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One of the great things about the English language is that you can just about always find a single word to denote whatever it is you're thinking, or trying to identify.

Recently and quite by accident, I ran across the word paracosm. It means, essentially, a detailed and elaborate imaginary world that may have, inter alia, its own history, language, geography, science, and so forth. Paracosms are often developed by children, perhaps in response to a trauma, and continue over a long period of time.

We've all discussed ad nauseam the alternate universe in which so many Republican politicians, media enablers and fans seem to live, how so much of what they say derives from an apparent firm and unshakable belief in things that are simply not true, not reasonable or not believable, like "Tax cuts create jobs" or "Obama is the most divisive president in history" or "Hitler was a liberal; Jesus was a conservative." I could go on and on. What strikes us as delusional nonsense strikes them as self-evident truth. We shake our heads and slap our foreheads and take to the blogs in frustration, trying to figure out how seemingly normal human beings, who see and hear and are exposed to the same objectively-observable world that we are, come to perceive a reality that, to us, simply does not exist.

It's a paracosm.

Bill Maher calls it "the Bubble." It's been compared to Orwellian doublethink (War is Peace, 2+2=5, and all that). Cognitive dissonance is another phrase we often hear and read. Sometimes we just call it "lying." The best description I've been able to come up with is that the whole thing is an improv act, an elaborate and ongoing production of improvisational theatre that's run constantly for two decades. When Republican politicians and their various media enablers talk in public, on the radio, on television, in speeches and in interviews, they're performing an improv act in which all of their talking points, all of the things they're required to believe in order to validate their political preferences, are self-evidently true and form the basis of the performance, of the improv act itself. Although politics has always been performance art to one degree or another, this is something else. This is a live, real-time, 24/7, never-ending, constantly-evolving improv act. It's like "The Truman Show" in reverse, with the audience in the role of Truman.

To their credit, I think it takes a lot of effort, talent and concentration to keep an improv act like this going 24/7, let alone for 20 years. I doubt the GOP could have done it without Fox News and talk radio; indeed, there's a legitimate chicken-and-egg discussion to be had about who exactly created this paracosm: the politicians themselves, the media figures like Limbaugh, Fox and Drudge, the GOP voter/fan base, or the moneyed interests that fund it all. But the question of who created it and when is really beside the point. Millions of Americans have become inhabitants of this paracosm without even knowing it or intending to; they've become unwitting performers in the GOP's ongoing improv act. Kind of like Truman.

I was thinking about all this when I ran across the word "paracosm." Noting its etymologic similarity to the familiar word "microcosm," meaning a miniature world, I thought "paracosm," meaning alternate, separate, abnormal, or not-quite-real world, was the perfect word to describe what's going on in the GOP, at Fox, on right-wing talk radio, and in the Huffington Post comment threads that are getting harder and harder to stomach. What we're hearing and reading is not only part of an improv act; it's a paracosm.

The next question should be, how many of the "performers" in this ongoing improv act are just performers (i.e., not living in the paracosm but performing as if they do), how many of the performers actually do live in the paracosm, and how many are unwitting performers who live in the paracosm and don't realize that what they're seeing, hearing and reading is part of a performance, and that what they say, write and do as a result becomes part of the overall act? Or, another way of putting it, how many are Trumans and how many are actors in Seahaven? And who is Christof?

I'm sure there are GOP fans out there, inhabitants of the paracosm, who think my universe is the paracosm; who think and say the same things about us that I'm saying here about them. Maybe. We can each examine our reality, and all the alternate realities, and decide for ourselves whether it's real or whether it's "The Truman Show." But that's too philosophical for today.

Originally posted to GrafZeppelin127 on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 09:25 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I think a lot of the reasons (3+ / 0-)

    why they not only believe their stuff — but believe all of their stuff is because they think they're suppose to tap into their paracosm because they're supposed to!

    I guess culture itself is a sort of consensus reality.

    "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

    by Crider on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 01:13:05 PM PDT

    •  they buy into the American Dream (0+ / 0-)

      as they know it or expect it.

      it insulates them until the dream collapses, then its guns & bible time

      -8.25, -7.13 "Well, on second thought, let's not go to Camelot -- it is a silly place." "Right"

      by leathersmith on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 01:33:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is (11+ / 0-)

    a great post, I'm glad it got rescued.  I didn't see the Truman Show, so I'm a bit in the dark, but I get it.

    This also occurs to me.  This election is going to be a referendum on the paracosm.  Do the American people overwhelmingly support the paracosm?  Yes or no.  The polarity couldn't be more obvious.

    The oiligarchs are doing everything they can to steal the election, and they may be successful.

