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Nudging the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism Toward Treating with Reality

Nudging the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism Toward Treating with Reality January 10, 2013

After watching the spectacle of readers trying to justify/deny the latest eruption of ObamaHitlerStalin freakoutery in my comboxes (on today’s menu of rationalizations: 1. The Left does it, so it’s okay when we do it. 2. Drudge is read by Lefties too, so it’s not expressing a very popular view on the Right. 3. This is a very effective way to persuade normal people that we are not hysterics or anything. 4. In the coming war with our government, it is wise to imagine that things will not end as they did for David Koresh.  5. Hitler. 6. Stalin.  7.  A little bit more Hitler. 8. And besides Drudge is just like Westboro Church and doesn’t resonate with a huge number of people on the Right–who should all be preparing for Obama’s executive order confiscating all guns because Hitler. 9.  Shea uses hyperbole, so calling Obama “Hitler” is sound political common sense.)

Last thing first, I enjoy hyperbole when it’s funny.  God King is funny, because everybody knows what’s being asserted is that Obama is behaving lawlessly, not that Obama literally is Pharaoh.  The problem with the HITLER stuff is that the people indulging in the hyperbole don’t seem to realize that it is, in fact, hyperbole.  They typically seem to really believe that Obama is the incarnation of mass-murder terror state power exactly like Hitler and Stalin.  That’s ‘ow you say, nuts.

But abortion!  Yeah.  Here’s the thing: our abortion regime, though it has murdered a lot more than Nazi Germany… is not Nazi Germany.  What pro-abort pols do is provide legal cover and funding so that we–we private citizens, freely and of our own volition, can commit murder.  That’s just not the same thing as a police state that rounds up millions of people at gunpoint and marches them into ovens.  It just isn’t.  The Holocaust had to be done with secrecy, because the Nazis knew they were committing a massive, state-orchestrated crime.  The genius of the American system of mass murder is that it is a triumph of private, individual initiative and pluck on the part of millions of Americans, working freely together, without a lot of state coercion, to commit mass murder.  Oh, sure. There is the usual amount of crony capitalism thrown in, with the state doing all in its power to send fed monies toward the blood-soaked butchers who “provide” the “service”.  But at the end of the day, if *we the People* did not cherish abortion and create the situations in which so many people imagine it is a solution to their problems, there would be no abortion in America.  Obama never ordered a single solitary woman to be rounded up and forced to abort at gunpoint.  He’s not even a Chinese Commie, much less Hitler or Stalin.  He just a garden variety technocrat of the Culture of Death, giving us what We the People want.  (And, by the way, what we want is lots and lots of trade with… states like China who force woment to abort at gunpoint: the genius of the free market.)  Our abortion culture is a creation of the American system of free enterprise and individual initiative.  That’s why it talks the language of libertarianism (that philosophy for people with no children) and perpetually yammers about the need to Keep the State Out of the Bedroom.  That’s a far cry from the Nazi and fascist ethos of “Everything within the State.  Nothing against the State.  Nothing Outside the State.”

So here’s the thing, people need to clear their minds of this “Hitler/Stalin” cant.  There’s this story called “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” that the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism should re-familiarize themselves with.  For four years, the Right has indulged itself not in critiquing Obama justly (and there is plenty to critique, including abortion, his love of secret unilateral death decrees–which Movement Conservatism thinks is pretty cool and gives him a pass on since it is used to prosecute the beloved War to End Evil–his tyrannical HHS Mandate), but has largely indulged itself in pure unadulterated irrational hatred of the guy.  Result: Everything he does, everything he says, is treated with absurd contempt and fear.  The man has only to clear his throat and no fantasy, no matter how ridiculous, is rejected if it looks like it could be useful to attack him.  So for four years, the TTUTBC has yammered about Obama the Kenyan Muslim Atheist Communist and his plans to erect a godless atheist communist Islamic shariah state, etc.  Each morning my FB page is filled with conspiracy theories filled with the resolute will to put the darkest possible construction on even the most innocuous stuff.

For people in the Normal American community (that is, the majority of Americans who do not eat, breathe, and sleep political infighting), what this creates is a mindset rather like those of the villagers in the Boy Who Cried Wolf.  When the TTUTBC community now erupts in “OBAMA IS HITLER AND STALIN, PUT TOGETHER” because Joe Biden spouted one of the random things he spouts, the Normal American  community tends to respond, not by saying, “Your ideas intrigue me and I want to subscribe to your newsletter” but by tuning out this latest fulmination from a community known for fulminating and having hysterics (they did it with the Bushitler Shriekers too–for the very sound reason that Bush was not Hitler either, even though he also led the country toward tyranny and signed his share of Executive Orders too.)

