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Staying sane as insanity spreads

After the right-wing media can no longer sustain the delusion, people gradually come to their senses. But by then the damage is done.

In my lifetime, the most terrifying period in American history was early 2003, when the Bush administration was selling the Iraq war to the American people. Those of us who stayed sane during that epidemic of war fever and lust for violence learned several lessons then, all very frightening:

Lesson 1: The Republican Party has no principles. It will lie and deceive to whatever degree is necessary to get its way or to try to swing elections.

Lesson 2: The right-wing media (Fox News and right-wing media stars such as Rush Limbaugh) have made a science of whipping the lowest elements of the American population into a state of rage and delusion that teeters right on the edge of violence.

Lesson 3: When the mass delusion of right-wingers has spread to a certain percentage of the population, the mainstream media are forced to cover it. This amplifies everything.

Lesson 4: If you see 2003 support for, and opposition to, the Iraq war as a good indicator, then about 72 percent of the American population (see chart above) are susceptible to the mass delusions and psychic epidemics that the right-wing media create to gets its way. Only 22 percent of the population are fully capable of remaining sober and rational when the right-wing media pull out all the stops and force the mainstream media to follow along.

It’s 2016, and it’s happening again. The Republican Party is using its rage machine, as we knew it would, in the 2016 election. The mainstream media are following along. A year ago, smart folks on the left and right would have assumed that a ludicrous fringe character like Donald Trump could appeal to not much more than 30 percent of the population. But smart folks were wrong, because they forgot what the right-wing media machine can do. And, as in 2003, the mainstream media are forced to cover the story lines that are required in the right-wing media to get the attention of the right-wing base.

The mass insanity at present is nowhere near the 72 percent level that the right wing achieved in 2003 when Republicans were selling the Iraq war. Trump’s level of support is somewhere around 41 percent to Hillary Clinton’s 46. Still, that is terrifying. It wasn’t supposed to be possible. It’s still not over. The epidemic might weaken, but it also could continue to spread.

Each morning I cringe as I go through my daily routine of checking news sites. Trump and the media are still talking about birtherism. Trump’s agenda would add $5.3 trillion to the federal debt. Trump is under “concentrated Satanic attack,” some preacher says. No one including House Republicans cares if Trump uses foundation money to buy himself gifts or to pay bribes. Trump’s entire family proves itself to be morally deranged and psychologically cracked. And yet six more weeks of all this remains before the Nov. 8 election. One of the things that the right-wing media knows is that it must continue to top itself in order to keep attracting attention and keep the hysteria going. I am trying to brace myself for the October surprise.

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