Peak X

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Will Pavia at the Times, discussing the recent Loebner Prize event ("Machine takes on man at mass Turing Test", 10/13/2008), explains how he figured out which of his two interlocutors was human:

The other correspondent was undoubtedly a robot. I asked it for its opinion on Sarah Palin, and it replied: ‘Sorry, don’t know her.’ No sentient being could possibly answer in this way.

That's harsh. A more difficult test of politico-linguistic currency would be commenting on John Cole's recent coinage "Peak Wingnut" (Balloon Juice, 10/13/2008):

As I look around the blogosphere, and view memeorandum, it occurred to me that we may have hit and passed Peak Wingnut. Don’t get me wrong, this election is still not over and by no means in the bag, but as I read things, the hey day of modern wingnuttia may have passed.

In its basic meaning, wing nut is a nut with a pair of wings that can be turned with the fingers, without requiring any tools. The earliest citation in the OED is from 1910:

1910 Chambers's Jrnl. May 349/1 The wing-nut on its shaft is released, the detachable rim-wheel placed on the shaft, and the nut replaced.

But at some point in the past ten years (?), wingnut became a deprecatory term for people with strong views on the right end of the political spectrum, as a shortened form of "right-wing nut".[I invite commenters to try to find the first use of wingnut for "right-winger" -- since the term is not yet in the (online) OED, but will no doubt eventually be included, your work may be (anonymously) immortalized.]

Like (plain) "winger", wingnut might in principle also have been derived by ellipsis of "left-", but I've never seen either form used that way. Instead, there are a variety of corresponding terms for the left side of the political spectrum, such as moonbat, that similarly could perfectly well describe conservative extremists, but similarly aren't used that way.

As for the "peak" part of "Peak Wingnut", this is by analogy to "peak oil, which as wikipedia explains "is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline." (This is especially associated with the theories of M. King Hubbert.) Thus John Cole's idea was that the level of extreme right-wing sentiment in on-line discourse has reached a maximum, and is poised to enter a terminal decline.

The use of peak in "peak oil" seems to build on previous combinations such as "peak hours", "peak year", "peak viewing period", and so on:

1903 Electr. World & Engin. 9 May 789/1 The direct-current ends of these rotary converters are often worked in multiple with an old generating station..during the peak-hours. 1919 Engineer 1 Aug. 107/1 ‘Peak-hour’ traffic. 1924 Westm. Gaz. 8 Aug. 3/4 A drop of nearly £40,000,000 in pensions expenditure since the ‘peak’ year of 1920-21 is mentioned. 1946 Vogue June 2/2 The Sunday evening peak-listening series, ‘The Challenge of our Time’. 1960 M. O'CONOR et al. Children & Television Programmes iii. 8 Pressures of different kinds and degrees exist to compel the television organizations to seek very large audiences for at least some of the programmes placed within the peak viewing period.

In all these versions of "peak X", X is a time period or time point of some sort; but then the time-word can be elided in combinations like "peak-listening series" (= "prime time series"). Thus "peak oil" is presumably short for "peak oil (production moment)" or something of the sort. Hubbert's theory has also been applied in areas that create terms such as "peak copper", at least according to Wikipedia.

Perhaps "peak wingnut" also has some resonance with the early-1960s concept of peak experience, defined by the OED as "a momentary awareness of joy or fulfilment, akin to ecstasy and of a higher and different quality from ordinary experience", with these citations:

1959 E. G. SCHACHTEL Metamorphosis viii. 177 His [sc. A. H. Maslow's] ‘*peak experience’ is characterized by what I call allocentric perception. 1962 A. H. MASLOW Toward Psychol. of Being III. vi. 69 An attempt to generalize in a single description some of these basic cognitive happenings… These and other moments of highest happiness and fulfilment I shall call the peak-experiences.

Unfortunately for the lexicographical future of "peak wingnut", John soon took it back:

Never mind, via the comments, I see I spoke too soon. [...] Ignore all my questions from above- wingnut is a renewable resource. Peak Wingnut was the shortest lived “theory” ever.

Meanwhile, the idea of "peak moonbat" hasn't even made it to the short-lived hypothesis stage. Back in the early Iron Age days of 2005, Tim Blair did write ("A tentacle of moonbats", 4/17/2005) that "It might be fun to screen this outside the Opera House during peak moonbat moments". But so far, that's the only instance of the sequence "peak moonbat" that Google's index comes up with. And John is surely correct that political sentiments and reactions to them are infinitely renewable resources, at least pending extinction of the species, so that Hubbert theory simply doesn't apply.

