Sunday, August 18, 2013

Waging The Conservative Culture War for Fun and Profit


"Waging Culture War for Fun and Profit" is the concluding half of yesterday's article by Rick Perlstein at The Baffler, "Mail-Order Conservative Confidence Games," and continues to expose the nasty con games perpetuated by the Conservatives on their own people.

Perlstein concludes:


"But the New Right’s business model was dishonest in more than its revenue structure. Its very message—the alarmist vision of White Protestant Civilization Besieged that propelled fundraising pitch after fundraising pitch—was confabulatory too. The typical ploy ran a little something like this, from Heritage Foundation founder Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Research and Education Foundation:
"Dear Friend:
Do you believe that children should have the right to sue their parents for being “forced” to
attend church?
Should children be eligible for minimum wage if they are being asked to do household
chores?
Do you believe that children should have the right to choose their own family?
As incredible as they might sound, these are just a few of the new “children’s rights laws” that could become a reality under a new United Nations program if fully implemented by the Carter administration.
If radical anti-family forces have their way, this UN sponsored program is likely to become an all-out assault on our traditional family structure."
"Following the standard scare-mongering playbook of the fundraising Right, Weyrich launched his appeal with some horrifying eventuality that sounded both entirely specific and hair-raisingly imminent ('all-out assault on our traditional family structure'—or, in the case of a 1976 pitch signed by Senator Jesse Helms, taxpayer-supported 'grade school courses that teach our children that cannibalism, wife swapping, and the murder of infants and the elderly are acceptable behavior'; or, to take one from not too long ago, the white-slavery style claim that 'babies are being harvested and sold on the black market by Planned Parenthood'). Closer inspection reveals the looming horror to be built on a non-falsifiable foundation ('could become'; 'is likely to become'). This conditional prospect, which might prove discouraging to a skeptically minded mark, is all the more useful to reach those inclined to divide the moral universe in two—between the realm of the wicked, populated by secretive, conspiratorial elites, and the realm of the normal, orderly, safe, and sane.

"Weyrich’s letter concludes by proposing an entirely specific, real-world remedy: slaying the wicked can easily be hastened for the low, low price of a $5, $10, or $25 contribution from you, the humble citizen-warrior.


"These are bedtime stories, meant for childlike minds. Or, more to the point, they are in the business of producing childlike minds. Conjuring up the most garishly insatiable monsters precisely in order to banish them from underneath the bed, they aim to put the target to sleep.

"Dishonesty is demanded by the alarmist fundraising appeal because the real world doesn’t work anything like this. The distance from observable reality is rhetorically required; indeed, that you haven’t quite seen anything resembling any of this in your everyday life is a kind of evidence all by itself. It just goes to show how diabolical the enemy has become. He is unseen; but the redeemer, the hero who tells you the tale, can see the innermost details of the most baleful conspiracies. Trust him. Send him your money. Surrender your will—and the monster shall be banished for good.

"Scaling Up

"This method highlights the fundamental workings of all grassroots conservative political appeals, be they spurious claims of Barack Obama’s Islamic devotion, the supposed explosion of taxpayer-supported welfare fraud, or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"And, in an intersection that is utterly crucial, this same theology of fear is how a certain sort of commercial appeal—a snake-oil-selling one—works as well. This is where the retail political lying practiced by Romney links up with the universe in which 23-cent miracle cures exist (absent the hero’s intervention)just out of reach, thanks to the conspiracy of some powerful cabal—a cabal that, wouldn’t you know it in these late-model hustles, perfectly resembles the ur-villain of the conservative mind: liberals.


