Everybody has one, a relative who is a nice guy or a fun guy or a reliable friend when you need him, but has some totally off the wall opinions on some subject.
30 years ago I had an uncle like that who was convinced that the Spanish were part of some conspiracy to control the country.
Usually they would listen to some overnight radio show on AM where some odd host whose station had a longer range due to the night would rant and rage about this that or the other thing. Once they get started they are highly motivated too and it takes a lot of effort to change the subject or shut them up.
I have other relatives who are salt of the earth but when they get on about particular things they go mad.
It’s not so odd that 1% of any population might be off its rocker, the problem is in a country of 300,000,000 that is 3 million people. Even if 1/10 of one percent is crackers that’s 300,000 people. To give you some perspective that’s more troops than we have in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The problem is with the internet and social networking and the like that crazy 1% or 1/10 of one percent is suddenly empowered. Instead of the crazy uncle at the family gathering that you can ignore, suddenly he has 1000 friends that he can text to rebut and counter rebut all night. He is affirmed and empowered and boy is he motivated, because now there are thousands of people telling him he’s been right all along and is MUCH smarter than everyone thought.
300,000-3,000,000 crazy uncles as individuals isn’t a big deal, but get them all writing e-mails or making phone calls and most importantly AFFIRMING themselves and suddenly you have a potent economic and or political force. Suddenly there is a huge market for a book or 10,000 people willing to pay $20 for a DVD. That’s a fair amount of change and a person can make a good living off of it.
This is the technical reason why the truthers, the birthers and all the others out there have so much more power than they once did. They have whole networks ready to affirm them and back them up. And his isn’t limited to groups such as those, you have cultural subgroups that have “interesting beliefs” within that sub culture those ideas are gospel, outside of the group they tend underplay it. Doesn’t help when dealing with the general public.
Lets quote a great old piece from a guy name Bill Whittle he describes a long encounter with a skeptic of the moon landing:
Every time I would identify one of these great mysteries, Joe had the same response: okay, but what about this! No fight, no defense – nothing. And then we’d be on to some new blur or smudge that proved, incontrovertibly, that this “reality” we live in is a giant lie, and that we are all victims of Dark Forces moving beyond our control or even our awareness… and that while the sleepwalking sheeple go on with their corporate-controlled lives, the mysterious wheels of the Shadow Government turn inexorably onward, crushing those brave few individuals who are on to the whole horrid plot like so many ants. There is a word for this diseased mental state.
As I was leaving Joe’s, he said something I’m sure he thought was very funny. He said, “Man, I’ll bet a guy like you thinks Lee Harvey Oswald really shot JFK.”
Of course he shot JFK, Joe. Who do you think did it? The American Beef Council? Joe looked at me the way I had been looking at him. That is to say, he simply could not process that I could hold such a belief in my head. You’re serious? I’m dead serious. I recommended Case Closed, by Gerald Posner – without question the best piece of critical reasoning, research and logic I have ever read, bar none. I suspect he did not follow my advice. Books like that are bad for his business. Man, you’re out there, said Joe. You know, the sad thing is, I’m starting to believe he is right.
Read the whole thing and you will have a great handle on not only the mind of the conspiracy theorist but an idea of sub groups.
Dr. Sanity did some diagnosis along these lines:
You would think that a paranoid person would be reassured to discover that people or groups are NOT out to get him. That there is no conspiracy against the group. You would be wrong. This is the last thing that the Paranoid individual or group really want, because–if they are not being persecuted, or betrayed, or lied to, or oppressed–then the Paranoid must face the devastating reality of his own insignificance. This he cannot do and it is why the alternate reality was constructed in the first place.
The paranoid solution to unacceptable thoughts or feelings is to say, “If I am having these bad thoughts or feeling or behaviors, then someone else must be to blame and is making me do it.” The Paranoid person does not take responsibility for his own thoughts or feelings or behaviors.
