The Primacy of Right-Wing Fantasy

Lisa Belcastro says goodbye to the Venezuelan immigrants as they leave St. Andrews Parish House and board buses to take them to the mainland. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

So you’ve no doubt heard about what happened at Martha’s Vineyard. Ron “No Such Thing As Bad Publicity” DeSantis flew a load of refugees to the Massachusetts island to prove the hypocrisy of the “liberal elites”, who reacted with horror when the refugees whom they claim to welcome actually showed up in their own yard. There, that’ll own them libs, no matter how much it costs in tax dollars, and no matter how much it shamefully exploits vulnerable and desperate individuals.

Except that narrative gets a thing or two wrong. Drastically wrong. Far from being outraged, shocked and hostile, the Vineyard “elites” quickly mobilized to welcome, comfort and aid the refugees (who, by the way, were not “illegal” immigrants, but lawful asylum seekers). It’s true that after a few days the newcomers were relocated to Boston, other major cities, or Cape Cod, but only because they could be better provided for there. The island residents quickly befriended them, and many were actually saddened to see them go. Some of them are considering returning to the Vineyard to live — the biggest obstacle is the availability of jobs, not the kind of welcome they’d receive.

These facts were reported in a number of media outlets, both local and national. And yet many of the same media outlets also carried water for the right-wingers’ false narratives about leftist NIMBY “hypocrisy”. It seems that for much of the media, the paramount duty is to help promote right-wing fantasyland at all costs. (Pro tip: whenever you hear the MAGA cult repeatedly claim something, the safe bet is that the exact opposite is true.)

If you’re old enough to remember the Cheney-Rove regime in America, you might recall that it pushed the U.S. into a quagmire in Iraq based on the claim that the latter nation possessed weapons of mass destruction. So they looked and they looked and they found… zero weapons. And what did right-wingers do then? Why, they admitted they’d been mistaken of course. Just kidding. They went right on claiming that WMDs were there, and, indeed had actually been found.

For that matter, the election that put Cheney and Rove into power also depended a great deal on frenzied delusion — or at least the placid acceptance of it has. To this day, the official word is that George W. Bush narrowly defeated Al Gore in the state of Florida, and therefore in the Electoral College, and therefore in the presidential election. The truth is that we will never know for certain who received more votes in the 2000 election. Bush family connections in Florida and Washington made damn sure of that. But the evidence points overwhelmingly to Al Gore as the rightful winner. Indeed, an impartial media review of the Florida ballots a year after the fact found that under any statewide recount, no matter the criteria, Gore would have emerged as the victor in Florida.

The wingers, however, claimed that just the opposite was true. Ask just about any one of them, and they’ll tell you that all recounts and reviews confirm that Shrub was the unequivocal winner. And the mainstream media have repeatedly allowed and even reinforced this patent fantasy.

And then there’s that other election two decades later. According to polls, about two-thirds of Republicans steadfastly believe (or pretend to) that it was “stolen”. And that percentage never changes, no matter how many times or how thoroughly it’s debunked — or as the wingers refer to it, “debunked”, in quotation marks, because a passionate belief can never be proven wrong. No matter how many lawsuits get laughed out of court, even by judges appointed by Former Guy himself. In fact, the True Believers are probably more firmly convinced than ever, since they have unprincipled mountebanks like Dinesh D’Souza exploiting and cashing in on their gullibility. (At last report Dinesh is trying to fluff up his fraudulent claims of fraud with news stories about the FBI investigating the tampering with voting machines in Georgia, Michigan, Colorado and elsewhere — apparently oblivious that they’re investigating tampering by Former Guy’s accomplices after the election.) And, need we repeat it, the mainstream media are quite willing to offer him and others like him plenty of free PR.

These people are, of course, indulging in denial, which we’ve examined before. But they’re doing much more than that. While denial is a rejection of fact, the fantasy life they are leading also entails creating a paradigm of alternative fact to take its place.

