Rick Santorum and the Anti Kitten-Burning Coalition

Burning kittens is wrong. It is cruel, it is illegal and it is, quite simply, evil. No one should burn kittens.

I am, unambiguously and without qualification, opposed to burning kittens. I am also confident that you are opposed to this too. And that latter point is why I cannot join the Anti Kitten-Burning Coalition.

The AKBC, again, is on the correct side of this issue. Its members, quite rightly, are vehemently opposed to something to which they ought to be vehemently opposed. But that isn’t what motivates them. What drives them, their central organizing principle, is the notion that they represent a beleaguered and controversial minority view. They imagine that their stance against burning kittens — sweet, adorable, innocent kittens — is something that separates and distinguishes them from most other people. They imagine that their opposition to burning kittens is a brave and exceptional stance that elevates them above most other people.

In other words, the central concern of the Anti Kitten-Burning Coalition is not a defense of kittens, but an accusation against most other people. They are not driven by their opposition to kitten-burning, but by their opposition to a make-believe faction of other people whom they imagine favor kitten-burning. That this vast bloc of pro kitten-burning people cannot be found and does not exist does nothing to dampen their enthusiastic campaign against these supposed monstrously cruel others. It is a delusion, but the AKBC enjoys this delusion.

This delusion gives their lives meaning and purpose. It makes their lives more exciting. And it enables them to bask in the idea that they are good and righteous people — or at least the possibility that they are better than some imagined faction of monstrously cruel other people.

This delusion has become a central defining trait of American politics. Imaginary monsters — other people who are imagined to favor kitten-burning or other monstrous cruelties — are a greater focus of American politics than jobs, taxes, highways and bridges, or environmental protection. Millions of votes are mobilized and cast based on the imaginary fear of an imaginary faction of kitten-burning monsters.

Here, for example, is Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, describing a nightmare of monstrous cruelty that he imagines is now taking place in the Netherlands:

“In the Netherlands, people wear different bracelets if they are elderly,” Santorum said. “And the bracelet is: ‘Do not euthanize me.’ Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands but half of the people who are euthanized — 10 percent of all deaths in the Netherlands — half of those people are euthanized involuntarily at hospitals because they are older and sick. And so elderly people in the Netherlands don’t go to the hospital. They go to another country, because they are afraid, because of budget purposes, they will not come out of that hospital if they go in there with sickness.”

The happy truth, of course, is that this is all complete nonsense. Nothing like this is happening in the Netherlands. No such bracelets exist. Santorum’s nightmare is entirely false — it’s a fabricated delusion based on a fantasy apparently invented out of whole cloth by the Louisiana Right to Life Federation.

If you had any doubt about that, if you had for a moment perhaps feared that Santorum was telling the truth, then you will be pleased and relieved to learn that he was not. You will be happy to learn that Dutch hospitals are not killing off the terrified elderly because, rightly and understandably, you prefer to live in a world in which such horrible things are not happening.

That’s the difference between you and Sen. Santorum. You both agree that the scenario he described would be a Very Bad Thing. But for you that means you don’t want it to be true while for him that’s reason to wish it were. He believed this story and promoted this story because he wanted to believe it was true. He needed to believe it was true.

Rick Santorum wishes that he lived in a world in which horrible things like this were really happening. If you confront him with the facts and the evidence proving that his Netherlands nightmare is only the figment of a fevered imagination he would not be relieved to learn that this wasn’t true. He’d be defensive and angry, denying those facts and that evidence because he prefers the horrible fantasy.

Why? Why would anyone want such a thing to be true? Why would someone invent monsters and cling, desperately, to the idea of such monsters? Aren’t there enough real problems in the world demanding our attention?

I’ve been studying the Anti Kitten-Burning Coalition in its various incarnations for a long time now, and I have a few theories in answer to those questions.

1. It’s exciting to believe in imaginary monsters.

Santorum wants to imagine himself doing battle with Dutch death panels for the same reason that I spent hours as a teenager fighting dragons, trolls, goblins and orcs. It’s exciting to pretend that you’re a brave hero struggling against the forces of evil. That’s fine when you know it’s just a game — an imaginary fantasy conducted with graph-paper and multi-sided dice. But it’s a problem when you lose the ability to distinguish between the fantasy role-playing game and real life.

