Join 3,439 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Mitt Romney is a liar.
November 3, 2012 2:08 PM   Subscribe

The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism From The Baffler.
posted by zoo (76 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite

 
Rick Perlstein, what! what!
posted by box at 2:11 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


(I also posted this link in one of the Romney megathreads a little while back.)
posted by box at 2:14 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've always really wanted to get in on this con. Is it still unethical to scam people who would otherwise be giving their money to Operation Rescue?
posted by Jeff Mangum's Penny-farthing at 2:26 PM on November 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


You don't have to go very far from the front page of Newsmax to find total lunacy. I normally use Adblock in Firefox and Chrome, so I loaded www.newsmax.com in Safari and clicked on the "Sci-Tech" section. This was a direct link from a banner ad on the right hand side:

FEMA black helicopter batshit craziness
posted by thewalrus at 2:40 PM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've seen a lot of these mail-order cons thanks to my Mum's now late but previously very gullible husband. She still gets them from time to time since they won't take him off of their mailing list even after several attempts to inform them that he is indeed late.

When I go to visit, with her permission, I send back all the reply cards for the ones with postage-paid envelopes, and check off the wrong box on the card. For example, "Yes, I support the establishment of Sharia Law in this country and the eventual imprisonment and forced conversion of all Christians!"

But even the official GOP, when the late husband was not late, would send him scams of this sort. He was such a reliable donor, they would often send him pre-paid FedEx envelopes accompanied by an urgent cry about how the freedom-hating terrorists were on the verge of ultimate victory. They would continue to send these things even after Mum asked them politely to stop, even after Mum informed them that her husband was soon to be late and was currently yelling at the talking squirrels in his bedroom because the squirrels would not let him remember the name of his own wife.

At least I got one benefit out of his gullibility. I have a Bush White House Christmas Card stuck in a box somewhere. He was on the Christmas Card list as a thank you for spending 10-20,000 on GOP causes every year. It's a nice souvenir.
posted by honestcoyote at 2:40 PM on November 3, 2012 [17 favorites]


As a non-American, I found that this article explained a lot.

Am still boggling, and shaking a little. I think I need a drink. Then I'm going to go and sell somebody a bridge in Brooklyn.
posted by cstross at 2:46 PM on November 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


INCREASE YOUR EJACULATION 581%!!!!!!!!!
posted by thewalrus at 2:46 PM on November 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Is it still unethical to scam people who would otherwise be giving their money to Operation Rescue?

Yes, it's extremely unethical. Your scam would, in a small way, be contributing to the sort of climate in which doctors get murdered.

The way these scams works is by first creating the fear, then promising protection, then skimming the money. The way you would get people to give money to give money to your store-brand Operation Rescue outfit is to run around with a megaphone proclaiming that ABORTION IS WORSE THAN THE HOLOCAUST. Neither you nor the people running Operation Rescue actually believe that -- you'd have to be crazy to take that rhetoric seriously -- but saying it is necessary to whip up the fear and get the money.

The trouble with your plan is that you are no more cynical than the people already running right wing political scams. They don't actually do anything to stop gay people from breaking into my house to destroy my marriage. It's all skimming and fundraising (and action undertaken for the sake of fundraising). What you are proposing to do is indistinguishable from what they already do.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:00 PM on November 3, 2012 [15 favorites]


I think I need a drink. Then I'm going to go and sell somebody a bridge in Brooklyn.

Better yet, offer them a tunnel at a huge discount.

What...too soon?
posted by uosuaq at 3:00 PM on November 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Y'know, there are parts of that batshit FEMA pamphlet I found myself in agreement with.

(Not the FEMA parts, though.)
posted by feckless at 3:01 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Marks gonna get marked.

cstross: Then I'm going to go and sell somebody a bridge in Brooklyn.