    Even if they don't, Obama's policies are what used to be considered Republican back in the day.  I'm not convinced that an electoral rebuke of the paracosm will necessarily push us to a progressive agenda, unfortunately.

  •  Thanks for this. (10+ / 0-)

    Paracosm. I'll remember it, particularly as I've read and listened to the Romney/Ryan campaign and its' surrogates and wondered how to describe what the heck they're doing.
    Now I can describe it; they made up their own world; and keep making it up as they go along.

  •  Thank you. This is the clearest and most reason- (7+ / 0-)

    able explanation of that our much unloved GOP has been doing for decades.  

    Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    by maybeeso in michigan on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 01:44:29 PM PDT

  •  Here's another term along the same vein (7+ / 0-)

    akrasia (ah-krah-SEE-ya) - the state of acting against one's better judgement.

    from wikipedia:

    (excerpt)...

    when people act in this way, they temporarily believe that the worse course of action is better, because they have not made an all-things-considered judgment, but only a judgment based on a subset of possible considerations.

    Another contemporary philosopher, Amélie Rorty (1980) has tackled the problem by distilling out akrasia's many forms. She contends that akrasia is manifested in different stages of the practical reasoning process. She enumerates four types of akrasia: akrasia of direction or aim, of interpretation, of irrationality, and of character. She separates the practical reasoning process into four steps, showing the breakdown that may occur between each step and how each constitutes an akratic state.

    Another explanation is that there are different forms of motivation which can conflict with each other. Throughout the ages, many have identified a conflict between reason and emotion, which might make it possible to believe that one should do A rather than B, but still end up wanting to do B more than A.

    Psychologist George Ainslie argues that akrasia results from the empirically verified phenomenon of hyperbolic discounting, which causes us to make different judgements close to a reward than we will when further from it.[2]

    2012 Presidential campaign: (Insert Republican anachronism here) ____________.

    by Fe Bongolan on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 02:05:07 PM PDT

    •  Sometimes I think I must be crazy, when in fact (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Black Brant, Fe Bongolan

      I may just be akrasiatic.

      Actually, I tend to overthink the consequences of a particular decision, and nothing causes me more anxiety than to think I have thought something completely through, I make the decision, then I think of a very negative possible consequence that I didn't think of before the decision.  The funny thing is, thinking about that negative consequence which probably will never happen, is far more anxiety-producing than if the consequence occurred without my having thought of it beforehand.  It sometimes takes me weeks to stop obsessing over my oversight.

      No, my first instinct was correct.  I'm just crazy.

      Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

      by ZedMont on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 07:15:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Paracosm was created over several decades (7+ / 0-)

    Books like Schlaffly's None Dare Call it Treason, the magazine of the John Birch Society (later followed by Human Events), Paul Harvey's "news" broadcasts, Billy James Hargis' Christian Crusade, Hoover's Masters of Deceit, Reagan's LPs attacking Medicare-- these things reached an audience of millions, long before the Right Wing had access to the Clear Channel radio monopoly, Fox, or the internet. As a result the main lineaments of the paracosm were already in place by the early 1960s.

    Check the content of these old sources and you'll see that the Teabagger worldview, point by point, was already fully formed fifty years ago and has changed very little since then.

    •  I take your point, but (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Xavier Onassis EMTP, DRo, Black Brant

      did the improv act have as many unwitting performers as it did back then? Did we see the same level of cognitive dissonance in broad swaths of the population, this many people who know that 2+2=5? Were this many [allegedly] mainstream politicians, candidates and elected officeholders at the highest levels of government all over the country, denizens of a paracosm or performers in an elaborate improv act based thereon?

      I don't doubt that the phenomenon has existed in the past; Orwell, after all, wrote "1984" in the late '40s. Populations throughout history have been susceptible to all sorts of brainwashing and manipulation. Maybe it's today's media saturation that makes it seem bigger, and worse, than it was been in the past. Or maybe it's the fact that we're not just talking about the John Birch Society or the Christian Crusade; we're talking about one of our two major political parties, and maybe half the U.S. population.

      •  It depends on where you lived: (7+ / 0-)

        if you grew up in the South or the Midwest in the 50s-60s, the paracosm was all around you, and hegemonic. (My neighborhood PTA refused to allow children to go door-to-door at Halloween collecting dimes for UNICEF because the UN was a "Communist, anti-American organization.")

        Fox News, Clear Channel, and the internet have since enabled it to spread everywhere.

        Judging from opinion polls and voting patterns, I'd say about 35% of the population is trapped within the paracosm. Through fear campaigns they can temporarily stampede many Independents to their side for particular elections, and they can also win elections through fraud and by exploiting the apathy of liberal voters.

