Thursday, April 15, 2010

Republican Gomorrah

At the end of another newsy week, I wonder who will be able to repair their reputation first: Toyota, Ratzinger, or Massey Energy. Of one thing I am sure, none of these criminals will go to jail. If you or I were to murder workers, kill unsuspecting drivers, or abuse children, we’d be in the klink. If we were African American or Latino and did one of those things, we’d be on death row. But as someone once said, the opposite of rich isn’t poor, it’s justice. The rich rarely see too much justice.

Enough of that screed. Last week a friend lent me “Republican Gomorrah,” by Max Blumenthal. It was a great read. Blumenthal is a good writer, and his research is flawless. He documents the infiltration of the Republican party by the religious right. It’s chilling. Like Jane Mayer’s excellent “The Dark Side,” the subject matter is nauseating, but it’s so well-written you can’t put it down. It’s like seeing a car accident—you want to turn your head, but you can’t quite.

“Republican Gomorrah” is published by the Nation. Whether or not you agree with the Nation’s politics---I usually do—their writers and researchers are among the best. Blumenthal weaves primary sources, interviews, and social theory into a terrifying tale with implications for us all. He uses Erich Fromm’s “Escape From Freedom” to explain the behavior of authoritarian types. Fromm maintains that those attracted to fascism, in its many manifestations, display clear sadomasochistic tendencies. Through allegiance to a strong leader such people hope to find a “magic helper” because of their own “inability to stand alone and to fully express [their] own individual potentialities.” Often these sadomasochists have been abused as children.

One of the main villains of the books is James Dobson. Dobson advocates severe corporal punishment of children--- and dogs. Dobson is the creep with the soft sing-song voice I tend to confuse with Pat Robertson. The only way I know to tell them apart is that Dobson most often advocates violence, and has less of a southern twang. The not-very-Reverend Dobson once interviewed the serial killer, Ted Bundy. Bundy was a psychologist and assistant director of the Washington state Republican party, something rarely discussed. Dobson later did an interview with David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam Killer. That interview is still for sale on Dobson’s web site. While Dobson advocates the death penalty for most people, he wanted those two serial killers spared because of the born again experience they claimed to have. As Blumenthal notes, few things are more important to a serial killer than publicity, which Dobson gladly gave them. Yet when a female serial killer wouldn’t get born-again, Dobson wanted her fried. For Dobson, as for the religious right in general, saying the magic words about being born again is more important than deeds.

Blumenthal does a great job of detailing the many, many, sexual perverts, both gay and straight, in the Republican party. Typically, it’s the born-again who are into the kinkiest sex. But if they say the magic words, and “repent” all is forgiven. Talk about cheap grace. Blumenthal discusses the right’s strange love of W, and W’s peculiar pathology. Un-recovered addicts and alcoholics are drawn to born again right wing religion. Robert Minor, a U of Kansas scholar of the subject, notes, “The convert maintains the same addictive thinking as before…There’s a similar level of intensity in their dependence upon religion as in their dependence upon the previous addiction.”

“Republican Gomorrah” was published in 2009, and ends, fittingly, with Palin. Palin is a “third Wave Pentecostal,” something I don’t understand. According to Blumenthal, this cult maintains that Eve had sex with the serpent, and that’s how Cain was born. Whatever. Blumenthal couldn’t foresee Palin quitting her job and becoming a media whore. He certainly saw the hateful rhetoric she bandied carelessly about. I understand people who don’t like to discuss her or the drug addled gas bag or crazy Glen. But in all 20th century genocide, hate talk on the radio and television has condoned violence and cruelty. As Daniel Goldhagen notes, whether it’s in Rwanda, Guatemala, Bosnia or Nazi Germany, hate talk in the media has been with the murderers every step of the way. That’s something we all need to be aware of. Blumenthal has done the patriotic thing by documenting the rise of the religious right in the Republican party. America, be very careful.

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