No, man, write a BOOK about selling someone a bridge in Brooklyn. (Presumably one that wasn't damaged by Hurricane Sandy.) That way we can all enjoy it without getting ripped off in the process.
posted by localroger at 3:08 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's interesting but hardly surprising that people who subscribe to that worldview also tend to be fearful and gullible. Hell, "fearful and gullible" is practically the definition of hard-core right-wingers.
posted by Ickster at 3:08 PM on November 3, 2012


Holy crap -- talk about burying the lede!

Here's the TL;DR -- blatant lying is how modern conservatives prove their bona fides to each other.
posted by NortonDC at 3:08 PM on November 3, 2012 [12 favorites]


No, man, write a book about how Obama is going to take your bridge away! Because his dad hated bridges!
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:14 PM on November 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Krugman has a blog entry on this subject and has a brief reappraisal of Rove as con man and entrepreneur rather than a true believer.

Thanks to Citizens United, Rove and other conservative PACs have received 400 million. But the impact on this election seems to be much less than what we feared. So I guess Rove took some off the top for "overhead", then passed ad production to a company owned by his buddy, and then the media people take their cut, until finally only around 10-20% of the money actually pays for stuff that reaches the general public.

I guess the masters of the universe and the jobs creators just got fleeced. Maybe Citizens United was worth it just to see the conservative rich folks taken for a ride.
posted by honestcoyote at 3:14 PM on November 3, 2012 [17 favorites]



The master of this is Newt Gingrich.

He doesn't exist to actually win office, and I doubt he'd actually serve if elected. His scam is to garner campaign contributions, spend the minimum necessary to keep himself in the news cycle and pay himself and his people handsomely while the actual campaign goes bankrupt.

He loses the election/primary/whatever, blames it on the socialist libotards and wash/rinse/repeat.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:19 PM on November 3, 2012 [14 favorites]


I think this must be appealing to something innate in the human animal. I am far, far, far from a conservative but I see lots of advertisements as I surf the web in the form of: ${normal_person} discovers something that routes around and enrages ${authority_figure} (who takes advantage of people like you) and wants to share it with you (for a small fee). Surely you've seen the "Mom discovers one simple trick for..." advertisements, yes?

This stuff seems to have been around forever: patent medicines, 100 mpg carburetors, free-energy devices, unconventional cures for cancer, and so on. We just don't trust authority figures, we know they must be taking advantage of us somehow, we want to feel just as smart, if not smarter, than they are. This must feel like a way to level the playing field a bit when, despite your best efforts, life is metaphorically kicking you in the balls.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 3:20 PM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I got a robocall from the Romney campaign today. In such situations, I generally try to stay on the line as long as possible so as to do my tiny little part to drain their resources. If it's a person, I'll try to engage them in discussion (my proud and shining moment was tying up a Citizens United guy for something like twenty minutes); if it's a robocall, I just sit and listen till the whole thing's done. This particular one was really bizarre:

It started off normal enough; a recording of Mitt himself saying he'd be so honored to be president, blah blah blah. But that only lasted a few seconds, and then another guy started talking, and I swear he sounded like a 50% speeded up version of a Brawndo commercial. It went something like:
"You and your fellow MITT ROMNEY SUPPORTERS did great for yesterday's MITT ROMNEY MONEYBOMB! The MITT ROMNEY MONEYBOMB raised EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS for MITT ROMNEY but now we need ONE POINT SIX MILLION DOLLARS and so now coming at you it's MITT ROMNEY MONEYBOMB TWO! Why do we need ONE POINT SIX MILLION DOLLARS in MITT ROMNEY MONEYBOMB TWO? Our fundraising efforts were going GREAT until BARACK OBAMA'S WAR ON WOMEN! Press ONE now to instantly DONATE to MITT ROMNEY'S MONEYBOMB TWO! Just a PUSH of a BUTTON! Donate NOW! Press one NOW for MITT ROMNEY'S MONEYBOMB TWO!"
I shit you not: Their fundraising was going great until Barack Obama's war on women.
posted by Flunkie at 3:22 PM on November 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


cstross: Then I'm going to go and sell somebody a bridge in Brooklyn.

or start a non-profit tax exempt permanent fundraising operation religion.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:33 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is so true about Newt Gingrich. I wish I could find the article I read that explained it all very clearly. It makes it even more upsetting to see him being treated as anything more than a huckster.

