October 03, 2023
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman voice: “I have failed.”
I have failed to beat sense into the Gomer Pyles of MAGA regarding Beverly Hills. I’ve shown election data. I’ve shown electoral maps. All to counter the patently false notion that BH is a leftist bastion.
I’ve even tried appealing to MAGA self-interest, pointing out that north BH is not only red but wealthy, and it might actually profit MAGAs to embrace rather than deny that reality.
But no. MAGAs cannot drop “far-left DEMONRAT Beverly Hills should be burned to the ground!”
You can show proof after proof that they’re wrong, it makes no difference; the fiction pleases them more.
This has nothing to do with me being personally butthurt by bad attitudes toward my city. I don’t get butthurt over the views of people I neither like nor respect. But I am certainly annoyed that the GOP base is composed of people so committed to denying reality.
Indeed, these people react with downright hostility to mentions of reality.
It’s not me who’s taking it personally. They are. They’ve become personally invested in a fiction. And all I’m trying (and failing) to do is suggest that this might be detrimental to their political aims.
I use Beverly Hills as an example because the “Beverly Hills is leftist commies” claim is so objectively false, the fact that MAGAs cling to it is instructive, because it casts doubt on their reliability regarding weightier matters.
The central MAGA tenet is that the 2020 election was “stollen.” This is such a sacred doctrine that MAGAs like Kari Lake literally say, “We don’t need to prove it in court; just have the GOP House install Trump as president because we all know he won.”
Lake’s a grifter, sure. But her followers are the most gullible humans on earth. It takes two to make a lie go viral: the liar and the person who wants to be lied to. Many MAGAs are not bad folks. They’re dads, moms, grandpas, grandmas. A few months ago, and I’d never humiliate these people by name, an older MAGA gentleman, a filmmaker who’s been a friend of mine for many years, told his Facebook followers that Trump is still president. Biden’s an actor, and the whole charade is Trump’s brilliant plan to draw out and arrest the Deep State “enemies of America.”
And a mutual friend—a kindly older woman who doesn’t have a malicious bone in her body—replied, “Hooray! I feel like dancing in the streets!”
The fantasy made her want to go out and dance in the streets.
Had I any remaining human emotions beyond a small nagging fear of stroking out and dying alone on my kitchen floor due to my severe hypertension, that might’ve made me cry. Because it’s very sad. She’s a wonderful lady who’s lived a long life without harming a soul, yet here she is, in the grip of a mania that has the potential to harm the entire nation when devoured by millions of people.
This old lady would never hurt a fly, but she sure as hell swallowed one.
I’m not so much interested in the politics as the psychology. I use the Beverly Hills example because it helps me understand the pathology.
Two weeks ago, a video from a low-follower TikTok account went super-viral (tens of millions of views) among MAGAs. The video claims to show how Beverly Hills is a “boarded-up ghost town” due to crime. The “evidence” is close-ups of twelve closed businesses (in a city with 6,100 businesses).
I’ll revisit that in the next column. For this week, my interest is the psychopathology of it. You can tell MAGAs that the video is misleading. You can explain it. You can show them footage of bustling Beverly Hills nightlife, but they won’t drop the fiction.
I seem to be the only one who wants to figure out why. Well, me and the high-level Democrats who actively study the MAGA mind to exploit its weaknesses.
I do get why MAGAs are resistant to my attempts. When I hector them about how they need to reject reality detachment, MAGAs interpret my argument as a moral one, as if I’m saying, “Lying is wrong! Better to lose a war than tell an untruth.”
So MAGAs respond, “This is why we lose; we hold ourselves to morals while the left doesn’t.”
Putting aside the fact that the very people who say “this is why we lose” also support Trump’s “stollen election” claim (i.e., the MAGAs saying “this is why we lose” don’t actually think they lost, making their argument nonsensical), my repeated attempts to correct MAGAs on Beverly Hills have nothing to do with morality. I’m not saying, “We need to be holier than the Pope.”
But since I’ve clearly failed at communicating my intent, I’ll embrace my Hebraic roots and employ storytelling to illustrate my point.
My closest friend and best drinkin’ buddy in the early 2000s was a college-age actress named Pia (not her real name, but again, I’m not trying to humiliate anyone here). Pia was exceptionally gifted, intellectually and as an actress. She had a strikingly high IQ, and she came from excellent stock. Her dad was the head of a global think tank, her maternal grandfather was a “golden age” movie superstar known for his business savvy.
At the risk of sounding arrogant, Pia was smart enough to keep up with me despite our age difference. I know when an actress is a bimbo and when one isn’t. And she was not. She knew literature, philosophy, and she spoke five languages, which put her four up on me.
