Tuesday, March 18, 2014

When the crazy drifts toward evil

From Josh Marshall at TPM:
People say lots of crazy stuff. Particularly right-wingers struggling to find analogies that might explain why their present day indignities, would-be oppressions or efforts to be understood place them in the descent of history's inconic victims - enslaved Africans in the Americas, gassed Jews in the Holocaust, to name only the most frequent examples.

I got to thinking about this more after I heard right wing star Dr. Ben Carson claim that 'political correctness' and its paramilitary enforcement arm, "the PC police", have made America "very much like Nazi Germany", so much in fact that we're living in a "Gestapo Age".

Right, the "PC police" are just like the Gestapo. After all, if you say something racist, sexist, or homophobic, they'll criticize you.

Yup, that's it. You'll just be criticized. Meanwhile, if you want to turn your stomach, do a Google image search for "Holocaust." I posted an example - far from the worst I found - above. That was Nazi Germany, "very much" like America, huh?

OK, this is just more right-wing crazy, huh? We hear it nearly every day, and I'm always posting examples here. But is there some point where batshit crazy becomes positively evil? Marshall continues:
... in the case of Dr. Carson's remark, I couldn't let it go as just more Tea Party-esque hyperbolic nonsense. It struck me more as a mix of dishonesty and myopia bordering on genuine evil - simultaneously dishonoring millions of dead and persecuted (not only Jews but gays, gypsies, slavs) while also pumping up the powerful with fantasies of oppression and threat that can lead them to do genuinely awful things.

It's likely worth noting that Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism has played a not insubstantial role normalizing on the right a cluster of ideas and interpretations that range from just historically ignorant to morally reprehensible. And that no doubt plays a role here.

As a general historical matter, when mainly powerless people have grand ideas about their oppression, conspiracies against them, etc., it's not that big a deal since they have little ability to act. Things are very different when people who are actually very powerful are gripped with the fantasy of their own powerlessness and oppression. [my emphasis]

Then today comes this. A Republican congressional candidate in Arizona has been forced to apologize for comparing social welfare and social insurance programs to slavery.
"Back in the day of slavery, slaves were kept in slavery by denying them education and opportunity while providing them with their basic needs …" wrote Jim Smith in a now deleted post.

"It is my sincere belief that over entitlements are a means of em- slaving [sic] the people by robbing opportunity while taking care of basic needs," he added.

Again, this is simply more of the Crazy we see on an on-going basis. But let's not walk too quickly past the idea that slavery was a sort of localized social welfare state in which "basic needs" where met but at the cost of denied opportunity for education and "opportunity."

I don't think there's any need to belabor the point that slavery was considerably more intense and dehumanizing than anything remotely like what Smith decides. Smith would appear to be a complete imbecile. But you cannot divorce this nonsense from the public discussion or race or social welfare in the country. That's frankly why we go to some lengths to publicize this stuff. Frankly, it's not that far removed from when a prominent Congressman talks about "inner city" poverty and cites a 'scholar' most known for arguing that African-American mental deficiencies account for poverty, lack of educational attainment, higher rates of incarceration and more.

Of course, he's talking about Paul Ryan's latest racist dog-whistle:
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) previewed his upcoming legislative proposals for reforming America’s poverty programs during an appearance on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America Wednesday, hinting that he would focus on creating work requirements for men “in our inner cities” and dealing with the “real culture problem” in these communities. “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with,” he said.

Ryan also cited Charles Murray, a conservative social scientist who believes African-Americans are, as a population, less intelligent than whites due to genetic differences and that poverty remains a national problem because “a lot of poor people are born lazy.”

"Inner city" is Republican code for "black." (If you need a reminder, here's how Lee Atwater explained it.) Of course, "inner city" would have been enough on its own, but right-wingers apparently can't help but beat us over the head with this stuff, so he had to mention Charles Murray, too, just to be sure that everyone got the point.

Paul Krugman is more generous than I feel about this stuff:
Just to be clear, there’s no evidence that Mr. Ryan is personally a racist, and his dog-whistle may not even have been deliberate. But it doesn’t matter. He said what he said because that’s the kind of thing conservatives say to each other all the time. And why do they say such things? Because American conservatism is still, after all these years, largely driven by claims that liberals are taking away your hard-earned money and giving it to Those People.

I think it was deliberate, very much so. Whether Paul Ryan is racist himself isn't even the point. Republicans have been putting economics in racial terms since Ronald Reagan. That's how they get white working-class people to vote against their own self-interest - by convincing them that the Democrats are giving all their tax money to those lazy blacks.

And yes, it's evil - just as evil as their whole Southern strategy of deliberately wooing white racists (a tactic which created today's Republican Party). In both cases, it's using racism to advance their own political ambition. How could that not be considered evil?

And so we get lunatic things like Saturday's White Man March - because, of course, white men are the people who really suffer discrimination these days, right?
A smattering of white people on Saturday stood up to discrimination against their race that exists only in their minds.

The so-called "White Man March" was the brainchild of an organizer named Kyle Hunt, who wrote on his website that he expected "thousands" of people to take part in "coordinated pro-white activity."

By the looks of it, his vision may have been a bit lofty. The demonstrations appear to have mostly involved a few people here and there holding up signs decrying "diversity."

Sure, it's funny, but crazy is often funny. That doesn't mean it's not evil. Certainly, the right-wing politicians who push this kind of thinking - though carefully maintaining their own plausible deniability - are either evil or incredibly stupid (or both).

It's not even necessary for me to note the widespread anti-Obama hysteria, is it? Republicans have done everything they could to foment that hysteria, up to and including implying that Barack Obama isn't the legitimate President of the United States.

And I haven't even mentioned the religious lunacy currently drifting towards evil in America. Here's the leader of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute - yes, a human rights institute - declaring that the "hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities... should all be taken out and shot."

When you start advocating shooting people because you disagree with them, we're well into evil, wouldn't you say? Or do you need to look at that picture of the Holocaust again?

Christians are the overwhelming majority in America, and Catholics are the single largest Christian denomination in our country. To suggest that they're so helpless, so marginalized, so oppressed that they need to start shooting people has got to be far more than just insane, don't you think?

And yes, let me be perfectly clear, I am accusing Republican Party leaders of fomenting this kind of nonsense. That's evil. (No, they don't want the shooting to start, at least partly because that would be counterproductive, politically. But they do work to encourage that kind of mindset.)

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