Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mass Psychosis

Plenty of things to examine this week. There's the already mixed outlook of several football teams, the incomprehensible reaction by Serena Williams to an umpire's call in a championship match, and Dick Cheney's latest attempt to change money from our accounts to his with a new book designed (surprise!) to show him in the most positive light during his VP years, which I would have thought he would have preferred to forget altogether. Let's consider something else.

I once read that a person's reaction to a new situation might be influenced by the reaction of others in the same situation. You see a person on the street who needs help of some kind, but you also notice that no one seems to be paying much attention. It's unlikely, according to this theory, that you'll do something much different from everyone else.
Perhaps the theory helps us understand the reactions of "blood oath" Republican audiences to certain moments in the still-young campaign debates. First, I don't think I'm the only one to notice that the Republican Party seems less like a political party these days and more like some kind of snooty, overconfident fraternity whose members think of themselves as equal parts Oliver Cromwell, John Wayne, Dirty Harry and Ted Nugent. Their fists (or is it just a digit?) are raised, their attitude defiant, and their negative emotions are much stronger than the positive ones. Obama? Yer kiddin', right? The master of manipulation, Rush Limbaugh, now refers to the president as a "man-child", a term just far enough removed from "boy" to avoid broad censure from the real public.
So the debates, such as they are, are attended by a mean-spirited crowd that doesn't mind showing how it really feels. A question was asked of the candidates if they could accept a tax raise/spending cut combination ratio that ran 1:9 in order to balance the federal budget. The candidates, knowing their audience, ALL showed their hands to declare that, sorry partner, 1:9 just wouldn't cut it. Never mind that someone with real courage would have said those numbers would be great, at least in theory.
And on it goes. Governor Perry got unexpected applause because his questioner mentioned the 200 plus capital punishment recipients during Perry's term, and the audience reacted as if they wished they had been handling the fatal injection personally.
A question relating to health care raised the audience's hackles in this week's Tea party debate. The question was a little involved, but included, for rhetorical purposes, the option of letting someone die from lack of insurance. Taking on the role of the pharisees before Pilate, the crowd shouted their approval of the death of someone not pulling their own wight. "Right on, man!! Why should I have to pay for this bum's taking up space on earth? I got college tuition to pay, AND payments on my Lexus, too!"
Answers to the nation's problems? They just don't care. The only problem they see is getting enough people to think they should unite themselves in voting with the interests of millionaires. It's still almost 14 months till Election Day, but there's no question you're going to find out what the millionaires want you to do when the big day comes. It's just that they are not likely to use the term "mass psychosis".


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