Conspiracy theories are only believed by people on the fringe of American politics? Not so says Reason’s Jesse Walker in his latest book: The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory. Walker argues quite the opposite in his opening chapter: “The Paranoid Style is American Politics”:
By the time this book is over, I should hope it will be clear that when I say virtually everyone is capable of paranoid thinking, I really do mean virtually everyone, including you, me, and the founding fathers. As the sixties scare about the radical Right demonstrates, it is even possible to be paranoid about paranoids. (p. 24)
For those who are hoping that this is another book in which the author’s goal is to prove or disprove any particular conspiracy theory, Walker makes is clear that this is not what this book is about (for the most part). He also makes a point to acknowledge that some conspiracies have been proven true (ex: Watergate among these, see Chapter 7 for more examples), “At the very moment you are reading this, someone somewhere is probably trying to bribe a politician. The world is filled with plots both petty and grand…” (p.21). Instead telling the reader what to believe, Walker tells a history about what people have believed on this continent from colonial times to now and how these beliefs have shaped the political debate and very the culture itself.
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen Republicans begin to criticize President Barack Obama on various ancillary issues. Some of them are valid. Others not so much. Poll after poll shows that Americans are more concerned about the economy and jobs than other issues that may pop up in the news or the various memes that may arise from either the right or the left.
Here are some of the oft-repeated issues that have come up in recent days that conservatives and Republicans should stay away from if they hope to beat Obama and Democrats in the fall.
Social Issues: We’ve been over this one before thanks to the contraceptive kerfuffle earlier this year. It ended up being a bad issue for Republicans and they took a hit with women in the polls. They were largely right, in that taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund contraceptives and that the mandate was an infringement of the First Amendment on religious organizations that now have to pay for something to which they may have a moral objection.
More recently, however, it looks like they learned their lesson. When President Obama announced his support for gay marriage at the state-level, Republicans in Congress were mostly silent, though they did reinterate their support for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which is facing a legal challenge. That doesn’t mean that it won’t come up again during the course of the next several months, as we get close to November.
Polls show that social issues, such as gay marriage and abortion, are not on minds of voters, particularly independents. And perhaps even more of important are polls that show a majority of Americans are supportive of gay marriage.
“The proverb warns that ‘You should not bite the hand that feeds you.’ But maybe you should if it prevents you from feeding yourself.” — Thomas Szasz
— CNN apparently now run by Alex Jones: CNN has been following the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 almost nonstop for several days now, seeing it as ratings gold. But the cable network’s coverage, which had already jumped the shark, fell to a new low last night when host Don Lemon asked panelists “is it preposterous” to think a black hole caused the plane to crash? CNN is still relevant, they said. Give it a chance, they said. It’s like they’re not even trying anymore.
— Insurance Salesman-in-Chief: The presidency used to be considered a prestigious office with heavy influence and gravitas. But the influence of the office has been reduced to appearances on radio and television talk shows as President Obama tries to sell his healthcare law to a skeptical public, the latest of which will be a live interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The appearances are targeted to reach a certain audience and it’s probably a smart strategy to get a message to the crowd they’re trying to reach. At the same time, however, it’s just sad to see a president reduced to being a cheap insurance salesman. Well, that and a college basketball expert.
Jeremy Kolassa seems to be a little upset. Honestly, I don’t blame him. I think most of us here at United Liberty took issue with the Trutherism that is constantly espoused by Lew Rockwell and his ilk, and even more annoyingly — at least to me — is that if you don’t buy into the Trutherism nonsense, you’re somehow mentally defective. As bad as that is, there’s something that annoys me even more, and that is that these people feel like they are the final arbiters of who is or isn’t a “true” libertarian.
I’ve always said that libertarianism is a movement that, in the best case scenario, would eventually fracture because the big picture goals would be attained and all that would be left would be the details of how little government is to little.
Unfortunately, that was probably a little niave of me. After all, it seems that some people just don’t play well with others.
The Lew Rockwell crowd, as Jeremy pointed out so well, hurts the entire movement with their own ideas of what makes someone a “real” libertarian. I’ve written before about libertarianism and libertarian purity, and I really don’t think much has changed in the grand scheme of things.
Eleven years ago today, 19 terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people after hijacking airplanes and flying them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Realizing their fate, Passengers on United Flight 93 fought back, preventing an attack on the Capitol in Washington. Their plane would crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. As soon as Americans realized what happened, we knew we were at war.
I was 20 years-old at the time of the attacks. My plans for the day were to pick up a couple of records that had been released that day and head into work for a shift I’d picked up for a friend. After a quick phone conversation with my then-girlfriend at the time (she was a student at the University of Georgia), I got on the web. She sent me a IMs almost immediately telling me to turn on the TV. If I remember correctly, the South Tower had just been hit. When I wasn’t working or sleeping for the next two weeks, I was watching coverage of the aftermath of the attacks.
