Michael Gershon says the conservative mind is diseased, and at least some other conservatives agree. (More)
“Their extended vacation in the fever swamps is even more disturbing”
To many observers on the left, the initial embrace of Seth Rich conspiracy theories by conservative media figures was merely a confirmation of the right’s deformed soul. But for those of us who remember that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity were once relatively mainstream Reaganites, their extended vacation in the fever swamps is even more disturbing. If once you knew better, the indictment is deeper.
The cruel exploitation of the memory of Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot dead last summer, was horrifying and clarifying. The Hannity right, without evidence, accused Rich rather than the Russians of leaking damaging DNC emails. In doing so, it has proved its willingness to credit anything – no matter how obviously deceptive or toxic – to defend President Trump and harm his opponents. Even if it means becoming a megaphone for Russian influence.
The basic, human questions are simple. How could conservative media figures not have felt – felt in their hearts and bones – the God-awful ickiness of it? How did the genes of generosity and simple humanity get turned off? Is this insensibility the risk of prolonged exposure to our radioactive political culture? If so, all of us should stand back a moment and tend to the health of our revulsion.
He then turns his sights on the Conspiracy Monger-in-Chief:
But this failure of decency is also politically symbolic. Who is the politician who legitimized conspiracy thinking at the highest level? Who raised the possibility that Ted Cruz’s father might have been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Who hinted that Hillary Clinton might have been involved in the death of Vince Foster, or that unnamed liberals might have killed Justice Antonin Scalia? Who not only questioned President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, but raised the prospect of the murder of a Hawaiian state official in a coverup? “How amazing,” Trump tweeted in 2013, “the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s ‘birth certificate’ died in plane crash today. All others lived.”
We have a president charged with maintaining public health who asserts that the vaccination schedule is a dangerous scam of greedy doctors. We have a president charged with representing all Americans who has falsely accused thousands of Muslims of celebrating in the streets following the 9/11 attacks.
In this mental environment, alleging a Rich-related conspiracy was predictable. This is a concrete example of the mainstreaming of destructive craziness.
Exactly. This isn’t just Sean Hannity. This is what the conservative movement has become: paranoid delusions in the absence of evidence … like the GOP’s decades-long voter suppression campaign to fight mythical voter fraud.
“This is the pro-Trump counter-conspiracy theory dreamed up to fight the Left’s conspiracy theory about how Russia stole the election”
For weeks now, Sean Hannity has been giving his televised platform to a crackpot conspiracy theory in which the Democratic National Committee somehow orchestrated the murder of a low-level staffer, Seth Rich, making him look like the victim of a mugging gone wrong, in order to cover up the fact that he was the real leaker who gave internal DNC e-mails to WikiLeaks.
In other words, this is the pro-Trump counter-conspiracy theory dreamed up to fight the Left’s conspiracy theory about how Russia stole the election.
Pardon me, but … bullshit.
First, the Clinton Body Count narrative has been around for decades. The Seth Rich murder is just the most recent addition, and those rumors began swirling within days after Rich’s tragic death … long before the depths of Russia’s meddling in our election were known.
Second, as Gershon notes and Tracinski conveniently skips over, this is merely the latest in a long deluge of wingnut conspiracy theories: from President Obama’s birthplace to claims that he is in league with Islamic terrorists, from the twisted idea that the Sandy Hook murders were faked to drum up support for gun control to the equally twisted idea that Hillary Clinton helped to plan – or had advance notice and did nothing to stop – the 2012 attack of our embassy in Benghazi. Add to that the countless other “no ‘there’ there” Clinton stories: that the Clinton Foundation was a giant pay-for-play scam, that she sold uranium to Russians, and that she destroyed her emails to hide all of that.
Finally, Russia’s meddling in our election is not a “conspiracy theory.” It’s a fact, corroborated by an ever-growing mountain of evidence, confirmed by our former CIA director in sworn testimony last week. Citing that – or Netflix series like House of Cards – as “reasons” for conservatives peddling the Seth Rich story is an exercise in ducking responsibility … in what purports to be a column about taking the moral high ground.
Oh, Tracinski also cites the mundane “corruption” of political candidates “buying votes” with promises and policies to improve voters’ lives … as if the very premise and purpose of representative government is somehow corrupt.
“What happened here is another example of tribal politics getting in the way of reason”
Over at Red State, Jay Caruso is more intellectually honest:
In February 2016, I sat in the press area for the GOP presidential debate in Greenville. One of the people I met was a reporter for the Guardian, Ben Jacobs. We introduced ourselves and chatted for a few minutes before the debate started. Ben was friendly and engaging. Hardly the “aggressive” type as he’s been portrayed in some quarters.
When the story broke that Montana Republican Greg Gianforte assaulted Jacobs, the reaction from some conservatives on social media was, “Ben is lying.” Ben used the term “body slammed” and people conjured up images of a professional wrestler picking up an opponent and slamming them to the ground.
People assumed because Jacobs is a “liberal” who writes for The Guardian, he either made up the story or exaggerated what happened. Even with audio available of what happened, some people still didn’t believe it, content in being suspicious because of “liberal reporter.”
Caruso details the many conservatives who excused Gianforte’s criminal act – here’s a summary of that idiocy – and concludes:
What happened here is another example of tribal politics getting in the way of reason. There is never an excuse for a politician to assault a reporter for asking questions. There are hundreds of photos to see with politicians talking into a sea of microphones, digital recorders, and smartphones. It comes with the job.
