Top Morons Of 2012

Print2012… what a moronic year it’s been! This blog is now over two years old, and despite warnings from some that my base may be eroded by improving education and the global spread of information, worldwide moronic activity shows no sign of peaking. So attempting a comprehensive round-up of moronic events has proven to be way beyond my capabilities. Instead, here’s a selection of my favourite moments from the year. Feel free to add yours in the comments section.

A big Thank You to those of you who read this blog, follow me on Twitter or listen to my podcasts. There’s plenty more to come in 2013, including – watch this space – MoronWatch: The Book! Please subscribe to my mailing list to make sure you catch all the news.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I present my moron selections for 2012! Spoiler for lazy people: my moron of the year is nominated at the end of this article.

GOP Madness: I’ve tried my best to maintain a global view, but as ever, the US has managed to punch above its weight, thanks in large part to the Republican Party. The Republicans have become MoronWatch favourites by adopting an unusual electoral strategy: represent only the interests of billionaires. This isn’t a sure-fire way to win elections, as billionaires represent somewhat less than 0.01% of the US population. To make up the difference, the Republicans have embraced a diverse selection of moronic policies to attract the votes of nut-jobs ranging from creationists to lovers of hi-tech weaponry to good old-fashioned racists, and pretty much anyone with an IQ below 70. This is a fairly unruly group to control, which meant that no electable person could be selected to run for President in this year’s elections. The result of that was that Mitt Romney was chosen, because he was the candidate that fewest Republicans hated (though few of them actually seemed to like him). And the result of that was that Barack Obama was cleanly elected to serve a second term. Special mentions must go to the crazies who failed to become Republican candidates, but provided me endless entertainment, including: Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and perhaps the greatest moron of them all, Rick Santorum. Only the absence of Sarah Palin, who in her endless search for media attention endlessly hinted that she might run, detracted from an otherwise top-rank moron line-up.

Slutgate: Right-wing moron-jock Rush Limbaugh was outraged in March that contraception advocate Sandra Fluke, could dare call for public funding to be put into making contraception more easily available. So outraged, that he labelled her a slut; and then since that clearly wasn’t extreme enough, he also called her a prostitute (reasoning that, if the public were paying for her pills, she was basically being paid to have sex).

Invisible Children: Kind-but-gullible people were convinced by Kony 2012, a viral video campaign, to donate to a non-profit organisation, Invisible Children, that was “raising awareness” about the horrendous Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. The video, however, was deeply inaccurate, was pushing for US military involvement, and didn’t make clear that the campaign’s devil-figure, Joseph Kony, had already been chased out of Uganda. Furthermore, the video presented a complex situation as a simple good-vs-evil one, failing to point out the rapes and other human rights abuses of the “good guys”, Uganda’s moron President Museveni and his army. But it worked, and raised millions for a dubious cause. Some of these millions were apparently put to good use by the group’s leader Jason Russell, who, just after the campaign peaked, was found naked in the street, masturbating and pounding his fists on the pavement. He later said his mind had “betrayed him”. I guess a few million dollars buys a lot of… “mind betrayal”.

Panicky in the UK: British fuel tanker drivers made a strike threat in Spring. Government ministers tried to win the propaganda battle against them… by warning of coming fuel shortages, and telling people to fill up their tanks, just in case. Francis Maude went even further, telling people to fill up jerrycans and keep them at home in their garages (presumably forgetting that widespread amateur storage of flammable substances may be considered a fire risk). British morons like nothing better than a good panic-buying spree, and quickly long queues developed at petrol stations around the country, with some suppliers running dry.

Tennessee Gateway Sex: It seems that runaway rates of Christian belief in Tennessee have failed to prevent runaway rates of teenage pregnancy (strange – how can you get pregnant while you’re praying?) – so the state legislature passed a bill banning the “promotion of gateway sexual activity” by teachers. The bill was strangely lacking in detail, raising the concern that teachers may be sued for allowing kids to hug or hold hands.

