Gauging the sincerity of wingnuts
One of the great questions when dealing with conservative pundits and leaders is wondering how disingenuous they’re being. One of the biggest problems with conservatives is that they tend to see each other as marks—which is how things like “post-birtherism” develop and why Glenn Beck thumps the Bible but not the Book of Mormon—so it’s tempting to write off a whole lot of crazy shit leaders say as just pandering to the crowds. But, on the flip side, I’m wary of giving conservative leaders too much credit. There is some for-real stupidity up in those hills. Some would argue that it’s pointless to wonder who is being sincere and who is simply pandering, because there’s no sure way of knowing, but I disagree. I think how you respond to a wingnut does depend in large part on if you believe he’s bullshitting on purpose or not.
But it’s admittedly hard. For instance, Paul Krugman called George Will out a few weeks ago for railing against trains as being some kind of liberal fascist attempt to force you off the roads and to take away the free-spirited manhood that can only be achieved by sitting in traffic. Now, if I were a betting woman (at least on this), I would have thought that crazy as Will was being, this was still sincere. He strikes me as the sort to be paranoid about the trains and refuse to deliver himself to an Amtrak station where he has to sit around with people who he doesn’t believe have a right to breathe the same air as him. That he doesn’t see planes that way is probably because he gets to stand in different security lines and sit in first class lounges where they bring you free drinks.
Or that’s what I thought, anyway. Actually, it turns out he’s just full of shit, since Paul Krugman saw him on the train. Sure, it was the business class car, but still, Will’s whole “cars are better because of INDIVIDUALISM” stance was just a full-blown lie, and he was probably doing what many of us do, which is taking the train up the East Coast because it’s just easier than driving, full stop. So, chalk this one up to pandering bullshit.
Which brings me to Donald Trump, birther extraordinaire. It’s tempting to dismiss Trump’s birtherism as mere pandering, and find it implausible that he believes this shit. But I think we should resist that temptation, since it’s rooted in classism. It’s based on the incorrect assumption that wealthy people are smarter or less paranoid or more worldly or less racist than less wealthy conservatives. But I haven’t ever seen a scrap of evidence to back up this assumption. On the contrary, I think rich conservatives are often paranoid, racist, and ignorant because it’s an emotional crutch that allows them to pretend they really deserve to have way more than everyone else, even though they never really do deserve that much. Plus, someone like Trump has so much money that it actually can work to shield him from reality, making paranoid delusions more, not less likely to happen.
So, I’m taking him at his word. Thoughts? What conservative leaders do you think are bullshitting and which ones do you think really believe the crazy?