2. A fiendish foil for self-righteousness.

Being good is hard. If I compare myself to Jesus or Harriet Tubman or St. Francis or Dorothy Day then I can’t help but see a vast amount of room for improvement on my part. But if, instead, I compare myself to Hannibal Lecter, then I come out looking pretty good. If I compare myself to Hannibal Lecter, then I can tell myself that I am a saint and a hero and not just someone largely indistinct from everyone else, stumbling along in a self-absorbed routine of quiet desperation. It doesn’t matter that Lecter is a fictional character who doesn’t really exist, not when he’s so very useful as a point of contrast that allows me to bask in my own self-righteousness. Am I really a righteous saint and hero? Compared to Hannibal Lecter, to the kitten-burners and the Satanic baby-killers, you bet I am.

3. If the monsters don’t exist, the theory isn’t true.

The Big Theory presents an if-then equation to explain how society works. The theory offers a defense of something — “traditional morality,” sectarian privilege, patriarchy, ethnic superiority, cultural exceptionalism, nationalism, etc. — and says that if that something is not defended, then monstrous consequences will ensue. The absence of such monstrous consequences thus disproves the theory, undermining its defense of whatever it is the theorist is defending.

And so monsters must be invented. And anyone who denies the reality of these unreal monsters must be condemned as an enemy of traditional morality, or of the sect, the ethnic group, the culture, the nation, etc.

4. Imaginary monsters give our fears a face.

We’re afraid. We’re afraid of difference, of financial insecurity, of forces beyond our control, of death. Our fears are amorphous, unsettling and overwhelming. We can’t get a handle on them. So we give them a name and a face and thus can pretend that we’re up against something we can fight. Instead of the amorphous fear of something in the dark, we can pretend that it’s a werewolf in the woods. A werewolf is scary too, but now we have something to do. OK, yes, technically there’s still no such thing as werewolves, but if we pretend there are, then we can take decisive action. We can start making silver bullets. We can start locking up those neighbors we suspect might secretly be werewolves. The monsters may be imaginary, but at least they’re specific.

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/ainsworthmk Melinda Ainsworth

    Not to sound paranoid, but Rupert Murdoch and his ilk own too much of the media in the USA and they are not on the side of the angels.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ainsworthmk Melinda Ainsworth

    I believe you are absolutely spot-on. This really *is* an actual conspiracy, so I’m not delusional to have noticed it. I’m just better informed than most of the people who fall for this crap, and as are the other people on this thread, more intelligent than most of them. Only the ignorant believe. The others are just using them, leading them like sheep to shearing for the price of their wool.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ainsworthmk Melinda Ainsworth

    Too many of the people in this country are eating it up while singing la-la-la. They are scared. They are scared because of the economic situation caused by the collusion of the rotating group of con men through Congress, big business, lobbying firms, and the government agencies that are supposed to regulate big business. They are scared of the immigrants who are going to “take their jobs.” Sociologically this all makes perfect sense if you look at similar economic meltdowns and the responses of the majority historically. They are acting like terrified sheep and the GOP/Tea Party/Catholic Bishops/fundamentalist leaders are the wolves waiting to eat them.

  • esteban

    pardon the typos! i do think we sceptics should be sceptical about scepticism altho santorum and chavez of venezuela, for instance, do seem worthy of honest horror. I am an agnostic who loves the great art and literature inspired by spirituality. I have friends on both sides of the existential divide….alas, both sides are unjust and paranoid, especially about Jews and gays. Everyone loves modern china tho, pretty much dismissing the 50 million people killled by mao and the near slave labor that gives us our lovely so intelligent cell phones. granted self hatred can also be a cop out but we should at least struggle against the special interests of our ignorance. it is very hard not to be unjust.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ainsworthmk Melinda Ainsworth

    People are not simple, they are complex. Rick Santorum, though it pains me greatly to admit it, is human and therefore complex. People like Santorum see the world through the giant simplifying lens an Abrahamic religion which casts the illusion of a world that is completely black and white. Any doctrine which tries to simplify the world to black/white and/or good/evil distorts reality to an absurd length and is completely dysfunctional. I don’t care what religion anyone is or what they choose to worship, but these people assuredly want to control me and people like me, which includes anyone not in their special God club. Simple ideas for simple people, and I don’t mean that in a good way. This type of thinking appeals to people who have difficulty thinking in complex ways, and these people are aware of the possible threat posed by people who are able to think in a complex way. They resent us completely and fear us absolutely. They notice that many people with power think in a more complex way and this confirms their belief that they need to fear knowledge, education, and ideas. However, in my opinion, these people are choosing to see the world that way, and therefore I don’t give them a pass when they start trampling over the rights of other people and loudly proclaiming they are the victims. Victim hood appeals to them and they play that card every chance they get. They are not the victims, but continually victimize every group they fear. That constitutes intellectual dishonesty, which they either know if they are intelligent, or are unable to understand if they are not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ainsworthmk Melinda Ainsworth

