Sunday, February 12, 2006

Is "Conservatism" A New Kind Of Mental Illness?


When I heard the title of Michael Savage's screed -- Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder: Savage Solutions -- the irony wasn't lost on me. This is from a man who:

  • Was fired from MSNBC for telling a caller to "get AIDS and die" among other things.
  • Has referred to Iraqi prisoners as "subhumans" and called for them to be summarily executed by the thousands.
  • Said the tsunami that struck East Asian countries was not a tragedy but rather a message from God.
  • Says women should be denied the vote because they are too emotional -- their hormones rage.

But Savage isn't the only "conservative" who's been waxing psychopathic lately. The vilification of anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan showed a zany viciousness once heard only from the most demented elements of the right. The typically milder-mannered Fred Barnes called her a "crackpot." Rush Limbaugh said Sheehan's story is "nothing more than forged documents." (Two days later Limbaugh denied saying anything like this, whatever it was that he meant.) Right-wing straitjacket candidate David Horowitz described Sheehan's protest as "hateful" and said she is dishonoring the memory of her fallen son. A political consultant named Erick Erickson said Sheehan is "a whore in the form of a grieving mother." Right-wing talk radio hate-spewer Glenn Beck called Sheehan a "tragedy slut."

Savage is right about one thing: There is a strain of mental illness spreading in America. Problem is, he's pointing in the wrong direction, as usual. Many of those who call themselves "conservatives" are not merely dangerous radicals. They could use a dose of anti-psychotic drugs.

I've been wondering about the sanity of "conservatives" since the days of Lee Atwater, when it became apparent that these self-styled paragons of virtue would say and do just about anything to win an election. Atwater later died, reportedly of a brain tumor; but I'm convinced that the tumor was benign. It's the brain that was malignant.

It's gotten worse since then. Consider a political landscape in which:

  • A Republican congressman, Tom Tancredo of Colorado, suggests that if terrorists attack the United States with a nuke, we could "take out their holy sites." (Presumably he would hold all Muslims responsible.)
  • The Rev. Pat Robertson, one of our best-known "Christian" broadcasters, suggests that we assassinate a legally elected foreign head of state because we don't like his policies or the company he keeps. (But hey, keep that oil coming.)
  • Bestselling commentator Ann Coulter says, quite seriously, about Islamic nations that we should "invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." (Millions buy this shrill woman's books. I suppose these are the readers who cut class the day the professor lectured on The Crusades.)

Barry Goldwater, after leaving politics, lamented that the Republican Party had been taken over by "a bunch of kooks." This was ironic when one recalls LBJ supporters in 1964 saying about rival candidate Goldwater, "In your guts you know he's nuts." If Goldwater scared people back then, what does that say about some of the loonies who hold high office now?

I suggest something further: That pretty much describes the whole contemporary "conservative" movement. It's not just some of the top politicos, pundits and preachers who are spouting rubber-room rhetoric. It's become like a bizarre cult of millions. The only positive aspect about how many of these fanatical weirdos there are is that they could never have all fit into the compound at Mount Carmel.

The Texas Republican Party, in its delusional 2004 platform, for example, urged that the IRS be eliminated, along with "income tax, inheritance tax, gift tax, capital gains, corporate income tax, payroll tax and property tax." The state GOP would also kill "the Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms, the position of Surgeon General, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Education, Commerce and Labor." (I guess when you believe that The Rapture is coming soon, who needs a government?)

The comparably deranged 2000 platform calls for America to return to the gold standard and supports "individual teachers' right to teach creation science in Texas public schools." It also calls for the United States to quit the United Nations and re-establish control of the Panama Canal. (It stops short of unleashing Chiang Kai-shek's skeletal remains on mainland China.)

Consider that this is the political party that is governing Texas, virtually unchallenged.

Then there are the assorted lunatics who blog, argue in chat rooms, etc. A "Christian conservative" who identified himself (herself?) as "frogribs" posted a reply to an earlier article of mine on this blog in which he wrote:

"Yes, it is better `to have the London subway system be a battleground than to have al Qaeda blowing up folks over here.' The duty of the president is to place the lives and well being of Americans above all others." (I'm glad Bush was thinking that when he misled the country into a needless war in Iraq. And I'm certain the British will be thrilled to know we're willing to use them, and other allied civilians, as human shields.)

"Iraqi civilian casualties have occurred, but at a rate lower than anyone expected." (Was this person here, on this planet, in March 2003? We were hearing that this would be a cakewalk, and that Iraqis would be tossing rose petals at our soldiers' feet. Since then, dozens of suicide bombings later, the cake's been decorated with entrails, and the petals look curiously like toenails.)

