Monday, April 19, 2010

Not people like themselves

QOTD, David in Nashville:
I think what we're actually seeing here is a sharp increase in distrust of government from those who only trust government when it's seen as controlled by and for people like themselves. Big government is OK if it helps "us," and not "them"; if "they" control it, though, it stands to reason that they'll use it to help the "wrong" people at "our" expense."
Sully: Quote For The Day

19 Apr 2010 11:56 am


"The leader can guess the psychological wants and needs of those susceptible to his propaganda because he resembles them psychologically, and is distinguished from them by a capacity to express without inhibitions what is latent in them, rather than by any intrinsic superiority. The leaders are generally oral character types, with a compulsion to speak incessantly and to befool the others. The famous spell they exercise over their followers seems largely to depend on their orality: language itself, devoid of its rational significance, functions in a magical way and furthers those archaic regressions which reduce individuals to members of crowds.

Since this very quality of uninhibited but largely associative speech presupposes at least a temporary lack of ego control, it may well indicate weakness rather than strength. The fascist agitators' boasting of strength is indeed frequently accompanied by hints at such weakness, particularly when begging for monetary contributions - hints which, to be sure, are skillfully merged with the idea of strength itself. In order successfully to meet the unconscious dispositions of his audience, the agitator so to speak simply turns his own unconscious outward.

His particular character syndrome makes it possible for him to do exactly this, and experience has taught him consciously to exploit this faculty, to make rational use of his irrationality, similarly to the actor, or a certain type of journalist who knows how to sell their innervations and sensitivity. Without knowing it, he is thus able to speak and act in accord with psychological theory for the simple reason that the psychological theory is true. All he has to do in order to make the psychology of his audience click, is shrewdly to exploit his own psychology," - Theodor Adorno.

DougJ: I’m afraid of Americans

I have a question for all you Brits and whatnot out there. As I understand it, the Tories are not that crazy, they’re about like the Blue Dogs if the Blue Dogs had all gone to Eton and drank claret at lunch. Given the “special relationship” between the US and the UK, is there a fear that the insanity of American conservatism will eventually seep into UK conservatism? Or am I wrong that it’s not already crazy?

This article about a “Tory madrasa” got me thinking:

The YBF chief executive, Donal Blaney, who runs the courses on media training and policy, has called for environmental protesters who trespass to be “shot down” by the police and that Britain should have a US-style liberal firearms policy. In an article on his own website, entitled Scrap the NHS, not just targets, he wrote: “Would it not now be better to say that the NHS – in its current incarnation – is finished?”

Blaney has described the YBF as “a Conservative madrasa” that radicalises young Tories. Programmes have included trips to meet neo-conservative groups in the US and to a shooting range in Virginia to fire submachine guns and assault rifles.

Also too, Ross Douthat taunted Tories today for not being sufficiently conservative, before praising David Cameron by comparing him to Nixon and George W. Bush.

DougJ: Principled opposition to Obama’s policies

That’s all this is (via Dave Weigel and Atrios):

[Tancredo] said Americans have reached the point where “we’re going to have to pray that we can hold on to this country.”

As for Obama, Tancredo said, “If his wife says Kenya is his homeland, why don’t we just send him back?”

Of course, recent Democratic Congressmen talked about sending Bush back to whatever country MoveOn claimed he was from, too. So you’re all hypocrites for criticizing Tancredo.

Rayfield (TPM): Former Rep. Tancredo: Send Obama Back To Kenya!

A Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina over the weekend took some of the Tea Party's violent rhetoric to new levels, with speakers attacking everything from President Obama's citizenship to Sen. Lindsey Graham's sexuality.

The event was hosted by the Upcountry Conservative Coalition, a local South Carolina conservative group that describes its mission statement as:

We the People...are coalescing to reclaim our God given rights by restoring our Constitutional Republic.

The event took place at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, and featured former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) as its keynote speaker. Tancredo, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, said that Americans are "going to have to pray that we can hold on to this country."

He added, referring to President Obama: "If his wife says Kenya is his homeland, why don't we just send him back?"

Pastor Stan Craig, of the Choice Hills Baptist Church, was particularly angry about the state of Washington, saying he "was trained to defend the liberties of this nation." He declared that he was prepared to "suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do."


Dan Gonzales, who Chairs the Constitution Party in Florida, asserted that "this is the end of America right here," and if the Tea Partiers "don't get to work we're going to be fighting in the streets."

He was not particularly kind to the Republican party either, claiming they were owned by the Rockefeller family.


Another speaker, who claimed Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is gay, noted:

I'm a tolerant person. I don't care about your private life, Lindsey, but as our U.S. Senator I need to figure out why you're trying to sell out your own countrymen, and I need to make sure you being gay isn't it.

I like to think I can take a joke, and appreciate political commentary intended as humor, but this item from Thomas Mitchell, editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, wasn't amusing. The headline read, "Time to repeal the 19th Amendment?"

