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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wingnuts on the Air

Listening to online talk radio is like trying to navigate the Los Angeles freeway system at the peak of rush hour while hitting your forehead repeatedly with a hammer. Even if you make it to your final destination without shooting anyone, you worry that you'll emerge from the car just a little bit dumber than when you climbed in.

The typical right-wing extremist show goes something like this: The host introduces himself and describes in titillating detail his most recent victimization at the hands of the evil feds - the US government apparently has an endless supply of silent, black helicopters and wastes billions of dollar annually bugging the homes and phones of small-time radio hosts - all because he's determined to share "The Truth" with his vast army of listeners. His fans, all 42 of them, are thrilled to think that they're in on some secret truthiness, and are therefore more than happy to overlook the obvious lies and exaggerations the show host slips in next. Just when you think the fibs about the topic du jour are so outrageous that the listeners will have to slap their knees and admit that the whoppers being told are truly funny stinkers, the show breaks for commercials.

And for pure entertainment value, there's nothing better than the advertisers who peddle their goods on the extremist talk show circuit.

Worried about the impending apocalypse? Just buy gold coins, freeze-dried food, and a few dozen cases of ammunition from us and you'll be the king of your county when the world economy collapses. Have the Jews rigged the Federal Reserve to ensure your financial failure? Here's a $3,000 debt elimination package that guarantees you'll never have to pay off your mortgage and credit card debt to those evil Jew bankers again. Cash only, please. Feeling like you're coming down with the flu? A little colloidal silver in your water will make you right as rain again. Just because your skin turns permanently blue, it's a small price to pay for thwarting the government's plan to kill you with those sinister flu vaccinations. Angry with Uncle Sam for taking 191.4% of your hard-earned money each week? Quick, buy our detax toolkit and you can be a tax-free hero, just like the founding fathers, Ross Perot, and the Kennedy clan. Call now and we'll throw in an offshore Ponzi scheme for free!

After the break, the host continues his lengthy rant on whatever news event or paranoid fantasy pissed him off that day, punctuated with occasional calls from supporters who tell him that he is obviously correct because they can't find anything on the topic in the Illuminati-controlled, mainstream media.

The show invariably ends with an impassioned request for donations. Taking on the entire US government ain't cheap, you know.

The topics may be racist and hate-filled, and the medical and financial advice may land the listener in a god-awful mess, but in general, most online talk radio shows are relatively harmless. Few of the hosts openly advocate violence, and even fewer have more than a couple dozen scattered listeners, many of whom are too paranoid to leave their homes because the black helicopters are hovering in the shadows and the airplanes overhead are spreading mind-control chemicals through their condensation trails. A host's success is measured in terms of donations with the ultimate goal of having enough money come in to avoid that depressing get-a-real-job alternative.

After all, it's easier to collect unemployment or disability if you don't have an employer reporting your earnings to those jack-booted thugs at the IRS.

But then there are the rare birds - the hosts that manage to gain a significant following measured in the thousands rather than dozens - who believe that the only solution to their paranoid problems is to hunt and kill the perceived enemy. Primary targets may include Jews, blacks, immigrants, UFOs cleverly disguised as famous people, gays, state and federal employees, and even strategic government buildings.

While gathering donations is still a fundamental objective, these gurus have an ultimate goal of inciting others to do their dirty wet work for them, for free.

They're not as funny as the other guys.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Why People Believe Weird Things (Book Recommendation)

An outsider often wonders: how can anybody believe what the tax protestors, NESARA promoters, MLM pushers, and so believe? Do these folks really think that (for instance) pointing at the flag in the courtroom and shouting, "admirality flag!" will stop the trial? Or that shape-shifting reptilians are out to stop them from getting trillions of dollars? Or that losing money fast by recruiting one's own competitors, as one works for free for one's upline, is the way to success?

Well, yes, they do. And not, they are not necessarily clinically insane -- or even stupid. The truth is, human nature makes us believe things, especially things we want (or, worse, need) to be true. For a fascinating look at what makes people believe such stuff, read Michael Shermer's book, Why People Believe Weird Things.

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