"In this respect, it’s not really useful, or possible, to specify a break point where the money game ends and the ideological one begins. They are two facets of the same coin—where the con selling 23-cent miracle cures for heart disease inches inexorably into the one selling miniscule marginal tax rates as the miracle cure for the nation itself. The proof is in the pitches—the come-ons in which the ideological and the transactional share the exact same vocabulary, moral claims, and cast of heroes and villains.
"Dear Fellow Conservative,
Do you know which special interest has given more money to the Obama and Clinton campaigns than any other?
If you guessed 'trial lawyers'—well, okay, that’s too easy. But can you guess which special interest came in second?
Labor unions? Nope. The Green Lobby? Nope. AARP? Wrong, again. NEA? Nyet.
Give up? Okay, here’s the answer: Wall Street.
That’s right. According to CNNMoney.com, Wall Street securities and investment firms have given over $35 million to Democratic candidates this election cycle. . . . If you’ve been wondering why the financial industry has been in meltdown—and taking your 401(k) or investment portfolio down with it—now you know.
Let’s face it: The former frat boys who populate Wall Street today understand economics about as well as the pinko professors whose courses they snored through. . . . Trusting them with your money is like trusting Bill Clinton to babysit your underage niece.
But I know someone you can trust to manage your investments. . . . His name is Dr. Mark Skousen—that’s 'Dr.' as in 'Ph.D. in Economics and Monetary History,' something you don’t get by playing Beer Pong with your frat buddies. For the past 28 years, subscribers to his investment newsletter, Forecasts & Strategies, have profited enormously from his uncanny ability to predict major market trends before they happen. . . .
For instance: In the early ’80s, Dr. Skousen predicted that 'Reaganomics will work' and said 'a long decade of profits is coming.' . . .
The 'bottom line,' as they say? Don’t let the Democrats run the country. And don’t let Wall Street frat boys manage your investments. Do it yourself, with the genuinely expert guidance of freedom-loving economist Mark Skousen in Forecasts & Strategies.
Click here to learn more."
"That letter is signed by Ann Coulter—and, truth be told, it reads like she wrote it. It is a perfect portrait of the nether region of the right-wing con, figure (politics) trading places with ground (commerce) a dizzying dozen times over in the space of just these several paragraphs. There is the bizarre linguistic operation that turns 'liberal' (or, in Coulterese, 'pinko') into a merely opportunistic synonym for 'stuff you don’t like.' There’s the sloganeering alchemy that conflates political and economic magical thinking ('freedom'!). There’s shorthand invocation of Reagan hagiography. And then, presto: The suggestible readers on the receiving end of Coulter’s come-on are meant to realize that they are holding the abracadabra solution to every human dilemma (vote out the Democrats—oh, and also, subscribe to Mark Skousen’s newsletter for investors, while you’re at it).


"There’s a kind of mystic wingnut great-circle-of-life aura to this stuff. Mark Skousen, a Mormon, is the nephew of W. Cleon Skousen, author of the legendarily bizarre Birchite tract The Naked Communist, which claimed to have exposed the secret forty-five-point plan by which the Soviet Union hoped to take over the United States government. (Among the sinister aims laid out in the document: gain control of all student newspapers; 'eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.') Upon its publication in 1958 (it was republished in 2007 as an ebook), the president of the Church of Latter-day Saints, David O. McKay, recommended that all members read it. Mark Skousen is also author of a book called Investing in One Lesson, which cribs its title from the libertarian tract Economics in One Lesson, distributed free by conservative organizations in the millions in the fifties, sixties, and seventies (Reagan was a fan). He founded an annual Las Vegas convention called 'FreedomFest'—2012 keynoters: Steve Forbes, Grover Norquist, Charles Murray, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey—which advertises itself as 'the world’s largest gathering of right-wing minds.' This event points to another signal facet of the conservative movement’s long con: convincing its acolytes that they are the trueintellectuals, that anyone to their left is the merest cognitive pretender. ('Will this 3 Minute Video Change Your Life?' you can read on FreedomFest’s website. Because three-minute videos are how intellectuals roll. Click here to learn more.)

"The oilfield in the placenta is another perfect mélange of right-wing ideology and a right-wing money con. It begins with a signal ideological lie: that stem-cell research represents an outrage against the right to life (but the cultivation of embryos for in vitro fertilization does not). It then pulls the mark along with the right-wing fantasy that energy independence is only one miraculous technological breakthrough away (but the development of already existing alternative energy sources doesn’t count as one of those breakthroughs). It all makes its own sort of internally coherent sense when you consider the salesman: James Dale Davidson is a founder of the National Taxpayers Union, a Richard Mellon Scaife–funded enterprise that gave Grover Norquist his start as a professional conservative. Davidson himself is a producer of Unanswered: The Death of Vincent Foster. “There is overwhelming evidence that Foster was murdered,” he told the Washington Post. “They obviously have reasons they don’t want this to come out . . . obviously there’s something big they’re trying to protect.”


