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January 21, 2008

Too Crazy For Boystown, Too Much Of A Boy For Crazytown

Jim Henley is completely right about this:

You can’t understand the Obscure Executive, or The Movement or whatever you prefer to call it unless you internalize the bizarre truth: They really believe this stuff. It’s tempting to think of the network of contractors and water carriers and foundations as cynical operators, just a particularly bloody-minded effort in rent-seeking using Rovian attack politics to manipulate dupes into further fattening already bulging wallets. No.

The jabber about GOP schisms among “theocons” and “moneycons” and “security hawks” ignores the overlap of all three tendencies at the core of the contemporary Republican Party and “conservative” movement. Democrats are the party of treason isn’t just something bloggers and barflies believe. It’s the firm conviction of very wealthy and powerful stalwarts of the American Right...

We look at the Democratic Party and see co-opted, managerialist shills. They look at the same group and see the Manson Family.

It's hard for our type to comprehend this, but it's true. Much of real right-wing power in the United States, right up to senior White House staff, sees the world like this. They simply cannot understand why anyone to their left behaves as they do, and the only answer that makes sense to them is "TREASON!!!" They honestly believe that "secular progressives" (as Bill O'Reilly likes to call us) are pining to turn America into the New Caliphate.

And this is nothing new. Here's Robert Parry in Secrecy and Privilege, describing the incoming Reaganite perspective after the 1980 elections:

In a scalding assessment of the CIA’s Soviet analysis, the transition team accused the DI of “an abject failure” to foresee a supposedly massive Soviet buildup of strategic weapons and “the wholesale failure” to comprehend the sophistication of Soviet propaganda.

The transition report even questioned the patriotism of the career analysts who supposedly had underestimated the Soviet commitment to world domination. "These failures are of such enormity," the transition report said, "that they cannot help but suggest to any objective observer that the agency itself is compromised to an unprecedented extent and that its paralysis is attributable to causes more sinister than incompetence."

Of course, this seems utterly bonkers to us, but remember: from their perspective, simply telling the truth is treason.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at January 21, 2008 09:32 AM

Not wanting to engage in 1 upmanship for the WHITEHOUSE in the TREASON department, but OUTING A CIA AGENT IN TIME OF WAR IS TREASON AGAINST THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. And I really, really believe that.
(call Nan@1-202-225-0100)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 21, 2008 10:51 AM

And I believe that it's TREASONOUS to accuse people of TREASON in a TIME OF WAR! And I'm not just drinkin' REPUBLICRAT FLAVORED KOOL-AID here either! 'Cause I'm not! So there!

Posted by: AlanSmithee at January 21, 2008 12:05 PM

If Dems ever start telling the truth, they're really gonna be in trouble.

Posted by: Arvin Hill at January 21, 2008 01:07 PM

OK, I don't really think so.
They don't believe in much of anything,that's why their shills shout "treason" or "Un-American" at the Dems, who don't believe in much of anything either--except that both believe in money and power. "Beliefs" or "principles" are picked as the political marketplace or availability dictates. (As McCarthy half a century ago. His Anti-Communism was chosen the way you pick your beer at an airport lounge. No Guinness, well gimme an Amstel...)
There are some true believers, all right, and they are the useful idiots for both "parties."
Shorris had it right. We are a nation of salesmen, selling ourselves tomake the big bucks. The rest--politics, faith, flag--are packaging.
Hollow--men and women.

Posted by: donescobar at January 21, 2008 01:14 PM

As you may recall, the MICFiC (military-industrial-congressional...) is a conspiracy to use, abuse, and confuse the people, to "milk, shear, and slaughter the sheeple", figuratively speaking - except the slaughter is literal.

The Straussian perspective, that the people MUST be lied to, because they can't handle the truth, is surely prevalent in the upper circles of the MICFiC. But is a good shepherd putting the welfare of the flock as his highest objective (leaving the 99 to go look for the lost 100th, as the parable puts it) - or does he have a more ulterior motive? In his very interesting book The Black Swan, Taleb points out the Domestic Turkey's Fundamental Error of Induction: every day the friendly farmer serves him delicious, nourishing food. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow him all the days of his life. And this is true, day by day, day by day by day - until, one day in late November...

