March 24, 2005


"Life is so complicated!"

These are very confusing times for Republicans. Sure, they have finally found and “re-elected” a President who is just stupid enough and pig-headed enough to be willing to try to implement the pure unadulterated agenda of the Right. At the same time, though, they are learning that the world is a lot more complicated than they ever imagined. As I mentioned in response to a recent comment, the US Right has a tribal mentality that attributes the guilt or innocence of individuals to the groups they are a member of, and vice versa. In the case of the 9/11 attacks, for instance, the US Right managed to implicate the entire Moslem world in the crimes of a couple of dozen individuals. It is becoming more and more difficult for the Right to apply its simplistic mentality to the real world. It used to be there were just two tribes in the world: the American Tribe (the good folks) and the Rest-of-the-World Tribe (the people who were trying, with American “assistance,” to remake themselves in the image of the “good folks”). The American Tribe was further subdivided into God-Fearing Republicans and Those-Awful Democrats, though it was not clear how the American Tribe (the good folks) had come to include the tribe of Those-Awful Democrats. What had always been an unquestionable article of faith, though, was that the Rest of the World Tribe (or ROWT, for short) was just (to use the President's technical terminology) “a group of folks” of varying shades of evil. The ROWT had a gray-hued Christian component that was on the path to salvation, as well as a completely dark and heathen Moslem component desperately awaiting the gift of salvation that would surely be delivered some day by American carpetbaggers. By the way, the US Right was not, and is not, aware of the existence of religions other than those two. (The latter point should not be as surprising at it may seem. Recently I found out, to my astonishment, that many "educated" Americans think Canada is a French-speaking country. If you don't believe this, just ask a group of Americans what language most Canadians speak on a daily basis. When someone does not know what language their neighbours speak, one can hardly expect them to know about the intricacies and diversity of Asian, African and aboriginal religions. Immediately after 9/11, right-wing hooligans attacked many Sikh temples and individuals because, you know, anyone wearing a turban is a Moslem, right?) The “Iraq thing” has complicated the picture for the Right. If all Moslems are one tribal block of evil people, they ask, then who are these Shias and Sunnis? Are they both evil? If they are both evil, why is there antagonism between them? Very confusing ... No matter how confusing it may make things for the American Right, world affairs cannot be approached and understood in tribal terms. The character and aspirations of each individual are unique to that individual, even though he/she may be a member of this or that group, or actually of many different groups at the same time. While most Iraqi Shias may be in agreement with one another about some issues, and most Iraqi Sunnis may be in agreement with one another about some of those same issues and other issues, nearly every Iraqi, as an individual, wants one thing above all, which is for the Americans to leave. The rest is the business of Iraqis, and of Iraqis alone. No-one else, least of all American Republicans, can understand or have any worthwhile opinions on the concerns of individual Iraqis.

Life is not that complicated especially when you make decisions as our President on so called "gut feelings".

I believe that if one were to look at old school Republicans like Goldwater who believed in downsizing Federal Government and had a more Liberal approach toward civil liberties, privacy, and had a repsect for the Constitution they could certainly find some validity in these ideologies.

Bush, Frist, and other so called Neo-conservayives do not represenet these values. In my opinion they do not represent values period, nor do the radical Christian fundamentalist (the American Taliban) that put them in office. By the way is'nt the very word neo-conservative an oxy-moron?

I do disagree with the fact that they look at all Muslims the same. They seem to have a hard-on for Saudi Arabia. And correct me if I am wrong but was'nt it Haliburton one of the companies negotiating with the Taliban to put a pipeline through Afganastan?

Also, Bush does know the difference between Shites and SUNY. Shites are what Bush takes in his Crawford outhouse. SUNY is the State University of New York (By the way a bunch of liberals).
Canadians speak Canadian. I thought everyone knew that..

Not all Republicans are religious fanatics. Some are merely cowards afraid to anger their "base." Not that that's excusable.

