Jihad on Iowa

This is the post where I destroy any chance of ever having a career in politics. I try not to point out how utterly vapid and harmful the Republican party is, because in the style of some more senior academic, I'm trying to be an honest broker and make friends. But I don't care. I don't give a flying fuck. Sometimes, you see something so fantastically stupid that the only response is mockery. In this clip, Fox News interviews a group of Iowa Caucus Republicans after the Superbowl Obama-O'Reilly interview.

There is a moment there, where the host says something like, "You realize what the implications of what you're saying, what the main stream media will do with this?" and still, 40% of the audience raises their hand when asked if they believe Obama is a Muslim. Now, this is a claim that's hard to refute, simply because it has no basis in reality, it is conspiracy thinking at it's finest. Because Barack Obama doesn't obviously hate Islam, he must be one of them. I'd give a fair shake for Obama being a secret atheist or agnostic, but Muslim? Islam isn't a religion you accidentally follow, as best as I can tell, it involves a fair amount of effort. Praying five times a day, avoiding alcohol and pork products, not going into debt. If Obama is secretly Muslim, he's worse at it than I am at being Jewish. And even if he is Muslim, why should it matter! But slamming Republicans for thinking that Obama is Muslim is old hat. It's boring, and all that the belief does is show that the professor is xenophobic and can't distinguish reality from fantasy. Let's move onto the special crazy.

"He is Neville Chamberlain in 1939. He is an appeaser, and he will lead us down the path of destruction!" -- Okay, I'm going to have to do a history sperg here. Neville Chamberlain gets a unfair rap. Hitler made it clear he was going to take Sudetenland in 1938. France and Britain were in no way ready for war. Now, when they did declare war after the invasion of Poland, they sat behind the Maginot Line for six months, and then got blitzkrieged. Chamberlain is rightfully pilloried for his "Peace in our time" quote, and was correct in resigning, but he was dealt a truly shit hand. And if Obama is Neville Chamberlain, who is he appeasing? Al Queda, against whom he has performed more strikes in the past year than Bush ever did? China, Iran, the Saudis, the French? Has Obama already sold us out to the reptoids from outer space? America (or at least this Iowa Republican) has to know!

"He gives textbook answers."--Now, maybe you're still traumatized from Fighting The Power in 3rd grade math, but there's a reason that the answers are in the textbook, and that's because they're usually right! I'm no fan of the conventional wisdom in general, but I'd rather have the government follow the expert consensus than the wild hunches of a bunch of lunatics. Our mission is changing the conventional wisdom through the strength of our arguments. Of course, to add to the cognitive dissonance, she immediately goes on to say "He doesn't know what to do, he never knows what to do." If you're following the textbook, don't you know what to do? I guess this textbook isn't Logic 101.

"He's waffling on both sides." -- What the flaming Christ does this even mean? Too aggressive, too pacifistic? Maybe you can work it out with the black death there in the back. Well, I won't waffle, you're dumb as shit.

"He doesn't see the good that America does in the world." --This would be the same party that in a rational world is for increasing foreign aid, too bad this isn't a rational world. But maybe he has a point, after all, if you look at the numbers for foreign aid, most of it is military aid to corrupt Middle Eastern dictatorships, including the now infamous $1.3 billion for Egypt. Anybody with the slightest sense of historical perspective know that this is a traditional ploy for wealthy empires dealing with barbarians. Give the chief a chest of coin and some shiny swords, and he'll keep the peace in his territory and won't attack you. Way more efficient than killing everybody who has a beef with you. Of course, maybe this guy thinks that military invasions are good. Why don't we test it out, send the FBI/DEA/ATF to take over his crappy town.

But the reason I'm declaring Jihad on Iowa is Bruce in the blue shirt. "His religious belief is liberalism, and you know, that's the most intolerant religion of them all, with no wiggle room." -- Right, more intolerant than the religion that says that homosexuality is an abomination, or the one that advocates stoning rape victims to death, or the one covered up decades of sexual abuse. Now, defining religion roughly as "Some shit to do with God", I don't see anything in liberalism talking about the divine, or theology. In fact, liberals believe that you should be free to practice your own religion, and not be forced to practice anybody elses. Put this guy in another country, say, close American ally Saudi Arabia, and see how he feels about 'liberal intolerance'. I would imagine that this man's definition of intolerance is that he is no longer allowed to yell racial epithets at the waiters at the local Denny's.

Bruce, I like you, you are an exceptional person, and I believe that exceptional circumstances will bring out your best qualities. As the good book says, "Then (Jesus) said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.' (Luke 9:23)." But denying yourself is hard, so with the help of the internet (please internet, if you read this, use your magic technopowers), we're going to do it for you. It won't be much, we'll just follow you around, and whenever you open your mouth to spout some inane bullshit like that, we'll correct you, with footnotes, long footnotes. If you have opinions, we'll discount them. Maybe we'll get bored and key your truck, or screw up your air conditioning, because we're so intolerant. We won't be sentencing you to death, or confining you in a mental hospital, or simply assassinating you, no matter how much we want to, because that would make us like you. As Nietzsche said, "Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

This is not a "gotcha" video on MSNBC, or a Michael Moore documentary, this is Fox News. This is the friendliest forum for conservatives imaginable. Now, I'm sure a panel of liberals would say dumb things as well, but they wouldn't say so many thing so obviously counter to reality. This is because modern Conservatism as an ideology has become one dominated by what Yaron Ezrahi calls "outformations", linked masses of images and emotions mixing objective reality and subjective experience, designed to separate a person from the groundings of objective reality. In a conservative frame of reference, it appears you can get away with saying quite literally anything and everything, because there are no coherent grounds to criticize anything, not reality, not the past, not even yourself, only the momentary emotions that you feel.

