February 22, 2006

Who's Deranged?

Peter Dauo has a very insightful post today about the conversation du jour for the blogosphere. As he notes, Glenn Greenwald set it off by writing that those that are pro-Bush are actually not conservative. Glenn's post was about those who say they support conservative precepts yet who are blind to what they are actually supporting (big, paternalistic government that is blatantly anti-liberty). A slew of rightwing bloggers found his post to be totally infuriating. And those on the left have used Glenn's observations to delve deeply into the psyche of the rightwing to try to understand what is causing their inability to see what has led them to betray their long-stated principles. The rightwing bloggers respond that it is the lefties that are addled by their hatred of Bush and they have labeled the problem the Bush Derangement Syndrome. But as Peter says:

Perhaps Bush Derangement Syndrome is what afflicts rightwing bloggers, eager as they are to defend policies so clearly antithetical to genuine conservatism that it would be grimly amusing if the stakes weren't so high. Members of this administration - hiding behind a tattered veil of self-ascribed nobility - are doing what so many other people in positions of power do: they are abusing that power. And rightwingers who should know better that to enable it do so out of sheer hatred for liberals, a hatred stoked by the Limbaughs and Coulters and Hannitys of this world and exacerbated by lily-livered mainstream reporters who willingly weave rightwing storylines. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders would rather focus-group cheap slogans than grab the bull by the horns and lead America out of this mess.

Those who cling to Bush despite all the evidence about his incompetence and his duplicity have become addicted to the idea of smashing their enemies and bringing about a world where the traitors to their vision are totally subservient or driven out. They are enthralled by the sense of power and revenge they get from listening to the Limbaughs, Coulters and Hannities. They are the fanatics that Eric Hoffer wrote about in his book, The True Believer.

It goes without saying that the fanatic is convinced that the cause he holds on to is monolithic and eternal -- a rock of ages. Still, his sense of security is derived from his passionate attachment and not from the excellence of his cause. The fanatic is not really a stickler to principle. He embraces a cause not primarily because of its justness and holiness but because of his desperate need for something to hold on to. Often, indeed, it is his need for passionate attachment which turns every cause he embraces into a holy cause.

The fanatic cannot be weaned away from his cause by an appeal to his reason or moral sense. He fears compromise and cannot be persuaded to qualify the certitude and righteousness of his holy cause. But he finds no difficulty in swinging suddenly and wildly from one holy cause to another. He cannot be convinced but only converted. His passionate attachment is more vital than the quality of the cause to which he is attached.

This passage describes people like David Horowitz to a tee - a man who was once a radical black power absolutist and who has now made it his life's work to destroy the hated liberals that occupy places of respect in the universities and in Hollywood. Many of the most fanatic rightwingers have been seduced by the sense of power, the anger, the desire for revenge on those who have betrayed them, and the feeling that violence and revenge are just waiting to be picked up like a hammer -- these are the emotions that underlie the right-wing movement. They are not able to see how their own irrationality is betraying them to the demagogues who are using them to gain power and to grow their own wealth.

Unfortunately, those who should be fighting against this irrationality seem to be totally unaware of the seriousness of the problem or to recognize that only a true sense of urgent action will stop the worst consequences of the madmen that are running our government. The stakes are extremely high and there is not much time to turn things around.

Posted by Mary at February 22, 2006 12:36 AM | US Politics | Technorati links |

Thanks for the Hoffer quotes. They certainly fit, describing not just David Horowitz (a nut regardless of his political positions) but stuck-on-full-speed-ahead types like Limbaugh, a man incapable of doubt.

Posted by: Kit Stolz at February 22, 2006 10:10 AM

The lengths people will go to in order to avoid admitting they were wrong can't be underestimated, either. And in this case, the stakes are high.

If Bush is right, they've been following a noble cause. If his critics are right, they've been applauding incompetence and the dismantling of democracy in America.

It all comes down to the individual and how they feel about their choices. It isn't anything to do with Bush and everything to do with self image. And in a culture that so punishes politicians for changing their minds (Waffler!), it can hardly be surprising that critical self-evaluation and reappraisal aren't exactly the most publically celebrated virtues.

Posted by: natasha at February 22, 2006 12:38 PM

It's fun to make up a syndrome. I like to call what the Republicans have Baby Eater Syndrome: They'd rather eat a baby than admit that the administration is wrong about anything.

Posted by: Carl Ballard at February 22, 2006 01:21 PM