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Shot Through the Heart And You're to Blame: Conservatism as Psychopathology

The spectacle of a shooting victim forced to apologize for his wounds symbolizes the mental illness the "conservative" movement has become. The fact is, the word "conservative" has become a catch-all label for a group of pigs feeding at a trough. Their lack of conscience has risen to the clinical definition of "sociopathic."

I've written before on the lack of real conservatism in today's politics, and on the "conservative" principles that I think all progressives should embrace. Glenn Greenwald wrote an excellent piece making a similar point: whatever these characters are, they're not really conservatives.

Where Glenn and I disagree is in his characterization of today's movement as a "cult of Bush." I think the truth is simpler and sicker than that. People don't slavishly obey and follow every whim of Messrs. Bush (and now Cheney) because they revere them. They do it for a more basic reason: They've got the candy.

Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld ... they're Mafia bosses doling out the largesse in return for unquestioned fealty. And today's so-called "conservatives" respond in kind. Will Roger Ailes get more exclusive interviews if he peddles the daily GOP lies and spins? As you wish, Godfather. Will Arnold Schwarzenegger become Governor if he pumps for Bush at the convention? Thank you, Don Karl. Will "Straight Talkin'" John McCain be rewarded with a chance to run in 2008 if he forgets what they did to his wife and kid? It' good to kiss the ring again, Mr. President. Let me hug you.

Nowhere is the rampant gangsterism more apparent than in the public commentary offered by pundits and politicians. Everything that conservatives once stood for -- fiscal responsibility, preventing drug and alcohol abuse, enforcing the law, sexual propriety, supporting the military, preserving our institutions, decency in speech and deportment -- has been enthusiastically dismissed and derided by self-seeking figures in the media and politics.

So Bush used to get drunk and high and screw secretaries? We don't care; he's the man. The GOP campaign and the Administration break the law? He's our guy; shut your face. The First Lady makes nauseating and unfunny jokes about jerking off a horse? Hey, we're just having some fun here. The VP tells a Senator in the august halls of Congress to "go fuck himself"? His candor is refreshing.

We're running the country into debts so high we may never be whole again? Heh, heh; I got mine right in the bank, sucker. Destroying the earth through global warming? I know: we'll debunk modern science; our money boys will pay the Cato Institute to come up with some phony climatology studies.

Wrecking the country's finances. Trashing civil discourse. Law breaking. Ruining the earth itself for our grandchildren. That's some sick s**t. Now, we have the sight of Mr. Whittington -- by all accounts a good and decent man -- being forced to crawl on broken glass to stay in the club. Hey, too bad about Harry -- but business is business.

That's where the psychopathology comes in. "Antisocial personality disorder" -- what they used to call "being a sociopath" -- is described in the DSM psychiatric manual as follows:

1. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest
2. deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure
3. impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
4. irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults
5. reckless disregard for safety of self or others
6. consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain steady work or honor financial obligations
7. lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another

Bingo. Get loaded, shoot a guy in the face, tell the world it's his fault, then make him crawl. And Hugh Hewitt will defend you to the death. Sick, sick, sick.

The creepiest sociopaths of all are the Christian conservatives who trash everything they allegedly believe in -- law, decency, sobriety, chastity -- to support these guys, just because they get a place at the table. (Bear in mind that the pathologies I'm describing refer to the leadership of the conservative movement. There are many truly conservative voters who are being sold a bill of goods by their leaders.)

It's a damn shame, because, although I'm not a conservative, I've found much to admire and learn from in true conservative thought. The conservative intellectual vocabulary helped me during my work in Eastern European countries making the transition to capitalism. The invisible economy was visible everywhere under Communism, and centralized state control of many sectors was a clear failure.

That movement we call "conservatism" isn't conservative any more. They're selling out everything they once held dear for their own personal profit. To quote the poet Robinson Jeffers, "they'd s**t on the morning star if they could." The Bon Jovi line quoted in the title of this piece is followed by this one: "You give love a bad name." Replace "love" with "conservative" and that's the story.

The late Barry Goldwater was the first leader of the conservative resurgence. His autobiography was called "Conscience of a Conservative." Conscience: That's the one thing they clearly lack. Goldwater was a true conservative, and he would have fought these guys tooth and nail.

But Goldwater is gone. The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

A Night Light