I came across last week’s episode of Bill Maher’s show while flipping channels the other day and in his new rules, he talked about how obsessively we have politicized virtually everything in America. And it got me thinking about how effectively the right has used tales of grievance and persecution to sell their ideology.
For the past 50 years, American conservative have convinced themselves that nearly every institution in the country is simultaneously involved in a conspiracy to keep them down and dilute their power. You’ve heard them all.
–Public schools are just indoctrination centers that teach kids how horrible America is and destroy their belief in God and universities exist only to brainwash students to prepare them for the coming communist utopia.
–The media is a left-wing conspiracy to hide the truth from patriotic Americans and put Democrats in office.
–The entertainment industry is intent on destroying our values and turning our kids into drug- and violence-addled automatons.
All of these beliefs act an inoculation of sorts, so that anything advocated by anyone in those institutions will be dismissed out of hand if it is in any way politically inconvenient. It’s a force field around their beliefs, making them impenetrable to reason. When you combine that carefully nursed sense of grievance and distrust with the well established psychological tendency of conservatives to seek out strong leaders and eschew new ideas and experiences, you have a perfect recipe for virulent and untouchable ignorance.