I think the Hysteria Strategy is bad, not because I don’t think we are edging toward tyranny (see “HHS Mandate” and “unilateral Executive murder authorizations”, not to mention “torture” and “Patriot Act”) but because, well, in the *real* world Obama is obviously not Hitler or Stalin any more than Bush was.  Amazingly, one can do tyrannical and dangerous things without being Hitler.  People interested in treating with reality need to acknowledge this piece of common sense and live accordingly.  People merely interested in self-medicating their hatred of Obama, carry on.  You will be excellent consumers of the Conservative Infotainment Complex.  You will not, however persuade anybody outside the bubble of your chosen unreality of anything other than the fact that you are panicky.

All this leads up to a letter I received from a reader, a serious Catholic who is both prolife and left-leaning.  I don’t agree with every word of it, but I think there is plenty for conservative Catholics to ruminate on about the way in which discourse on the Right is conducted.  Please feel free to discuss:

Conservatives biggest problem is that they hate, clearly and vehemently, hate their opponents.  Fear is mixed in this potent, nearly palpable stench of hate.  Hate and fear are the  intoxicating, energizing, motivating impulses.  Even those good causes on the right, such as the anti-abortion movement, are very poisoned by hate of its enemies.  The essay of Caelum et Terra is a demonstration of this.  That the author seemed to find noteworthy the actions of the Planned Parenthood nurses is more than a little problematic.

Many over-venerated Conservative Catholic blogs reek of this hatred.

It is not a caricature to think that conservatives perceive their liberal opponents as stoned, routinely adulterous, fornicating baby eaters who do not have anything but cartoon villain impulses, motivations, and machinations.  Conservatives ascribe a desire to do evil as the prime motivator for their opponents.  Most liberals hardly fulfill any of these points.   In fact, Catholic conservative leaders, despite their various techniques for propagandistic rallying of base motivations of their supporters, routinely socialize and dialogue with their greatest opponents.  Fr. Pavone has such relationships with pro-abortion leaders, as does Robert George, who has had a decades-long working and social relationship with both Art Caplan and Cornel West.

I suggest that the leaders of conservatives, including Catholic ones, do use base propagandistic language to gin up support and donations.  The extremely intelligent well-read conservative, and most are, need to use his instinct and desire for independence to intellectually test even folks’ like Fr. Pavone when he is making sensational statements.

Too many conservatives indulge in a fantasy world in which a few individuals will attempt to seize control of their communities and, after watching Red Dawn too often, think they will have a heroic future living some cowboy anarchic dream shooting at liberals (for God, of course) for the next decades in the Rocky Mountains.

This is not Catholic.  This is not even rational.  It makes the conservative seem unintelligent, fueling the “Sin makes you stupid” feedback cycle.  Feeding on hate, one’s own personal hates and fears, as well as leveraging and promoting such is clearly not a Christian impulse.  It is sinful.

Rational gun control, serious defense cuts, a return to taxes rates that Reagan would have thought of as low are not causes for panic.  There is serious, well-informed religious counsel from the USCCB and the Vatican agreeing with these.

A diet of fear, anger, and hate in our nation has bled into our faith.  Hate and fear are not Gospel values, and are not even grounded in rationality.

I think a study of faithful Catholic left voices would do conservatives well.  It may be important to understand the other half of the American Catholics.

Some ground rules.

1. Please avoid the genetic fallacy.  The author does not say these things because he is a CINO or an enemy of the Church.  He is a thoughtful serious practicing Catholic who has lived out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and assents to the Church’s teaching.

2. Please avoid the tu quoque.  Yes.  You can find plenty of hate in comboxes at the National Catholic Reporter.  Hitler comparisons too.  Goody.  One of the sure fire techniques used by people bent on avoiding reality is to say, “NO YOU!”  Stop it.

I think my reader is unfair to Daniel Nichols, who is trying to acknowledge–in an atmosphere where you can find yourself arraigned for heresy merely by thinking well of somebody outside the Tribe, or arraigned for heresy merely by criticizing, however mildly, one of the folk heroes of the tribe–that tribalism is bad.  I am too ignorant to know if my reader is unfair to Fr. Pavone since I don’t keep tabs on the press releases from Priest for Life and so don’t know if they do the ginning he says.  I do know that, as my reader points out, Fr. Pavone does a fine job of cultivating relationships and conversations with abortion supporters and I think the world of him for that.  And I agree with my reader that this stands in sharp contrast with the cartoonish and tribal denunciations of libruls (or, as another reader recently called me, “libtards”) one meets in cyberspace.  But, on the whole, I think my reader is seeing problems that are really there.  Those of us who hope for the emergence of a healthy and sane conservatism that can oppose the dangerous evils of the Left with sanity and not with another form of dementia continue to hope that the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism will think and pray its way out of its current predicament.  At present, the “OBAMA IS HITLER!” crowd are God’s gift–to Obama.

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