Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Right-Wing Media Echo Chamber and the "Science" of Speaking in Tongues

I recently had the good fortune to speak with Box Brown, author of the new graphic novel Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. I am busy editing that episode for the podcast series here on WARN. I think that you will enjoy it.

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.

A person's attraction to religion, especially fundamentalist and orthodox faiths, may also reflect their priming for authoritarian and rigid thinking because they have a deep fear of social change and a profound need for moral certainty.

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.


Myshkin the Idiot said...

I fear it will only get worse. The United States, under Obama, is going to hell, fast.

kokanee said...

Oh geez Myshkin, now you've gone and done it: you've placed the blame squarely on the negro in the White House. There are a few trends that apply:
1) The country is getting progressively worse no matter which spokesperson resides in the White House. (Aside: black in white. Black man in white ______ . Oh my!)
2) Things are generally worse with a Republican president because a Democratic president has to abide by reason and compassion.
3) Things progress much faster in a crisis.

Obama's presidency is basically the confluence of the above 3 trends with the addition of:
4) Obama cultists (Google it!) Obama gets away with murder (literally) because (a) he's a Dim and (b) he's not George W. Bush. Note that every gawd damn effing senator voted to support Israel's right to slaughter Palestinians defend herself. Even Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Tom Udall and Ron Wyden. Then our media placed the blame on AIPAC and the Israeli lobby. I think that's wrong. The blame goes to the expanded military-industrial complex or the financial-petroleum national security state. Israel is America's baby. I'm

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I meant I feel the fear of the cultism of the Republican Party is only going to get worse as well as the pandering to their ideals.

Things like the war on terror, Israel, and other matters I feel the president doesn't have much control over without the populist push to change these things. I think despite his failings, Barack Obama has been a good president.

Nancy Green said...

I used to speak in tongues, but don't any more, it's too weird. We all started language as babies babbling sounds, and with the right encouragement anyone can do it again. However, at this point I would much rather listen to someone who is making sense, that seems like a miracle in these times.

kokanee said...

Whether President Obama has been a good president under the circumstances or a bad president outright kind of misses the point. The players are all actors playing out their parts. Or marionettes with money as the strings. None of these people have much power at all - if they did it would be a great threat the status quo plutocracy.

So what has changed since GWB?
1) We all are now mandated to purchase health insurance.
2) The president can assassinate you at will without any due process.
3) The government is collecting every piece of information over the Internet and phone lines that it can.
4) The police can turn over an American citizen to the military and whisked away to be detained indefinitely.
5) Exposing government crimes is now treason.
6) In Nixon goes to China" moves, Obama has tabled Social Security cuts and is trying to fast track horrendous "trade agreements" that will sell out US sovereignty to multinational corporations.

Welcome to post-Constitutional America. For working class Americans on down, especially for POC, things are about to get a whole lot worse.

Aside: How many of the 1,950 people that have sat in the US Senate have been African-American?

DanF said...

As others smarter than me have noted, "Conservatism can't fail, it can only be failed." From their perspective, conservatism has never, ever been tried otherwise we'd be in paradise.

joe manning said...

I think that current and looming crises have driven the right pole of the power elite crazy and this is reflected throughout the right wing particularly at the base with its tongue talkers, whirling dervishes, and snake handlers. Its a classic case of the inmates, the Kochs et. al., running the asylum that is conservatism.

Marx and Engels pointed to the fundamental irrationality of capitalism in that it is based on the laws of chance. Historically the degree of mass craziness ebbs and flows according to good times and bad times respectively. It appears that the right correctly senses that all our leaders are selling us out and their only recourse is sycophancy and cultism.

Despite the right's recrudescence its clear that it has retreated into imbecility. Now its up to the left to mobilize.

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

Great analysis. I heard the author of Kill The Messenger: The Media's Role in the Fate of the World this morning on "Uprising" (radio on KPFA). She pointed out that one component that leads to genocide is the transmitted belief that one's political opponents pose an existential threat to one's culture, way of life, and/or being. Numerous other scholars (like Michael Barkun) have suggested that when you have a severe epistemological break with reality in society--where even basic facts are contested--that the breakdown can have very grave consequences for society. My own view is that the Christian Right have been preparing their adherents and their paramilitary troops for a civil war. We may reside in the same country in terms of territory, but we do not reside in the same country in terms of shared history, values, and respect for rules of the political game.

My own research indicates that should the United States experience a very severe, even catastrophic economic meltdown brought on by Wall Street, we will find ourselves poised on the edge of an abyss because there will be no shared understanding of the crisis.

For the Christian Right and their paramilitary Patriot militias, this will be the work of liberal elites working in tandem with globalist outsiders to create the New World Order by confiscating guns, persecuting Christians and patriots, putting them into concentration camps, and exterminating them.

For progressives, it will be proof that Dodd-Frank legislation failed, that Wall Street needs to be broken up, more regulation passed, bankers and hedge fund managers thrown in jail, and the need to construct a more social democratic polity and society. The Christian Right will view this as the long anticipated coming of Marxism, Socialism, Communism, and the End of Freedom.

For the Democratic Party's liberals and conservatives, it will be another bailout.

And, where will the media be? Fox News? Christian television and radio? The right-wing blogosphere? The Patriot radio and Internet networks? Conservative talk radio? Patriot Pastor networks? New Apostolic Reformation church networks?

The stage could be set for a revolutionary outcome.

kokanee said...

Impressive analysis!

You can confidently drop me in the progressive camp.

Miles_Ellison said...

The republican party is the equivalent of backwoods preachers playing with snakes in tents.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

other than mandated health insurance, I believe all of those were in practice or progress under Bush. without the left pushing in a positive way in DC, we will be ignored.

Miles_Ellison said...

Stay tuned for tax cutting Ted Nugent Jesus` presidential run. Try the veal. Tip your waitress.

kokanee said...

Re: "other than mandated health insurance, I believe all of those were in practice or progress under Bush."
Precisely how I explained US politics earlier: things get progressively worse.
Re: "without the left pushing in a positive way in DC, we will be ignored."
Agreed but the "left" needs to remember/learn what it means to be part of the "left."

Miles_Ellison said...

The handbasket in which this country is going to hell was built a long time ago. By many of the same people who've mobilized the racist Kool Aid cult that the Republican party has become.

chauncey devega said...

That is priceless.

Skip Patterson said...

"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."

I know! You defeat them by whatever means necessary to protect the country. Same as we would do with any foreign power who was threatening to destroy and take over America.

Skip Patterson said...

Oh there is no doubt that a total societal and financial breakdown is coming. Unfortunately most Americans have never really understood the threat that the Christofascists are to the American way of life and to our freedoms even though some people have been trying to tell them about it for decades. Hell, even Barry Goldwater wrote several papers in the 60's loudly proclaiming what a threat the Christofascists are to America. Unfortunately, most Americans were too busy to hear it.