Authoritarianism

The Five Varieties of Bad Political Thinking

Understanding what's wrong with politics today

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Anyone who has kept up with politics lately is no doubt aware that certain intellectual attitudes and habits recur no matter what the subject under discussion. The rise of the Internet has democratized what was once the purview of the professional opinion journalist, policy analyst, or historian and thus made certain tendencies in the debate over domestic and international politics into full-blown categories of bad thinking. By my count, there are five main varieties of these without which there would be far fewer cable news channels, blogs, documentary filmmakers, and entries on The New York Times bestsellers list for non-fiction. All varieties are subject to overlap.

Tragic Manicheanism. The metaphysical battle between good and evil has many engaged spectators, some of whom are so chronically assured of evil's triumph that they appear to subconsciously root for it. This is the religious concept of original sin in political grammar. The tragic Manichean believes that everything one's own government or society does is bad and that all those who oppose it are axiomatically good. A very childlike worldview, it nonetheless caters to a large swath of people who believe that passion is a valid substitute for evidence.

The recently deceased historian Howard Zinn made tragic Manicheanism his academic legacy and personal fortune when he published A People's History of the United States, a bestselling volume on the occluded history of the republic written on behalf of its tired, poor, and systematically duped. As Michael Kazin, a leftist critic, has pointed out: "U.S. history for Zinn was… a painful narrative about ordinary folks who kept struggling to achieve equality, democracy, and a tolerant society, yet somehow were always defeated by a tiny band of rulers whose wiles match their greed."

Abolition, suffrage, civil rights, the welfare state are thus stray clearings of social justice in an otherwise uninterrupted vale of oppression. Zinn made no genuine attempt to explain why the underdogs—who represent 99 percent of the American population by his own estimation—have worn their servitude with shrugging acceptance, other than to say that they're easily "distracted" by wars and periods of patriotic fervor. This was no improvement on the Marxian notion of false consciousness. How could it be since Zinn's hero-victims transcend the narrow category of class to include anyone who's ever got a raw deal in the past 235 years?  

The problem for the tragic Manichean is that, in the eternal struggle for the dominion of heaven, arguing that some angels quite like what the demons have done with interest rates and constitutional amendments is an unspeakable blasphemy.

Hysterical Conspiracism. What begins in a tradition of healthy skepticism culminates in a universal suspicion of anything presented as established wisdom. As Francis Wheen puts it in his recent book, Strange Days Indeed: The 1970s: The Golden Age of Paranoia, "You start by reading your horoscope in the newspaper; then you dabble in chakra balancing or feng shui, saying that it is important to keep an open mind; after a while your mind is so open that your brains fall out, and you read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion without noticing anything amiss."

No graduate of the Anglo-American university system in the past 60 years has lacked for an introduction to this pervasive theorizing of dark and hidden forces, which gallops across the political spectrum from right-wing fantasies about Freemasons to left-wing hysteria over the Warren Report.

The Jewish question, as Wheen rightly apprehended, seems to exercise over-active imaginations more than anything else. In the wake of the killing of Hamas militant Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, the BBC Radio 4's PM program allowed one Gordon Thomas, author of Gideon's Spies, a book about the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, to state the following: "They have a whole backup system called 'asylum.' These are people, local residents, Jewish people, who help the Mossad. It is estimated to be in the world about half a million—some people say a million; I tend to say it's about half a million—all of them Mossad people." Avoid all open windows at your next bar mitzvah.

The strategic advantages of the hysterical conspiracist are as follows:

1. He never risks appearing ovine or "naïve" because he is perpetually attuned to What Is Really Happening. What others might describe as pigheaded resistance to facts, he maintains as his unsullied record of un-falsifiable claims. As Johnson remarked to Boswell over dinner at the Mitre, "It is always easy to be on the negative side… If a man were now to deny that there is salt upon the table, you could not reduce him to absurdity." Trying to convince someone who insists that a plane did not fly into the Pentagon on September 11 is no easier.

