Posted on | April 21, 2012 | 54 Comments
Nothing is more predictable than the herd instinct. Despite their insistence that they make up their own minds, many people are in fact, as psychologists say, highly suggestible, and subject to peer pressure, so that if any trend becomes dominant within the particular herd with which they identify, the average person follows the trend without much conscious deliberation.
If herd membership is dependent on a shared set of political opinions, a shift in those shared opinions requires members either to join in the shift or else risk ostracism by the herd. To be abandoned or rejected by one’s herd is not an experience most herd-minded people seek — why else would they be in the herd in the first place? — and so they conform and follow along, believing all the while that they are thinking for themselves, rather than being influenced by others.
This morning a person I’d never heard of re-Tweeted to my attention a message from one of Charles Johnson’s LGF stooges to the effect that I am a “neo-Confederate wacko extraordinaire.”
Keep in mind that this was someone with 451 Twitter followers re-Tweeting a stale old message from someone with 109 Twitter followers. I’m reminded of an old joke about the flea who decided to rape an elephant. The elephant didn’t notice, but during the act a coconut fell from a tree and bonked the elephant on her head, causing her to groan, and the flea said, “Oh, yeah, baby, it’s good for ya, ain’t it?”
Being intensely curious both by nature and professional habit, however, I noticed that this particular flea had an actual name — Randall Gross — and when I clicked to see what sort of flea he was, I noticed that he’d linked his blog on his Twitter profile page. Of course, Little Green Footballs was listed on his blogroll, and when I checked Gross’s “About” page, I saw this curious paragraph:
I don’t hate liberals or democrats, I just pity them. It must suck to have devolved to the point where your political purpose and platforms are based minute-by-minute on the output of the 24 hour news cycle and a myths so distant from reality that it must recreate itself every five minutes. (Update 2010 — sadly this position and propensity has flipped since President Obama was elected. It is now the right that hangs on every news cycle looking for the latest minuscule point or position to become overly outraged about. The GOP has gone from being the Adult party in Washington to being hysterical children. Strange what a difference one election can make.)
Beyond pointing out that he misspelled “miniscule,”* I wonder how it is that “one election” divested Republican of the status they had hitherto enjoyed of being “the Adult party” in Gross’s estimation. He would seem to be referring to what became the Tea Party uprising, the simplest defense of which was expressed by Jennifer Rubin in February 2009: “The opposition party must oppose.”
People whose understanding of politics is shallow, and who had become accustomed to supporting Republicans as the “in” party — the power-wielding authority in a (small-”d”) democratic polity — never really grasped the challenges that confronted the GOP after their successive defeats in 2006 and 2008. The collapse of the Bush-era Republican majority was a cataclysm which the party leadership did not anticipate, and for which they tried to evade responsibility. Explaining “what went wrong” was a process complicated by the defensiveness of the GOP elite (which did not wish to admit their own errors) and by the misleading analyses offered by the punditocracy.
If Republicans in 2009 were going to heed the counsels of, inter alia, David Brooks and Karl Rove, their response to the existential crisis would look a lot like the “centrist” candidacies of Dede Scozzafava, Charlie Crist and Mike Castle. But if, as Rubin said, “the opposition party must oppose,” the first order of business was to start raising hell: Throw a populist wrench into the machinery of the party Establishment that had brought about the disasters of 2006-08, and which was in early 2009 advocating a collaborative stance toward the newly-installed Democrat regime.
Randall Gross’s understanding of the political dynamic was, alas, even less inadequate than Charles Johnson’s. However zany, haphazard and misguided CJ’s shift from Right to Left between 2007 (when he first attempted to purge Pamela Geller from the conservative blogosphere) and 2009 (when Johnson finally “parted ways with the Right”), it was at least an opportunistic sellout in which Johnson struck his own bargains. Randall Gross was merely one of the witless dupes who drifted along in Charles’s erratic wake.
