The people in near-riot at congress members' public appearances are fools. Or, at least, gullible. People who believe that Barack Obama is going to kill their grandma don't really have it all together. Something is wrong upstairs and their internal BS detectors aren't lighting up to alert them to the obvious. The reason for this is that they've rewired their attics to keep the BS sensors from working -- like the birthers, the town hall goons believe what they believe because they want to believe it, not because what they believe is especially convincing. For them Barack Obama is Hitler, Stalin, and Dracula rolled into one. Nothing is too ridiculous, too absurd for them to believe, because the consequences of being wrong would be too great -- what if Obama really was Count HitlerStalin and no one believed it? No one wants that. So it's just safer to believe the worst, that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim illegal alien come here to kill your grandma. Really, who wants to take the risk of believing he's not?
But the Hitler outfit fits the right better than the left -- it always has. Authoritarian and prone to group-think, people on the right are most comfortable with believing they're the mainstream. And, with poll after poll showing they're not, they're confused. When people who tend toward group-think are confused, it's like a virus that infects them all. The more confused they become, the more frightened they become. And the more frightened they become, the more authoritarian they become. Things have to be a certain way and, if they're not, things have to be forced. Like other authoritarians in times past, their way is the only way and anyone who believes otherwise is the enemy of the "true" people, whether they call themselves "patriots" or "der volk." Anyone who doesn't agree with them on every single issue is an enemy of the state and must be corrected or stopped. Barack Obama doesn't agree with them, the Democrats don't agree with them, so Barack Obama and the Democrats must be stopped. As the right slips from the mainstream to the fringe, they don't see it as changing American opinions and values. They see it as America being taken over by anti-Americans.
Playing this terror-driven opposition to the president and Democrats is the Republican party. They haven't gone out of their way to disabuse the birthers and they've actually been promoting the "kill your grandma" lie. Truth is irrelevant to them because truth is the enemy of their argument. So they use lies and fear. The right's campaign against health care reform has been a campaign of the purest -- and worst -- propaganda; propaganda that appeals to fear and ignorance and hate. Call it the Weimarketing of health care reform opposition.
"Republicans on the Hill and the Republicans in the base seem to be operating under a bizarre assumption: he who throws the biggest tantrum wins," writes Steve Benin. "It's no way for a political system to operate." I'd change that to "it's no way for a good political system to work." Republicans don't seem particularly concerned about a good political system. The crowds at town halls are using the "heckler's veto" and shutting down debate by drowning out dissenting voices. But it's moving beyond that.
[Talking Points Memo:]
Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) will not be hosting any town hall events this August -- instead, he's making himself available to constituents for one-on-one meetings about health care reform -- and at least part of the reason is this: His offices have received threatening phone calls, including at least one direct threat against his life.
"We had no town hall events scheduled for the August recess anyway, but in light of everything that's happened -- we have received a threatening phone call in the D.C. office, there have been calls to the Raleigh office," said Miller communications director LuAnn Canipe, in an interview with TPM. The threatening call in question happened earlier this week.
"The call to the D.C. office was, 'Miller could lose his life over this,'" said Canipe. "Our staffer took it so seriously, he confirmed what the guy was saying. He said, 'Sir is that a threat?' and at that time our staffer was getting the phone number off caller ID and turning it over to the Capitol Police."
We've seen one congress member hung in effigy outside his office. Now another has been physically assaulted. If you've been wondering when these people were going to go too far, you can stop now. They already have.
And the Republicans, watching this happen, continue to pour gasoline on this fire. Not content to have these people in a frothing fit, they want it worse. The political discourse isn't stupid enough or ignorant enough yet. It has to get even dumber. And here we come to Sen. John Cornyn and a new paranoid conspiracy theory about Barack Obama -- that the president is building a massive enemies list.
It started -- as it always does -- with the pretense of stupidity. In pushing back against the smear campaigns, the White House wrote a blog post asking people to share the BS they're hearing about health care reform.
"There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care," it said. "These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can't keep track of all of them here at the White House, we're asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org."
"I am not aware of any precedent for a President asking American citizens to report their fellow citizens to the White House for pure political speech that is deemed 'fishy' or otherwise inimical to the White House's political interests," Cornyn wrote in a letter to the president. "By requesting that citizens send 'fishy' emails to the White House, it is inevitable that the names, email addresses, IP addresses, and private speech of U.S. citizens will be reported to the White House. You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection program. As Congress debates health care reform and other critical policy matters, citizen engagement must not be chilled by fear of government monitoring the exercise of free speech rights."
Cornyn obviously understands what's really going on here, but chooses to act like a gibbering moron because he thinks it's good politics. And the nuts, who also choose to believe what they want to believe, are eating it up.
"Can you believe it? President Obama and his radical community organizers at the White House want literally to 'keep track' of those who disagree with the government-run, potentially bankrupting health care bill, with its rationing of medical procedures to control costs, which Obama and Democrats in Congress are trying to ram through the system and into law..." reads a statement from right wing direct mail guru Richard Viguerie's spin lab. "Totalitarian regimes, such as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, used similar tactics (without email, of course) to keep tabs on dissidents and other critics of those regimes."
Barack Obama is just like Count HitlerStalin! Of course, Viguerie knows his audience (as evidenced by the fact that he feels the need to point out that Hitler didn't have email) and he knows just how idiotic and terrified these people are willing to be. This deadly mix of gullibility and paranoia is spreading through the hive mind at practically the speed of light. Barack Obama, the secret illegal alien Muslim terrorist, is now building a huge database of critics so he knows whose grandmas need killing the most.
Now go get suitably terrified, go to a town hall, and totally freak out and make an ass of yourself. Shut down discussion, shut down debate, stop the enemies of America from imposing this Nazi socialist vampire stuff on der volk!
"God save us," writes Kevin Drum of Cornyn and Viguerie. "Before long we're going to have start inventing new words to describe these guys. My thesaurus is running dry."
How about "Weimarketeers?"
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