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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Broken Wings

Americans, more than most other people, need to be defended from each other at all times.
-- Dmitry Orlov, The Five Stages of Collapse


Ordinarily I find myself largely simpatico with the targets of Perrin's rage, but in this case his attempt to equate the morons profiled in Alexandra Pelosi's dorkumentary with some indeterminate quantity of Obamatons rings false.

Obviously Pelosi's subjects, given the brevity of the film in the first place and its overall lack of coherent narrative, are somewhat cherry-picked and decontextualized, as are the twee knuckle-children sporting their "Sarah Palin is a Cunt" tees in the photo heading Perrin's post.

I think many of us, present company included, find the precious insufferability of bien pensant limo libs and would-be cultists for any politician to be mentally and spiritually (not to mention politically) taxing, to say the least. They're the same folks who dilute the narrative with "Bushitler" posters and "Free Mumia" placards at the free-speech-zone be-ins, pointlessly (if not needlessly) antagonizing and distracting from the actual argument at hand. They are a pain in the ass, no doubt.

However....

There are millions of Americans who have no idea what the fuck's going on. So what? Is that terribly surprising? A recent Gallup poll suggested that only 40 percent of Americans believe in evolution. Some people I know find that frightening. I'm amazed that nearly half the country buys into science at all. Let's take what we can get.


Taking what we can get is what got us into this mess, pretending that all beliefs, no matter how ridiculous, are equal, as if believing that 2+2=7 is just as valid. The fact that this proportion of people are that boneheaded and ignorant should definitely be a cause for concern, because those things carry over into most other facets of life and interaction. Forget the dreams of American exceptionalism and bootstrapping and good ol' moxie and gumption and all that for now. What we should be worried about is not some fantasy of returning to the greatness of hegemon, but merely returning to competence, and mental stability.

Yes, the world needs ditchdiggers too, and morons pay taxes like everyone else, and thus deserve representation, but that doesn't mean that this anti-intellectual boobery shouldn't be marginalized at every opportunity. After eight years of Bush, 46% of Americans still thought it'd be a good idea to vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin.

And whatever misgivings many of us might have about Obama and Biden, they are not remotely equivalent to what the other side offered qualitatively. It's dangerously foolish to think so. Yes, they are carrying on a fine JFK/Clinton tradition of mealy-mouthed rhetoric, gutless incrementalism, and covert destruction of powerless brown people. And since they belong to one of the two wings of the Corporate Party, they are bought and owned by the financial geniuses that screwed the proverbial pooch.

But it's no risky wager that a McCain administration would simply be far less circumspect and far more proactive in its force projection, its endorsement of bloodletting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, or wherever it deemed necessary, or even fun. It is a difference of degrees, perhaps, and Obama and Biden still deserve to rebuked at every turn, but there is a difference nonetheless. They are not equal by any stretch. Nor are their respective supporters.

The system sucks, no doubt. I'm as tired of the evil-of-two-lessers syndrome as anyone. But as a citizen, either you take the time to figure out which set will be least damaging to the interests of you and your neighbors, or you disengage.

The people in Pelosi's film would be much less problematic if they just disengaged, instead of crowing their belligerent nonsense every goddamned time about why they continue to vote against themselves. However off-putting the "fuck Sarah Palin" claque may be, at least they understand who is more harmful to their interests.

Here's the thing: even though the guy's only been on the job for about six weeks, there are valid, substantial critiques to be made regarding Obama. But these people fail utterly to make a single one.

Numerous right wingers may be out of their minds, but many of those interviewed by Pelosi acknowledge their limitations, saying they don't care what the facts are or what others think. I appreciate their honesty. Numerous liberals maintain that they know the truth, are on the side of reason, and if you don't share their political views, there's something deeply wrong with you. [emphases in original]


He has a point here, and that's where liberal debaters frequently lose the people they're trying to convert, this slippery distinction between "truth" and "facts". Instead of distinguishing between "liberals" and "conservatives", since neither word still means what it used to, nor adequately describes its respective demographic, it is more helpful to consider the dichotomy of people for whom facts are important, and people for whom facts are unimportant. Each side has its "truth", its central narrative, but those truths may be somewhat orthogonal to the facts, and each side's acquaintance with them.

Approached from that angle, it begs the question why Democrats or "liberals", who despite their faults do tend to rely on facts to a greater degree, continue to bother with trying to muster a barrage of facts, in order to win over people who don't concern themselves with them -- hell, are proud of not knowing them. They are faith-based rather than fact-based, and are happy to tell you so. They would rather be bamboozled than condescended to. Well, alrighty then. Enjoy your free-market paradise, folks.

And it's a waste of time trying to engage people who are not only proudly ignorant of facts, but are unable even to apprehend their own terms of debate. They can't adequately describe "socialism" or "Hitler", nor do they even have a surface knowledge of foreign or domestic policy, or know anything about the places where their kids are being shot at or their jobs have moved. The only things that motivate them are spite and foolishness. It's hard to expect anyone who goes to the trouble of actually paying attention to shit to regard that mindset with anything other than contempt.

That doesn't absolve the aforementioned college kids from their screen-printed hostility, but it's not as if Palin didn't reap what she sowed. Since she had no actual policy value to bring to the table, Palin was forced to barnstorm and antagonize the worst impulses of her info-impaired fan club. The retributive value of obnoxious tee shirts is relatively mild in response to cheap demagoguery and nasty lies attempting to conflate one's opponent with ancient acts of domestic terrorism. The Republicans ran a cheap and shitty campaign, and they continue to do so, and one wonders what the upside might be in reaching out to them or the people who actually want to buy what they're selling.

There is no point in coddling thinly-veiled racism and hooting ignorance. Either they can articulate how Obama is actually a socialist, or how he has anything remotely in common with Hitler besides "compelling orator" (which would then include everyone from Churchill to Reagan), or they can piss off already. And instead of worrying about these cultural snipe hunts, approach it on the level of economic justice, which is the only thing that will resonate with them and possibly motivate them to inform themselves.

It's all a dance anyway, these bullshit battles; Tuesday night's Big Speech was a tedious exercise in establishment kabuki, replete with choreotelegraphed applause lines every other sentence, and an amazingly dim-witted attempt at rebuttal that even Bobby Jindal (speaking of condescending), if he's half as smart as the Republitards think he is, cannot himself believe. If Jindal stays on his high horse and turns down all the fed pelf pouring his way, then we'll be impressed.

But the people in the big room for the speech, Obama included, are at a cognitive disconnect somewhere along the line. This is not a "right" or "left" issue; again this is about what the facts are. And the facts indicate that we are finding excuses to give more money we don't have to people that we all know are either corrupt, incompetent, or both, in order to prop up a failed system of phantom assets and imaginary profit.

It's an elaborate pretense that the system still works for anyone besides its rentiers, which is almost as dumb and insane as refusing to believe in evolution despite all the evidence.

2 comments:

The Vile Scribbler said...

Yeah, if tu quoque arguments became illegal, I don't know what Perrin would write about anymore. IOZ is often the same way, but at least he's a more entertaining writer.

AlanSmithee said...

"Taking what we can get is what got us into this mess..."

"...either you take the time to figure out which set will be least damaging to the interests of you and your neighbors, or you disengage."

Way to shoot yourself in the foot, Demotard. I like the pwoggie-bloggie-whiney false choice there, too. "Either vote for my corporate-owned demofuck or go away!" Nice.

No wonder your party is so fucked up. With spineless quibbling mealy-mouthed lesser-evil pwogwessive shitwits like you leading the charge, how could it not be?