John Richards takes a stroll though the world of the American right-wing blog…
I love elections. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I find election campaigns fascinating. When I visited Texas in 2006 I got caught up in the drama of the Gubernatorial Election, which was a three-way fight between the incumbent, a feisty Grandmother, and Kinky Friedman. It was a lot like Big Brother, except the winner got to be in charge of Texas. None of them seemed to have any policies, except “taxes should be lower” and “the other two candidates are probably paedophiles” (the second never overtly stated, but always suggested in ads with ominous music, silhouettes and phrases like “protecting our children”). I also learned a new word – gubernatorial – so it was both entertaining and educational.
I’ve been following the US elections obsessively. It’s such a great cast this year – as the US’s Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson put it, “you got your grizzled old veteran who’s trying to win one last campaign, you’ve got the brash rookie who inspires millions, you got the hockey mom who’s governor by day, naughty librarian by night, you’ve got Biden who’s all… Bideny there…” And the actors are great. You honestly believe that Sarah Palin is a real human being (although I think the writers went too far by calling her children Trig, Track and Bristol. Not terribly believable, guys).
While the Outland Institute has existed as a physical educational facility since the mid-1600s, our online annexe has only been up since July. Every day we receive a printout on the teletype machine of the most popular blogs across the wordpress universe, and many of them are political in nature. So I’ve been indulging myself by reading dozens and dozens of insane conservative blogs.
I think we sometimes forget just how crazy right-wing the US is. On the American satirical news show The Daily Show on October 15th, host Jon Stewart talked about Stephen Harper winning the Canadian election. Putting him in perspective for the local audience, he said, “Stephen Harper, of course, the leader of Canada’s conservative party. Canada’s a relatively liberal nation, their conservative party is the equivalent of our… Gay Nader Fans For Peace“.
The world of the right-wing blog is enjoyable in the same way as good science fiction. There’s a whole universe, with it’s own laws and logic, completely different to the one you or I live in. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of rabid right-wing blogs, many of which appear to be written by people who receive messages from aliens through their teeth. Rumour, slander and innuendo and created, repeated and replicated through this chain of blogs so people begin to believe them as the truth. Many of these stories verge into X-Files territory, involving huge conspiracies full of shadowy figures.
Some of the current favourites about Democratic nominee Barack Obama include:
- Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, and is therefore ineligible to run for President;
- Obama is a citizen of Indonesia, and is therefore ineligible to run for President;
- Obama is Muslim;
- Obama is Muslim and planning to bring about the downfall of the US through socialism, communism or possibly a giant heat-ray;
- Obama is a mindless puppet for the real shadowy figures who are planning to bring about the downfall of the USA (this sometimes involves the Clintons);
- Obama faked a birth certificate to prove he wasn’t born in Kenya or Indonesia;
- Obama spends every hour possible hanging out at the mall with terrorists;
- Obama will be getting rap sensation Ludacris to perform at the White House Inauguration;
- Obama will paint the White House black (see what they did there?);
- Obama is the anti-Christ. Seriously, I have read that one quite a bit. IT’S IN REVELATION, PEOPLE!
Recently the stories have moved to his wife Michelle – in one of the most patently unbelievable ones, she’s supposed to have called an obscure Norwegian blog called API that writes about African-American affairs and warned them not to write any more about her husband’s Indonesian citizenship which – by the way – makes him ineligible to run for President. Mum’s the word, Norway.
When pressed for any proof, the site claims it has a tape of the conversation and will release it in due course. Why? Why on Earth would Michelle Obama do something so bizarre in the last days of an election her husband is apparently winning? Why would she feel remotely threatened by a tiny and insignificant blog? And if the tape existed why wouldn’t the bloggers want to take advantage of it? Why would they wait?
Whenever the idea of evidence comes up, the blogs get full of comments like “we’re just waiting for the right moment and then this is going TO BLOW THE ROOF OFF THE NOBAMA CAMPAIGN!!!!!!!” What? You have important evidence about the derailing of democracy and you treat it as though you’re choosing an opening weekend to release an action film? Or does it simply…. not exist?
The bloggers believe all these stories because they want to – they reassure their prejudices, they “sound” right. “Evidence” is something invented by the MSM – or Mainstream Media – who are all leftist conspirators. The Mainstream Media, by the way, is virtually everybody, from The New York Times to snopes.com to the BBC. The only possible exception is Rupert Murdoch‘s comically-biased Fox News, and even they’re coming under fire for being a bit soft (Fox‘s slogan is “Fair and Balanced”, which is presumably ironic).
Now, you may ask why we should even care – after all, it’s not our president. Except, of course, that it is. The US President chooses the wars we get involved in, the economic crises we get to enjoy. America sneezes and the world gets invaded for oil. I honestly think the rest of the world should get to vote for the American president, since we’d generally make a better job of it.
I know Australia has its own crazy right-wingers, but they’re generally collected together in groups like Hillsong or the Exclusive Brethren, so they’re easy to avoid (incidentally, in my head I always remember that latter group being called the “Extreme Brethren”, which I imagine would be a religious group that believes bungee-jumping and snow-boarding brings you closer to God).
Australia has faced some very unpleasant, divisive years recently with the rise of the far-right, and I’d like to think we’re on our way back to common-sense. The leaders of both of major parties seem to be decent, sensible men (when they’re not trying to win votes by demonising Bill Henson) and I hope we’ll see a return to more humanist values in our society. In fact, I read this in The Age on October 20th:
“I believe Senator Obama, if elected, can relight the idealism and sense of purpose that the US had when the UN was formed, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, and when the US supported efforts to build a better and a fairer international system….
The Bush years have undermined much of the good America achieved in those years. But we should not allow his years to fool us into believing that that is the real America. The authentic voice of America comes from other people who believe in the idealism of the American dream.
In watching the debates and the conduct of the current campaign, Obama gives me hope that America may be reborn.”
So, which aging hippy said that?
Yes, former Prime Minister Malcolm “Life Wasn’t Meant To Be Easy” Fraser. Remember when we thought of him as a cold-hearted conservative? The world hurtled right-ward behind him and now he seems like a voice of reason, crying out for idealism and fairness. Maybe we should all stop to listen.
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