Opinion: The choice is indeed between normal and crazy

The world has turned upside down. Fox News is now Russian State TV in the U.S. It backs Vladimir Putin, a war criminal, in his invasion of Ukraine. Joining Fox is the Putin wing of the Republican party, the party that once claimed to be the bulwark against Russian communism and aggression. Remember President Reagan in Berlin? “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Today, the GOP message to Russia is the “Ukraine Fatigue Resolution,” introduced in the House by 11 Republicans on Feb. 9 to end U.S. funding for Ukraine’s courageous defense of its homeland and democracy.

Since 2020, Fox News has kept trumpeting The Big Lie that Donald Trump, Putin’s pawn, lost the presidential election because of massive voter fraud. Now we learn from Dominion’s $1.6 billion defamation suit that Fox committed massive audience fraud. In private, Fox’s talking heads, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham stated that Trump’s claims were “ludicrous … totally off the rails … nuts … complete BS.” But, on air, they continued to spew this “complete BS” to their gullible viewers. Why? To keep their market share of the MAGA crowd and raise their stock price. Fox News is neither a news agency nor a free press. It is a corporate grifting machine. It traffics in cold, cynical fraud: We deceive, you believe. It regurgitates fear, loathing, lies and adoration of autocrats. The blood and sedition of Jan. 6 are on its hands and in its words.

America has always had people and movements who prefer lunacy to reality, fairy tales to facts: the Flat Earth Society, evolution deniers, gravity deniers. But, in our upside-down world, America now is a conspiracy cuckoo land. Take the anti-vaxxers. They forget how and why they survived to adulthood — their parents had them vaccinated as children against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, diphtheria, and chicken pox. But, apparently, they were not inoculated against paranoid absurdity. COVID shots, they claim, will rewrite your DNA, or turn you into a magnet, or make you infertile, or inject you with microchips for bio-surveillance. Evidence? Not a whit. Counter evidence? Millions of lives saved by COVID vaccinations.

The cuckoo quotient goes up with the QAnon conspiracy, a gospel for MAGA Republicans and their supporters. They believe the world is controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles, who kill and eat their victims, often in the basement of pizza shops, to obtain adrenochrome, a supposed chemical elixir of youth — it isn’t. Predictably, the cabal features Democrats — Presidents Joe Biden and Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi — as well as Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, Tom Hanks and others. QAnon’s Mighty Mouse, the one appointed to swoop down, save the day, and defeat the cabal, is … Donald Trump. Really? The guy who couldn’t manage Trump Airlines, Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, Trump Magazine, Trump University, Trump’s Castle, Trump Taj Mahal or Tour de Trump? The guy who had to pay — and pay off — Stormy Daniels? Nevertheless, QAnon counts millions of adherents, including evangelical Christians for whom, it seems, one savior is not enough.

Cuckoo land came to Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, during Biden’s State of the Union address. Marjorie Taylor Greene, in disguise as Cruella De Vil, and Lauren Boebert, fresh from a torrent of Chinese balloonitic tweets, demonstrated MAGA-normal with repeated catcalls from the bleachers. The Republican response by Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s former press secretary, merely peddled Fox’s and MAGA’s fear of the rising rights and cultures of American diversity. Their solution is to ban books from school libraries that make snowflake conservatives uncomfortable. Jacksonville, Florida, removed “Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates” because it describes racism he suffered as a Black man.

Sanders herself best summed up cuckoo land. “The dividing line in America is no longer between right or left; the choice is between normal or crazy.” She’s right. But in our upside-down world, crazy is the new normal. Blatant lies, as Kellyanne Conway famously declared, are now “alternative facts.”

We’ll get to choose between normal and crazy during the 2024 presidential race. It hasn’t started well. Nikki Haley chose Pastor John Hagee of San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church to give the invocation at her campaign launch on Feb. 15 in South Carolina. Hagee preaches that Adolf Hitler was born from a lineage of “accursed, genocidally murderous half-breed Jews,” and that “God sent Adolf Hitler to help Jews reach the promised land.” Memo to Haley: Was there no other pastor in America available? Worse, she told the crowd, “To Pastor Hagee, I still say I want to be you when I grow up.” Hagee believes that “Women are only meant to be mothers and bear children.” We don’t see the word “president” there.

— Leonard Krishtalka is director emeritus of the Biodiversity Institute and professor emeritus at the University of Kansas.


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