Before the right-wing mobs stormed the US Capitol, the radical right thugs had to be moved from, what sociologists call, a willingness to believe in right-wing fabrications towards a willingness to act on them. In this, ideologies, myths, fantasies, fibs, lies, legends, conspiratorial fantasies, and outright right-wing fabrications remain important.
Deeply immersed into the romanticized traditions of conservatism, a right-wing myth can be seen as a highly symbolic fairy-tale like story – often of mysterious or unknown origin.
Over time, the right-wing hopes that their mythical fabrications become part of an established tradition, that at least partly, relates to an invented, re-interpreted, or even an actual event like, for example, the assassination of JFK.
Historically, many right-wing myths were associated with religious beliefs. Yet, modern right-wing demagogues have learned how to capture this for their ideological ends.
Myths and right-wing fabrications can also be a rather specific account of, for example, a hero – the good vs. the bad – often involving an extraordinary event like the moon landing, Princess Diana’s accident, the COVID-19 pandemic, etc.
A near perfect example is the recent myth creation on the 6th of January 2021. To make it work, a right-wing fabrication has to be repeated over and over again. Repetition in the service of an ideological goal seeks to make a right-wing fabrication to become an actually existing part of ordinary life.
One of the most potent cases of right-wing fabrications occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. The radical right – as well as Donald Trump – went on an ideological war against scientists and medical experts. Despite Donald Trump’s little flu and we have it under control by 2023, COVID-19 had killed 1.18 million Americans.
In the COVID-19 case, right-wing fabrications got so bad that the Union for Concerned Scientists called it an egregious pattern of ignoring, side-lining, and censoring the voices of scientists and research.
Refusing to face facts, is a well-established pattern of right-wing fabrications. Yet, right-wing fibs are helped by two key elements of the present day media landscape:
- firstly, there is a conservative media environment that ranges from Murdoch’s Fox News, to Newsmax, and One America News, and to websites such as Breitbart; and,
- secondly, there are ever growing number of online platforms of the so-called social media featuring YouTube, Facebook, Reddit, Elon Musk’s Twitter or X, and a few others. On these, right-wing echo-chambers thrive.
Traditionally and supported by corporate mass-media for decades, conservatives, Republicans, and others have sought to create a self-image that they are, in fact, realists respecting hard facts, e.g. George Bush’s sound science.
Roughly until the advent of the Tea Party but definitely since Donald Trump, the American right had been comparatively successful in upholding this myth. Yet, in recent times however, the fancying of sound science and hard facts has taken a stern beating.
Today, large sections of America’s Republican party have become supporters of hocus-pocus, delusions, mirages, hallucinations, fairy dust, right-wing conspiracies, and make believers. Large sections of the American right became anti-science, anti-facts, and even anti-logic.
Even before Donald Trump appeared on the political stage, the Republican party had already started to glide ever further away from science, facts, and perhaps even reality. Early on in his career, Donald Trump became part of a conservative circle that fabricated the birther conspiracy.
Then as today, we knew that Barack Obama was born in the United States and was therefore eligible to be a president. The conservative fabrication was plain wrong.
Trump’s right-wing fabrications promptly continued with the White House’s Sean Spicer telling us that Donald Trump had the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration. This right-wing fabrication, too, was a lie.
These are only some of the more recent examples of a long-term trend, namely, that the radical right and adjacent conservatives have become more and more fixated on foiling and manipulating history, and perhaps, even reality.
Yet, many right-wing lies, fabrications, myths, and legends remain part of a deliberate disinformation campaign. For example, the idée fixe that feminism is a deliberate plot against the family is just one of them. Beyond attacking women – that has very long tradition in right-wing circles – there is also a deeper right-wing fabrication. It is called American exceptionalism.
When right-wing politicians use the term American exceptionalism, they mean that the USA has qualities that other nations lack. The idée fixe is that USA plays a special, chosen, and superior role in human history.
Yet, many other countries have exactly the same myth. There is an exception française in France and a German Sonderweg. Yet, there is also Chinese exceptionalism, Serbian exceptionalism, Tunisian exceptionalism – the list goes on.
Not only does the right-wing myth of an American exceptionalism falls squarely into an entirely common pattern, but American exceptionalism also makes very little analytical sense. Apart from being useful as a right-wing ideology, it is basically nonsense.
Undeterred, Madeleine Albright talked about the USA as an indispensable nation. Worse, Newt Gingrich’s passion for American exceptionalism allowed him to present the Democrats and leftists as unpatriotic, countercultural cosmopolitans despising the values of ordinary Americans.
