Has anyone else noticed that a lot of wingnut punditry consists mainly of lecturing everybody on the need to be self-reliant while simultaneously begging for money? It’s almost like they don’t actually believe the stuff they’re writing…
I know it’s an ingrained assumption for many liberals that everyone in the right-wing clown car – or at least those that have achieved some measure of fame and power – are only cynically pretending to believe shit that they laugh about in private, but it’s a little too farfetched to think that they just put on the crazy person mask before they head out the door every morning, and revert back to a level of relative sanity at home to chortle over how they put one over on the rubes yet again. Brad may be kidding here, but it’s a common knee-jerk reaction every time something is mentioned about one of the usual provacateurs: they’re just in it for the money, they don’t really believe that bullshit, Dubya only talks like he got kicked in the head by a horse in order to bond with all the genuine idiots, and so on.
If you’ve ever tried to be someone you’re not, to act differently for the sake of impressing someone, say, you know how grueling it is to try to be of two minds. You can’t just be natural, since you have to try to consciously maintain this fiction. You have to try to constantly look over your own shoulder, to think about how to act and speak rather than just doing it. At some point, if you don’t just give up, it becomes far easier to convince yourself that the fiction is reality, hence the cognitive dissonance that makes our interactions with wingnut relatives so entertainingly surreal. Stephen Colbert is funny because he knows he’s putting on an act, he’s conscious of it and can play around with it. His role model, Bill O’Falafel, comes across as an impetuous, blustering asshole because he is one, he really believes his own bullshit. People don’t get that hysterically defensive if they’re just playing a role. He might suspect and fear somewhere deep down that he’s a fraud, but he hasn’t accepted it and come to peace with it, hence the fireworks any time he’s challenged.
There’s also the simple truth that a lot of people – perhaps most – are just plain stupid, dishonest and prone to putting themselves at the center of the universe. It’s only hypocrisy when other people do it; there’s always extenuating circumstances when their actions don’t match up with their rhetoric. They lie to each other and themselves all the time, and they don’t have the intellectual integrity to challenge their own assumptions for the sake of maintaining any sort of ideological consistency. They really are as stupid and incoherent as they appear; I don’t know why people want to complicate the picture by attributing the self-awareness and intelligence to Limbaugh, Coulter, Malkin, O’Reilly, etc. necessary for living such a huge lie, turning it on and off at will, and in full public view, no less. Occam’s Razor, people, use it. No need to imagine a clever, manipulating superego at work when a raw id will do just fine.
And ultimately, what the fuck does it matter? Does it make the slightest practical difference whether Ann Coulter believes her own ever-increasing hysterical slander, or whether James Dobson honestly believes in Jesus and thinks he’s living a good Christian lifestyle? Does it harm the discourse any less whether Michael “Savage” Weiner is really a bloodthirsty fascist or just playing one on his radio show? Given the undeniable fact that people like them have thousands of followers who damn sure do think that way, why is it so hard to assume the same about the people at the head of the idiot parade? Why this obsession with secret motives, as if unmasking one individual’s inauthenticity will somehow cause all their followers to rethink their assumptions? Did all the televangelist scandals of the ’80s do anything to put a dent in the number of people willing to send money to a rich guy on tv waving a bible around?
It just seems to me that the left is going to have to find an effective way to engage this shit, as distasteful as it is, because scoffing and expecting the majority of people to see through it just isn’t working.