What I think is: some of the MICFiC swallow the Kool-Aid they pass out, and some just pretend to. And there are levels of honesty, both in dealing with others and in one's view of oneself. The Monty Python Creed, from their film The Meaning of Life, is relevant here:

CHAIRMAN: ...Which brings us once again to the urgent realization of just how much there is still left to own. Item six on the agenda: the meaning of life. Now, uh, Harry, you've had some thoughts on this.

That's right. Yeah, I've had a team working on this over the past few weeks, and, uh, what we've come up with can be reduced to two fundamental concepts. One: people are not wearing enough hats. Two: matter is energy. In the universe, there are many energy fields which we cannot normally perceive. Some energies have a spiritual source which act upon a person's soul. However, this soul does not exist ab initio, as orthodox Christianity teaches. It has to be brought into existence by a process of guided self-observation. However, this is rarely achieved, owing to man's unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia.

What was that about hats, again?

The lack of guided self-observation may explain why so many of our sisters and brothers on the other side of the political aisle endorse ideas which seem completely at odds with reality. Most people, both "sheep" and "shepherds" (or maybe "wolves" is a better analogy), are extremely undeveloped. Who knows if it's good or bad?

May the Creative Forces of the Universe stand beside us, and guide us, through the Night with the Light from Above (metaphorically speaking) as we observe ourselves and grow our souls (if any).

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at January 21, 2008 02:43 PM

I've never understood why this question of "Do they really believe what they say?" generates such debate. People are capable of making themselves believe anything when it's in their self-interest do so.

With politicians, I imagine the process goes something like this:

"Hmmm... supporting political position X will: a)get me a big campaign contribution, b) win me some votes c) guarantee me a cushy job after I leave office. You know, come to think of it, there are some really good arguments in favor of X. Damned if I don't find those arguments quite persuasive! Yes, no doubt about it, X is the best thing for America! And our children, of course."

Once the politician goes out in public and has to argue in favor of X, defend X against attack, and perhaps even defend himself against attack for advocating X, he comes more and more to see X as an important part of his identity. Pretty soon, it's "I'll give up X when you pry it from my cold, dead hand!"

And for "politician" in the above paragraph, you could easily substitute "human."

Posted by: SteveB at January 21, 2008 03:01 PM

I know it's the default assumption that all the typical right-wing professed beliefs are just cynical posturing, especially the extreme religiosity, but it seems to me that there are two unwarranted assumptions underlying that, namely:

1) Our leaders are too worldly and educated to ever believe such stupidity; deep down, they're just pursuing a rational strategy of obtaining wealth and power, and -

2) The reason they pretend to believe such stupidity is because the vast majority of ordinary citizens are so stupid that they actually believe this shit, and it's therefore necessary to appeal to them while smirking at their imbecility behind their backs.

These could both be true, but I never see anything offered as proof in either instance. I just think it's worth pointing out how even this, the supposed "realist" view, rests on some faith.

(It makes me wonder how Chomsky, despite his insistence that the average citizen is much wiser and ahead of the curve than their overlords think, seems to believe that George Bush, for example, fakes everything from his religious beliefs to his malapropisms. If the citizenry is supposedly too savvy to fall for it, who is he appealing to?)

Posted by: at January 21, 2008 03:50 PM

Alan Smithee: Then YOU ARE SAYING George Washington should have been charged in the Benedict Arnold affair with TREASON? Why do YOU HATE George Washington, one of OUR GREATEST HEROS? Why do YOU HATE AMERICA?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 21, 2008 04:02 PM

The manipulators are there ("follow the money"), but our "political" life is mostly as in Jerzy Kosinski's novel "Being There" (1971) and eight years later in pretty good Peter Sellers movie.
Empty. Hollow. But grasping opportunity when it appears. His name is Chance.
Same is true of what now passes for "philosophy" in huge segment of our society--books by business gurus. All procedures, "steps," practices---no substance.

