Friday, June 26, 2009

Add 'Tin-Foil Hat wearing' to the running list of Chest-thumping, Bed-wetting, Cynical, Rabble-rousing, and oh yeah, Accessories to murder

Digby from earlier this month:

In case you were wondering what Glenn Beck thinks about all this right wing violence (and who doesn't?) here it is:

The pot is boiling and this is a warning to all Americans of things to come.

It looks like this was the work of a lone gunman, nut-job, who once wrote an article titled "Hitler's Worst Mistake: He Didn't Gas the Jews." But you're going to see a lot of nut-jobs coming out of the woodwork.

Two very important things are happening here: First, the go-go-go mentality of our enemies. Our country is vulnerable; our enemies know it as much as we do and groups like Al Qaeda are even planning to work with white supremacists (which police say this guy might be), coming through our southern border.

I showed you this scary video last week.

By the way, that was one of not just some average radical teacher, but one of Usama bin Laden's close friends. Does that seem much more relevant in light of what's just happened? We're under attack, America, and we need to look out for enemies foreign and domestic.

Second, there's going to be a witch-hunt for two groups: the Jews and conservatives. Two years ago, I spoke with Benjamin Netanyahu and I told him to look out, because Israel is being set up. Iran's goal of nuclear weapons is putting Israel in the crosshairs.

Those who have read history know that when things go bad, the Jews become scapegoats; and it's happening again.

Meanwhile, there have been Department of Homeland Security reports about right-wing extremists. And left-wing bloggers and others have blamed conservative talk radio hosts like me for stirring the pot, even though we're just pointing out that it's boiling.

Common sense tells you this is not the work of conservatives, but rather the work of someone who is possibly racist or crazy, or most likely both. Common sense also tells you there are very hateful people on the left as well.

The world will use any excuse to come after unpopular groups. Whether you choose to ignore it or not, there's no longer a question of if the pot is boiling. We can all see the pot is boiling.

It doesn't have to make sense, folks. It just has to hit a certain emotional truth. And his audience's "truth" is that al Qaeda is in cahoots with lone nuts to kill Jews and blame it on conservatives --- and they are sneaking in from Mexico with "illegals" to do it. This makes perfect sense to them.

"TYING IT ALL TOGETHER", Today from Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly website:
We learned yesterday, by way of Rush Limbaugh, that Mark Sanford's sex scandal was President Obama's fault. If it weren't for the administration's economic policies, the argument goes, Sanford would have been more optimistic about the future, wouldn't have cheated on his wife, and wouldn't have secretly left the country to see his mistress.

Who can argue with air-tight logic like this?

Today, Limbaugh's right-wing colleague, Michael Savage, takes this one step further. Obama didn't just inspire Sanford to betray his family; the White House conspired to make this scandal happen in the first place.

"The fact is, Obama's team is taking out potential [2012] rivals, one after another," Savage argued. "Just last week, the media jumped on the story of Sen. John Ensign (R) of Nevada and his infidelity. He was considered to be a possible Republican presidential candidate in '12. Now Sanford, who had similar ambitions, caught in a similar situation.

"This is politics at its worst, brought to us by the worst administration, the meanest administration, the most closed administration, the most incompetent administration in American history."

Now, listening to the clip, it's a little unclear to me whether Savage thinks Obama made Sanford and Ensign have sex with these other women, or whether Obama was spying on Sanford and Ensign, learned of their adultery, and brought it to public attention.

Sure, either way, this is all painfully stupid, and not to be taken seriously. But even from the perspective of a twisted right-wing worldview, I'm curious about one thing: how does an incompetent administration pull off a feat like this? Wouldn't it take an enormous amount of competence to secretly hatch such an elaborate conspiracy?

10 characteristics of conspiracy theorists
A useful guide by Donna Ferentes

1. Arrogance. They are always fact-seekers, questioners, people who are trying
to discover the truth: sceptics are always "sheep", patsies for Messrs Bush and
Blair etc.