2. Where he does advance an "alternative" explanation of events, the hysterical conspiracist usually maintains a small distance from absolute certainty—just in case. Hedge phrases or coy locutions such as "I'm not saying necessarily…" and "Isn't it interesting that…" exist to exonerate the conspiracist after the fact, preparing him for intellectual victory either way. Witness the qualifiers in this sample sentence from Tariq Ali's The Clash of Fundamentalisms: "[T]here exists no exact, incontrovertible evidence about who ordered the hits on New York and Washington or when the plan was first mooted."

3. The hysterical conspiracist forces his opponents to fritter away their time and resources in debunking his non-theories as "not even wrong." Popular Mechanics might have devoted a cover story to flying cars or Fermilab cyclotrons in March 2005. Instead it had to teach Rosie O'Donnell how steel girders melt in skyscrapers.

Moral Equivalence. Especially fashionable on the left, this mode of political thought assumes that it is the height of dialectical brilliance to subvert a democratic government's logic by "comparing" it to that of its totalitarian enemy. Usually bound to a poor grasp of the totalitarian's ethos and a cursory reading of its core literature, moral equivalence nonetheless masquerades as authoritative assertion, often to compensate for the sentimental insecurity of its purveyor. For instance, a lead sentence might run: "In his Short Course on the History of the All-Russian Communist Party, Josef Stalin describes the kulak in epidemiological terms, as a virus that poses the greatest threat to the organism of the socialist fatherland." Mock solemnity is maintained throughout until the inevitable anticlimax is reached: "The Scientologist is the kulak of the West."

Consider the following failed marriage of ideological motives that was recently ordained on a popular blog: "The theological justification for al Qaeda's wholesale slaughter of civilians was provided by Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, also known as Dr. Fadl, one of the founding fathers of al Qaeda… The legal [U.S. Justice Department] memos justifying torture aren't very different in terms of reasoning." Excepting that the latter form of reasoning, however flawed, didn't derive from 7th-century holy writ and the ultra-sectarian belief in spreading a caliphate to all corners of the globe and was not intended to justify a wholesale slaughter of civilians—sure, why not?

Triumphal Manicheanism. If the tragic Manichean's accoutrements are v-neck sweaters and the Collected Poems of Pablo Neruda, the triumphal Manichean's are varsity jackets and the collected works of Glenn Beck. This archconservative elder to his sunken-chested baby brother similarly traffics in either/or dichotomies of political thought, believing that everything his own government or society does is right and all those who criticize it—even from within—are radical communists. This may be because the triumphal Manichean once was one himself.

Indeed, the trajectory from left to right is typically charted by those with every intention of changing the substance but not the style of their ideology. Yesterday's fresh-faced Trotskyist screaming revolution in the street will be tomorrow's wizened Tea Bagger screaming revolution in the street.

The progression can work in the other direction, too, with triumphal Manicheanism being the starting point. Andrew Sullivan, a Thatcherite conservative import to these shores who has since made the steady creep toward hysterical conspiracism, was capable of writing, shortly after 9/11, "The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead—and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column." Having since repudiated this allegation, he now believes, predictably, that the actual fifth column came from neoconservatives within the Bush White House.

Charismatic Authoritarianism. Charismatic authoritarianism moors political fortune to a single figure whose radical promise is belied by his or her reactionary style. Fidel Castro, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hasan Nasrallah, Ismail Haniyeh, Hugo Chavez, Muamar Qaddafi, Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad have their cheerleaders and apologists, often in the same person who sees little contradiction in supporting such a promiscuous gallery of ideologues all at once. Just as Hitler and Stalin could for short time find a shared base of defenders in fascists and communists, so too can a Venezuelan socialist make common cause with an Islamic theocrat, allied by no more than a third world economy and an abiding hatred of the United States. The result is a kind of Unpopular Front of improvisatory opposition—all pomp, no principle.  

Adherents of this category are characterized by easily misplaced affections. One such perennially fickle lover is British MP George Galloway, who champions both Saddam Hussein for his "courage…strength…indefatigability" in facing an international response to Iraq's takeover of Kuwait and Hussein's great nemesis Ayatollah Khomeini for issuing a death sentence against Salman Rushdie. Galloway's party, RESPECT, imploded in 2007 for its failure to blend the green flag of jihad with the red banner of the Socialist Workers Party, but that hasn't stopped his thralldom to all manner of "anti-imperialist" upstarts. He has mastered the language of Saladin or Che Guevara, depending on the audience and the need. Yet as numerous investigations into Galloway's "charity" work and his involvement in the UN oil-for-food program have uncovered, the charismatic authoritarian he admires most is himself.