"Of course, the childlike appeals won’t work their full magic without the invocation of the conservative movement’s childlike heroes. The Gipper appears in another splendid specimen received by Human Events readers—which is appropriate, because Human Events is where Reagan himself got a lot of the made-up stuff he spouted across his entire political career. 'When President Ronald Reagan got cancer during his presidency,' this one begins, 'the great German doctor Hans Nieper, M.D., treated him. It would have been frontpage news if it hadn’t been hushed up at the time.' ('German doctors "cook" cancer out of your body while you nap!') 'Many American cancer patients lose their hair and their vitality. But Reagan kept his famous pompadour hairstyle. He also kept his warm smile and vigorous style.' ('CLICK HERE to request German Cancer Breathrough: A Guide to Top German Alternative Clinics.') 'Reagan lived for another 19 years. He died at age 93, and not from cancer.' ('Fortunately, as a journalist I’m protected by the First Amendment. I can tell you the truth without having to risk persecution from the authorities.')

"Miracle cures, get-rich-quick schemes, murderous liberals, the mystic magic mirage of a world without taxes, those weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein had hidden somewhere in the Syrian desert—only connect.


"Untruth and Consequences

"And what of Willard M. Romney’s part in the game? There’s a lot going on with Romney’s lying, not all of it related to his conservative identity; he was making things up as a habit, after all, back when he was a Massachusetts moderate. To a certain extent, Romney’s lies are explicable in just the way a lot of pundits are explaining them. When you’ve been all over the map ideologically, and you’re selling yourself to a party now built on extremist ideological purity, it takes a lot of tale-telling to cover your back. But that doesn’t explain one overlooked proviso: these lies are as transparent to his Republican colleagues as they are to any other sentient being. Nor does it account for a still more curious fact—for all the objections that conservatives have aired over Romney’s suspect purity in these last months, not one prominent conservative has made Romney’s dishonesty part of the brief against him.

"It’s time, in other words, to consider whether Romney’s fluidity with the truth is, in fact, a feature and not a bug: a constituent part of his appeal to conservatives. The point here is not just that he lies when he says conservative things, even if he believes something different in his heart of hearts—but that lying is what makes you sound the way a conservative is supposed to sound, in pretty much the same way that curlicuing all around the note makes you sound like a contestant on American Idol is supposed to sound.

"In part the New York Times had it right, for as much as it’s worth: Romney’s prevarications are evidence of simple political hucksterism—'short, utterly false sound bites,' repeated 'so often that millions of Americans believe them to be the truth.' But the Times misses the bigger picture. Each constituent lie is an instance pointing to a larger, elaborately constructed 'truth,' the one central to the right-wing appeal for generations: that liberalism is a species of madness—an esoteric cult of out-of-touch, Europe-besotted ivory tower elites—and conservatism is the creed of regular Americans and vouchsafes the eternal prosperity, security, and moral excellence of God’s chosen nation, which was doing just fine before Bolsheviks started gumming up the works.


"A Romney lie in this vein is a pure Ronald Reagan imitation—as in this utterance from 2007: 'In France,' Romney announced on the campaign trail, 'I’m told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up.' And just as Reagan was found to be reciting film dialogue and jump-cutting anecdotes from his on-screen career into his pseudobiographical reminiscences on the stump, so it turns out that Romney picked up the marriage canard from the Homecoming Saga, a science fiction series written by Mormon author Orson Scott Card. (Another reason for students of Romney’s intellectual development to queasily recall that he told interviewers during that same 2008 presidential run that his favorite work of fiction was Battlefield Earth, the sci-fi opus by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, a consummate shakedown artist in his own right.)