I'm seeing a glimmer of hope. The religious right may have finally gone too far for most Americans. They're trying to use the Terri Schiavo case to further their "life" agenda, and most of the public sees right through this shameful opportunism. Not to mention the fact that Bush will probably not be able to ram social security "reform" down our throats. Perhaps the pendulum will start to swing the other way. Maybe before it goes leftward, it can make a quick swing back to the right and knock some sense into some neocon heads. I mean that metaphorically, of course.
Crabletta, I followed the story of the Doug Wead tapes a little bit, and, to put it mildly, I was surprised by what they seem to reveal about Bush's supposed religiosity. I had been naïve enough to believe that Bush was at least sincere about his religious faith. The tapes seem to reveal a different man, that is, a man who is pure opportunism, even as regards religion. This is, of course, all the more shocking because he had presented religion as the core of his being. But if even the core of his being is a lie, then what is left? More generally, I don't think the issue is whether these people are religious fanatics or not. I think the more important issue is to look at how they manipulate religious fanaticism among the general population for their own political advancement and agenda.
What's left? A sick, twisted megalomaniac whose only gods are power and the almighty dollar. You're not naive - he puts on a good act. His time will come, though. I'd like to see a war crimes trial in the Hague...I can dream, can't I?

I think both issues are valid. I agree that we first need to look at how the right is manipulating religious conservatives, but we also need to learn why fundamentalism has such a stranglehold on a good portion of our population. I don't know - fear certainly plays a part. Dumbing down the population hasn't helped either. I wince when I read that some people actually believe that humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth together. Hell, if you can get people to accept that, you can get them to believe anything.
I thought dinosaurs and humans did roam the earth at the same time? The dinosaurs were called back then Jesus horses.

Perhaps the lack of hope has turned many toward faith. Lack of hope in the economy, lack of hope in the society since 9/11, lack of education and a lack of hope within the global cultures. This would explain not only radical Islam, but also the Radical Christian Right.

The neo-cons have used Religous Extremists to achieve their agendas, similar to America' enemy #1 Osama Bin Laden.
I am so glad that people are able to recognize that not everyone in the US is a Christian-right-wing-fundamentalist. It's such a shame that the US is often viewed as a fanatical Christian country. This was never our founding fathers' intention. Most of our founding fathers were not Christians, and actually Diests at best. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, James Madison - the list goes on and on. Republicans in this country rely on this belief - "If you tell a lie enough, it becomes a truth." Most of our founding fathers came to this land to escape persecution from extremist Christians. However, most people in the US fail to realize this. It is my prediction that the Republican party is headed to a "blow up." The moderates certainly don't share these extremist views of the current leaders of the Republican party. McCain, Giuliani, and Schwarzenegger, to name a few, do not see eye-to-eye with the Republican party on their "right to life" and environmental positions. Hopefully this will all come to fruition in 2008. The US certainly cannot handle another 4 years of Republican fundamentalist brainwashing...
I guess what I meant to say, Crabletta, was that right-wing politicians will always try to manipulate and exploit any emotion-based social tendency, whether its source is religion, nationalism, or whatever. This is obviously not an original insight on my part. It is actually a tried and true tactic of the extreme right. What might be called the American people's incredible superstitiousness makes them ripe for such manipulation. In other words, I am not sure the problem is religious fundamentalism as such, but rather the extreme “will to believe.” Large percentages of Americans of all political tendencies believe in the literal existence of angels, the Devil, ghosts, and so on, percentages that are matched only by some of the most backward nations in the world. Whatever its source or exact nature may be, this is probably not something that progressives can fight, at least not in the short term. So, even though I completely agree that it is vital to understand the nature and cure for this malady, this effort can't be a major part of the short- or medium-term strategy. I won't pretend I have any kind of an answer to this major puzzle. What I can say is that I think by concentrating on exposing the way right-wing politicians exploit such feelings, progressives might hope to raise the populace's level of political consciousness. I just received the good news that Dubya's approval rating has slipped to 45%, the lowest of his "presidency." Maybe it has already begun.
Great Post

I've thought from the beginning of this whole thing that the Neo-Cons, and the Radical Extremists they hate so much, essentially have the exact same problem: Way too much god in politics. There is nothing wrong with being deeply religious, but to be so damn stubbornly convinced that you are the sword weilding right hand of your spiritual savior is a little scary. I am absolutely baffled by this mule headed ideology. The handful of criminals that crashed airplanes into skyscrapers did so because, in their mind, it was the work of their god. Conversly, G dub's religious right has found themselves on a "crusade" to rid the world of "evil-doers." Well, rid the world of evil doers and create some capitalist opportunities, but lets not get into semantics here...