People and candidates for public office should be judged on the basis of their ideas, stance on the issues, character, experience and integrity, not on the basis of age, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion or disability.

Therefore, we must repeal the 19th Amendment. Yes, the one granting suffrage to women. Because? Well, women are biased..... Men are consistent. Women are fickle and biased.

To "prove" his point, Mitchell, head of Nevada's largest newspaper, pointed to poll results showing women voters in the state preferring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) over former state Sen. Sue Lowden (R) by a narrow margin, but preferring Reid over real estate agent Danny Tarkanian by a wide margin. This is evidence of "bias." (That women voters might perceive Lowden as more qualified than Tarkanian doesn't seem to enter the equation at all.)

Mitchell also pointed to recent Gallup data that showed, nationwide, women tend to prefer Democrats, while men tend to prefer Republicans. This, apparently, substantiates the argument that ... well, actually, I have no idea.

If there's a clever insight here, it's hiding well.

In a follow-up piece, Thomas described his published argument as "a bit of free hyperbole." He proceeded to compare himself to Larry Summers, and insisted that there really are important gender-based differences between men and women. Thomas was especially dismissive of those who found his "repeal the 19th Amendment" argument offensive, accusing them of failing to consider "any merits or demerits of facts in evidence or syllogism used" in his piece. It's their fault, apparently, not his, that they were insulted.

Remember, this guy runs a major newspaper.

The mind reels.

  • Atrios adds - Obviously the first reason to react to this is that the guy is a sexist and racist asshole, but the second reason is that he's obviously completely fucking stupid.

Think Progress: Extreme Tea Parties now making AFP nervous; group distances itself from Oklahoma militia effort.

Last week, the AP reported that Oklahoma Tea Party leaders — part of an umbrella group called the Oklahoma Constitutional Alliance — are working with right-wing Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature to create a new “volunteer militia to help defend against what they believe are improper federal infringements on state sovereignty.” A couple of GOP state senators have even met with Tea Partiers to plan legislation for a state-authorized militia. Now Americans for Prosperity, one of the astroturf groups driving the Tea Parties nationwide, has realized that the movement it promoted is now getting out of hand. The Oklahoma Watchdog reports that the group is withdrawing from the Constitutional Alliance:

[Stuart Jolly, director of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans for Prosperity] told this website that Gerhart was “dragging us down with him” and that the reputation of AFP, with over 20,000 members statewide and over 1 million nationwide, was being tarnished by the connection to OCA and the Sooner Tea Party. He also said in a story on April 18 in The Oklahoman that “It seems like the guys on the far right are really starting to take us down a road that they really shouldn’t. It should be more of an educational thing and how things works and how you actually get things accomplished. I’m not sure discussing militias and saying we’re going to take over the GOP is any way to accomplish any goal.”

A certain former half-term governor appears to be drifting even further away from the American mainstream. Over the weekend, appearing at an evangelical Christian women's conference in Louisville, Sarah Palin rejected the very idea of separation of church and state, a bedrock principle of American democracy.

She asked for the women -- who greeted her with an enthusiastic standing ovation -- to provide a "prayer shield" to strengthen her against what she said was "deception" in the media.

She denounced this week's Wisconsin federal court ruling that government observance of a National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional -- which the crowd joined in booing. She asserted that America needs to get back to its Christian roots and rejected any notion that "God should be separated from the state."

Palin added that she was outraged when President Obama said that "America isn't a Christian nation."

The amusing aspect of this is the notion that the United States would return to its roots with support for National Day of Prayer observances. That's backwards -- Thomas Jefferson and James Madison explicitly rejected state-sponsored prayer days. I'll look forward to the conservative explanation of how the Founding Fathers were godless socialists.

I also can't wait to hear how right-wing voices who want smaller government believe it's appropriate for the federal government to issue decrees encouraging private American citizens to engage in worship.

But far less amusing is the fact that Palin and others of her radical ilk reject any notion that "God should be separated from the state." It's the 21st century, for crying out loud. There are some countries that endorse Palin's worldview and intermix God and government -- Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan under Taliban rule come to mind -- but they're generally not countries the United States tries to emulate.

The separation of church and state has long been a concept that all Americans could embrace, and has served as a model for nations around the world to follow. For Palin to publicly denounce this bedrock American principle suggests she might actually be getting worse.

Postscript: As for Palin's outrage over the president acknowledging that we're not "a Christian nation," Obama's entirely correct.

Update: Greg Sargent obtained a transcript, and it's worse than I thought. Palin not only thinks the Founding Fathers opposed church-state separation -- in other words, she thinks those who came up with the idea opposed the idea -- she also suggests religious people necessarily reject the constitutional principle. This is just astounding.

If anyone this conspicuously unintelligent has ever sought national office, I can't think of who he/she is.

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