"Either deliberately or through some Reaganesque slip of the unconscious, Romney’s stump confabulations worked the same way that those legendary Viguerie direct-mail appeals did: since reality is never Manichean enough, fables have to do the requisite ideological heavy lifting—to frighten the target audience to do the fabulists’ will. That’s the logic of the pitch for the quivering conservative masses.

"Once, I gave a speech to a marquee assemblage of true members of the conservative elite, from William Bennett to Midge Decter to Alf Regnery, at the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, a conservative think tank that rich donors convinced Princeton University to house under its auspices. (Karl Rove made a cameo appearance, during which he bragged about making a Republican congressman cry.) In my remarks, I laid out what I took to be a disturbing moral pattern, what I naively thought would stir these folks into something like shame. Why was it, I asked, that whenever Richard Nixon needed someone to brazen out some patently immoral, illegal, or dishonest act, he frequently and explicitly sought out a veteran of the conservative movement—the same conservatives whose ideology in policy contexts he usually derided? Because, I said, 'Nixon knew that if you had a dirty job to get done, you got people who answered the description he made of E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy: ‘good, healthy, right-wing exuberants.'


"I gave half a dozen examples of latter-day conservative exuberance, in my own admitted exuberance to rain down the shame: the phony 'middle of the road caucus' formed to secretly take over a National Student Association meeting from the right; the fliers the RNC put out during the 2004 election announcing that a President John Kerry would institute a plan to ban the Bible; the time Jerry Falwell lied that he’d never argued for the elimination of the public school system—'lying for the Lord,' as Mormons call it. Then, as the question-and-answer period approached, I trembled, anticipating the conservative elite’s chastened response. Yes, reader: I was once just that naive.

"M. Stanton Evans, a legendary movement godfather, stood up. He said my invocation of Richard Nixon was inappropriate because Richard Nixon had never been a conservative. He proceeded, though, to make a striking admission: 'I didn’t like Nixon until Watergate'—at which point, apparently, Nixon finally convinced conservatives he could be one of them.

"And that, at last, may be the explanation for Mitt Romney’s apparently bottomless penchant for lying in public. If the 2012 GOP nominee lied louder than most—and even more astoundingly than he has during his prior campaigns—it’s just because he felt like he had more to prove to his core following. Lying is an initiation into the conservative elite. In this respect, as in so many others, it’s like multilayer marketing: the ones at the top reap the reward—and then they preen, pleased with themselves for mastering the game. Closing the sale, after all, is mainly a question of riding out the lie: showing that you have the skill and the stones to just brazen it out, and the savvy to ratchet up the stakes higher and higher. Sneering at, or ignoring, your earnest high-minded mandarin gatekeepers—'we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,' as one Romney aide put it—is another part of closing the deal. For years now, the story in the mainstream political press has been Romney’s difficulty in convincing conservatives, finally, that he is truly one of them. For these elites, his lying—so dismaying to the opinion-makers at the New York Times, who act like this is something new—is how he has pulled it off once and for all. And at the grassroots, his fluidity with their preferred fables helps them forget why they never trusted the guy in the first place."


***

"There's no reason to suppose that the new head of the Heritage Foundation, ex-Congressman Jim DeMint will discontinue 'the standard scare-mongering playbook of the fundraising Right,' one of the most disgusting crimes of the criminal Conservative leadership.  And as Perlstein shows us yet another way that Conservative capos "are in the business of producing childlike minds" - at the cost of untold misery in the form of illness and death - we conclude that the prey for these vultures are their Christian followers, the terminally ill, and the poorest of the Sheeplets.


We've known that Conservatives have to lie because their core belief, that the elites should rule the masses, doesn't play very well in a participatory democracy.

From Reagan to the Church of The Latter Day Saints to Coulter to Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, and DeMint, the amount of money fleeced from the unsuspecting Sheeplets is astronomical.  (Noting that Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is a radical Conservative should be enough to add Whole Foods to your list of boycotted companies.)


Wake up, Sheeple!



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"Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a
right to knock him down for it. Martyrdom is the test."

Samuel Johnson. (English poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, 
editor and lexicographer. 1709 – 1784)

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