unreasoning zombie nihilism

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Johann Hari's Independent article on "Republicans, religion and the triumph of unreason" (h/t: Jim Downey at UTI) notes that "Since Obama's rise, the US right has been skipping frantically from one fantasy to another, like a person in the throes of a mental breakdown:"

It started when they claimed he was a secret Muslim, and - at the same time - that he was a member of a black nationalist church that hated white people. Then, once these arguments were rejected and Obama won, they began to argue that he was born in Kenya and secretly smuggled into the United States as a baby, and the Hawaiian authorities conspired to fake his US birth certificate. [...] No amount of hard evidence - here's his birth certificate, here's a picture of his mother heavily pregnant in Hawaii, here's the announcement of his birth in the local Hawaiian paper - can pierce this conviction.

Hari then asks, "How do they train themselves to be so impervious to reality?"

It begins, I suspect, with religion. They are taught from a young age that it is good to have "faith" - which is, by definition, a belief without any evidence to back it up. You don't have "faith" that Australia exists, or that fire burns: you have evidence. You only need "faith" to believe the untrue or unprovable. Indeed, they are taught that faith is the highest aspiration and most noble cause. Is it any surprise this then percolates into their political views? Faith-based thinking spreads and contaminates the rational.

Paul Krugman notes a different example in this op-ed: the survival of Reaganomics. "Call me naïve," writes Krugman, "but I actually hoped that the failure of Reaganism in practice would kill it. It turns out, however, to be a zombie doctrine: even though it should be dead, it keeps on coming:"

So why won't these zombie ideas die?

Part of the answer is that there's a lot of money behind them. "It is difficult to get a man to understand something," said Upton Sinclair, "when his salary" -- or, I would add, his campaign contributions -- "depend upon his not understanding it."

Joe Klein writes at Time that "The GOP Has Become a Party of Nihilists," and "prevailing cravenness" has largely overwhelmed the principles they once espoused. In addition to the forces of religion and wealth helping to reinforce the status quo, the naked lust for power is another factor in their profusion of "outright lies:"

There are conservatives [...] who make their arguments based on facts. But they have been overwhelmed by nihilists and hypocrites more interested in destroying the opposition and gaining power than in the public weal.

Unreason, zombie doctrines, and nihilism--they've hit the trifecta!

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on August 25, 2009 1:28 PM.

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