Former Guy is a dream come true for the denizens of Alternate Reality. There is absolutely nothing he won’t say if it sounds good to him — and if sound good to him, it sounds good to his cult. He has absolutely no concern about whether what he says has any factual basis at all; he just pulls it out of his ass and throws it out there, whether the topic be the size of his… um, inaugural crowd or the path of a hurricane or the deleterious health effects of windmills. When his story conflicts with reality, he simply alters reality with a Sharpie.

He loves to relate anecdotes about how big tough Marine Corps type guys have fallen on their knees before him and, with tears in their eyes, thanked him for all his heroic and selfless efforts to save the galaxy. On one occasion, he claimed that the parents of Korean war veterans had begged for his help in returning the remains of their sons — “thousands and thousands” of people had asked him this, he assured us, apparently all of them the parents of such soldiers. (Just imagine him listening to thousands and thousands of anyone.) It didn’t seem to occur to him in telling this that these parents would be centenarians by now. Neither history nor math is his strong suit — but then he doesn’t really need either of them when he has a rabid following and an obsequious media willing to overlook the sheer stupidity of his claims.

Which brings us to pundit Nick Adams. He was appointed to a post in the Former Guy administration, which tells you pretty much all you need to know about how rooted in reality he is, and how much ass he is willing to kiss in advancing MAGA fantasies. But just in case you need further convincing…

The one thing for certain here is that Adams is an outrage artist who says nutty things to provoke reaction and boost his social media bling. But it isn’t at all clear whether or not he believes his own delusions, or whether he’s deliberately misleading hoi polloi. Or hell, maybe it’s all tongue in cheek, and he actually intends this as satire — though if so he’s not very good at it. And that possibility is quite unlikely given his resume. But don’t you miss the days when it was actually possible to distinguish satire from sincerity?

There have always been people who hae lived in their own private fantasy worlds. What’s different now is that so many people are living in the same fantasy world. A world that is homogenized and propagated by a powerful right-wing media cartel. One might say that right-wingers these days are indulging in one huge game of Dungeons and Dragons, but that would make them sound harmless. What they are doing is far from harmless, as the Jan. 6 insurrection illustrates.

And it isn’t just the right-wing media that is aiding and abetting them. Mainstream media is also willing and eager to advance their narratives, because “both sides” and all, don’t you know. Quite often, they don’t just report the existence of right-wing fantasies, but fail to denounce them as such — and even, it often seems, make it a priority to offer them the spotlight. That results in an environment in which it seems almost impossible for truth and reality to survive.


  1. With the Nick Adams thing and the whole owning the Libs thing, I think it’s sort of like the “No soap, radio” joke. The joke is on you when you react.

    A few years ago, a friend posted some fake video about Hillary Clinton. I posted Snopes’ debunking and the guy said “Gotcha.” Others chimed in with “Go back to your safe space “ and the like. The guy said it was a joke. I didn’t get it. Then I realized, he knew what he posted wasn’t true but that it would get a reaction out of someone. So the joke was on me.

    • Yes, this is no doubt true. Many right-wingers claim they were “only joking” when they get caught saying something stupid. But many right-wingers also take people like Nick Adams seriously.

  2. Even if they “get cha,” and then say they were only joking, there are lots of other people out there who will take such lies seriously. It makes me wonder if someone could walk into the lobby of a crowded theater, open the door where a film is playing, and holler “Fire! Get out!” And when a crowd stampedes towards the exits and crushes a few people who have fallen on the floor, would the guy who hollered “fire” say, “Got Cha!,” as the crowd ran by?

    Too many right wing pundits and “supposed journalists,” use this excuse –that they were only joking–to avoid all responsibility for the deliberate lies they tell. How about picking up the morning paper and reading that the President was assassinated by (a MAGA Republican, or by a radical left wing liberal)– whomever might be considered the editors preferred stereotypical whipping boy?

    As we all know, the excuse that one is only joking ,often involves a deliberate lie about someone so that the perpetrator can avoid prosecution. I can only thank God that Alex Jones, was actually found guilty and made to pay his victims one billion dollars. I would have preferred including a life sentence without parole, but Hey! at least the judge and the prosecution may Have set a precedent that changes the way such trials are decided in the future.

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