It’s sad to watch some conservatives wave it away because they don’t like the media.
Fortunately, he’s not alone. The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro left Breitbart because he could no longer stomach wingnut extremism, and he still has no stomach for it:
It seems like a relatively uncontroversial proposition that civilized human beings ought not commit battery on one another for reasons of politics. Yet that seemingly basic notion – one that we teach small children before they hit kindergarten age – has now been immediately discarded by a significant number of supposed conservatives, people who proclaim their values from the rooftops but then abandon them when it comes time to speak up against their heretofore political allies.
First, people suggested that Jacobs was lying, despite witnesses and audiotape of the incident (yes, this sounds familiar). Then, when it became clear that Jacobs wasn’t lying, some on the right shifted into pure defense of Gianforte – did he really do anything so wrong? Others focused on whataboutism – hey, don’t Democrats do bad stuff all the time?
That reaction certainly isn’t coming from a place of common decency. It’s coming from the fact that an id has been freed in the mind of the right, and the superego has been sublimated to that id.
Exactly. It’s a reaction – and a politics – grounded in authoritarian tribalism … a return to the era torch-bearing mobs.
“That a bunch of middle-aged pundits logged onto Twitter to strut their toughness in 140 characters or less [is] closer to the problem than Jacobs ever has been”
And id-driven politics has been turbocharged by rage radio and social media, as the Washington Post’s Felix Biederman observes:
But predictably, there were outliers in the conservative media. (I’d say these people debased themselves as journalists, but modern conservative media started with Bill Buckley defending segregation and presently consists of psychotic bathroom warriors and amoral kiss-ups defending Donald Trump’s demented flailing as Machiavellian genius, so it’s not like they’ve gotten much worse.)
Despite having a politics built entirely on symbolic grievances about statues, gay couples in soup ads and chicken sandwiches, the reactionary view is that everyone in the world is a wuss except you, and anything one of their enemies in the press, clinic waiting line, or Yemeni lower school does is proof of what a crybaby they are. I can’t imagine that a pear-shaped suburban lawyer, a rich media barnacle or a Daily Caller oaf have too much experience fighting, but that doesn’t stop them from declaring Jacobs the biggest wuss on the planet for calling the cops after getting assaulted.
Biederman talks about his personal history of violence:
Fighting is absolutely exhausting, and losing is worse. I’ve had my fair share of fights both in gyms and on the street, both winning and losing efforts. In my first real fight at age 16, I got absolutely torched by a more experienced friend. In my most recent one (3 and a half years ago, when I was a bar bouncer), I tossed a guy out of a bar by his neck after he bit me on the chest. Both in victory and defeat, I felt completely depleted afterwards. If you win, you’re high off adrenaline that quickly wears off and you barely remember what you did. You have someone’s fluids on you, your temperature is fluctuating, and you feel every conflicting feeling of violent triumph and regret at once. If you lost, your bell is most likely rung, your lungs are burning (most people only have about 30 seconds of gas in them), you’re confused and deeply ashamed.
Yeah, he’s been there. And that’s why he has contempt for conservative chairborne commandos:
The insistence that he spit out a cool one liner and saunter off like he’s Raylan Givens, however, exposes his right-wing critics as having virgin hands. Physical fights aren’t choreographed performances; they’re painful and bizarre and usually unexpected, and anybody who’s ever genuinely thrown down could hardly blame Jacobs, a reporter, for being momentarily stunned and then heading in for medical treatment and contacting the authorities. That Jacobs did so isn’t everything wrong with America; that a bunch of middle-aged pundits logged onto Twitter to strut their toughness in 140 characters or less isn’t either, but it’s closer to the problem than Jacobs ever has been.
But again, that blustering macho bullshit ain’t coming from nowhere….
“The party guest whom no one really wants to deal with but has to”
Poor NATO. After all of the hoops summit organizers reportedly jumped through to accommodate President Trump and his anemic attention span, he definitely was not on his best behavior. Trump was the party guest whom no one really wants to deal with but has to – because he has more money than anyone else. The party guest who shows up and berates the hosts for not paying for their fair share of the defense spending cake. To borrow from NFL player Marshawn Lynch, Trump acted as though he was there just so he wouldn’t get fined.
The NATO summit isn’t over yet, but so far, it’s So Trump. According to early press pool reports, Trump literally gave NATO allies the cold shoulder.
Days after one of the worst terrorist attacks in British history, Trump is visibly more comfortable praising autocrats and extremist governments who help to fuel violence and conflict. That should be a slap in the face to our liberal allies in Europe.
Maybe next time, NATO should serve chocolate cake, give out gold medals, impress Trump with glowing orbs, and throw in a sword dance or two. Oh, and $100 billion.
But in all seriousness, for anyone who cares about the America’s global leadership and the future of Europe, Trump’s behavior at the NATO summit has been embarrassing.
In the Praising Autocrats file, in case you’ve missed it: the God-King openly admired Philippine President Ernesto Duterte homicidal regime, saying Duterte was doing “an unbelievable job on the drug problem … what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”
Gershon is right. The conservative mind has become diseased: immune to evidence, driven by conspiracy theories, tribal, and increasingly violent. Netflix didn’t do that. A politics of privileged persecution paranoia did that.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Good day and good nuts