During The Rumble (WATCH IT! If you already did, watch it again! It’s on Youtube), Jon Stewart coined the term bullshit mountain to describe an alternative universe inhabited by propagandists like Fox News, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Grover Norquist, The Koch Brothers, Karl Rove, Sheldon Adelson, and most of today’s GOP.
It is a truly puzzling place where everything is spun out of control (and then labeled the “No Spin Zone”), where there is belief of a “societal cataclysm between freedom and socialism,” where “problems are amplified and solutions simplified,” and, perhaps most appallingly, where the solution to our debt crisis is to “kill Big Bird.”
It is the modern example of the (Nazi) propaganda machine used by all countries during WWI and WWII to incite nationalism, hate, dehumanization, and dogma and discourage moderation, civility, and compromise.
The Newsroom (watch it!) outlines the traits of the modern Republican party, where bullshit mountain takes an enormous toll on the lives of millions of Americans:
- Ideological purity
- Compromise as weakness
- A fundamentalist belief in scriptural literalism
- Denying science
- Unmoved by facts
- Undeterred by new information
- Hostile fear of progress
- A demonization of education
- Need to control women’s bodies
- Tribal mentality
- Intolerance of dissent [and serious lack of civility]
- Pathological hatred of the U.S. government
- The American Taliban
Here’s what The Economist thinks:
“Nowadays, a candidate must believe not just some but all of the following things: that abortion should be illegal in all cases; that gay marriage must be banned even in states that want it; that the 12m illegal immigrants, even those who have lived in America for decades, must all be sent home; that the 46m people who lack health insurance have only themselves to blame; that global warming is a conspiracy; that any form of gun control is unconstitutional; that any form of tax increase must be vetoed, even if the increase is only the cancelling of an expensive and market-distorting perk; that Israel can do no wrong and the “so-called Palestinians”, to use Mr Gingrich’s term, can do no right; that the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education and others whose names you do not have to remember should be abolished.”
As Stewart posits, today we do not face insurmountable problems; instead, we face a “deficiency in our problem solving mechanisms.” At the same time that the mainstream media does a terrible job in providing substantive, nonpartisan analysis of issues and policies, bullshit mountain is spewing all kinds if crap that convince a substantial number of Americans to vote against their interest.
However, bullshit mountain is not the only thing that is breaking America. So is the astonishing indifference of the American populace. I did not take Eli Wiesel seriously until I realized that indifference is the biggest reason that the GOP remains a competitive party long after they should have gone out of business.
Here is the fundamental problem: our current crisis is not one of immediate severity, but rather one of slow, continuous decay. It is something that will require years of deep engagement and problem solving. And it is extraordinarily difficult to rally such energy for complex solutions for so many years, and very easy to hope that it magically resolves itself. Then, one day, we will wake up and find ourselves a shell of our former selves, probably overtaken by China.
Indifference is deep among the electorate. This is an indifference to:
- Basic logic or common sense.
- Being politically informed and able to differentiate valid points from utter bullshit.
- Spending time learning about and supporting third parties when neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are doing their job.
- Performing the most fundamental civic duty of a democracy: to vote.
- Voting in the primaries to actually provide sensible choices for the general election.
- Expressing outrage towards the nasty injustices and atrocities the GOP commits every day.
- Giving informed, energetic opinions of what should be done.
It becomes a nasty cocktail when combined with the cognitive dissonance that the GOP is “good enough” as an opposition when the other party isn’t doing its job, ironically because of GOP obstructionism. The best way to vote isn’t retrospective voting (are you better off today than you were four years ago?), it is policy voting (would the other party do a better job in power?)
It is this indifference and cognitive dissonance that allows:
- The GOP to tilt ever further to the right with impunity, whilst purging its moderate ranks
- The complete prevention of meaningful compromise
- Special interests to run rampant and subvert the public interest for the last four decades.
Just like indifference helped the Nazis exterminate tens of millions of Jews, refusing to condemn the neo-Nazi propaganda machine of bullshit mountain will allow it to run America to the ground, siphon trillions of dollars from middle class Americans, and redistribute them to the top 0.1% (the “oppressed job creators” who run companies to the ground [CEOs] or create no real value whilst decreasing overall the stability of the economy [hedge fund managers]).
My biggest grievances lie with the moderate, center-right conservatives who are acutely aware that the GOP is no longer what it used to be and who either still vote for the GOP or fled to the Democratic Party. These moderate Republicans should be issuing the strongest condemnations towards the modern-day GOP, and yet they remain pliant and notoriously silent.
Formerly moderate Republicans such as John McCain and Mitt Romney are now a mangled mess, deciding to tack far to the right in order to selfishly protect their own political fortunes. The disappearance of the center-right in Congress has made it so hard for the Democrats to reach across the aisle; compromise now mostly occurs within the disorganized Democratic Party rather than between parties.
The Republican Party no longer stands for core conservative principles: free market has morphed into crony capitalism; smaller government has bordered on anti-government; civil liberties have turned into a post 9/11 security apparatus and religious zealotry; promoting democracy abroad has become war mongering and installing pliant tyrants; simplified taxes has transformed into a ridiculous flurry of tax expenditures, cuts, and loopholes.
The GOP needs to be punished. There are three ways to credibly crush the core byproduct of the bullshit mountain:
- Increase voter turnout in favor of sensible candidates during primaries
- Facilitate the rise of a third, center-right party
- Reduce the corrosive influence of special interests in government
All three methods require renewed activism and engagement, which will not be easy. However, until one or more of the above is achieved, expect more gridlock and obstructionism and no fundamental reforms.