2. Relentlessness. They will always go on and on about a conspiracy no matter how little evidence they have to go on or how much of what they have is simply discredited. (Moreover, as per 1. above, even if you listen to them ninety-eight times, the ninety-ninth time, when you say "no thanks", you'll be called a "sheep" again.) Additionally, they have no capacity for precis whatsoever. They go on and on at enormous length.

3. Inability to answer questions. For people who loudly advertise their determination to the principle of questioning everything, they're pretty poor at answering direct questions from sceptics about the claims that they make.

4. Fondness for certain stock phrases. These include Cicero's "cui bono?" (of which it can be said that Cicero understood the importance of having evidence to back it up) and Conan Doyle's "once we have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however unlikely, must be the truth". What these phrases have in common is that they are attempts to absolve themselves from any responsibility to produce positive, hard evidence themselves: you simply "eliminate the impossible" (i.e. say the official account can't stand scrutiny) which means that the wild allegation of your choice, based on "cui bono?" (which is always the government) is therefore the truth.

5. Inability to employ or understand Occam's Razor. Aided by the principle in 4. above, conspiracy theorists never notice that the small inconsistencies in the accounts which they reject are dwarfed by the enormous, gaping holes in logic, likelihood and evidence in any alternative account.

6. Inability to tell good evidence from bad. Conspiracy theorists have no place for peer-review, for scientific knowledge, for the respectability of sources. The fact that a claim has been made by anybody, anywhere, is enough for them to reproduce it and demand that the questions it raises be answered, as if intellectual enquiry were a matter of responding to every rumour. While they do this, of course, they will claim to have "open minds" and abuse the sceptics for apparently lacking same.

7. Inability to withdraw. It's a rare day indeed when a conspiracy theorist admits that a claim they have made has turned out to be without foundation, whether it be the overall claim itself or any of the evidence produced to support it. Moreover they have a liking (see 3. above) for the technique of avoiding discussion of their claims by "swamping" - piling on a whole lot more material rather than respond to the objections sceptics make to the previous lot.

8. Leaping to conclusions. Conspiracy theorists are very keen indeed to declare the "official" account totally discredited without having remotely enough cause so to do. Of course this enables them to wheel on the Conan Doyle quote as in 4. above. Small inconsistencies in the account of an event, small unanswered questions, small problems in timing of differences in procedure from previous events of the same kind are all more than adequate to declare the "official" account clearly and definitively discredited. It goes without saying that it is not necessary to prove that these inconsistencies are either relevant, or that they even definitely exist.

9. Using previous conspiracies as evidence to support their claims. This argument invokes scandals like the Birmingham Six, the Bologna station bombings, the Zinoviev letter and so on in order to try and demonstrate that their conspiracy theory should be accorded some weight (because it's “happened before”.) They do not pause to reflect that the conspiracies they are touting are almost always far more unlikely and complicated than the real-life conspiracies with which they make comparison, or that the fact that something might potentially happen does not, in and of itself, make it anything other than extremely unlikely.

It's always a conspiracy. And it is, isn't it? No sooner has the body been discovered, the bomb gone off, than the same people are producing the same old stuff, demanding that there are questions which need to be answered, at the same
unbearable length. Because the most important thing about these people is that they are people entirely lacking in discrimination. They cannot tell a good theory from a bad one, they cannot tell good evidence from bad evidence and they cannot tell a good source from a bad one. And for that reason, they always come up with the same answer when they ask the same question. A person who always says the same thing, and says it over and over again is, of course, commonly considered to be, if not a monomaniac, then at very least, a bore.


Even our Dread Pirate Roberts Hero, Westley spent a forgettable chunk of his weekends, after fending off R.O.U.S.'s, scrubbing the toilet with bleach at Buttercup's insistance; and not to belabor the point, but again, "A person who always says the same thing, and says it over and over again is, of course, commonly considered to be, if not a monomaniac, then at very least, a bore."

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