A David Lynch moment

June 18, 2010

Melanie Phillips reinvents surreality:

“Amazingly, it looks like Obama deliberately exacerbated the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster to push his ideological agenda.”



April 16, 2010

Lucifer’s hideous visage has been seen in satellite imagery over Iceland, prompting fears that Armageddon is imminent. Satan can be clearly seen belching vile ash clouds in an attempt to disrupt aviation.

A crisis meeting of EU leaders was convened at Brussels. Top of the agenda was the motion that God should be written into a new EU constitution. All member states are expected to ratify it.

EU commission president Jose Manuel Barroso conceded that Europe had been heading in the wrong direction, “We have been too liberal. We have forgotten about God and now we are defenceless against Satan’s foul facial farts. We need to return to our churches. Islam must be eradicated. And we must punish gays, lesbians and atheists because God is clearly ignoring us for tolerating their obscenities.”

Leading theologians expect God to respond promptly should the EU meet its promises. Michael Lloyd of the Church of the Suffering Christ expects a speedy response from God, “From what we know, God is always ready to forgive. And he always responds very quickly to sincere pleas for mercy. I expect the ash cloud to disperse within minutes of the ratification of the new treaty.”

“Godless Europe has no defence against Satan, who can’t waft his noxious breath towards America because too many good Christians live there”, he added.

The markets also rallied after news of the new treaty, after one of the worst openings in months. One city trader expressed his relief at the news, “We’re just beginning to recover from the recession. Armageddon would be a dreadful setback now. I’m glad the EU has responded positively.”

Glenn Beck finds no hypocrisy in warning about the dangers of authoritarianism

January 24, 2010

Glenn Beck’s ‘The Revolutionary Holocaust: Live Free or Die‘ aired on Friday on the FOX News channel. I’m not sure whether it’s a WTF or a LOL. But it is a slickly produced documentary full of talking heads and archive footage narrated by Beck in that inimitable rhetorical style which has become his hallmark.

Most agree, including the loony left, that socialism, communism and nazism were bad ideas. Some still assert that it was the people who misappropriated the ideologies, not the ideologies themselves, that caused death and suffering on such imponderable scales. Whatever the view held, it’s difficult to find anyone who looks back with a wistful eye on the golden age of totalitarianism that blighted so many people in the twentieth century. Communism has been in a terminal decline for some decades now. The two greatest Communist states, Russia and China, have been modernizing slowly and clumsily but nevertheless inexorably. But despite this the McCarthyist paranoia of the cold war is emerging again.

So why now, Mr Beck? Why does the FOX News viewership need reminding that “allowing this to happen one more time would be unforgivable”?

It’s the progressives, stupid. According to Beck, “Progressives realized victory required changing history. To defeat them, we have to correct that.” Beck’s greatest enemies, and apparently America’s, are the progressives in Washington with their socialist/communist agenda. The healthcare reform proposed by the current government has engendered an unprecedented panic in the conservatives. The conservative punditocracy is happy to contend that any form of egalitarian healthcare is the first waypoint on the road to totalitarianism. FOX and the angry blogs have spent the year happily promulgating this fallacy, thereby intensifying the panic, because that’s what they do best, and populism pays.

To really see the picture clearly, one must temporarily dispense with the political science, taking a beaviourist view instead. The study of authoritarianism became prevalent after WWII when, for obvious reasons, academics strived to explain why a population could unquestioningly support a brutal regime [A free online book by professor of psychology Bob Altemeyer called The Authoritarians is available here]. Fast forward to 2010. Not a brutal regime, but a conservative movement which has begun to drift towards authoritarianism. It’s all there: submission to traditional authorities, aggression in the name of these authorities, and conventionalism–that everyone should submit to the norms that these authorities support.

Glenn Beck’s relentless sermonizing is profoundly hypocritical and that’s another aspect of authoritarianism. He doesn’t comprehend this at all. Rather, he inculcates the fallacy in his viewership that it’s the President himself who is the authoritarian that intends to destroy freedom.