While I had an interest in politics, the 9/11 attacks really pushed me to get involved and take what is going on in our country seriously. Much of what has happened since that tragic day helped shape my political views; particularly on foreign policy and personal liberty.
Let me put everyone at ease over the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) recent purchase of 174,000 rounds of pistol ammo. According to the AP and CNN they are merely for training and normal police work of the 259 agents of the Social Security Administration’s Inspector General’s Office.
I’m glad the official propaganda arm (a.k.a. the AP and CNN) of the U.S. federal government has put to rest the crazy conspiracy theory that the Feds are preparing for civil unrest.
I feel better already don’t you? Unfortunately, the fact remains that the United States government has purchased or plans to purchase 1.4 billion rounds of ammo to be used not overseas but inside the U.S. That is not a conspiracy!!!
The CNN article and the AP article both highlight the State’s version of the SSA purchase as “normal.” In both stories they quote the Social Security Administration.
“These investigators have full law enforcement authority, including executing search warrants and making arrests,” the agency said in an August post. “Our investigators are similar to your state or local police officers. They use traditional investigative techniques, and they are armed when on official duty.”
Hollow point bullets are standard-issue items for many police agencies, the Social Security Administration said. The bullets expand when they hit a target and can help prevent injuries to bystanders from bullets passing through a body, according to police.
Investigators “use this ammunition during their mandatory quarterly firearms qualifications and other training sessions, to ensure agent and public safety,” the administration added.
This weekend, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus complained that the media is taking Mitt Romney’s “birther” joke far too seriously, saying, “Nobody seems to have a sense of humor anymore.” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who will speak tonight at the Republican National Covention, also says that the joke isn’t a big deal.
Romney himself has said that the joke wasn’t intended to be a shot at President Barack Obama, but the defense is falling on deaf ears. Romney and Republicans have essentially asked for criticism over the issue any by associating themselves with Donald Trump, the billion real estate mogul who has championed this absurd conspriacy theory.
During a press conference on Sunday, Trump, who backs Romney and was supposed to have a role at the RNC before Tropical Storm Isaac altered the schedule, again pushed the birther issue:
Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Sarasota, Fla., Donald Trump said Mitt Romney’s birth certificate quip in Michigan last week may have been a lighthearted joke, but that the issue of President Obama’s birth certificate is far from settled.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made unsubstantiated accusations that the reason Mitt Romney only disclosed tax returns dating back to 2010 is because he didn’t pay taxes in years leading up to that point. Despite having no evidence to prove this charge, Reid said the burden on proof was on Romney.
Romney has denied Reid’s claim, saying that the Democratic leader should “put up or shut up.” While the Obama campaign denies that Reid is doing their bidding, they are certainly taking the opportunity to call on Romney to release more tax returns. During an interview on State of the Union, Robert Gibbs told Cindy Crowley, “I’ve never seen anybody jump through more hoops to say…that somebody’s lying, but also to not put out a document that would prove what the real truth is.”
Those of us concerned with the Fast and Furious scandal could make the same point presented by Gibbs, especially after President Obama used executive privilege to keep information from Congress. But I digress.
While some Republicans are hinting that Romney should release more tax returns to put the controversy to rest, others are beginning to fight back against Reid’s frivolous claim:
Yesterday, I noted the absurdity of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s suggestion that Mitt Romney hasn’t paid income taxes in 10 years, which he says is the reason why the soon-to-be-coronated GOP nominee hasn’t released tax returns before 2010. Reid has absolutely no proof of this, mind you. It’s heresay — gossip, if you will.
Reid even admits that he doesn’t know if the accusation is true. As Jon Stewart said on Wednesday night, “If you have to follow your claim with the words ‘I don’t know if that’s true’; then shut up.” Stewart continued, “‘Cause otherwise you might as well put a dead cockerspaniel on your head and start railing about birth certificates”; a reference to Donald Trump, who made has fool of himself by claiming that President Barack Obama’s birth certificate isn’t real.
Sadly, he hasn’t taken Stewart’s free advice. Instead, Reid took his baseless conspiracy theory to the floor of the Senate yesterday:
There is no question that the event that occured during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado on Friday was a tragedy. Nearly everyone is familar with the shocking and disturbing details of the story by now. Excited movie-goers were looking forward to seeing the final part of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, only to wind up being victims of a senseless shooting by a clearly disturbed young man.
Most of us would have preferred that the weekend be a time to mourn and pray for the families of the 12 people killed and 58 wounded by this madman. Unfortunately, while families of the victims were grieving, policitians and advocacy groups were already railing against guns and calling for more gun control laws. Leftist blogs have already claimed that the AR-15 used in the shooting would have been banned under the Assault Weapons Ban (AWB). However, Right Sphere has debunked this thoroughly.
And, sadly, conspiracy theorists were busy concocting insane tales about how this was a “false flag” operation to gain public support for gun control measures, including the pending treaty with the United Nations.