Mythological politics  

Posted by Big Gav

Michael Lind has a column at Salon on the tea bagger movement, offering an insight into the "key to understanding the populist right's accusations that Obama is a socialist" - Mythological politics. They should probably just go and talk to a real socialist if they want to be disabused of that notion...

Anglo-American Protestants viewed Catholicism as the chief enemy of the "true religion" of Protestant Christianity well into the 20th century, and some still do. But in the mythology of the reactionary right, the United Nations has long since replaced the Vatican as the center of global conspiracies, and the alleged Catholic threat to Protestantism has been replaced by the alleged "secular humanist" threat to the "Judeo-Christian tradition."

This is the key to understanding the otherwise inexplicable accusations by the populist right that Barack Obama is a socialist or fascist or whatever, as well as fantasies about a global secular humanist conspiracy. We are dealing with a mythological mentality, based on simple and powerful archetypes. Contemporary figures and current events are plugged into a framework that never changes. "King Charles (or King George) is threatening the rights of Englishmen" becomes "Barack Obama is promoting socialism" — or fascism, or monarchism, or daylight saving time.

As in other cases of mythological politics, like messianic Marxism, this kind of thinking is resistant to argument. If you disagree, then that simply proves that you are part of the conspiracy. Inconvenient facts can be explained away by the true believers. It's hard to come up with arguments that would persuade people who think that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are totalitarians to change their mind.

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