Conning the Suckers

You may not have thought much about it, but the facts that sperm prefer a pleasantly cool environment and a guy’s testicles are outside the body are related. Maybe Fox News blowhard Tucker Carlson hasn’t thought about it at all, or maybe he’s trying to stop members of his audience from reproducing. He’s currently promoting the benefits of “testicle tanning” on the theory that warming one’s scrotum will make men more “manly”, not kill sperm.

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If you need to know more, New York Magazine has the story.

I mention this because someone recently linked to a long article from 2012 called “The Long Con: Mail Order Conservatism”. It describes the modern Republican Party as a snake oil operation where candidates, policies, miracle cures and get rich quick schemes are all sold in the very same way to the very same gullible people. The author was surprised to find out thatonce he gave a few dollars to a right-wing politician or subscribed to a right-wing publication, he was inundated with advertisements on how to make thousands of dollars with hardly any effort or how to stay healthy taking pills the medical establishment and  pharmaceutical industry simply won’t tell you about.

The article is 6,000 words long, so I don’t insist you read it. But here’s an excerpt:

. . . the redeemer, the hero who tells you the tale, can see the innermost details of the most baleful conspiracies. Trust him. Send him your money. Surrender your will—and the monster shall be banished for good.

This method highlights the fundamental workings of all grassroots conservative political appeals, be they spurious claims of Barack Obama’s Islamic devotion, the supposed explosion of taxpayer-supported welfare fraud, or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

And, in an intersection that is utterly crucial, this same theology of fear is how a certain sort of commercial appeal—a snake-oil-selling one—works as well. This is where the retail political lying practiced by Romney links up with the universe in which 23-cent miracle cures exist just out of reach, thanks to the conspiracy of some powerful cabal—a cabal that, wouldn’t you know it in these late-model hustles, perfectly resembles the ur-villain of the conservative mind: liberals.

In this respect, it’s not really useful, or possible, to specify a break point where the money game ends and the ideological one begins. They are two facets of the same coin—where the con selling 23-cent miracle cures for heart disease inches inexorably into the one selling miniscule marginal tax rates as the miracle cure for the nation itself. The proof is in the pitches—the come-ons in which the ideological and the transactional share the exact same vocabulary, moral claims, and cast of heroes and villains.

It’s not often pointed out, but the same people who are open to fantastic miracle cures are open to fantastic miracle politics. In both cases, there are blatant lies on one side and remarkable credulity on the other.