Still, it does seem to me that it's true to some extent that the tide of blogospheric wingnuttery has somewhat receded, though I confess that I don't have any quantitative evidence to offer. Perhaps someone with a good historical corpus of blogs and an interest in sentiment analysis can do better?

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36 Comments »

  1. amichail said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 12:25 pm

    Check out this Web 2.0 approach to chatbots: http://chatbotgame.com.

    Just as Deep Blue brute-forced it in chess with speed, the idea behind the Chatbot Game is to brute-force it with a huge number of user-submitted Google-like chat rules.

  2. Sky Onosson said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 12:36 pm

    I had no idea that "wingnut" was used to only refer to people on the right side of the political spectrum, or even that it was a specifically political term at all. I always thought it was just a synonym for "crazy", "loopy", "off his rocker" etc.

  3. Mr Punch said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 12:52 pm

    "Peak oil" may be modeled on, e.g., "peak hours," but its meaning is not in fact parallel because it carries the implication of a subsequent "terminal decline." The peak oil concept exists in opposition to the view that while there may be a limited amount of oil in the ground that is worth extracting at any given price, a price rise will always open up more resources to exploitation. There's only one peak oil moment.

  4. AJD said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

    I'll start the bidding for earliest citation of "wingnut" with June 29, 1992: "I would bet you have similar right-wingnut views on abortion."

  5. Josh Millard said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 1:41 pm

    "Peak Oil" also has the distinction of having become something of a sarcastic web meme, spawned on perhaps by the opportunity that the internet has presented to kooks to go on posting/commenting/spamming sprees re: the imminentness of same. Something in the vein of (but well predating) GOOGLE RON PAUL from the libertariana at Reddit and the wider internet.

    As nice as the notion of tying it back to "peak experience" or to other non-oil "peak" usages is, I'm skeptical of the idea that Cole's choice of phrases here is anything other than a riff on that very memeness. Peak X as snowclonish template, with maybe an interesting transfer of the "obssessive crazy" connotation from being targeted at the folks unironically using the phrase (in the case of Peak Oil, where ironically using it suffices as mockery of the earnest Peak Oilers) to being targeted at the folks being literally described by the phrase.

  6. Brendan said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 2:10 pm

    Of course, the natural extension of this is "Peak peaks":

    http://twitter.com/abscondment/statuses/934704014

  7. Skullturf Q. Beavispants said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

    Google gives me

    "lefty wingnuts": 522 hits
    "liberal wingnuts": 686 hits
    "left-wing wingnuts": 575 hits
    "commie wingnuts": 7 hits
    "communist wingnuts": 9 hits
    "socialist wingnuts": 63 hits

    "conservative wingnuts": 2430 hits
    "right-wing wingnuts": 2660 hits
    "fascist wingnuts": 248 hits

    So it does seem to be used more often to describe people on the right of the spectrum, although my intuition agreed with Sky's above that "wingnut" isn't particularly a partisan term.

  8. Will said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

    "Left-wing" "the Left" and "liberals" can all be pejorative labels coming from conservatives. "Right wing" is equally pejorative coming from liberals but "the Right" and "conservatives" don't have the same punch. So liberals have more reason to call their opponents "wingers" or "wingnuts".

    But how did "moonbat" become a political terms, other than the fact that it sound like wingnut?

  9. dveej said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

    "Wingnut", given its purported origins in "[right/left]-wing nut", could be used of right-wingers and left-wingers. I recall seeing "wingnut" in its salad days on the Intertubes being applied occasionally to lefties.

    "Moonbat", however, given its origin in an intentionally incorrect and derisive pronunciation of the surname of the Guardian columnist Monbiot, really is only ever applied to left-wingers.

  10. Lance said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 2:54 pm

    Poking at LexisNexis for "wing nut" is a little hard, since you get a lot of articles on, say, bicycle repair.