        If you think the paracosm can't seize power outside of its original cradle, consider the sad case of Wisconsin. For that matter, consider that George W Bush was "voted" into the White House twice.

        •  Agreed on Wisconsin. (0+ / 0-)

          The issue here is that RW radio is sometimes the only one around here in the boonies, and Fox' local affiliates are all over the place. If they read a paper at all, there is also the presence of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, a paper that has a distinctly pro-RW-paracosm (paracosmic?) bent. Madison's main newspaper would be more right-wing, but doesn't dare to be, given its declining readership in a liberal city, so it affects a milquetoast "moderate" viewpoint. As a result, many Wisconsinites, especially in the eastern and northern parts of the state, never can break out of their "thought tunnel" because nothing ever brings to light any alternate points of view. Those who think at all tend to become "libertarian" in the worst sense of the word.

          Wisconsin shares many geographical issues with some parts of the south (namely that it has lots of small cities that tend to be lily-white and RW-dominant, but not a lot of diverse large cities - Milwaukee is deeply de facto segregated), and as a result has tended to drift rightward. There are some parts of Wisconsin that a non-white would be a true curiosity in.

          I think part of the issue is that people, right or left, tend to want to take in only that which reinforces their worldview. The problem is we on the left, or in the middle, are kind of forced to listen to the paracosm on the right if we are to consume media for any great length of time.  It can even corrode our sensibilities given time, as we are forced to repeatedly reject RW propaganda with thought energy expended each time. It takes skill to sift through the crapola. Normally, many people who are not buying into the paracosm tend to just become cynically detached from all politics...it just takes too much energy.

          The reverse, however, is not true of anyone who wants to wallow in the comfort of the RW paracosm, where enemies are pre-selected for your convenience and the point of view is laid out ahead of time - sort of fast food for thought.

          `Ideology offers human beings the illusion of dignity and morals while making it easier to part with them.'- Vaclav Havel

          by Black Brant on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 10:47:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I encountered it through growing up ... (4+ / 0-)

        in a fundamentalist religious milieu, which could be considered a paracosm in itself.  Its self-isolating attributes facilitate cultural transmission of, um, non-reality-tested memes.

        What LanceBoyle describes above sounds very familiar.

      •  also, (0+ / 0-)

        the fundamentalist religion with which I was familiar almost necessarily had an us-vs.-them component to its doctrine.

    •  in some form it's as old as humanity itself (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hubcap, splashy, grollen, johanus

      We give FOX News and the Religious Right too much credit.  Conservatism is ancient; history is pretty much nothing but conservatives - thousands and thousands of years of ignorant peasants terrified of anything outside their everyday experiences and either proudly or apathetically struggling under the dead weight of bloodsucking narcissists and warmongers and the holy liars that support them.  

      Conservatism grows out of and feeds on our oldest and most primitive instincts; under all the moralizing and pseudo-intellectualism, it all boils down to "eat, fuck, kill".  Only liberalism can even conceptualize higher motives: love, curiosity, creativity, etc.  I think that at its core, the paracosm is the state of nature that our reptile brains are hardwired to survive in - that part of us that needs only little and shallow input from the real world in order to form complex associations and generate a wide range of intentions, and will even censor information that's too different from the mental model.

      To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

      by Visceral on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 06:27:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Nasty, brutish, and short (0+ / 0-)

        Hobbes, Spinoza, and other philosophers speculated that in man's original natural state life was "nasty, brutish, and short."
        That does seem to reflect the fearful, selfish, antisocial mentality of the conservative paracosm.

  •  What the question (4+ / 0-)

    is that who believes in their bulllshit and who is taking rubes for a ride? The rubes are idiots and the drivers are psychopaths.

    Join the War on Thinking. Watch Fox News- John Lucas

    by Jlukes on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 02:47:13 PM PDT

  •  It goes further (6+ / 0-)

    There is another word that better applies. Confabulation

    From Wikipedia

    Confabulation is a memory disturbance that is characterized by verbal statements and/or actions that inaccurately describe history, background, and present situations.

    Confabulation is considered “honest lying,” but is distinct from lying because there is typically no intent to deceive and the individual is unaware that their information is false.

    Although patients can present blatantly false information (“fantastic confabulation”), confabulatory information can also be coherent, internally consistent, and relatively normal.

    Individuals who confabulate are generally very confident about their recollections, despite evidence contradicting its truthfulness.

    The most known causes of confabulation are traumatic and acquired (e.g., aneurysm, edema) brain damage, and psychiatric or psychological disorders (e.g., Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Alzheimer`s).

