Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Psychopathology of the Conservative, part 667

Fakery loves company -- this is the reason the reason today's American "conservative" prefers the transparently counterfeit hero, the matinee macho-man, to the the genuine article. It reassures him that we are all as inauthentic as he is himself. Thus he forms mancrushes on such figures as John Wayne, Ron Reagan, W., Dick Cheney, and of course Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity and Glen Beck. None of these indisputable "conservative leaders" ever fired a shot in anger, yet all were or are hawks, taking on faith the nobility of and necessity for wars of various sorts. In fact, all of these assholes are or were not men of action, but tough-talkers -- cowardly, loudmouthed couch potatoes, which pretty much defines today's self-described conservative, except for those troglodytes who are actually criminally violent (a class prone to exploitation by their chattier, rear-guard brethren) .

It is crucial to understand that the inauthenticity of the Conservative is practically existential springing from the Orwellian transformation of the term "conservative," in the current misappropriation of it. The Dittohead proudly prolcaims, "I'm a conservative," vaguelly understanding that given the tradional connotations of the term he is saying something rather positive and wise-sounding about himself. The trouble is that conservative, in American culture has become as uncoupled from the traditional meaning, and the logical derivation in its etymology, as a brand or team name. To call Glenn Beck a conservative makes as much sense as calling an automobile a Jaguar, or a baseball player a Devil Ray. This is to toss out careful, logical use of language for the marketer's pandering, atavistic appeal to sympathetic magic. On some level branding is relatively harmless, but it's rather less so in politics.

As I have said before, to be truly conservative is to be skeptical, to prize hard-won knowledge, traditional usuage, logic reason and oft-proved principle over rash claim and false analogy. To be conservative is to recognize that man's nature is what it has been throughout history, hence history has valuable lessons for the present, and prescriptions for the future. At its most basic level, to be conservative is to recognize that there is conservation of quanta: Nothing comes from nothing; nothing becomes nothing; and those who try to get something for nothing usually end up getting nothing for something. But the American Conservative shows none of these tendencies. He believes instead avidly in myths, monsters, magic, miracles, superheroes. At bottom he believes that we as Americans can manifest our destiny of unrestrained and conspicuous consumption infinitely because A.: the "Free Market" will soon create a Clean-Coal/Cold-Fusion Perpetual Motion Machine (and a Fountain of Youth) and/or B.: Santa God will give us a Get Outta Jail Free Card in Heaven or at the Rapture, which ever comes first.

The American conservative wants it both ways; (all possible ways really, so long as he gets his way) he wants to make "conservative" synonymous with himself -- credulous, bigoted, xenophobe -- yet he also wants it to entail the traditional principles of sober, learned Burkean authority. But this is to invoke Lewis Carrol: 'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.' Having abandoned lingual logic (which is to say all concern with the truth of one's statements) the "conservative" now feels empowered to attack his enemies or defend himself without regard for the correctness, or even meaningfulness of his assertions. His tactic is not to make logical or factual assertions, but simply to make vaguely positive associations with himself, his allies and heroes, and negative ones with his opponents. This reduces his discourse the most primitive, atavistic components: hosanna and curse.

While waiting for the caffeine to revive my system on several recent mornings I happened to be flipping channels and I alighted on the quintessenital example of this conservative aphasia, surpisingly not on Fox and Friends, but on Joe Scarborough. Joe had his buddy Lawrence O'Donnell on ("Sir Larry" the lobbyist calls his pomposity, from their days on the Hill) to plump Scarborough's book The Last Best Hope:Restoring Conservatism and America's Promise. The title itself more probably lifted from the nauseating Bill Bennett's windy tomes than from Lincoln's speech and it is, of course, absurd in itself, and predictive of the level of thought thereafter. O'Donnell actually did a creditable job here, affording the premise no more respect than it deserves; right from the outset he makes my point, "Conservatism doesn't exist, you lost every fight." And then he lists the litany of conservatism's failures, and America's subsequent gains:

"Liberals ended slavery, liberals got woman the right to vote, liberals created Social Security, Medicaid and a minimum wage, they wrote the Civil Rights Act, , the Voting Rights Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, they have done all of those things in at every moment, for every one of those things in this country, what did conservatives do, they opposed every one of those things, including your right to vote (pointing at Mika)."

Without realizing it Joe makes Larry's point, by trying to give Republican's credit for these liberal triumphs starting with this very telling howler, "Slavery - ended by a Republican." Now, if Larry had been truly fast on his feet, he might have made Joe look like the lying sack he is, by saying something like, "Lincoln called himself a Republican, but a Republican in 1865 was the opposite of today's Republican. Lincoln's Southern Strategy was not to exploit anti-black bigotry, as was Nixon's, Reagan's, both Bush's and Rove's." Larry might thus have pointed out the Orwellian shift in the term Republican, that is the modern conversion of its old meaning to its old opposite.