    You do have the Toronto Sun referring to Nobelist Karey Mullis as "the brilliant West Coast wing nut" in February 1998. Then there's the Globe and Mail, August 1998, saying of Michael Jackson, "The public perception grew that he was a wing nut, albeit a talented wing nut…." Note the lack of political implication. There's also the Toronto Star (was this usage Canadian in origin?) saying, of the mediocre Maple Leafs, "the team's wing-nut owner wants to begin challenging the Montreal Canadiens' record of five straight Cups this year". In early 1999, the apparently unnecessary Shagadelically Speaking defined "underground lair" as "the subterranean, all-purpose laboratory-weapons storage facility-chalet of any megalomaniacal wing nut worth his salt."

    There are political uses, of course, but they don't seem to seriously predate this (though my poking wasn't very thorough). In June 1998, the Globe and Mail wrote of an attempt "to rid Reform [i.e., BC's right-wing party] of the taint of wing nuts and the image of extremism". October 1998 had the St. Petersburg Times refer to George H. W. Bush "bowing to instinct and pressure from party wing nuts". In December 1998, the Boston Globe's facetious predictions for the coming year included the prediction that "remaining [Massachusetts Republican] party members will splinter among the Libertarian, Conservative, and Wing Nut parties."

    (Note that the slightly earlier quote from actor Christopher Eccleston, "I've just played the Duke of Norfolk as a wing-nut!", refers not to his political portrayal, but to the fact that the actor did nothing to rein in his prominent ears.)

    Oddly, "wingnut" seems attested earlier, and it's distinctly Canadian. The Toronto Star describes the US's characterization of Saddam Hussein as "the wingnut of the Near East" in February 1991, and uses the word again throughout the piece ("A wingnut [by] any other name…is still a wingnut"). From the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix in mid-1991: "I can't help but think the greatest gathering of cranks and clods in Canada has to be found in the New Democratic Party. It should be renamed Wingnut Central"; in this case, the usage is definitely political (but oddly left-wing).

    The term wasn't exclusively political. In 1990, the Toronto Star referred to Robin Williams as an "irrepressible wingnut". The Montreal Gazette referred to a brutal murderer as "One more violent, woman-hating wingnut" in May 1992 (though there was a neo-Nazi overtone to the killing). A possible American allusion is (again!) the St. Petersburg Times giving (again!) predictions for the new year in January 1992, using "Titan D. Wingnut" as a name for a conspiracy theorist (non-political; it involved local baseball).

    Things continue Canadianly for a number of years, though around 1994 you start to get swamped in references to the surfer in Endless Summer II and Peter Jackson's film company.

  11. Sarah Palin defeats bot in Loebner Prize competition said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 3:17 pm

    [...] (spotted on Languae Log) [...]

  12. Peter said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

    "But at some point in the past ten years (?), wingnut became a deprecatory term for people with strong views on the right end of the political spectrum"

    I think this connotation goes back a lot further than 10 years.

    I can recall private conversations I had with Americans during the 1992 US Presidential campaign in which Ross Perot was called a wing-nut. I always thought this name was a reference to his relatively large ears and bald (or bald-ish) head.

    For exactly this physical reason, Australian Prime Minister William McMahon (1908-1988), was popularly known as "Billy Wingnut" while in office. He was Prime Minister from March 1971 to December 1972, so I imagine there are printed references to this nickname for him from that period. Although a member of the Australian Liberal Party, McMahon was, like most in his party, a conservative politically.

  13. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 3:50 pm

    William Safire covers "wingnuts" and "moonbats" in the latest edition of his Political Dictionary. He doesn't give any particularly early cites for "wingnut," though he does note that the fuller "right-wing nut" goes back to the '60s. As for "moonbat," the Monbiot derivation given by dveej above appears to be apocryphal. Safire writes:

    Moonbat was introduced as an epithet by Perry de Haviland in 1999 and popularized in the blogosphere, starting in 2002, on de Haviland's libertarian Web site, Samizdata. De Haviland has rejected the suggestion that moonbat was inspired by the surname of George Monbiot, a proenvironmental columnist for the Manchester (U.K.) Guardian. "I coined the term long before George came onto my radar," he wrote in a 2006 e-mail message. "I rendered the term as 'Barking Moonbat' as part of a conversation I was having with some friends about how when certain topics appear in the media or on the internet, some people start howling just like wolves reflexively at the visual stimuli. However as wolves seems too noble a connotation, I started to describe the reflex as 'the Barking Moonbat reflex.'"

