Social Question

ETpro's avatar

How can we stop the wingunts from destroying America?

Asked by ETpro (34584points) March 25th, 2010

A New Harris poll reveals a quarter of Republicans think Obama may be the Anti-Christ. It confirms frightening rise of wingnut beliefs in the USA and adds credence a theme touted in John Avlon’s new book Wingnuts:How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America. It also shows how an increasing number are unable to recognize that they hold conflicting views.

The survey covered all parties, and so includes RMNJs and LWNJs in its results. But when separated out by party, the Republicans are becoming increasingly a party of conspiracy theorists and whack jobs. For instance, the majority of Republicans believed the president is a Muslim. A full 67% say he is an Socialist and 40% think Wall Street pulls his strings. One must wonder why Wall Street would welcome a socialist with open arms. Also around 40 percent of Republicans believe Obama is a racist, someone who resents American heritage and “wants terrorists to win.”

No wonder Congressional Republicans have been cozying up to and egging on the Tea Baggers. They aren’t simply trying to ride the tiger for political advantage as pundits have been saying. The whack jobs and conspiracy theorists are now the majority of their base. How long can representative democracy survive with this rise in fantasy and fanaticism? What can we do to reverse this troubling trend?

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53 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

Stop watching “Fox News” and “CNN”

gailcalled's avatar

(I love it,,,wingunts)

JLeslie's avatar

The best thing would be for them to really break off into their own party, and split the Republicans. The Republicans should kick them the hell out if they had any integrity. If the reasonable Republicans took back the party, they may gain back some independents, and the party would actually be ok in the end.

cockswain's avatar

Wow, those numbers are way worse than I would have imagined. I do like the splitting the party idea, but Republicans know that would empower Democrats. Republicans will have to morph to whatever message seems most likely to appeal to the most voters. Regardless of integrity.

JLeslie's avatar

@cockswain I have those wignuts all around me (I’m in the bible belt). I think the Northeastern Republican (not sure what to call them, certainly they are in more places than the northeast) has defected temporarily but would go back if the Christian right was not catered to. My dad is one of them, he left the Republican party after 40 years a couple of years ago.

cockswain's avatar

God, I just have little useful idea for combating such rampant ignorance. It’s so much worse than I thought. Obviously educating people on valid techniques for sifting through bias would be a start, but these people are so ridiculously ignorant and predisposed to mental laziness I can’t see how that will have enough impact. It’s a lack of effort to think or passion to find truth. It just seems so obvious to me to not think like that, but it is so difficult to persuade someone that what they hear on Fox News or from other authoritative-sounding nutjobs is so one-sided as not to be trusted. The great irony is that the things they protest (corruption, lies, trampling of liberties) are being perpetrated against them more than any other segment of our population. They are being fooled into voting a certain way.

fyoz's avatar

We can start by not resorting to name calling.

JLeslie's avatar

@fyoz is Chrstian Right name calling?

cockswain's avatar

@fyoz Done. What next?

OperativeQ's avatar

I’m hearing the same stuff in your details section on NPR…

fyoz's avatar

@JLeslie I was just stating that the question started it off that way “stop the wingnuts”

JeffVader's avatar

You know what…. it really doesn’t surprise me one bit, given the deplorable state of American education.

JLeslie's avatar

@fyoz I understand. But, I am seriously asking what we should call these people, so we all know who we are talking about, if not wingnuts. It seems to me calling them the Christian Right is not good, because even mainstream Christians are beginning to feel like the country is against them from what I have observed. Just seriously looking for a good term.

@JeffVader I don’t think that has anything to do with it. Where I live the people who believe this crap, the majority have their children in private schools. The bible belt tends to be very segregated, blacks in the public school, whites in private. At least near the larger cities that is ow it is.

dalepetrie's avatar

Step one, though Fox News has won the right in court to lie, I don’t see where they have a Constitutional right to lie, AND label it as news rather than opinion. Someone needs to sue Fox not on teh grounds that they lie, but that they mislable their product. If Fox News lost a high profile court case and had to call itself Fox Opinion, that would wake a few people up and make them re-evaluate some of the things they heard.

Step two, overhaul our electoral system so that all campaigns are publicly financed, and so there is some sort of oversight body that ensures that all campaign rhetoric is factually based, and is about why we should vote for the candidate, not why we should vote against their opponent.

Step three, make elections more accessible…you could have a week long voting window, or you could make election day a Federal paid holiday, or you could make it possible to vote remotely with your SSN, or some combination of these ideas, so our elections are based on trying to achieve maximum turnout, not minimum turnout.