Sarah Palin is riding the same train. In this article (that GrammarMoses posted in the current election thread) they give some of the numbers. I pulled them into a comment (if you don't mind loading a 4000 comment thread).
posted by benito.strauss at 3:40 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why are people okay with White Helicopters?
posted by srboisvert at 3:44 PM on November 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


INCREASE YOUR EJACULATION 581%!!!!!!!!!

This explains what happened when Sandy blew New York.
posted by srboisvert at 3:46 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is analogous to 419 scammers now explicitly stating they they're emailing from Nigeria because if someone sends back a receptive or positive response despite knowing the person they're corresponding with is sitting in Lagos, they know their mark is probably a bit slow on the uptake and more willing to part with their money.

Subscribing to NewsMax email newsletter is almost a pre-qualification that you're not living in a fact based reality.
posted by PenDevil at 3:53 PM on November 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


Karl Rove’s Mission Accomplished
posted by homunculus at 3:57 PM on November 3, 2012


Ah, Richard A. Viguerie, dark master of the art of direct mail fundraising. He is, of course, still on the game. Last month, I received this misdirected e-mail on my gmail account from his "FedUp PAC" with the subject: "Romney's losing. It’s time to take matters into your own hands." Here's a sample from its pitch:
Please make the largest donation you can afford right now - TODAY. Because of absentee ballot voting and early voting by mail, about one-third of Americans are expected to vote EARLY. In fact many Americans are voting right now as you read my e-mail.

So we cannot wait until a few days before the November 6 election to reach these critical registered independent/undecided voters. We have to reach them today.

The fact is, it's up to us (you and me, and other conservative activists) to tell the truth about Obama... because Mitt Romney will continue to pull his punches.

His campaign team is telling him undecided and independent voters don't like tough ads. So he'll continue with his soft approach.

That's why I have launched My Own Super-PAC-- so you can launch your own hard-hitting ads against Obama.

Tricia S. LINCON {not my name at all}, here's the idea. Frankly, this strategy is revolutionary.

It's never been done before.

It's a strategy that allows you to bypass the Romney Campaign and the Republican National Committee to run your own hard-hitting advertising campaign against Barack Obama.

You can literally be your own SuperPac.
It's like a miniature masterclass in button-pushing and bridge-in-Brooklyn-selling. All those underlinings, bold faces, and block caps are the stylings of a copywriting organ fine-tuned to catch the eyes of skimming readers. Even though it was addressed to someone not even close to my name, including the addressee's full name within the body of the letter is another one of the classic direct-mail copywriting techniques. Oh, and it should go without saying—although it's legally required to, at the bottom of the e-mail—"Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee."
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:58 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Urgh. I need a shower after reading that.
posted by arcticseal at 4:11 PM on November 3, 2012


My late grandmother used to receive these in the '90s (and probably before, but I first found out about them in the '90s). We could never convince her that the things that looked like FedEx envelopes were not actually FedEx envelopes, and that the things that looked like handwritten personal appeals were not actually handwritten personal appeals. The whole thing was so frustrating - I could actually watch shitty scams warping my grandmother's view of the world and could do nothing about it.

Thanks for posting this - I never knew the background, just that there was a group of people scamming old people under the guise of right-wing paranoia.
posted by pmb at 4:19 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


And this is legal? Isn't there some interstate crime being committed that the FTC or FBI can get a big wet bite with?
posted by FJT at 4:24 PM on November 3, 2012


Holy crap -- talk about burying the lede!

Seriously, all the best content is in the last page of the article. Up to that point it's a nice, interesting enough historical overview of the strange intimacy between direct-mail scamming and movement conservatism; but the entire argument that lying to the rubes actually serves as a token of movement membership is at the end, and it's the most novel and compelling part of the piece by a long shot.
posted by RogerB at 4:28 PM on November 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


These are bedtime stories, meant for childlike minds. Or, more to the point, they are in the business of producing childlike minds. Conjuring up the most garishly insatiable monsters precisely in order to banish them from underneath the bed, they aim to put the target to sleep.

