A guest post by commenter Bill:
Perhaps Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch is their most iconic work. A customer brings a dead parrot back to the store from which it was bought, claiming that it was dead upon purchase. The clerk/owner responds, persistently, that the parrot is not dead. Hilarity ensues.
There is something compelling about watching parrot mongers at work: asserting the sky’s pinkness, insinuating the evil of pink-sky-deniers, frothing and threatening. It’s not just for comedy sketches. Parrot-mongers are rife. Get the parents of an ugly, stupid, clumsy, and nasty child talking. Ask, in the Art History Department, about the value of a BFA. Ask an investment banker about the value of “financial innovation.”
Parrot-mongers look foolish. Somehow, they know they look foolish. Thus, they must have a reason for their parrot-mongering. Often, as in the examples above, it is soothing their pride or resolving the dissonance between what is actually true and which truth would be in their interest. While this is not benign, one sympathizes.
When this straightforward explanation is lacking, though, what is going on? Behind the Iron Curtain, the populace generally sold parrots for the Communist elite. As Havel, Solzhenitsyn and others explain, one sold the regime’s parrots, at one level, to avoid punishment and, at another, to reassure the elite that they remained in power. Still, though, this was about interest—the regime’s interest in resolving the conflict between the elite’s mismanagement of the country and, well, their desire to remain the elite. Furthermore, it remains very easy to see the connection between the lies, the people telling the lies, the elite mandating the lies, and the elite’s interest motivating the lies.
Putting the Communists to shame, the US is overrun with parrot mongers. But, in our case, the connection back to the interest of the elite motivating this is much less apparent. Whose interests are served by the race denial parrot? By the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming parrot? By the war between religion and science parrot? By the blank slate and gender equality parrots?
Commenters on the right, whether secular or religious and whether neo or paleo, have tended to take as our task refutation of the parrot-mongers. We have decided to be John Cleese. While this has value, pace the Asch conformity experiment, it seems overdone. It seems as if we, like John Cleese as consumer or like Charlie Brown as placekicker, are taking our tormenters at their word where their word is clearly not good.
If treating the parrot-mongers as honestly deluded is mistaken, then treating them as dishonestly interested in fooling us is better. But, then, what’s their program? Cui bono? And what is the right countermove?