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Posted by on Apr 8, 2009 in At TMV | 24 comments

Why Obama Derangement Syndrome Has Stopped Being Funny



The murder of three Pittsburgh police officers last week by a young man who bought into right-wing lunatic fringe fears that the president is going to outlaw guns is an extreme manifestation of Adolph Obama_1.jpgObama Derangement Syndrome. But to suggest, as one right-of-center commentator has, that people like myself who make such connections are irrational is the grown-up equivalent of a child closing his eyes, putting fingers in his ears and chanting nothings to try to drown out a parent or teacher.

Presidential derangement syndromes have a pungent history and go back at least as far as Abraham Lincoln (read John Wilkes Booth), although they had never flowered so extensively until Bill Clinton arrived in Washington.

The crowning symptom of Clinton Derangement Syndrome (which had a mercifully brief return during Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid) was the belief that White House aide Vince Foster was murdered on orders of Bubba himself and was not a suicide, and loony subsets such as an allegation by Kathleen Willey that the man who made Monica Lewinsky a household name didn’t merely grope her but arranged for the murder of her husband, as well.

Then came Bush Derangement Syndrome and it was the turn of rabid left wingers, personified by the MoveOn and Daily Kos crowd, who found something nefarious in virtually everything the president and his aides said and did. It did not help that there were indeed nefarious aspects of much of what they said and did, and many of us who were not on the fringe also were reduced to a sputtering rage, as well as prayerful hope that the republic would survive The Decider.

It did — barely — which brings us to Obama Derangement Syndrome and fears that the new president will not only ban guns but lead a communist and/or socialist coup, open the borders to all comers, herd citizens into domestic detention camps, and abandon Israel.

What these syndromes have in common is an irrationality that sometimes manifests itself in paranoia, which was evident in the extreme actions of 22-year-old white supremacist Richard Poplawski, who was wearing a bullet-proof vest and armed with an AK-47 rifle, a .22 long rifle and a pistol when the three officers were dispatched to his Pittsburgh home and he in turn dispatched them.

* * * * *

But in the case of Obama Derangement Syndrome there is an additional element that was merely amusing a few weeks ago but has, in my view, become worrisome if not downright alarming: The apocalyptic and very public comments of prominent Republicans such as Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, tough guy actor Chuck Norris and Fox News pontificater Glenn Beck whose delusional brand of patriotism leads them to proclaim that a second American Revolution may be necessary and it will not be nonviolent.

These are not merely the comments of “sore losers,” which is a frequent refrain from right-of-center commentators who are unwilling to acknowledge that there can be a connection between incendiary talk and incendiary actions.

And it should be noted that some derangement syndrome suffers are equal-opportunity whack jobs who see black helicopters no matter who is in the Oval Office and aren’t necessarily enraged because the current president has a funny middle name, Muslim roots and isn’t even an American citizen.

But is it merely a coincidence that a key ODS talking point is that Obama will suspend Second Amendment protections and that gun-purchase background checks and registrations have spiked since he was elected?

I don’t think so.

Is it merely a coincidence that Poplawski had expressed fears about an Obama gun prohibition and posted Beck videos online that fed into the right-wing conspiracy theory that FEMA is building secret concentration camps for round-ups of American citizens by Obama apparatchiks, which is a favorite theme of Bachmann’s, as well?

I don’t think so.

The Poplawskis and the Willeys are bona fide head cases and very much in the minority. But when people like Bachmann, Norris and Beck who have outsized megaphones avidly stoke the fires of the lunatic fringe and wingnuttery in general it is time to stop smirking and start worrying.

* * * * *

So what, you might ask, should be done about these big megaphones?

Sorry, but that’s the wrong question.

The right question is whether they have crossed the line from free speech, which Obama vowed to protect when he took his oath of office, to incitement to do harm, which is not protected by the Constitution. This is especially applicable to Bachmann, who is a public servant who also took an oath, as opposed to a B-movie actor and weepy TV rodeo clown.

The answer is that they are walking the line but have not crossed it. And whether it is only a matter of time before a malleable person like American jihadist Timothy McVeigh or some wack-out militiaman slinks out of their cave and really lets it rip.