That's some strong stuff. Pretty consistent with the weird loony turn conservatives have taken of late though.
posted by Artw at 4:31 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Interesting. This reminds me of the ridiculous emails that my conservative grandmother forwards along to me, which are invariably proven false with a visit to snopes. She and her friends seem to fall for these stories every time.
posted by orme at 4:59 PM on November 3, 2012


The Republicans are spinning so hard you would think that the rapture was presaged by a post-modern bullshit tornado.
posted by srboisvert at 5:13 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Once in a while, I'll send out something for conservatives to think about using friends-of-friends in Facebook. I just sent this out and eagerly await the flamethrowers of those who stop after the first sentence.
posted by double block and bleed at 5:27 PM on November 3, 2012


Is it still unethical to scam people who would otherwise be giving their money to Operation Rescue?

do you really care
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:31 PM on November 3, 2012


“In France,” Romney announced on the campaign trail, “I’m told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up.” And just as Reagan was found to be reciting film dialogue and jump-cutting anecdotes from his on-screen career into his pseudobiographical reminiscences on the stump, so it turns out that Romney picked up the marriage canard from the Homecoming Saga, a science fiction series written by Mormon author Orson Scott Card.
I distinctly remember this as my first introduction to the idea of marriage contracts having an end date, as some people do in modern handfastings and the like. I was about 13 at the time. It struck me as a rather reasonable idea. Luckily, this is the part that stuck in me philosophically, and the parts about forcing gay people into straight marriages that they'll eventually learn to like didn't seem as brilliant. (All of the utopian society stuff they made in that book was pretty shitty, actually, but I did dig the evil society they came from at the beginning. I may have missed the point. I guess the sci-fi book of Mormon isn't really for me, though.)
posted by NoraReed at 5:33 PM on November 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


KONY 2012
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 5:37 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


A lot of interesting points made throughout, but skip to 7:24 to learn about the Buddhist agenda
posted by Flunkie at 5:38 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I happened to see a number (in fact an oddly high number for San Francisco) of anti-Obama attack ads last night and found them to be quite frankly hilarious. Both in the audacity of their claims and thin veneer of "Real People (TM)." But mainly because I don't live hear so get to watch from the sidelines.

Although I suppose we do have the Daily Mail in the UK so I should maintain my humility.
posted by Erberus at 5:43 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can't con an honest man. And that's all you need to know about Romney.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:04 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why do conservatives find life so scary?
posted by maxwelton at 6:08 PM on November 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


Was reading this article in Melbourne's The Age earlier this morning about the US election. This quote seems particularly relevant:

"Words are cheap," Romney told a crowd in Dubuque. "You can say whatever you want to say in a campaign, but what you can achieve - results - those are earned. Those can't be faked."


Was going to add some sort of comment here but the quote both speaks for itself and still has me wordless despite having read it hours ago.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:09 PM on November 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Mitt vs. the Truth (self link, but appropriate)
posted by OverlappingElvis at 6:43 PM on November 3, 2012


CBC had this interview (starts at 1:45) Friday with James Bopp, Jr., the attorney who brought Citizens United before the Supreme Court.

He claims that SuperPACs have levelled the playing field, because while the bulk of funding goes to Republican causes, this is necessary to balance the bias in the mainstream media and the support that Democrats get from unions. He'd like to see MORE money coming in to support the GOP. Because, more Freedom!

Anyway, I thought he was insane: he's like the confluence of all these streams of paranoid lies generated by people who think that their version of democracy is the only one that should prevail.

Sorry about the tangent...
posted by sneebler at 6:44 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


We just don't trust authority figures, we know they must be taking advantage of us somehow

How can such be, given how rare it is where 'authority figures' take advantage of others?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:56 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess the masters of the universe and the jobs creators just got fleeced. Maybe Citizens United was worth it just to see the conservative rich folks taken for a ride.

