Ron Paul Forgot that America is a Blue Pill Nation

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During the Republican Debate on CNN earlier this week, Ron Paul was asked a question about whether he would cut defense spending in order to balance the budget. His answer included the following statements:

I’m tired of all the militarism that we are involved in. And we’re wasting this money in getting us involved. And I agree, we are still in danger, but most of the danger comes by our lack of wisdom on how we run our foreign policy…

The purpose of al Qaeda was to attack us, invite us over there, where they can target us. And they have been doing it. They have more attacks against us and the American interests per month than occurred in all the years before 9/11, but we’re there occupying their land. And if we think that we can do that and not have retaliation, we’re kidding ourselves. We have to be honest with ourselves. What would we do if another country, say, China, did to us what we do to all those countries over there?

After he gave his answer, the moderator, Wolf Blitzer, asked Rick Santorum to “respond,” which Santorum did. By “respond”, I assume they both meant “deliver a pre-packaged, tangentially-related (they were originally supposed to be talking about balancing the budget, right?) set of talking points to make the other guy look bad,” because that’s what happened. Santorum mentioned that Ron Paul’s website had a blog post on 9/11 that “that basically blamed the United States for 9/11.” Then the following exchange took place:

Santorum’s “response” was brilliant because he immediately shifted the focus of the discussion away from “What The United States Government Does” to “Who We Are.” We all stand for freedom, right? We’re civilized. Hell, we’re not just civilized, we’re a civilization. And we stand Freedom And Opportunity Around The World.

Paul countered this by claiming that the narrative presented by Santorum is false, but blundered by citing the terrorists’ narrative as evidence of its falsehood. He blundered even worse by trying to get the audience to imagine what they would feel like if their roles were reversed with the terrorists.

Paul’s strategy failed because he failed to recognize that Santorum just gave the audience a blue pill: a narcissistic narrative scaled up for a whole nation. They were just reassured that the entire issue was really about who they were and how they stand for American Exceptionalism (wait, does that contradict the other thing “we” stand for?), and not about any sort of vulgar details like foreign policy decisions or what the military did when. The natural antidote would be a red pill, but Dr. Paul can’t write that prescription because he’s a still a politician. Even though the odds of him becoming President are slim, he still has play by the rules of the game he’s playing, just like everyone else on stage.

Here is what Ron Paul could have said that could have dispelled the effects of the blue pill:

Do you really believe that you are important enough for people you’ve never met from a far away land to end their own lives in an attempt to kill you? 

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13 Responses to Ron Paul Forgot that America is a Blue Pill Nation

  1. ThomasR says:

    I almost never listen to presidential debates and I had forgotten how terrifying and horrifying they are.

    American exceptionalism for everyone all over the world! Islam bad!

  2. claudius says:

    Paul won the California straw poll. He’s catching on. There are more of us then the press says there are.

  3. Guy Fox says:

    The idea of narcissism as a shared, not just common, attribute is really interesting. ‘American exceptionalism’, vile term that it is, makes no sense as just the sum of various individual exceptionalisms; it’s a narrative that has to be recounted by a group to itself. It’s not a tyranny of small decisions or a personal self-defence strategy; it’s only intelligible in the first-person plural. I’ve been looking for examples of this. Thanks.

    • Good post– and good point by Guy on American exceptionalism. Interesting is that the term “American Exceptionalism” is always used as a criticism (“those guys believe in American Exceptionalism”) in the same way that “politically correct” is a pejorative. So we’d need to look at the individual motivation for labeling something else as American Exceptionalism.

      • ExOttoyuhr says:

        “American exceptionalism” is sometimes used in a positive sense — most frequently by the neoconservatives and the Glenn Beck / Bill O’Reilly group, but not exclusively by them. Wikipedia’s article gives a pretty good discussion of the subject — although I hate to say “read the Wikipedia article” to the Last Psychiatrist himself!

      • thestage says:

        It’s a function of the politicization of language. Terms that may be indicative of what the hearers aren’t or cannot be, or terms that highlight something that they do not know or wish to know are recast in a manner that defines them as antagonistic or unimportant. See also: semantics, liberal, feminism, and even politics itself. When I say “It’s a function of the politicization of language,” I obviously don’t mean what that sentence literally says, because if I did it would be a tautological bit of nonsense.

        Which is to say: you label something else as American Exceptionalism in order to tell your target audience not to pay any attention to it (or more to the point: you do it to brand yourself).

  4. thecobrasnose says:

    “Do you really believe that you are important enough for people you’ve never met from a far away land to end their own lives in an attempt to kill you?”

