Where the Crazy May Be Coming From

September 16th, 2011 at 10:43 am | 128 Comments |

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Our politics is getting weird. The crude, disrespectful behavior of the Tea Party crowd at Monday’s GOP debate underlines the deterioration of our civic institutions. We’ve always struggled against opportunism, corruption and lies. But the fresh rise of what can only fairly be described as “crazy” is hitting us like an invasive species dropped into your local pond. It’s crowding out the parasites we’ve learned to tolerate and eating everything in sight.

While there have always been some odd characters attracted to power, it seems we’re dealing with a whole new category of crazy, something we’ve never encountered at the highest levels of our politics before.

This year we had a GOP figure candidate rise to the top of some polls by claiming that Obama was born in Kenya. He was replaced briefly by someone who has accused the President of trying to set up mandatory, Communist-style re-education camps for youth. She’s been replaced by a guy who calls Social Security a giant fraud.

Something has changed. Facts are elitist. Credibility is evolving into a liability and crazy has become a tactic. Where is this coming from?

There is a depressing irony at work inside this problem. Never in history have ordinary people had such ready access to reliable information. Yet we seem more vulnerable to goofball claims than ever.

This torrent of information, both true and untrue, combined with an overwhelming pace of social change may be undermining our ability to function. If so, what does that mean for representative government?

More than forty years ago Alvin Toeffler published Future Shock. In it he predicted that society had entered a phase of constant, wrenching, and ever-accelerating change. He expected this would lead to a form of social meltdown and a terrible strain on the individual mind. There’s a comment from Toeffler’s book that seems particularly prescient:

And what then happens when an economy in search of a new purpose seriously begins to enter into the production of experiences for their own sake, experiences that blur the distinction between the vicarious and the non-vicarious, the simulated and the real? One of the definitions of sanity itself is the ability to tell real from unreal. Shall we need a new definition?

Maybe we are in the process of redefining sanity. We have an abundance of reliable information to help us separate what is from what isn’t. But we are also being overwhelmed by shiny distractions. And it’s not just our omnipresent entertainment that is weakening our hold on what’s real. This wealth of accurate information is available inside an atmosphere in which reality is becoming perilously complex. Even the most common tools and devices that are woven into the fabric of our daily lives are now wonders beyond simple credibility. Here’s an example:

I have a device sitting on my desk that is barely larger than a credit card. It knows where I am on the globe at all times and can recommend a nearby restaurant I might like. It allows me to hold a conversation or exchange messages instantly with another person who may be thousands of miles away. It entertains me all day and night with music, games, movies and news.

That statement is utterly, incredibly magical and at the same time absolutely real. And there is not a single human being on the planet, not one, who understands all of the materials and technology required to create my smart phone sufficiently to build one by themselves. Somewhere in the 20th Century our lives came to be dominated by technologies that were products of cultures, not people. We lost all individual control over them.

This world of credulous wonder and surplus information undermines politics, at least in the short run, by depriving us of what we most desire in evaluating public affairs – a singular narrative. In the old days when there were three television stations the dignified white men on the evening news handed us that calming gift. They had a staff of smart people who filtered through the galaxy of world events and digested them down into a storyline which we gobbled up at 5:30 pm Central.

With unfettered access to raw information we are faced with a horrifying new understanding – there is no single narrative and there never was. What happened today is that seven billion people experienced seven billion different things from seven billion unique perspectives between every blink of an eye.

As you’ve noticed, most of them seem to be blogging about it.

As change accelerates to a blur our reality is refracting into a mosaic with no discernable pattern. We are left on our own to figure out what it means, to translate it into the coherent story that our increasingly outgunned monkey-brains so desperately crave by using technology we can never hope to understand.

More and more we respond by shutting out the assault of cognitive dissonance and retreating from any unwelcome input. We surround ourselves with news outlets, friends and even neighbors who carefully reinforce what we want to believe. We are building our own reality to support our chosen narrative. It doesn’t seem to be working out well on a personal level and it’s rotting our politics.

Will we adapt successfully? Probably, though it’s hard to say how long it will take or how this process may permanently transform government. And we probably won’t collectively sober up before a lot of people get hurt. For the near term we can be certain that a significant chunk of our political energy will be diverted into fantasy and entertainment as we try to cushion ourselves from the onslaught of uncomfortable change and unwanted information.

Perhaps the best we can do individually is enjoy the fireworks and try to dodge the sparks. Oh, and tweet about the experience.

Recent Posts by Chris Ladd



128 Comments so far ↓

  • Arms Merchant

    [i]“The crude, disrespectful behavior of the Tea Party crowd at Monday’s GOP debate underlines the deterioration of our civic institutions…”

    “…it seems we’re dealing with a whole new category of crazy, something we’ve never encountered at the highest levels of our politics before.”[/i]

    You’ve obviously never attended an SEIU rally. Or listened to Joe Biden.

    • Watusie

      One of the salient characteristics of The Crazy is their absurd instance that the other side is just as bad.

      • TerryF98

        And in Arms Merchant you have top notch crazy on display 24/7.

        • MiyamotoIsoruku

          I don’t think anyone can compete with Smarg. Which reminds me, why hasn’t Frum hired moderators?

    • Primrose

      Joe Biden says politically untenable things but not crazy ones.

    • Smargalicious

      Bingo.

      This is just another leftist whackjob thread one can expect here.

  • balconesfault

    There’s a significant portion of the conservative movement which has embraced a new principle, a natural byproduct of having Rush Limbaugh as your leader:

    If it pisses off liberals, it must be good.

