“Deep-seated preferences cannot be argued about — you cannot argue a man into liking a glass of beer — and therefore, when differences are sufficiently far reaching, we try to kill the other man rather than let him have his way. But that is perfectly consistent with admitting that, so far as appears, his grounds are just as good as ours.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Natural Law”, 32 Harvard Law Review 40, 41 (1918)
There is an old saying: ignorance is bliss. A similar expression is that what you don’t know can’t hurt you. While it is true that ignorance can sometimes have the happy consequence of lowering stress levels, it can also be the cause of them (think the consequences of Fox News). And what you don’t know absolutely can hurt you. But it’s not so often what you don’t know that is the problem, but what you think you know.
To cite a few unhappy examples in history, at the Little Bighorn, Custer knew the Native American confederation under Sitting Bull was going to run away (they didn’t). At Isandlwana, Lord Chelmsford (who was not actually there) knew that Zulus, in whatever quantity they were present, could not stand up to English firepower in the form of artillery and the Martini-Henry rifle (they could), just as later those same Zulus knew that a few Englishmen armed with the Martini-Henry could not hold them off at Rorke’s Drift (they did).*
There are many other examples from history, including many from Napoleon, who quite often turned up precisely where he could not possibly have been. Sarah Palin knew, however much she exposed the insipid product of her what passed for thought in her mind that she would not lose the 2008 election because God had promised her to “do right by America.”
Just like the god Apollo told King Croesus of Lydia that if he attacked Persia, a great kingdom would be destroyed. Croesus knew Apollo meant Persia. But what Apollo meant was Lydia.
Republicans, to cite a more recent and relevant example, know that with their manufactured Benghazi scandal, or their spun IRS scandal (it was not only conservative groups that were targeted by the IRS) and resultant voter outrage (all that loss of trust an consent we keep hearing about), they have President Barack Obama by the short and curlies. What they seem unaware of is that this outrage is mostly in their own minds. Worse yet, almost half of Americans aren’t even following either of the situations closely.
According to Gallup,
Slim majorities of Americans are very or somewhat closely following the situations involving the Internal Revenue Service (54%) and the congressional hearings on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and its aftermath (53%) — comparatively low based on historical measures of other news stories over the last two decades.
You would think this would be a rather large fly in the ointment. But Republicans don’t think so much as believe; as a consequence, they seem unable to grasp that we do not share their paranoid delusions. How often have we heard Glenn Beck break into tears and cry, “Why aren’t people talking about this?” The answer of course, is that since Glenn Beck has made it all up; it is all in his head. Americans do not even know about whatever it is that has him in such a panic.
Thank the gods (or whatever), but we cannot share Beck’s tortured mind. Which, by the way, lends some validity to the precept with which I opened this piece: that ignorance is bliss. Batshit crazy is certainly an antidote to happiness.
So Republicans seem confounded by our inability to share their sense of fear and outrage. The whole thing can be likened to that familiar and peculiarly Republican disease, cognitive dissonance. Certainly, there is some shared cognitive dissonance on the part of Republican audiences: Gallup reports that,
Republicans are much more likely to say they are following these news stories closely than are independents or in particular Democrats. There is a 21-percentage-point gap between Republicans and Democrats in terms of following the Benghazi story closely, and a 27-point gap on the IRS story.
While most Americans give equal weight to both issues (Benghazi and the IRS), Gallup points out that,
The amount of attention Americans are paying to the IRS and the Benghazi situations is well below the average for news stories Gallup has tracked over the years. This overall lack of attention is due in part to Democrats’ and, to a lesser degree, independents’ lack of interest, which stands in sharp contrast to the significantly above-average attention among Republicans.
Like the below average IQ responsible for the claim that Benghazi, like 9/11, was God’s judgment. We’re looking at you, Michele Bachmann.
One issue Republicans seem absolutely unconcerned about, is the widespread occurrence of rape, violence, and harassment of women in the military, lumped together by the president as “abuse.” Republicans are rather more concerned by an imaginary persecution of Christians in the military, when in fact, the exact opposite is true: it is non-Christians in the military who are being persecuted. The facts are quite clear where these issues are concerned and these facts are completely irrelevant when it comes to Republican discourse concerning them.
Obama has ordered, “top Pentagon officials to “leave no stone unturned” in the effort to stop the abuse” of women in the military while Republicans do not even think raping women is a form of abuse. After meeting with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, the president told reporters,
Not only is it a crime. Not only is it shameful and disgraceful. But it is also going to make our military less effective than it can be.
While unable to comprehend that we do not share their outrage over their manufactured scandals, Republicans prove completely incapable of recognizing our outrage over actual crises, like, say, providing Americans with adequate medical care, fair and equal pay, our children with food and a decent education, and our workers with jobs.
They would rather repeal Obamacare than create a job. After all, if they created a single job (so far they have not), they would not be able to blame Obama for not creating any jobs. We’ll leave aside for a moment a wish for bridges that don’t fall down with our cars and our families on them.
To say the GOP is completely out of touch with Americans is to put the matter lightly.
Obama also told reporters (and therefore all of us, including Republicans) that the abuse of women in the military “is dangerous to our national security. So this is not a sideshow. … This goes to the heart and core of who we are and how effective we’re going to be” (rather like torture). But what Republicans insist is a danger to our national security is gays and lesbians in uniforms, or even women, or atheists.
We can quantify facts. We cannot quantify fantasy.
And there, in a nutshell, is the problem with Republican faux outrage. As with the rather unsavory example of Republican fears that there might be fetuses in food, the real issue is pesticides and other chemicals that actually kill people and which, more particularly, are actually being put into our nation’s food supply, including our drinking water. The water our children drink. The water all those fetuses Republicans seem so concerned about, drink via their mothers.
All this seems so obvious to those with working brains, those who are unburdened by ideological preconceptions. To say that Republicans are like children who plug their ears and make nonsense sounds in order to avoid seeing and hearing things not congenial to their wishes, is no exaggeration at all.
It is funny when we see this behavior in characters in sitcoms. It is remarkably less funny coming from our elected officials on Capitol Hill. And while what they think they know will rebound back upon them, it is the American people who will suffer the most from their ideological obsessions.
* By far the best and most accurate account of Isandlwana is How Can Men Die Better: The Secrets of Isandlwana Revealed (2005), and of Rorke’s Drfit, Like Wolves on the Fold: the Defense of Rorke’s Drfit (2006), both by Lt. Colonel Mike Snook.