Michael Weiss is a contributing editor at Tablet Magazine and a blogger for The New Criterion.

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  1. This article is as flawed as those it attacks.

    1. not to say it has no flaws, but care to be a bit more specific?

      1. The FCS (Failure to Comprehend Sarcasm) reading is off the charts in this area.

    2. Moral equivalency?

      1. Oh wait, Warren was making a joke about moral equivalency. Bravo, Warren. Well played, sir. Well played.

  2. Great article, and so true! There is so many awful attempts at coherency in political thought these days that I was surprised to see good thought and criticism like this on the internet. But then again…it is Reason!

    1. The fine corollary would be the four main (fallacious) arguments used to win fights on the internet: http://ike4.me/4arg

  3. You said it Frank, us Triumphal Manicheans know what’s up!

  4. I think we’re seeing a growing interest in the U.S. for the “Charismatic Authoritarianism” type. Just listen to the media and a lot of people on the Left. They want Pres. Obama to “get tough” and “get angry” and “use your majorities.”

    This is all code for tossing the protections of limited government in the garbage can. The imperial presidency is a trend that has been documented for decades. During the campaign, Obama promised to create “a new kingdom” here on earth.

    I fear that we’re not just importing people illegally from Latin America, we’re importing the Latin American concept of “the man on horseback” who can fix everything.

    1. Who’s “importing people illegally”?

      1. Well, I confess that I am. It’s too expensive to stock a lair with American henchmen.

        1. Yeah and those damn death ray parts were just too expensive when they were made in America. Now I get them from China, except due to the lack of quality control the ray only sterilizes beavers.

          1. Thanks Pro Lib and Contra P for reminding me why I love this place.

          2. Well, I’m laughing at work now. Good thing I’m quitting this job for a PhD program.

          3. Please lend it to me so I can shoot my girlfriend with it.

        2. I agree. Plus your henchmen are much more intimidating when they speak with an obscure foreign accent.

          1. Sure, but all you need to coordinate an escape plan in front of them is to speak in Pig Latin.

            1. I don’t think Babelfish translates Pig Latin.

      2. In an attept to give a serious answer to Art-POG about who is importing people illegally, certain businesses that want cheap labor with no benefits. Oh yes, and Democrats that want to buy more votes.

    2. Trying to check all the boxes?

    3. “Charismatic Authoritarianism” politics is sooo Third World.

  5. He never risks appearing ovine

    That reminds me…

    WAKE UP SHEEPLE!

  6. I don’t think the Triumphal Manicheans would be Glenn Beck fans, but this article is still food for thought.

    1. The author was way off on this one. Glenn Beck thinks everything our government does is right? Ok, you’ve clearly never watched his show and now have zero credibility on the topic. And anyone who opposes he government is a communist? You mean the people who called themselves Marxists that Beck was talking about? The ones who were IN the government, by the way.

      1. He wasn’t talking about the actual Glenn Beck, whose show you obviously watch. He was talking about the media creation “Glenn Beck,” the big government tyrant evil monster who hates women, gays, handicapped children, cute puppies, etc…

        It’s like the difference between the Joseph McCarthy who actually existed and the “Joseph McCarthy” created by leftist on college campuses and in the media.

        See the HistoryHalf column: http://historyhalf.com/lying-about-mccarthy/

        1. No, no….it’s cool to make jokes about handicapped children now. Well, if their mom is named Sarah Palin.

  7. For examples of the first 3 varieties, see pretty much any column by Chris “Chicken Little” Hedges at the execrable truthdig.com. (Not recommended for those already suffering from hypertension.)

  8. Well, thanks to someone, our most prolific Hysterical Conspiracist has been banned. Who is going to ask the tough questions now, bitches? Huh?!?

    1. There are those who say I have been banned.

      However, Epi, I’m baaaaack!

      1. Dude, I posted with LoneDipshit, I knew LoneDipshit, LoneDipshit was an amusement of mine. Dude, you’re no LoneDipshit.