You're talking like the election's over.
posted by clarknova at 7:15 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


CBC had this interview (starts at 1:45) Friday with James Bopp, Jr., the attorney who brought Citizens United before the Supreme Court.

The Atlantic had a good article about Bopp and Trevor Potter in last month's issue: The New Price of American Politics

Bopp was also in last week's Frontline: Big Sky, Big Money
posted by homunculus at 7:16 PM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


My father was on a handful of frothy righty mailing lists, and some of the solicitations he got (and this was back in the 90s) were just ridiculous. I'd assumed that the "think tanks" and "interest groups" were simply selling their mailing lists to unscrupulous advertisers to raise cash -- it never occurred to me that their very existence was part and parcel of the same scam.

An informative and deeply depressing article.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:20 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


That article was fantastic.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:28 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're talking like the election's over.

You're right. Was too confident. Time for me to go outside, turn around three times, and spit so I don't tempt the wrath of whatever from high atop the thing.

But even if Romney wins, they still got taken for a ride by Rove et al. They may have gotten the car they wanted, but they still ended up paying twice the market value and also paid for a schedule of headlight fluid replacement. That'll give some cold comfort for the next four years if my overconfidence jinxed us all.
posted by honestcoyote at 7:44 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Marketers are smart. They have data and statistics and research that tell them where to push the buttons that move the needle. If I had a scam, like the ones featured in this article, I'd go where the suckers are.

Where are the suckers? We've got millions of uninsured, unemployed, rural families, living well below the poverty level that are going to vote for a guy that thinks they are losers and victims. But they are going to vote for him anyway, because the alternative is a guy who promises to take care of them, get them health insurance, and help get them back on their feet, but he's black... or a secret muslim... or is going to take away their guns. Whatever it is, they are looking at the guy that wants to help solve their problems and they say "fuck that guy."

Back to our marketing campaign. I've got a scam, and I need to find millions of suckers. How do I find suckers? Well, it's tough to just look at someone and know if they're a sucker. How else can I find a sucker? Well, I suppose I could try and figure out a way if someone has a proven track record of being suckered.

Advertising on NewsMax seems like a surefire way to find people who have a proven track record of being suckered.
posted by braksandwich at 7:51 PM on November 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


The bit about "lying proves your conservative bonafides" is based on a pretty shaky, subjective reading of one guy's comment. He said he liked Nixon after Watergate, but Perlstein just assumes he meant he liked Nixon's lying. Maybe he just meant Nixon was more sympathetic once the "liberal" media went after him.

I think the far more interesting and objective part of the article is the claim that conservatives get more con-artist ads and junk mail than liberals. I'd expect conservatives to claim that you find the same thing, ads for New Age Healing Hucksters or whatever, among the crazy extreme left-wingers.

I don't suppose anyone has tried to test or document this claim?
posted by straight at 8:01 PM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Fifty comments and no one has quoted the most awesome thing in this article: OILFIELD IN THE PLACENTA.

OILFIELD.

IN.

THE.

PLACENTA!!!

Placenta!
posted by RakDaddy at 8:10 PM on November 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


GOVERNMENT HANDS OFF MY PLACENTA
posted by Juffo-Wup at 8:12 PM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I looked for the analysis of Ryan's speech that was mentioned in the Baffler article and found this:
Honestly? I didn’t want us to write this piece.

The original pitch was for “the five biggest lies in Paul Ryan’s speech.” I said no. It’s not that the speech didn’t include some lies. It’s that I wanted us to bend over backward to be fair, to see it from Ryan’s perspective, to highlight its best arguments as well as its worst. So I suggested an alternative: The true, the false, and the misleading in Ryan’s speech. (Note here that we’re talking about political claims, not personal ones. Ryan’s biography isn’t what we’re examining here though, for the record, I found his story deeply moving.)

An hour later, the draft came in — Dylan Matthews is a very fast writer. There was one item in the “true” section.

