It’s a wide-open secret that the American South has long been a haven for right-wing political nut-baggery. There are a multitude of reasons for this, many of which I discussed in a piece for Salon. But over the last few decades, a particular style of extreme, far-right, anti-government, gun-humping circle-jerkitude has found fertile ground in the good ole’ U.S. of A’s scattered rural hamlets. In America’s amber-waves-of-grain littered Heartland — much of which is still in the South — far-right populist movements have multiplied like deranged Donald Trump statements. They don’t share much by way of organization, coherent goals, or even basic levels of sanity, but they’re all united in their core belief that the federal government is the root of all evil in the modern world and is hell-bent on snuffing out every backwoods, freedom-firing, bible-believing Bubba from Mayberry to Hooterville.
Do you ever get the feeling that the world is a vast, exceedingly complex entanglement of random chance occurrences, flawed human decision-making, and constant disruption brought about by the break-neck pace of technological change and ideological formulations that create a series of interconnected problems immune to any and all simplistic solutions? If so, then it’s likely that you’ve never been a militia member.
It seems that these days, America’s home-grown breed of Far Right, paranoid nutballs known variously as “patriots,” “gun nuts,” “sovereign citizens,” and “militia members” are occupying way too many headlines. And if anything unites this otherwise diverse and motley crowd of barrel-stroking bubbas, it’s their proclivity towards exceedingly simple responses to a very complex world. They tend to shoot first and ask the wrong questions, particularly when it comes to the issues of government power and how American society is organized in an globalized world where corporations, not states, are pulling the levers of power and the notion of national loyalty seems hopelessly antiquated.
Paranoia is everywhere in modern America. Granted, it’s always been that way, but in a society bathed in 24-7 mass media, you simply can’t avoid the endless rush of stupid that comes with the mainstreaming of bizarre conspiracy theories. Consider a recent example of this nonsense: In February the Washington Times reported that 38 percent of Americans still think President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. Yes, the so-called “Birthers” are still among us six years and one publically produced birth certificate into Obama’s presidency.
Then there are the old standards. Back in 2012, a National Geographic survey found that nearly 36 percent of Americans (about 80 million people) believe the government is covering up knowledge of UFOs, and last fall Gallop reported that 61 percent of Americans believe the JFK assassination was a conspiracy. Personally, I think that extraterrestrial Cuban mobsters killed Kennedy with the aid of Elvis and Sasquatch, but I digress.