Monday, October 15, 2007

Reality Derangement Syndrome

Paul Krugman has a good piece about the reaction from the right wing to Al Gore’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

On the day after Al Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize, The Wall Street Journal’s editors couldn’t even bring themselves to mention Mr. Gore’s name. Instead, they devoted their editorial to a long list of people they thought deserved the prize more.

And at National Review Online, Iain Murray suggested that the prize should have been shared with “that well-known peace campaigner Osama bin Laden, who implicitly endorsed Gore’s stance.” You see, bin Laden once said something about climate change — therefore, anyone who talks about climate change is a friend of the terrorists.

What is it about Mr. Gore that drives right-wingers insane?

Partly it’s a reaction to what happened in 2000, when the American people chose Mr. Gore but his opponent somehow ended up in the White House. Both the personality cult the right tried to build around President Bush and the often hysterical denigration of Mr. Gore were, I believe, largely motivated by the desire to expunge the stain of illegitimacy from the Bush administration.

And now that Mr. Bush has proved himself utterly the wrong man for the job — to be, in fact, the best president Al Qaeda’s recruiters could have hoped for — the symptoms of Gore derangement syndrome have grown even more extreme.

The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right. In 1992, George H. W. Bush mocked him as the “ozone man,” but three years later the scientists who discovered the threat to the ozone layer won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 2002 he warned that if we invaded Iraq, “the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.” And so it has proved.

But Gore hatred is more than personal. When National Review decided to name its anti-environmental blog Planet Gore, it was trying to discredit the message as well as the messenger. For the truth Mr. Gore has been telling about how human activities are changing the climate isn’t just inconvenient. For conservatives, it’s deeply threatening.

I’ll take it a step further and say that this madness over Al Gore is just one more sign of a larger syndrome that has afflicted the right wing for the last fifteen years or so: Reality Derangement Syndrome. Much as the right wing accuse the left of being afflicted with an inordinate and incalculable hatred for President Bush, the conservatives aversion to reality has taken on a stridency and hysteria that makes the left’s jabs at Mr. Bush seem mild by comparison. Yet we are the ones who get chastised for being angry about the state of the nation at the hands of the current administration.

I grant you that the left’s mockery of Mr. Bush, including the name-calling, the cartoons, and the questioning of his intelligence are the stuff of schoolyard taunts, but then how can you look at the assault on reason – to coin a phrase – by the right wing and the Bush administration and not be just a trifle irked? How can any reasonable person look at the realities around us – a war started on lies and deceit, the wholesale spying on American citizens at home without the protection of the Bill of Rights and the blind acceptance thereof by the party that promotes itself as being the advocates of “limited government,” the incredible budget deficits defended by the same party that called itself the party of fiscal discipline and swooned over very thought of the slightest tax increase that might stave off the debt that will saddle the future, or look at the demonization of an entire class of people and the denial of their basic rights of citizenship such as the freedom to marry the person of their choosing based on superstition and prejudice, plus the wholesale carpet-bombing of any opposition to the president’s policies through such means as politicizing the Department of Justice and the firing of U.S. attorneys who do not meet the strict standards of political correctness, or the leaking of the name of a CIA operative to exact political revenge, or the stalking and terrorizing of a blue-collar family in Baltimore because they happened to speak up for a popular and effective health insurance program – and not come to the inevitable conclusion that both the administration and its vocal supporters are clearly the ones who are deranged? It’s gotten to the point that even the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, no bastion of liberalism, is saying that the Swiftboating of the Frost family was over the top. (Not to mention the people who are upset that the Nobel Peace Prize didn’t go to their nominee, Rush Limbaugh.)

It is perhaps that the right wing is finally grasping the sense of impending doom that has them in such a fury; they see the oncoming disaster and are blindly lashing out in a flailing attempt to ward it off. That would explain their behavior and desperation. It would explain why the leading candidate for the GOP nomination in the 2008 election, Rudy Giuliani, is a man whose past record on gay rights, reproductive choice, gun control, and his marital history would make him a leading contender for the moderate Democratic vote. The GOP is going through these conniptions in an attempt to cling to power and will do anything, including throw reality to the winds, in order to achieve it.