William B. Turner
Conservatives, in the main, are not known for their intellectual acuity. The Jesuits, the most Catholic of Catholics, have done a good job of preserving the intellectual traditions of the Catholic Church, which it sort of encourages, as long as one chooses to dilate on silly Catholic moral abstractions, such as absurdly circular arguments in opposition to same sex marriage rights, but discourages when it is genuinely intellectual, meaning that it follows ideas wherever they may lead. So the Catholic Church punished Galileo for pursuing his observations of celestial bodies and simple logic to the (correct) conclusion that the earth revolves around the sun, which contradicted official Church teaching and therefore must be wrong in the conservative imaginary.
This problem only gets worse in the United States, where “conservatives” abandon what little intellectual tradition their European brethren can claim and wander off into all manner of absurdities. We see this most clearly with the anointing of Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, as the supposed leading intellectual of the Party. Besides having once expressed admiration for the ideas of the philosophically useless Ayn Rand, Ryan has distinguished himself ever since with his willingness to try to gussy up Republican fiscal ideology with what one economist refers to as “magic asterisks” (another calls them “mystery meat”), that typographical sleight of hand in budget documents that achieve outcomes that look internally consistent, but only if one accepts assumptions that are completely divorced from any observed reality.
In the most recent debate over the Republican tax bill that they just passed, the major magic asterisk is the ridiculous claim, which no credible observer believes, that the cuts will produce so much economic growth as to pay for themselves. This chestnut has been a set piece of the Republican fiscal fairy tale since Ronald Reagan was president.
These are the more respectable myths Republicans have perpetrated on the public, but they are very fond of the genre and their imaginations apparently know no bounds. The most ridiculous, and harmful, recent example was the notorious Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which held that leading Democrats used a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C. as the hub for a ring of child sex trafficking. This bizarre notion induced a true believer to travel to the pizza parlor in question in order to “self-investigate” the situation, firing one round from his assault rifle and getting himself arrested in the process.
Now, perhaps perpetuating a fast food theme, that leading “conservative” intellectual, Charlie Daniels, has warned Taco Bell that “the Illuminati is not a frivolous topic.” Um, yes, Charlie, it is. It is an utterly silly topic. The Illuminati is a set piece of ridiculous conspiracy theories, as various responses to Daniels’ tweet indicate by expanding to the Bilderburgers and Bohemian Grove, two other favorite institutions among the conspiracy theory set.
Apparently, Daniels was expressing his deep, “conservative” concern for a new Taco Bell ad that plays on an Illuminati theme to promote the number of menu items the chain offers for just one dollar.
Daniels’ paranoia reflects an important hazard of Christian belief, which Daniels is an overt proponent of (“Jesus walked on the water, and this I know is true….”). The willingness to believe that unseen forces govern the universe sets a mind up to see invisible, nefarious influences in even the most mundane places, apparently including Taco Bell ads.
Anyone who deplores “conservative” anti-intellectualism should spread Daniels’ concern for Taco Bell’s toying with the terribly serious topic of the Illuminati far and wide as the apotheosis of Republican reasoning. It is a useful way to illustrate in an easily digestible format how ridiculous most of what Republicans say is.
Let’s remind the world that “conservatives” worry about the Illuminati in Taco Bell ads.