During the programme Beck ponders:

We live in a time that seems to move faster than time — a place that seems to have no place for the truth, a reality that seems to have no connection to reality. So to get our feet on solid ground in the future, we must first walk through the past with our eyes wide open

A reality that seems to have no connection to reality. Indeed.

The diminishing credibility of right wing America

October 1, 2009

The escalating madness pervading right wing America can be traced back to Rush Limbaugh’s speech given to the Conservative Political Action Conference in late February. It was to be a portentous day for it marked a rather profound change of direction for the GOP & Co.; one had the feeling that once the election was over the reactionary fringes were at last able to be themselves since there were no more votes to lose. Limbaugh was excitedly hailed as the de facto leader of the GOP by the conservative punditocracy. Since then the right wing has been drifting steadily right, utterly untethered to reality, and Limbaugh has been usurped in popularity by the renascent Glenn Beck, a conservative conspiracy theorist who’s topping the ratings at FOX News. Beck’s star is very much in the ascendant in 2009 as he taps the political zeitgeist by feeding fear to the conservative grassroots only too happy to think with their adrenal glands and not their brains. Before the election, you’d imagine, someone on the right would have told him to shut up but since a black totalitarian fascist radical-progressive infanticidal Nazi seized power, Beck has been allowed, even encouraged, to go feral.

The fair ‘n’ balanced (they still claim) FOX has all but come out of the closet, giving significant airtime to such luminaries as Michelle Bachmann, a republican representative who appeared on FOX several times reminding everyone that census data were used to round up Japanese Americans in the forties. There’s a census next year, of course. But Bachmann’s insinuations seem mundane when compared to the vast canon of conspiracy theories that has proliferated since Obama’s inauguration, too innumerable to mention.

FOX has been giving its pseudo-journalistic junta of propagandists an extraordinary amount of flexibility which makes any claim that FOX is a news network risibly mendacious. It ceased being a news network long ago, if it ever was. FOX News has transmogrified into a ceaseless montage of opinionated and demonstrably partisan pundits and conspiracy theorists whose grasp of an objective reality outside their prejudices is tenuous at the very best. It is op-ed TV of the worst, most tendentious and intellectually dysfunctional kind.

Another asphyxiated canary is Charles Johnson’s Little Green Footballs, a traditionally right-of-centre blog which has stridently denounced the hysterical excesses of the right during the year. The result was a mass-defection of many of its followers to a new rival blog which spearheaded a vituperative backlash against LGF, an extensive and vicious campaign that culminated in Johnson being effectively excommunicated from the right wing, his traditional home.  But this wasn’t just another skirmish on the internet, LGF’s stance evoked criticism from conservatives even in the mainstream news.

At the moment the Republican base cannot comprehend its own hypocrisy. Even moderate Republicans are conspicuously silent, refusing to confront the extreme fringe of its party and supporters. The Obama-Hitler analogy is simply an undemocratic, unpatriotic slur, one which is all the more ludicrous when the authoritarian behaviour of the extreme right wing is, by any comparison, much more redolent of Nazism than the Democratic party could ever be.

The saga of Little Green Footballs

September 12, 2009

Once upon a time there was blog called Little Green Footballs. It was very simple, really. It was just a blog about stuff. Then 9/11 happened and the proprietor got very angry about Islamism. The blog became all about Islamism. Anti-islamists flocked to it. It had an unambiguous conservative identity. And so it went for years until something changed: The agenda.

Charles Johnson steered his blog away from the monomania of Islamist scrutiny towards a more secular position of scrutinizing all religious extremism, while still maintaining a strong anti-jihad, pro-Israel bias.  But what have really riled the right wing bloggers are his strident refutations of the Obama birth certificate conspiracy and his criticism of Intelligent Design theory. This has resulted in various feuds between his and other blogs. He is accused recently of becoming hardline with commenters who disagree with him, even cancelling the accounts of regular commenters there; he is also accused of mounting smear campaigns against some of his rivals. Whatever is the truth, and the truth is an elusive beast on the internet, the right wing blogs appear to be ganging up on him, believing him to have migrated toward the political left, a kind of cyber-political apostasy. The so-called LGF2 blog, begun by ex-LGF1s in reaction to this change has been especially critical of Johnson, and he in turn has been intensely critical of them.