  14. Bryn LaFollette said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 4:05 pm

    I had been under the impression that 'wingnut' had been in use since at least the World War II era as a slang term for a crazy or eccentric person. Although, I can't find any citations on-line so far. Although I don't think that use derives from "(left|right)-wing nut", as the current usage seems to suggest.

  15. Nathan Myers said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 4:11 pm

    Perry de Haviland's claim strikes me as unlikely. It smells of unconscious plagiarism.

    For an association of the moon with post-neanderthal politics, recall California's governor Jerry Brown (today, its Attorney General) being labeled "Governor Moonbeam" for his progressive goals.

  16. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

    Following up on Lance's Canadian finds, many of the "wing(-)nut" cites from the early '90s relate to Canada's Reform Party under Preston Manning:

    Toronto Star, 8 July 1991
    Manning is not a wing-nut from Alberta; he embraces moderation, eschews racism. He is a sophisticated politician, clever with words.

    Globe and Mail, 14 Oct 1993
    The biggest surprise on the 1993 campaign trail is the way Manning has groomed himself to appear as a reasonable man presenting a responsible federal platform, instead of coming across like the Western wing-nut many had assumed he was.

    Toronto Star, 20 Oct 1993
    In keeping with a tradition established by the old-line party leaders' tours, the reporters cast their votes to name the Reform jet. Among the nominees: "Wing-Nuts; Beck's Taxi (after fired Reform candiate John Beck); Manning Luft Gruppen; Do-Dah-Dair; Ship of Fools; Doctrin-Air; Laissez F'air, Vox Populaire." The winner: "Vox Populaire," by a 14-12 vote over "Wing-Nuts" – after Reform staff was given the right to vote.

    Kitchener-Waterloo Record, 3 Nov 1993
    Manning pledged to "free the MPs from party discipline," but this tough-minded, former corporate consultant will have great difficulty keeping the "wingnuts" among his followers fastened down.

    But the word was also hurled southwards at the right wing of the GOP:

    Toronto Star, 19 Dec 1992
    In the states that means high profile jabbering wingnuts like G. Gordon Liddy, convicted Watergate conspirator jamming the airwaves via Washington D.C.'s WJFK. Or Rush Limbaugh, the Chuckles the Clown of the American far right, whose show is syndicated across the States.

    Globe and Mail, 21 Apr 1993
    Moreover, George Bush lost the U.S. presidency not because he was a fogy, but because he screwed up the economy and lost control of his party to a bunch of wing-nuts.

  17. Mark Liberman said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 5:35 pm

    To get a sense of how the term wingnut is used in today's blogosphere, I looked on Blogpulse, which shows 4,765 posts containing "wingnut". I checked the first 50 (not including John Cole's Balloon Juice post and any other citing him), and the score was: right-wing 47, left-wing 1, political but neutral 1, apolitical 1.

    The political-but-neutral one included sentences like

    I receive right wingnut emails and left wingnut emails. I try to stay out of the line of fire. I just nod my head yes to which ever wingnut I’m talking with left or right.

    The apolitical one uses the word this way:

    The spiritual truth of creation is evident in scripture and, also according to scripture (Heb 11), must be taken by faith. Not intellectual ascention. If you believe by faith that you are ascended into heaven, adopted as one of God’s children, and are currently seated in heavenly places, then you are either a wingnut, or you are a faith-believer and have no business believing anything that opposes the creation story either. People, especially Christians, who believe in the atheistic creation story of evolution have the wrong glasses on.

    The left-wing reference is from New Zealand, where things are naturally upside down and apparently reversed side-to-side as well:

    Sarah Palin is possibly related to Lady Spencer and FDR (aren't we all?). Some lefty wingnut then rabbits on about his Teddy. No, don't expect it to make sense, but don't worry, the Democrat Dead Ducks will find something else to muck rake on.

    All the others were references to the right wing of the U.S. Republican party, almost all by people who are not in it.

  18. clubbers said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 7:36 pm

    What Will Pavia doesn't understand is that there is no truth-telling requirement in the Turing Test. So, his (admittedly exaggerated) claim that no one could answer, "Sorry, I don't know [Palin]," is just false. I agree, nevertheless, that it is an unlikely answer for a human to give.

