Thursday, April 17, 2014


These are great days for conservative paranoia. All days are, of course, but in the past after each bitter moan about liberal fascism there has usually been a concomitant mood-swing into delusional grandeur. Lately, however, it's all slave narratives from conservatives crushed under the heel of ObamaHitler. Yesterday we had the PJ Media guys telling us scientists are censoring them in furtherance of a liberal plot, and today I found a wild one in Stella Morabito at The Federalist, one of the right's shinier new meth labs.

In "Cults In Our Midst: Patty Hearst And The Brainwashing Of America," Morabito starts by lengthily recounting the horrible Hearst story: kidnapping, isolation, repeated rape, and "a coarse Maoist style program of indoctrination and re-education" in which she was told "that 'Amerikkka' was a racist and evil society, repeatedly calling her a privileged 'bourgeoise bitch' and her father a 'pig' of the 'corporate fascist state,'" which broke Hearst and turned her into Tania.

Regular readers will have already guessed that Morabito connects the closet-rape-Maoist-Amerikkka-fascist state program to mainstream Democratic values. Ah, but how she does it, that's the thing! Her first move is to link Hearst's brainwashing to that time "the White House launched a 'behavioral insights team' assigned with the task of 'improving policies' through insights into human behavior." I covered that "nudge squad" thing last year -- if that's mind-control, then so is advertising. Norabito seems to anticipate that normal people might feel that way, and so goes for the neckrub-that-becomes-a-headlock rhetorical twist:
We take as a given that political persuasion is part of public life. But likewise we take as a given that deliberate government manipulation of the populace using the techniques of unwitting or coercive persuasion represents a grave threat to our freedoms.
Tomato, to-mah-to. Later Norabito lists Margaret Thaler Singer's "six conditions that create an atmosphere conducive to coercive persuasion":
  • Keep the person unaware that there is an agenda to control or change the person and their thoughts
  • Control time and physical environment
  • Create a sense of powerlessness, fear, and dependency
  • Suppress old behavior and attitudes
  • Instill new behavior and attitudes
  • Put forth a closed system of logic.
And guess where she sees them at work:
The frightening realization is that these techniques work on mass audiences as well. We can see hints in the phenomenon we call “political correctness"...
No, wait, it gets better:
The seismic and manufactured public opinion “shift” on same sex marriage in the past several of years is a glaring example of how coercive persuasion works.
That's right -- America has been brainwashed gay-friendly. And you thought Will & Grace was just a funny TV show!
Label anyone who disagrees as a bigot or a "hater," a non-person. Reward those who agree with public accolades. Before you know it, even well-known old conservative pundits who fear becoming irrelevant sign on to it, and thus contribute to the juggernaut.
I hope she'll follow up by telling us how the same techniques turned a brainwashed nation against racial segregation. I mean, it can't have been anything else, right?

Conservatives are presently inclined to attribute any election they lose to America's majority of "low information voters." But Norabito points in a new direction: Maybe now when they lose, even in opinion polls, they'll tell themselves it's not because voters are stupid, it's because they're brainwashed! The real fun will come when try deprogramming the voters.

UPDATE. In comments, Roger Ailes and satch confess their gay brainwashing started with The Hollywood Squares. "Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly were not only funny," says satch, "but persuasive, making them early 'Choice Architects.' Damn those subversive game shows!!!"

Similarly, says coozledad, "I was a conservative until Hawkeye Pierce made Frank Burns look like an asshole."

Meanwhile mortimer finds a Morabito essay on Cosmos. Excerpt:
This is propaganda of the crudest sort, reminiscent of how Stalin’s Soviet Union characterized non-communists, or how the Hutus of Rwanda characterized the Tutsis, or, most famously, how the Third Reich characterized Jews.
I'd say, "I'll have to start following Morabito," but I fear she wouldn't accept I meant this in the traditional sense of reading her work as it comes out, and assume that I was tailing her for ObamaHitler.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


At PJ Media, Rand Simberg headlines,
We are all scientists
and uses a cute, familiar routine to demonstrate this ("If you’ve ever gone through a thought process like that in dealing with a life situation, congratulations! You are a scientist"). But Simberg isn't really trying to make his readers appreciate the scientific method: He's mainly running a new angle on the traditional conservative argument that scientists who see a trend toward climate change that should be addressed are all just lying for liberalism.