Conspiracy theories serve one of two purposes. They either serve as a rationale for the unacceptable successes of others; or as reasons for the failures of a particular group or individual. The Arab world fixation with Jews and the reasons for Jewish successes serve as the classic fodder for conspiracy theorists in the Middle East.
Now lets look at President Obama and his crew pre-senate and pre-presidency. President Obama was dealing with groups such as ACORN, he was associating with people like domestic terrorists William Ayers and Bernadette Dohrn, he spent 20 years in a church listening to Jeremiah Wright in the pulpit and lived with Louis Farrakhan as a neighbor. All of these people have something in common.
All are part of “subgroups” within their groups their opinion and their theories are accepted and unquestioned but when exposed to the general public they become problematic. 30 years ago one might have been able to hide these views, but in the age of the internet and YouTube that just isn’t as easy as it once was. This is why it was so vital to the media to ignore those associations for as long as possible.
Now once the administration had won to the victors belonged the spoils. Many high profile positions were to be filled but even more lower level positions all over government needed to be filled. The administration naturally filled these positions with people from within their own sub culture those same ANSWER groups that they have worked aside for years.
Now it may be that these people have competence in the various fields that they were appointed to but because they are part of those sub groups they likely have positions and opinions that can not be healthy politically when exposed. In a national campaign it is necessary to get a majority of public opinion behind you. Truther conspiracies and the like don’t sit well.
Which brings us to the case of Van Jones…
If you look at the far left groups such as color of change, you are dealing with a subgroup. Within that subgroup signing of a 9/11 truther statement would not constitute any clash with the perception of America as the “US of KKK” or the “Free Mumua” crowd or any of the others.
This is why I believe that Van Jones is a truther. I concede Charles Johnson’s point that it is a tactic of truthers to add false names to their support lists. Apparently it’s a tactic used by the left wing group Color of Change as well concerning their boycott.
Now I understand that some people do not like Glenn Beck. I’m not a huge fan of Beck I watch him once in a great while and never really cared for his radio show. Looking at Charles’ archives I see that Beck went after him back in April.
Very bad move. Charles is not only an excellent blogger but as people like Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, and Islamic and other faux news people have discovered, he’s is relentless.
Unlike these clowns his hits on beck have been above the waist generally using his own words against him and enjoying some schadenfreude over the boycott. I don’t support it as I see a glaring double standard at work.
However one must always beware the specter of Sullivan’s syndromethat turned a once reasonable blogger into a Bush hating trig truther. Becks’ issues (and he HAS some) do not make the Obama administration in general or Van Jones in particular clean. A lot of Bush Derangement and Palin Derangement comes from the it, On the right we have to be careful of the same thing with Obama; WND caught it over birtherism. It’s a case of the anti-antis.
During the Cold War, we used to speak of anti-anti-Communists. These were people (on the left) who were not exactly pro-Communist. But they so hated the anti-Communists, they were . . . well, anti-anti-Communists — the best, the fairest name for them.
Today, there are anti-anti-Islamofascists. They are not on the Islamofascist side in the War on Terror. But they hate those who are fighting, or attempting to fight, the Islamofascists more than they could ever hate the Islamofascists. They are anti-anti-Islamofascists.
The similarities between yesterday’s anti-anti-Communists and today’s anti-anti-Islamofascists would make a very good essay — perhaps by David Pryce-Jones or Norman Podhoretz. Of course, many of today’s anti-anti-Islamofascists were yesterday’s anti-anti-Communists — I mean, the same people, in the flesh.
It’s a fine line and likely everyone crosses it once in a while. The trick it to make sure it is ONLY once in a while.
Update: The American Spectator asks questions.
Update 2: It looks like Charles point is looking better and better:
First, Ben Smith contacted two of the other “signatories” of that document, and learned that they had indeed been misled by the Truthers, and thought they were signing a legitimate document calling for further investigations.
Update 3: Game set and match to Charles, Crazy uncle yes, truther no.