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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

US: a political culture of paranoia « Previous | |Next »
January 13, 2011

In Dangerous outcomes from a culture of paranoia in the Washington Post Harold Meyerson makes a good point about about the political rhetoric of the Right in the US. This populist conservatism sees politics in terms of being a war that has been started by the other side--- the liberals.

BellSPalin.jpg Steve Bell

Meyerson focuses on the conservative's political depiction of the other Americans as dark conspirators, as the enemy, or as as evil aliens in the vitriolic incivility of American political discourse, as heard on talk radio and cable channels such as Fox News. It is the paranoid characteristic of American political culture that he is interested in.

He says:

The primary problem with the political discourse of the right in today's America isn't that it incites violence per se. It's that it implants and reinforces paranoid fears about the government and conservatism's domestic adversaries. Much of the culture and thinking of the American right - the mainstream as well as the fringe - has descended into paranoid suppositions about the government, the Democrats and the president. This is not to say that the left wing doesn't have a paranoid fringe, too. But by every available measure, it's the right where conspiracy theories have exploded.

The imputation of lurking totalitarianism, alien ideologies, and subversion of liberties to liberals and moderates has become the default rhetoric of the right. That doesn't make Beck, Palin or Rupert Murdoch and their ilk responsible for Tucson. But it does make them responsible for promoting a paranoid culture that makes America a more divided and dangerous land.

You can see that paranoia operating in Sarah Palin's response to the criticism of her warlike political rhetoric. This was more than using the language ---eg., "blood libel"--- designed to grab headlines. For Palin it is the criticism of her violent rhetoric that's the problem, not the violent rhetoric itself. She is the victim---nay a martyr (I am a persecuted and righteous innocent). She was simply “speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent.” The pundits who attacked her were “those who embrace evil and call it good.” That puts her in the middle of a cosmic struggle, with the forces of evil arrayed against her.

The killing of six innocents and the injuring of 14 more including a Congresswoman are a mere backdrop to her perceived continued victimization by the amorphous liberal establishment who embrace evil. 'They'-- the liberals, nay the socialists in the government and the media --- are trying to silence her. Her suffering is in the same order as the Jews in medieval Christian Europe. That's paranoia---she is in a cosmic struggle, with the forces of evil arrayed against her.

This apocalyptic tone tosses civility in politics out the window. The political divide has become so sharp that everything is now black and white: eg., for Palin her critics are using nasty words to incite violence against here.

Fear sells. Republicans believe they have the majority of the public on their side and that the Obama agenda is an attempt to change America against the will of the people. However, the key to who will win in 2012 is probably the economy.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:54 AM | | Comments (9)


"For Palin it is the criticism of violent rhetoric that's the problem, not the violent rhetoric".
Just the same, you get the feeling that the red state heartland are complicit in this, like our own Hansonists.
They virtually demand, through their behaviours alone, this of their politicians.
Yes, "the system" over time has messed with us as humans by de-educating us and playing on our fears, sense of guilt and weaknesses, during an era of de-industrialisation and poorly managed labor importation patterns coupled with soc sec clamps.
So as you have said, the politicians now come to "manage the decline". Big business wants easy access to markets or resources, so the imperialism. It wants union busting and cheap substitute labor, so the politicians "manage the decline".
The mode for acheivemt of elite goals appears to be through the proliferation of a central meme, for want of a better term, that society is "out of control" and we all become survivalists.
So we have deluded Sarah Palin and her trog followers out rushing after imaginary grizzly bears with automatic shotguns and armalite sub machine guns, but reaching the root, I can see it terms of night terrors and scared little children- which is a great shame and fertile territory for further trigger happy mindsets to act out their delusions.
An indication of this comes in consideration of the "victimhood/ entitlement" attitude buttonholed by Hugh Mackay and others during the overt phase of our own Hansonism, back a decade.
All Jubilation T. Cornpone/ Chicken Little stuff and stock in trade of conservative populists.
But as "Dr Strangelove" made clear so many years ago, the US and its people have pretty big matches to start fires, for people ultimately no more (or less) sophisticated than tribals in the less explored boondoggles of the tropics.
And when we laugh at these for their "cargo cult" beleifs, incidentally, how little we realise how hard a superior intelligence would be simultaneously laughing at us, for the same reasons.

