Thursday, November 13, 2008

Burden of Proof

Dave Neiwert has a post on Obama dictatorship conspiracy theories and how much they resemble the far-right paranoid fantasies around Bill Clinton.

You'd think this stuff would cease to have any fascination, the hysterical delusions of years past having failed to materialize. Not only was NAFTA emphatically not the first step in the creation of a socialist North American Union to rival the EU, but this year the majority of the Democratic primary contenders, including the eventual nominee, ran against the trade agreement.

Federal agents did not only round up nobody's guns, but when the Assault Weapons Ban expired without much fanfare (except among gun nuts), it did not become part of anyone's agenda to bring it back. "Y2K" was not used as an excuse to restrict any civil liberties at all, let alone establish martial law under UN peacekeeping forces.

Not only did the paranoia surrounding Clinton end up being unfounded, but liberals' fears of the wickedness of Bush proved to underestimate his administration's potential to cause harm almost across the board. As has been noted more than once, a straightforward account of the events of the last eight years (9/11, Iraq, Katrina, the financial meltdown) would have been seen as the most outrageous hyperbole, had it been presented in 2000 as a prediction of the consequences of electing Bush. "Had it been" being the key phrase, since nobody could have dreamed of such disastrous mismanagement: it was literally beyond the imagination of even the most rabid lefties that Bush could have been as bad as he turned out to be.

The lessons here seem obvious. First, that whatever horrific misdeeds are predicted of Obama by the right-wing can be safely dismissed as fever dreams. And second, that any fears harbored—by moderates, liberals, and far-left hard-liners with giant puppets—regarding the dangerous possibilities of future Republican rule should not be taken at face value, but rather amplified by an order of magnitude or two. This will make some attempt to bridge the "believability gap," between how bad anyone can imagine GOP governance could possibly get and how bad it ends up being in practice, and get you in the ballpark as far as making real predictions.

That there is any market at all for the black helicopter crowd after the last sixteen years, after having failed to meet any burden of proof whatsoever, is absolutely astounding.

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