    Make no mistake, these “Christian” fundamentalists are praying for the end of the world and doing everything in their power to bring it about as soon as possible. They want climate change, war, terrorism, an evil leader (as they style President Obama–666), the rebuilding of the second temple, and the end of days. They believe their special God club will really come into their own then. They do not value or respect people of other faiths because their own religion is the one one that is “right,” as well as their country, their culture, their group, their family, and people with their sexual mores. No one is as “equal” as they are. They are a serious and credible threat to the freedom and safety of every person on the planet in my opinion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ainsworthmk Melinda Ainsworth

    I believe you are correct in thinking Ricky unfit for the job, however, I believe he is smart enough and lacking enough in moral character to use fear and outrage in an attempt to manipulate the voting public and if anyone can’t see that, I don’t think they are really paying attention. Look at his voting record, his pronouncements that are on record, and the amount of money he has made since being in Congress, and tell me after that what you believe, if you like. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/ainsworthmk Melinda Ainsworth

    I concur absolutely and thank you for stating it. I believe he is blatantly intellectually dishonest.

  • Anonymous

    As I recall, one of the novels shows Lecter as being kind to animals too ~ arranging the rescue of two starving dogs from a sadistic owner after feeding them morsels of said owner. Oh dear.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ainsworthmk Melinda Ainsworth

    Yes, most of us silly Americans will make statements without bothering to find out actual facts. Thankfully, not all of us fit that bill.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    Thankfully, not all of us fit that bill.

    Yes, that’s what “most” means.

  • Pastanaut

    I suspect that in first-drafts authors who use that term say “d20″ or “d12″ but on the second look they think that they will alienate people who are not familiar with gaming terminology, and settle on “multi-sided” as an alternative without really thinking about the point that you make.

  • http://twitter.com/Afuckwad A fuckwad

    For anyone who enjoyed my post about these people never admitting to weakness, check out this article!

    http://dailycaller.com/2012/02/28/damn-i-just-want-some-jam/#ixzz1njJFB

    His idea is, if you are on welfare, you must buy what he wants you to buy, where he wants you to buy it, be publicly embarrassed and marked as being dependent on him, and your budget will be ‘just enough’ so that you learn to ‘stretch a budget’. In exchange, you will be tested for drugs (including tobacco) and you’re not allowed to vote. Also, the article’s lead is blatantly race-baiting as shit!

    For many or most of these people, everything is about power and domination of the weak. It’s honestly that simple.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It’s like we learned nothing from the 1930s. They had all those same damn humiliating asinne rules for municpal “relief” in those days.

    In some parts of North America, for example, women had to actually show their ribs to prove they weren’t eating too much. (>_<)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Simeon-Beresford/1642490035 Simeon Beresford

    “These people are completely incapable of publicly admitting that they are wrong. About anything. Because they believe that showing any sort of public weakness or vulnerability is the worst possible thing. They believe that you never ever admit that there’s anything wrong with you.” 
    Which is why Santorum said it was wrong to apologies for accidentally burning copies of  the Koran recently.
     personally i believe that a gentleman never insults someone accidentally.

     Thus I  rarely apologise for deliberate acts but am happy to apologise for accidental ones. 
    Santorum however does not believe in apologising for his errors,”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Simeon-Beresford/1642490035 Simeon Beresford

    The non-platonic Ten sided dice are a new development  originally icoshedrons were used.

  • P J Evans

    These are also people who believe that they have the responsibility of approving or disapproving what people buy with food stamps, or with actual money when they’re getting other stuff with food stamps.

  • Anonymous-Sam

    hidden_urchin: Because some Christians have taken the belief that all life is sacred and there are no extenuating circumstances whatsoever to allow for the death of any being who isn’t under the kingdoms over which God gave man dominion. Same reason goes for parents who insist on keeping infants with severe anencephaly alive on life-support — infants who would die naturally in a matter of hours after birth and who are utterly incapable of consciousness as we know it, much less a happy and comfortable life. Their faith requires suffering in this life as well as in the next.

    mmy: Out of curiosity, was the person to which you refer a hermaphrodite, or are you concealing their gender?