I just get a little weary of the fact that this could concievably go on forever until one side wipes the other out.
As an American muslim I am so relieved that there's bloggers like yourself out there. For whatever reason, voters seem to gravitate towards polarizing figures these days. You're right on the money with this post.
Food for thought--even old-school conservatives have rebelled against Bush, his puppetmasters, and their perpetual war strategy.

"Mr. Bush calls 9/11 the day “when freedom came under attack.” This is sophomoric. Osama did not send fanatics to ram planes into the World Trade Center because he hates the Bill of Rights. He sent the terrorists here because he hates our presence and policies in the Middle East."

" Madison warned, “No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
There really isn't much understanding towards foriegn affairs, and I elaborated on this a little as well with this post called We Are the Meek. I enjoy your site, and Americans need to start trying to make a difference so the powers that be don't completely savage the globe.
Great blog, lots of good points about Iraq. As an American, I feel frustrated and embarrased daily by my government's actions. As you say, Republicans really do view the world in a black/white, tribal mentality. I've been arguing this for a long time.

-A friend from your less civilized Southern neighbor
Hi Al,

Maybe I shouldn't get my hopes up, but do you think the tide may be starting to turn? The Repubs are really going too far this time (for some of us, that was obvious a LONG time ago). The Schiavo case has spotlighted the absolute irrationality of the religious right, and Bush is having trouble pushing his social security "plan." I don't know if that 45% figure stll holds. Maybe it's dipped even lower? That would be delightful...

Perhaps fundamentalism isn't the entire problem; perhaps it is the extreme will to believe, as you say. Of course, if church and state are kept separate as they should be, none of this would matter. I know people who believe in angels (but not "Jesus horses" - LOL) and they wouldn't dream of voting for a "religious" nut like Bush.
Like you, Crabletta, I hope the tide is turning, but I will only believe it when I see the Repubs turfed out of the White House and the Congress in 2008. Fluctuations in public opinion can have any number of explanations, sometimes contradictory ones. The current dip in Dubya's popularity, for instance, which seems to be associated with the Schiavo situation, might have something to do with his electoral base's disapproval of his tactics, rather than of his fundamental stance. Perhaps they feel Dubya could have approached this situation, not through an attempt to breach the constitutional division of powers, but rather through preaching for “life” and so on. Or perhaps they are finally fed up with him as an individual, but not necessarily with the Republican Party as the institution that they trust to represent their “values.”

Meanwhile, Dubya and the Repubs try to take cynical advantage of every opportunity. A lot of it works by manipulating the populace at a subconscious level. In other words, they try to remove political and social affairs from the rational analytical level onto the irrational level of symbols and archetypes. Schiavo's death, then, becomes the biblical “slaughter of the innocents,” rather than just the demise of the body of someone whose mind died many years ago, which logic tells us is what actually happened. No matter how firmly we may believe what logic tells us, our subconscious mind and emotions remain vulnerable to manipulation.
Hey Al,
Could you write something on the culture industry in the U.S.? I always wonder how seperate that really is, you know the "culture industry of/in the U.S. or the culture industry that is the U.S.