        1. That’s because LoneWacko is the gold standard of griefers.

          1. Now you’re making me miss him.

            (sniff)

            How am I supposed to write more installments of LoneWacko: the Novel if he’s not around?

            1. Those were so great. I mean that. It almost made the minor annoyance of having Lonewacko around worthwhile.

              1. Thanks, Art. I did them for all of you. But now reason has taken that away.

            2. With our stupid threaded, nested, Satan-endorsed comments, you can now go back to an old thread where Lonewacko posted and enter into a brand new dialogue.

              1. Worship me and I will save you from the Elders’ of Zion next terrorist attack on America’s money supply.

                1. Your proper use of spacing betrays you for the imposter you are.

                  1. Why did I hear that LoneWacko comment in Xerxes’ voice?

  9. “2. Where he does advance an “alternative” explanation of events, the hysterical conspiracist usually maintains a small distance from absolute certainty?just in case. Hedge phrases or coy locutions such as “I’m not saying necessarily?” and “Isn’t it interesting that?” exist to exonerate the conspiracist after the fact, preparing him for intellectual victory either way.”

    3. . The hysterical conspiracist forces his opponents to fritter away their time and resources in debunking his non-theories as “not even wrong.” Popular Mechanics might have devoted a cover story to flying cars or Fermilab cyclotrons in March 2005. Instead it had to teach Rosie O’Donnell how steel girders melt in skyscrapers.

    And I swear to fucking god, if I have to explain, one more time, to my co-worker that her troubles in Access 2007 have nothing to do with the Network latency or Citrix. And that the find/replace function in Access 2007 is not an overlay function of Citrix Metaframe client, but a function of the application itself…

    1. Everyone knows steel is mined, carved by craftsmen and does not melt.

      She is accidentally correct since the buildings would collapse due to the softened steel much before the steel would become liquid.

    2. Has she never used Access before, or is she just an idiot? Also, Access 2007 does suck compared to 2003.

  10. “I don’t think the Triumphal Manicheans would be Glenn Beck fans, but this article is still food for thought.”

    They strike me as Hannity types. You know, “Great Americans.”

    1. Glenn Beck ran face first into the Triumphal Manicheans with his CPAC speech. “How dare Glenn Beck demand that the Republicans be more than the least-worst option!”

    2. Hannity is a fucking ape. So that would make him and his types Great Apes.

      1. Hey, hey! That’s an insult to our hairy cousins.

        1. “No frog’s gonna make a monkey out of me!”

          1. You’re already one. Checked your tail bone lately? 😉

      2. STEVE SMITH GREAT FAN OF HANNITY. STEVE SMITH PENETRATED HANNITY ANUS MANY TIMES. HANNITY TELL STEVE SMITH THAT HE ALWAYS LOVE STEVE SMITH.

    3. Glenn Beck is a tragic Manichean nostalgic for the good ol’ days of triumphal Manicheanism.

      1. +? for Truth!

  11. I like this article; it’s so true. Robert Anton Wilson talked about the same kinds of things in The Illuminatus! Trilogy. The part about Malik’s ideological and philosophical journey and his reaction to the DNC convention.

    This is an awesome article. I plan on propagating it.

    1. Fnord.

  12. This article didn’t offer much. New tags to hang on TV politibots! Woo hoo!

    Not up to Reason’s usual standards.

    Back to troll hunting…

  13. Bravo! While imperfect, this is the best thing I have read here in months. If this piece was implemented as moderation policy, 70% of Reason.com commentary would disappear.

    One thing I take issue with is the characterization of Zinn as being stuck with Manicheanism because he didn’t improve on Marx’s false consciousness idea. Zinn was not a media literacy guy and never pretended to be, and that’s where a “missing” explanation of mass complicity in self-defeat lies IMO.

    1. It all makes sense once you’ve read Chomsky too.

      1. That’s where the Hysterical Conspiracism steps in to take over for the Tragic Manichianism.

  14. Uh, Weiss, they’re called Sayanim and there are probably at least several thousand of them throughout the world. Maybe you were mocking the exaggerated number of 1 million, but more likely you just don’t like the idea that someone is exposing the fact that there are non-Israeli Jews who volunteer for the Mossad. It’s certainly not a conspiratorial fantasy.

