Links and Comments: Owning Libs and Tyrannical Government Plots

Republican values and principles; enduring human nature.

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Politico: How ‘Owning the Libs’ Became the GOP’s Core Belief, subtitled, “The weird journey of a tongue-in-cheek catchphrase from conservative-mocking putdown to the defining tenet of the Republican Party’s way of life.”

Gamers borrowed the term from the nascent world of 1990s computer hacking, using it to describe their conquered opponents: “owned.” To “own the libs” does not require victory so much as a commitment to infuriating, flummoxing or otherwise distressing liberals with one’s awesomely uncompromising conservatism. And its pop-cultural roots and clipped snarkiness are perfectly aligned with a party that sees pouring fuel on the culture wars’ fire as its best shot at surviving an era of Democratic control.

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And last Sunday’s Doonsbury, here.

A man walks up to a voter registration clerk, unsure which party to register for. The clerk asks him to describe himself. He says:

Well, I’m a small business owner, or I was. The pandemic’s bankrupted me, I’ve no health insurance and can’t make the mortgage payments on a house with no power that just got flooded again — thank you, climate change! I’d like to start over but I *still* have a massive student loan debt.

Clerk: So what do you think the primary role of government should be?
Man: Owning the libs.
Clerk: You’re a Republican.

(This is ironic, of course, because all of the man’s problems are those the Democrats want to address. But I have to say this because many Republicans/conservatives are blind to anything except tribalism.)

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This aligns with the evidence of history that in 2020 the Republican Party announced no updated “platform” of goals and principles, that all/both parties have virtually always done every four years.

Washington Post: The Republican Party announces that it stands for nothing.

It stood only to support T****, like a cult would.

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Washington Post: We’re all in this together — unless you’re a Republican.

A set of cartoons

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But these are not new attitudes; they have always been here, part of human nature.

This past week I reread Robert A. Heinlein’s 1951 novel THE PUPPET MASTERS. (Actually I read, for the first time, the 1990 unexpurgated edition of the cut version published in 1951.) It’s about slug-like aliens who take over individual humans by attaching themselves to the upper back, supplanting human individual wills in service of the slugs’ group mind. (It preceded INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS but the theme is analogous to its fear-of-communism and loss-of-individual-liberty.)

I was struck by this passage, as the US government tries to implement a nationwide “Sun Tan” scheme whereby everyone goes naked from the waist-up (females can wear thin clear wraps) so that anyone “ridden” by an alien slug would be exposed. But some, despite evidence of an alien invasion, resent this directive.

There were the fools who wanted to H-bomb the cities of the Mississippi Valley right out of existence, like curing a lip cancer by cutting off the head, but they were offset by their twins who had not seen slugs, did not believe in slugs, and felt that the whole matter was a violation of states’ rights and Schedule Sun Tan was a tyrannical Washington plot.

Live free or die, indeed.

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