Carson: Don’t Mess With the Prophet!

Dr. Ben Carson made a pronouncement (per Yahoo‘s Hunter Walker) almost immediately after last night’s GOP presidential candidate debate aimed at shutting down any further questioning of the stirring autobiographical stories he tells in the book that made him famous, Gifted Hands:

“From this point on, I get to determine what the hook is. I get to determine whether I’m going to answer what I consider silly questions,” Carson explained. “If people have substantial things to talk about, I will. But if they want to talk about, well, you know, ‘Back in this book in 1990, you know, your mother got into some trouble, and can we talk about that?’ No, I’m going to say go jump in a lake.”

That’s interesting, insofar as books like Gifted Hands are almost certainly the only reason Carson became well-known outside the medical field, and why he was invited to speak at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, the launching point of his political career. Beyond that, his “I get to determine the hook” line doesn’t exactly support his image as this humble, mild-mannered non-politician, does it?

Truth is, there’s nothing humble about Carson, who is increasingly plain in suggesting he speaks for Almighty God, and increasingly prone to treat the growing ranks of his “enemies” as beneath contempt. I’ve talked about that some here, but Sarah Posner has the best brief explanation of Carson’s holy arrogance:

Ben Carson believes he has seen the enemy, and casts himself as a prophet warning America of it. Carson’s method of disarming his critics is to portray them as that enemy in a cosmic battle over that truth. The enemy is people Carson facilely refers to as “secular progressives.”

Secular progressives, to Carson, are not mere political adversaries. In Carson’s usage, the term seems to encompass any sort of person or entity that might fall into categories as varied as liberal, secular, religious liberal, religious progressive, communist, socialist, feminist, LGBT rights activist, civil liberties advocate, Someone Who Disagrees With Ben Carson, atheist, agnostic, dormant and dead moderate Republicans, and, oh, I don’t know, CNN? Yesterday, as the Huffington Post’s media editor Gabriel Arana reports, a Carson interview on CNN turned “strangely combative” as anchor Alisyn Camerota “pressed him on a number of his recent controversial comments, including the claim that ‘many’ Americans are stupid and that ‘we’d be Cuba if it weren’t for Fox News.‘”

Camerota reminds Carson she used to work at Fox News and still has many friends there, but this appears to be of no moment to Carson, who lectures her (emphasis mine):

“[t]he general mainstream media all seems to move in the secular progressive direction, and you know, they would like to create a narrative that certain things are good, and certain things are bad, according to the way that they see them. And by being able to be the bully pulpit, so to speak, and to be the only voice that’s out there, you can get a lot of people to start thinking the way that you do. Along comes Fox News and presents an alternative, a different way of thinking.”

Not only do “secular progressives” try to discredit Dr. Ben Carson; he maintains they are trying to silence him and maybe even harm him. Last month, Carson claimed he needs Secret Service protection because “I’m in great danger because I challenge the secular progressive movement to the very core.”

It’s an abiding tragedy to me that fundamentalists of every religious faith typically think they are expressing humble obedience to God by lording it over other people. It becomes more sinister when that kind of believer wants secular power over the “secular” people they despise.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.