One of Jesse Walker’s central observations in his recent book, The United States of Paranoia is that it isn’t just the disenfranchised who are terrified of shadowy forces pulling society’s strings from just offstage; those at the center of power can be awfully paranoid themselves.
We look back at the 1990s as a sort of interregnum decade between the end of the Cold War, and the dawn of The Global War on Terror (later known as the War on “Man-Caused Disasters,” and now our Carefully Planned Effort to bring Peace and Tranquility to the Middle East via our Harmonious Working Relationship with our Cheerful Russian Betters. Or Operation Clusterfark for short.)
But the 1990s was rife with conspiracy theories, this was despite – or as Walker astutely noted, because – of our peaceful time out:
Even if you set aside purely partisan fears, the 1990s, a time of relative peace and prosperity, were also a golden age of both frankly fictional and allegedly true tales of conspiracy. There are many reasons for this, including the not unsubstantial fact that even at its most peaceful, the United States is riven by conflicts. But there is also the possibility that peace breeds nightmares just as surely as strife does. The anthropologist David Graeber has argued that “it’s the most peaceful societies which are also the most haunted, in their imaginative constructions of the cosmos, by constant specters of perennial war.”
It’s true that the right had its share of conspiracy theories in the 1990s, including fever swamp investigations into Bill Clinton’s past. But the left, which had an iron grip on overculture until the rise of first Rush Limbaugh and then Fox News (the Blogosphere really reach fruition until 9/11 and its immediate aftermath), had a field day, driving itself insane over first shadowy rightwing militia groups, and then, in effort to aid Bill Clinton, a belief that talk radio – and shadowy rightwing militia groups! – caused Timothy McVeigh to blow up the Oklahoma federal building in 1995.
At the end of the decade, as Big Government’s Austin Ruse noted yesterday, the death of 21-year old Matthew Shepard in 1998 launched yet another attempt by the MSM to attack the right; which in retrospect perfectly fits the template employed by the left in recent years to politicize the shootings of Gabrielle Giffords and Trayvon Martin:
Almost immediately Shepard became a secular saint, and his killing became a kind of gay Passion Play where he suffered and died for the cause of homosexuality against the growing homophobia and hatred of gay America.
Indeed, a Mathew Shepard industry grew rapidly with plays and foundations along with state and even national hate crimes legislation named for him. Rock stars wrote songs about him, including Elton John and Melissa Etheridge. Lady Gaga performed John Lennon’s “Imagine” and changed the lyrics to include Shepard.
Thanks to a new book by an award winning gay journalist we now know that much of this narrative turns out to be false, little more than gay hagiography.
As gay journalist Aaron Hicklin, writing in The Advocate asks, “How do people sold on one version of history react to being told that the facts are slippery — that thinking of Shepard’s murder as a hate crime does not mean it was a hate crime? And how does it color our understanding of such a crime if the perpetrator and victim not only knew each other but also had sex together, bought drugs from one another, and partied together?”
This startling revelation comes in The Book of Matt to be published next week by investigative journalist Stephen Jiminez, who over the course of years interviewed over 100 people including Shepard’s friends, friends of the killers, and the killers themselves.
No wonder “More than half of Democrats, according to a neutral survey, said they believed Bush was complicit in the 9/11 terror attacks,” according to JournoList member Ben Smith. From the cause of the Kennedy assassination to their fever swamp fantasies regarding presidents Nixon and Reagan to their multiple conspiracy theories of the 1990s, the left had been taking national news stories and overlaying on them their most lurid thoughts about the right.
The template the left uses to take already horrific incidents such as the Giffords shooting (in which a judge appointed by Republican George H.W. Bush was killed), Travyon Martin’s attempt to bash in George Zimmerman’s skull (which might also involve homophobia, according to Martin’s associate Rachel Jeantel on CNN), and the killing of Matthew Shepard and turn the amps up to 11 to politicize them is fairly predictable. Also predictable is that it won’t be too long before another crime is politicized by the left to score cheap points. And while the right has talk radio, Fox, and the Blogosphere, the left still has a much, much louder megaphone, including both the “news” media and pop culture.
The next sucker punch is surely coming. How does the right fight back?