Step four, revert to pre 1970s rules on the Senate Filibuster so if the opposition party REALLY wants to block legislation, they actually have to stand up there and read the phone book for a couple days.

Step five, change the focus of education from learning facts, figures, dates and statistics, to learning critical thinking skills.

Step six, for every right wing blowhard on AM radio, Liberals should elevate one intelligent Liberal with awesome debate skills to celebrity status. Have these Liberal celebs challenge the Conservative celebs to regular, nationally televised debates on hot button issues. Demonstrate how ill conceived their talking points really are.

JLeslie's avatar

Nice to see you @dalepetrie been a while. GA.

dalepetrie's avatar

@JLeslie – it has, which is strange because I’ve been here all along?

JLeslie's avatar

@dalepetrie That is strange.

ETpro's avatar

@fyoz It is hard to discuss things that are destructive and warped using only terms that are non pejorative. I was careful to point out that there are such people on the right and the left. It is not my intention to single out Republicans. I used to be a Republican. I am still a small business owner and rather fiscally conservative (in the dictionary meaning of the term, not today’s radical down with the IRS, back to the 18th century definition). But the truth is most of these people are Republicans and I think when you are dealing with conspiracy theorist and outright lies it is best to call a spade a spade.

@dalepetrie I don’t know if you can Constitutionally force Fox to admit they are political propagandists but we can make people aware of it. We can cite the fact they actually went to court to defend their right to lie, all the while claiming that respected news media like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times_ are biased and routinely lie.

gorillapaws's avatar

@ETpro “I don’t know if you can Constitutionally force Fox to admit they are political propagandists” I wonder if you could sue them for false advertising though…

JLeslie's avatar

Back to the original question, I don’t think they will succeed in hijacking America. I feel optimistic, even though they cause a lot of chaos and annoyance.

dalepetrie's avatar

I’m thinking that lying is free speech, I have no problem with that.

But people can be (and have been) sued for false advertising, truth in labeling, etc.

So I think that perhaps the case was decided correctly on Constitutional grounds, yes, they should be able to lie. But I have to think that we have laws against fraudulent misrepresentation of material facts, it’s a whole different lawsuit. And NYT and WaPo and any of them should have to follow the same rules, except in anything clearly labeled as opinion. If you want to lie, in other words, label it as editorializing, not news, that’s what I think hasn’t been flushed out by the courts but needs to be.

JLeslie's avatar

@dalepetrie But, I think a lot of these people think they are telling the truth, they believe it themselves. It is a fact in their minds similar to the fact that God exists. The country will go to the devil if we don’t follow certain rules that have been laid down. Also, similarly, I point out that many mortgage brokers took out the same ridiculous loans they were selling for themselves. They really believed the bullshit they told others. To them it was not a purposeful lie.

I guess you are right we have to define better what we can call news, Might have to go as far as what we can call a network. If it is called FoxNews then every show must meet the “news” criteria maybe? Whereas CBS, has news at 5:30, but Big Brother at 7:00pm. LOL.

dalepetrie's avatar

@JLeslie – well Fox doesn’t air the Simpsons or Family Guy on Fox News, nor does NBC air The Office and 30 Rock on CNBC. They have news channels that should be there for news. A news channel “can” have an opinion show if it’s labeled as such. And items that are in dispute, which haven’t been proven either way are opinions…anything open to interpretation, including religion is an opinion. So, yes, you may well believe that God hates fags, but it hasn’t been proven that there even is a God, much less what God believes about human sexuality…you could say that, but you would have to label it as an opinion.

I’m not concerned with lies that aren’t purposeful, I’m more concerned with segregating facts from opinions, and eliminating outright falsehoods. But if you do put forth an intentional falsehood, that’s still free speech, but the intent can not be to mislead or misinform in a material way, that is fraud. Telling a lie is not a crime, but telling a lie that makes another person act in a way they wouldn’t have if the lie hadn’t been told is fraud.

I mean, when’s the last time you watched a DVD? What’s the first thing you see? It’s a screen that says the opinions and commentary, which aren’t even part of the movie, but part of the special features which you have to specifically access, are the sole personal opinions of the people who gave them and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the producers or owners of the film. So, a standard is good enough to be applied to Freddy Got Fingered, but not to a channel with the word News in the name?