Carolina Warming Denial: With global CO2 emissions reaching new records, it’s looking increasingly likely that the targets set 15 years ago in Kyoto will be missed by a mile. Scientists are despondent about staying within the “safe” warming target of two degrees centigrade by 2100. It’s even increasingly likely that the unthinkable “human civilisation might collapse” target of four degrees may be breached. Brave Republican lawmakers in North Carolina, a coastal US state that may see huge costs from sea level rise, seem to have found a solution: they outlawed the use of scientific projections that predict sea-level rising due to climate change. Now, let’s just hope that the global climate respects North Carolina law.

Lock Up The Gays: Staying in North Carolina, Pastor Charles Worley thinks he’s found a sensible way to deal with the “lesbians and queers”: lock them up behind an electric fence and wait for them to die. That would work.

South Carolina Rape Victims Don’t Matter: While the Republicans fight tooth and nail to maintain tax cuts for the wealthy, Nikki Haley, the Governor of South Carolina, vetoed $450,000 of spending to help rape and sexual assault victims, explaining that this money went only to help a small minority of people in the state. Apparently rape is only an issue when above 50% of the population have fallen victim.

Israel’s “Infiltrators”: Israel’s drift to racist nationalism gained global attention when mobs turned on African immigrants and their businesses. The politicians, including Israel’s moron leader, Netanyahu, just stoked the anger, and said that African “infiltrators” would be sent home. The irony of Nazi-style language and tactics being used in Israel was apparently lost on many Israelis.

Boy Band Jihadis: top British boy band One Direction ruffled the feathers of right-wing moron blogger Debbie Schlussel when Muslim band member Zayn Malik tweeted about Ramadan. One Direction, she decided, are an insidious plot to “pimp Islam” to gullible teenage American girls.

Economics For Morons: George W Bush, the President who inherited a budget surplus and left office leaving a huge debt and a burst housing bubble that stalled the global economy (but richer billionaires), launched a book on Economics. No, really.

World’s Most Moronic Sheriff: In 2011, Barack Obama neatly handed Donald Trump his ass by publishing his long-form birth certificate just as Trump was getting into full-blown birther mode. Realising that birther morons are still looking for a hero, Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio took up the baton this year, announcing that his investigators had proven Obama’s birth certificate to be a forgery. Such conspiracies are largely met with a yawn these days, but apparently not to Arpaio’s devoted supporters.

Homophobic Fried Chicken: Dan Cathy, CEO of US “Christian fast food chain” Chick-Fil-A (yes, apparently even junk food is religious in America) decided to speak out against gay marriage. It would be nice to be able to say this hurt Chick-Fil-A’s profits, but Republicans such as Mike Huckabee stepped in to support the deep-fried morons, declaring a “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day”, which saw morons lining up to eat gay-hating poultry.

Jobbik Jew: Nationalism is Europe’s nasty little secret, and it’s back with a vengeance – no more so than in Hungary, where the far-right Jobbik party is rising in popularity. So it was with great amusement that we watched outspoken anti-Semite Jobbik MP Csanad Szegedi get unmasked as a Jew, whose grandmother had been in Auschwitz. Reportedly, this hasn’t done wonders for his political career.

Legitimate Rape: Tea Party-backed Senate Candidate Todd Akin made global headlines when, during an interview about abortion, he claimed that pregnancy from rape was rare, because women’s bodies have the magical ability to prevent conception in the case of rape. This even upset some in the Republican Party – presumably because it implied that God carries out abortions on behalf of rape victims. Thankfully, the people of Missouri decided that Akin wasn’t for them, and he lost his election bid on November 6, along with a number of other Tea Party morons.

The Joy Of Slavery: Yet more crazy Republicans… Jon Hubbard of Arkansas published a book in which he claimed that “slavery was a blessing” because it gave Africans the chance to live in “the greatest nation ever established”. He apparently didn’t notice that Europeans and Asians were given the same chance – but without being raped, forced to work, beaten, killed and separated from their loved ones.

