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Monday, July 20, 2009

Navigating Conservative Thinking

Confusing traffic signIt must be difficult to be rightwinger. It seems to me that it would require a tremendous amount of mental effort to be able to navigate the logical U-turns it would take to keep on that side of the road. What was true yesterday, what you actually defended as a core principle of your political thought, is no longer true the next day. In fact, it may be that the next day, the exact opposite is true. How they manage this cognitive gear-grinding without blowing some sort of gasket is a mystery to me. I don't understand how you can operate in the world without some sort of constant. You'd think the constantly shifting realities that wingnuts expose themselves to would be hopelessly disorienting. Yet there they are, every day, believing today's truth and forgetting that they ever believed anything else.

Case in point; two somewhat similar legal situations in which two radically different military personnel have made a similar choice. I give you the cases of Lt. Ehren Watada and Maj. Stefan Frederick Cook, both of the Army. In both cases, these soldiers refused to deploy, citing illegal orders. That's pretty much the entirety of the similarity.

In June of 2006, Watada refused orders to deploy to Iraq. Believing -- rightly -- that the war was illegal, Watada argued that he had the responsibility as an officer to refuse to be a party to a war crime. Watada faced a court martial, the government lost the case on what was basically a technicality, and the Justice Department, under Obama, dropped the charges against him in May of 2009. In the end, Watada's case was disappointing for observers, with the anti-war side never having tested the war's legality in court and the pro-war side never having gotten Watada behind bars.

And, boy, did they ever want him behind bars. For the right wing blog Moonbattery, Watada was a "sniveling deserter." For Michelle Malkin, he was a "coward" and the "moonbat left's new hero."

"This is more than just one man refusing to deploy," the conservative blog Wizbang opined. "It’s a coordinated effort by the anti-war left to undermine our troops, our war effort, and President Bush, and Lt. Watada is its pawn."

Looking at these opinions of Watada, you'd believe the right thinks that anyone refusing to deploy in a war was just playing politics to keep their cowardly self out of danger. And you'd be wrong, because that's yesterday's truth. Today's truth is something entirely different and Lt. Watada never existed.

See, it's here that the case of Maj. Stefan Frederick Cook comes in. Of course, in Cook's case, the reasons for his refusal to deploy are absurd. I guess that's what makes it so appealing to the right.

"Maj. Stefan Frederick Cook filed... suit July 8 in federal court here asking for conscientious objector status and a preliminary injunction based upon his belief that President Barack Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States and is therefore ineligible to serve as president of the United States and commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces," reported the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer Friday.

That's right, he's one of those.

So, where Watada's case was based in reality, Cook's case is based in wingnut fantasy. Simple logic rules out the "birthers" claim -- that Barack Obama is a Kenyan posing as a Hawaiian to win the presidency of the United States. You'd kind of think that the INS, the IRS, the Secret Service, or the State of Hawaii would've noticed that this guy running for president wasn't born here. Seems that's the hurdle any foreign-born president would stumble over. There's a reason why you never hear the phrases "high-profile" and "illegal alien" used together.

But if there's one thing about a conspiracy theory, it's that you'll never convince the theorists that they're wrong. It becomes a belief with as much strength in their mind as religion and, like religion, it doesn't require a whole lot of logical framework to stand in their minds. You've got as much chance of changing a conspiracy theorist's mind -- no matter how much contrary evidence you present -- as you do of getting a creationist to accept evolution. Anyone who disbelieves in the conspiracy is wrong, end of story. You simply cannot change their mind and it's a waste of time to try. The best thing you can do is drop a coin in their cup, compliment them on their tinfoil hat, and keep walking down the street.

And Cook's special brand of conspiracy/religion is becoming a problem for the Republican party.

David Weigel, Washington Independent:

Six months into Obama’s presidency, after scores of embarrassing legal defeats, and even after tussles between the attorneys who’ve turned frivolous lawsuits about the president’s citizenship into full-time jobs, the cottage industry of conspiracy theories about the president’s birth shows no signs of disappearing. The theories have found a home in talk radio and on conservative web sites such as Free Republic and WorldNetDaily. Conspiracy theorists are increasingly sending letters to their local papers, embarrassing members of Congress at town hall meetings, and hounding Hill staffers about challenges to the president’s citizenship.

Imagine people who believe the moon landings were shot on a Hollywood set taking their cases to court and you get an idea of how these suits invariably turn out. The Republican establishment would love to see these nuts just go away. "Crazy" isn't the perfect word for these people, but it's the closest. They aren't actually mentally ill, they're just committed to being wrong. The conspiracy theory is an article of faith. So it doesn't make any difference how many cases they lose, they're going to stay just as wrong until the day they die.

Cook's reason for refusing to deploy isn't as sound as Watada's, but I think that if I were stationed in Afghanistan, I wouldn't want him there. He's obviously a gullible ass of questionable intelligence, so having my life in his hands wouldn't be all that comforting a prospect. Unless, of course, you're a rightwinger -- then Cook's a hero.

I'm not going to read his mind and pretend I know he's a coward. I doubt he is, anyway. I'll just take him at his word and assume that Maj. Stefan Frederick Cook is an idiot. He's not going to Afghanistan, because the Army pulled his orders. I guess it's not worth the effort it would take to court martial him -- as they did, under a previous administration, with Ehren Watada. I'm not sure I agree with that, but I'm not sure I disagree. It's an unsatisfying situation, but there really isn't any way to win here. The birthers won't stop -- ever -- because their lunatic belief system won't allow it.

And all those people who thought Watada was a coward are either silent on Cook or cheering him on. One refusal was the worst thing ever, while the next is the best. There is no consistency on the right, no governing principle, other than that liberals are always as wrong as it's possible to be. That's what it means to be reactionary.


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Mike B said...

What a great post. I've always thought it was selective memory.

Anonymous said...

I think the conspiracy theory types are mentally ill. This is how these nut cases should be handled:

victor said...
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