Gingrich is not alone in this. A whopping 67% of committed conservatives agreed with the statement, the USA stands above all other countries – only 19% of liberals agreed. In reality however, America had played an exceptionally destructive role in world history.
Linked to exceptionalism is the enduring myth of the vanishing Indian – it too, carries on. It pretends that when Europeans arrived in what became the USA, they found a blank slate – there was nobody and nothing there.
In reality, the colonists in New England and throughout the USA, systematically erased evidence of long-standing Indigenous cultures and societies as a way of legitimating Euro-American land claims.
Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is an account of the continent’s brutal conquest and colonization. Contrary to historical evidence, the right-wing myth of the vanishing Indian also insinuates that they had to fade away, anyway.
Federal troops then marched in to, as it is called, restore order (a common code-word for massacre). Their smashing of natives was brutal and relentless. They also staged – literally on a huge stage! – the largest public execution in US history. 38 Dakotans were hanged. It was done on the day after Christmas – as good Christians.
First Nations people – just like migrants today – have also been the victims of another right-wing myths. Deliberate falsehoods about migrants. This includes Donald Trump’s hate speech on Mexican migrants.
Next to the phantasm of a Hispanic invasion and the right-wing slogan of, they keep coming, the common theme running through much of this is that they are not like us.
It sets the out-group against the in-group – them-vs.-us. The entire thing follows a French right-wing extremist’s conspiratorial fantasy called Grand Replacement or great replacement.
Like virtually all of conspiracy fantasies, great replacement is a simple belief system for the simple minded. It suggests that they will eventually outnumber us – the whites, and therefore, real Americans. Like virtually all right-wing myths, great replacement distorts and manipulates complex realities.
Historically, this goes back a very long way. In the year of 1755, Benjamin Franklin enthusiastically pigeonholed German migrants. He spoke of swarthy aliens who herd together predicting that they would become so numerous as to Germanize us instead of us Anglifying them. It did not happen. But it might have been the first time that something akin to the great replacement fiction was issued on American soil.
Yet, Franklin’s totally false forecast ignored how white settlers – particularly Protestants like the Germans – played an essential role in fostering settler colonialism. Despite this fact, in America’s colonial era, this sort of immigration myth deliberately misidentified foreigners as a threat.
During the 19th century, the immigration myth was used to pretend that immigrants were simply coming! It masked the fact that many were being driven out of their homelands. The famine-driven Irish migration is all but one example. Harsh British rule made things even worse. Irish migration to the USA was a bid for human survival.
It did not end there. In 1876, the California State defamed Chinese immigration as a dangerous unarmed invasion imperiling the country. The common theme of they keep coming was repeated over and over again.
In reality, Chinese immigrants didn’t simply come. Chinese labor was heavily recruited to toil on American railroads, in factories, canneries, fisheries, and fields.
In 1916, eugenicists and anti-Semitic Madison Grant forewarned readers of his best-selling – The Passing of the Great Race – about Jewish immigrants who were a particularly deficient and dangerous race.
The 1930s were the years when we are starting to move closer to Donald Trump’s anti-Mexican hate speech. In 1930, Roy Garis talked about the Mexicanization of America’s southwest that would endanger the future and the homes of millions of the white race.
Yet, the reality is that between 1929 and 1935, 82,400 Mexicans were deported by the US federal government constituting 46.3% of all deportees even though they made up less than 1% of the total US population.
In the final tally, almost 20% of the entire Mexican and Mexican American population in the USA – up to one million people – were expelled to Mexico during the Depression: 66% were American citizens by birth!
In the end, and contradictory to Trump’s blaming Mexico for sending its people, in fact, Mexican migration over many decades was overwhelmingly shaped by US economic, political, and military policies. As a young boy, Hollywood superstar Anthony Quinn, born in Mexico, was smuggled into the USA in a coal wagon.
Like so many right-wing fibs, myths, and fabrication, immigrants have never simply kept coming. Instead, people – including Anthony Quinn’s parents – have been driven, recruited, lured, and incentivized to come to the USA – often with the very direct help and encouragement of the US government and US businesses.
Ultimately, all three right-wing myths and falsehoods – American exceptionalism, the idée fixe of a blank slate, and the lies about migrants – have shown two things. Firstly, right-wing myths do not stack up to historical reality; and secondly, right-wing fibs and legends try to masquerade as historical reality.
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