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CSotD: The Futility of Fighting Fanatics

Tom Tomorrow demonstrates a pair of things Constant Readers have read here more than once.

  1. One of the most devastating tools in the journalist’s box is to simply quote a source accurately.
  2. It’s not that “you can’t make this stuff up.” It’s that you don’t have to.

It adds up, in this case, to a cartoon that would have more impact if he had been able to make Cruz, Gaetz and Taylor somehow appear to be more illogical, extreme and nonsensical than they are in reality. (Though the Gaetz quote is nice.)

The problem is not simply that they genuinely say these absurd things, but that their followers don’t view them as absurd.

 

I recently reposted something on social media that Frank Zappa said to me in an interview in 1986. The context was a quote from John Lennon, that we needed to find out what had happened to Adolph Hitler back when he was a kid that had turned him into such a monster. Zappa’s response was that it wouldn’t have addressed the problem in the 1930s.

If Hitler had never existed, the Germans of that era would have simply found someone who did, and, while we can argue who Ted Cruz might be if he hadn’t decided to follow this particular path, the fact that lightweight fanatical nincompoops like Gaetz and Greene are in Congress at all is proof that a significant number of people want them there, and if those particular screwballs weren’t available, they’d find more Lauren Boeberts and Paul Gosars to take their place.

I’m sympathetic to the cartoonists’ dilemma in this sense, but I don’t have any advice for them other than to keep punching and hope to inspire people to step up.

In the wake of World War II, we discovered that all the Germans had hated Hitler, just as we discovered that every single person in France had been active in the Underground, and their exercise in post-war self-deception led to a period of major positive movements in the West.

The question today is whether we can achieve the same level of mass reformation without having to firebomb Dresden and blast half of Berlin into rubble in order to get people’s attention.

I have my doubts. Sherman burned Atlanta to the ground, but the Jan 6 insurrectionists and the armed mob outside the FBI building in Arizona still waved Confederate flags.

 

Which brings us to the attempted murder of Salman Rushdie and this Graeme Keyes commentary, because it’s not about logic but about faith, and not the good kind of faith but the kind that means a man with a fanatical following could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a single devotee.

Nor, as Zappa warned, it is the individual but, rather, the movement: Ayatollah Khomeini died a decade before Rushdie’s assailant was even born.

 

Ann Telnaes would like to correct the statement from the Iranian government, but they have no interest in freedom of expression, nor are they prepared to turn away from the extremism of the revolution, which continues in a nation torn between westernizing modernists and conservative medievalists.

 

Rob Rogers traces the connection between Iran and the United States, because, when we have people rejecting science and clinging to a literal take on clearly folkloric scriptures, it seems foolish to deny a medievalist tendency among our own fanatics.

It’s not just about vaccines, though we now have polio breaking out in this country when it had be eliminated in all but the far reaches of Taliban country.

No, the war against reason even extends to Marjorie Taylor Greene telling a crowd that people with solar panels have no electricity after sundown, and getting wild applause for her technical insight.

Not only did Snopes affirm her asinine statement, but, as they report, her spokespeople confirmed that facts are now a matter of loyalty, not logic:

As Stephen Colbert said in 2006, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

 

We laughed at Colbert’s satire, but Rico Schacherl seems to feel perhaps the problem with ridiculous green agendas — worldwide, not just in the US — is that they aren’t sufficiently profitable, another case of firm belief triumphing over science and logic.

And goodness knows, we’ve got our own plutocratic State Religion blooming, as seen in this

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Mike Luckovich)

 

(Pat Bagley)

Richard Nixon was mocked for saying “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal,” and he was driven from office in large part because of that arrogant, illogical view of executive authority.

Now Fox and Friends have brought back the quote, not as an example of autocratic extremism, but as justification for their Orange God’s similar attitude.

This is a matter of faith, since the simplest bit of research would show that, no, the president cannot simply declare things unclassified.

True, he could argue the basic premise, and there’s no predicting how the McConnell Court would rule on this matter of Faith vs Law, but, even then, he couldn’t declassify things without specifying which of our nuclear secrets were now free for use by rival governments.

Granted, “free” may be the wrong word, but we’ll never know. As Luckovich points out, Trump’s tax returns remain a deep dark secret.

In any case, and to return to the original point, we’ve reached a stage where it’s hard to make political jokes without being overtaken by the True Believers, as seen in this

 

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Phil Hands)

(Lisa Benson — Counterpoint)

What Hands says in jest, Benson says in earnest.

The fact that the FBI didn’t have to search Clinton’s home for the information needed, and the fact that she sat through 11 hours of questioning without taking the Fifth, and the fact that no significant security violations were found, has nothing to do with anything in MAGA World.

You might as well suggest that Salman Rushdie had not insulted the Prophet.

Or that Snowball had not sabotaged the windmill.

 

Or that Joe Biden had actually accomplished several rather impressive things, as the heretic, RJ Matson, would have it.

 

Dave Granlund is right: Putin can put his feet up now and watch his faith in us play out.

 

But let us not forget, not everyone collaborated.

Community Comments

#1 Nicholas Merritt
August/16/2022
@ 7:52 am

I’d thought that Snopes was alright, but I suppose this just shows how long it’s been since I went there for anything – whoever they’ve got writing those articles seems to believe that statements carry no meaning beyond the direct literal interpretation.

Of course, it’s still an accomplishment that MTG managed to make a statement that is technically true on its face, even if no rational person would ever believe solar is the only renewable energy source…

#2 peter crowley
August/16/2022
@ 8:11 am

Mike, while Snopes did affirm that MTG made her asinine statement, they certainly did not affirm the content of the statement. I’m sure that you and your readers understand that, but your phrasing could be misinterpreted, especially by a True Believer.

#3 Mike Peterson
August/16/2022
@ 9:28 am

Read Snopes again. Obviously, having solar panels on your own home will power your home. There are too many examples we all know to doubt that.

It might be “technically true” that, if the entire country suddenly switched to solar and wind tomorrow, we’d have brownouts. That’s basically what Snopes confirms, as far as the content of her remarks.

But nobody is advocating that — nobody is suggesting we end hydro and nobody is suggesting we make the change from fossil fuels before we’re ready.

It’s like Palin’s death panels — if you dig around, you can figure out why she said it, but you can’t turn it into honest, sensible commentary.

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