Posted by: donescobar at January 21, 2008 05:55 PM

So does Bill Kristol really think that his employers are traitors? Does Sulzberger think Kristol was joking when he called for the publisher to be prosecuted?

From my perspective, it really does seem like a game to both sides -- something to keep everyone entertained and distracted.

Posted by: Carl at January 22, 2008 03:06 AM

Can anyone tell me how anyone who is NOT "one of them" negotiates ANYTHING with the people so describe?

Cuz they still run things, and it's unlikely that they're actually gonna stop.

So, what are the choices?

C'mon. It's true that the ideologues arre true believers. So now what?

Posted by: konopelli/wgg at January 22, 2008 07:57 AM

So Jonah may both believe and pretend to believe without missing a step.

Yeah, I think that's closer to it. I just think that the idea of the Straussian elites posing one way in public while reading Machiavelli at night before bed is similar to the way typical conspiracy theories (9/11 truthers, JFK, Diana, LaRouche, etc.) seem to be rooted in a strong desire to believe that someone, somewhere is in charge of things, making rational decisions to make things turn out this way, exactly according to plan. Apparently it would be too terrifying for them to believe that not only is no one at the wheel, but there is no wheel to begin with, and it's just luck that we haven't annihilated ourselves yet, so it's easier to think of a sinister elite pulling the strings, because at least if an evil overlord is in charge, there's a chance we can put someone better in his place, and then it'll be Shiny Happy Unicorn land.

Posted by: at January 22, 2008 09:24 AM

The poster who cannot be named (9:24 am, above) seems to sneer at all conspiracy theories. Hey, sir or madam as the case may be - if you think that, because some conspiracy theories are wrong, it proves that there are no conspiracies - then there is no point in any further discussion with you.

You probably believe AND don't believe that there are no conspiracies.

As for me, I am quite sure that there is a conspiracy [or actually, many overlapping and sometimes competing conspiracies] to use, abuse, and confuse the public, to "milk, shear, and slaughter the sheeple", figuratively speaking - except the slaughter is literal.

Posted by: mistah 'MICFiC' charley, ph.d. at January 22, 2008 10:26 AM

Well, Chuckie, if you read what I said, you'll see that I was noting how people who believe in - as I said - typical conspiracy theories seem to have a large emotional investment in believing that a particular world-shaking event was planned and brought to fruition without anything fouling it up.

It doesn't necessarily speak to the truth or falsity of said conspiracy, it just reminds us that people tend to use their reasoning ability to invent reasons for things they have already felt emotionally drawn to.

Posted by: The Poster Who Cannot Be Named at January 22, 2008 12:42 PM

Thanks, Jon. Well done.

Posted by: Batocchio at January 22, 2008 04:01 PM

Mixed feelings on this one. As usual Jonathan is funny. That part I like.

The part reading the character of the GOP, I like less. I think it's nice caricature for humor's sake, but it's hardly reality. The "Christian" thing is a pose. It's a pose of the "whatever works!" variant, and not even Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Robert Schuller, Billy Graham or Oral Roberts ever would cofess otherwise if their souls really depended on honesty. The problem is they're soul-less but reasonably good at playing to a certain hollow, centerless intellect, the same that is susceptible to nationalism and other forms of faith.

At bottom what both major parties are about is the worship of power and money. They have worked a very functional accommodation. The GOP pander to the religious nutjobs, the bigoted hatemonger xenophobes, the libertarian idealists, and the jingoistic hawks. The Democrats pander to the "liberal," the socialistically inclined, the humanist/atheist/agnostic and more liberal judeo-christian denomination followers, labor, feminists, environmentalists and fans of big government. The difference is in sales pitch only.

To think otherwise is to help yourself deny the cruelty with which human cleverness implicates itself in overt duplicity.

Posted by: The Wendigo at January 22, 2008 05:51 PM