Monday, March 26, 2007

The New Era Of Political Cults

When most people think of a cult, religious groups like the Moonies and Branch Davidians come to mind, almost instantly. Others may remember the Manson Family cult in the late 60s, which was a group of people that broke the traditional religious cult mold and subsequently went on a murderous rampage that defied all reason. Some things are said to have a cult following, like Star Trekkies and those that hit theaters near college campuses every Friday night, to watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Cults have been studied and written about extensively by theologians, psychologists, sociologists, and other professional disciplines, that deal with explaining human behavior. So, to go to far into depth on such a complex subject would probably bore you death. There are numerous books on the subject, if you want a recommendation, I can give you a few but they are not hard to find. Therefore, I will spare the in-depth examinations and get straight to the point of this post. But first, let's look at one of the Webster definitions (#5), courtesy of one of our favorite short-cut services, Wikipedia:

5. Great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book).

Notice the word movement, here. This is a non-specific term that can be interpreted as any "movement" that is the object of great devotion. Therefore one must assume there are varying degrees of cult status, as well as different kinds of cults in general. If you are my age, you will no doubt remember Amway, as a multi-level marketing organization. It's a nice big term that sounds important, but in reality it is nothing more than a grand pyramid scheme, nothing more than a business cult. Certainly there are others, but you get the idea.

One of the trademarks of many cults (to include the political ones) is free and independent thinking is strongly discouraged. Religious cults are most known for this, but they aren't the only ones. Political cults are beginning to make their mark, in the political world. Rather than lobby for real change, many of them seek to use a subtle form of mind control in order seek empowerment.

Let's take a look at what I view to be one of our better known political cults, MoveOn.Org.

First, let's look at a piece found on Neal Boortz's website that was broadcast on his daily talk show out of Atlanta, some time ago (July 2005 to be exact).

Did you read it? Did you take time to read it thoroughly? Or did you write it off, because of who he is? Let's separate the message from the messenger for a moment here, if we are able. Shall we?

The mere fact that this organization feels the need to put out form letters, for people to write their elected officials and editors of periodicals, makes me think that some of these people cannot and do not think for themselves - at least not well enough to put together an intelligent and coherent letter that will express their views and make their wishes known. I am sorry if that offends anyone, but that's the truth as I see it.

Not convinced yet?

Take a look at this form letter macro, similar to the one used by the two that Neal featured, and the countless more that got through undetected.

Then take a look at this one.

I could on, but the redundancy would put me to sleep. So, let me say something that needs to be understood before anyone pounces on me - this is not about ideology. This is not about someone's right to free speech or to have dissenting views. Everyone in this country - repeat - everyone- has the right to their own opinion.

It's not those things that bother me most, it's the tactics that I object to. It's the inflammatory nature of the methods used. It is the hateful way this dissent is presented that irritates me so much, not the specific content of the material. It's the way that content is most always presented in the worst possible light if it's something they disagree with, which is downright mean and hateful. It's the way they present their views on people they agree with, the way they sugar-coat things when they do not line up with reality, that gets me irritated.

No matter what the subject may be - it ends up with everything being Bush's fault and anyone that tries to explain something to them about a certain thing they do not agree with, gets accused of being a neo-con, a repuke, and/or a rethuglican. No matter what the scandal is when it's their people in the hot seat, it gets minimized and we hear all kinds of lame excuses for the acts committed.

But to me, it goes even one step further than that. What really astounds me is how grown adults are willing to misrepresent themselves by using form letters, posing as Marine moms, and generally using whatever underhanded tactic possible to disrupt the process just to get their point across. In my opinion, this does nothing but promote more hostility and more resentment.

And allow me to say that before anyone is tempted to call me right-winger because I am saying this, let me point out definitively that I was one of the first to criticize Ann Coulter for her nasty statements. Why? Because I do not make party distinctions on inappropriate behavior. If I think it's wrong for one side to do something, rest assured that I think it's wrong for the other.

You see, I believe in principles, I believe in debate, and I believe in democracy. I believe in the freedom of speech as long as it is not directed at others in a nasty way. I believe in treating everyone with respect and dignity, regardless of their political opinions. I do not believe in demonizing people personally with mean and hateful discourse, simply because they do not agree with me.

In every ounce of my heart, I firmly believe that the hateful and spiteful rhetoric (coming from groups like these) is working to influence a new generation of young minds that will soon have no respect for the process or the system. They will not respect authority or the rule of law, but they will be given over to mob rule, to do as they please, whenever they please. Anarchy will be the result.

