Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

The Paranoid Style

with one comment

Tim Wise: …while Loughner would never have likely contemplated political assassination in a culture where the most pressing issue was, say, a simple philosophical disagreement over tax policy, or the proper balance between interest rates and full employment, or the percentage of GDP dedicated to debt service as opposed to long-term infrastructure investment, that is not the culture in which he (or any of us) lives. Rather, we live in a nation in which it is commonplace, and considered completely rational, for elected officials to believe the President is a foreign interloper. We live in a culture where the nation’s most powerful Republican, House Speaker John Boehner, cannot bring himself to condemn the maniacal derangement that is birtherism, but is reduced instead to a mere acknowledgement that since Hawaii says the President is a citizen, that’s “good enough for him.”

We live in a culture in which it is utterly normal, to a degree that has sadly made it nearly banal, to hear multi-million dollar, best-selling authors and talk show hosts suggest that the nation is on the verge of total fascism, death panels for the elderly, door-to-door gun confiscation, and the reconquest of the American southwest by Latinos bent on ethnic war. In short, in a society where paranoia is the daily currency of mainstream commentators, and pseudo-schizophrenic ramblings are elevated to the level of persuasive argument, we ought not be surprised that such a tragedy as occurred on Saturday might happen.

[…]

It is not necessary to show that Loughner is a follower of Glenn Beck, or Michael Savage, or any of a hundred or more local variants of the same. It is not, in the end, all that important whether he spent time on right-wing websites, or is (as a Department of Homeland Security memo seems to suggest) a follower of the white nationalist group, American Renaissance, or whether he believes (as some of his internet postings hint) that the Constitution is being usurped by the current government because of its reliance on paper money: a prominent meme among the far-right. What matters is that Loughner, like all of us, has been exposed day in and day out, for several years, to the unhinged and paranoiac ravings of persons who believe America is in its “end days,” and that the sky is falling, at least metaphorically — and not because of global warming, which is just one more piece of the left-wing conspiratorial plot to confiscate all wealth in the name of nature-worship — but because of the communist / socialist / fascist / Marxist / Nazi / Muslim / Kenyan / terrorist / anti-Christ who occupies the White House.

It is that daily stream of poisonous vitriol from which it is nearly impossible to escape.

In a culture where Glenn Beck plays “Six Degrees of Chairman Mao” every night on his chalkboard, uncannily managing to convince his flock that even the most moderate of Democrats likely hums the Internationale to his or her children rather than regaling them with bedtime stories, we can truly say that paranoia has become not only the prelude to something deadly, but sadly a form of pedantry so everyday in its appearance that we write it off as entertainment, rather than the poison it truly is.

In a culture where political rallies attended by thousands feature prominent speakers who suggest the President might well be Satan in the flesh, and marchers who carry signs suggesting “Taxpayers are the Jews for Obama’s Ovens,” or that the President intends to put whites into slavery, nothing should surprise us anymore.

In a media environment where highly paid commentators can keep their jobs even as they insist that those who call for the shooting of government agents so as to stop a world government takeover are “beginning to have a case,” or that a national service initiative is just a run-up to the implementation of a literal stormtrooper corps like the Nazi SS, or that “multicultural people” are “destroying the culture of this country,” or that Latino migrants are an “invasive species,” that seeks to undermine the nation, or that the President is intentionally “destroying the economy” so as to pay white people back for slavery, or that, worse, he and other Democrats are vampires, the only solution for which is a “stake through the heart,” to feign shock at the acts of a Jared Loughner is a precious and naive conceit that we can no longer afford.

Via Pandagon, which notes succinctly, “Keeping people in a permanent state of fantasy is an excellent way to push them towards violence.”

A few related links:

* The solution to gun violence is always more guns.

* Some rules for debating debate.

* Gun control for me, but not for thee.

* Nate Silver tries to get empirical.

* And these “You Lie!” bullets could be intended for anyone. It’s not a call for violence. Stop whining.

One Response

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  1. ….”which notes succinctly, “Keeping people in a permanent state of fantasy is an excellent way to push them towards violence.””

    As a South-African who has lived in a multicultural country that since its inception has been a multicultural country, you Americans don’t seem to know what it is. It denotes countries where the identities of people or nations(plural) has nothing to do with the state or “territorial country”.

    What is a state of fantasy to you is very real for someone ells. This state of affairs in your country would continue to deteriorate as you are trying to create multiculturalism artificially and unnaturally. In such a situation people don’t trust government or each other and it is questionable if they should trust there government. The real problem only arrives for you Americans when none of the nations(plural) in your country has any reason to be loyal to what they perceive to be a foreigners government. In a strange way I think you are going to look a lot like us when it is over.

    Nthuli

    January 12, 2011 at 11:09 am


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