So at about 1 a.m. Thursday, having read Ryan’s speech in an advance text and having watched it on television, I sat down to read it again, this time with the explicit purpose of finding claims we could add to the “true” category. And I did find one. He was right to say that the Obama administration has been unable to correct the housing crisis, though the force of that criticism is somewhat blunted by the fact that neither Ryan nor Mitt Romney have proposed an alternative housing policy. But I also came up with two more “false” claims. So I read the speech again. And I simply couldn’t find any other major claims or criticisms that were true.…
posted by Lexica at 8:12 PM on November 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Thanks to Citizens United, Rove and other conservative PACs have received 400 million. But the impact on this election seems to be much less than what we feared.

There's another point, and that is that minus this money (which apparently is going to Republicans by roughly an 80/20 margin) maybe right now we'd be looking at something like a 400+ EV blowout by Obama, Democrats picking up 4-5 seats in the Senate, and Democrats regaining a majority in the House.

In a rational world you have to believe that that amount of money is a thumb on the scale that is moving the dial. The only question is, how far is it moving the dial--by a little or a lot--and where would the dial be if you took the thumb off?
posted by flug at 8:13 PM on November 3, 2012


Romney Locks Up 1980s Lying Car Salesman Vote
posted by homunculus at 8:43 PM on November 3, 2012



FEAR is intrinsic to the conservative mind-- built into the brain.

greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala. These results were replicated in an independent sample of additional participants. Our findings extend previous observations that political attitudes reflect differences in self-regulatory conflict monitoring [4] and recognition of emotional faces [5] by showing that such attitudes are reflected in human brain structure.

Political Orientations Are Correlated with Brain Structure in Young Adults

Ryota Kanai, Tom Feilden, Colin Firth, Geraint Rees

Current Biology - 26 April 2011 (Vol. 21, Issue 8, pp. 677-680)

posted by ohshenandoah at 10:20 PM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Late to the game, but I really enjoyed the article. Particularly this bit, for the "I see what you did there!"-ness.

... Newsmax, the organ more responsible than any other for drumming up the hysteria that culminated in the impeachment of Bill Clinton ...
posted by barnacles at 10:25 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


OILFIELD IN THE PLACENTA

Drill baby, drill.
posted by mhum at 10:47 PM on November 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Made to fit this thread: subscribers of Newt Gingrich's Human Events newsletter get an email that says not only Obama is going to win, but "What's actually at stake right now is whether or not he will have a third-term."

Where can I donate to avert this outrage?
posted by 2N2222 at 10:50 PM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think people who support the current Republican party want life to be shitty for everyone but themselves. They're even willing to deal with shit themselves if everyone else just gets shit on a little more. So lies don't really matter.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:54 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's an interesting bit about the seeming SuperPAC failure. Combined with most of the examples taken from the Clinton years, I think it would be hard to keep the money flowing through a Romney presidency.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:25 AM on November 4, 2012


Whoever mentioned Sarah Palin was right on. She has an animal instinct for grabbing her chance, and is now worth 12 million by pretend running for office, out of a half term as governor.
posted by C.A.S. at 1:01 AM on November 4, 2012


It’s time, in other words, to consider whether Romney’s fluidity with the truth is, in fact, a feature and not a bug: a constituent part of his appeal to conservatives. The point here is not just that he lies when he says conservative things, even if he believes something different in his heart of hearts—but that lying is what makes you sound the way a conservative is supposed to sound, in pretty much the same way that curlicuing all around the note makes you sound like a contestant on American Idol is supposed to sound.

It's this comfort with dishonesty - this lack of a willingness to hold oneself to the same standards as one relentlessly imposes on others - that most disturbs me about the modern conservative movement.

I mean, I disagree with their economic and social programs. I think that history has shown that trickle-down economics do not work; that austerity is not the right way to solve a recession; that religious societies are not more moral; that more competitive and unequal societies are not happier.

