I’m trying to move posts from the old site that I plan on linking to in the future. Believe it or not, this will have something to do with microbiology. From the archives of the Mad Biologist (originally published May 28, 2006):
(image from Pandagon)
Amanda has an excellent post about the Right and its obsession with ‘will.‘ If only the U.S. had the will to prevail in Iraq, it would do so. Of course, things like adequate supplies, good tactical and strategic positions, and an intelligent strategy have nothing to do with success. There’s an old military adage: amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics. By this standard, those who ‘study’ will are complete fucking idiots.
As with every other issue, conservatives reduce the entire problem-whether it be drugs, terrorism, or Iraq, and don’t forget Vietnam-solely to an issue of intent, and ignore realities, outcomes, and consequences. Will is everything.
The irony of the conservative obsession with will is that this obsession ultimately leads to a position of amoral relativism, the supposed shibboleth of cultural conservatives. If you are not winning, you simply must become even more ruthless, more cruel, more inhuman. After all, failure stems from a failure of will, not poor strategy, design, or planning. There is always another law to vitiate, person to imprison and torture, or town to pacify.
Despite the glorification of pseudo-religion by conservatives, the obsession with will reveals a narcissism at the core of modern conservatism. Will is easy. No outcomes to assess, strategies to plan. You do not actually have to know or understand anything. Just click your heels, throw some pixie dust in the air, think happy thoughts, and all will be right.
Weren’t these guys supposed to be the grownups?
Update: this idiocy never seems to die.
Conservatives (Canadian and American) appear to be attacking the idea of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for (in part) a pretty similar reason.
[shakes head at craziness]
Old post to be commenting on I know, but the first thing that popped into my mind on reading this one was Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no” program re drugs. Everything is easy. You’ll also notice that these “will” notions all include the blame the victim for anything that doesn’t happen, just as we see with things like prayer (not strong enough faith) and of course the Vietnam war (I would’ve won if it wasn’t for those meddling kids!).
I found this section most revealing:
What Novak and his partners (in crime?) have realized, is that Americans no longer believe The Storyline of America The Righteous, beset by Al-Qaeda the terrorist, endangered by Bad Man Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Iraqi Airline Hijackers, defeats terrorism by Building Democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq.
There’s no mention of the fact that the ‘storyline’ of Soviet leadership was a collection of propaganda lies, whose primary purpose was to keep the people under control, and whose primary effect was to cause the leaders to make numerous bad decisions – which played a significant causative role in the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Novak has realized the rank-and-file Republicans are losing faith* in the ‘storyline’ . He’s telling them, that if they stop believing, they’ll end up like the Soviet Union – a failure, cast on history’s ash heap, forever mocked by pundits of all stripes.
We Americans grow up bombarded by messages that tell us to have faith – faith in god, faith in ourselves (without that, we can’t succeed …), faith in the storyline of the bible, faith in politicians. We’re also taught to accept storylines. Most of our entertainment requires one to believe a storyline. Movies, sitcoms, and novels become insipid (or, occasionally, unintentional parodies) if one does not accept the storyline. Much news does not make sense unless one accepts the storyline portrayed by the news source.
His themes of willpower, faith, and storyline have the potential to resonate strongly with many Americans, especially rank-and-file Republicans. The evidence that the storyline he and his compatriots have cobbled together is false, is strong and becoming widely known, and it may be that he will fail in his task of maintaining the support of the rank-and-file, but I think he has chosen a highly effective way to accomplish his ends.
Beyond that, in American culture, a favorite way to blame a person for something that went wrong, is to accuse them of lacking willpower, faith in themselves, etc. He’s laying the groundwork for accusing antiwar people for being the symptom and the cause of America’s failure in Iraq – we failed in Iraq, he will claim, because the antiwar left sapped the willpower of the American people. Those bad, bad lefties, they don’t believe in themselves, they don’t believe in America, they don’t believe in our storylines – their bad faith made us fail.
He wants to blame failure in Iraq on people who don’t believe the official war story.
* I’ve switched from belief to faith because the beliefs in question are held without evidence.
It’s all a weird mixture of “faith based” politics and the belief that you just have to do everything possible to achieve your goal – ignoring what you MAY do is going to make the goal not worth it. Only winning matters, even if everything else burns away.
Note also how “The Secret” was so popular.
George Orwell was onto this as well – Winston managed to make 2+2=5, just by an act of will. Of course, it took a great deal of torture to get him to that point.