"The U.S. still faces an insurgency, but they must remain to complete the mission in order to avoid the disastrous result learned in Vietnam. Napoleon said it best, 'If you decide to take Paris, take Paris.' Finish the job. ..." (This person evidently never heard about Waterloo. Or Nixon's hapless "Vietnamization" policy. What should we call this now -- "Iraqification"?)

"Does anyone remember how we got this country? We got it by force. We decimated the Indians ... We invaded the Spanish and the Mexicans and we took the spoils. We exploited slaves until the error was purged with the blood of 500,000 of our countrymen ... Manifest Destiny still runs in my veins and the veins of the free and the brave ..."

(Gosh, so America really was largely built on genocide, slavery and military aggression? Since it worked so well in the past, why don't we do all that stuff again? And when they bring back the slave auctions, I wonder -- how much would Jesus bid?)

If this person is a sincere, believing, born-again Christian, then someone must have slipped a couple of books by Nietzsche and Machiavelli into his Bible. I can envision The Prince, and Beyond Good and Evil, bound in there somewhere between Galatians and Revelation, no doubt by Godless nihilistic conspirators.

But seriously, crazy people don't perceive even such basic ideological contradictions. I've seen this firsthand in paranoid schizophrenics. They feel quite free to just make it up as they go along.

I think we've identified a unique personality disorder. It isn't hard to diagnose, because most of the patients call themselves "conservatives."

Charge nurse, call the orderlies, and break out the Thorazine. This is no problem that a little heavy sedation won't fix.



azbob57 said...

the postings you display don't even cut the surface. I have been living in Arizona for the past seven years and I am still amazed at what is considered polite talk.
We have crossed over into a netherworld of discompassionate greed. I have met quite a few people who think of their fellow man as nothing more than a stupid rube or a liberal asshat.
I cry, and I sigh...
I try to get along, but the world is against me.

Anonymous said...

In response to the previous poster, I'd like to point out that the current dismal lack of politeness in political discourse was launched by the Republicans when they ferociously attacked Clinton every single day of his two terms in office. By contrast, the Democrats have been downright polite to Bush.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who misses the hard-hitting media we had in this country during the Clinton years? It was a media that didn't hesitate to thoroughly probe every orifice of Clinton's body every time the Republicans made up a new bogus "scandal" (i.e.: HairCutGate, TravelGate, TrooperGate, Whitewater). Anyway, if you miss that sort of hard-hitting journalism, just stick around: I guarantee you that we'll see it return and we'll see the media snap out of its slumber the moment that Hilary Clinton is sworn into office, should she ever be elected.

Anonymous said...

This argument is simply ridiculous! You are grouping all conservatives into a big group while taking quotes from a small minority that arguably wouldn't agree w/ fellow conservatives. Get your facts straight and find out what conservatives are really all about.

Scott said...

"But seriously, crazy people don't perceive even such basic ideological contradictions. I've seen this firsthand in paranoid schizophrenics. They feel quite free to just make it up as they go along."

My fear is that it is too late to change the direction America is heading. We are not producing thinkers in our schools, in fact just the opposite. People who can't think will always be subject to religious and political trickery. Shame really, this was such a nice country.

Joyful Alternative said...

I blogged a while back about how unspeakably nasty these Bushists are in harassing and threatening the survivors of our Iraq war dead who dare to question the commander---and they don't even take care to reach the right group of bereaved mothers:

Winter said...

"This argument is simply ridiculous..."

Are you serious? I can't tell if this is satire or not.

Anonymous said...

Well, you've certainly been eloquent here -- Manifesto Joe

Anonymous said...

Typical liberal, thinks all the world's problems can be solved with drugs.

Anonymous said...

You can always point out the republican/conservative posters who disagree with a blog/vlog/etc/article/etc. There is a pattern. They take a small portion of the piece out of context and attack it, generally getting angry and hostile. Complain to you to "get the facts, where's your facts?" but provide none of their own. Half the time the ones they do provide aren't even real. Sometimes they'll pout and scream like a child and use slander and crude language. They want people to be just smart enough to do their jobs and just stupid enough to accept a Republican dominion. Sadly many a school and parent do nothing to teach their kids to be critical thinkers. The once great nation has a long way to go to become the great nation and it's possible but really does require quite the overhaul. Unfortunately our current government is one of the few in the "civilized" world that avoids enriching its people (on the mental and material levels) at all costs. Personally I think conservatism is counter-productive to the very nature of human progress and evolution. But hey, most of them don't believe in that stuff anyway.