Thursday, November 24, 2011

#89: Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground by Jonathan Kay

New York: Harper, 2011 368 pages

Leave it to a Canadian to offer what may be the most intelligent critique of American Political Discourse in this Age of Competing Horseshit Noise:

"The war is not only shrill, but endless: Since most American conservatives would never actually accept the much smaller government they claim as their goal, their war demands will never be instead, populist conservatives send waves of culture warriors into an unending series of proxy battles...all without much changing of government or preventing it from performing the functions on which we have come to depend. This has pathologized political debate--turning every discussion about legitimate policy areas into a screaming match." (145-46)

I found this book to be mistitled; anyone looking for a in depth treatment of Conspiracy Movements in this country is going to be disappointed. If you want some top-notch political analysis of the effects of conspiracies on the current discourse, this is the book for you. One of the things that most of the Amazon reviewers tend to miss about this text is the emphasis on "pseudo history". I enjoyed Holy Blood, Holy Grail as much as the next guy, but it contained no evidence to support anything. Of course, in this culture, opinion masquerades as fact, and the lack of evidence is consigned to some nebulous conspiracy.

Kay puts this ideology into politics, and there are quite damaging repercussions for politics. If opinions are taken for fact (Bush=Nazi, Obama=Socialist), reason cannot exist. Glenn Beck is a past master at this sort of shit, simply because he does what I call the ol' "Chapter and Verse" trick. Whenever someone challenges Beck on the Fed, or Woodrow Wilson, he pulls out a somewhat obscure piece of legislation about it and challenges the person to explain it to him. When that person cannot, he pounces. It is the same trick used by the Fallwells and Swaggerts of the world; when someone says "The Bible says love your neighbor" they ask "what is the chapter and verse of that?" When that person cannot answer a very obscure question, the loudmouth becomes expert and their opinions carry the weight as facts for people who have limited knowledge.

Watch the Republican Debates or the President's pedantic soundbites. No one ever challenges these people on anything; when they (or anyone else in this fucking country) is questioned, it is a personal attack. We label and do not analyze because we are lazy and really enjoy a good story. Kay finds this a toxic brew for most anything, and I agree completely.

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