Anyway, it is amusing to see how, during the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Gross’s outrage over the Reuters “faux-tography” incident led him to write a long post denouncing as “gullible sheep” those duped by the mainstream media. It seemingly never occurs to Gross that he (and Charles Johnson and whoever else is now left tending the pixels at LGF) was similarly duped into believing that the conservative response to the GOP’s electoral disasters of 2006-08 was something other than it was.
Randall Gross’s malleable qualities make him a perfect sheep in the Johnsonoid herd, as witness his efforts to provide fodder for the fashionable fanaticism in some samples from his recent Little Green Footballs output, wherein Gross:
- Invokes the magic totems of Southern Baptists and “wingnuts”;
- Denounces “anti-choice terrorists”;
- Abhors Rudy Giuliani’s status as an adviser to Serbian politicians; and
- Deplores the Catholic Church for its “opposition to birth control when the world population is quickly on path to 9 billion and Family planning is the only thing with any hope of stemming the tide of starvation, poverty, and misery that overpopulation brings.”
Well, these are all controversial topics toward which people might have differing attitudes. What must be explained, however, is why Gross is nowadays so ostentatiously interested in these particular subjects – Baptists, “wingnuts,” “choice,” Serbia, “overpopulation” — that were almost certainly of no interest to him five or six years ago.
Obviously these subjects concern Gross now for the same reason Lebanon concerned him in 2006 — they are fashionable topics with the herd – which is the same reason that he suddenly took an interest in me. Having poked one of his fellow Little Green Sheep who libeled me yesterday, I’m the Enemy of the Day, cast in the role of Emmanuel Goldstein in Big (Ponytailed) Brother’s re-enactment of Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The Charles Johnson Internet Center for Mediocre Conformity has attracted many inept dullards over the years. Those who are willing to bend their ideas to fit whatever species of fanaticism strikes CJ’s whimsical interests are always welcome at LGF, and only those who have the intelligence to detect falsehood and the courage to fight for firm principle will ever find themselves consigned to the Legion of the Banned.
Standing up against the herd instinct is not conducive to popularity. If what you crave is the admiration of the ignorant, the undiscerning and the dishonorable, nothing is easier than to follow the herd, striving to make yourself conspicuous as a compliant follower.
As the price of his membership in the herd, Randall Gross is willing to show solidarity with the vicious liar Daniel Vergara, and to justify this most dishonorable alliance by telling himself that I deserve to be defamed, in that I am a “neo-Confederate wacko extraordinaire.”
Very well. Let fools think what they will.
Let them choose other such fools as their friends, and never pause to wonder why this unthinking course of action seems acceptable to them. But these fools are sadly deluded if they think they deserve from me any explanation for my own course of action — any excuse, apology or friendly word of warning — as I watch them scurry along, resembling sheep rather less than they do a much smaller species of mammal.
No point praying for the godless lemmings, as they hurtle toward the cliff.
UPDATE: Speaking of throwing a populist wrench into the Republican machinery, the latest update from Professor Glenn Reynolds:
These “neo-Confederate wackos” are everywhere nowadays.
UPDATE II: Dave Weigel reports on the Battle of
Bull Run Sandy, Utah:
The Tea Party movement is alive in Utah. With representatives from FreedomWorks in the audience, delegates at the Utah Republican Convention managed to force Sen. Orrin Hatch into a June 26 primary. He got 59.2 percent of their votes against Dan Liljenquist, a 38-year-old state senator. Hatch needed 60 percent to avoid the primary. He couldn’t do it. In two rounds of voting, he went from 2,243 votes to 2,313 votes. If he’d gotten 32 more votes, he would have wrapped this up.
Thirty-two votes! Allahpundit writes:
59.1 percent sounds hopeless for Liljenquist if it’s an accurate reflection of Republican voters in Utah, but there’s bound to be a burst of tea-party enthusiasm for him now that he and Richard Mourdock are the last best chance to tilt the GOP further right at the federal level.
Oh, hell, yes. Dan Liljenquist just became a hero to millions of people who never heard his name before today. GO GIVE HIM MONEY NOW!
* Duly noting that “minuscule” is the older and original (and probably racist) spelling of the word.