Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Closed Loop of Ignorance: A Case Study In Wingnuttery

Actual online exchange I observed today: 

Commenter #1: "Lower gun violence= no gun free zones"
Commenter #2: " I'd sure like to see proof that getting rid of gun-free zones reduces crime. Give it your best shot."
Commenter #1: "heck I'd love to be able to prove that theory of mine about gun free zones. But the liberal media and the liberals in D.C. will never let that happen."

So the fact that there is no evidence is evidence of the conspiracy to suppress the "facts" that you have no evidence for. 

Right. Got it.

Let’s examine this exchange because it illustrates so much about the wingnut “style” of argument.

First, there’s the bold assertion of so-called “facts” which are really just prejudices, half-baked notions, and/or “gut feelings” raised to the status of truth.

Then there’s the admission, when challenged, that no, there isn’t any evidence of the assertion but that that just proves the point, because  there’s a liberal conspiracy to hide the “truth”. This combines several of the central tenets of wingnuttery:

(1)    The insistence that the person speaking is part of an oppressed and eternally put upon class of people who are, despite their oppression, smarter, harder working, and more enlightened than their imagined oppressors. Ironically, the person claiming this oppression is almost always white, Christian, and heterosexual, and the majority are male—by far the least “oppressed” and best advantaged group in the United States, possibly in all of human history. 
(2)    The angry and bitter attitude that it’s hopeless that the truth will ever be known because of a vast conspiracy by the oppressors.
(3)    The rejection of any idea that they need to support their claims because the data they need to do so is forever unavailable, and
(4)    The unshakable conviction that their “facts” are, nonetheless, true, despite the lack of evidence, because their innate “common sense” (really just the above-mentioned prejudices, half-baked notions, and “gut feelings”) is more important than proof.This is the core of the anti-intellectual, chip-on-the shoulder resentment that marks a certain class of wingnut.

You have to admit that there is a certain twisted genius to this sort of "argument." It basically frees the speaker  from ever having to actually justify even the most outrageous claims, and creates a perfect protective force-field around the ignorance they cling to as if that ignorance was a gift  from God.

Unfortunately,  that’s not where ignorance comes from.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Best Show On Right Now

     Today's column (once again, not online at the paper's website until probably tomorrow)

    I heard the rumble of the truck in the yard, followed by the squeal and hiss of air brakes. I was up out of the recliner and ready to meet the delivery guy when he knocked on the door.
      “Hey,” I said, “you got here just in time. I was about to run out.”
     He looked at the clipboard in his hand and his brow furrowed in confusion. “Wait, this isn’t a movie theater?”
     “Nope,” I said. “This is my house. What made you think it was a theater?”
     “Well,” he said, “you’ve ordered an entire tractor trailer load of popcorn. And it says here, you got another one last week.”
     “Yep,” I replied.
     “You really eat all that popcorn?”
     “Buddy, if you were watching a show like I’m watching, you’d be chomping down a lot of the stuff too.”
     “What show?” he said. “Survivor? Duck Dynasty? House Hunters International?”
     “Nope, nope, and nope. Much bigger than that.”
     “American Idol?”
     “Even bigger. I’m watching the civil war in the Republican Party.”
     “The what?”
     “Remember last year? The election?”
     He grimaced. “Don’t remind me.”
     “Remember how the Republicans were so sure they were going to win? And how shocked they all were when Mitt Romney got his butt kicked by a guy they insisted nobody liked?”
     “Well, ever since,” I said, “they’ve been sniping at each other, pointing fingers, trying to make someone else take the blame. One wing of the party demands change, another demands that they double down on the crazy.”
     He looked dubious. “And you’re enjoying this.”
     “You bet I am!” I said. “The Tea Party blames the ‘establishment’ for not nominating candidates bat-spit crazy enough to make them happy. The ‘establishment’ big shots like Karl Rove blame the Tea Partiers for driving away women, gays, lesbians, Latinos, African Americans, and pretty much anyone not a right wing nut case. Rove even started a new political action committee called the ‘Conservative Victory Project’, to try and boost non-Tea Party candidates so the Republicans wouldn’t have another debacle like the ones they had with Richard Mourdock. Or Todd Akin. Or Sharron Angle. Or Christine O’Donnell.”
     “Come on,” he said, “I can’t believe it’s that bad. Didn’t Ronald Regan used to say that the 11th Commandment was not to speak ill of other Republicans?”
     “I see you know your history, my friend. But that principle fell by the wayside long ago. Come see.” I stepped aside and let him in. “Check this out,” I said, sitting down at the computer and calling up a website. “Remember Sarah Palin?”
     “Didn’t she have a reality show?”
     “No, before that. She ran for Vice President.”
     “Oh, yeah. So what’s she doing now?”
     I clicked on a YouTube video. “Watch.”
     An image of Governor Palin appeared, standing behind a podium. “This is a speech she gave at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week.” I turned the audio up. 

     “If these experts who keep losing elections and keep getting rehired and raking in millions,” Palin said, “if they feel that strongly about who gets to run in this party, then they should buck up or stay in the truck. Buck up and run.” The audience cheered. She smirked. “The architects can head on back." The cheers redoubled.
     “Wait,” the delivery guy said, “Wasn’t Karl Rove called ‘the architect’?”
     “You’re quite well informed for a deliveryman,” I observed. “But yes.”
     “Nice slam there. So what did Rove say?”
     I clicked on another link. This one showed Rove on “Fox News Sunday,” saying “If I did run for office and win, I would serve out my term. I wouldn’t quit mid-term.”
     “Ohhhh, SNAP!” the delivery guy said. “He just burned her, but good.”
     “See what I’m saying?” I said. “Is this a great show or what?” 
     “I get it,” he said. “But really, is this infighting good for the country? I mean, sure, it’s entertaining, but don’t we need at least two viable parties?”
     “Hmmm…” I said. “You might have a point, Mr…what was your name again?”
     “You tell me,” he said. “I’m a figment of your imagination.”
     Suddenly I sat up in my chair, blinking. I realized I’d been dreaming. I looked at the computer screen, where I’d been looking at a news story about a website called It was sponsored by the conservative Club For Growth “to raise awareness of Republicans In Name Only (RINOs) who are currently serving in safe Republican seats.”
     I looked at the empty bowl on the table beside the computer. This called for more popcorn.

     Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, and practices law in Carthage.