BNP Fail: Conscious that his far-right British National Party (BNP) is losing support, Nick Griffin decided to play the homophobia card, apparently not realising that British attitudes had changed. When a gay couple won their court case against a hotel owner who refused to let them stay, Griffin tweeted their address, with the threat that a “British justice team” would be visiting them. The BNP then followed up with a poll on their web site, asking: “Would you leave a gay couple to babysit your child? Vote now!” – the result? 98% voted yes, which probably wasn’t the answer the fascists were expecting.

Moronissimi! Europe’s most conservative country showed its disdain for science when seven Italian scientists were convicted of manslaughter for saying that an earthquake was unlikely in Aquila, shortly before the quake in 2009 that killed 300 people. The undoubted effect will be to push scientists out of Italy, and frighten many of the remainder into silence. Meanwhile, a Rome-based fraudster who claims to be God’s representative on Earth, but also failed to predict the quake, was not charged with any offence.

Kentucky Lends God a Hand: God, apparently, isn’t powerful enough to speak for himself – luckily, he has the Kentucky state legislature on his side, which passed a law mandating the state Homeland Security building to post a plaque outside recognising the “power of almighty God”. Never mind that this law blatantly breaches the first amendment to the US Constitution – anyone breaching it faces 12 months in jail.

O Canada… WTF!? Remember when Canada were the good guys? The sensible ones who had the misfortune of having all those nut-jobs located south of their border? Not any more: all that tar-sands oil seems to have gone to their heads. Flush with all the new cash, Canadians elected a hideously right-wing government in 2011. This year, the UN General Assembly held a historic vote to finally recognise the battered and bruised state of Palestine, which was passed resoundingly. Only nine states of 193 voted against, including (predictably) Israel and the US. The other seven included world giants like Palau and Micronesia. And Canada. Not only did the Canadians feel comfortable belonging to such a bizarre little club, but their moron Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird then threatened to retaliate – presumably by cutting off Palestinian aid.

Israel’s Moronic Expansion: Israel then decided to “retaliate” against the vote for Palestinian statehood by announcing a huge expansion of illegal home building in East Jerusalem (which doesn’t actually belong to Israel) – this new development is hugely significant because it cuts Palestinian East Jerusalem off from the Palestinian West Bank, effectively annexing all of Jerusalem for a future invasion and occupation by Israel. Middle East watchers will have noticed a pattern here: Israel “retaliates” against almost anything, from Palestinian rocket fire to the sun rising, by building new homes in Palestinian territory. Palestinians know that new home building is an inevitability, regardless of what does or doesn’t happen. The only thing that could stop this endless theft of land is for the international community to show some guts in backing international law – but the US (and its poodles) won’t allow that to happen.

Guns Don’t Kill People, X-Boxes Do: The year ended with yet another school shooting in the United States: 20 children were gunned down by yet another crazy with easy access to automatic weaponry. The US then went into its carefully prepared response to such events: a debate – incomprehensible to international observers – on whether the problem in America is caused by too many weapons or too few. I’m one of those who agrees that these kinds of events aren’t driven by gun availability alone – there are deeper problems. But a recent event in China proved the point: a madman attacked 22 schoolchildren with a weapon; none died. His weapon? A knife; the parents of those children can at least be thankful that a gun wasn’t available. Moronic gun lobby group the NRA were silent for a few days after the massacre, and then broke their silence with a press conference hosted by Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. A low-key, compromising stance had been expected; but LaPierre failed to deliver this, instead delivering a speech described by the New York Times as a “mendacious, delusional, almost deranged rant“. He blamed pretty much everything and everyone – except the guns. He called for armed police in every school (funded by the taxpayer, not the gun industry, of course). In a fair world, LaPierre would have been gunned down by a crazy during his speech – but alas, he lives to spew bile another day. Wayne LaPierre, well done: you are our Moron of the Year, 2012!

