Our conversation reinforced my love of professional wrestling. Some hobbies are passed down from parent to child; I would like to thank my father and grandmother for introducing me to the magic that is the action within the squared circle.
[And on professional wrestling, did anyone else see Paul Heyman's amazing promo for his client Brock Lesnar's match at this year's SummerSlam? Grantland has a great piece on the genius of Heyman's promo--complete with annotations--and how he is now a first ballot hall of fame inductee in the pantheon of great professional wrestling managers. Heyman is approaching Bobby Heenan's level of skill; who would have thought such an achievement would be possible?]
The Republican Party and its public are a cult. I have said this many times here on WARN, at Alternet, and elsewhere. I am not just "cutting a promo". I try to write and speak in a precise, direct, and forceful manner.
Given how Tea Party GOP propagandists such as Ted Cruz, Glenn Beck, and others are continuing to lie about Obama's policy on Israel, immigration, and are rewriting American history textbooks, it is useful to revisit how movement conservatism is the functional equivalent of a religious cult.
American politics is broken because the Tea Party GOP has created an alternate reality. This is very worrisome: if a culture cannot agree on basic facts about the nature of the world then mayhem and chaos will result.
Because American movement conservatism is now a religious cult, it exhibits the following traits.
1. Faith is a belief in that which cannot be proven by ordinary appeals to reason, science, or empiricism. The Republican Party's positions on science, the economy, foreign policy, taxes, and other matters are often proven to be demonstrably false by empirical means. However, "faith" in "conservatism" and "conservative values" trumps the facts for the true believer.
2. Cults and other orthodox and fundamentalist religions punish the heretic and the non-believer. The Tea Party GOP is very effective at bullying and intimidation. The cult also has little to no use for those who are not converted: they are aliens, outsiders, or the "not saved". Thus, the outsider is to be eliminated as an existential threat.
3. The Tea Party GOP's members are possessed of a deep certainty that their behavior is blessed and ordained by God. Zealotry cannot be countered by reason or intelligent discourse. Emotion and faith trump intellect.
4. Just as we see with "end times" cultists who are awaiting the Rapture or some other like fantastical and mythological happening, the Tea Party GOP cultists are forced to practice post hoc reasoning when their expectations about cause and effect are proven to be incorrect. The cult members who sell all of their belongings with the earnest belief that the world will end on X date--and then it inevitably, so far at least, does not--will face an existential crisis unless they can rationalize how their behavior postponed the end of the world, their godhead changed the date, etc.
Movement conservatives, as conditioned by the Right-wing propaganda machine, do this by reframing cause and effect, outright lying, or by transforming failed Right-wing policy initiatives into some type of successful outcome (e.g. their hostage taking on the debt ceiling; the War in Iraq; efforts to derail the Affordable Care Act).
5. Research on brain structure, emotions, and political psychology is reinforcing how the differences between "conservatives" and "liberals" may be functions of brain structure. Thus, political attitudes and values are a mix of innate biological predisposition, as well as socialization.
This dynamic complements recent research which suggests that children who are exposed to religious mythologies are less able to discern fact from fiction than their peers who were not so trained. By extension, Tea Party GOP cultists are exhibiting similar behaviors where their political religion has made them less able to reason through the differences between fact and fantasy.
When conservatism and religion commingle in the public sphere, and the wall between church and state is broken by the American theocrats, the Common Good is derailed because "faith" subsumes reason.
The Tea Party GOP cult has its own rites and language. These conventions would appear foreign and bizarre to those who are not initiates and members. The most sophisticated and developed examples of these communication strategies is the "dog whistle". Romney's allusions to "the food stamp president" or "makers and takers" are but two examples. The Right-wing's obsession with the Dred Scott decision is an even more subtle one--this is the Christian Dominionists' way of signalling that women's reproductive rights must be curtailed and restricted by men.
The talking points which are deployed by the Right-wing's foot soldiers online, through social media, and on TV, radio, and other mediums are cues to the true-believers in the Tea Party GOP cult. These talking points and narratives are distracting and dishonest. They also do not hold up to critical scrutiny.
In all, the Right-wing media's version of reality as transmitted through its propagandists only confuse and befuddle those of us who are grounded in the world of facts and reason. Unfortunately, the Tea Party GOP sermon is compelling, a type of siren song, for low information conservatives, tempted independents, and others who are already part of the cult. The Republican Party's elites and handlers use these tactics as a way of fleecing and manipulating the malleable and the stupid.
Emotion trumps reason for movement conservatives. The Right-wing echo chamber is a cathedral where the base of the Tea Party GOP can be sermonized via esoteric "knowledge" with the goal of creating a sense of political community and righteous destiny for its members.
If you are outside of the Right-wing echo chamber, its proceedings are akin to trying to decipher the language of someone who is speaking in tongues. Likewise, Drudge Report, Fox News, and the various other online sewers of the Right-wing media machine are sites of metaphorical human sacrifice and witchcraft.
The twin lies of "the liberal media" and "both sides do it" have created a false equivalency rule of "balance" in America's political discourse that damages the country's civic culture.
What is to be done when one of the United States' two major political parties is functioning as a religious cult where its mandates of faith are antithetical to reason, reality, and finding shared solutions to common problems and challenges? I do not know.