Anyhow...I'm sure you've no shortage of topics but I'd love to know what you think of that, especially in terms of how it perpetuates fascism. peace!
Although I am not a professional academic or scholar, Jen, I'll see if I can give an answer to your question. I think you have raised an important point. Since WWII, the American culture industry has penetrated every corner of the globe, and has helped reshape the worldviews of billions of people in a way that has helped to consolidate the hold of capital. The American culture industry has employed fascistic methods of propaganda to create a populace that willingly submits to capital’s rules. The function of the American culture industry is to promote uniformity, and discourage dissent and criticism based on issues of class. Characters in TV shows seem to have come from nowhere, and are going nowhere, and have no political agenda. This industry’s function is to trivialize political issues into mere talking points, or, worse, mere matters of opinion, things to make jokes about, or just lifestyle preferences. In other words, to trivialize and dismiss history. Politics, then, whether of the left or of the right variety, becomes nothing more than doing “right” or “left” things. Hence the concept of revolution is deconstructed. This was the tactic that was employed to reduce the counterculture to the New Age. It also negates the multidimensional nature of reality and the dialectical nature of truth. I think we should avoid the kind of ultra-leftist ideology that sees everything about capital as an illusion. The institutions of a capitalist society are real; they are not a chimera. Liberal democracy is a real political system; it is not an illusion foisted on us by capital. Its institutions are real. What is not real is our ideas of those institutions. Hence a need to distinguish between what is an illusion in itself and what is an illusion to us. For instance, when we analyze The West Wing and Law and Order as propaganda, we see that they turn reality into spectacle (the illusion-to-us).
Hi Al,
Love your site (BLOG) and your ravings! As a U.S. citizen, I am ashamed of the behavior of by countryfolk. This formerly great country has diminished in influence to the point that many, if not most, of the rest of the world are frightened to death of us. Me too! As a moldmaker and former college teacher and engineer, I am scurrying for work. China is putting us out of business FAST! They are, I believe, our greatest threat. We need them to buy our treasury notes (~$1B/wk) to support our deficit spending addiction. They also play a part in our ongoing drive to "disarm" N. Korea. Bush & co. are ruining us. Don't you get aggravated when he refers to the U.S. as America? That includes YOU! Ticks me off!
I can't believe that I am going to do this. I am a conservative republican, religious as well. Concerning the people in your post, I fit the bill:) Of course, being a republican, I have to respectfully disagree with you. I do not believe that muslims are all the same. It is some of the individual islams & muslims that are bad. People like the hijackers of 9-11. Although I like Bush, I will admit, he has made some bad decisions. But I do support him. I also support the war. Just because if we did not go into Iraq, I believe that the terrorists would just keep attacking. After all, Saddam was supporting the terrorists that were killing our people! Just my two cents worth of opinion. No hard feelings,
Sorry Al, but I have to comment to someone else's post again. Can't help it. I have one major issue with the post CT offers. A question really, if you are correct and if "we did not go into Iraq...all the terrorists would just keep attacking" then why aren't we attacking Saudi Arabia being that the majority of terrorists who flew those planes on September 11th were Saudi NOT Iraqi? Do you recall how many of those terrorists were Iraqis?

I have one final issue with such a statement. When you write, "Saddam was supporting the terrorists that were killing our people!" May I suggest you read the 9/11 commission's report. Their findings contradict your opinion.
Or read Seymour Hersh's brilliant "Chain of Command."
I commend you, CT, for writing something non-attacking as it seems the norm for those with opposing viewpoints on most blogs but I think there is far too much information out there to counter the disinformation.

Al, thank you for a very well written (Despite not being a "professional academic") comment on my question. I enjoyed reading it. peace!

I guess we'll have to wait and see - and hope. I try not to read too much into the polls, but this feels different. The grandstanding over Terri Schiavo was disgusting, but it also scared many. Despite our shift to the right, most Americans don't want the government interfering in such a private matter.

I think you're spot on about the pervasiveness of American culture. I find this remark particularly interesting: "This was the tactic that was employed to reduce the counterculture to the New Age." Everything is for sale, alas - and there's a Gap on Haight Street today. Thomas Frank has some great stuff to say about the right's cop-opting the language of the former radical left.
I mean co-opting. That was Freudian...
After 9/11, I tried very hard not to codemn all muslims. But the silence from the muslims in America was deafening. The Islamic school down the street put up red, white, and blue bunting all around the campus...but nary a U.S. flag anywhere. If I could have heard just ONE islamic group in the US denounce the attacks, it would have made me feel much better. Moreover, no muslims I have herad of in the intervening years have condemned the attacks. The only thing left to think is 'silence gives assent'
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