Simberg says a sentence (!) in a USA Today story about some environmental official who tweeted a climate skeptic message "would seem to imply that only 'scientists' (however the reporter defines it) are allowed to be skeptical about scientific theories" -- though the story implies no such thing. Taking off from this overwrought imputation of censorship, he really starts working the dry ice machine and thunder sheets:
When we are not allowed to discuss issues that involve policy actions that could have devastating effects on the world’s economy because we are not part of an apparently credentialed priesthood, we are not being allowed to even debate science, let alone deny it. We are instead apparently apostates in a new non-theistic, but very powerful religion, complete with believers, heretics, sin and indulgences, who must be silenced.
Many, many climate skeptics publish in the popular press, and in fact one of our two major parties has gone total climate-change denialist, despite the embargo of the liberal-fascist scientists. Yet Simberg concludes:
Which simply shows that sometimes, just as war is too important to be left to the generals, science can be too important to be left to the “scientists.”
Elsewhere in the same venue Frank J. Fleming, an alleged humorist (Jonah Goldberg is a fan, which tells all), headlines
There Are No Such Things as 'Scientists'
The ensuing article is more or less the same as Simberg's except with something resembling jokes. It begins with a similar exercise to Simberg's ("Find a book. Hold it over the floor. Now release it. Write down what you observe. Boom! You’ve just become a scientist") and proceeds  to the conclusion that you can't trust guys who snootily insist they're using empirical data to form rational conclusions about the physical universe:
Now all of this isn’t meant to belittle science, which is a great process by which we discover facts about the world around us; you should probably make use of it yourself. This is, though, meant to belittle scientists, who are just people, and if you’ve ever been around people, you know they’re easily biased and prone to arrogance and error, and thus everything they say should be taken with a grain of salt.
These articles demonstrate how far conservative thought has come on this subject. It's not just promoting the idea that a cadre of whitecoats is trying to destroy America with false, liberal information, perversely ignoring the far greater bribes oil and gas companies can offer them. It further suggests that any time some guy with a sheepskin tries to tell you what's what, you should mistrust him as a matter of course, because he's no more likely than any other snake-oil salesman to be telling the truth. Why should he? They only spend years in school so they can collect Obamabribes and sneer at good folk like you 'n' me. Once upon a time, when they were taking us to the moon and inventing boner pills, scientists could be trusted; but now that most of them have come to conclusions that are injurious to Republican campaign donors' interests, they're just another bunch of moochers.

And they wonder why kids aren't taking STEM classes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


(Mild spoilers.) Don Draper remains a rock with a few cracks. I thought his breakdown at the Hershey pitch presaged a big change, and maybe it will turn out to have done. But this episode only suggests a change in his tactics: he's still copywriting, albeit sub rosa, which suits his hidden nature; he's still opaque with everyone; the only observable change is he hasn't balled anyone he isn't married to yet, and it's not entirely clear that he won't. I don't think his turndown of the widow on the plane (Neve Campbell, perfectly modish and intriguingly abstracted) was a sign of maturity. (Don can always talk to women.) I just think he couldn't take the distraction. I like that he says "I have to go to work" so often -- for one thing it reminds me of "Batdance"; for another, it makes me interested in his plan, which I'm guessing is bigger than sharing freelance money with Freddie; and for another, it's interesting that Don has always been better off in his work than at the agency -- now that the agency won't have him, maybe he'll do something interesting.

Have I just been mystified by the Don/Megan relationship too long, or are they supposed to be absolutely unsuited to one another?

Pete Campbell gets more interesting all the time. It makes sense that he's dressing like an ambitious casting assistant and talking about vibrations; he's always a little strained about finding his bliss. When's his orgy?

Speaking of which, I think Roger's pleasure chamber is looking a little sepulchral. He said something once about being a curious child. I sense him running out of curiosities. If his daughter's cult conversion doesn't do something profound to him I'll be disappointed.

I hope the Joan arc isn't "men are pigs" all season long.

Isn't it something that Peggy is so miserable, and looks for relief by selling a pitch she doesn't know is Don's? And that her and Don's miseries end the episode?


John Hinderaker further explains his support for the Bundy Ranch.
Some have claimed that Harry Reid is behind the BLM’s war against Cliven Bundy, on the theory that he wants the land for a solar project in which his son Rory is involved, along with the Chinese. I don’t believe this is correct. The solar projects are located north of Las Vegas, 30 miles or so from the area where Bundy ranches.
But the connection is nevertheless important in two respects.
Stop to take that in for a moment: Hinderaker says the militiamen's argument is insupportable, but now Hinderaker is going to tell you why the argument nonetheless remains relevant.

First, he says, the government's favored tortoise-protection area is where Bundy wants to graze without paying; "So it is possible that the federal government is driving Bundy off federal lands to make way for mitigation activities that enable the solar energy development to the north. But I don’t think it is necessary to go there." ("Don’t think it is necessary to go there," by the way, is Lawyerly for "I withdraw the question, I just wanted to smear the witness within the hearing of the jury.")

"The second and more important point," per Hinderaker: is obvious that some activities are favored by the Obama administration’s BLM, and others are disfavored. The favored developments include solar and wind projects. No surprise there: the developers of such projects are invariably major Democratic Party donors. Wind and solar energy survive only by virtue of federal subsidies, so influencing people like Barack Obama and Harry Reid is fundamental to the developers’ business plans. Ranchers, on the other hand, ask nothing from the federal government other than the continuation of their historic rights. It is a safe bet that Cliven Bundy is not an Obama or Reid contributor.
So though there's no proof that Obama and Reid illegally rigged it so Bundy would lose his access to the government land, the fact that something happened that Obama and Reid would like is proof of... well, that something happened that Cliven Bundy and John Hinderaker don't like.

