The Far Right's First 100 Days: Getting More Extreme by the Day
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When Sean Hannity runs a poll asking whether his viewers prefer a military coup, secession or armed rebellion -- and armed rebellion wins -- that's evidence of this kind of shift. Right-wing talkers have built careers out of demonizing liberals; but when they start talking about what specific steps should be taken against them, that's not something we should ignore.
Second: There's been a quantum leap in the sheer down-the-rabbit-hole surreality of their beliefs about the world. Bloggers have been pointing out for years that conservatives have zero compunction about making shit up; but in the past, their prevarications were almost always built around a kernel of fact, wrapped in thick layers of distortion, mis-attribution or lies of omission.
What's new in the past 100 days is that we're now seeing stories that are just flat-out fabulation, without even so much as a nod to reality. They're not even bothering to try to attach these claims to any kind of truth. Their fantasies are so much truthier to them.
Up is down. Black is white. Obama's not a citizen, he's going to take our guns, Congress is about to legalize incest ... this we believe, and there is no expert and no amount of real-world evidence that can ever convince us otherwise.
The right wing's retreat from consensus reality has finally left it living in an Orwellian alternative universe all its own.
Third: They've been humiliated by their election losses. And that's hugely dangerous, because authoritarian leaders react uniquely badly to being humiliated.
Experts tell us that their huge egos and insatiable need for control make them very brittle -- and that the shattering point is often a specific event that publicly repudiates their authority, or makes it obvious to the world and their followers that they are no longer in control. Decisively losing both the White House and the Congress has been all that and then some.
This overweening humiliation is growing every day that the Democrats and their new president stay in power. It's a pain that will not go away, and it's likely to curdle into something far more venomous in time.
The result, unfortunately, is probably going to be more violent attacks on government authority like the one in Pittsburgh last month.
Fourth: There's that new sense of urgency. Groups heading for violent confrontation are often pushed past the brink by the belief that the apocalypse is unfolding before their very eyes and that they have no choice but to seize the moment and act.
For many on the right, Jan. 20 was the day the trumpet sounded. Obama is going to turn the country over to the commies. He's going to take away your guns. He's going to open the borders, turn the country into a welfare state and give all our tax money to lazy minorities.
And it's no idle threat -- they're quite convinced that he's going to do all this any day now. This panic is new, and it's palpable. It's also worrisome, because these would-be revolutionaries have been preparing themselves for years for just this moment.
Fifth: The demagogues have seized conservatism's center stage. Violent groups typically organize around a leader who promotes the apocalyptic visions, the dualism, the persecution complex, the eliminationist fantasies -- and the sense that True Patriots can no longer wait another minute to act.
In some groups, this leader exerts total control over every aspect of their followers' lives, like David Koresh and Jim Jones did. In others, the leader is simply a figurehead who puts the ideology out there, leaving the followers to figure out how to implement things on their own. (The followers also bear full responsibility for the results, leaving the leader relatively unscathed.) Osama bin Ladin runs his show this way.