    1. Several hundred thousand? Color me skeptical.

      1. “several thousand”

        1. Thanks for that. Clearly I need more sleep. Yeah, that’s quite a departure from a million.

        2. This is realistic. I imagine most intelligence agency have a large number of foreign “sleepers”.

    2. “but more likely you just don’t like the idea that someone is exposing the fact that there are non-Israeli Jews who volunteer for the Mossad.”

      This isn’t a conspiratorial fantasy either…

  15. horrible scottish bias

  16. “…saying that it is important to keep an open mind; after a while your mind is so open that your brains fall out, and you read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion without noticing anything amiss.”

    I heard someone on the TV the other day…I can’t remember who it was… I think it may have been during the Bernanke question and answer period the other day?

    Anyway, he said something about how the Fed was involved in financing a nuclear reactor for Saddam Hussein and the fed was knee deep in the Watergate break in too!

    I always thought we’d be better off with a market driven rate, but I had no idea!

    ; )

    1. I heard the Fed created AIDS.

  17. “Indeed, the trajectory from left to right is typically charted by those with every intention of changing the substance but not the style of their ideology. Yesterday’s fresh-faced Trotskyist screaming revolution in the street will be tomorrow’s wizened Tea Bagger screaming revolution in the street.”

    Charles Johnson makes this trip like every other week.

    1. Sort of a “why did Charles Johnson cross the road?” thing.

      1. To get the page views and the ad revenue on the other side.

  18. Jewish writers just can’t keep the Jewish agenda out of anything the do. It started as an interesting read and then we get a weak example just because it’s part of the Jewish agenda.

    1. “Jewish writers just can’t keep the Jewish agenda out of anything the do.” [citation needed]

      “just because it’s part of the Jewish agenda.” [citation needed]

      1. Ha! Now whose sarcasm detector is broken?

        1. Or at least I hope that was satire.

  19. What’s the Jewish agenda? Making us all nosh on some Gefilte fish on Purim? Becoming doctors, or at least lawyers? Writing for Conan?

    1. It’s some kind of mix of Ayn Rand and Karl Marx. It’s hairy.

      1. I guess I got used to hearing the criticism regarding the Israel lobby controlling American foreign policy during the Bush years, so maybe that’s stopped creeping me out the way it should.

        But some of the criticism I’ve seen regarding Goldman Sachs has been especially creepy lately.

        Put it all together, and the criticism of the liberal controlled media bias gets pretty creepy too.

        But I’m sure when people like Ting Tong talk about the “Jewish Agenda”, that’s just a coincidence. …just a funny, weird, historically consistent coincidence.

        It’s pretty nauseating, really.

        1. Creepy?

          Look, we all know who runs the banks, and controls the media, and manipulates the governments of the world behind the backs of the people, and smashes any opposition down with a combination of money, cynical lies, and sleazy lawyers.

          And why? Because they’re soulless entities that exist for no reason other than acquiring money. Their very continued existence corrupts us and saps the vitality of our nation and our people.

          It’s the corporations, man.

          1. +10

            But you deserve a better handle than that.

          2. Don’t hate the player, hate the game (statism).

    2. I heard that Mel Brooks was Jewish.

      1. Just a rumor. He’s actually Southern Baptist.

    3. Their agenda is to never (ever) be satisfied with the fish that’s actually IN the display case in the seafood department…no matter how fresh it is…

      1. Fuck off, I’m very friendly towards my fishmonger.

        1. Only because you think we’ll spit in your whitefish salad.

    4. The Jewish agenda is getting the fuck away from gentiles.

      1. I’ll help you pack!

    5. “We called this the Jew room”

    6. Gefilte fish on Purim? Obviously you haven’t been indoctrinated well enough.

  20. It’s a more of a neocon enemies list than a list of bad thinkers. Would Andrew Sullivan be mentioned if he were still rabidly pro-war, for example?

    1. Well he left out Sullivan’s basically insane obsession with Sarah Palin’s uterus, and for that matter, her personal life in general. The man still arges to this day that she was not the true mother of her child, and now argues that her Down Syndrome child is actually named after some sort of play on the medical terminology for his condition.
      How do we know this? Well Sullivan just knows, because Palin is too stupid to have come up with his name from Norse mythology as they claim. Sullivan JUST KNOWS. And this man is treated as serious by a publication like The Atlantic? Come on.