As I attempted to help her navigate her career, she suffered a string of cruel setbacks. A major Nickelodeon pilot…abruptly shelved. A major NBC pilot from one of the biggest sci-fi TV producers ever…abruptly shelved. And then, finally, success! Pia was cast as the female lead on a new Bernie Mac sitcom—a role that would’ve made her career. And then Mac died suddenly at age 50 before any footage could be shot.
The emotional strain of that losing streak was intense. Here was a girl primed to be the next breakout superstar. I was with her at her USC BFA finals, and a panel of celebrity judges deemed her the It Girl of the future.
She was gonna win so much she’d get tired of it!
But then, one heartbreaking failure after another. And it broke her. She gave her mind over to an acting teacher “guru” (there are several prominent acting coaches who essentially function as cult leaders; they prey on young desperate women, recruiting them as followers, breaking them down emotionally, remaking them as disciples). This “guru” persuaded Pia to make a series of choices that doomed her career forever. Choices that made her losses permanent. She’s now in her 40s, aged out of “ingenue,” all career dreams dashed for good.
Rightists—especially far-rightists—get so wrapped up in IQ, so obsessed with bell curves and standardized tests, that they lose sight of the fact that intelligent people, if under duress, if desperate, can make themselves dumber.
Yes, you can retarderize yourself. Being born with a high IQ is no guarantee against it.
When I become cross with rightists for refusing to question the MAGA party line about Beverly Hills, I’m not saying, “You must be more honest than the left; you must be the bettah man, Gunga Dim!”
I’m saying you’ve signed away your intelligence and thus become a liability to the rest of us. Just as Pia, a smart girl driven mad by career setbacks, exacerbated those setbacks by falling under the spell of a cult leader, you run the risk of being driven mad by political setbacks and making things worse for yourself (and the rest of us) by blindly adhering to false notions promoted by “gurus” whose only intent is to exploit you at the expense of your supposed goals.
You’ll say to me, “Dave, maybe I can’t let go of the MAGA falsehoods about BH, but hey, what’s it matter? There are bigger issues on the agenda,” and I’ll say in response, if you join a cult that tells you that apples are meatballs, and you come to my house and look at my fruit bowl and say, “Dave, you really oughta keep those meatballs in the fridge,” and I say, “Those aren’t meatballs, they’re apples,” and you say, “MAGA enlightened me about how apples are actually meatballs,” I’m not likely to view you as a capable ally on those “bigger issues,” because it would appear that you’ve abandoned your critical thinking skills.
Stubbornly mistaking apples for meatballs is a small matter, but it indicates a cognitive aberrance that would make you a liability on larger matters.
So again I “circle back” (right?) to the question of why. Why have so many MAGAs signed away their discernment? Beverly Hills denial, election denial, Holocaust denial. Last week sports legend and MAGA superstar Curt Schilling retweeted an actual “the Holocaust never happened but it should’ve” neo-Nazi, and the response from some of the same people—GOPs who are now full-on Trumpers—who canceled me ten years ago for far less inflammatory comments I made in the ’90s, was “Hey, Schilling’s MAGA! Let’s keep an open mind!”
And Jon Miller, one of the most prolific Holocaust deniers on Twitter, is followed by the likes of Bret Baier, Tom Fitton, and most of Trump’s inner circle.
The MAGA flirtation with this idiocy isn’t confined to the Nick Fuentes Zoomers. If anything, it’s worse in the older guys. Many of the Zoomers are just in it for the LULZ. The Gen-Xers and boomers are acting out of pathetic desperation.
And the answer to “why” can be found in the Pia story. You were promised nonstop winning, but you got loss after loss. It broke some of you; shattered your minds like a china plate. The exploiters sell you ideological morphine, which you happily take. “We didn’t lose! We won by a landslide! Hah, lookit Beverly Hills—a ghost town! That’ll show them Hollywood pedos. We’re winning, they’re losing!”
“Americans actually love abortion bans (don’t look at the election results; they’re fake). MAGA candidates are not losing all over the country (don’t look at the election results; they’re fake). Election denial and J6 defense are the most popular issues ever (don’t look at the polls; they’re fake).”
The fantasy has become preferable to real life. And sadly, as you indulge it, like Pia, you run the risk of permanently destroying any chance you have of reversing your fortunes.
When Pia checked out of reality, she only hurt herself. MAGA delusionals are hurting the entire nation.
Be mindful of that responsibility, and start with the small things, like that fake Beverly Hills video. Maybe if you can realize how you got taken in by that, you can work your way up to the bigger things.
More on that next week.