Attack of the Zombie Right

The image of Zombie is pretty pervasive in modern American Culture.  From movies to music videos, the zombie serves as that partial human driven by eating other people’s brains while incapable of any thought.  A few recent articles have applied the zombie concept to the American Right Wing. I thought I’d share that with you.

First up is an item from Henry A. Giroux at  Truthout who wrote a book using the rightwing Zombie prototype.  It was published in 2010 and is titled “Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism” . Giroux argues that Zombie reactionaries threaten the very stability of our Democracy.

But the new zombies are not only wandering around in the banks, investment houses, and death chambers of high finance, they have an ever-increasing presence in the highest reaches of government and in the forefront of mainstream media. The growing numbers of zombies in the mainstream media have huge financial backing from the corporate elite and represent the new face of the culture of cruelty and hatred in the second Gilded Age. Any mention of the social state, putting limits on casino capitalism, and regulating corporate zombies puts Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck,?Rush Limbaugh, and other talking heads into a state of high rage. They disparage any discourse that embraces social justice, social responsibility, and human rights. Appealing to “real” American values such as family, God, and Guns, they are in the forefront of a zombie politics that opposes any legislation or policy designed to lessen human suffering and promote economic and social progress. As Arun Gupta points out, they are insistent in their opposition to “civil rights, school desegregation, women’s rights, labor organizing, the minimum wage, Social Security, LGBT rights, welfare, immigrant rights, public education, reproductive rights, Medicare, [and] Medicaid.” [5] The walking hyper-dead even oppose providing the extension of unemployment benefits to millions of Americans who are out of work, food, and hope. They spectacularize hatred and trade in lies and misinformation. They make populist appeals to the people while legitimating the power of the rich. They appeal to common sense as a way of devaluing a culture of questioning and critical exchange. Unrelenting in their role as archetypes of the hyper-dead, they are misanthropes trading in fear, hatred, and hyper-nationalism.

The human suffering produced by the walking hyper-dead can also be seen in the nativist apoplexy resulting in the racist anti-immigration laws passed in Arizona, the attempts to ban ethnic studies in public schools, the rise of the punishing state, the social dumping of millions of people of color into prisons, and the attempts of Tea Party fanatics and politicians who want to “take back America” from President Barack Obama—described in the new lexicon of right-wing political illiteracy as both an alleged socialist and the new Hitler. Newt Gingrich joins Glenn Beck and other members of the elite squad of the hyper-dead in arguing that Obama is just another version of Joseph Stalin. For Gingrich and the rest of the zombie ideologues, any discourse that advocates for social protections, easing human suffering, or imagining a better future is dismissed by being compared to the horrors of the Nazi holocaust. Dystopian discourse and End Times morbidity rule the collective consciousness of this group.

Joshua Holland at Alternet  sees this new ‘conservatism’ as being deeply rooted in the chemistry of the brain.  Are ‘conservatives’ just natural born zombies?

Research suggests that conservatives are, on average, more susceptible to fear than those who identify themselves as liberals. Looking at MRIs of a large sample of young adults last year, researchers at University College London discovered that “greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala” ($$). The amygdala is an ancient brain structure that’s activated during states of fear and anxiety. (The researchers also found that “greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex” – a region in the brain that is believed to help people manage complexity.)

That has implications for our political world. In a recent interview, Chris Mooney, author of The Republican Brain, explained, “The amygdala plays the same role in every species that has an amygdala. It basically takes over to save your life. It does other things too, but in a situation of threat, you cease to process information rationally and you’re moving automatically to protect yourself.”

The finding also fits with other data. Mooney discusses studies conducted at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in which self-identified liberals and conservatives were shown images – apolitical images – that were intended to elicit different emotions. Writing at Huffington Post, Mooney explains that “there were images that caused fear and disgust — a spider crawling on a person’s face, maggots in an open wound — but also images that made you feel happy: a smiling child, a bunny rabbit.” The researchers noted two differences between the groups. The researchers studied their subjects’ reactions by tracking their eye movements and monitoring their “skin conductivity” – a measure of one’s autonomic nervous system’s reaction to stimuli.

Conservatives showed much stronger skin responses to negative images, compared with the positive ones. Liberals showed the opposite. And when the scientists turned to studying eye gaze or “attentional” patterns, they found that conservatives looked much more quickly at negative or threatening images, and [then] spent more time fixating on them.

Mooney concludes that this “new research suggests [that] conservatism is largely a defensive ideology — and therefore, much more appealing to people who go through life sensitive and highly attuned to aversive or threatening aspects of their environments.”

Another Alternet author, Sara Robinson, reviews the state of Fascist America.  We seem to have a hard core right that is hard-wired to be commie-fearing, gun and bible toting zombie/fascists.  It’s nothing new.  Will these zombies always walk amongst us?

America has never been without fascist wannabes. Research by Political Research Associates estimates that, at any given time in our history, roughly 10-12 percent of the country’s population has been bred-in-the-bone right-wing authoritarians — the people who are hard-wired to think in terms of fascist control and order. Our latter-day Christian Dominionists, sexual fundamentalists and white nationalists are the descendants — sometimes, the literal blood descendants — of the same people who joined the KKK in the 1920s, followed Father Coughlin in the 1930s, backed Joe McCarthy in the early ’50s, joined the John Birch society in the ’60s, and signed up for the Moral Majority in the 1970s and the Christian Coalition in the 1990s.

Given its rather stunning durability, it’s probably time to acknowledge that this proto-fascist strain is a permanent feature of the American body politic. Like ugly feet or ears that stick out, it’s an unchanging piece of who we are. We are going to have to learn to live with it.

But it’s also true that this faction’s influence on the larger American culture ebbs and flows broadly over time. Our parents and grandparents didn’t have to deal with them much at all, because the far-right fringe was pushed back hard during the peak years of the New Deal. It broke out for just a few short years in the McCarthy era — long enough to see the rise of the Birchers — and then was firmly pushed back down into irrelevance again.

But the country’s overall conservative drift since the Reagan years and the rise of the Internet (which enabled the right’s network of regional and single-issue groups to crystallize into a single, unified, national right-wing culture over the course of the ’90s and ’00s) reenergized the extreme right as a political force. As a result, history may look back on George W. Bush’s eight years as the “Peak Wingnut” era — a high-water mark in radical right-wing influence and power in America.

I think social media has played a huge role in bringing on that “Peak Wingut” era, frankly.  I am amazed at the number of emails, Facebook posts, and blogs that cause me to think about erecting a huge stockade around my house.  I have to admit that watching Fox News these days makes me think I am living in Zombie Land. The access to the media and the internet has certainly brought the zombie memes to the front pages and airways.  We also have one of our two major political parties that’s had a zombie infestation.   It certainly was on full display during the Republican primaries.  What really amazes me is the number of cult beliefs that seem to have found their way into mainstream American Political Life.  Who would ever think we’d be having to have serious conversations about Ayn Rand or Ludwig Von Mises just as two examples?

The most distressing thing about all of this is that dialogue and compromise–both necessary features of a functional democracy–are next to impossible when facing a zombie army.  No amount of reason, data or science stops those zombies from trying to eat our brains.  Just turn on the 700 club on any given day, watch Pat Robertson, and just try to to convince me that there aren’t zombies among us.  And don’t even get me started on Ron Paul, Paul Ryan, or Allen West or the zombimbo twins of Bachmann and Palin.  So, what’s a democracy to do?

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20 Comments on “Attack of the Zombie Right”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Wow! That first book is only 178 pages and the paperback costs $32.95. I guess it must be self-published.

  2. RalphB says:

    What’s a democracy to do? Great question. Seems it has to try and educate everyone possible and try to keep the zombies from winning or whatever it is they’re trting to accomplish. Since the zombies are rather united and we are all over the map, it may not be easy.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Very true.

    • ecocatwoman says:

      So, should I just stick my head in the sand or buy an automatic weapon?

      Try to educate? How, when governments are controlling what is taught and defunding public schools? Is it really any wonder that the wingnuttery has so virulently attacked American’s education system? Look at the rise of the Home School movement, as well. It’s mostly populated by christian zealots.

      • northwestrain says:

        In some cases parents are home schooling to get their kids away from religious right wing nuts who have taken over their school district.

        My cousin is home schooling his kids — because Fundamentalists Mormons (FM) have taken over the school district. Which means that these FM censor and remove books from the library etc. and install their own teachers and administrators. All it takes is to place names of a solid slate of FM to take over the school board, hire a FM school superintendent and then replace the teachers with FM teachers. I’ve seen this happen in the school district where I live — not FM but Fundamentalist evangelical wing nuts. Biology teachers replaced with Creationists — English teachers replaced with bible history teachers.

        For every high profile case teaching creationism as science that makes the news there are dozens of other school districts forcing their brand of religion on the students.

        I knew my cousin was home schooling — and he is not a wing nut. But then I learned from my aunt that the reason he pulled his kids again from the schools was that he didn’t want them exposed to FM teachings. Evidently (I’m guessing) the creepy FM’s are very inbred (half brother and sisters marrying) — they need new converts — females.

        Location — Southern Washington State. Information about the genetics of close inbreeding of the FM can be found in Carolyn Jessop’s book “Triumph: Life After the Cult. . . .”

        It makes me sad that my cousin’s kids are missing out on school friends etc. But if I had daughters and the school district was taken over by FM — I’d also take them out of school and either send them to live with relatives or move or home school. Carolyn Jessop taught school for many years and she presents a case against home schooling in her book. And as a general rule I’m also opposed the home schooling.

        • ecocatwoman says:

          What I was trying to say is that the beginning of the home schooling movement began with the christian zealots. At least it seemed that way to me. I don’t doubt that since the religionists have begun taking over administration, school boards, teachers, curriculum, etc that those longing for a comprehensive, balanced education are turning to home schooling now.

          Zombies or alien virus – it’s spreading like wildfire.

      • northwestrain says:

        It is so easy to take over a school district — and it is hard work to home school. That’s what I think is happening.

        Then the voucher schools — based on a failed experiment in San Jose back in the 70s.

        In many places school kids aren’t getting a well rounded education.

        Arizona is loaded with charter schools — I saw so many of these schools in the Southwest.

        Children who are self motivated — and basically teach themselves will thrive in most schools. But most kids need guidance etc. to get through schools.

        In today’s world without a really good education — and even college this generation is going to have a rough time surviving. But hey — a whole bunch of already rich white guys are getting richer by taking over schools and prisons. Isn’t that the American way? (The American way is whatever the 1% says it is.

      • HT says:

        Connie, home schooling has been going on for generations beyond count. I Understand and also share your concern about home schooling, however as northwestrain has noted it goes both ways. Some chose to take their kids out of school because of the lack of Their type of “Xian education”, others because there was too much of the “Xian” type of education. And as northwest indicated, it’s so easy for the fundamentalists of whatever stripe to take over the school councils and Boards of education, that some people feel compelled to remove their children from that type of indoctrination. Although the Xian army did not target our area then, they are very active now, and if I were just having children, I’d home school just to remove my children from a propaganda threaded curriculum. As it was, when my children were growing up 20 years ago, I felt the need to add to their school experience by teaching them at home in addition to their public school time, as I’m sure most people at this place did.

      • RalphB says:

        And what is your brilliant suggestion? If talking to the people around you and trying to provide an alternative to the Fox frame can’t possibly work, then what the hell?

  3. ecocatwoman says:

    A bit OT, but I thought ya’ll would be interested. bb posted about Coll’s new book Private Empire Exxon/Mobil and American Power. Terry Gross interviewed him today & it was very informative & disturbing. Definitely worth listening to & it puts a new twist on Citzens’ Untied, IMHO. Exxon/Mobil is ostensibly a separate nation – should they, as a foreign entity be permitted to lobby & contribute to political campaigns? Here’s the link: http://www.npr.org/2012/05/02/151842205/exxonmobil-a-private-empire-on-the-world-stage

  4. bostonboomer says:

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Chris Matthews was on fire tonight. He ripped Romney up, down, and sideways. He criticized Romney’s failure to support his openly gay foreign policy guy Richard Grennell (for only 2 weeks) and demonstrated that Romney is basically ignorant about foreign policy and isn’t even that interested in politics–leaving him as just a tool for Grover Norquist and his ilk.

    Also a segment on Hillary’s negotiations in China.

    If you can watch the rerun at 7PM, you should.

  5. HT says:

    Dak, I have no doubt about Zombies and the right. It’s starting to happen here too, and it’s breaking my heart. One objection about the comparison though. True Zombies don’t care about which person they feed upon, but these right wing zombies have a very restricted menu. They’ll eat anyone who is not part of the 1%, and that is the saddest thing of all. How do these people look in the mirror every day and convince themselves that they are right?