      1. “serious by a publication like The Atlantic”

        That’s your problem, right there.

    2. Max,
      You have just outed yourself as a Manicheanistic conspiracy nut. If you get news from the internet and not from the Time magazine, NYT, WAPO or the WSJ then you are sorely missing the fact checking and expertise that comes from professional journalism. Please stop reading the filthy internet and go back to watching network news where your news can be properly filtered by General Electric.

  21. Okay, you got off to a great start. But “charismatic authoritarianism” isn’t really a style of political thinking. It’s more like the result of too much Manichian trumphalism, combined with hysterical conspiracism.

  22. I noted that Weiss conveniently and probably intentionally left out Obama as an example of charismatic authoritarianism, because he’s the most prominent and obvious choice du jour.

    1. Definitely conspicuous in it’s absence. The Socialist-realism style “Big Brother” Obama posters speak for themselves.

  23. Only 5? For a magazine called Reason, I thought there’d be more.

  24. This article is, well, unimpressive. Throughout it, I was struggling to keep straight whether the quotes he drops in there are supposed to be from adherents of the “mistakes” he lists, or critics of those mistakes.

    Also, in the “conspiracy theorist” section, he claims that proving a positive is impossible, which is of course backwards. It’s easy to prove there’s salt on a table. What would be hard is proving there is no salt on the table, since a single crystal anywhere on the table would falsify this proposition.

    1. Yeah, but how do you know it’s actually salt without further chemical analysis?*

      *I’m not serious, I’m just playing the paranoid/permanent skeptic.

  25. Great article, but hey, -1 for the ‘tea bagger’ term.

    1. No don’t you see, because it’s this sexual double entendre so like they should be ashamed or something. And so should those fuckers in Boston back in the day, buncha Teabaggers!! Huh huh, faggots!

  26. It would be nice to think that people are able to forgo these theories from politics. But I think the reality is that most people just either don’t care so they formulate their own (more often flawed) opinions, then theres the people who just aren’t capable of thinking rationally which is probably more than people would like to imagine.

  27. Political Thinking? Five varieties of oxymoron? Who’d a thunk it?

  28. One Michael Weiss column every two and a half years? Sounds about right.

  29. ” If the tragic Manichean’s accoutrements are v-neck sweaters and the Collected Poems of Pablo Neruda, the triumphal Manichean’s are varsity jackets and the collected works of Glenn Beck. This archconservative elder to his sunken-chested baby brother similarly traffics in either/or dichotomies of political thought, believing that everything his own government or society does is right and all those who criticize it?even from within?are radical communists.”

    Huh?

    Glen Beck and those who read his books believe that everything the government does is right?

    What planet is he living on?

  30. What the hell is wrong with v-neck sweaters and Pablo Neruda?

  31. You lost me at “Teabagger”, dumb ass.

  32. “Yesterday’s fresh-faced Trotskyist screaming revolution in the street will be tomorrow’s wizened Tea Bagger screaming revolution in the street.”

    In addition to using the slur, it’s just wrong. Trotskyites don’t become Tea Partiers. That’s not the character of the Tea Party at all. They’re liberty activists who used to be the silent majority. The communists are either in govt. (van Jones & co), or are still on the streets shouting for revolution. Swing over to the blog zombietime for plenty of photo essays of leftists in the streets.

    For those who compare the Triumphal Manicheist to Hannity & co – he’s critical of the US govt as well. He was critical of the amnesty that was pushed for 2 years ago, is consistently critical of spending. He doesn’t greet folks who’d be against liberty in the name of socialist nationalism with “you’re a great american”.

    The problem is that some folks don’t recognize that folks who truly believe in the greatness of the US must necessarily believe in the liberty provided by it’s founding. There are developmental steps towards more liberty (abolishment of slavery, women’s suffrage, etc.), but those are entirely consistent with America’s core beliefs. The most reactionary American must be a classic liberal – favoring liberty – as that was the function of the nation’s founding.

    If you favor liberty over servitude, you are also a manicheist. If you favor the American system that promotes maximum liberty, you are a triumphal manicheist by the article’s definition.