But the thing that makes me feel that modern conservatives are actually very dangerous, as opposed to merely people with whom one could have a spirited debate, is this complete comfort with dishonesty and hypocrisy.

It reminds me of nothing so much as Robert Hare's analysis of psychopaths - and in particular corporate psychopaths - in SNAKES IN SUITS. He writes that psychopathic personalities have proven surprisingly successful in modern business, for a number of reasons:

"First, some core psychopathic traits... may seem attractive in job applicants. For example, psychopaths can be very charming...

Second, some companies quite innocently recruit individuals with psychopathic tendencies because some hiring managers may mistakenly attribute 'leadership' labels to what are, in actuality, psychopathic behaviours. For example, taking charge, making decisions, and getting others to do what you want are classic features of leadership and management, yet they can also be well-packaged forms of coercion, domination, and manipulation.

Third, the changing nature of business is also a contributing factor to the increase in psychopathic persons being hired...With the need to embrace change came a switch from hiring 'organisation men and women' who would maintain the status quo to hiring individuals who could shake the trees, rattle cages, and get things done quickly...

Fourth, psychopathic individuals, known for ignoring rules and regulations, coupled with a talent for conning and manipulation, found these new, more flexible organization structures inviting..."

Romney's superficial charm and confidence, willingness to say anything as needed, unwillingness to take responsibility for his past positions, adolescent criminality in assaulting a gay classmate, striking lack of empathy towards 47% of the population and towards family pets, deceitfulness about his tax records... These things may well be an indication of deeper, undesirable personality disorders.

To be honest, that's what I see when I look at Mitt Romney: a socially acceptable psychopath, leading a party of psychopaths. Strong words, I know, but sometimes it's better to call a spade a spade. Perhaps Mitt Romney himself is only a perfectly bland, ordinary individual who has been raised in and moulded by an extremely destructive environment. But still, I think we should apply the same basic standards to choosing political leaders that we do in other walks of life - such as when we are using hard earned experience to avoid potentially dangerous criminals.

Rick Perlstein's excellent essay suggests, with frightening plausibility, that the Republican party has become a criminogenic environment in which psychopaths can thrive. I would love to believe that this is not the case, but I fear that it is.
posted by lucien_reeve at 1:07 AM on November 4, 2012 [23 favorites]


maxwelton: Why do conservatives find life so scary?

Wrong question. They're conservative because they find life scary.

Specifically, scary and uncertain. Conservativism gives them simple answers and rock-solid truths that are self-evidently correct because they're reinforced by historic ingrained folk-wisdom. They don't have to be right, they just have to feel right (and be certain).
posted by cstross at 3:15 AM on November 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


And that's because any society needs both look-outs and berry testers.

Every since I realised this, I've been a lot happier with conservatives. We need them to tell us how dangerous everything is and they need us to run happily into the unknown finding out what does and does not kill you.

I'm convinced that if you did a study, conservatives would have more trouble sleeping.
posted by zoo at 3:31 AM on November 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


My experience is that left wing mags are devoted to selling me fedoras.
posted by drezdn at 6:40 AM on November 4, 2012


They don't have to be right, they just have to feel right

See: Stephen Colbert. He will just come right out and say that. And there are right-wingers out there who can hear that, and still not get that he's making fun of them. Talk about scary.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:23 AM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is just so so sad. My father was addicted to townhall.com (the first of the online news magazines mentioned here), and for a while his homepage was the Drudge Report. I grew up on a steady diet of conservative editorials and books written by the likes of Thomas Sowell, Dennis Prager, Ann Coulter, Dinesh D'Souza, et al...

My father had several sayings, among them "everything is politics." He had no close friends, and fully believed that all politicians were scam artists - he just saw conservatives as the more transparent of the two groups. That might strike you as funny - but when it's a person's life, and the cause to which he committed a substantial amount of his time and money, it's sad. Sad sad sad. Though he had been somewhat liberal when he was younger, he began to espouse more radically conservative beliefs as he got older - he became a climate change denier first, and then a creationist. He was a literate, well-spoken man - upon first meeting him, he would probably strike you as a reasonably average, middle-class suburban dad - but he had no ability to trust anything stated by liberals. Because they were liberals, they could not be trusted. He recognized the schemes of conservative editorialists and bloggers, but saw them as having honest objectives, so he tolerated it - to his ultimate detriment.

