Monday, December 27, 2010

The ascendance of the Perpetual Lie

Over at Attywood, Will Bunch has written about the deleterious effects of the Tea Party counter-factual belief that the Obama administration is determined to confiscate the weapons of patriotic Americans, something Bunch examined at length in his excellent book on the rise of backlash politics.

I heard this not once but again and again in the fall of 2009, that Obama had a secret plan to confiscate guns or at least ammunition, that if he wasn't doing it in his first year in office then he was biding his time until after the 2010 election (which seemed just as silly than as it does now, knowing how the 2010 election actually turned out). Meanwhile, the fear of the coming Obama gun confiscation was having real-world effects. A rumor that Obama wanted to tax or seize people's ammo caused the price of bullets to skyrocket in 2009 way past what the government's ability to tax them would have been. Gun manufacturers -- who were supposedly going to be crushed by the Obama administration -- reported record profits. The worst impact was several lunatics whose mounting fear of the looming firearms crackdown caused them to go on shooting sprees -- most notably Pittsburgh's Richard Poplawski, who fatally gunned down three police officers.

In the reality-based world, Obama is doing nothing and saying nothing about guns. It's been that way for a long time; in the 2008 campaign, when he had occasion to be pressed on the issue, he blandly noted that he supported the Second Amendment (PDF file) just as any elected official from a duck-hunting prairie state might do. What's happened with guns on the federal legislation since he became the 44th president in January 2009? Obama signed bills that made it easier -- that's right, easier -- to bring guns into national parks and even on board Amtrak trains. That's the Obama gun confiscation, folks.

It's Big Lie -- and the sad truth is that the Big Lie still works.
Big Lie doesn't quite cover what the conservative movement has done to American politics. It's not just that Big Lies work, but that we have a political faction with a hardcore base that lives in a hermetically sealed world of almost complete fiction, a land of the Perpetual Lie.

Take a look at the number four story in Discover's 2010 top 100 science stories, for example. Despite being vindicated by FIVE different inquiries, the public perception of the state of climate science suffered as a result of the criminally manufactured scandal surrounding out-of-context quote-mined e-mails from East Anglia's Climate Research Unit. Five separate investigations have found the claims of scientific misconduct leveled against the involved scientists to be specious yet it is now an established bizarro fact in conservative world that these e-mails are "proof" of a global warming hoax. There is virtually no engagement with the reality of the situation.

And these are not isolated incidents, but indicative of how the conservative movement operates in general. Just look at the sort of people who are chosen to represent conservatism at the annual CPAC events. Serially reality divorced individuals like Ann Coulter (Joe McCarthy was a hero and right about commies), Glenn Beck (George Soros secretly/nefariously runs the world) and Rush Limbaugh (cigarettes aren't deadly).

Any movement that can take such individuals seriously is not a movement that takes truth seriously. Indeed, or hardly can acknowledge it at all.

Update: I was remiss in not linking to this recent example of the Perpetual Lie from Chris Rodda, debunking the so very ridiculous claim of David Barton and Glenn Beck that 94% of the Founder's quotes came from the Bible; and this omnibus post of Rodda's responses to the lies and fantasies of Barton and Beck.


malcontent said...

We have become a nation of rage addicted, self-censoring thugs. Far too many of my fellow citizens are not just unwilling to challenge their/our beliefs, we are actively subverting nonconformity as it clashes with our perception of the American Way, of right and wrong.

Their personal realities are so fragile in thier hearts yet pop culture has trained them to overcome cognitive dissonance with anger every time a disgust trigger is heard. Lusty Pavlovian righteousness on tap for commies and liberals alike.

Talk radio and reality teevee feed all of us constant conflicting lies to fuel this subterfuge of delusions but many of the mouth breathing zombies are no longer passively accepting the bullshit- they are actively demanding it in a weird 21st century variant of Stockholm Syndrome.

Do not underestimate the power of large groups of zombies exercising anti-government rituals.

malcontent said...

The Loughner incident was perfectly predictable. Apparently unbalanced if not clinically diagnosable as schizophrenic, he was antagonized daily into fits of rage and ultimately felt compelled to do his patriotic duty.

I'm disgusted but I know it is only the latest chapter of American airwaves fomenting political rage.