    B: Yeah, I have conversations like that all the time. I always wind up explaining we can’t even get curative medicine, much less preventive medicine.

    friendly reader: Yeah, but it didn’t stop me from cringing when I read that 37.9% of people in my former state of Michigan had voted for him. I finally had to unsub my parents from my Facebook updates because they can’t stop going on about how Obama is the Antichrist and we need to vote for someone, anyone, to get him out of office. Believe me, there are lesser evils!

    Bificommander: Like Hasan Küçük and his “Let’s criminalize the possession of dogs!” call? (Incidentally, men like this lead me to, with increasing discomfort, weigh which option frightens me worse: A stark-mad Christian dictator lord, or a stark-mad Muslim dictator lord.)

  • Ayn Marx 666

    Rick Santorum spits on your concern for the respect of other nations…what meaning can the approval of a bunch of heathens, sissies, socialists, and just plain non-Americans mean to any good son of this soil?

    To think otherwise—for example, to act as if any good American needed any kind of respect to the opinion of Mankind—is to go against all that ‘patriot’ has come to mean.

  • Ayn Marx 666

     The Republicans actually believe that the slightly left-tinged corporatist Obama is some kind of radical Leftist…honestly.  As such, they believe that he got into office only by a combination of deception, cheating, and crisis.

    Some even believe their right flank is firmly in the mainstream of American thought…the only evidence I can see therefor is the stated dislike of people for moderate, corporatist, insurance reform (‘Obamacare’)—but, much as in a joke about a young boy who ‘hated kreplach’, they don’t seem to have any trouble with any of its ingredients, it’s just that the whole has been reified into an object of hate, a snarl-word.

    So, either because they believe a radical has already been elected and/or baecause they don’t think their own radical, they believe that they have no need to moderate themselves, just to hang tight, play dirty, and wait for a crisis.

  • Ayn Marx 666

     Don’t you know?  They have an whole game-show dedicated to involuntary euthanasia:
        “Hello, and welcome to [audience joins in] ‘Off—Your—OMAAAAA’.”

    Thanks for the felicitous turn-of-phrase.

    It has been suggested that the mædia paint a world full of monsters so that the world of the commercials will look all the more inviting by contrast—fewer ‘fnords’ in them result in the association of consumption with reduced anxiety.

  • Ayn Marx 666

     …and he can give you the finger twice, all at once.

  • Ayn Marx 666

     I have read paleo-conservatives whose main beef with WWII was less the loss of life—such _like_ “manly virtue” and consider war a good purgative of effeminate ‘civilisation’, and I’m sure Robert Howard would have agreed—than the social changes it helped to promote, everything from improved legal rights for African-Americans to more women at work to looser sexual morés to better gay rights.

  • Ayn Marx 666

    Many times when I heard a Tea Partier speak, I thought,
    —You…ape!
    –Apes don’t read the Constitution!!!
    —They do, Otto…they just don’t understand it.

  • Ayn Marx 666

     I take it as part of the pathology that mistakes ‘butch’ for ‘tough’—see ‘flight-suit, Presidential wearing of’ and ‘Torture, kudos for from highly-placed barbarians’.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    http://i.imgur.com/v0zp5.jpg

    I wonder if Santorum ever needs his luggage lifted, if you know what I mean.

  • Tonio

    Perhaps people like Santorum can’t honestly tell the difference between squick and moral revulsion.

  • Ayn Marx 666

     Well, if the poor can’t be productive like he is (ahem), they’d better earn their keep in public humiliation.  See also:  the “Abominable Fancy”.

  • Ayn Marx 666

    See Haidt, Jonathan’s work on the moral pillars of liberal and conservative thought in America.  Liberals are heavily into autonomy and nurturance, but conservatives—though some value autonomy, some don’t—place more emphasis on Purity and Authority.

    Purity codes in particular blur the line between squick and moral revulsion:  I wasn’t even brought up kosher, but once as a child I was told I’d been eating pork and I suddenly felt _nauseous_.  You learn these codes from the same people who educate you into not eating garbage and fæces; you learn codes of sexual conduct from the same people who tell you not to touch hot burners or walk on glass bare-shod. 

  • BackTo 1400 Censored

    So, about which leg  wishful thinking hangs…

    How about facts and the evidence proving that pig farts, factories not owned by USA and even (gasp) trucks DO NOT threaten to turn the Earth into Venus?
    For example – take a look at a little report by Gerlich & Tscheuschner. It’s all over Internet.
    Do these “news” make you feel relieved, or so angry you could resort to childish name-calling?
    Just curious.


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