    We all asign to the republican mind the intention to lie and the use of the lie to deceive the rest of us. But what if they are canfabulating instead.

    There is a preferred world view to which they acsribe, which they actually desire at a very deep level. Just as the church has condoned the pious fraud, so the right employs confabulation, quite unconsciously, towards the end of enegendering the world they desperately want to exist.

    It is a form of Gandhi's "be the change", except that, instead of embodying it and performing it, they transfer it, demanding that everyone else be the change they want to see and, at the same time, projecting their faults and failures onto others.

    This is why they are so outraged at being called liars. It is why Fox et al can try to get away with "it wasn't meant to be factual" when they create ideal exemplars of their fears and revulsions out of whole cloth. They create them because, in their world view, there MUST BE someone like that, so describing them is not a LIE, just a form of an as-yet unproven truth.

    Another sign of confabulation is that it starts with a present fact and can "retrospectively" (where HAVE we heard that word lately) invest that fact with a history and validation that has never existed until that moment, and in which they can whole heartedly believe.

    This is why RMoney can switch so effortlessly from one position to its opposite, because his confabulation instantly invests his new position with all the validity it needs to be wholly and eternally true. His previous position does not, and has never, existed. Even when he re-adopts it at the next moment of convenience.

    When presented with recordings of that previous position, they instantly confabulate a history and validity that denies the presented facts, elides disjunctions and undermines the discourse to whatever level will cause the other party in the conversation to doubt their own memory if needed.

    It is why bi-partisanship fails. Any attempt to reach out and align thinking or invite compromise becomes deeply aversive because that would mean dealing honestly with the "enemy" and the confabulator recreates the world so that it is not possible, even to their own detriment.

    For an individual, confabulation is a serious problem. But when a significant group of people practise it in concert, enabled by communication tools that propagate the new message instantly, we are in uncharted territory.

    The republicans are exploring that territory with vigour. If the left and centre do not GET that,

    /$0.02

    Until inauguration day The USA is in the greatest danger it has ever experienced.

    by Deep Dark on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 03:36:09 PM PDT

    •  Dang posted too soon (3+ / 0-)

      Misspelled confabulation once and ascribe.

      Also, final sentence:

      The republicans are exploring that territory with vigour. If the left and centre do not GET that, they will continue to misunderestimate their opponents and to fail at the ballot box.

      Obama doesn't get it when he is governing, although he does when campaigning, the dems generally don't get it ever. If they don't fix that, we all will pay a dreadful price.

      Until inauguration day The USA is in the greatest danger it has ever experienced.

      by Deep Dark on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 03:40:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, it's all too familiar to those of us... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Deep Dark

        who actually learn the lessons of history.

        It's happened several times - most recently on the very large scale in Communist China where it was called the "Cultural Revolution", but most famously in the Stalinist Soviet Union and in Nazi Germany. Propaganda aimed at getting people to vote against their own interests ends up changing their mindset and worldview as well. Once they seize power, people end up squealing on their neighbors or even their relatives because of insufficient zealotry to the Cause (whatever the hierarchy defines that to be) or insufficient hatred of the "enemies" of the State.

        `Ideology offers human beings the illusion of dignity and morals while making it easier to part with them.'- Vaclav Havel

        by Black Brant on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 11:08:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the perfect word (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    psnyder

    to describe what's been frustrating me for so long.

    The way I cope these days is by entertaining myself trying to guess whether a spewer is one of the deluded or one of the deluders.

    The Authoritarians (available as a Free PDF) also helps some with understanding these people who just seem bats**t crazy most of the time.
    http://members.shaw.ca/...

  •  their illusions (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ZedMont, psnyder, Calamity Jean

    are propped up by the media... I've long thought boener was play acting as is turtle man; some of the others like bachnmann seem to actually believe. I believe the show actually started with reagan - he was an actor after all...

    when I see a republican on tv, I always think of Monty Python: "Shut your festering gob you tit! Your type makes me puke!"

    by bunsk on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 05:53:31 PM PDT

    •  I agree. You can see the wink in Boner's eyes... (0+ / 0-)

      ...if you can get past the tears, that is.

      Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

      by ZedMont on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 07:17:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Just a THOUGHT (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    MInd you, I just get my news on the internet. I don't own a TV or get the newspaper. I'm 61
    What I find amazing is:
    I have yet to read ONE time this election this media mass MIND manipulation;
    "Voters are reluctant to change administrations when the US is (fill in the blank…)… war, instability, etc., etc."
    Not ONE time have I read this, this time.
    When a Repuke is running for re election, that MIND manipulation is non stop! Dubya, NON STOP!!!
    I always like to think that in 50 years what political scientists will be amazed at. Like how we now look at Civil Rights.
    So I hope there is someone who is knowledgeable about how to dig & can actually post the references to how many times in the past vs. now, for future historians.
    If there ever was a time when that WOULD be a relevant truth it is now.
    "Voters are reluctant to change administrations when the GREAT RECESSION, 40% of everything was lost, started just before this President was elected, who has miraculously stabilized & re started the economy in just 4 short years."
    "We are still fighting Al Qaeda"
    "The world is going through amazing changes, Arab Spring, Tsunami's, on & on."
        Now I know they use that to cover their absolutely stupid leaders, but it is a huge MIND control. I'd bet that the 1% sent directives to their OWNED medias, "Pink slip tomorrow if you use that!"
    Just ruminating, Cool Post, Thank You

    When I talk to a repuke I just simply say:
    "As a United States President Obama got Bin Laden & his LIBRARY. I emphasize (his f'n) LIBRARY. He deserves to be re elected."

    Just a thought:
    Olympic medal count:
    USA = 104
    China = 88
    United Kingdom = 65
    POPULATION of
    US = 310 million
    China = Goodness!
    UK = 59 million (1 fifth the US)
    I think the UK's National Health Services is working just fine :)

  •  i think this is brilliant (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    You have put into words much of what i have thought for some time.  I particularly liked where you ask about performers, believers and unwitting participants.

    I have wondered this myself, especially with people like Hannity.  He was on radio in Atlanta 20years ago and was much more reasonable. When i hear him now, i wonder if he could possibly believe the things he says or if it is performance art for buckets of dollars.

    Either way, it is clear that he and others of his ilk neither care about the future of America or for those less fortunate.

    These are certainly interesting times but i do long for the times when the Republican party actually worked to common purpose and result with the rest of America.

    •  That word (0+ / 0-)

      Made me think of this:

      http://www.orionsarm.com/

      A universe building project based on the idea that 1) AI is very real and 2) Earth's progeny will spread through the galaxy at sub-light speeds over the next several thousand years. It is most certainly an "elaborate imaginary world" with "its own history, language, geography, science, and so forth."

      Conservatives believe evil comes from violating rules. Liberals believe evil comes from violating each other.

      by tcorse on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 10:26:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary but please don't get all mushy and... (0+ / 0-)

    ... relativist at the end there :-) ...  As the saying goes, we're entitled to our own opinions, but we have to share the same set of facts.  Progressives tend to embrace mainstream consensus reality (cf. evolution and climate change), and conservatives don't.  That means they inhabit a paracosm and we don't, at least within the limits of knowable consensus reality and cultural interpretations of facts (which is probably what you were getting at, but doesn't equate to the same kind of paracosmic craziness of the right).

    Again -- nice diary, I'll be using the word, with credit (easy to remember since I was just listening to Physical Graffiti, one of my favorite albums, this evening).

    A reasonable amount of hope, some incremental change, and a chance to flip SCOTUS. And every day, the opposition motivates me to get my base in gear.

    by dackmont on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 12:49:31 AM PDT

  •  It was a deliberate act by the Republicans (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo, grollen, Mayfly

    To start the long con, which is what you are describing, so they could take wealth from the working people without the working people who vote for them realizing what is being done to them.

    Read about the set up here:
    http://www.commondreams.org/...

    It was laid out as a con, because otherwise they would never get any power or be able to steal from the rest of us. If they told the truth, they wouldn't be elected.

    Women create the entire labor force.

    by splashy on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 02:18:30 AM PDT

  •  I thought it was just me (0+ / 0-)

    who could not stand the comment section on the Huff Post.  I cannot even bear to go to that site anymore.  The comment section is just filled to the brim with right-wing rage and "paracosm".  The more you answer them and slap them down, the more pop up, like whack a mole or something.  Yech.

  •  I prefer the Paracosm (0+ / 0-)

    that is a really really bad Harold and Maude (Improv & Sketch) Night at the local Karaoke bar. They, the GOTea, while taking Del Close's "Yes and" to extreme levels, they are still saying "No" and stopping the flow of the Harold.

    "My case is alter'd, I must work for my living." Moll Cut-Purse, The Roaring Girl - 1612, England's First Actress

    by theRoaringGirl on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 07:57:25 AM PDT

  •  jane wagner and lily tomlin (0+ / 0-)

    remember the search for signs of intelligent life in the universe?

    what is reality anyway? a collective hunch.

    they really are in a different reality.

    "...i also also want a legally binding apology." -George Rockwell

    by thankgodforairamerica on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 08:50:53 AM PDT

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