Debate Magazine

Losing Their Heads? Or Just out of Their Minds? (Update to an Earlier Story)

Posted on the 14 March 2014 by Doggone
Losing Their Heads? Or Just out of Their Minds? (Update to an earlier story)Raw Story reported a few days ago that now Rick Santorum has picked up the latest radical right wing / radical religious right claim about guillotines being employed, via Obamacare, to attack Christianity and/or to enforce Sharia law.
Looking at these stories, it is difficult not to diagnose Conservativism as a form of mental illness, a tragic break with reality, a form of delusional thinking deeply connected to the most emotional and primitive parts of the brain and to the most fundamental kinds of identity thought that precludes use of the rational parts of the brain.
So, let's review this - part of a story reported elsewhere, including here a few days ago.
Sources like Right Wing Watch and Addicting Info, among others, alerted me to this story, but until I came across this piece from Raw Story from a week ago, it had remained among the more peripheral of the fringe crazies among the radical right.  While it had moderate play among the more generally deluded conservatives, it seemed to be circulating much more with the radical religious right than the less religiously focused.
I have spent a little time digging into that, trying to find the source for this, but the Raw Story piece solidified my impression that this is a particular paranoia specific to the religious right subset of the mentally ill conservatives.  This load of steaming shit believed by conservatives and promoted by right wing propagandists started last November; here is where we are now.  (Following this is the - if you'll pardon my religious humor - the 'Genesis' of the lie involving guillotines, on which Santorum is building.)
From Raw Story:

Santorum: Obama leading Christians to the ‘guillotine’

By David Edwards
Thursday, February 9, 2012 10:37 EDT
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum warned on Wednesday that President Barack Obama and other liberals are leading people of faith down a path that ends at the guillotine.
During a campaign event in Plano, Texas, the candidate charged Obama had an “overt hostility to faith.”
“When you look and see what the left is trying to do in America today, progressives are trying to shutter faith, privatize it, push it out of the public square, oppress people of faith, strip their charitable deductions away from them, trying to weaken them, churches — trying to say that anyone who believes in the value of Judeo-Christian principles,” Santorum explained.
“As we saw in the Ninth Circuit just this week, that if you believe that [same sex marriage is wrong] — this is what the court said — that if believe that, if believe what’s taught in Genesis, if you believe what’s practiced Biblically and a generation since then you are irrational. The only possible reason you could believe this, according to the Ninth Circuit, is that you are a bigot and that you are a hater.”
He continued: “They are taking faith and crushing it. Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left is a government that gives you rights. What’s left are no unalienable rights. What’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. What’s left in France became the the guillotine.”
Santorum admitted that the U.S. was “a long way from that,” but if Obama had his way then “we are headed down that road,” citing the Obama administration’s decision to require nearly all private health insurance policies to cover family planning, including female contraceptives.
“Now is the time for America to rise up and say enough!” the GOP hopeful exclaimed.
So where did Guillotine nonsense, Obamacare, Sharia law and attacks on Christianity come from?
Here. In the larger context of news coverage about a shortage of lethal injection drugs for the death penalty, we saw a rise in mentions of reverting to the Guillotine, in conjunction with discussions of other means of execution, like hanging or firing squad. We know that Conservatives HATE any impediment to their rights or abilities to kill other people they don't like, ranging from stopping them from lynching people, to interference with executions of innocent people, to stand your ground laws. It is part of a well-identified pattern that Conservatives also like to project their own worst behaviors as well as fears onto other people they oppose. The ability and the authority to kill people makes Conservatives feel strong and powerful, so much so, that fairness, rule of law or innocence don't matter. Any facts that get in the way of that desire for power are just ignored or steamrolled over.
Mixing up references to means of execution, and Obamacare, and attacks on Christianity are all part of the same pattern of paranoia and delusional thinking that is fundamental to the cray-cray 21st century Conservatism.
Let me just interject here, so far as I am aware, no one still uses the guillotine for beheadings; France has not done so since 1977 and it was outlawed in 1981.  (Some idiot in the U.S. state of Georgia tried in the mid-1990s to replace the electric chair with the guillotine, unsuccessfully.  It is worth noting that both means of execution have serious problems with effectiveness.)
Here is one of the earliest identifications of the claims about Obamacare and the Guillotine via and the Examiner:

Relax. Obamacare won't bring beheadings to U.S.

A new rumor about Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, making its rounds on the internet is that the law will make beheading an official method of execution in the United States. The rumor, apparently has its origin in an article by Lorri Anderson on the Freedom Outpost on Nov. 18, 2013, about international medical codes. Conspiracy sites claim that a medical code for “legal execution” reveals that beheading and decapitation are coming to the United States. The Freedom Outpost is a conservative pseudo-news site that has articles on birtherism, nullification and other conspiracy theories.
Anderson's article refers to a medical code, “ICD 9 E 978,” that conspiracy theorists believe purports to list the legal methods of execution in the United States. The definition of the coding is found on under “International Classification of Diseases” and is as follows:
E978 Legal execution
All executions performed at the behest of the judiciary or ruling authority
[whether permanent or temporary] as:
asphyxiation by gas
beheading, decapitation (by guillotine)
capital punishment
other specified means

Anderson notes that the code is part of an international coding system, but doesn’t seem to understand what the codes are for or how they are used. She seems to believe that, because the United States is using the coding system, all parts of the code will apply to patients in the United States and that is is being forced on American doctors by the Department of Homeland Security and UN.
Writing for, Trisha Torrey explains that “ICD” codes are “International Statistical Classifications of Diseases.” The codes are used to categorize every disease, set of symptoms or cause of death that can be attributed to human beings. The coding system was developed by the World Health Organization, the coordinating authority for health in the United Nations. As electronic medical records are implemented, the codes will be used for diagnosis and treatment of health problems.
When someone dies, an ICD code will also be used to record the cause of death. This is where Anderson’s code for “legal execution” comes in. The code will obviously be used when a person has been executed “at the behest of the judiciary or ruling authority [whether permanent or temporary].” Even though “beheading” and “decapitation (by guillotine)” are not legal methods of execution for the federal government or any of the 50 states, beheading is still legal in Saudi Arabia. Additionally, rebels in Syria and the Taliban in Pakistan (possibly a temporary authority in areas that they control) have been known to use beheading, as did Saddam Hussein in pre-war Iraq. Other Islamic terrorists have also been known to behead their captives. In one notable case, Nick Berg, an American business who was Jewish, was kidnapped and beheaded by Iraqi Muslim terrorists in 2004 and the video of the murder was posted online. And no, there is no evidence that Barack Obama is a Muslim.
Santorum is playing on the fears of those who are Islamophobes, those who are birthers, those who believe ridiculous and inaccurate things about the ACA/Obamacare, and especially playing to his particular base among the radical religious right.  The religious right has already been primed for this message by the ridiculous and false Obamacare bullshit.  If this flies successfully with his base you might see Santorum linking it more closely to Obamacare than just contraception, but it is fair to argue that the many instances where lies made about Obamacare have been debunked has made political wannabees like Santorum a little more careful of making demonstrably false claims like those made by Garrow and others.  This is clearly his roundabout way of saying something similar, without getting busted directly.

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