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Paranoia For Breakfast

By       Message David Michael Green     Permalink
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A few years ago I fell in with this circle of people -- a high proportion of which are certifiably insane -- who correspond by email with each other over politics. I would call it a seriously mixed blessing, except that I'd never go far enough as to use the 'b' word to describe the experience.

I can honestly say that when I was originally baited into participating in the group I came with an open mind, and I still have not met a single person on the list. About half the correspondents are regressives, most of them from right out of central casting on the set of the movie "America Neanderthal". They rarely cease to astonish me. The level of thuggishness, hypocrisy, ignorance, proud ignorance and ad hominem insult from those quarters is staggering.

More on that some other day perhaps, but there's one additional aspect of that behavior set that floors me. It's the capacity to simply make things up out of whole cloth, and then just have it become 'truth'. Period.

Here's an example. As usual, the dittoheads on the right (and how could any self-respecting person not see that term as a monstrous insult from Master Rush?) regularly trot out, in 5.1 Surround Sound chorus, the latest tropes assigned them by their marionette string-pullers. For quite some time now, those have included the silly one about how President Obama (who's not really president, of course, since he was secretly born in Kenya) runs around the world apologizing for America.

Let's leave aside for now the inferred premise that America has never done anything wrong (for example -- just choosing a period at random here -- over the previous eight years), and therefore why on earth would we have anything for which to apologize? I stay reasonably up to speed with the news. I watched the president travel the world. I remember some refreshingly quasi-honest rhetoric from him every once in a while, stuff that was hardly news to anyone outside the American Insular-o-Sphere. But no apologies.

So I asked. "Could you folks who continually say that the president is apologizing for America all over the world, could you please just quote me a couple of examples? It's not that I doubt your veracity or anything [who could imagine regressives being dishonest?], it's just that this claim of yours is not fitting so well with my understanding of the facts."

Oh man, you should have seen what gyrations that little toe-dipping into empirical reality produced. One person said I should "do my own research", even after I explained to her that I had indeed looked, to no avail, even though I always thought that one making an assertion bore the burden of proof, and even though one would assume it would be easy to present myriad examples, given the plethora of apologies supposedly tossed off by the president, like so many sets of Air Force One souvenir cufflinks.

Mostly there followed an obstinate silence, or personal attacks on anyone, like me, who would dare ask for examples. But my very favorite response was the proof finally generated by one of the regressives in the group. That President Obama apologized continually to the world for America was proven by the fact that -- wait for it, now: "He traveled to Europe".
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You probably think I'm kidding you, but this was dead serious, and nothing I could say was capable of pointing out the absurdity of the assertion, not even mentioning that Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush (and every other modern president) "went to Europe".

To be sure, making fun of dittoheads is like shooting elderly fish in a barrel filled to the brim with Quaalude-laced molasses and left in the fridge for a couple of days. But something profoundly unprofound is going on here, and I keep encountering it everywhere I go in Regressive World. These folks start and end any discussion with their paranoid ideas, and cannot be dislodged from them by mere evidence or logic, if they can be dislodged at all. I'm not sure a bunker buster bomb would do the trick, or even a moderately-sized nuclear device, planted close in.

If a conservative government ran the country into the ditch in every conceivable way, they would still tell you how great it was. (Oops, that already happened. Never mind)

If Republicans were shown to be pedophiles and closet queens, they would still support the party for its strong stand on sexual morality (Oops, that already happened. Never mind.)

How utterly frightened of some existential threat does one have to be in order to cling to sheer nonsense like the notion that going to Europe is apologizing for America? Indeed, how frightened must one be to actually seek out having such inanities delivered directly to your door, by flipping on Fox Lies?
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This is much deeper than an election or even a partisan tendency across an era. We are talking here about a population somehow so traumatized that the very rationality which is utterly foundational to the Enlightenment project of democracy has been squashed down to invisibility, never again to inconveniently impede full-bore delusion. Perhaps 'twas ever thus -- I mean, one can hardly account for endless millennia of religious belief otherwise -- but right-wing freaked-out reality-defying delirium has gone so mainstream these last three decades, it's seems most times like we've entered some parallel and not so lovely alternative universe. Nowadays, it's paranoia for breakfast, paranoia for lunch, and paranoia for dinner. Want a little snack before bedtime? Guess what's on the menu.

Consider the right-wing media machine. Clearly, these folks have gotten very good at dishing it up for the hoi polloi cruising along in their pick-ups. But I wonder if some of them don't actually have a heaping helping themselves every day of what they're serving to the bots. Two recent articles from the toxically regressive National Review make the point nearly as immaculately as does the "Go to Europe, Insult America" bumpersticker.

Editor Rich Lowry starts the fun with a piece called "The Bush Blame Game". I was especially interested in this because of my observation that the Obama administration hardly ever blames the Bush administration for current problems. Just for a point of reference here, for ten years I watched Tony Blair during Prime Minister's Question Time, and I was struck by how often -- and how long into his own government's tenure -- he kept referring back to the eighteen miserable years of Thatcherism. I've noticed that Obama pretty much never does the same, even with Udickuitous Cheney running around practically begging for a good whack, or six, upside the haid. And I think it's a strategic mistake of large proportion for Obama to adopt his perennial nice guy posture on this question. For one thing, it perpetuates massive untruths, but for another, it allows a nearly extinguished cancer the opportunity to rally for a comeback. As if we need that. It's like letting the planet's last remaining sample of Smallpox out of the deep freezer every once in a while -- just so it can stretch its legs a bit.

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David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is (more...)

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