Is Fascism Back in Europe? Did It Ever Leave?

Like all European Jews, I was taught about the Holocaust during childhood. The facts of the event are too staggering for even an adult to comprehend, let alone a child. But the explanation given was fairly straightforward: the German people went through some kind of temporary madness; the “good guys” (Britain, The US and the Soviet Union) went to war; we won and killed Hitler; surviving Jews were freed from the camps; it couldn’t happen again.

Some less palatable facts were left out of the account; the Holocaust was massive in scale, but was just one of countless European attacks on Jews and Gypsies throughout history; it wasn’t just the Nazis, or just the Germans, but a mass genocidal movement that rose spontaneously across large parts of Europe; the only reason it may not happen again was that this time it was a “success” – so many Jews were killed, and so many more fled to New York and Israel that Europe’s thirst for Jewish blood may have finally been sated.

What was “special” about Jews and Gypsies? Simply this: that both groups originated outside of Europe. And Europe hates outsiders.

Most people I know like the simplicity of the “one-off madness” theory. It saves thinking too much, and avoids any worry that similar could happen again. British Jews in particular like to blame Germany for everything; acknowledging you live in a continent that has taken repeated joy in slaughtering our ancestors is too much for most Jews to think about.

I believed in the simple view myself until I started travelling to Italy on a regular basis. I’d fallen in love with the style and beauty of the country, and learned to speak Italian to a good level. Visiting a friend’s family in the Alto Adige, a mixed Italian/German province in the far north-east of the country, helped open my eyes. It was casually explained to me that the city council of Bolzano (the main city of the region) regularly changes hands at elections – between the German-speaking Fascists and the Italian-speaking Fascists. I thought this must be some mistake; surely Fascism died in 1945, never to return?

While in Bolzano, I accompanied a friend to visit her father’s grave. She thought I’d be interested in the Jewish section of the cemetery so we walked around it. She said she didn’t think there were any Jews left in Bolzano – but she didn’t know where they had gone. That was my moment of revelation: by punishing the Nazis for the crimes of WW2, most of the guilty had gone free. History had been re-written. As Europe rebuilt, it had learned fewer lessons than it liked to pretend.

The European far-right struggled to re-establish itself for decades, but bit by bit it has returned to strength. The movements are deeply adaptable – unlike its cousin in America that finds it hard to hate anyone except black people, the European far-right is pragmatic in its choice of scapegoats. It’s no longer considered acceptable to blame Jews for everything? Then parade your “love” for Israel and blame Muslims instead. Homosexuality has become acceptable in Europe? Then gays will no longer be lynched – in fact the new fascists positively embrace homosexuality, brandishing their “tolerance” to show how “intolerant” Muslims are (cleverly ignoring the fact that European gays used to travel to Morocco on vacation when they were not acceptable to the average European).

Suddenly, apparently within a few months, far-right nationalism is confident and resurgent. The seed of this growth was in large part sown on 9/11, but it’s taken a decade for the anti-Muslim narrative to evolve. Mostly, the new nationalism is finding strength in the same places that embraced fascism in the 1930s: France and Italy, Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands, across much of Europe. Nationalism is presented in fresh, acceptable forms. While we were on the lookout for jackboots and racist mobs, it instead presents itself in the form of Geert Wilders, who has gained popularity in The Netherlands, Marine Le Pen in France, and the boringly-British duo of Nick Griffin and Nigel Farage in the UK. It cloaks itself as “concern” over “excessive” immigration or as “defending our sovereignty” from the European Union. We forget so fast that Europe, by nature, is the world’s most warlike continent, and that the EU has created the longest period of peace in European history.

So here we are again – it’s not so much that far-right nationalism is back, it’s just that we forgot it never went away.

(Update: a Dutch translation of this article is available. Thanks to krapuul.nl)