Jeremy Sherman

Here's how to behead the GOP hydra

We must cut off all of this hypocritical hydra's heads all at once – the prudish-pope heads, the petulant-brat heads, the smarter-than-science heads, the ignorance-is-smart heads, the crowing heads, the whiny heads, the pedantic heads that scorn us for our immorality and the cynical heads that cackle at us for caring about morality. All of them.

They can all be chopped at once only if we focus doggedly on this: The hydra that is the GQP doesn't care what words mean. It'll ape any sound to look heroic always, moment-to-moment.

It's theatrics. Method acting. More like animal braying than human saying. The hydra just parrots the sounds of someone who cares.

Their method acting is easy. They get themselves all frothed up at anyone in their way. Frothed up, they feel like saints which ignites more outrage at the sinners which makes them feel still more like saints. It's the paradox of holy war crusading: No deed too dirty for saints like them.

It's a vicious-virtue cycle: They get vicious which makes them feel virtuous. Feeling virtuous they get still more vicious. Kickstart the righteous indignation and it takes on a life of its own. Word meanings melt away.

They're the heroic patriot, saint, renegade, Christian, conservative – whatever so long as it sounds flattering. Anyone in their way is a traitor, sinner, boring, heathen, socialist, communist, whatever so long as it sounds damning. The formula is robotic. It works if we let them get away with it, which we do.

Humans assume words have meanings. The hydra drops that limitation and plays God, eternally right, righteous, mighty, and consistent. To the craving and craven, the method acting gives a false but convincing impression of an uninterrupted winning streak.

Their hypocrisy is a side-effect of not caring what words mean. Call them on their hypocrisy and they'll simply demand respect for their "integrity," another word that sounds heroic, another word whose meaning doesn't matter to them. They're literally de-meaning. They strip the meaning off of words to demean all rivals and elevate themselves.

We enable the hydra every time we say "they believe that…" Beliefs are irrelevant to their meaning-stripped words, words not just weaponized but stripped of all reference. It's how the hydra became post-truth: By not caring about what words mean.

The more we care about words mean and about the causes we champion, the better they do. According to Carl Woodward, Lindsay Graham told Trump, "If it weren't for the Democratic Party, the Republican Party would fold. They always keep us in the game. They're able to throw us a lifeline. So this defund the police, occupation of Seattle and this crazy shit is going to put you back in the game."

The hydra couldn't get away with it before. Now it can. It has dizzied the Democrats and the media, got it running around in circles trying to play catch-up with their words as if they meant them, trying to chop off one head at a time with civilized, reasoned, counter-argument.

For example, the GQP scores direct hits by accusing their opponents of being far left, radical, socialist and communists. But how often does anyone ask them for a definition of those terms? Never. We let them use the terms as though they mean them, when they couldn't define them if they tried. Every time we refute their words as if they mean them we enable them. Every time we let their words hang in the air, we enable them.

It's a win for them every time they trick us into thinking about what words mean when they're not thinking about meanings at all. That's their whole long game and if we would just stop playing along, we would decapitate the hydra.

Robotically Playing God Is Much Easier Than Being Human www.youtube.com

Trump's debate performance showcased the only thing his cult cares about

The kid is in his room playing video games. Mom calls to him that it's time to do chores and homework.

The kid's head is in the game, a first person shooter. He's in a tank mowing down everyone in his path. There's some heroic theme to the game but the details don't matter. All he knows is he's on the side of everything right, righteous and mighty. It's his call of duty, and now his mom is saying duty calls. Fuck that!

Still playing, he brays at his mom through his bedroom door, spouting whatever to get her to back off. He pouts, moans, whines, bleats, blasts, snarls, barks, scolds, preaches, condemns, threatens — to him it's all just noises to keep his pathway clear, the airhorn of intransigence.

He brays it all with theatric earnestness to give the impression that his substantive arguments trump all other considerations. All the braying means is, "Reality can go fuck itself and so can you because I'm not budging."

His mom is trying to teach conscientiousness by example. The kid's fake earnestness tugs at her which plays right to the kid's advantage. As she poses counter-arguments as though he's doing more than braying, the kid gets to keep on playing.

Lying is knowing you're not telling the truth. Bullshitting is not caring what's true. The kid doesn't care what's true. He's bullshitting to bulldoze through anything that thwarts him – bullshitdozing. And it's working because his mother is lulled to sleep, dozed off on the bullshit.

Bullshitdozing is all there has ever been to the Trump cult. The reasons why reality owes the Trump cult total accommodation are as irrelevant as whatever arguments the brat brays.

This alone, explains the incoherence and hypocrisy. It's not calculated but cacophony. You wouldn't expect a goat to bray coherently. It's all just animal grunting and territorial pissing, the anthem rock of "You change. We won't."