JLeslie's avatar

I basically agree with you, but to pick it apart, you said but if you do put forth an intentional falsehood I think they believe it. maybe the original person who said it made it up, but by the second, third, 20th person it has become fact to these people.

dalepetrie's avatar

@JLeslie – some of what they say, yes, I think the talking heads believe it, but anyone who understands journalism should understand the difference between provable facts and personal opinions, it should not be hard to segregate. That’s the biggest problem. The second biggest problem is the outright lies that they knew were lies, but defended their right to tell them in court. The exact problem is, by the time someone hears it as you said 2, 3, 20 times, to them it’s fact, but if you’re presenting opinions as opinions then it becomes easier to question the source. Someone can tell me an outright Republican talking point lie today and I ask them for their source, and they can point me to a Fox News story that outright lies and puts forth assertions of opinion as if they’re fact…to me it’s not persuasive. But if it was Fox Opinion, it wouldn’t carry that gravity, after someone’s told enough times that opinions are like assholes, everyone has one, eventually they’ll learn that opinion stories can not be taken as fact, just like no one is going to accept Monopoly money in payment for goods and services in the real world, no one is going to accept an opinion as “proof’ of anything. It would no longer be, I cite my backed up source for my facts, and you present your opinion based source for your facts and somehow they are to be seen as equal.

JLeslie's avatar

@dalepetrie I agree. So now we need someone to bring the suit.

mammal's avatar

The problem with the sanctity of free speech is that it invites abuse, not so dissimilar to the Catholic aura of Saintliness or the aura of Democracy, in fact any concept that has attained so exalted a level and it’s form so unimpeachable, that nobody bothers to check the content. An exceedingly dangerous state of affairs, but very common.

CaptainHarley's avatar

So we’ve got illogical “wingnuts” on the right, and the “something-for-nothing” crowd on the left, with those of us just trying to make a decent living for ourselves and our families in the middle, right?

Cruiser's avatar

You start and finish by ignoring them. Bringing this up brings them more attention and confidence to then tweak their message so they can keep you looking their way. No press….they cease to exist. Simple.

CaptainHarley's avatar

How is it possible to ignore all the ding-a-lings? There are so MANY of them! : (

JLeslie's avatar

@CaptainHarley They should do a count.

Blondesjon's avatar

Perhaps we could all start thinking for ourselves and drop this fucking asinine belief that our government is made up of two parties that are “The Good Guys” and “The Bad Guys”.

Seriously people, when you all get going on politics you talk about it like it’s fucking WWE wrestling or a fucking soap opera. It’s not “Heroes” vs. “Villians” no matter how much you have bought into that simplistic, cartoon notion.

I may be a paranoid who sees our officials as a bunch of wealthy individuals only intent on keeping their money and power but at least I’m not some dumb ass that thinks it’s Snidley Whiplash and Dudley Do-Right fighting over Precious Polly America.

While you all battle each other in an argument that will never have a winner, there is a group of rich Americans in Washington that continue to keep a job where, among other things, they can vote on whether or not they get a pay raise, hold taxpayer funded, congressional hearings on steroids in professional sports, and know that when they retire, their future is secure. Nobody is raiding that 401K.

laureth's avatar

@dalepetrie – from here:

Fox argues that its news hours — 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays — are objective. The channel has taken pains recently to highlight its news programs, including the two hours led by Shepard Smith, its chief news anchor. And its daytime newscasts draw more viewers than CNN or MSNBC’s prime-time programs.

“The average consumer certainly knows the difference between the A section of the newspaper and the editorial page,” Mr. Clemente said.

I found this on many sites that all linked back to NYT. I really would have liked to find Fox posting this on their site, but if they do, they sure keep it hidden.

ETpro's avatar

@JLeslie In the legal case referenced, Fox had a news story pre-written for one of its reporters. He picked it up, became suspicious as it didn’t seem credible, and checked its veracity. He discovered it was completely false. He reported this to his management, and they ordered him to deliver it anyway. When he refused to knowingly lie, they fired him. This was definitely not a case of someone believing, it was wilfull deception—what a political propagandist does.

@CaptainHarley I think the far right and left both buy into the something for nothing fantasy. The left wants social programs that pay magically for themselves and the right wants tax cuts that pay down the deficit instead of inflating it.