Just caught a Sarah Palin photo in the Age delivering her homily, absolutely stunned by the similarity of the facial expression to Miranda Devine; absolutely arid.

Palin said "Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state".

That will come as something of a surprise to the citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq. It is also the most ridiculous drivel, intended to absolve media celebrities like her from any accountability for the actions of those who are influenced by their inflammatory ranting.

She went on "And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults." I defy anyone to translate that into comprehensible English, but I think she means that calling Obama a communist Muslim anti-colonialist traitor is what makes America so great.

The USA is a gibbering asylum.

Phil Quin in Business Spectator says that there is a political strategy behind Palin's disruptive language and belligerence:

In 2012, Palin understands that she cannot prevail if Republicans opt to nominate a unifying figure as their candidate for President. Instead, her hopes lie in a deeply polarised electorate and an angry Republican base. Among voters who turn out in Republican primaries, her propensity to enrage liberals and confound pundits is the key to her appeal – and she never loses sight of that. ... In the Palin calculus, dividing the population makes sense as long as a large enough section falls her way at the right time.

Will it? The Republican base is angry but they don't call the shots.

"This is not to say that the left wing doesn't have a paranoid fringe...."

As I've said before:

That's one of the ridiculous/tragic things about the venomous rhetoric spweing from the loopy far-right... they are shit-scared of, and utterly detest a group of their fellow citizens who are almost identical to them.

At this point I just hope that the US implodes as quickly as possible and without some final grotesque spasm which hurts the rest of us. I don't want their people to suffer either, but it seems they are making it inevitable.

The Murdoch owned Washington Times defends Palin's use of "blood libel" thus:

This is simply the latest round of an ongoing pogrom against conservative thinkers. The last two years have seen a proliferation of similar baseless charges of racism, sexism, bigotry, Islamophobia and inciting violence against those on the right who have presented ideas at odds with the establishment's liberal orthodoxy. Columnist Paul Krugman took advantage of the murders to tar conservative icon Rush Limbaugh and Fox News superstar Glenn Beck as "hate-mongers." It's this sort of reflexive and dastardly mudslinging that drowns out reasoned discussion of public-policy alternatives and poisons the well of political debate in America.

Note the use of "pogom"?

Pogroms were government sanctioned, if not led, attacks on Jews, primarily but not exclusively in Russia and eastern Europe. Hundreds of thousands died, a tally capped by World War II when Hitler sent in the known as the Einsatzgruppen (Mobile Killing Units) that executed Jews on the lip of mass graves they had been forced to dig for themselves.

The conservatives----American white populists in love with war and empire --- maybe feeling sorry for themselves, envisioning the right as a persecuted minority in a liberal world, but they are not being rounded up and killed by non-whites.

What we have is the right's politics of paranoia with its roots in an inferiority complex.

The only way the Tea Party movement in the Republican Party can succeed politically is to engage in hate speech and whip up dangerous emotions. Any pressure to back off these ugly techniques of demagoguery represents a “shutting down” of populist conservatism.

Palin has a history of using violent rhetoric and then denying it.

In Blaming Palin will not help the healing in Tucson in The Australian Chris Kenny says:

Outside the US, the pathological disdain for Palin is accentuated by a lack of understanding about her political pedigree. Far from representing a new far-right agenda, Palin and the Tea Party give voice to a continuous strand of ultra-libertarian, small-government, anti-authoritarian polity that has characterised the American political success story since, obviously enough, the Boston Tea Party.
The anti-government rhetoric is as old as the union itself, and so too, sadly, is the constitutionally protected right to bear arms.

What Kenny fails to mention is that whole small-state vocabulary and rhetoric doesn’t at all square with the size of the Pentagon, the size of the security apparatus, the role that the state plays in underwriting business and correcting crises.

Palin operates under two principles. Free speech for her -- including the use of violent rhetoric to criticize others -- is one of democracy's most precious principles. Criticism of her, however, is libel (ie, known to be malicious and false).