Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Much has been made of the effect of "moral values" on the Presidential race. But - leaving aside the obvious and well-belabored fact that "moral values" cuts both ways - what affected the Presidential race wasn't "moral values." It was fundamentalism.

And I don't mean religion.

It is common to think of fundamentalism as a specifically religious phenomenon. And religious fundamentalism played a role in this election, but only as one part of political fundamentalism.

The word "fundamentalism" was coined by a guy named Benjamin Warfield, who wrote a book called The Fundamentals, outlining what he believed to be the "essentials" of Christianity, which was pretty much traditional evangelical doctrine. But that is no longer what the word means.

Instead, the word describes an extreme approach to one's own ideology, demonstrated by a few characteristics. Some of these characteristics are:

1) Absolute certainty in one's own ideology. The fundamentalist does not believe that he is right - he KNOWS.

2) A sense of persecution. The belief that one's own group is constantly under some sort of attack from "outsiders."

3) Insularity. A tendency to only deal with those who are like-minded. This increases the sense of persecution, and makes the ideology get more and more extreme and more and more unreasonable as time goes on. The person's world becomes a great big echo chamber in which she only hears different takes on her own point of view and that point of view gets louder and louder.

4) The demonization of those who differ. Those who differ are not simply mistaken - they have bad motives and "a hidden agenda." This enables the fundamentalist to ignore any information that goes against his world view - if those on the other side are evil, all information that differs becomes suspect, and is assumed to be false.

The old Communists were often fundamentalists. Anarchists are often fundamentalists. Some liberals are fundamentalist liberals. Some atheists are fundamentalist atheists.

And there are conservatives who are fundamentalist conservatives.

And this explains why so many people simply refuse to see how thoroughly cynical the Bush regime is. It has befuddled me that so many people seem to be willing to ignore the evidence of their own senses and still believe this guy. No matter how many times he changes his justification. No matter how many times he changes his story. No matter how many times he says one thing and does another, they still view him as "honest" and a "straight shooter." And the guy doesn't tell a few white lies; he tells HUGE lies and he tells them constantly.

It's because ideological fundamentalism has largely taken hold in a very large swath of the population, no doubt aided and abetted by a defensive reaction to 9/11. And that has enabled Bush's followers to ignore or mentally whitewash all negative information.

"Four legs good, two legs bad," as the sheep babble in Orwell's Animal Farm. And this simple distinction is all they need to know.

"Bush good, liberals bad" is the chant of the Bush-worshippers. And that's all they need to know.

The question is, how do you break THROUGH such willful blindness? What do you do when people treat all unwelcome information by mentally covering their ears and yelling, "I can't heeeear youuuu"?

Because that's what Bush's followers are doing.

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