Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Economic Terrorism

Unless I'm seriously misreading this article, didn't Wall Street basically just take the vast majority of US taxpayers hostage, then threaten to crash the economy into the World Trade Center ground unless they got their bonuses?

Since I'm too inarticulate to deal with this at length for the moment, and I'm really working on a post about Greg Gutfeld and his gang of gutless groupies, go read Melissa McEwan and Hilzoy.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Is It Okay to Say the "C-Word" Here?

I'm talking about the word "cult." That C-word. Let's talk about that for a moment, since the word seems to have fallen out of fashion in the current vernacular. The finger I've got on the pulse of pop says that most people associate the word "cult" with Hare Krishnas and various other hippie-dippie weirdnesses and probably figure that the fashion died out around the same time as disco fell off the charts.

Not so. As the very perceptive Southern Beale says:
Removing individuals from their support structure -- family and friends -- and replacing that support with a new one; separating the world into those who have privileged access to an exclusive truth and those who do not; placing a group’s doctrine over and above an individual’s experience; use of overly-simplified, cliche-ridden language and slogans; use of “sacred science” -- the idea that if something works for so many in the group it has the authority of “science”; and a cult of confession where one’s testimony is told so often it becomes a well-rehearsed script outlining how lost and sinful the individual was before finding salvation in the group: these are all classic hallmarks of a cult.

There are lots of cults operating these days; they've just mostly gone under the radar to a certain degree, in that modern cults don't usually sell flowers in airports or beg for converts on city streets. These days, they shut their followers up in remote locations, and/or operate as single autonomous units, communicating over the internet.

Southern Beale documents the ways in which the Quiverfull movement operates as a cult, bolstered by quotations from an article by a former movement leader. We can find similar experiences within movements like the FLDS, which famously locate their settlements far from mainstream society (so they can operate their multigenerational women- and child-abuse schemes undisturbed by uncoopted law enforcement), the Satmar Hasidim as they exist in places like Kiryas Joel, an all-Satmar intentional community in New York (where 2/3 of the town's population is below the poverty line and 40% on food assistance due to the Satmars'...interesting ideas on work), or the proposed Ave Maria, Florida, whose founder, a hard-line Catholic, said that he wished to ban abortions, pornography, and contraceptives inside city limits. We've seen this before, with everything from the Heaven's Gate suicides to the events at Waco.

Other cults still exerting a disproportionate influence on the popular culture include the everpresent Unification Church (Sun Myung Moon), which publishes the Washington Times, famously owns much Washington DC real estate, and sponsors various political events, including one at which a Democratic politician crowned Sun Myung Moon, and Scientology, which owns and controls a substantial portion of Clearwater, Florida. (I was there in the early '80s, before Scientology took it over. Too bad; it used to be a nice town.)

With incidents like the ones chronicled here, the UU Church shootings (where the shooter left a manifesto proclaiming his hatred of all things liberal), Glenn Beck's latest assertion that liberalism is driving people to commit mass shootings, and all the various other eliminationist, tribalist, and authoritarian rhetoric we've been hearing of late, the cultic mentality is in full swing, and looking like it's going to ratchet up even further. As Southern Beale says, "It's time we got comfortable with the words "cult" and "thought control" again. We live in a mass-media age, and the tools of exploitation have expanded beyond anyone's wildest dreams." We can't address this problem without effective ways of talking about it. Let's call a cult a cult and not cut off our vocabulary's nose to spite its face.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I See What You Do There

Let's talk about Ari Fleischer on Chris Matthews' show the other day. Lots of people have been commending (inasmuch as Chris Matthews deserves any kind of cookie) Matthews for taking Fleischer to task. You can watch the video here, courtesy of MSNBC, which seems to have, for once, picked out the salient point from the copious distractor material.

Most of the people in the blogosphere I've read so far are (still) focusing on the oft-debunked claim that Saddam Hussein was involved with the attacks of 11 September 2001. That's an old lie. They've been lying about that one since 2001. Not that I'm willing to just let it go or anything, but I think the focus on this particular revenant lie is distracting from the larger point.

Did nobody else but me notice how Fleischer said, "How dare you say 9/11 happened on our watch?"

That right there is possibly the biggest rewriting of history we've seen yet from the people who sincerely believe they can just create "their own reality," regardless of what the actual facts, documentation, and videotape say.

I can't quite tell what Fleischer was meaning in saying that. It seems to me that either he's been swallowing the Clinton-did-it Koolaid for so long that he really does somehow believe that 11 September 2001 (the 6 August PDB notwithstanding) happened on Clinton's watch, or he really is trying to unhappen Bush from that day's events.

Side note: He seems to be making the rounds on the talking-head shows, lying all the way, so I suspect this is a prong in a systematised campaign of disinformation. More later.

I can understand why most of the left blogosphere is still hung up on the Saddam Hussein-9/11 thing; the Bush people have been banging that drum so hard for eight years they've long since ruptured the head and broken the sticks, and for a while (search down for "Hussein") a majority of people believed it. Frankly, I can see why. If you're an ignorant racist scuttlefish who knows nothing about Islam or Middle Eastern politics, and who's been primed for years to hate Muslims (and to hate Saddam Hussein in particular, since I can remember talking about how the North American media was demonising him as the Hitler Nouveau du Jour back in the 1990s when I was in high school, ferchrissakes), it's pretty easy to believe that a Middle Eastern dictator might have something to do with Islamic terrorism.

On the other hand, the Bush people have spent the last eight years trying to convince everyone how preznitial Bush looked giving speeches on the rubble in NYC, how the response was appropriate and justified (and for the first little while until the idea of going after Osama bin Laden got boring or impractical, working), and how Bush's policies kept everyone safe because there'd been no terrorist attacks on US soil since then*, and how everything they did and were doing was justified because 9/11 shut up, and so on. And here's Bush's former press secretary insisting on national television that the former president wasn't the president on 11 September 2001, despite all evidence to the contrary, and My Pet Goat footage notwithstanding.

That is, frankly, an enormous, mind-blowing lie, to the point where everything Matthews said was utterly inadequate, and to the point where only a Joseph Welch-style rhetorical pile-driver would have been necessary and sufficient. That isn't just conveniently omitting some salient facts to attempt to shore up a lie of convenience by omission, that is blatantly 1984-style historical Memory (ass)Holism.

Frankly, I suspect they're going to continue to lie and lie and lie until they've tinfoiled the radar enough that sufficient numbers of people don't know what to believe anymore. They do this all the time, basically daring people, "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?" Authoritarian followers can be duped into believing the authority figures over their own eyes, and I suspect that's Phase II of this operation. First confuse, then consolidate...their planned step three, of course, is a return to power, buoyed by a glib line of patter that convinces the confused rubes that there really is such a thing as (Received) Truth, and they are It.

* Excepting the anthrax attacks and all those various copycat crimes (like Chad Castagena and friends) and the garden variety abortion clinic bombings and shootings and assorted Minute (pronounced "my newt") Man milita-nut-nitwit things perpetrated almost solely by white goodoleboys, of course...