What’s really going on though? I’m sure everyone involved in this internet melee is to some degree behaving idiotically. But much more important than the syndicated drama is the reason behind it. Johnson’s heavy-handedness is not really the issue here, his refusal to subscribe to every aspect of the party agenda is what really galls his erstwhile allies, and detractors. He has shown himself to be a more independent thinker than them; he has even shown courage by refusing to be blinded by political ideology to the hypocrisies of religious conservativism. You can’t spend your life lambasting Islam while ignoring your own religious extremism, without being a hypocrite. A numerologist cannot accuse an astrologer of holding irrational beliefs, and expect credibility. For his critics to blithely claim they don’t care about creationism is inherently hypocritical. For them to accuse Johnson of obsessing about it is unbelievable. They are obsessed by every aspect of Islam across the globe and, logically, should be equally worried about the encroachment of religious extremism at home. Creationism and its Trojan Horse Intelligent Design are, unarguably, forms of religious extremism, whose believers are trying to have included in school curricula. Pretending that creationism is a trivial issue–the ‘teach the controversy’ mentality–is utterly disingenuous.

Johnson’s other great aggravation is the Obama birth certificate conspiracy theory. He is justifiably angry about this because he sees it for what it is–a psychopathological and categorically irrational belief. It has grown into a damaging and pernicious smear campaign against Obama and it’s politically expedient for conservatives to keep it in the public domain for as long as possible.

Those who accuse LGF of being anachronistic, treasonous to the cause or even irrational, mock themselves. They sneer at the blog that abandoned its roots–that lost touch with reality, but they don’t have the gumption or the awareness to challenge the definition of conservatism, or their prejudices.  The mass defection to LGF2 is seen as a kind of crusade where they can continue to peddle their agenda without the meddlesome, irascible moderator. Veiled racism is back on the menu again, as well as the other ugly attributes of the gone-too-far-right.

Obama and the Islam conundrum

June 28, 2008

Much has been made of the Obama campaign volunteers coralling two hijab-wearing ladies out of view, lest they form a dubious conjunction with Obama in front of the cameras. It was the shrewdest instance of discrimination in years.

These ladies can bleat their victim’s cant all they want, but pretending that Muslims in traditional headwear prevented from appearing with Obama is discrimination is monumentally naive. It would be, in fact, election suicide. As long as people like this have a vote, democrats should avoid traditional Muslims like ebola. Religionists across America, irrespective of their beliefs, should remember that the US is a secular democracy. Muslims are no different. And any supporter of the democrat party, and particularly Obama, should not be trying to scuttle the electoral ship by playing the wounded minority card. They have an obligation to keep their mouths shut until the end of November.

Obama’s opponents — and they are numerous — are feverishly poring over Obama’s history with the intention of labeling him a Muslim. Patently he is a Christian, but they are endeavoring with a McCarthyist zeal to find any evidence that might connect him to Islam, no matter how spurious. The previous two elections have proved how effective this type of misinformation campaign can be, especially in closely run elections. It is quite obvious that this tactic presupposes Islam to be fundamentally evil, which is a flagrant slight on ordinary Muslims everywhere. But an election year is no time for hurt feelings. Ardent republican supporters will do anything to portray Obama as a closet Islamist.

Hijab-wearing women with persecution complexes ought to steer well clear of electoral rallies in the coming months. Already their alleged jihadist credentials are being given the tabloid treatment in blogland and beyond. Well done girls. This is exactly the kind of fodder that right-wing purveyors of ignorance crave. It would be a shame if a few affronted Muslims, and their supporters, fomented enough bad press to derail the democrats’ election campaign.