Sure, the left woo (and these are imprecise terms, people) was active then…but that was when the New Age movement took hold..all about alternative healing, angels, crystals and black t-shirts covered in wolves, bears and/or Native Americans. (I liked the music, I admit. Enya. Those chanting monks. Crap with pan flutes and dolphins humping that they used to sell at World of Science. Good stuff.)
The mainstream culture embraced both in a woo-nami that tempered the worst of either side (Art Bell quickly shut up about New World Order nonsense after McVeigh) and kept the kitsch. It was, in hindsight, a golden era when we knew who the kooks were and what they thought.
What did the The Bush Era get us? Warmed-over preachy message movies and documentaries about current events. Michael Moore documentaries with the subtlety of a day-glo sledgehammer. Bill Maher monologues with the subtlety of a Michael Moore documentary. (And don’t get me started on the Bill Maher documentaries!) The right didn’t do much better, mind you. With their guy in power, it became all about Intelligent Design, bad Pelosi jokes and other low-level, completely ignorable nonsense.
Perhaps the difference was the tone and clarity of the message. The 90s conspiracy nuts frothed about the UN teaming with UFOs to take your guns and bibles. It was fun like your favorite uncle and you couldn’t take it seriously, like your favorite uncle who wears a tinfoil beanie.
The mainstream 2000s conspiracy nuts, however, froth about Big Oil, Drug Companies, Katrina, Global Warming and Dick Cheney, none of which were fun at all. The truth is, I don’t fear corporations or Dick Cheney. The woo left always whined about such things, but I need oil and I need pharmaceuticals. Katrina, in retrospect, the Federal response might not have been as horrible as we thought at the time. Global Warming concerns me, but I’m the kind of guy that sees how technology and reasoned, sane discourse will do more good than hysteria. Dick Cheney, I could do without, of course, but he shot a guy and looked like Burgess Meredith’s Penguin. If it weren’t for starting wars, the Bush Administration would have been enjoyably surreal.
In fact, the anti-Bush conspiracy nuts were notable not just for their unoriginality, but for the surprising way people who should know better latched on to the malevolent Bush conspiracy notion. Its one thing when late night talk radio twits rant about Clinton creating a third term for himself, but it is quite another when the intellectual (and celebrity) elite honestly believe that Bush was going to declare martial law if Kerry won in 2004. (I’m looking at you, Gore Vidal.) So prevalent are such beliefs, that Congressman John Olver of Massachucetts had no qualms about suggesting Bush was going to declare martial law in 2008. For some, the 2000 election was just triggered something in their brains and they were never able to accept that history tumbled along on its own sloppy path without the aid of a cabal of Neo-Conservative puppetmasters.
Then there were the 9/11 Truther films and websites. They are on a class of their own: outside the mainstream paranoia, and on a completely different level and with shading of anti-semitism. So far out there, in fact, that they can’t be loathed on a absurdly comedic level like any of the Clinton Era New World Order material still floating around the Internet. They are as every bit as religious as creationists. But with creationists, you know the boundaries of the debate. With truthers, however, there are no boundaries, anything is game for their delusions.
So, its a brand new era. Will we see a return to 90s nostalgia? (And, why not, considering who’s in power in Washington!?!) Or will the right wing wooists take on the venom of the truther crowd? Let’s hope not. So far, the best the right can do about Obama is question his birth certificate, his associations with 60s radicals and his Secret Muslim past. At least they aren’t saying he killed Vince Foster…