Very few times do I read something that leaves me both exhilarated and disillusioned at the same time. That’s exactly how I felt though after reading Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone article, ‘Michele Bachmann’s Holy War’. Holy shit, I thought. This person appears to be certifiably nuts, up from the depths of crazy swamp. She could be the next president of the United States.
Don’t laugh at the notion, Taibbi warns us. Not only is the prospect possible but our cruel laughter of ridicule only makes her stronger, makes her supporters more determined. Today’s conservatives seem to court our derision, lust for it even, as in the twisted little reality they’ve created, our dismissiveness proves the rightness of their cause.
Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a hermetically sealed bubble like that.
This is not a phenomenon unique to the U.S. We up here in Canada are suffering under the yolk of caustically laughing and mocking those politicians who, a little more than a generation ago would’ve justifiably been relegated to the wasteland fringes of ‘conservative’ thought. Toronto finds itself in the grip of an especially virulent radical, irrational right wing ideology.
What’s even more problematic and depressing about it, aside from the very fact such a state actually exists, is that it’s hard to know what to do about it. How do you fight such a slippery opponent? Reasoned debate or discussion is met with nothing more than sound bites and sloganeering. The last word is a claim that we’re all entitled to our opinions even when said opinions aren’t at all valid, based as they are on misinformation, half-truths or outright lies. If not mockery and derision to such anti-social practices, what’s left?
No, really. I’m asking because I have no idea.
All through last year’s municipal campaign candidate for mayor Rob Ford rode a wave of voter anger and discontent, stoked and encouraged by his own narrow-minded view of the role of government in our lives and painfully obvious bad math in construction of the mythical Gravy Train. His candidacy was initially written off as delusional based on his outrageous antics as a 10 year councillor and the fundamental illogic that formed the foundation of his campaign. Jokes were made at his expense. He and his ‘Nation’ were mocked, ridiculed, reviled and a whole lot of other words, all negative.
Like Michele Bachmann, he seemed energized by the attacks, actually believing that they only proved (somehow) that he was right, his views made that much more legitimate by simply being questioned. His growing number of supporters ran with that sensibility, taking up the martyr’s cross and using it to prove the justness of their cause. Downtown elites, fearful of losing their privileged status, were simply lashing out, realizing that their good times were coming to an end. We don’t have to defend ourselves or our ideas to you. We know what we know.
Who, aside from a child, acts like that? Imagine where we’d be if any and all criticism was invalidated simply by a shrug of the shoulders and a well, let’s-just-agree-to-disagree sentiment. You think the world is round and I think it’s flat. You think it revolves around the sun and I think we are the centre of the universe. We’d still be leaving in fucking caves.
Even then, under attack, some will revive the ghost of Galileo, claiming he too was pilloried by the elite of his time because he told the truth. The difference is, his truth was arrived at through logic, reason and a scientific approach. That’s how truth is usually found. The neo-conservative truth is the complete opposite of all that. It is the anti-truth.
It seems that such anti-truth can not only float effortlessly above the air, just out of reach in theory, it can survive a severe manhandling by reality in the minds of those ascribing to it. All those promises and pledges that candidate Ford made out on the hustings last year are already looking a little ratty. Remember this groaner? Toronto does not have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem. As mayor, he now admits the city has a revenue problem. Or how about this one? We can cut taxes without cutting services. Guaranteed. We’ve already experienced ‘minor’ service cuts and are being told to expect bigger ones next year. Guaranteed.
Rob Ford came to power on a platform built of anti-truth and now that we’re witnessing it, up close and personal, how does his flock react? We’re just a bunch of whiners, complainers, sore losers. Get used to it. Our guy’s in charge now.
Let’s call that what it is. The Nyah Nyah Nyah Nyah Nyah method of discourse that most of us grow out of by the time we’re 10 and that now passes for deep political thought in conservative circles. It cannot be refuted since only eggheads refute things. I may not be a downtown/east/west coast/educated elitist but I know what I know. It cannot be challenged because if you challenge it that means you don’t agree with it, and if you don’t agree with it you’re just a downtown/east/west coast/educated elitist etc., etc., etc.
It’s beautiful in its circular insularity, free of any sort of doubt or curiosity. A veritable cloak of intellectual invincibility. That which makes you dumber makes you stronger. In some circles it would be considered a negative psychological affliction (a circle filled with whining sore loser elitists). But for the conservative movement, it’s a winning strategy.
Leaving the question still unanswered. How do we engage with that sort of alternate reality that sees any attempts at engagement as nothing short of a personal attack? There’s no room for reason or logic. Laughing and belittling in the hopes of shaming them from their stupor only leads to a digging in of heels and further steeling of determination to be unmoved. Ignoring them seems to get them elected. We’re running out of options.
Anyone got any other bright ideas?
— cluelessly submitted by Urban Sophisticat