I'm not a psychologist, but this is really fascinating if you put it all together: It appears that distraught conservative pundits and bloggers are actually in the midst of collectively retreating into the world of fantasy as a psychological defense mechanism. Let's take a look at three recent exhibits that illustrate what I'm talking about.
Exhibit A: The RedState Army Strike Force
Earlier this month, the most prominent conservative blog, RedState.com, began promoting what they've dubbed the RedState Army Strike Force. They've even gone so far as to design a unit crest reminiscent of an actual military insignia:
This Strike Force is apparently code for a political "field organization." And yes, it's funny. But what makes it a little odd are the periodic posts on the website that use an overabundance of military language when referencing normal political field activity. Like this excerpt from a post by founder Erick Erickson called "Soldiers on the Ground:"
In Kentucky we have only 75 members of the RedState Army of Activists. We need a surge in Kentucky -- we need an army of activists who are willing to pick up the phone and metaphorically kick Mitch McConnell in the nuts as situations warrant.
McConnell either works for our side or he works for the Democrats. But the only people he'll really listen to are in Kentucky. Same with other Senators.
So if you haven't signed up and aren't willing to help, stop the bitching. It's time to deploy the troops and fight.
When faced with the reality that they don't have any field infrastructure remotely close to anything progressives have put together in the past two years, it's almost as if these bloggers start... fantasizing. Like kids. What their project doesn't demonstrate, however, is any in-depth knowledge of field organizing or any seeming long-term commitment to the hard work that accompanies the act of successful political organizing. It's as if, rather than facing up to their electoral failures in 2006 and 2008, they'd rather take solace in pretending to be "warriors" locked in "battle" with their Democratic enemies.
But here's where they really start to make the stampeding retreat into fantasy:
Exhibit B: Repeated References to a Fictional TV Character as a Role Model and Source for Torture Policy
Ryan Powers does the honors for ThinkProgress:
The right wing's love affair with Bauer's use of torture is rooted in fantasy. The so-called "ticking time bomb" scenarios that Bauer often finds himself in and that conservatives cite as instances where torture should be allowed rarely, if ever, occur.
Unfortunately, Powers adds:
If right wingers see Bauer as an example of how to prosecute the war on terror, they might be disheartened to learn that even the man that plays Bauer, actor Keifer Sutherland, doesn't see his character's torture techniques as effective in real life. "You torture someone and they'll basically tell you exactly what you want to hear, whether it's true or not, if you put someone in enough pain," Sutherland said last year.
But that's no matter for your average conservative talking head or blogger. To them, Bauer has become a surrogate -- a stand-in -- for the leaders they wish they had. Even a number of my conservative Facebook friends have begun updating their statuses to praise Mr. Bauer. It's catching on. Thus, while liberals and moderates rally around the upcoming inauguration of a real, actual, charismatic leader and role model, conservatives are left to soothe their scared and broken psyches by taking comfort in the efforts and tribulations of a fictional character on a TV program.
Lastly, we come to my favorite:
Exhibit C: Making a Regular, Blue-Collar Guy into a War Correspondent who Delivers the News They Want to Hear
Whereas most of America sees a largely incoherent plumber from Ohio wandering cluelessly around Israel with a microphone, conservatives are witnessing the reincarnation of Ernie Pyle before their very eyes. Of course, if you've heard the guy open his mouth, you know this is, indeed, fantasy. But it had to be done. When the bad news delivered by the likes of Nic Robertson, Michael Ware, and Christiane Amanpour reached a crescendo for conservatives toward the end of October, they decided to invent their own reporter. In their own minds, they pined for one who wouldn't challenge their long-held beliefs that Arabs are Muslims and Muslims are bad, that Saddam did 9/11, and that there was no way a man named Barack Hussein Obama could ever be elected as President of the United States.
That trailblazing, fearless reporter for truth became Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher -- a man who, as soon as he got there, proclaimed "the media should be abolished from reporting."
I have to say, though, that of all the recent conservative fantasies, the idea of Joe the Plumber as the voice of conservative American media is the least surprising. That's because it is a persistent belief among many on the Right that training is unnecessary, that education is for elitists, and that wishing hard enough for something can supersede those things.
And I'm okay with all this. To me, it's evolution. By retreating so deeply into this fantasy world of strike forces, pro-torture heroes, and swashbuckling, allied journalists, we're witnessing a self-induced thinning of the herd by conservatives. They're actively choosing not to participate in the reality that is present-day America, instead opting to fall back on the comforting, familiar images of handymen and handsome actors on their television sets.
So much the better for the country. We'll tackle real problems head on -- with real solutions starting next Tuesday. And we will progress without them.