Why are these people crying? Can you help me understand?
These Internets are great fun.
In doing so I stumbled upon snake oil Christian approved "historian" David Barton's tour of the U.S. Capital Building. As I pointed out earlier, one of the primary challenges facing the United States in the Age of Obama is the alternative knowledge system created by the propagandists on the Right. When you cannot even agree on the terms of reality, it is increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to advance policy goals which serve the common good.
Yet, I remain befuddled by the emotion, the tears, the crying, and the pathos on display in this video (as well as in the excellent documentary Right America Feeling Wronged). Politics is about emotion; but the devotion of many conservative populists to these fictions is ecstatic, bordering religious ecstasy. The Tea Party GOP's folding of evangelicals and the solid south into the Republican Party involved legitimizing faith and the revelatory experience as a type of evidence on par with empirical reality. This bargain brought with it electoral gains, it was also a type of Faustian bargain that drove out the more moderate, reasonable, and grounded voices from the party.
Watching Barton's carnival show, and the interviews with those who paid money to attend a tour led by a professional charlatan and liar (of course they have to have a few obligatory black folks in the crowd) reminded me of an article I read in one of my religious studies classes years ago. An anthropologist had gone to a series of Christian evangelical tent revivals throughout the South and the Midwest. He was particularly interested in the gender dynamics at these events, how they related to the broader public sphere, and the phenomena of speaking in tongues and people "getting the spirit."
After watching women fall out and writhe about on the ground (apparently possessed by a godly presence), he interviewed them. The researcher later realized that their behavior, movements, and answers to his questions suggested that they were in an orgasmic state of bliss. It would seem that there were some solid reasons for why these women--often in sexually unsatisfying relationships with their husbands--would attend these church revivals every evening.
Ultimately, the opinion leaders in the popular conservative media are (with few exceptions) professional liars. But, I have a special appreciation for faux intellectuals like David Barton. I admire a good con artist; I find mastery of craft impressive. More specifically, he reminds me of my favorite villain, Senator Palpatine from the Star Wars trilogies. The genius of that character is how he never lies. Everything Palpatine tells young Anakin is a fact. However, those "facts" are not necessarily "true."
Those who cater to the petit authoritarians and conservative populists are running the same game. They offer "facts" without context. This is seductive for the Tea Party Conservative Christian Dominionist faithful. It makes them feel "smart." These narratives facilitate their post hoc reasoning, where as I am so fond of referencing, the George Costanza rule for politics is in full effect: remember, it's not a lie if you believe it...especially if you have some "facts" from someone like David Barton or Glenn Beck to back up your self-delusional and willful lie.