Sadly, I happen to think it is only a matter of time because of the encompassing rage on the far right, the failure (with very few exceptions) of saner conservative voices to speak out forcefully against the big megaphones, the proliferation of and easy access to weapons designed only for mass killing, as well as the fact that no economic recovery or health-care reform that would enable the fringers to get Prozac or Xanax less expensively will keep them in their caves.


Shaun Mullen is a former The Moderate Voice columnist. Over a long career with newspapers, this award-winning editor and reporter covered the Vietnam War, O.J. Simpson trials, Clinton impeachment circus and coming of Osama bin Laden, among many other big stories. He blogs at Kiko’s House.

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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • Braindead

    Conservatives realize that they are not allowed to doubt Obama. Mistrust a man who wants to spend us into the poor house in a really awful hurry. Those stupid conservatives. How dare they challenge the president. They are deranged I tell you. Deranged.

    Conservatives are Idiots. We have no brains. We fully understand that all the evils of this world are our fault. When a conservative loses it that is proof. When a liberal loses it, we all know it was because those Stupid conservatives with their stupid ideals drove them to it.

    Conservatives are beyond stupid. They have no brains. They love guns and we know that every person to ever shoot another man, woman or child is a conservative. Those conservatives even believe in God. How dare they……

    I apologize to the world and Obama for our sins. I hope you will forgive us. We are scum. Thanks for pointing that out. How dare we challenge the president. He is after all “The chosen one” Even Mr. Mullen points that out by posting his picture of the decider part deux.

  • AustinRoth

    Sorry Shaun, but I haven’t seen ‘Kill Obama’ merchandise on the internet (but there WAS ‘Kill Bush’ t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.); I haven’t seen plays and songs wishing for the death of President Obama (but there were for President Bush); I haven’t seen public figures make comments that ‘we would be better off if Obama was dead’ (but I did for Bush).

    This is not to say ODS does not exists – it does. But to blame it for the actions of an already unstable individual is like blaming Shakespeare for teen suicide because of Romeo and Juliet.

    Finally, your statement Presidential derangement syndromes have a pungent history and go back at least as far as Abraham Lincoln (read John Wilkes Booth), although they had never flowered so extensively until Bill Clinton arrived in Washington. is demonstrably wrong.

    Or perhaps you forget the assassination attempt on President Reagan? Or the demonstrations and vitriol against LBJ?

  • Braindead

    But more to the point.

    The left and the right do not realize how hateful and hurtful they have become. The commentors at just not the TMV but also around the bloggsphere are filled with hate for those who do not agree with them.

    There is a rebellion a coming. Its coming to America and I believe that Obama will the the one who precipitates it. Why?

    Because he steps into office under a cloud of hatreds simmering and boiling between the left and the right with the promise to everyone that he will be a bipartisan, lets all get along president and then launches the most far left program since FDR. Now even that would not be so bad if…..if…….the USA was not teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and so what does he propose to do? Borrow 10-15 trillion we dont have over the coming 8 years.

    I have heard it said that America is just like we were pre civil war. I have read several books and articles on society and thought processes leading up to the civil war and it sends chills up my spine when I look around at the USA and compare today with the 1850’s.

    Insane. Yes count me as one of those who believes a rebellion is in the works. Tea parties all over America. The anger at the water cooler is now starting to simmer. For the first time in over 150 years business is actively being treated as the enemy instead of the fuel that feeds our families. Trust me I have a lot to lose. I am a 100 percent disabled veteran who gets his food from a government handout so I am not anti social programs in the least. I believe in them. But unfortunately for me I guess I also believe that we should pay for the party in advance. Not borrow from anyone who will lend us a dime so we can go buy another keg.

    There is a war coming to America. OSAMA BIN LADEN saw it and he defeated America with about a 100 bucks. Americans are taking the bait and letting the Daily KoS, Michael Moore, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, George Soros, Keith Olberman, and Sean Hannity lead the way down the path of partisan hatreds. So sad for us all.

    • AustinRoth

      braindead – wish or hope for a populist revolution all you want. There is one significant difference. Today the level of weaponry in the hands of the federal government so vastly exceeds what is available to the populace and even the states. Unless the military mass-defects, or refuses orders to fight, any real attempt at an uprising would be crushed.