The remainder is just old-fashioned ressentiment: "And their way of life is one that, frankly, is on the outs. They don’t develop apps. They don’t ask for food stamps... They aren’t illegal immigrants," etc. In the end, this argument isn't based on the law -- nor even, oddly, on the legitimate idea that the law should be changed -- but on the notion that if some rightwing sovereign-citizen nut dressed as Ronald Reagan feels bad about something, that proves America has gone all to hell.

I'm surprised that allegedly respectable writers (Time's Blog of the Year back in 1964) are embarrassing themselves this way. Maybe they think they'd better be nice to the nuts because they're all they have left.

UPDATE. Comments have gotten pretty good, with one fellow coming in to lay some Hard Truth on everybody -- apparently it's really all about water rights, which Bundy himself hasn't asserted (he's more voluble about not recognizing the authority of the U.S. government). As you might expect, the fellow winds up yelling about Al Sharpton and telling other commenters to "get on yer knees and do what ya do best." These guys really don't like being laughed at.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


...about the Bundy Ranch shenanigans and rightblogger reactions. I'm not sure which is the most fun part: watching the smaller bloggers holler for moar armed insurrection, or watching the top dogs trying not to get too far ahead of the curve lest they lose their shot at a walled garden at the Washington Post after this whole thing blows over.

Friday, April 11, 2014


When I was seven years old, a couple of kids in my neighborhood asked me who the ugliest girl in my school was. I unchivalrously told them, and they went into the middle of the street in front of my house, drew a big heart, and put the girl's name and mine inside it, and started chanting that I loved her.

So I can understand Jesse Walker's rage. He's probably a little older than I was when I got mad at those boys, but libertarians don't mature as quickly as the rest of us.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Shorter Aaron Goldstein: I apologize to readers of The American Spectator -- when I celebrated Hank Aaron's baseball career, I didn't realize that he was black.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


Oh brother::
Kirsten Powers: Liberals' mob rule
Kickstarter's attempt to censor film about convicted abortion doctor is another example.
This is the latest entrant in the "Mozilla is liberal fascism" derby. Apparently some folks wanted to use the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform to fund their Kermit Gosnell horror movie; Kickstarter had some trouble with the gruesome marketing copy that was to appear at Kickstarter's website -- not with the movie, though Powers labors to make that hard to notice -- and tried to work something out with them, which the filmmakers, who apparently know a great PR angle when they see one, found unacceptable.

Thus, Powers says Kickstarter was "blocking the movie," because they love abortion. My favorite nonsense phrase in the story is "Kickstarter, like too much of the news media, wants only one version of the late-term abortion story told." That's really a tell: By bitching about liberal bias in the media, these guys have made major press outlets too shit-scared to assert anything without letting a wingnut rave alongside it in the name of "balance." Powers seems to think the same racket -- show up, fall down, start crying, collect settlement -- will work elsewhere. So she talks about this incident as if setting guidelines for service is media bias. The company's not just supposed to provide its offered service, it's supposed to tell the filmmaker's "story," and any limitation on that is censorship.

The connection with the Mozilla bitchfest is obvious, but I also see a relationship with the religious-freedom cases the brethren have been crying about, in which a few bakers and wedding photographers have been sued for not serving gay couples. These guys hear the civil rights, public accommodation arguments against denying someone services based on their sexual orientation, I'm guessing, and think, "Oh, well, so we'll go where you libtards work and make you do what we want."


Hmph, says National Review's John J. Miller:
A subscription offer for Poetry magazine showed up in the mail yesterday. The outside of the envelope carried a big quote: “New editor, new life, new kickassery.” A card on the inside repeated the quote. I’m all for useful and clever neologisms, but would you subscribe to a magazine about poetry that thinks “kickassery” is its great virtue?
John J. Miller is the author of an essay on "the 50 greatest conservative rock songs." Also, here's something else he wrote about poetry:
Yesterday, I offered qualified praise on the selection of W.S. Merwin as poet laureate. Well, I probably should have qualified it even more! At First Things, Joseph Bottum exposes Merwin as a crazed Bush hater...
Since all us liberals are supposed to be bullies now, I ask the politburo to see that Miller is silenced on matters of poesy. C'mon, I know he's not a millionaire CEO but it'll still be fun!

UPDATE. Commenters feel the sprung rhythm of laughter! "Poetry Magazine was been around since 1912," says (the good) Roger Ailes. "As far as I can tell, it hasn't had to resort to beg-a-thons, bamboozle-the-elderly cruises and Koch kissassery to stay in business." There are also some Michael Berube tribute locutions, e.g., "I used to read the humanists, but ever since the Sicilian Vespers I've been outraged by Dante Alighieri," and God help us a Seamus Heaney parody by coozledad:
The tightness and the nilness round that space
when your car stops in the road, the poets inspect
your Bush/ Cheney sticker and, as one bends his face 
towards your window, you catch sight of more
on a hill beyond. Gelignite, ticking
to sell you an arts magazine, or give you an ass kicking 
and everything is pure condescension
until a poet motions and you leave
after Joseph Bottums is mentioned— 
a little nervous, pulse slightly quickened
as always by that quiver in the shorts
ready to fuck that chicken.
Silent upon a freakin' derr, I am.