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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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