Is this what Bush meant by the ownership society?

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, June 16, 2009 18:13 EDT
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Via Atrios, who has tersely been the voice of reason as this Iran thing blows up, I have to commend Tim Fernholz’s article putting the Iranian election debacle into perspective with this most important of reminders: It’s not about us. The rule of thumb that states that if a bunch of right wing nuts get up in an outrage tizzy about something, one should be especially cautious about agreeing works here. Think of the Iraq War, and how taking right wing arguments on good faith made a lot liberals look incredibly stupid, and learn.

Obviously, stealing elections is bad. I will never get over my bitterness about the way Bush stole the election from Gore, for instance. But the must-denounce-more-stridently-than-thou disease that infects Americans is a major factor in this game that could make things much worse. I have no doubt that every wingnut from here to Alaska is looking to use mandatory outrage as an angle to start moving us to war, because lately they’ve been feeling a little short in the shorts, and that must be remedied.

What’s fascinating to me about the “it’s not about us” rebuttal, however, is how quickly it strikes at the heart of what may actually be the operating central belief that motivates wingnuttery in all it’s manifestations—that everything at all points in time is about you and your issues and your ego. Glenn Greenwald wrote an elegant post the other day about the tribal mentality of wingnuttery that touches on this.

The most predominant mentality in right-wing discourse finds expression in this form: “I am part of/was born into Group X, and Group X — my group — is better than all others yet treated so very unfairly.” This claim persists — indeed, is often intensified — even when Group X is clearly the strongest, most privileged and most favored group. So intense is their need for self-victimization — so inebriating is their self-absorption and so lacking are they in any capacity for empathy — that, for all the noise and rhetoric, the arguments they make virtually always have this tribalistic self-absorption at its core.

For those of us who watch the religious right closely, it’s really obvious that they believe both this and that all things at all times are about them. If someone gets persecuted in China, it’s actually about them. Evolutionary theory isn’t about science, it’s about them, and specifically about insulting them by implying they were descended from apes and that there’s not a god in the sky is devoutly interested in their every fucking bowel movement. And of course, bans on abortion are requested on the grounds that individual wingnuts can’t imagine what would have happened if their own mothers had gone with abortion instead, depriving the world of their fabulous presence. The right to self-determination for an entire gender is considered irrelevant when compared to the 6th grade level existential crisis of your average wingnut.

But until now, I don’t think I entirely saw how this kind of self-absorption translated directly to the more colonialist wankery. Conservatives are crying for Obama to make this all about the U.S. for a lot of reasons, but right at the top of the list is they really can’t stand to believe that something may not be about them, or that they don’t have a god-given right to control other people’s affairs and decisions for them. And, as Jesse has been saying, the delicacy of the situation really requires the maturity to stand back a little and avoid throwing a giant temper tantrum about how this entire Iran situation should be ours to control and own.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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