One can disagree with people without demeaning them. One can change the system, without being disruptive and rude. One can make things happen without calling someone a name. And finally, one can argue and win a debate without destroying the person you are debating with.

This is not an authoritarian system, we have here. There are elections every 2, 4, and 6 years, depending on the office being sought. Anyone with some brains and some perseverance can win the free exchange of ideas, by putting forth the best ideas, if they are based on solid reasoning, logic, and sound judgment. But, it's up to all of us to demand better. It's up to us to do better. It will not get better unless we think for ourselves and evaluate all things before jumping to conclusions. And if, after we have done all of that and we still believe the same way, then so be it. But we will have done so with grace, dignity, and class.

Thank you all for visiting and reading my blog.


Greg said...

I'm surprised you're surprised by this LAS. For fun, I sign up for all kinds of e-mail alerts, from environmentalist groups to the Republican Party. And, as far as I can tell, they all do this. They all e-mail you telling you about this or that urgent issue, and include a letter for you to rip off to your congressman or your newspaper, just in case you are too dumb to think for yourself.

You're right that it is a sign of how we've become robots for our political team. Political parties are really detrimental to our democracy, IMHO.

ms. miami said...

lasunsett- i agree with greg (i'm marking that down) that all groups and parties play the same games of avoiding real conversations and real debates. it's unfortunate, but i think that the only antidote is to beef up critical thinking skills in education (something that really wasn't emphasized when i went through school).

indeed, this boortz guy plays the same games. i know that you're partial to his tax ideas, but the fact that he calls it the 'fair tax' really puts me off.

it's like fox calling themselves 'fair and balanced' or mcdonald's calling a sandwich 'big & tasty.' these names/logos are not descriptive, but just pure marketing.

boortz may have some good ideas (i don't know the ends and outs), but the name he's chosen indicates a lack of depth.

A.C. McCloud said...

We need more posts like this in the blogosphere, which too often has become a tit-for-tat attack medium. Too many of us don't act like the adults we pretend to be.

Not to turn this into a debate about the fair tax, but I'd be interested to know why it's seen as unfair.

LASunsett said...


//I'm surprised you're surprised by this LAS.//

When you get to be my age, very little surprises you. It's not so much a surprise, but a lament.

LASunsett said...


//boortz may have some good ideas (i don't know the ends and outs), but the name he's chosen indicates a lack of depth.//

Unfortunately, too many people do not have the capability of thinking deep enough to understand anything but "marketing" logos and slogans.

BTW, have you read "The Fair Tax Book"?

LASunsett said...


//Too many of us don't act like the adults we pretend to be.//

So true. And they are on both sides of the spectrum too.

//Not to turn this into a debate about the fair tax, but I'd be interested to know why it's seen as unfair.//

It's the fairest form of taxation, I have read about. Don't buy, don't pay. It cannot get much simpler than that. If there is a simpler of fairer form for it, I'd be willing to listen to it.

ms. miami said...

doh! i meant "ins and outs" earlier.

my point really isn't about the qualities of his tax scheme, just the problem with the name.

mcdonald's can call their sandwich a "big & tasty," but that doesn't particularly mean that everyone will consider it either 'big' or 'tasty.' it's just marketing.

calling a tax scheme "flat" or "graduated" on the other hand actually describes the idea.

calling it "fair" only tells you what the person who named it hopes you will find it to be...

LASunsett said...


//doh! i meant "ins and outs" earlier.//

I knew what you meant. I will never make a person an offender for a typo.

//my point really isn't about the qualities of his tax scheme, just the problem with the name.//

I understand. That's why I said that most people do not have the ability to analyze and understand better nomenclature. You and I see it for what it is, a consumption tax. Others would/do not see it that way.

The main reason I asked if you have read the book is, I really think it's a good idea. He meets almost every conceivable objection than can be raised.

ms. miami said...

lasunsett- i'm familiar with the basics of his plan, but haven't had an opportunity to read the details (i already have a large no-choice-but-to-read list at the moment).

just like your comments about tactics that aren't very smart for either political party, i believe that the name chosen for this proposal is bound to put some people off (like me). imho, it just cheapens an otherwise serious idea.

A.C. McCloud said...

Ms. Miami,

OK, I see your point now. My first blush was "oh, this is not progressive", but Boortz has explained it would not affect the lowest income strata. It almost sounds like magic.

I guess the drawback would be the susceptibility to the eb and flow of commerce, which is the biggest complaint we hear here in TENN. However, somehow we always seem to get by.

A.C. McCloud said...

I should have explained--we don't have a state income tax here.