If there is any hope to be gotten out of this, it is the look of utter dislocation on the interviewer's face as he realizes what decades of Fox News misinformation has done to the crowd. It is terrible, but it is not too late. Step forward, admit your mistakes, help us restore sanity and realism to our politics. And for the rest of you, share this video, share this post, and don't vote Republican until they renounce this bullshit like one would renounce being a member of the Nazi party 1939-1945. Beyond any specific policy, the propaganda that leads people to act like this is an assault on our shared reality and existence as a nation, and cannot be tolerated!

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  1. Interesting how you mention that Conservatism as an ideology is dominated by images and emotions "designed to separate a person from the groundings of objective reality." I ask, isn't this precisely what you might expect a Machiavellian-Prince-type-leadership to accomplish domestically?

    I wonder also if you have considered the fact that the Bush family's impact on American policy extends far beyond the most recent two Presidents. As a doctoral student in Human Society and a gentleman with interests in science and technology policy, have you considered the figure of Vannevar Bush?


    I would encourage you to envision the possibility that our nation-state might have adopted something of a system laboratory design, and that Vannevar Bush is one figure to utilize as foreground for the envisioning.

    There are others who are important. Have you come across Eric Jantsch's work? Here's an important essay that relates to Arizona State, in that it envisions a New American University.


    Noam Chomsky often declares that there is no science of human affairs. In some sense I relate this to an inability to anticipate unintended consequences in a variety of domains. The Republicans glimpsed in your post seem strangely familiar as possible creatures, but somewhat mysterious in a spontaneously-generated-from-the-goo kind of way.

    I wonder to what extent you believe the lamentable mass of skewed Conservatives is self-organizing, and if so, if there are other more or less lamentable masses of skewed movements self-organizing all over the world.

    My main point however is to point to the Bush family legacy, and ask if you have considered it in its relationship to socio-technical globalization.

    I like to think it is an eye-opening view of the Politics of Nature, or of joint systems engineering.

    Perhaps a funny way to think of these goofy Republicans is in their varying degrees of relationship to the infamous Law of Unintended Consequences.

    Your blog is interesting, thanks.

    I was looking into the Science Master's Degree in Science & Technology Policy at ASU through the CSPO website and found a link to your page. Cool inventions!

    Cameron Keys
    ASU philosophy, class of '05

  2. Nice. I need to read more Ezrahi.

    @Cameron- we just had some readings and a presentation about Vannevar Bush in one of our classes at ASU. An interesting guy...

  3. Dear Cameron,

    Thanks for the comments, and that link to Jantsch. I've only skimmed the introduction, but it looks like it may be very relevant to my actual research.

    Vannevar Bush is one of my favorite people, in a creepy military industrial complex way (http://www.flickr.com/photos/82081671@N00/5437288714/ hangs in my office), but unfortunately he isn't related to the President's Bush. They're descended from Prescott Bush, a shady character in his own right. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/25/usa.secondworldwar)

    You asked a couple of interesting questions about whether this is part of a Machiavellian plot, or a self-organizing phenomenon.

    Calling it Machiavellian is going a little bit too far, but modern conservatism as I describe it is definitely not organic, it is the product of a deliberate effort by conservative media figures, primarily Rupert Murdoch, to create an interlocking cultural, political, and economic bloc for their own personal aggrandization.

    It's constituent elements are people, who enjoy having their egos and fears stroked. Fantasy is pleasurable, and the one on view in Fox News is carefully calibrated to appeal to pre-existing prejudices, meet with the real world often enough to seem like real news, and slowly separate people from their sense of judgement. The fantasy is fun and subtle, and pure mind poison.

    And once you have a mass of these people, you can convince them to favor corporatist policies. Since they have no actual ideology, just buzz words, they can be rapidly be redeployed from issue to issue without any sense of coherency (notice how right-wing libertarians didn't say much about the PATRIOT act, bu freak out about anything that even hints at gun control).

    So in essence, a nexus of corporate media power can create an artificial popular world view, which aids and abets the corporatist and globalizn policies of its founder and his cadre of wealthy old men.

    I wrote about the social revolution in Egypt a while back, using the metaphor of the combustion triangle, which may illustrate the difference between authentic and astroturf social movements. Does the Tea Party have any real grievances? Not really, it's all abstraction about liberty, government interference, and fiscal responsibility, but try pointing to a specific harm that has been done to them. Their solutions are equally non-related to an outside world.

    The brilliance of Fox News is in its political judo, it redirects honest outrage into areas of irrelevance, rather than the nuts and bolts issues of ordinary life. It served to make the people complacent, and provide freedom of movement and political cover to the wealthy to enact economic policies that make them rich at the expense of general prosperity.