    Okay, no. And I’ll bet if you had asked any low-profile victim of terrorism the question they would have answered likewise. I’ll also admit to being too dim to understand how the question demystifies the problem. Could somebody walk me through it?

    • thestage says:

      It wouldn’t work because it isn’t particularly forceful. The response is that no, I don’t think I’m important, but WE (I) stand for something. Which is a way of saying, no, I’m not important (because this is the logical answer; because if you don’t acquiesce to it you lose, because those are the terms of the “discussion”)–but yes I am.

      • thecobrasnose says:

        Still lost in the fog.

        “…WE (I) stand for something.”

        Is that in terms of standing for something as in positively affirming it or standing for something as in being an example or representation of it?

        Terrorism is often markedly impersonal, the identities of individuals mattering far less than their ethnicities or nationalities. So where is the error in thinking lethal hostility directed at ethnic or national groups reasonably affects the opinions and behaviors of individual members of those groups?

        • thestage says:

          Look at it this way: no one is talking about or asking victims at all. They’re talking to and about everyone else. I’m sure the victims go through a lengthy process that has very little to do with yay-rah, and I’m sure the pointlessness of the act is hammered home on them. But to the audience at a political debate? To that audience, terrorism loses its violent forces and gains its political nature. It’s a statement, just like every other statement. A bullet point. The comparison isn’t to other violent acts or to actual people, it’s to unemployment numbers and to your stance on whether or not gay people really are going to hell. So what you say about “terrorism” is now something meant to define you.

          People don’t want to feel inconsequential. These days, they probably can’t feel inconsequential. Its a lot easier to believe you are attacked because you are awesome than because some people you don’t understand feel a specific way about the actions that you don’t understand of other people whom you don’t understand. When you transform the “I” to “we”–and you have to do this, because no one is going to come out and say that every person is important enough to be attacked, or that the specific individuals attacked are relevant to the aim of the attackers–you are not subsuming yourself under a larger idealistic banner, you are taking the traits for which that banner stands and subsuming them under you.

          The point is not that no one should be affected by the aims of terrorists to attack members of their group. The point is that the narrative for the motivations of the attackers has left reality and been replaced with something that is politically and egotistically palatable. The post claims that all you have to do to dispel the myths on display here is point get people to look at the problem from the individual perspective, at which point they are forced to see the fallacy of their claims (“terrorists want to kill us because we are free”). My point is that that cannot possibly work, because the “I” and the “we” are systematically and deliberately entangled in modern American politics, and that this entanglement does not prompt us to view ourselves as less important than the nation, or as a part of the nation, or even as representation of the nation, but that it prompts us to view the nation as a function and projection of the self.

          • thecobrasnose says:

            Hm. It’s sinking in. Thanks for taking the time.

          • Joe says:

            This is a better explanation than I could have written. Thank you for contributing it.

            One part I considered adding, was a bit on dispelling the “We” business with a counter-example illustrating that most individuals have little or nothing to do with the events that took place. Kind of like how when a football fan says “We won the Super Bowl” and a pedant says something like “We? You watched the game at the local bar and were three sheets to the wind; I was at home reading a book because I don’t follow football.” The dynamic is similar, except it propagates in different ways for different reasons.

            The main reason I didn’t is that I found it hard to come up with a good one that didn’t sound too implausible and the schizotypal condition can’t defend against. For instance I had thought of asking whether the deluded person really would stand for “Freedom and Opportunity” or “American Exceptionalism” if some oppressive regime conquered America. But the answers to that would either be “You mean like in Red Dawn? That movie is silly” or “HELL YES I’D JOIN THE WOLVERINES! I’ve got that rifle in the garage I haven’t shot in a few years, but if the commies invaded tomorrow, I’d be ready…”

  5. ExOttoyuhr says:

    Ron Paul has discovered something that eludes most Americans, but there’s a second point that he might also come across (and which Rick Santorum will probably never comprehend): that to the outside world, the Untied States of America are the world’s most active and successful propagators of moral rot and corruption.

    This is not a conflict of the US right and left; it’s a conflict of the US against everyone else. Americans Right and Left agree that history is irrelevant; the Irish should forget their wrongs at English hands, the Kurds their wrongs at Turkish ones, and everyone should renounce their ancestries and identities in favor of accumulating money, prestige, and/or one-night stands.

    Anyone not eager to subscribe to this picture of the world is left scrambling for a viable counter-influence — a scramble which has produced some pretty unlikely alliances.

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