Saturday, June 04, 2005


Matt Taibbi looks at fundamentalism in America 80 years after H.L. Mencken's coverage of the Scopes trial, and finds that not much has changed:
Progressives in this country have always maintained a kind of fuzzy belief that fundamentalists will eventually just disappear, as if by magic, that the phenomenon of grown men and women believing in devils and witches and angels will inevitably be outgrown, the way children outgrow Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Marx. When some pastor in rural Alabama takes the pulpit to denounce SpongeBob Squarepants as the agent of the Evil One, we figure no response is really necessary—folks will figure out the joke on their own, somewhere down the line.


This is a mistake, and it is the same mistake people have made for centuries: underestimating the American zeal for superstition, for boobism, for living the intellectual lives of farm animals. A large statistical majority of Americans would rather live their whole lives in perpetual fear of the devil than listen to ten minutes of common sense. When you consider where these people live intellectually, the idea that the Democratic Party can somehow succeed in Middle America by making small tactical changes, by waving a few more flags, seems absurd. You either believe in the devil or you don't; and if you don't, you're never going to fool these people. The Republicans, for all their seeming "confusion," understand this now better than ever. Their seemingly open attempts in recent months to radicalize and embolden their evangelical base may have had a temporary desultory effect with regard to their poll numbers.

But this current crew of Republican strategists has always understood American thinking better than the Tom Junods of the world. They know that most political trends are fleeting. Liberalism vanished at the first sign of trouble; pacifism disappeared one generation after Vietnam; even fiscal conservatism is easily forgotten. The one thing that never disappears in this country is stupidity, and if you court it, you'll always have votes down the line. Especially when it lives on unopposed.
Taibbi's own recent book on the 2004 presidential campaign trail, Spanking the Donkey, follows in the the tradition of Mencken and Hunter Thompson. And like Jon Stewart, he aims much of his satiric ammo at mainstream media whores, realizing that their supine attitude enables the clowns who hold the highest offices in the land.

Regarding those media whores: for a refreshingly hilarious Daily Show take on the corrupt Nixon crew crawling out of the woodwork to declaim the "crimes" of the recently unmasked Deep Throat, go here.