April 1 Flashback: OWG OMG

April 1 Flashback: OWG OMG April 1, 2022

For 20 years now, this blog has maintained the distinction between a “blog” and a “post.”

From April 1, 2009, “Nuts“:

Following so soon after the massive peanut-product recall and a salmonella outbreak, this latest food scare is again producing calls for a revamping of the federal food safety and inspection system. That makes sense. The current system isn’t so much something that was designed as something that agglomerated in bits and pieces over time. It’s a patchwork of different federal and state agencies, most of which — like the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration — already have full plates and other urgent institutional priorities.

Reforming the food safety system, then, would seem like a common-sense, good-government effort. It would improve public safety and confidence while at the same time making government more efficient and thus, possibly, less expensive.  It’s such an obvious, noncontroversial, nonpartisan effort that even corporate leaders are getting behind it.

So here’s an idea that has the support of food producers, food consumers (a large voting bloc, last I checked), good-government liberals, small-government conservatives, corporate leaders, safety advocates, parents, children and even the Keebler elves. That ought to be do-able, right?

Not so fast. It turns out there’s a significant faction of Republican supporters who don’t like the idea and who insist that it should be the focus of a partisan fight. That would be the barking mad religious lunatic faction.

Our friends in the Christian Worldview Network have been sending e-mail alerts warning against what they call the “Coming government takeover of food.” CWN’s Roger Hedgecock* says he’s not against food safety per se — he’s just opposed to any food safety agency having access to food production facilities for inspections or the power to fine violators of food safety rules. Hedgecock, in other words, wants food safety officials to be just like his talk radio audience — complacent and ignorant.

This be madness, yet there is method in’t. To understand where Hedgecock and all of these Christian Worldview Network folks are coming from, you have to understand what it is they’re afraid of — which is also what they’re expecting and, indeed, hoping for. They’re afraid of the One World Government of the Antichrist Nicolae Carpathia.

That fear shapes their every political position. No matter the topic, they approach any political issue asking this one question: Does this bring us closer to the OWG of the Antichrist? Thus to them, a renewed commitment to food safety can only mean we’re moving one step closer to the Mark of the Beast. It may start with the promise of salmonella-free peanut butter, but they know it will inevitably end with Chloe Steele getting guillotined by the Global Community One World Unity Army.

So saith their scripture and so must it come to pass.

The Christian Worldview Network people are not mainstream. Most American evangelicals rightly regard them as fringe nutjobs — like the oddball uncle the family doesn’t like to talk about. But while they may be way, way out there and really far gone, they also seem to represent a significant number of people.

How many, exactly, is hard to say. The 2006 Baylor Religion Survey found that 19 percent of all Americans had read one of the Left Behind novels, which is something like 60 million people. That’s a remarkable level of cultural saturation, but it doesn’t tell us anything about how many of those 60 million Americans subsequently elevated the convoluted scheme of those novels to the level of holy scripture and then reshaped their entire political philosophy on the basis of such a scenario. A fourth of them? That’d be 15 million people. A tenth? That’s still 6 million people.

However many it is, their influence is multiplied due to their zeal and due, in part, to their gullible credulousness. Their zeal makes them attractive to demagogues looking for foot soldiers. And their gullibility makes them easy to recruit and enlist. Toss in the right loaded code words and they’ll be convinced that you believe what they believe, and therefore they’ll do whatever you tell them. Leading Republican voices like Rush Limbaugh, Tony Perkins, John Boehner and — particularly during last year’s campaign — John McCain routinely toss in rhetoric designed to appeal to the OWG obsession of the CWN crowd and the rest of the Left Behind literalists.

None of those mainstream Republican leaders is dim enough to regard the Left Behind series as a prophetic predictor of future events, but none of them is willing to risk offending the potentially millions of followers who sincerely do believe this nonsense. So they make elliptical references to fears of an Antichrist’s One World Government and they make sure that they never explicitly deny such fears as the nonsense they know them to be.

And the longer this goes on, the more legitimate and the more mainstream this full-gonzo insanity comes to seem.

Hence the career of Rep. Michelle Bachmann. She’s not a demagogue trying to manipulate the rubes on the howling religious fringe. She is herself one of them. She’s a true believer. Bachmann is both a member of Congress and, in her mind, a member of the Tribulation Force.

This explains Bachmann’s current obsession: stopping the attempt to create a one-world global currency. Matthew Yglesias links to Bachmann’s discussion of this one-currency conspiracy with talk-show host Glenn Beck, pointing out that the effort Bachmann opposes is both imaginary and impossible.

Matt’s bewilderment here is understandable. His problem here, though, is that he’s restricting his discussion to reality and that’s not where Bachmann is coming from. She talks about Russia and China, but that’s not who she’s really worried about. She’s worried about Jonathan Stonagal and Joshua Todd-Cothran. The fact that these are fictional characters in a horribly written novel whose conspiracy never even makes sense in that context hasn’t prevented Bachmann from introducing legislation to foil their nefarious scheme.

When you’ve convinced yourself that you’re convinced of that — as Bachmann, Hedgecock, and LaHaye think they have — then a little bit of salmonella doesn’t seem as urgent as the more dire phantoms that threaten us. After all, the possibility, or even the probability, of serving your own children tainted food still belongs to the realm of the merely potential. But Carpathia and his minions and the execution of their evil plans — that’s not just potential, that’s real.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

* I don’t know what his middle name is, but I’m really hoping it’s a third off-color verb.

The link at the top will take you to the original post, with the original ableist language. I’ve tried to amend that here because there’s really nothing analogous between mental illness and the willful, hateful self-deception chosen by Bachmann, LaHaye, et. al. 

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