  19. Mark McConville said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 7:41 pm

    I swear I first heard "wing nut" in the very early 80s, used for a generic child with sticky out ears (the unfortunate child's father was a championshipship winning motorcyclist frpm the Channel Islands). I can see why we now associate this physical characteristic with "Prince" Charles, the wing-nut son of the Saxe-Coburg dynasty.

  20. Ralph Hickok said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 10:26 pm

    From Partridge's "Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English":
    Wing-nut. Nickname for a boy or man with large, protruding ears.
    He cites a 1986 source.

  21. Tim Leonard said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 10:37 pm

    If you choose symmetrical right-wing and left-wing phrases, the occurrence ratios show a clear rightward bias:

    284,000 for "right-wing nut"          vs. 107,000 for "left-wing nut"            (3:1)
      30,800 for "right wingnut"           vs.     6,740 for "left wingnut"              (5:1)
      10,800 for "rightwing nut"           vs.     1,440 for "leftwing nut"              (8:1)
           946 for "wingnut Republican"  vs.          37 for "wingnut Democrat"  (26:1)
           455 for "wing-nut Republican" vs.          21 for "wing-nut Democrat" (22:1)

  22. Myles Dakan said,

    October 14, 2008 @ 11:50 pm

    When speaking at Swarthmore College on September 17th, Michael Dukakis responded similarly to a question about Sarah Palin.

    -"What do you think of Sarah Palin?"

    -"I don't know Sarah Palin."

    Of course, unlike the robot he went on to explain the joke.

  23. Garrett Wollman said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 12:02 am

    Are moonbats related to Alien Space Bats?

  24. Dave Bath said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 3:07 am

    From memory, former Oz PM Billy McMahon, who had HUGE ears (thus "wingnut"), lost one ear through cancer. I cannot remember which, and thus cannot say whether he became a right wingnut or a left wingnut. BTW: A fanciful etymology for the big-ears interpretation of wingnut might include not only the reference to hardware items, but that (like Disney's "Dumbo"), the ears are big enough to be "wings" on the "nut" (head).

  25. Mo said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 3:37 am

    The 'ears' meaning is the default in the UK — the 'eccentric' meaning would need some context and a moment's thought, and would be seen as an Americanism. The 'right-wing' meaning isn't really current at all: you'd need an explanatory note if you used it that way in general media.

  26. the other Mark P said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 5:05 am

    [quote]The use of peak in "peak oil" seems to build on previous combinations such as "peak hours", "peak year", "peak viewing period", and so on:[/quote]

    I don't think so. I think it is from graphs showing predicted oil extraction into the future which showed a clear peak — always just in the imminent future (as they still do).

    Most examples of "peak" usage would arise this way, I would guess. That is, they arise from looking at graphs with peaks, not from thinking of previous usages.

    But I'm a Maths teacher, so perhaps I'm biased.

  27. outeast said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 5:13 am

    I used the expression 'wingnut' a few weeks ago in conversation with a Canadian colleague, and was surprised to find that he had no knowledge of the term's current usage and popularity. He claimed it has long been in use in Canada and that it was never specifically political, and still less partisan. His claim was that the expression he knew simply meant 'a bit crazy' – that it was not derived from 'right-wing nut', but from the idea that an actual wing nut is easily undone or loosened (akin to having a screw loose).

    I have the good fortune to share an office with not one but two Canadians (of very different ages and from very different parts of Canada), and I just asked my other colleague what 'wingnut' means to her. She defined the word in precisely the same way, with the added nuance that a 'wingnut' is someone who is likely to be easily wound up (again by analogy to an actual wing nut). Of my two colleagues, the younger claims to have known the expression 'from childhood' while the older says 'at least since the 70s.'

    Given the replication (admittedly from a dataset of two) I'm inclined to believe the claim that 'wingnut' has long had currency in Canada with a different meaning from that presently being discussed. It is possible that the term has migrated south and aquired the folk etymology of 'right-wing nut' along the way (along with a new definition), but I wonder if the new use might not acutally be a separate coining. Since 'right-wing nut' has been around for a while, it would not be surprising if some interprising enterwebber had simply noticed the 'wingnut' bit and introduced it with no conscious knowledge of the existing Canadianism.

  28. Laurent C said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 5:38 am

    While I don't see anything intrinsically odd about not knowing who is Sarah Palin (I suspect many people in France or, say, in Ukraine don't), a more natural reaction would probably have been to ask: who is Sarah Palin?

