Take Another Trip Around the Sun

Let’s try to drill through accumulated links, if only briefly, and then move on to other things. Among many items, these themes:

  • Republicans and “God gave us Trump” and America’s “collective pathology”;
  • Adam Lee on the idea that conspiracy theorists are trying (but failing) to do skepticism;
  • Why people split the world into good and evil;
  • Jennifer Rubin on how real conservatives used to think;
  • And another R.E.M. song: “Around the Sun”.

Salon, Chauncey DeVega, 11 Jan 2024: Experts on why so many Republicans accept that “God gave us Trump”, subtitled “How Donald Trump has evolved into a Messianic figure among the white religious right”

Donald Trump is now publicly proclaiming that he is some type of messiah, a man chosen by God and Jesus Christ to do their bidding on Earth. For Trump, this means becoming America’s first dictator.

If Trump were a private citizen and not a former president and leader of a right-wing fascist movement, his claims to divine power would be viewed as the ramblings of an unwell person and de facto cult leader. Unfortunately, public opinion and other research shows that many millions of Americans actually believe that Trump is some type of divine figure, a man with a mandate from God. This is more evidence that Trumpism, like other forms of fascism and fake populism, is a form of collective pathology and emotional and mental unwellness on a societal scale.

Trump’s claims that he has a mandate from God should not be a surprise or in any way shocking: it is the predictable next step in a years-long pattern of megalomania, fabulism, malignant narcissism and other such negative behavior where he has claimed to have secret knowledge and insights that no one else possesses, and that his followers should just believe what he says and reject the facts and empirical reality itself.

With many citations and statements from various experts.

Again, why should the US of the 21st century exhibit such “collective pathology”? Is this something that happens periodically in all cultures? Perhaps. Or are we experiencing some perfect storm of political and social events exacerbated by global problems and the pace of change and social media?


Media Matters, 10 Jan 2024: A Republican did interviews on CNN and Fox. Comparing them shows how Fox News’ propaganda machine works.

Joe.My.God, 11 Jan 2024: Ohio GOP Rep Suggests Trans Advocates Be Drowned

Because Bible.


Passed-along post on Facebook: Y2K was 21 years ago…

Y2K was 21 years ago. Looking back, I think the only thing we learned is that if a bunch of people work really hard to stop a problem from happening, lots of other people will assumed was never really a problem.

(Actually is was 24 years ago, as 1999 turned to 2000. Point is still valid.)


Here’s a counter-intuitive idea.

OnlySky, Adam Lee, 5 Jan 2024: Conspiracy theorists are trying to be skeptics—and failing

Naomi Klein’s book ‘Doppelganger’ argues that conspiracy theorists, delusional though they are, are trying (but failing) to do skepticism. They’re reacting to real problems, even though they misperceive who’s at fault or what to do about them.

Lee begins:

If skepticism is a video game, becoming an atheist is like beating the first level.

This quip bundles two truths: It’s not difficult to see through the obvious fallacies and shoddy evidence of religious apologists. However, we shouldn’t stop there.

What reason is there to believe God is the only widely held belief that people are wrong about? What other conventional wisdom might be false, and where should we turn the lens of skeptical inquiry next?

Lee claims that some atheists never reach this step, then discusses how there are right and wrong ways to take skepticism to the next level. With the example of the confusion between Naomi Klein and Naomi Wolf (much in the news earlier this year when Klein’s book was published). How the pandemic broke many sensible people, sending them into conspiracy-land. Lee says that Klein argued that “most conspiracy theorists are angry about real issues. They’ve just misidentified the causality and the culprits.” Lee concludes,

In a twisted way, conspiracy theorists are trying to do the beyond-level-one critical thinking we need. It’s just that they’re failing at it. What they’re engaged in is cargo cult skepticism. It has the appearance of investigative journalism, but not the content: fact-checking, vetting sources for expertise and bias, citing peer-reviewed research, seeking out differing perspectives. Instead, they’re grasping at any source that says what they want to be true.

And yet, for all their credulity, they’re motivated by outrages that everyone can plainly see. The conspiracy theorists’ methods are shoddy, their conclusions unsupported, but they’re perceiving something true about the state of the world. That’s the puzzle piece we need to keep in mind when talking to them.

Well — I’m not sure I agree with this at all. “Motivated by outrages that everyone can plainly see.” Which outrages? Flat earth? Vaccines are more harmful than the diseases they’re designed to cure? The only example given is QAnon, and how this reflects real inequality, “a small elite class [that] has been able to hoard so much wealth and power.” This is a very limited explanation.

There’s a link here to an Adam Lee story from a year ago, about “boring conspiracies,” which I discussed in this post.


Media Matters, 6 Jan 2024: Here are the key right-wing media figures who rewrote the history of January 6, subtitled “For the past three years, Tucker Carlson, Darren Beattie, Julie Kelly, Steve Bannon, and others have pushed a revisionist counternarrative that has undone the initial consensus about the attacks”

They assume you won’t notice how their stories keep changing, of course.


