Sunday, May 17, 2015

Selective Rage

I saw this on my FaceBook feed a few days ago. I saw it as ill-informed, but not particularly aggressive. But I got to thinking about it and realize how it exemplifies the selectiveness of right-wing contempt and where it is directed. I think what did it for me was a comment from someone who declared: "This is one of those issues that puts a burr under my saddle." A common expression, but in this case quite revealing.

In the first place, it is curious that the poster's creator says Social Security is running out of money, as if that is a factual observation. It isn't, it is a Republican conceit, but I suppose the joke doesn't work unless you have been conditioned to ignore evidence.

I wonder if he, Mr. bur-in-my-saddle, is equally bothered by unending corporate subsidies? Or the bank bailouts, where there was clear evidence of criminality. Or the phenomenal waste at the Defense Department which, wouldn't you know it, gets little press.

Sadly, there are quite a few who get worked up if a single mother on food stamps buys anything other than gruel. but excuse or even cheer on the likes of Cliven Bundy, who is both a thief and a scofflaw. Actually, it is not sad; it is disgusting. That law and order stuff is for the poor and vulnerable. As Scythian philosopher Anacharsis famously observed: "Laws are like cobwebs; strong enough to ensnare the weak, but not the strong."

When pressed, some on the Right will admit Bundy is wrong, or they will insist they don't like to see waste anywhere. But that is usually not their visceral, instinctive reaction. And they usually have to be called out on their inconsistency. It is not something that comes to mind easily. If you don't think your rage is selective, name one US Army General you demanded to be held accountable for the $8.5 trillion dollars the Defense Department cannot account for.

When we do look at welfare so many fail to see the broader picture; welfare payments go disproportionately to working class neighborhoods. The money helps to buy essentials --and little else-- for children and the elderly. It is almost never a matter of cash out of your pocket and into the pocket of a some deadbeat, though you have been encouraged to believe this. The Republican Party has, in recent decades, made an art form out of putting carefully selected burrs under your saddle. Much involves stoking white working class resentment. This has both divided voters that once were Democratic constituencies, and has deflected criticism away from the overclass.

And that, of course, was always the intent. Republican politicians and operatives know their voter base. They realize those on the Right are tribal, fearful, and insular. They also know conservatives are bothered by someone else getting benefits, not just anyone, but those perceived as undeserving, as they define it. Those who express anger, irritation, or contempt for welfare recipients and for the poor in general are revealing their own authoritarian personality.

It is that authoritarian personality, coupled with an often breath-taking level of misinformation, that compels so many on the right, tea baggers and plutocrats alike (I'm looking at you, Donald Trump), to so frequently mischaracterize that which they despise, but refuse to understand. The result is an intellectual whipsaw of contempt for food stamp recipients but not massive Pentagon waste; for social security, but not Wall Street's pension plunder. They rally behind Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's effort to undermine teachers, but shrug when defense contractors routinely gouge the government and then pay themselves obscene salaries.

That's a lot of burrs that somehow go unnoticed.

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