  29. nascardaughter said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 10:56 am

    I suspect that if someone evaluated uses of the word "wingnut" (in a partisan political sense in the US) that aren't specified as, for example, "left wingnuts" or "right wingnuts," (just plain "wingnuts"), the usages would be overwhelmingly right wing oriented. Looking at just the specified cases gives the same general trend, but it's probably a distorted picture.

    In the political blogosphere, anyway, I think phrases like "left wingnuts" and "right wing moonbats" are mostly used to make a point about political extremism existing on all sides, or to reclaim a term that the "other side" uses about you — but without the qualifiers, my impression is that a "wingnut" is pretty much always understood as a right winger while a "moonbat" is pretty much always understood as a left winger.

  30. dr pepper said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 1:13 pm

    I share the sense that "moonbat" could have been influenced by "Governor Moonbeam", perhaps with some influence from Archie Bunker's use of "dingbat". And i suppose that in political discussions it may well be applied mainly to folks on the left.

    But over on Quatloos, where we make fun of people with convoluted legal arguments that purport to exempt them from taxes, we use "moonbat" strictly to indicate a more advanced level of crazy than the norm. There is no political characterization implied, however it is a fact that the majority of the people we discuss (who refer to themselves as "sovereigns", "patriots", or "truth warriors") are significantly to the right.

  31. VR Bass said,

    October 15, 2008 @ 1:30 pm

    I can give a much earlier citation for "wingnut": I first saw the term in one of those fad books from the sixties, "The Great Society Coloring Book" (1965-6?). One page had satirical instructions on "How to Build a Party Machine" and among the parts specified were "some left wing nuts" and "some right wing nuts" (hyphenation or lack of it not guaranteed accurate).

    At the bottom of the page was a long metal rod, with the legend "There's a shaft left over. Who can we give it to?"

    Note that this was an elephant they were constructing; back in the day, you could actually find some liberal and moderate Republicans.

    To my great disappointment, it seems to have been so ephemeral that neither Google nor any of the Bookfinder affiliated shops have heard of it. As I recall, it was a nationally distributed, high-quality publication, though, so a copy must turn up eventually. Until then, you'll just have to take my word for it.

  32. Sili said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 9:28 am

    Not that I'm much of a DIY guy, but I have them in the family, so now I'm wondering if it's too fanciful to ponder if the "righty tighty, lefty loosy" has had any influence on the use of wingnuts.

  33. Matt McIrvin said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 9:51 am

    I'm pretty sure I heard "wingnut" used to mean "crazy person", as just a fanciful elaboration of "nut", long before I heard it used with any political connotation for the "wing" part. But it's also possible that I was just missing the political angle earlier.

  34. Anonymous Cowherd said,

    October 17, 2008 @ 6:45 pm

    @Matt McIrvin: I agree, "wingnut" doesn't necessarily have political connotations.

    Note that wingnuts are screwy. I'm also reminded of the Chad Mitchell Trio song "The John Birch Society": "Join the John Birch Society / help us fill the ranks / To get this movement started we'll need lots of tools and cranks!"

    Where's our LL post on the connection between nutters and mechanical parts?

  35. Ultra Dog said,

    March 6, 2009 @ 4:11 am

    "Moonbat" is used by Tom Tomorrow in his comic strip This Modern World.

  36. Julie said,

    January 15, 2011 @ 2:53 am

    I had a vague memory from the 80s that sent me searching around…I think this might be the guy I remember. I do know that at the time my husband (to be) and I wondered whether the name was to suggest insanity. He gave out papers explaining…something. It seemed to be an invention, but I could never figure out what it was.

    http://upload.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=show_topic&forum=203&topic_id=228353

    Relevant passage:

    Back in the '60s, in the antiwar movement, there was a guy, "Captain Wingnut" (I think that was his name–it's been a long time) who always showed up at antiwar protests, with his whacked out military costume. Crazy as he was, he was a far better man than those ordering the napalming of the countryside in Vietnam, and coldly planning the deaths of over a million people. I would have Captain Wingnuts speak for me any day, and be part of "my" movement, right up there with all the "reasonable" people. Let the warmongers and mass murderers paint him, or us, however they are going to. But we shouldn't help them with their slanders–or try, defensively, to distance ourselves from those whom war and fascism have turned into "crazy people."

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