NY Times, Editorial Board, 6 Jan 2024: A Warning About Donald Trump and 2024

But the people who need the warning probably aren’t reading the New York Times, whose piece here concludes,

Re-electing Mr. Trump would present serious dangers to our Republic and to the world. This is a time not to sit out but instead to re-engage. We appeal to Americans to set aside their political differences, grievances and party affiliations and to contemplate — as families, as parishes, as councils and clubs and as individuals — the real magnitude of the choice they will make in November.


Joe.My.God, 7 Jan 2024: Trump: “We’re Going To Have The Greatest Dome Ever”

“I didn’t like it when Ronald Reagan suggested it because we didn’t have the technology. We do have the technology now, and we’re going to build a giant dome over our country to protect us from a hostile source. And I think it’s a great thing, and it’s going to all be made in the United States. And that’s something that I consider productive.”

He hasn’t the slightest clue what he’s talking about.


Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 5 Jan 2024: Jan. 6 was bound to be celebrated by Republicans — it was only a matter of time, subtitled “There is no way to support Donald Trump without backing his campaign to destroy democracy”

The Washington Post and University of Maryland conducted extensive polling about American attitudes regarding January 6, timed for the third anniversary. What they found is alarming, but unsurprising to anyone who understands the trajectories of authoritarian movements. Larger numbers of Republican voters embrace both conspiracy theories to minimize January 6 and the view that political violence is fine if it’s their own people doing it.

A big development is the rapid spread of an asinine conspiracy theory that the FBI “instigated” Jan. 6. It’s a lie that was heavily hyped by Tucker Carlson, who started invoking it very shortly after the riot itself. Carlson was fired last year from Fox News, but his hoax has spread to every corner of right-wing media and is frequently invoked by both Trump and Republican members of Congress. With that kind of all-hands-on-deck flogging of the lie, what’s surprising is how the nonsense is not even more popular. Forty-four percent of Trump voters espouse the lie, with another 33% demurring with “not sure.” Only 21% of Trump voters would admit that the FBI did not do January 6.

These are not rational people, using the word rational very specifically.


Washington Post, Amanda Ripley, 4 Jan 2024: Opinion | Why we split the world into good and evil — and make decisions we regret

Another example of one of my recurring themes. It’s all about how people react when they are frightened, confused, threatened.

Humans carve the world cleanly in two when they feel threatened. There’s a right and a wrong, a good and an evil, an us and a them. In normal times, this behavior is most obvious in people with serious depression or borderline personality disorder. Psychologists call it “splitting.”

These days, we see a lot of splitting by all kinds of people, from students to senators. “This fight is barbarism against civilization, good versus evil,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said after the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. “The differences between the two sides are as stark as darkness and light.”

In times of high anxiety, each new conflict gets framed this way, a galactic struggle against a dark lord. Complexity is intolerable; ambivalence is cowardly. During the racial justice protests in 2020, all cops were bastards — or so the slogan went. You were either a racist or an anti-racist. “There is no inbetween safe space of ‘not racist,’” Ibram X. Kendi wrote.

Conservatives and Republicans especially do this. “But like most cognitive distortions, splitting makes us feel worse after it makes us feel better.”

As President George W. Bush led the country into two catastrophic wars, he split the world into two oversimplified camps: the United States and evil. He referred to “evil” in 319 speeches, or nearly a third of all his speeches in his first 2½ years in office…

Further examples about Israel, abortion, climate change. A good example about Israeli writer Etgar Keret. The writer concludes — this might well be one of my mottoes —

That may be the best advice for living in a time like this: “Inhale the complexity.” See the pain. Beware black-and-white thinking — and rest your tired eyes on the gray. That’s where all the action is.


For example, on immigration, where conservatives demonize all immigrants. Forgetting history, ignoring reality.

Washington Post, Marc A. Thiessen, 4 Jan 2024: Opinion | Immigrants aren’t poison. They’re America’s lifeblood.


About how young voters are disillusioned about politics.

LA Times, Robin Abcarian, 3 Jan 2024: Column: Really, young voters? You want to teach Democrats a lesson by letting Trump back into the White House?


About how Republicans used to be. Not any more.

Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin, 2 Jan 2024: Opinion | Want to know how real conservatives think? Read their brief on immunity.

Referring to the “amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in support of U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan’s ruling that four-times-indicted former president Donald Trump doesn’t enjoy immunity from any actions taken during his presidency.”

In spelling out these arguments in this fashion, the amicus brief not only dismantles Trump’s preposterous claims to immunity but also rebukes the entire GOP that has followed Trump into a thicket of lawlessness, authoritarianism, violence and chaos. Its authors thereby vividly illustrate how far Republicans have come in abandoning liberty, limited government, judicial restraint and fair play.


R.E.M., “Around the Sun,” from the same-named album (2004)

If there’s a philosophical analysis of Michael Stipe’s lyrics for all the R.E.M. songs — I assume he’s been the primary song-writer and lyricist — I would love to read it. Until I search for one, I will refrain from offering my own analysis. But his philosophy is pretty plain.

Hold onto this boy a little longer
Take another trip around the sun
If I jumped into the ocean to believe
If I climbed a mountain would I have to reach?
Do I even dare to speak? To dream? Believe?
Give me a voice so strong
I can question what I have seen

This entry was posted in Music, Politics, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.