Thursday, September 23, 2010

Today's Word: ochlocracy (And I Go Political)

It isn't often anymore that I stumble upon a word that I don't already know or can't figure out the meaning of. When it does happen, though, it is cause for a small, personal celebration. This happened to me on Tuesday, when I was wasting lots of time doing intensive research in the blogosphere and happened upon this fun little word:

ochlocracy: Mob rule; rule by the masses. Ochlocracy, the evil twin of democracy, gives absolute power to the fickle majority -- Wikipedia notes that it is a pejorative term for majoritarianism -- neglecting the rights of the minority and ignoring appeals to logic, reasoning, precedent, and the letter of the law.

Unfortunately, I can't remember where I saw the word, or even whether it was used seriously or sarcastically in reference to the Obama administration. If anyone out there who tweets in the same circles as I can recall  the appearance of this word in a recent post, please let me know and I'll add a link here. (Also, if you can think of another word that uses the "ochlo" word base, let me know that, too. I'm drawing a blank.)

Ochlocracy is ultimately a corruption of democracy through fear, intimidation, and misinformation. The masses, in general, are sheep. Somewhere, a shepherd is silently guiding them toward his or her own purposes.

I see the Tea Party as an attempt to remake American democracy into an ochlocracy. Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and their ilk use fear (building a mosque near ground zero will invite more terrorist attacks; letting gay people marry will make your marriage meaningless), misinformation (where was our president born?), patriotism (ever hear Mrs. Palin use the phrase "Real America"?), and intimidation (like Ted Nugent's implication that people who support universal healthcare should be shot) to rile their base in opposition to anything even remotely linked to President Obama.

How do they do it? By convincing their people that the "lame-stream media" -- that is, everything except Fox News -- is distorting the truth. By convincing them that they can't believe anything they hear on TV, read online or in a newspaper, or hear from people who have devoted their lives to truth (e.g., scientists and researchers) except for what the Party tells you is true.

The Tea Party is creating a mob of intentionally ill-informed voters who have been conditioned to deny any statements that run counter to the Tea Party's platform, regardless of reason, proof, and logic.

Certainly, there will be great overlap between a true ochlocracy and a kakistocracy. Especially if the Tea Party is involved.