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I've never known why, but for some reason irrational beliefs have always infuriated me - especially when they have dire social consequences that those who hold them take no responsibility for.  There is something beyond selfish about clinging to a belief in the face of facts at other people's expense, and for whatever reason that kind of behavior has always seemed like a direct assault on human morality and intelligence - a statement, for all intents and purposes, that the speaker is the only being in existence and all others are subject to his/her idiotic whims and neuroses.  So it saddens me when I run into this phenomenon among people who claim to be progressives, however infrequently.

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I'm saddened, and disgusted, whenever some Obama Derangement conspiracy theory accusing the President of pretty much everything under the Sun on the basis of nothing but innuendo, personal disparagement, and a long chain of schizoid fringe associations ends up being promoted as a serious topic either in the MSM or here on Daily Kos (Glenn Greenwald is the worst perpetrator on the left, and of course on the right the perps are too numerous to count).  It's offensive because my reason and my morality are one and the same, and Unreason used as a propaganda weapon assaults both simultaneously.  But this community is usually pretty good at filtering out most forms of CT, so I'm not confronted by the sort of mentalities disposed to it that often, except on certain limited subjects.

But there is another side to the Unreason coin, and it's one that doesn't have any well-known label because it's basically the default position of authority - and thus is unlikely to come under harsh criticism from other authoritative institutions such as media or law enforcement.  In essence, this mentality views the evidence needed to acknowledge that a crime has been committed as an inverse function of the power of the perpetrator, with the highest levels being essentially infinite and thus impossible to reach.  

This is how even to this day wild horses could not drag the MSM in this country to refer to the invasion of Iraq, the torture of prisoners, or any of the various blatant acts of barbarity committed by the George W. Bush regime as war crimes or even crimes in general, even though their commission is acknowledged (if not boasted about) by the perpetrators and the laws against them are obvious, explicit, and denied by no one but people defending those specific perpetrators.  It's also the reason why it's like pulling teeth to get the MSM to correct Republican candidates when they promote outright lies.  Among people who view reality as a function of power, the highest you can go against the Republican Party is to say that something they've claimed is a debatable matter of opinion, and the harshest allowable criticism of their actions is to call them "controversial" or question their wisdom - no greater denunciation is possible.

We know this phenomenon as "IOKIYAR" - It's Okay If You Are Republican - and we find ourselves having to regularly condemn the blatant hypocrisy of it, but mere hypocrisy isn't even the full extent of the horror of it.  It comes from the inherent perversity of the authoritarian mind that pervades the media: Reality, morality, and legality are all relative to power in the way this mindset sees things - they wouldn't bat an eye at an ordinary person going to prison for years on evidence that wouldn't even persuade them to verbally acknowledge that a powerful person, organization, or institution had committed the same crime regardless of whether any consequences would follow.  

Since Bush wielded essentially limitless power, it is impossible for people who think in these terms to perceive and characterize him as a criminal - he had the power, ergo he had the right, and thus to this day the worst they can say about him is that he was bellicose, inept, and embarrassing.  But just try to get them to acknowledge anything fundamentally illegitimate about his actions even now - you might as well be speaking to them in a strange foreign language.  A lot of countries have to deal with this sort of psychology in reconciling with the uglier periods of their history: Unless they have no other choice - e.g., Germany - most countries will usually just pretend that even their worst, cruelest monsters were merely failed leaders rather than placing them on the same moral level as common criminals or lower.  In fact, oftentimes they won't even go that far, and the worst are sometimes counted among the greatest.

Since this phenomenon has no name - "denial" or "denialism" covers far too much ground to be sufficient - I will call it Crime Denialism or CD, to make a neat symmetry with the CT of Conspiracy Theories.  CD is the arbitrary and authoritarian ideology of demanding an impractical amount of evidence to even acknowledge the appearance of wrongdoing on the part of a powerful individual, organization, or institution, let alone the fact of it, and usually involves moving-goalposts of evidence and cheap rhetorical/debate tactics to belittle and dismiss what evidence is presented.  

Enough evidence for a real-world police officer to get an arrest warrant on a normal person wouldn't even convince a CD sufferer that you're justified in talking about something if they have some emotional or ideological reason to deny it.  And it's not even a matter of "extraordinary claims" requiring "extraordinary evidence" - if that were the case, we wouldn't see the GOP's laughable conspiracy theories promoted as legitimate opinions while the documented facts of their crime sprees in office are dismissed as politics as usual.  No, it's just a matter of status being used as a substitute for truth, and that's as close as it comes to a perfect definition of the authoritarian psychosis underlying CD.

Now, just because CD and CT are symmetrical does not mean I'm implying an equivalency either in terms of frequency or relative destructiveness to rationality.  Denialism is a one-dimensional attack on reality based on deliberate ignorance, cowardice, and dismissal of specific facts to avoid having to deal with them, while conspiracism creates entirely separate alternate universe bubbles where people create their own laws of physics and their own histories to suit a given agenda.  On balance, the latter is far more egregious and far more directly toxic to democracy - but the former just causes the latter to proliferate by shutting off any kind of accountability, so in truth they are merely different aspects of the same destructive phenomenon.

