A Rabbit Hole of Fear, Paranoia, and Insurrectionist Fantasies
We all know at least one. It could be your retired neighbor with the “don’t tread on me” sticker on his car, your uninsured coworker who rants about the evils of “Obamacare” to anyone who will listen, or your dip-shit cousin who works for minimum wage and complains endlessly about Socialists. They’re fairly easy to ignore most of the time, which is usually the best course of action, but if you ever get some spare time and want to gaze into the abyss, just sit down and ask them some questions. But beware, once you get them talking you may very well find yourself awash in some pretty deep, and often nutty bullshit.
There are millions of people in this country who live in an alternate reality. It was, until recently, a wonderland of liberty and wealth, free from oppressive “safety regulations” and “government services”, now beset, however by sinister enemies who’s twisted schemes and conspiracies constantly threaten freedom loving Americans and can only be thwarted by buying gold, seed banks, and of course an arsenal of guns.
The Illuminati, One World Government, Federal Reserve, Bilderberg Group, Free Masons, Marxists, and many others, all play a part in the grand and never-ending conspiracy to put all the white, christian, homo hating, flag waving, liberty loving Americans into FEMA camps, or something like that. Oh yeah, and take their guns away too. Most of it is just a big mess of false history, grand assumptions, leaps of logic, and flat-out lies. Sprinkle that with a little antisemitism and a healthy dose of red-bating, and voila, Right-wing Wonderland. It’s all pretty confusing really, you’d have to ask Glenn Beck or Alex Jones. One thing is certain though, the anti-government movement in this country is deep down the rabbit hole, and the “mainstream” right is falling in after them.
More and more elected officials at the local, State and even Federal level believe in at least a handful of these theories. The Truthers, Birthers, and Tenthers have really come out of the woodwork over the past couple of years, but the true believers have been around much longer than that. The John Birch Society has been spouting some of this nonsense for decades, and the Christianists have their own brand of kooks from way back. What’s changed now is the mainstreaming of this garbage by media outlets like Fox Nooze and Hate Radio, and of course the internet.
These myths start out as all myths do, they attempt to explain the misunderstood complexities of the world. Fear of the unknown is part of the human condition, and fear is an incredibly effective motivator. That’s what makes these conspiracy theories so appealing to the ignorant and angry. When people feel threatened by something all the time they begin to hate that which they fear. Manipulative con artists can then use that motivation to push a political opinion, urge social change, or sell a bunch of freeze-dried food and self-help books to dumb-fuck rubes. Whatever the reasons for pushing this garbage, there’s no doubt that widespread belief in anti-government nonsense is utterly toxic to a representative democracy.
When a large portion of the public begins to believe that their government is out to enslave them and the only way to fight back is to be rage-drunk and armed to the teeth, it becomes very difficult to engage those people in a civil debate. When they are utterly convinced that their neighbors are Marxist baby-killers, then what is there left to talk about? When violent insurrection becomes an acceptable reaction to legislative and electoral loss, then it really is only a matter of time until someone acts on that idea.
Jared Loughner was deep down the rabbit hole. According to a friend, he was heavily influenced by the conspiracy film “Zeitgeist”, which mixes a whole stew of theories together into a grand conspiracy, reaching back to the foundations of Christianity, which is run by international bankers and oligarchs who are on the brink of enslaving mankind. The second part of the film is dedicated entirely to 9/11 truther nonsense, and the third is all about the Fed and the gold standard. It’s actually a pretty remarkable piece of paranoid propaganda, and effective at getting its message across. For those with a stomach for such things, you can watch it free online.
Clearly there are anti-government cranks on the left and right in this country, and I could spend a great deal of time and page space pointing out that those on the right have been embraced by their mainstream counterparts while those on the left are ignored or shunned. But that really is beside the point, isn’t it? When a man like Loughner, whatever his political leanings, finally succumbs to his fear and lashes out at a government that he absolutely believes is on the verge of enslaving him, is he not doing exactly what he’s constitutionally obligated to do according to the Second Amendment Radicals? Is that not what the Right in this country has been screaming for the last thirty years or more? Even if no one else agreed with him, he believed it and acted on those beliefs. How can they loudly proclaim that an individual has the right to stand up violently against the government, demonize and vilify said government as vicious and evil, and then condemn someone who stands up violently against it? It’s madness.
The American right is falling down a rabbit hole of fear, paranoia, and insurrectionist fantasies. This situation is dangerous not only because of the potential violence of disturbed loners, but because it constitutes a direct threat to our political process. A major portion of our citizens believe that our government is the enemy and it’s becoming nearly impossible to govern as more and more of their representatives end up in office. Our nation faces a crisis of fear and ignorance and if we fail to address it, our broken political process may end up being the least of our worries.