Like the audience Perlstein describes, he grew up poor in a semi-rural area, and lacked a college education. He was resentful of the "elites" who had one, or of the liberals he knew who would publicly mock conservative beliefs. He was a loyal, steadfast voter, and perhaps because of the Republican policy-makers he had supported for Congress and the Oval Office, he was laid off from the company which had employed him. He viewed himself as "a temporarily embarrassed millionaire" (to borrow John Steinbeck's phrase), and decided this was a good opportunity to start his own business. He knew little about business, and created a corporation. He was bankrupt within two years.

When I was 14 years old, I dated a girl who was extremely liberal; though I was quite conservative, I didn't mind, because I felt open discussion and scrutiny would just reveal me to be the one in the right. However, my father followed our relationship very closely. I later discovered - he kept IM chat logs, and found her blog online. He started to post snarky, anonymous comments to every political post she made - mocking and intimidating her. It freaked out both me and her - after all, her readership was just her friends, so who would write this stuff? But we chalked it up to the strangeness of the internet, and let that be that. After she and I broke up, my dad revealed that he wrote it. I was sad, and angry - that was so bizarre. He told me it was fine, and that he was glad we had broken up - after all, she was "one of them."

I didn't write this so all of the readers here who have been consistently liberal could laugh at my father or feel validated in the superiority of their beliefs. I'm writing this because conservative groups are something cultish, in that they rope in sane, intelligent people of a certain background and mine their insecurities for all they're worth. They take their money and in exchange, provide their customers with a paranoia so deep it cannot be dislodged. They revile open-mindedness. It's scary, and I know it can't be fixed. I'm no longer a conservative, but I understand fully well that I can't change the beliefs of someone who is - and that shakes me up more than anything.
posted by sidi hamet at 7:25 AM on November 4, 2012 [36 favorites]


Why do conservatives find life so scary?

Though it's interesting how unafraid they are of climate change. I guess the fear of a liberal agenda is just too great.
posted by orme at 7:40 AM on November 4, 2012


Climate change is, for the most part, a long term problem. Long term problems do not matter to people who will be raptured away when Jesus returns soon.
posted by Flunkie at 8:03 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


If both represent the end of the world, are they the same thing?
posted by ipe at 8:33 AM on November 4, 2012


lucien_reeve took the words right out of my mouth, so I'll add a few more by saying I personally believe "white collar" psychopaths can be spawned by neglectful and socially traumatic/abusive upbringings in much of the same way "blue collar" psychopaths (e.g., serial killers) are often spawned by physically traumatic/abusive upbringings. The vicious circle of life really comes into play when you hear that, above a certain level of wealth, business executives often equate time with money—including quality time spent raising and loving their children.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 9:36 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


This was a very interesting article, thanks for posting.

I'm torn between wanting to start a ROMNEY IS A PSYCHOPATH support group (there would be a lot of carping along the lines of "But why is he so fucking popular when he is so two-faced!!!) and a AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY IN AMERICA super PAC. I'm so tempted by the later because then I can offer my dog a job-- she is currently unemployed. I'm afraid she drives a hard bargain though and her salary would consume 98.5% of any funds raised, but AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY IN AMERICA has the ability to change lives and return AMERICA INTO THE PROSPEROUS NATION IT WAS INTENDED TO BE. I know of one particular household in America that could become more prosperous.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:23 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Speaking of lies: Robo-call Says Election is Wednesday
posted by homunculus at 7:40 PM on November 4, 2012


Theory: Mitt Romney Brainwashed Himself
posted by homunculus at 3:17 PM on November 6, 2012


« Older Street art; we see it every day from Rio to Paris...  |  Beautiful Georgia, my adopted ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments