“Legitimate rape” as a contraceptive: part of a pattern

Akin got slammed for it, but making up “facts” – natural and social – has become a standard Republican technique.

As the Republican establishment runs away from the insane comment of the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, let’s pause to notice the underlying pattern. Now that the GOP is the Party with the Fringe on Top, its membership has given itself permission – with the aid of the Murdoch press – to simply invent new “facts,” both natural and social. Young-Earth Creationism, Global Warming Denialism, Supply-Side Economics, Birtherism, and the claim that the current Administration is “socialist” are all of a piece with, e.g., Paul Ryan’s budget arithmetic. They’re simply false. And they’re also articles of faith among one or more Wingnut factions.

In this particular case, the claimed “fact” happened to be deeply offensive to women and to men who care about women, so Akin is getting hammered on it. But equally silly claims are the rule, not the exception, in his speeches and those of his co-partisans. Akin’s anti-feminism is appalling, but his contempt for truth – shared by an entire political party – is a threat to the Republic.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

26 thoughts on ““Legitimate rape” as a contraceptive: part of a pattern”

  1. As a TPM reader points out, Akin is not necessarily unrepresentative of the Republic base in this regard, and while Murdoch may have facilitated the process, there’s definitely a grassroots element to it. It’s a form of cognitive dissonance. When people really firmly believe in something that’s essential to their worldview (in this case, usually evangelical “Christians”), then they construct supporting beliefs (if necessary, out of whole cloth) in order to avoid the discomfort of having their worldview collapse.

    Or, as the inimitable Christian Morgenstern satirized it (translation by Max Knight):

    The Impossible Fact

    Palmstroem, old, an aimless rover,
    walking in the wrong direction
    at a busy intersection
    is run over.

    “How,” he says, his life restoring
    and with pluck his death ignoring,
    “can an accident like this
    ever happen? What’s amiss?

    “Did the state administration
    fail in motor transportation?
    Did police ignore the need
    for reducing driving speed?

    “Isn’t there a prohibition,
    barring motorized transmission
    of the living to the dead?
    Was the driver right who sped … ?”

    Tightly swathed in dampened tissues
    he explores the legal issues,
    and it soon is clear as air:
    Cars were not permitted there!

    And he comes to the conclusion:
    His mishap was an illusion,
    for, he reasons pointedly,
    that which must not, can not be.

  2. Watch the Sabbath gasbags talking about how the Ryan choice affects the horse race and energizes the Tea Party base. They do not care whether political arguments have any basis in truth, but only on whether they are “daring” and “bold” and “game-changing.”

    In the Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis’ senior demon counsels his junior colleague on how to destroy the human soul he has been assigned to corrupt. Screwtape tells Wormwood not to bother to get his potential victim to believe that materialism is true, but rather to convince him that it is “stark” and “courageous.” Screwtape has been wildly successful in influencing our political culture. The best way to seduce the soul is through jargon, not through argument and reason.

    “False,” Mark? How quaint!

  3. Yes, but all the attention to Akin does give Romney a very low-risk occasion to align himself with reasonable people and insist how not-like-a-wingnut he is.

    1. No, it’s a high risk: MR can’t be too careful about showing the righties that he’s not really one of them, but the closet moderate they suspect him of being.

      1. Michelle Malkin is saying of Akin’s comments: “It wasn’t a ‘gaffe.’ It was ignorant, garbled nonsense”. This isn’t a high risk for Romney. And that is why I think Democrats should be careful folding Akin’s comment in with many of the other denials of reality that Mark rightfully complains about. To acquit yourself of the charge that you are as ignorant as Akin is easy; let’s be clear what the actual charge is.

        1. If you’ve lost Michelle Malkin, even the really hateful crazies aren’t on your side. Way to go, Todd Akin.

          1. They may be on his side, but see him as a liability which must be liquidated and sold at cost. They want to save the Missouri Senate seat he was running for.

            The Republican primary voters in that state have made their bed and they ought to lie in it. He is the man they wanted, and they deserve to have him.

    2. Witness Romney’s initially tepid response: “Gov. Romney and Rep. Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement.” This was presumably so as not to lose the pro-life voters currently rallying around Todd Akin. But Romney’s non-condemnation of Akin shows how weak and amoral he is. The fact that he could even try to triangulate and weasel around a definition of rape is so absurdly weak, so barbaric. I disagree with people about television shows, about favorite beverages. Not about how to parse the definition of rape.

      Of course, as soon as Akin’s comment began to generate a shitstorm in the media, Romney’s “morality” microprocessor kicked in, sending a signal to his central CPU to condemn the words. “Must….show….emotion. Must…demonstrate….feeling. Must….win….election.”

  4. Fox News has succeeded marvelously in transforming America epistemologically. It goes way beyond just providing an outlet for right-wing opinion. They have created a Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal in everyday life, convincing us that facts actually do not exist–only opinion does. Even testable scientific fact even falls under the aegis of partisan politics. “Gravity? A mere opinion that’s widely held.”

    We’ve absorbed this way of thinking so fully that even formerly unquestionable moral barbarism (rape, mass murder) is open to interpretation. In this way, Fox News has altered the very terms on which modern human beings exist. Someone like Todd Akin, as a representative of the Tea Party, feels confident about spewing his indefensible opinions publicly, because he knows someone at Fox News (or the entire network) will back him up.

    1. Fox News epistemology is incompatible with Ayn Rand’s objectivism. Ditto for NPR, NBC, CBS, ABC news. They do not try to distinguish true from false; they only report on who said what and who gained or lost political traction based on same.

    2. When you demagogue the very institutions of enlightened reason – journalism, higher education – as part of your larger assault on objectivity and critical thinking itself, you’ve essentially drawn the curtains over any light that might get in.

  5. Akin’s … contempt for truth – shared by an entire political party – is a threat to the Republic.

    And Mark is just talking about the fringe we regularly see promulgated…
    There’s a covert world of feral rightwing tautologies lurking beneath the party’s bright dunce cap
    Check out Frum’s The Fox News Wink: Is Obama “Gay”? or “Gay Gay”?

    Remember when Hillary talked about the “vast right wing conspiracy”? Well guess what? Due to rightwing-email-rings it has grown more vast than we imagine. What’s happened in the last decade is that nearly an entire segment of our population (elderly whites) have bought into Fox News propaganda. This is one of the great calamities to undercut our nation. Think about this for a second: These people went to High School right after WW2. When American High Schools were the envy of the world. Having just defeated Hitler, these young Americans were taught about the dangers of propaganda. And now look at them fawning like spaniels over Hannity and Company. They forget everything they learned and have wholeheartedly succumbed to nonstop agitprop.

    This is a true tragedy of the American commons.
    And a foreigner is mostly to blame for it…

    1. Koreyel, as an “elderly” (pre-WWII) white, I think you’re using “they” and “them” a bit too cavalierly. Use a finer paintbrush, recognizing that many of the Paul (Ron and Ryan) acolytes are (I’m guseeing) half your age.

      1. Yep.

        I’m among the very oldest of the baby boomers, and white, too, albeit Jewish, so mildly suspect.

        Still, I know lots of people in my age group who have not bought into Fox.

        1. Thanks. You two are correct. Instead of “elderly whites” I should have written “elderly white republicans”.
          One of the problems with living in AZ is one tends to conflate the two…

    2. An elderly relative routinely sends us third-wave right wing propaganda with the tagline “is this true? have you heard about this?”

      I say third-wave, because we get these from him typically MONTHS after they’ve been thoroughly debunked by Snopes and others. The latest we received had cleverly tried to claim that HR 3200 would do all kinds of nefarious things to everyone: “The bill will provide insurance to all non-U.S. residents, even if they are here illegally.” “The government will have real-time access to an individual’s bank account and will have the authority to make electronic fund transfers from those accounts.” “Cancer hospital will ration care according to the patient’s age.” The clever part is that the Affordable Care Act is HR 3590, not HR 3200, which was a completely different bill that never passed.

      When we send an email back thoroughly debunking his gullibility, he doesn’t say “oh, I guess you’re right. Maybe I should read more deeply next time.” He doubles down and sends us another chain email with equally specious ideas. He believes them–however untrue they are, he WANTS to believe them, and so he does. These aren’t even ideas that are open to argument, or for which the data is still out. These are thoroughly fictitious and even absurd arguments that literally have no basis in fact and can be definitively debunked in seconds on Google.

  6. Romney can tack all the way to the middle if he wants. The Obama-haters are going to vote for him. If he stays hard-right, it actually hurts him among undecided voters, so here’s hoping…

  7. I think we are going through what much of Europe went through in the 20s and 30s: a rising tide of authoritarian nihilism. We were spared the worst of WWI and ‘won’ so our time has had to wait.

    Ayn Rand is a perfect intellectual vector for transmitting Nietzschean nihilism to this country, and in the right she has found plenty of willing hosts. America’s authoritarian nihilists are not collectivist like the fascists, but they are as deeply authoritarian. Many ‘libertarians’ of today don’t want a king only because they can’t be one, but it’s their not ruling that makes them distrust political power, not the power itself.

    The remnants of liberal culture that still clings to them makes them poor recruits for a Führer or Duce thank the Gods, but the evil deity the religious among them use to justify themselves is a substitute for many. Akin among them.

    They need to be repeatedly identified for what they are, as Prof. Kleiman has done.

    1. I have to put in a point of order: Nietzsche was not a nihilist. He often talks about how traditional morality and religion are empty,and famously predicts the advent of nihilism, but he certainly doesn’t commit to the idea that new values cannot be found or evolved and he describes nihilism fairly consistently in scornful terms. I think you can make a pretty good case that Nietzsche had a positive project of creating a new grounding for and set of values after the destruction of the old, failed values and metaphysics, and that madness overtook him before he was able to think it through as thoroughly as his destructive enterprise.

      1. NickT- There is no single definitive interpretation of a philosopher as powerful as Nietzsche, but I think I am fair. Nietzsche is described by some scholars at least as a “positive nihilist” as contrasted with a “Negative nihilist.” The positive nihilist, in a world devoid of immanent or transcendental; value imposes value through his will. Te superman fits that model perfectly. And this shifts value, if value it be, to power, the power of will and the power to impose. Hence for him the “will to power” as a fundamental aspect of existence.

        so if nihilism is the position that there are no values in the world or above it, Nietzsche is a nihilist, albeit a most fascinating and brilliant one. I consider Rand a follower as are the still lesser intellects who identified with her.

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