The CD mentality, however perverse and deluded, is at least understandable coming from professional "journalists" making six-figure salaries and regularly schmoozing with politicos at DC cocktail parties.  If those people didn't regurgitate the Party Line, they'd have nothing to say at all.  It's even more understandable from less-famous, lower-paid members of the media who operate under even pettier levels of control from their corporate masters.  But where it makes no sense whatsoever, and can only come from a remarkably fearful, insecure, and obedient mind, is when the sufferer is a private citizen commenting on a political website for progressives.  I can't even imagine the bizarre mixture of impulses that must go into that, but apparently it occurs because I've personally run into it:

I will take pleasure in citing this diary as a QED against any future incoherent conspiracy theorist rant.

by Argyrios on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 04:40:01 PM PDT

I thought this type of CT is banned here.

by FG on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 04:57:25 PM PDT

Most of your screed is based on CT.

cryonaut on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 05:02:13 PM PDT

You really do hit all the marks of a conspiracy theorists

Including the condescension towards people who don't agree with you.  Yeah, we are all naive and in denial...says the moon landing truther and the 9-11 truther

by MRDFS on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 05:51:18 PM PDT

The highest grade of CT is utterly non-falsifiable. When it's really good, you're not even quite sure what you read, except that it was mesmerizing.

This is supposed to be a call to make our own history. But since it is founded on dubious premises about our victimhood, it does mostly sound desperate.

by HudsonValleyMark on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 04:52:58 PM PDT

Now, if you had no idea what kind of diary the above comments were in response to, what would you imagine?  Some Truther fantasy that slipped through without being HR'd into oblivion?  Some gibberish about Freemasons and Skull & Bones conspiring to rule the world?  A GOP or purity troll spewing nutty drivel against Barack Obama and Democrats in general?  A deranged Glenn Greenwald screed accusing President Obama of being Dick Cheney's secret love child?  Nope: It was a diary about preparing for Republican election fraud, posted on the very same day that another diary about Republicans being caught red-handed committing election fraud is on the Rec List.  Posting those kinds of comments under those circumstances takes a special kind of Unreason - one that demands its own label and diary to explore it, hence this discussion.

But maybe, you might think, the specifics of the diary were unreasonable and therefore reactions like that might at least be understandable, if not entirely reality-based?  Well, you can read it for yourself, but this is the gist of it:

  • Republicans have committed election fraud in the past.
  • They are committing election fraud right now.
  • We should be aware of the possibility that a stolen election could occur rather than being shattered into incoherence and ineffectuality by the shock of such an event.
  • Democrats are more effective when we acknowledge the depths to which our opponents sink and plan accordingly than if we assume it won't happen and then end up being devastated when it does.
  • Among the possible ways to address this threat are to photograph your completed ballot (if applicable laws permit); report any difficulties with the voting process both to officials and the campaign as well as sharing your story here; and ask candidates not to concede in lieu of a deeper inquiry if you are not convinced of the legitimacy of a defeat.

Yes, I know - shockingly nutty, incoherent, fringe stuff, isn't it?  Can't you just sense the tinfoil hat I'm wearing as I type that?  Well, the users quoted above did.  They read that and somehow, through some eldritch logick heretofore unknown to the denizens of this planet, heard Lyndon Larouche talking about UFOs and precious bodily fluids.  That's what reality sounds like to CD sufferers when the subject is something they have an ideological aversion to dealing with.  You really have to tiptoe around that kind of mentality, because if you acknowledge the "wrong" fact in terms that are too direct, they turn into one big throbbing forehead vein and flail around throwing labels they hope will terminate the discussion while deterring other people from thinking about the subject.

But it's always an opportunistic, cowardly thing - if there are too many people supporting a topic, you won't see comments like the above even if the reasoning being advanced were legitimately tenuous.  It's part and parcel of the authoritarian attitude behind it, and the power-based view of reality described earlier - a CD sufferer can't believe anything they know in advance would cost them socially to advocate, but compulsively disbelieves anything they think they can score cheap social points mocking.  This is probably why people who act like this often go around sounding like little MSM pundits, regurgitating smarmy, fictionalized media narratives in place of independent thought, conscious perception, and reality-based analysis.  I'm not making that claim specifically about all of the people quoted above, but it's a correlation I run into from time to time that ties in to the bigger picture.

I acknowledge that this subject isn't the most important, but here's what it is: Those comments pissed me off.  They're unhinged and mendacious on a level that I will never learn to tolerate, and would never try to tolerate even if I could.  Frankly, the impression I got from them was that they were either (a) expressions of pure religious faith in the nonexistence of and physical impossibility of Republican electoral crime, or (b) the kind of pathetic exercises in cowardly social bullying one sees when some insecure person desperate to get approval thinks they smell weakness in another.  And in both cases all that resulted were a bunch of alternate universe non sequiturs - basically what happens in the general media when all they do is deny reality and try to sound smart to each other rather than actually exercising intelligence.

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