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Dynamic intoxication and the GOP


I’m so old I remember when the idea that 9/11 was an inside job was supposed to be something only a few far left wackjobs believed:

The Republican Party’s nominee for Maryland attorney general hosted a series of five radio shows in 2006 devoted to arguing in support of 9/11 conspiracy theories questioning if the terror attack was the work of an “elite bureaucrat” who had demolition charges in every building in New York City and even suggesting if those who died after a hijacked plane hit the Pentagon were killed elsewhere.

Michael Peroutka, a candidate best known for his ties to neo-Confederate organizations, made the remarks on The American View, a radio show he co-hosted, in October 2006 while discussing the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

“What happened on 9-1-1, I told you that I had been doing some research and watching some videos,” Peroutka said during one of the episodes reviewed by CNN’s KFile. “And I said that if the buildings in New York City, the World Trade Center buildings, came down by demolition charges — that is to say — if there was this evidence that there was that something was preset there, then the implications of that are massive,” said Peroutka.

“I’ve been doing some reading and doing some studying, and I believe that to be very, very true,” he added, before further suggesting the work was done by controlled explosives.

Of course the entire American right wing has very much gotten into doing its own research these days, and we see the results.

Commenter ElNuevoDia on Scott’s post about Frank Luntz’s focus group interviews in the NYT:

I did view the article as informative just because it shows how deeply effective the propaganda networks of modern conservatism are.

It’s so jarring to read over and over how one “leftist” says something outrageous and it’s a stand in for everyone who is not in the conservative cult, even though not a single leader or elected representative endorses those views.

Whereas the things that the conservative movement does are endorsed at the highest level–literally their leader tried to destroy our republic–and it’s No Big Deal. Maybe it was antifa. Maybe he had a right to be angry. How come we don’t talk about BLM? and so on. And you realize talking about how almost everyone in BLM is peaceful, there were a few violent people who were disowned by the movement and some of them were really provocateurs from the Right–the sort of thing you accuse the Left of doing–that this conversation goes nowhere. Facts don’t matter. “It’s just your opinion.” “You just believe what the liberal media tells you.” That’s what’s coming.

Also the victimhood there–“liberals say all conservatives are racists.” No we don’t. We say you hitched your movement to a racist leader. His rise in the GOP began with birtherism. His campaign began by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers. And you’re ok with it. And that conversation is pointless too.

I think what’s been happening on the American right wing since the election of Obama is a process of cumulative radicalization that, in the Trump years generally and especially since January 6, 2021 has begun to enter a phase that could be called “dynamic intoxication.”

What I mean by that is a radically reactionary political movement is gaining social momentum via the ongoing psychologically intoxicating realization of the extent of what it can get away with, which is pretty much anything.

Specifically we have:

*Four years of lawless grifting and non-stop lying of the most extreme form by the Trump administration, that have led to essentially no legal consequences for the most egregious lawbreaking. Two failed impeachments merely underlined how impotent the status quo has become in regard to doing anything about Trumpism.

*The culmination of all this in the attempted autogolpe that went on continually pretty much out in the open for the two months after the November 2020. In most political regimes what Trump and his cronies attempted to do after losing the election would have gotten them summarily executed or at the very least imprisoned by the incoming government, but luckily in America we have The Rule of Law, as Merrick Garland will no doubt be happy to explain to you at length.

*The massive ongoing rollback of basic individual rights by unaccountable right wing hacks put onto the federal judiciary in general and the Supreme Court in particular by that radically reactionary political movement. This is where the intoxication dynamic is most evident. The notion that laws prohibiting things like purchasing contraception and entering into inter-racial marriages could somehow come back into force would have been considered utterly absurd by all right-thinking centrists and liberals until about 15 minutes ago. But now we’re suddenly trending toward the instantiation of, depending on the theological inclinations of the radical reactionaries in question, either the American Christian Republic of Jesus Plus Nothing, or a more far-flung Empire of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

*The collective realization by the American right wing that they can simply steal elections rather than win them legitimately — see, e.g., the “independent state legislature” doctrine — and that nothing is going to stop them from doing this.

All these things have a deeply intoxicating effect on a political movement that realizes on some level that it was on the verge of being more or less permanently marginalized by long term trends in American culture and demographics, but that has suddenly awoken to the prospect of being able to install itself into semi-permanent authoritarian power by anti-democratic means.

This, I suggest, is an example of cumulative radicalization in the American political context — and understanding that it’s actually happening right here right now is critical to fighting to stop it.

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