libertarian, that choice would be obvious.

Unknown said...

Where is your voice of outrage against the lunatic Democratic fringe that still believes and promotes the view that 9/11 was an inside job?

Michael said...

In my view, the real tragedy of all of this, is that legitimate questions about how American institutions have been subverted, are de-legitimized on account of the noise generated by the people cited in the article.

A good example of what I am speaking of is the stagnation which now surrounds historical analysis of the events of World War II. Up until the late 1970's, there were a number of responsible historians and biographers, like John Toland, who were writing significant "revisionist history" concerning World War II. I still think Toland's massive biography of Hitler remains the best English language effort in that field to date.

Unfortunately, in the 1970's, Hitler apologists such as David Irving started muddying up the waters. The result was "hate speech" legislation enacted throughout Europe, and the closing of World War II archives to the general public. Now, little new research can be done in this area, because primary source materials have been sealed off.

The same thing is now happening in the U.S. There are plenty of responsible people, such as Paul Craig Roberts, Ray McGovern and Catherine Austin Fitts, all of whom served in high Federal office at one time or another, who point out that the "official story" on just about everything under the sun, does not square with known evidence, or (in some cases) with the known laws of physics.

However, these people cannot be heard, over the din and noise of people who obsess over things like Obama's birth certificate.

This, of course, suite the in-bred psychopathic elite "owners" of America just fine. The best thing for them, of course, is to keep their dirty secrets hidden from the public altogether. The next best thing for them, is to have them exposed by disreputable and/or discredited people, so that when respectable people ask questions, they can be smeared by association with the kooks. That is what I see happening now.

As for the NYT comment: "If voters come to mistrust the most basic functions of government, the resulting cynicism can destroy the basic compact of citizenship." - I am afraid that ship has already set sail. The most basic functions of government in America have been subverted and are completely crooked. People should not trust them at all. The basic compact of citizenship has already been destroyed, not by Internet ranters or David Duke or the KKK (they have no such power), but by Washington and Wall Street. Were the latter not so completely criminal and corrupt, the former would have no voice.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

How about Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Tom Coburn, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Rob Portman, Marsha Blackburn, Mia Love, Rick Scott, Mitch Daniels, Susana Martinez, Mary Fallin, Bob McDonnell, Jeff Sessions, Jon Kyl, Marco Rubio - just off the top of my head?

Have any of them spoken out against the birthers? If so I missed it. I would be very happy if they did.

Maybe the better question is, where are your posts lamenting that fantasies about assassinating George Bush, or moron conspiracy theories about 9/11 being an inside job, or even the garden-variety refusal to chalk up the mistakes of the Iraq War to incomplete information, wrong conclusions, and simple incompetence instead of evil designs by the Bush Administration against the American people show the Democrat party has been taken over by extremists? (Don't get me wrong; it's your blog, and you can post whatever you like. My question is rhetorical.)

Fair question. The answer is that I have occasionally posted on the loons from the political left. (see here for one example...
http://ad-orientem.blogspot.com/2010/08/other-conspiracy-nuts-lefties-have.html).

But I don't see the relevance of the what the loons on the left are doing to the fact that we have a serious problem with right wing extremism. I would also note that these are qualitatively different as well. I haven't heard of lefties arming paramilitary groups for the coming civil war or discussing the mechanics of secession.

Better to elect Democrats, who won't even let you buy a 20-ounce soft drink, or buy a light bulb or toilet you want, or who will put you in jail for filling in the standing water on your property. Definitely, if I were a so-called libertarian, that choice would be obvious.

Liberal Democrats and those Republicans who masquerade as conservatives are just two sides of the same coin. They are both statists who support the welfare/warfare state and who think the government should tell people how to live their lives. They differ only on minor details like which aspects of people's lives the state should dictate. Democrats favor regulation of your economic life. Neo and social-cons favor regulating people's personal lives.

I have no use for either. I am tired of trying to guess which one is less bad. A plague on both their houses.

Jason said...

A large part of the problem is the subversion by the two main parties on every attempt for a viable third - or fourth, etc. - political party. Perot and Nader come to mind as the most recent national office candidates that made small splashes but then faded into oblivion. One can only wonder what "deal" was offered to Perot that made him drop out and then get back in the race (there's a conspiracy for you). Before he dropped out, he was on his way to the Oval Office. Jesse Ventura is another third party that comes to mind as having at least won a governorship.

However, sustained and viable efforts of third parties have been effectively grounded and absorbed under the two main parties' umbrellas in this modern age. This is a country that was not so captive to this two-party system in its formative years. There were Democratic-Republicans, Whigs, and Federalists who all had national clout. Heck, the first major alternate party in the US was the Anti-Masonic party (conspiracy again!) which touted Millard Fillmore and John Quincy Adams among its members and held two governorships at its peak. No such viable option is available today, and this is made sure of by both parties, the press, and unfortunately most citizens (conspiracy #3). If Perot wasn't a billionaire, he would have never been given a position on the debate stage against Bush and Clinton. This is a serious political problem for this country. A viable third party could force some serious compromises on bills and hopefully corral the excesses on both sides. I'm not holding my breath for this though.

Visibilium said...

Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Cold Case Posse's findings include the charges that Obama's long-form birth certificate is a forgery, Hawaii is a birth certificate mill for foreign nationals, newspapers' publication of births aren't reliable evidence of native births, and that Obama's selective service registration is fraudulent.

I'd be interested in knowing your rebuttal of these findings that consists in something other than demonizing the folks who believe the Posse's findings.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Vis
There are tons of rebuttals floating around. A casual search on the web came up with more than I could possibly look at. Here are a few that are good starting points.

http://www.thefogbow.com/special-reports/second-arpaio-press-conference/

http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/bookmarks/fact-checking-and-debunking/the-debunkers-guide-to-obama-conspiracy-theories/

http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2012/07/joe_arpaios_new_birther_eviden.php

Visibilium said...

John, your citations are thin gruel. The first and third citations rest on the evidence provided by the second. I've examined the second citation with respect to (1) the long form coding and (2) the availability of birth certs for foreign-born babies. I've found that both the second citation's author and the Cold Case Posse are: (1) looking at the same facts and interpreting them differently and (2) looking at different facts and arriving at different conclusions. I see a legitimate horse race, not a collection of wing nuts. I will mention, however, that the folks you've cited go beyond misinterpretation to accuse the Posse of bad faith in deliberately misleading and lying. The only evidence of malfeasance I saw was an unjustified eagerness to paint the Posse as dishonest. Further, I'm disappointed by your post's lack of fairmindedness in tarring the Birthers as mentally unsound.

If you're interested, my view of the Birther issue is laced with academic excursions, but subsists in pragmatism: a court case challenging the native-born status of a sitting President would be a disaster. I don't like Obama, but I don't see what challenging his birth status would accomplish at this point, apart from a little levity.