It is now official; those looking for the latest GOP conspiracy theory, the latest mighty mental meltdown of the base, eagerly barked out by even the supposed leaders and purported respectable figures of the party, stroked and teased by conservative wings of the press that seem to have no pressing substance to deal with, anymore, compared to these small trinkets of insanity -- those looking for that latest race-tinged, conspiracy-riddled drama need look no farther.
We have it. Obama is going to give a webcast speech directed at American schoolchildren about the importance of education.
As Jim Greer, Chairman of the Florida Republican Party put it:
"As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology. The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power."
He is not alone; it is the topic of nationwide, frantic email campaigns between stupid people, between exceptionally dumb bloggers and their compatriots, and (of course) on Fox News.
This, then, is the latest apocalypse. We will all take a break from shouting down terminally ill people at town halls, and from wondering whether our president has a circumcised penis, and whether that would imply deficient citizenship on his part, if the answer was the wrong one. We will pause, momentarily, in our efforts to declare that preventing sick people from going bankrupt and sending themselves and their families into lifelong poverty is, in fact, a slippery slope to communism, and from writing signs warning against the dangers of Facism and Markism, whatever those are. No, this is the latest battleground, because America, its discourse and its governance has, to put it as tersely as possible, become all but enslaved to the stupidest, most uneducated, trashiest, most fanatic, most incompetent, most mentally unbalanced, most flat out fucking dumb set of people to ever manage to walk upright. After a millennium of being led around by great leaders and not so great leaders, of great debates and petty ones, of steady marches towards freer and richer and more enlightened societies, we have apparently decided to chuck it all, because any pulsing mound of meat with the ability to work a magic marker will now be as a god to us.
Do American presidents sometimes give speeches to schoolchildren? Yes. Yes, they do. Sometimes they show up in the classroom to read books. Sometimes they give extended presentations:
None of this is usually controversial, or at least, is seldom the stuff of frantic conspiracy fodder, calls of indoctrination, or part of an ongoing march to fascist-slash-communist brainwashing of little Billy and Tina Whitebread. It is rare, indeed, to have parents outraged-- outraged I tell you!--that the President of the United States of America is going to give a speech to their children about staying in school. We have had presidential fitness programs, and presidential drug programs. Talking to schoolchildren has been, over the course of our esteemed republic, one of the very least controversial things a president can possibly do. It is less controversial than kissing a baby, which could get you branded a pedophile. It is infinitely less controversial than inviting someone over for a beer, in which case the leader of the free world runs the risk of choosing the wrong beer, thus proving himself to hate America, or a given state in America, or to be on the wrong side of the decades-long battle between less filling and tastes great.
That said, America has a robust and colorful history of parents pulling their children out of school to prevent them from being exposed to a black person -- far more history of that than of being outraged--outraged I tell you!-- at exposing children to their President. It is unclear what, exactly, terrifies them so much. From the level of drama, one can only presume that Obama will be reading passages from the fabled Negronomicon.
In order to guess at the next Republican white noise that will issue forth from their lips, a pattern is developing. Take one part stuffy, lying Pravda, combine it with three parts of implausible satire from The Onion, a dash of fake and astroturfed populism, and mix it all together with a big heaping helping of good old fashioned, dumb-as-a-post American gullibility, the kind only the biggest and gruffest and loudest morons among us could possibly provide. Never before has an American movement so giddily celebrated their own ignorance, or so proudly crafted their own alternate realities and then stuck to them despite any and all evidence to the contrary.
And yes, I am counting the Know Nothings, who knew more.
Via Dave Weigel, here is GOP stalwart Joe Scarborough, tweeting about the Stay-In-School Conspiracy and the intellectual decapitation of his own party:
Dear GOP, argue the issues and avoid the insults...or just shut up. Enough with the conspiracy theories. Shouldn't our beliefs be enough?
GOP leaders in my home state are accusing the POTUS of trying to "indoctrinate America’s children to his socialist agenda." Seriously?
WHERE ARE THE NATIONAL GOP LEADERS SPEAKING OUT AGAINST THIS KIND OF HYSTERIA?
Indoctrination of socialism? The president as a racist? Death panels? Seriously? That's all you've got? If so, it's time for you to go home
I'm just naive enough to believe that a party that shows restraint at home, restraint abroad and respect for the Constitution wins elections
Perhaps that party just doesn't exist.
Scarborough is as conservative as they come -- or at least he was, a scant few years ago, when "conservative" was something defined by something other than race-baiting and red-baiting paranoias and simple phoning-it-in lying as a staple of every speech. What is notable about his short bursts is that they are, well, notable: within the broader Republican Party, these thoughts do not exist. There is no pushback, from the party leaders; the party leaders are the conspiracy mongers, as often as not. In such an environment, where the more outrageous the claim, the more celebrated it becomes, the gullible will believe anything they are told: this has long been understood by vicious regimes and biting social critics, and at any point where it becomes political policy, politics itself collapses into valuelessness, into phantasmal nothingness.
Compare Scarborough's momentary pique to Glenn Beck recently describing at length and in mid-panic why the imagery of various New York landmarks is, in fact, the stuff of communist indoctrination. Then weep.
It is possible that if I were a truly gifted satirist -- a Twain, Mencken or the like -- I could find a more imaginative way of describing all of this. If I were a Swift or a Hunter S. Thompson, I imagine I could pull it off. Perhaps.
On the other hand, maybe none of those people lived in times quite like this. Sure, they lived in ridiculous times, and among ridiculous people, and saw truly asinine things. But this ridiculous, populated by people this stubbornly gullible, and this celebrated by their own leaders? I'm no longer sure that it's a given. Perhaps we have managed to shoot the moon, to wrap around again to the point where uninformed, dribbling paranoia is now finally and permanently more respectable than actual governance. Sarah Palin is, for a large part of the Republican Party, the closest thing to an intellectual voice that their version of know-nothing populism will allow, and that is very nearly the scariest thought to set itself down in the political landscape for a great many years.
Republican leaders have taken intelligence to the guillotine, and lopped its head clean off: from now on "the opposition is plotting to kill your grandmother" will have far more sway, in politics, than any actual realities of a healthcare system clearly and blatantly gone wrong. We boo those with medical conditions. We deny outright that the first non-white President of the United States is even a citizen of his own country, much less leader of it. We still insist that an administration breaking the law is less divisive and controversial than daring to investigate it. We put brick-stupid or malevolently selfish people on television, and feign outrage at anyone who points out their stupidity or selfishness. And the President speaking to your children is the onset of communism, although perhaps barely a tenth of the population that utter it have any actual notion of what "communism" might actually be.
Honestly, at this point I wonder if we do not deserve every bit of what we get. We worked very hard to erode the public-mindedness of our government, press and citizenry enough to get to this point. Perhaps we should count ourselves lucky if future American generations can write their own names.