    And calling people “teabaggers” really shows your stripes. It’s about the same as calling someone a “libtard” or, now, “coffeebagger”.

    1. Where do I start?

      First, some of the Tea Partiers might’ve have been Trotskyists in their youth. Indeed, many Marxists became conservatives over time. Your McCarthyist attitude towards the left is amusing; libertarians have often worked with the left, esp. during the Sixties. In fact, the Left is starting to look real tempting to me.

      As for Hannity: Amnesty? Criticize? We should be openning the borders up right now, dammit! Critical of spending? Does that extend to the military? Didn’t think so. Also, try researching to see what socialism and nationalism are.

      Those who believe in this nation’s “greatness” aren’t motivated by any love of liberty; the Tea Party is driven by “God and Country”-style delerium. These people are the sort that would’ve opposed the “developmental steps” back then.

      The article doesn’t imply what you say about liberty and slavery. Also, whether or not the current “American system” promotes liberty is extremely debatable.

      Just about the only thing I agree with you on is on the subject of name calling.

      My allegiance isn’t to an imaginary construct called a “nation”, with its’ pernicious nonsense of Blood and Soil. Nor is it to a piece of paper that has either enabled today’s tyranny or done nothing to prevent it.

      My loyalty is to liberty; if bringing liberty back to our lives means betraying the “nation”, so be it!

  33. Thank God for Libertarians! We are truly above it all!

    1. As a libertarian, I’m not sure if this is sarcasm or sincere. But, no, we’re not above bad political thinking.

  34. Your examples of triumphal manicheanism were both rather weak.

    Beck, for all his apparent doom and gloom, is a pollyanna. He has spoken multiple times about this nation’s ability to be wrong, but then right our tragic wrongs – slavery, to name but one example. It is this desire, for America to correct what he sees as the the excesses of the progressive left, that fuels his current rhetoric. You do not need to agree with him in order to acknowledge that what he perceives is a failure on the part of the American political system over the past 90+ years. Don’t forget – he’s a twelve stepper, admitting your mistakes is at his core.

    As for Sullivan, well, no one with a track record so inconsistent should ever be describe as Manichean.

  35. Interesting article, not well-written.

  36. UFO’s, aliens and anti-semites are a poor subsitute for faith in government.

    We should always assume the government is working above-board and openly for the for the betterment of conditions for all people. Sure it can make the cynical look smart to actually predict shit and understand why Obama was going to escalate the wars/wiretapping/torture or that the economy was going to collapse and the government is engaging in disatrous policies. However, the BIGGEST problem we have in this country is a lack of trust in the government and if these conspiracy nuts keep things up the government is going to have problems. Sure, most “conspiracies” could be best fought by the government releasing the appropriate videos or files relating to the incident(like in the case of the Gulf Of Tonkin), unfortunately we have no video cameras around the pentagon and if we did they are national secrets so we CANNOT release these type of files for security purposes, but we must do everything else possible to stop conspiracy mongering.

  37. Thank You for posting this! I really like your blog!!

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  38. Thank You for posting this! I really like your blog!!

    Common Cents
    http://www.commoncts.blogspot.com

    ps. Link Exchange??

  39. Thank You for posting this! I really like your blog!!

    Common Cents
    http://www.commoncts.blogspot.com

    ps. Link Exchange??

  40. I call Triumphal Manicheanism on the discussion of moral relativism. For anyone raised in the USA in the Cold War, the torture and murder of POWs is completely out of bounds. Respect for process and limits was what western democracy were supposed to be all about. So now we are down to what, torturing and murdering less than Stalin? That’s what we hang our hat on now? A statistical comparison?

  41. “Tragic/Triumphal Manicheanism”

    Manichaeism or Manichaeanism

  42. I’m a non-hysterical conspiracy theorist, so this article doesn’t really concern me.

  43. one cannot help comparing the author’s comparison of glen beck to zinn with his comparison of the those justifying the slaughter of civilians and those justifying “torture.” that is to say, the author is correct that beck is just like zinn, except for the minor fact that beck advocates individualism instead of collectivism.