Today's Republican's have their image problems and apparently they're desperate enough to try to bring Joe out of retirement in hopes that his phony tie-less folksinesss will get ptrople to forget Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich, not to mention Michael Steel and Mitch McConnel and the rest of the Cranky White Guy Party. Thus Chris Buckley an alleged "moderate" has been fellating Joe in the Daily Beast thus:

He is unsparing about the disaster wrought by George W. Bush and the Republican majority. At times, indeed, it reads like an indictment co-authored by Michael Moore and Paul Krugman. Iraq, reckless spending, the works. His insight is that Bush and the Republicans were not in any sense “conservative,” but rather radical and ideological. In foreign policy, they tossed aside the Powell and Weinberger doctrines of restraint and went pell-mell into every quagmire in sight.

Here, Buckley (who at least admits that Joe regularly genuflects before his asshole father's sainted false-memory) is regurgitating what has become a boilerplate "conservartive" canard: the idead that though George Bush was voted for, stolen for, appointed President by, and then abetted, enabled, apologized for, and celebrated as paragon with amamzing unanymity by self-described "conservatives", he was somehow not a "real 'conservative'". (This is one of George SWill's favorite memes too.) Buckley commits a few other howlers in this puff-piece; he calls the book, " a thoroughly honest book about the largely, if not entirely, self-inflicted wounds the Republicans have visited upon themselves over the last eight or more years." Now considering the fact that Scarborough is a professional Republican, which is to say an automaton for a marketing system that doesn't recognize truth and falsity as values,(Witness the deceitful cliam that Lincoln was a "Republican".), it strikes me as nearly impossible that Scarborough could pen an honest book. I don't inend to read it and find out, however.

And Buckley goes so far as to say, "One truly senses that Scarborough, who went out of his way as a congressman to befriend such lefty firebrands as Ron Dellums and Maxine Waters, doesn’t have a mean bone in his body." To which I say, Buckley must've led a mighty sheltered life not to recognize a slick-smug redneck thug. Back in the less-Elysian Newport News of my youth I learned well to spot the type. And I rather doubt that the survivors of the doctor whose murderer Joe cynically befriended and defended pro bono to gain support of his district's Womb Police will feel the same way about his lacking a mean bone. Funny how the very honest, sweet Joe never bothered to bring any of this experience up on his show in the wake of the Tiller killing.

A few days after the O'Donnel debate Joe was all steamed because people in America have been associating right wing hate mongers with right wing hate-criminals like the guy who shot up the Holocaust Museum murdering a guard. Joe clearly didn't think it was fair to associate dehumanuizing rhetoric of Rush, Beck, Savage, Hannity et alia, with the violent enactment of their views, and because Paul Krugman had the gall to think otherwise in the Times, Sweet Joe decided that Krugman, Princeton professor, Nobel Laureate, was the equivalent of the aforemtioned lynchmasters. Says Joe:

I’m just gonna say it. As somebody that has to sort through a lot of hate mail, a lot of hate email, a lot of viciousness. Paul Krugman’s name is attached to a lot of those emails. They use Paul Krugman as their shield for their left-wing hate. This is because Paul Krugman, like a lot of extremists on the right, they only see their side. They have a closed-minded world view. Paul Krugman uses this tragedy, uses this death to try to knock down his opponents on the right.

I for one would like to see those very hateful emails which invoke Krugman. I doubt they exist. But the thought here is really of the exact same quality as Glenn Beck's rantings on the same crime:

This guy is a lone gunman nutjob. ... You're going to see a lot of nutjobs coming out of the woodwork now. There are two very important things that are happening here. First one: It's what I talked about two years ago, um, when I talked about the "Perfect Storm" -- I said that there is a storm formulating. And it is the economy, it is political correctness, it's corruption in Washington, it's militant Islam. It's all of these things.

I said when it comes onshore, there's going to be a "go go go" mentality. And that's what this is. There is a mentality in our enemies. Our country is now vulnerable. Those people who would like to destroy us -- our enemies like, uh, Al Qaeda. There are also enemies like white supremacists or 9/11 Truthers who would also like to destroy the country. They'll work with anybody they can.

So, according to Beck and his cronies, right-wing violence is actually left-wing violence. Political correctness causes hates crimes. Indeed, right is left, Hitler was a liberal, ignorance is strength, and Bush wasn't a "conservative".

Can one be sane without any regard for truth? Is the psychopath sane, in a way?

We are in deep trouble here.


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