Toward the end of tonight’s Newsroom season finale, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) accuses Tea Party wackos of being RINOs — Republicans In Name Only — and runs down a list of traits and beliefs that define them as such. But he was really describing most of the Republican party these days, which has pretty much become all wacko all the time.
Rightie nutters embrace (a) ideological purity; (b) compromise as weakness; (c) a fundamentalist belief in scriptural literalism; (d) denying science; (e) being unmoved by facts; (f) are undeterred by new information; (g) have a hostile fear of progress; (h) a demonization of education; (i) a need to control women’s bodies; (j) severe xenophobia; (k) tribal mentality; (l) intolerance of dissent; and (m) a pathological hatred of U.S. government.
“They can call themselves the Tea Party,” says McAvoy. “They can call themselves conservatives. And they can even call themselves Republicans, though Republicans certainly shouldn’t. But we should call them what they are — the American Taliban.”
Quite true, but British documentarian Adam Curtis owns this analogy, having presented it eight years ago in his documentary The Power of Nightmares.
In 2004 I wrote the following about Curtis’s film: “[It] weaves together all sorts of disparate historical strands to relate two fascinating spiritual and political case histories, that of the American neo-conservatives and the Islamic fundamentalists. The payoff is an explanation of why they’re fighting each other now with such ferocity (beyond the obvious provocation of 9/11), and why the end of their respective holy war, waged for their own separate but like-minded motives, is nowhere in sight.
“That’s right — the Islamics vs. the neo-cons. You might think the United States of America is engaged in a fierce conflict with Middle-Eastern terrorists in order to prevent another domestic attack, but what’s really going on is more in the nature of a war between clans. Like the one between Burl Ives vs. Charles Bickford in The Big Country, say, or the Hatfields vs. the McCoys.
“It’s not that Curtis’s doc is saying anything radically new here, certainly not to those in the hard-core news junkie, academic or think-tank loop, but it makes its case in a remarkably well-ordered and comprehensive way, which…you know…helps moderately aware dilettantes like myself make sense of it all.
“The film contends that the anti-western terrorists and the neo-con hardliners in the George W. Bush White House are two peas in a fundamentalist pod, and that they seem to be almost made for each other in an odd way, and they need each other’s hatred to fuel their respective power bases but are, in fact, almost identical in their purist fervor, and are pretty much cut from the same philosophical cloth.
“It says, in other words, that Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz have a lot in common with Osama bin Laden. It also says that the mythology of ‘Al-Qeada’ was whipped up by the Bushies, that the term wasn’t even used by bin Laden until the Americans more or less coined it, and that the idea of bin Laden running a disciplined and coordinated terrorist network is a myth.
“Nightmares doesn’t trash the Bushies in order to portray the terrorists in some kind of vaguely admiring light. It says — okay, implies — that both factions are too in love with purity and consequently half out of their minds.”