Sure, it's shifty but in the service of pure shiftlessness, and we've spent four years trying to reason with it like the mom trying to reason with a master bullshitdozer plowing through everything in his path. He's the indomitable snowjob showman, and it has gotten him this far.

Now for a moment, please set aside your disdain, disgust and hand-wringing about that kid and admit to this:

Like all of us, you'd prefer that reality accommodate you rather than you having to accommodate reality. You've got your groove and you don't want to be thwarted, stalled, waylayed. You'd rather that other car lets you through first. You'd rather be proven right than have to rethink things. You'd rather reality conform to your habits so you can avoid the hassle of conforming to reality. It's just easier.

There was at least a bit of that impetuous impulsive petulance in you growing up and there's no reason to assume it just disappears. We're not all egomaniacs or narcissists, but we do like to get our way by getting things out of our way. We all have a craving for intransigence. We'd rather others budge so we don't have to.

With some people, that craving gets so strong and the excuses get so self-convincing that they just go all-in on intransigence. I suspect that's all that the Trump movement ever was and understandably so.

Reality always pinches. It's been pinching more lately. Trump just presents unflinching indominitability, "We shall not be moved" with no higher cause than having to move being less fun than making others move.

Last night's debate was the first moment in four years when Trump was in public as an equal to others.

All he had to do was make sure his appearance of unflappable dominance remained uninterrupted, and it wasn't hard at all. Trump is unmoderatable under current social norms. He bullshitdozes through the norms like the video-game brat.

He didn't blow it; he nailed it. His best strategy is to continue to pose as indomitable, demonstrate the inevitability of his total dominance through increasingly brazen uncloseted fascism and hope to seduce more closeted goons.

The choice couldn't be starker:

Trump's platform is indomitability. If he wins, say goodbye to give and take. You'll be free like a Russian citizen, able to go about your business so long as you never get anywhere near threatening his cult's absolute dominance. His message is crystal clear, "Reality can kiss my ass. I'm not changing for anything or anyone."

Biden's platform is soft, compromising and compromised even by age, but you can count on him to care, try and delegate effectively.

Want the thrill of blind budge-proof bluster? Join Trump's goon squad.

Had enough and don't like where it's going? Vote Biden.

The founders tried to guard against con artist tyrants — but our democratic republic may end anyway

Our founding fathers were of an era when slavery and colonization were a direct extension of the "t'was ever thus" of history. To fault them for their failures to live by our current standards (by which they fail miserably) is to miss the point.

Keep reading... Show less

If Trump wins, all of our past war victories are reversed

The Right has mastered preemptive wolf-crying.  Calling Obama Hitler got us up in arms about hyperbole, which opened the way for right to shift us toward Nazism with us reluctant to call it by its true name because, after all, we said Hitlerizing is hyperbole.

Keep reading... Show less

This is the rhetorical trick most likely to cause our species’ extinction

For all the invective we throw and recycle at the MAGA cult, we have yet to put a finger on, let alone driven a stake through that cult’s mindless, heartlessness. Our invective is at most therapeutic for us with little effect on them.

Keep reading... Show less

The re-emergence of totalitarianism -- and why some extremists prevail

“News” means two things, what’s happening and what’s surprising. In information theory, it means surprise. It’s not news that you still have air to breathe or that millions live in poverty. More of the same is not news because it’s not surprising.

By information theory’s standard, it’s no surprise that news reporting is all about surprise, shock and the extreme versions of everything. Extremist trolls are surprising and therefore newsworthy, dominating subtler interpretations of what’s going on.

Keep reading... Show less

How to beat a trumpbot

Throughout history people have fallen for an easy way out of life’s complications by just pretending that they can do no wrong. Moment to moment, challenge to challenge they find trumped-up rationalizations that they pretend trump all challenges to their absolute authority.

Keep reading... Show less

History shows Trump’s house of cards will eventually fall — and reality itself with get the last word

Trump has overlearned one life lesson: Impulse trumps deliberation. There have been gaps in its success but overall, it has worked beautifully. His impulsivity now reliably outwits any wit.

Keep reading... Show less

How to take down a cult leader

Do you focus on shaming them for the damage they’re doing? Do you try to expose their lies and hypocrisies? Do you remind them of our common values? Do you try to prevail with your values? Do you try to prove that they’re factually incorrect? Do you curse them for being bad people?

Keep reading... Show less

Conspicuous presumption: Blatant hypocrisy isn’t just a moral outrage — it’s a status symbol

The king has everything; the peasants have nothing. He eats 15 course meals while the peasants starve. Rebels yell and the king laughs, ignoring or suppressing them effortlessly.

Keep reading... Show less
BRAND NEW STORIES

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.