You know how, when it’s a special occasion like a vacation, your birthday, or Christmas, you often figure it’s okay to be a little self-indulgent? You overeat, lay on your ass, do something pointless and unproductive on the theory that it’s your special day and that’s what you get to do. Well, since 9/11 has become the Wingnut Christmas, I think wingnuts are getting into that exact spirit. But instead of overeating—or perhaps in addition to it—the normally forbidden behavior they give in to is saying exactly what they mean instead of just hinting at it. Most of the time they’d argue that they’re all for religious freedom and tolerance, but engage in special pleading for why Muslims should be the exception in some circumstances. But on Wingnut Christmas, John Bolton decries the Park51 center by saying that it’s about telling the American people “we’re going to increase religious tolerance and understanding whether you like it or not.” And they most certainly do not like! But god forbid you tell them that they sound like a bunch of bigots ready to burn up the First Amendment because of a manufactured controversy over a building they didn’t give a shit about a month ago. That’s like telling someone to stick to their diet on Christmas.
The most peculiar example of this strain of wingnut self-indulgence had to be the much-discussed teaming up of Newt Gingrich and Dinesh “The Taliban Is Right About America” D’Souza to push D’Souza’s unreadable article in Forbes diagnosing Obama’s behavior as “bizarre” and ascribing it to what Gingrich described as a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview. As I noted on Twitter, you could probably give D’Souza and Gingrich a quiz on the first paragraph on Kenya on Wikipedia, and they’d flunk it, but they nonetheless feel free to spin academic-sounding bullshit about what Kenyans supposedly believe, why it’s supposedly so wrong, and how that’s what Obama secretly believes. You know, despite the fact that he was neither raised in Kenya nor had a whole lot of contact with is father growing up. The implication that D’Souza and Gingrich are forwarding is that either Obama is lying about where he was born and raised, or that the “anti-colonial” worldview they ascribe to Kenyans is genetic. I don’t imagine they care which one you choose; the important thing is Othering the President and implying that he’s illegitimate and not really American.
What’s interesting to me is that Gingrich and D’Souza are clearly filling a need in the wingnut masses for this pseudo-intellectual nonsense. It’s an article of faith in the wingnutteria that pointy-headed college professors don’t have common sense and aren’t worth listening to. And yet, despite this stereotype, they still have this strong need to have even their craziest beliefs (in this case, Birtherism) validated by something that they can convince themselves is pointy-headed academic analysis. D’Souza’s whole purpose in life is to give an elitist gloss to right wing populism and racism, and that’s basically all this is. It’s about giving the wild-eyed Birthers reassurance that their particular brand of nuttiness is acceptable in the halls of academia, and therefore not nutty at all. Of course, they’re lying to their people about this, but illusions, as I’m sure you know, matter more than facts ever could.
In Rick Perlstein’s book Nixonland, he describes the wingnut struggle with what they call “elites” with the Nixon-derived nicknames the Franklins (elites) and the Orthogonians (wingnut populists). Orthogonians decry the Franklins, but they envy them at the same time. They dismiss their intelligence but crave their approval. They swear they’re superior to the Franklins, but never really believe it. And you really see this dynamic at play when it comes to Birtherism. The Birthers want badly to say both that they don’t care for the opinions of academic, facts-bound elitists who dismiss their theories are nuts, and they want some pointy-headed college professor to agree with them so they can say, “Even the smarty-pants think Obama is a Kenyan-born secret Muslim!” And D’Souza and Gingrich are happy to provide the illusion in exchange for voting Republicans into power.