  • Silhouette

    The main source of the problem is Faux News, that and Limbaugh. might organize a boycott. That might cut into the viewers. But my guess is that there will be plenty of revenue for Faux from wealthy supporters of the far right’s mantra-outlet. Still, it would be fun to send a fincancial message to them.

    Another thing people can do is if they walk into a business where they hear the squirming mind of a neocon blazing over the sound system, they should tell the owner that they will no longer do business with them as long as that is aired inside the store. If enough people do this, the true “moral leader” of the right (the bottom line) will start to dictate a more tempered approach to losing the last election cycle…you know…rather than spurring armed revolt. Seeing the occasional “kill Bush” t-shirt on some fat slob is not that inspiring. Hearing trusted TV and radio personalities spout or strongly insinuate armed rebellion every day hypnotically is a whole other enchilada..

    We call it treason where I come from.

  • $199537

    I am considerably to the right of Mr Mullen but I agree with his point that extremist talk comparing Obama to Hitler, implications that he should be overthrown violently, etc is something that reasonable conservatives should try to avoid. That the left made similar comments about Bush is not an excuse – we should not sink to that level.

  • Shaun
    You left out the part the Sahra Palin campaign played in this – firing up the lunatic fringe. I saw it coming before the election.

  • Braindead

    AR surely your old enough to remember the protests of the Vietnam era??

    Additionally read my entire post. No where am I WISHING FOR A REBELLION. I am saying one is on the way unless this country gets it collective act together. They wont. Because our only hope was a democratic party put in charge to fix what ails us and instead of fixing it they just ran off on their own merry way screaming with glee at being able to finish us off.

    Trust me my friend. If this country goes broke ala the USSR…you think their wont be revolting in the streets? And whose gonna pay those soldiers to fight us off??

    This left right stuff best stop. We have one major problem and people just dont realize how close to going belly up the USA is right now. Thats what Im saying.

    No where am I saying I WANT A REBELLION and I have listened to BECK and hes not saying that either. Hes saying what Im saying. If this country does not return to fiscal sanity, pull out of both wars and get our collective act together their is a rebellion coming.

    Its simple really. Its in Obama and the democrats hands and they are playing chicken with the American people.

    • AustinRoth

      braindead – yes, I remember Vietnam protests. I don’t remember the armed conflicts that led to an overthrow of the U.S. Government, or a declaration of Civil War. Perhaps you can provide links to the news articles I missed.

      You say ‘No where am I saying I WANT A REBELLION’, but you also say There is a rebellion a coming. Its coming to America and I believe that Obama will the the one who precipitates it and Insane. Yes count me as one of those who believes a rebellion is in the works and There is a war coming to America

      Sure sounds like you want one, even if you are making sure not to be the one asking for it to happen.

  • DdW


    your second post in this thread was as you say “to the point” and divides the present hate pretty much evenly between the extreme right and extreme left.

    But your first post confuses me.

    Perhaps I am not reading or interpreting it correctly.

    Let me paraphrase it, to get your reaction and clarification:

    “Liberals realized that they were not allowed to doubt Bush. Mistrust a man who took us us into an unnecessary, misrepresented war that spent us into the poor house in a really awful hurry. Those stupid liberals. How dared they challenge the president. They are deranged I tell you. Deranged.

    Liberals are Idiots. They have no brains. They fully understand that all the evils of this world are their fault. When a liberal loses it that is proof. When a conservative loses it, we all know it was because those Stupid liberals with their stupid ideals drove them to it.

    Liberals are beyond stupid. They have no brains. They love gays and we know that every person to ever love another gay is a liberal. Those liberals don’t even believe in God. How disgusting……

    I apologize to the world and Bush for our sins. I hope you will forgive us. We are scum. Thanks for pointing that out. How dared we challenge the former president. He was after all “The Decider,” “The Chosen One” (by the Supremes), as has been pointed out so often to us.

