Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Attack of the Bubble People

Of all the political problems that plague the United States, there is one that is potentially more serious than the combination of all the others, one with which I've been gravely concerned and about which I've written for a good many years. Simply stated, there is a large and growing segment of the population on the political right that has increasingly opted to seal itself in what amounts to an alternate universe and never have any more than superficial commerce with reality. They exist, more and more, in a bubble of their own puerile political fantasies. I call them the Bubble People.

Obviously, there have always been people who would, for one reason or another, behave in this manner and they’ve always existed across the full range of the political spectrum. Today, for example, we see some simple souls on the left who, in alliance with like-minded people on the far right, suggest George Bush Jr. was responsible for the Sept. 11th attacks. Such people have usually been a relatively small portion of the population and have rightly been regarded as the fringe nuts they are. Today’s conservative Bubble People are just as nutty as any of the Bubble People of the past but they’re now a huge segment of the population, to the degree that they’ve more-or-less managed to go mainstream.

These Bubble People are, in part, an outgrowth of our drone culture but they’re primarily a side-effect of a massive, well-funded effort, operating within that culture for decades, to create a reliable constituency for the right. Millions of dollars have gone into constructing the bubble, which includes right-wing radio, the Fox News Channel, a huge network of think-tanks, publications, internet sites and so on, and a great deal of time and effort has been spent conditioning the Bubble People to believe only the voices forever echoing within the bubble, primarily those of the American conservative elite. Those voices are the source of The Truth. Anything outside those voices is to be distrusted and anything sourced to someone of any other political orientation is to be dismissed outright, without regard to any fact other than their political orientation.

When you see the current waves of drones who are turning up, on command, at the congressional townhall meetings about health care across the country, you’re seeing the Bubble People. They’ve been told by the conservative elite that they should be terrified of health care reform and that elite has used, as a rallying cry, the idea that the health-care proposal includes “death panels,” bureaucrats who will be empowered to decide to pull the plug on the elderly and the infirm.

If a reasonable person heard such a thing, his instinct would immediately be to dismiss it as balderdash, even if he knew nothing more of it. The concept of "reasonable" doesn't exist in the bubble though. It's absurd to have to point out that no such provision exists in the bill. It isn’t in it. It has never been in it. No one has ever even suggested such a thing, not once. Nor would they. But hundreds of people turn up, on command, at these townhall meetings to scream, cry, rant, threaten, and employ violence in order to shut down any discussion of healthcare reform based on their heartfelt--and entirely manufactured--belief that the socialist in the White House wants to pull the plug on granny. In a rare bout of responsible journalism, the corporate press has reported, umpteen times, that no such provision exists. These screaming mobs have remained completely impervious to this. They’re being told by the conservative elite--the only voices allowed in their bubble--that it does and to them, that’s The Truth. Reality never penetrates.[1]

That they would so passionately believe and never question the notion that their political opponents would craft such a grisly provision says everything about what they've been conditioned, within the bubble, to think of those with different points of view.[2]

When one sees the signs and banners waved by demonstrators at these events that say things like “Keep your grubby government hands off my Medicare,” it becomes obvious something has gone terribly wrong.

The decade+ campaign, through the '90s and beyond, to destroy Bill Clinton was the first indication that the Bubble People were getting completely out of hand but even the impeachment fiasco--essentially an attempted coup against an elected government, with all the attendant implications--didn’t have even remotely as wide-ranging an effect as the Iraq misadventure. The Bubblers were the backbone of the support for that insane policy and it's probably the most obvious and visible sign of the very real danger presented by them, danger not only to the United States but to the rest of the world.

I like to use the 2004 presidential election as a stock example of the trouble with the Bubblers. Consider these facts about that election, courtesy of the University of Maryland:

“…72% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%). Fifty-six percent assume that most experts believe Iraq had actual WMD and 57% also assume, incorrectly, that [Bush weapons inspector Charles] Duelfer concluded Iraq had at least a major WMD program.”

“…75% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, and 63% believe that clear evidence of this support has been found. Sixty percent of Bush supporters assume that this is also the conclusion of most experts, and 55% assume, incorrectly, that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission.”

And so on. There’s more. This was, by far, the single most important issue of that campaign and Bush’s supporters were wildly misinformed about every significant point of it. The President of the most powerful nation in the history of the world was sent back into office by an electorate that based its decision on pure fantasy.

That's a problem.



[1] The Bubble People are appearing at these events at the behest of organizers who openly avow they want no healthcare reform at all. The Bubbler's tactics, fed them by these handlers, has been to shut down discussion. This, alone, bespeaks a serious disconnect from reality. Healthcare in the U.S. is on an unsustainable course, at present. This can be demonstrated in any one of dozens of ways, without resorting to any sort of shaky speculation. Something has to be done. That doesn’t mean the current proposal is what should be done--I certainly don't think it is--but that’s the beginning of a discussion. The Bubble's handlers don't want a discussion and the Bubblers, completely oblivious to the reality of the health care crisis, are working to prevent one from taking place.

[2] The Bubble People would be a problem even if those who constructed their bubble were honest. There's little honesty in the American conservative elite. The image of the liberal Democrat as the evil socialist who would kill old people, adopted by the Bubblers as reality without a moment's hesitation, is just one of the vile creations of that worthless yet omnipresent elite.

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