@Cruiser Ignoring didn’t work out so well for Germany when the Brownshirts started their campaign to take over the government. I think when a large block of our citizenry get all worked up over things that are patently untrue they need to be called out for spreading their fantasies and even made fun of. The best way to bring down a gasbag is poke fun through it.

jerv's avatar

I think that bolstering our educational system is a start. It’s already proven that, for the most part, hard-core Conservatism (at least to that extent) and religious extremism go hand-in-hand with poor academic performance. Intelligent people are capable of critical thinking, are less easily swayed by sound-bites and dogma, and a shitload safer to have in office than a card-carrying member of the LBI (Legion of the Batshit Insane).

Bear in mind that Left-wingers can also be uneducated and therefore delusionally dangerous, but the extremists on that side there are easier to spot since it’s obvious to most that they are the charter members of the LBI. They are the types that drive around with no licenses and then print newspapers about how the government is like Nazis for demanding papers (a drivers license), and is an evil corporate monopoly to boot since they own all of the roads so that the only way to drive is to pay taxes to buy bombs to drop on Iraqi children. I think we all know that type.

Another thing that might help is if we took this two-party system and shoved it so far up it’s own ass that it collapsed into a singularity. Many other nations seem to do jsut fine with enough parties that no one party (and sometimes no two parties combined) can get enough power to run rough-shod over the people. I would think that the Far Right would be in favor of this unless they are hypocrites. I mean, free market is all about choices for the consumer, and they are in favor of the Free Market, right?

So, instead of choosing between a Socialist on one side and a geriatric guy with flashbacks and a dingbat on the other, we would also have at least the possibility of a moderate candidate who is compassionate enough to remember that any Republic will fail if it’s average citizen is themselves failing, yet also mindful enough of the overall health of the nation to avoid driving the country to ruin trying to help the people at the expense of the state.

Now, some people accuse me of being a Socialist because I tend to choose individuals over the state and agree with the tenets of the UDHR in addition to the US Constitution, but I don’t see why we can’t have both. We are the richest, most powerful nation on Earth. We can police the world (some argue that we already do), provide food and medicine for tens of millions abroad, and yet we can’t even take care of our own citizens! Am I a Socialist for thinking that thumping a Bible and selling our souls to Rupert Murdoch is a bad way to run our country?

ETpro's avatar

@jerv Am I a Socialist for thinking that thumping a Bible and selling our souls to Rupert Murdoch is a bad way to run our country?

No, you’re the winner of a GA award.

dalepetrie's avatar

For some reason Shepard Smith seems to get a pass from the mainstream media, but I’ve heard him say things that were just as biased as O’Reily or any of their other clowns.

jerv's avatar

@dalepetrie I think it might be because fewer people take Shepard Smith seriously, at least not to the point that the cultists follow Beck and Limbaugh. You are correct though, and I think it is a little unfair. After all, wingnuts are wingnuts no matter which side they’re on.

JLeslie's avatar

@dalepetrie O’reilly doesn’t market himself when I have seen him in interviews as a news show, the problem is I think his followers perceive it as such. I like your idea of having to say at the beginning of the program that it is not a news show.

@ETpro That is a disgrace. That should have been blasted all over the networks.

@jerv Not sure if I responded to you on a different thread about your education idea, I did with someone recently. My response was, I believe if we did the stats the right wing lunatics have a high percentage of their children in religious private schools, especially in the south.

laureth's avatar

@jerv – that’s the reason (one of the reasons, anyway) that the Right is very pro-homeschool/charter/private/religious school. If the other schools can cherrypick the best from the public schools, the public schools practically can’t succeed, and the further and faster they do, the more it looks like we should allow more “alternative” schools. Vicious cycle. And then, kids only get a “choice” between a failing poor school, or a slanted school (for the most part). Ick.

JLeslie's avatar

@laureth Ick is right. It really is like the third world. I feel confident Jerv is going to agree to some extent.

jerv's avatar

@laureth Many of the home-school “science” books don’t even mention the Theory of Evolution. Whether you agree with it or not, the TOE is a fine example of how the scientific method (and therefore rational, critical thinking) works. And the scores for basic academic achievement down there are not that great either regardless of whether the kid went public or private, so either way you wind up with dumb graduates and me being happy that short lifespans run in my family so I won’t have to worry about growing old enough for these idiots to take care of me in my old age.
I happen to know many people who were home- or private-schooled up North and they are as well educated if not moreso than the average public school student in the area, yet even the 9th-grade dropouts from New England often have more book-smarts than many HS (and some college) graduates I’ve met from the South or Midwest.
I thought that the purpose of education was to get kids ready for the real world, not to try and create your own version of Utopia. That’s what I get for having a rare moment of optimism :(

@JLeslie I admit that I am a little naive since I come from a place where the Right-wingers are often educated, rational people and therefore a lot more sedate than the crowd making the national news. Then again, many of them see what the wingnuts are doing and are at least tempted to vote Democrat just to keep some sanity in government.
Then again, it’s long been suspected (and occasionally proven) that there is a link between education level and political leanings, and I come from an area that is known for many world-class schools like Harvard, Yale, MIT, et al. while other areas are known for having an HS dropout rate of >50%. That might explain a few things.

