Friday, May 13, 2005

Ignorance is Strength

I was reading this post at the CarpetBaggerReport and particularly liked this summary from commenter Donald McFarland:

I think Matt Yglesias gives Michael Kinsley too much credit, albeit with tongue firmly in cheek, I’m sure. Painfully dumb conservative columnists are the inevitable result of the painful and deliberate dumbing down of conservative thought and education by their extremist leaders.

Their purpose was to make it easier to gain and hold power among the sheep-like masses. What they’re left with, however, are just a bunch of stupid people mindlessly repeating the nonsense they’ve been programmed with. They simply don’t have the intellect to maintain the illusion of superiority they have thrived on up to now and it’s really starting to show.

Now, that the conservative movement in general, and its Christian-Nationalist agenda in particular, is profoundly and purposely anti-intellectual, is not news to anybody that reads this blog.

And that there are, or at least could be, adverse consequences of that policy for the conservative movement--and for those it governs--flows from that understanding.

But the discussion reminded me of something I've been thinking a lot about lately, and that is the intersection between the stated ideals and ambitions of Christian Dominionists* such as James Dobson, and the "double think" that characterizes the totalitarian state of Oceania's Inner Party leaders in George Orwell's 1984. Of course the linking of the reconstructionist right with Orwellian tendencies isn't shockingly original.

But what I do think is intriguing is the idea that like Oceania's Inner Party, today's conservatives, and Christian Dominionists in particular, simultaneously believe, and don't believe, the rhetoric they spout.

Take the much noted "persecution complex" Christian Dominionists are known for trumpeting, and which even some mainstream conservatives like George Will, don't give serious credence to. Dobson and his posse must know that they and their ilk are not seriously under attack, but that rather, the rhetoric is used as a means of making the Christians in the pews think that they are so that they will open their checkbooks for their "ministries" as well as vote for the party that will give the Dominionists the political power they want. The language and medium serve both to inflame passions and discourage thought. So, on the one hand, I have to think that the Dobson, Tony Perkins, D. James Kennedy, Rod Parsley and Janet Parshells of the Dominionist's world know that what they're pushing is propaganda designed to bring their flock into allegiance.

The supposed threat from gays and homosexuality is used the same way.

At the same time, the sheer repetitiveness and paranoia involved probably serves in a way to convince the Dominionist's leaders that they really are in fact under attack and that gayness really is a threat to them and their imagined way of life.

So, much like Oceania's Inner Party which manipulates a climate of fear and discouragement of thought--both within the state and within their party--to preserve power, but which is itself both an executor, as well as the target of, that same repression, the Christian Dominionists intend to attract a partisan, highly emotional, and thus, highly malleable mass of support by promoting a climate of fear, do themselves become a part of the lie they're perpetuating.

*The origin of this term is uncertain, but it appears in Chris Hedge's article in the current Harper's magazine "Feeling the hate with the National Religious Broadcasters". The term Dominionist may be used by some inside the Christian Nationalist umbrella of groups or it may be only an outsider's reference. In any event, given their agenda, it seems an appropriate moniker.

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