Tuesday, November 06, 2007

How the Right Wing Embraces and Promotes "Magical Thinking"

The GOP is a like a bowler with a lucky shirt, an angler with a lucky lure. Every failure is wiped out with a single, coincidental success that will forever be attributed to magic. Bush's career is best described as a series of inexplicable coincidences. Truly magical!

GOP economists manage to keep a straight face when they talk of stats and causality. If a magic wand is summoned, it is held behind a back. Like a bowler's favorite shirt, the GOP will summon up a tax cut whenever the occasion calls for big economic hoodoo of the GOP kind. Never mind that when it works, it's just a lucky coincidence! Goppers will, nevertheless, bow down to the god Almighty Moolah!

GOPPERS believe in the law of contagion. Whenever Moolah favors them, they choose to isolate themselves from possible sources of pleb contagion. They choose to live in the inmost ring of multi-ringed subdivisions, multiple layers of insulation against a real world outside. Living beyond the walls is risky. The great unwashed live out there. Barbarians camp just beyond the walls, just outside the gates. The law of contagion predicts that a fragile gopper might catch something. Poverty!

Like many primitive and superstitious peoples, goppers like talisman, effigies, tokens, or symbols. There is, however, no truth to the rumor that, in secret ceremonies, goppers trotted out a wind-up Al Gore doll and stuck pins in it. They did not stick pins in it though some might have wanted to. They pulled a string and it talked. And when they pushed a button, it wrote a paper called "Distributed Intelligence", interpreted by goppers to mean that Gore invented the internet. The real story is more prosaic. Gore's paper got written up and cited by numerous journals and PhDs. [See: Gore's Metaphor, John Lienhard, PhD.]

The moral of the story is --black magic often backfires on those who practice it. That one still embarrasses the poohbahs of GOP orthodoxy. Recently, Gore won a Nobel Prize. I suspect the GOP regrets having pulled his string. Someone suggested the GOP use Gore's Oscar as a suppository. It didn't happen, wouldn't fit! Some things are beyond the power of magic to remedy.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke said: "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". That may be true if you are on the outside looking in. But if you should ever suspect the literal truth of it, try waving a slide rule at real problems like education, poverty, income disparities, our vanishing industrial base. It is about as effective as was Reaganomics or Bush-O-nomics!

I won't waste my time accusing the GOP of magical thinking with regard to "trickle down" theory. They know better but espouse it disingenuously amid hopes that it will fool millions of gullible who might believe it. That's how the GOP can afford to retreat into the inner sanctums of armed, gated communities. I suspect that there may be an "Owl God" somewhere in the center of those communities.

In still other instances, one almost wishes Bush believed in magic. His policies could not have been worse. Maybe he should try a few coin tosses, swinging pendulums, tarot readings, consultation of entrails, or visiting oracles and divinely inspired ventriloquists. Couldn't hurt. Magicians get it right every now again by chance. Bush never has!

One of magical thinking's all time classics is a knee-slapper called the "collapsing roof". According to E. E. Evans-Pritchard's Witchcraft, Magic, and Oracles Among the Azande, it is claimed that due to a magic spell a roof fell actually fell on a person. It's a good story, but I have a simpler explanation: termites. Likewise, when the roof falls in on George W. Bush and his gang, I will suspect voodoo economics, like termites, will have eaten away our economic foundations.

The GOP is most magical, however, when it tries to explain the truly magical events of 911. Entire airliners vanished without a trace; steel towers defied the laws of physics. David Copperfield is eating his heart out. He only made the Statue of Liberty vanish and, later, a single airliner. Like every sleazy magician who defies his audience to come up with a "rational" explanation for the disappearance of a scantily clad assistant into a collapsing box, the GOP owes much to what is known in the trade as mis-direction. Only the terminology stays the same. The little white bunny disappears down a tiny hole never to be seen again.

That's what good magicians do. They get away with shifting the burden of proof and limiting the options. A gullible audience will buy it. After all, the audience saw the comely assistant climb into the box. They saw the bunny's nose quiver just before it went poof! Make your choice from a false dichotomy: magic or evil terrorists.

From a sociological point of view, magic consists of making coincidences appear to be meaningful. Simply, magic is nothing more than a slick, plausible cover story that people are prepared to buy into and usually for emotional reasons. Filled with anger and fear, Americans might have believed anything and did! 911 is not the first time officialdom donned the garb of a slick magician. Long before the 911 Commission, the Warren Commission tried to get away with a "Magic Bullet" trick. It must have worked. Arlen Specter kept getting re-elected. He must have worn his lucky shirt.

That single bullet, known as "Warren Commission Exhibit 399", was said by the commission to have struck JFK from the rear, exited, turned 90 degrees in mid-air twice, struck John Connally, exited again, and may have changed direction again so that it could wind up at Parkland Hospital so that it could be conveniently found! In short, it is supposed to have caused all of the non-fatal wounds in both President Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connelly.

Now --that's either real magic or a very, very talented bullet. Being a reasonable person, I suspect real magic. I find it hard to believe that bullets possess "talent"! It is typical of magic, however, that the human trait of intention is attributed to inanimate objects, that, for example, a non-sentient object like a bullet can do tricks so that something consistent with a political agenda can happen. And like all good tricks, the magicians (possibly, oil industry tycoons, the CIA) who pulled off the JFK murder managed to pull that bullet --not out of hat --but off the dead President's gurney at Parkland Hospital. There was nary a scratch on it! Now ---that's magic!

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