Tuesday, August 4, 2009
It's called Situational Narcissism when someone--usually a CEO or a celebrity--surrounds himself with toadies, and eventually comes to believe he's infallible.
I think political zealots get into a similar state because today you can arrange to get all your news from TV, radio, network and book sources that pander to your biases, be they left wing or right wing.
Once inside the Zealot Zone they egg each other on, spinning more and more outre theories in a race to the ideological bottom (wherein dwell the Birthers).
It really started when Reagan killed the FCC Fairness Doctrine, enabling the spread of right wing radio, funded by the Angry Billionaire's Club.
And though Internet advocates thought it would enhance diversity of information, the exact opposite has happened. It's possible to surround yourself only with sources that agree with you, and demographic movements have also trended toward purer and purer Red and Blue counties across the country.
I've seen this at work. I attended a conservative political forum recently, and afterward people chatted with each other. It was as if they were vying to see how far out their conspiracy theories could be spun.
It was like back fence gossip at its most poisonous.
But it's wrong to focus on the Birthers. They're just the foot soldiers in a long-term strategy by the Angry Billionaire's Club, aimed at delegitimizing not just Obama but all future potential Democratic presidential candidates, and the party's leadership as well.
See, you get to power in America by one of two routes: forge a centrist majority, as Obama did, or build a partisan crusade that demonizes the other side, as Bush 43 did under Carl Rove's tutelage.
The Republicans have evidently chosen the latter as their 2010/2012 strategy.
Do this and you wind up with roughly half the country despising you. But this route's goal is only 50.01% of the vote, and what 49.9% of the country thinks of you doesn't matter in the slightest.
For 2010 the Republicans left in Congress need to keep their seats, which are nearly all in bright Red areas. So for that they've chosen a howling crusade with pitchforks and torches, laying siege to Obama the America-hating foreign mole Antichrist up in the castle.
They do this by attacking the person's strongest points, not his weakest. Obama is a gifted speaker--so you make that seem strange. Like he's a Svengali, and his supporters hypnotized sheeple. He's a better and more devoted family man than a majority of Republican Congressmen. There isn't the faintest whiff of scandal to exploit there, but they can make him seem like a foreign family man with a foreign family, trying to turn America into a foreign country--at least to the party faithful. He tends to give substantive answers, so they paint him as a boring double-dome. They don't attack his nonexistent military record because it's not a strong point, just as they attacked Kerry's because it was.
None of this makes sense if your goal is centrist consensus. But it's perfectly rational if you've rationally chosen a rabidly partisan tack.
Sure, only 28% believe he's a furriner. But many more than that just aren't sure. They're uneasy about him. That's the idea. Make the faithful rabid and the moderates fearful and unsure enough to opt for the devil they know.
You can see the same approach playing out with healthcare reform.