  • elrod

    I’m of the opinion that most of this violent rhetoric – and occasional violent action – is a mix of genuine psychological disorder and media posturing. The large scale movements such as fueled the Populists in the 1890s, Father Coughlin in the 1920s and 1930s or even the John Birch Society in the 1950s just aren’t afoot yet. The “tea parties” are a joke conjured up by some derivatives trader who got his start with Drexel Burnham Lambert. Talk radio is just as loony as it has always been. Fox News is no nuttier now than before.

    And I say this as someone who often attends Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, where a deranged right-wing mutant opened fire on the congregation so he could “kill all the liberals.”

    I also say this as a Jew; we Jews know better than most how dangerous paranoid conspiracies can be.

    I despise conspiracy theorists and believers alike. They are, by and large, intellectually immature and narcissistic fools who believe that their own simplistic explanations account for everything.

    But I don’t think these folks are really all that threatening as of now. The gun purchases have gone up because of a fear of gun control – not to fire up the next militia.

    There could come a time when these inchoate voices cohere into a McVeigh-style terrorist movement. And I trust at that point they will be dealt with.

    We have to keep in mind here that part of the frustration on the far right is the popularity of Obama. For 40 years, liberalism has been in retreat. A dirty word. And now conservatism is in retreat, with many conservatives pathetically blaming Bush’s fall on being “not conservative enough.” Conservative notions of “liberty” don’t resonate anymore with the general public because the “free market” has failed to live up to its promise. The financial services industry could not regulate itself. The American consumer bought into the free market – “You MUST invest in housing and the stock market or you will LOSE money,” cried CNBC and the other pimps of the free market – and now that consumer is terrified and poor.

    Government is getting bigger again because people are demanding it. Big government progressivism may yet fail. But conservatism already has.

  • Braindead

    Gosh AR you got me. I cant wait to square off against the 101st airborne with my 30.06 and a couple dozen rounds of ammo.

    I guess the problem many are having in scoffing at the idea of a revolution or revolt or the demise of the USA is they continue to think of the civil war in which there was an orderly withdrawal of states, the calling up of the militia and then orderly battles fought while the rest of the country went on their merry way until close to the end of the war.

    Did you watch the demise of the USSR? Don’t recall a whole lot of bloodshed over there. But I do see that Russia now stands alone as all its former “STATES” are now their own floundering countries.

    Yep you got me AR. Im stocking up on Ammo so I can fight off the 1st marine division. Darn I hope they don’t use predators on my heavily fortified house in suburbia.

  • CStanley

    I actually know some people who have recently purchased weapons, but the reasoning has nothing to do with armed rebellion against the government. What these folks are saying is that they’re concerned about crime which will inevitably rise when people become desperate, if the economic recession/depression is prolonged and deep- they believe they need weapons to protect their homes and families in what were previously safe neighborhoods, and they did in some cases wish to quickly purchase the weapons in case gun ownership becomes more strictly prohibited in the near future.

    I feel pretty confident that these folks represent the vast majority of the uptick in gun sales.

    As for the rest, the ‘big megaphones’, etc…my feeling is that the left is giving these megaphones to people on the right in order to discredit conservatism in the eyes of independent voters. I notice more and more that people on the left and center left are using Rush Limbaugh’s favorite technique against the right- choosing to highlight the nutjobs on the opposing side and frame them as the mainstream of the other side’s movement.

    Glenn Beck may be the exception to this- I think he really does have a following, and it concerns me a little (tiny) bit- but for instance Bachmann is sort of like a Cynthia McKinney of the right- someone elected for God knows what parochial reason but not taken seriously by anyone else around the country. I hardly consider her someone to lead a revolution. As for Chuck Norris, he’s got tough guy celebrity persona around which a cottage industry of jokes have been built- again, I don’t see him as the general in a Civil War.

  • tropicgirl

    Some of us want a rebellion based upon the trillions that Obama has given away to dirty corporations who have no intention of changing. There’s nothing right or left about that. It scares us and it should scare EVERYONE. Perhaps it will take time to tell but those of us who called the Iraq war, the spying, the torture and were dismissed, are now sounding the alarm to Obama’s right-leaning policies, his inability to tell the truth about the economy, our jobs that were outsourced and offshored, the spying which is still going on, the protection of the torturers (by the justice dept), which is still going on, and the ridiculous resurrection of the Cold War with Korea, which even China calls childish. The only ones to fear the Middle East radicals are the Israelis. They made their bed over the years.