CaptainHarley's avatar


There you go again, saying that anyone who doesn’t believe as you do is stupid.

jerv's avatar

@CaptainHarley I have found many people who can disagree with me intelligently. When you are in a good mood, you are one of them.
However, the statistics I see, when I average them out to account for bias (all sources are biased, so you have to take info from multiple sources across the spectrum), lead me to only one logical conclusion, and that is that there is either a correlation or a very unlikely coincidence. Occam’s Razor says it’s the former.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv I have said before on fluther that I generally have more in common with a northern Republican than a southern Democrat. I agree education counts and I fully support homeschooling. I might even go as far to say that if a kid never learns about evolution it is not the end of the world, we all lack some sort of knowledge in some subject. Critical thinking, open minds, teaching not to hate, willing to debate, these are some of the more important skills for me. And, exposure to different people, different culture, different ideas, even within our own country. The northeast of course can boast about it’s Ivy league, and general emphasis on education, but I think what the Northeast has most of all, compared to the southern states is a very diverse population, and many in the middle and upper middle class who are from a variety of different ethnic backrounds and races.

I don’t think you were on the thread about Mississippi being such a poor state. I told a story of a neighbor of mine from MS who taught in both public and private schools. She said during desegregation she told families not to pull their children out of the public school because the public school had many more facilities, labs for science experiments, more elective choices for the childen. But the white people pulled their kids out of school to keep them away from the black children, they did not care if it hurt their educational experience. Now, that was not the most surprising thing to me. The most surprising thing she said was that when her son was going out into he real world for a job, after he graduated college, about 15 years ago, she told him two bits of advice, “One, you need to be able to look someone in the eye and carry on a conversation, and two you might have to work for a black boss or have an interview with someone black so be sure to show them respect.” (That was the sentence more or less, I don’t remember the exact quote) That last part is stunning to me just 15 years ago. But, MS is probably one of the most extreme examples in the south, so I don’t mean to overgeneralize.

Also, I have left out the west and west coast, I know less about those areas.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie From what I’ve seen in the 5 years I’ve spent on this side, people near the coast are generally pretty decently educated and even those that don’t go on to college self-educate enough that it’s hard to tell.

I’ve dealt with very few people from more inland areas, but I sincerely hope that the ones I’ve run across were not representative of the type of people who live away from the coast or I will cry.

I thought it was sad on Food Revolution when the kids didn’t know the difference between a tomato and a potato, did not know that french fries were made from potatoes or ketchup from tomatoes, and they could not even use a knife and fork since everything they ever ate was either finger food or needed a spoon.
I can understand a 6-year-old not knowing certain things, but if you can’t even use silverware at that age…. and the schools don’t give them the option until after age 10! Hell, I’d been doing it since I was 3–4, and could clumsilly use chopsticks by age 6. Kids today can’t even feed themselves!

cockswain's avatar

I saw John Avlon at a book signing/interview on C-Span last night discussing this book. He did a great job, very well-spoken.

ETpro's avatar

@squirbel I think that pretty well states the case. Great link. Thanks.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv I have to say that I am a little less annoyed at the schools and very annoyed at the families. Do you know how many American adults don’t know how to hold a fork and knife correctly? It is astonishing. I once did a question on flutehr about it, and several people, mostly younger people thought it ws ridiculous to care about holding a fork and knife properly.

I could not get your link to work, but I think it is the Jamie Oliver thng, right? I saw the show. I really think the children in the first couple of episodes were very young to be so critical, gong along with what you said. Children around elemrntary school age, even if their parents cook healthy food, begin to discover things like the chicken they eat was actually a living animal sometimes during the elementary ages. Many children are very upset by the idea at first. Young children are also served things already prepared, typically not helping mom in the kitchen except for making cookies when very young. So not know what a potato, tomato or eggplant is doesn’t bother me much until they are a little older. I think the next show is in a high school, now that wil be very interesting.

ETpro's avatar

@squirbel That would be priceless if it were not so pathetically accurate. Thanks for the chuckles.

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