  44. Manicheanism involves binary choices: black vs. white. When by some mischance I happen to read something by Andr*w S*llivan, the experience is more like viewing sunset through a kalidiscope while on bad LSD. Black and white it ain’t. Incoherent, to be sure, but not black / white. Oh, and pink, surely, along with dark red — uterine lining, doncha know.

  45. Well, I’m hysterical, but not a conspiracy theorist, so this article doesn’t really concern me, either.

  46. He left out a biggie — disinterested (or self absorbed) hip cynicist.
    The internet is dripping with their main work product – snark. The short guy on Comedy Central, the commentators at boing boing or engadget. The numerous blogs where a greedy corporation is behind everything and “fake it till you make it” is considered sage advice. This groups is mostly young people trying to figure out the world and they have concluded that it is cynical, selfish and stupid; and it is their job to crack wise.

  47. He left out a biggie — disinterested (or self absorbed) hip cynicist.

    That one might be a tad self-referential…

  48. If Weiss mentions Galloway’s comment about Saddam Hussein, why not mention Bush when he said that Sharon was a man of peace? Or doesn’t Weiss know anything about Sharon’s career?

    If he mentions conspiracy theories, why not to mention the fact that a big part of Americans believed that Saddam was behind 9/11 (apparently some people thought that it was good that they believed that)?

    He wants to speak about Charismatic authoritarianism, why not mention Reagan for whom the contras were freedon fighters or Netanyahu who is a charismatic leader for many because of the more than authoritarian way that he treats the Palestinians?

  49. Weiss mentions Gordon Thomas, author of Gideon’s Spies, and his comment about a “backup system called ‘asylum”. Well, I believe that this information comes originally from Victor Ostrovsky’s book about the Mossad By Way of Deception. He was himself an agent and he might know better than Weiss.

  50. Weiss speaks about hysterical conspiracist. Why not mention the propaganda for the Iraq war which was based on hysterical conspiracy like the idea that Sadddam had nuclear weapons? Or why not mention the hysterical conspiracy today about Iran’s agressive intentions?

    Another theme is the moral equivalence. But here he’s being more manicheanist than the ones he mentions at the beginning of his article. He thinks that as we are the good guys we are allowed to kill as much as we want, a very common kind of primitive thinking. He forgets to mention some justifications for genocide from our side. (I could mention some here, but leave it for later).

    And if he thinks that no conspiracy happens, he should read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins.

  51. If there are no conspiracies, who falsified then the documents showing that Saddam had bought uran in Niger?

  52. “You start by reading your horoscope in the newspaper; then you dabble in chakra balancing or feng shui…..”

    At the end of the day you believe without evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and is a threat to the world.

  53. truth,,,,obama people have no idea of the extent to which they have to be gulled in order to be led.”
    “The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, for the vast masses of the nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are consciously and intentionally bad. The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them a more easy prey to a big lie than a small one, for they themselves often tell little lies but would be ashamed to tell a big one.”
    “All propaganda must be so popular and on such an intellectual level, that even the most stupid of those towards whom it is directed will understand it. Therefore, the intellectual level of the propaganda must be lower the larger the number of people who are to be influenced by it.”
    “Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way around, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.”pelosi don’t see much future for the Americans … it’s a decayed country. And they have their racial problem, and the problem of social inequalities …obama feelings against Americanism are feelings of hatred and deep repugnance … everything about the behaviour of American society reveals that it’s half Judaised, and the other half negrified. How can one expect a State like that to hold TOGTHER.They include the angry left wing bloggers who spread vicious lies and half-truths about their political adversaries… Those lies are then repeated by the duplicitous left wing media outlets who “discuss” the nonsense on air as if it has merit? The media’s justification is apparently “because it’s out there”, truth be damned. STOP THIS COMMUNIST OBAMA ,GOD HELP US ALL .THE COMMANDER ((GOD OPEN YOUR EYES)) stop the communist obama & pelosi.((open you eyes)) ,the commander

  54. I like that saying, thanks!
    Thanks for posting this. Very nice recap of some of the key points in my talk. I hope you and your readers find it useful! Thanks again

  55. or that stones are fake.uggs outlet

  56. Well, I believe you just made an excellent point. You certainly fully understand what you are speaking about, and I can truly get behind that. Thanks for staying so upfront and so sincere.

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