    Every day its another kookoo policy float… Now Obama’s zombie team is suggesting to bombard the atmosphere with pollution? (todays Brietbart…

    What planet is Obama on? I had high hopes for him but he’s in a sick corporate world of stealing one day, a party and fashion show the next, selling cars the next, and being ridiculously childish with Korea the next day. I can’t even watch anymore.

    Sorry, many of us have good reason to fear Obama, especially if you are liberal. He is to the right of even Nixon, but many of you are too young to realize how scary Obama’s fiscal policies are. Obama’s health care plan was what Nixon had in mind…

  • casualobserver

    Glad to hear your opinion, tropicgirl………….mark the calendar, Day 78, the great pincer movement begins.

  • Braindead


    Your close in your analysis.

    Let me point out something that happened historically. I understand that I am supremely intelligent and that compared to the typical Conservatives who posts or comments here you are unable to keep up with me intellectually so I will try to be as simple as Im capable of doing.

    Ugg…grunt…huh….opps too simple.

    GWB declared that anyone who was not for the war on terror was unpatriotic. After a lil while the GOP realized…..opps bad mistake.

    Democrats had this huge light bulb go off over their head. Shazaaammmm………They had an idear.

    Lets call ourselves names over and over and over again and claim that its really the publicans doing it. Voilla it worked. I cant remember how many 1000000000 times I heard or read on the internet a lefty proclaiming he was scum, a bum or unpatriotic because he dared to question Bush or the status quo.

    So leap forward many moons to my first post………voilla I present to the left the Rights way out of the wilderness. Just start calling themselves names and blaming it on the Democrats and voilla you have the way back to power.

    Now you can make fun of my post all you like. Thats the way the Right reacted to the left when left started calling themselves names. But pretty soon the storm just kept gathering and gathering strength and the GOP was washed away. Why was the right washed away? Because they refused to include the left into the fold as citizens of their nation and include them in the decision making process of how to respond and fight the war on terror that affected them all. Now we have Obama and the left doing the exact same thing. This idiotic budget. The economic chaos and the recession affects us all. So I have this vision of Obama and the cornball left being swept away because they are mindlessly defending insane spending in the midst of economic chaos. Make sense now. Compadre???


      If you were as smart as you think you are you would know the same guys that pulled Bush’s strings are the same guys telling Nobama what to do. The DNC & GOP are two sides of the same coin. Different strategies working toward the same goal of a new world governement

      Excito sursum!!

  • Braindead

    As to Tropicgirl’s post.

    How do we know she is even an American citizen?

    She could be from Iran trying to stir up chit. for that matter I could be from Russia or China or N. Korea. Kind of makes the internet a cesspool doesnt it??

  • DdW

    That was a brilliant explanation, braindead. WTF are you talking about?

    We know you are supremely intelligent, but how about getting down to the level of us poor mortals.

    • AustinRoth

      Dorian –

      I think you are arguing with someone who, if he did not have internet access, would be pushing a shopping cart full of magazine and newspaper clippings, each with highlighted paragraphs and scribbled notes in all the margins, proving the truth of his contentions, and the government plot against him. Personally.

  • Leonidas

    *Sees title of post*

    *Thinks 10 to 1 its Shaun, no make that 100 to 1″*

    *Looks at authors name….BINGO!”*

  • pettyoff55

    google oathkeepers (gaurdian of the republic) they will abide by thier oath to defend the people from a socialist government.

  • jyjysjyrjyjyrjghjy6rjy

    Ok I have seen Glen Beck say “you don’t need a musket for this revolution” and I have seen him run story’s debunking the FEMA concentration camps. And Timothy McVeigh started down his path of destruction because he watched the federal government try to storm the Branch Davidian compound with armored vehicles witch then burned down killing many, government failure caused McVeigh to go off the deep end not because some one used their 1st amendment right to speak out against the government as the founding fathers intended.


    We the people call the shredding of our constitution by the federal government, Treason, and we have the right to throw them out. Every one of them is guilty of not keeping their oaths of office. This is treason at its worst. You must come from Canada or France.

    Porro ago res publica


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