    I didn’t see the applause during the debates over the death penalty, or the “yeah” cries when talking about someone dying for lack of ability to pay, as signs of some kind of GOP blood lust. Rather, it’s just an infantile form of waving the middle finger leftward.

    The same with accepting, and repeating, a pantheon of “facts” which are so inherently self-contradicting that they make a mockery of whoever spouts them.

    But if you see the current GOP as the natural cyclical return of the Confederacy, it begins to make more sense. Facts are irrelevant when God’s on your side.

    • Elvis Elvisberg

      About three years ago, commenter Davis X. Machina at Balloon Juice wrote, “Movement ‘conservatism’ has roughly the same intellectual content as being, say, a Milwaukee Brewers fan. Throw away your Burke and Oakeshott and get a big foam “We’re #1” finger, because that’s the level at which movement ‘conservatism’ is conducted.”

      It was indisputably true then, and it’s only more so now.

      Hasn’t always been true, won’t always be true, but for now, as far as the two major parties go, if you have views about policy, you’re a Democrat; if having a team to cheer for is more important than how the country is doing, then you’re a Republican.

      As to dead white social critics, I am partial to Neil Postman. Here’s a depiction of the foreword to “Amusing Ourselves to Death” in comic book form: http://www.recombinantrecords.net/docs/2009-05-Amusing-Ourselves-to-Death.html

      • valkayec

        Seems I’m going to have to go back and read Huxley again. I enjoyed his books back in my early 20′s; apparently, I’d enjoy them even more now.

      • Redrabbit

        Amusing comic.

        I would argue that we actually live in a world that is an amalgam of Huxley and Orwell. Many of the post 9/11 developments in security, criminal justice, law enforcement, monitoring of citizens, etc. are nothing if not Orwellian.

      • scottleigh

        Thanks for that, Elvis – that was awesome!

      • Primrose

        I agree, really interesting!

  • rbottoms

    How very meta.

    Of course there that whole reality that these crazy asshats have the power to write legislation and affect my life. So while you are watching the dissonance dispassionately these freaks are mounting an assault of the economy, science and woman’s health.

    How about working harder to stop them.

    • rubbernecker

      Exactly. It’s not powerful, corrupt individuals who offer bread and circuses, but “the culture.” A comforting notion to those complicit in the degradation of their own country.

    • democat

      We’re all too distracted by our laptops, smart phones and the Kardashians to get off our collective liberal butts and do anything. We’re placated by preaching to the people who already agree with us. At the least the Tea Party folks are willing to make crazy signs and ride their Rascals down to the National Mall.

  • CautiousProgressive

    This is a rather good and insightful article. Congratulations Mr. Ludd

    The following paragraph is genuinely quotable.

    “That statement is utterly, incredibly magical and at the same time absolutely real. … Somewhere in the 20th Century our lives came to be dominated by technologies that were products of cultures, not people. We lost all individual control over them.”

    One insight to take from this is that science and technology is an unavoidably collectivist endeavor.

    • Marioth

      When I was installing PCs into kindergarten classrooms in the early 1990s, the future began to reveal itself. Those kids are now just entering the workforce, and in another 10-15 years, will be governing. They were raised on ready access to information. They can and do debunk spew, among other activities, from the palm of their hands in 3.5 seconds from anywhere in the world.

      Meanwhile the govt is run by men with an average age of 109, and only know the Old Ways. It is dooming our country because these same people, in an effort to retain power for another 5 minutes, have decided that Belief alone can sustain a country. My conservative friends have decided that governing is optional if you just Believe.

      This will not sell next year, sorry, and it gets worse every election hereafter. When these folks retire, the people that replace them won’t have the same handicaps.

      For example, we used to breathlessly await the Next Words of, say, Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham. Who runs to their replacements now? What is THEIR notoriety? All we have left is Pat Robertson, and not for much longer.

      Conservatism, as constructed and practiced, is dying.

      • Redrabbit

        Meanwhile the govt is run by men with an average age of 109, and only know the Old Ways. It is dooming our country because these same people, in an effort to retain power for another 5 minutes, have decided that Belief alone can sustain a country. My conservative friends have decided that governing is optional if you just Believe.

        Part of the problem is that those in government are drawn from such a narrow realm of professional and public life.

        This has been making the rounds;

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/what-a-politicians-background-can-tell-you/2011/09/16/gIQAX3lSXK_blog.html

        Most of our political class consists of lawyers, followed by businessmen and professional politicians.

        Perhaps our politicians need a more varied background. I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more scientists, engineers, doctors, blue collar workers, etc. elected to public office on a regular basis.

      • Pattyman

        I think I understand what you have written, and if I do what you say should put fear in many. The world has changed and it will soon be in the hands of people who define the world based on different terms. Wow.

    • Leo

      One insight to take from this is that science and technology is an unavoidably collectivist endeavor.
      Let me attempt to make the contrary position:
      That is, that science and technology is an unavoidably individual endeavor.
      What used to happen was that we subscribed to newspapers and watched television (relatively low-tech from the user perspective). So large swaths of the population worked from the same facts. Not just the same perspective on events, but the same events themselves. The media chose what was important for us. We developed beliefs common to our culture because we shared in the same common facts about the same common events.
      Now science and technology (in this context, mainly the internet) has brought to us the ability to choose the events that we deem important, and the perspective that we take on those events. So each of us as individuals can cherry-pick what events we want to read about, and what point of view about those events we want to take.
      So all of us as individuals can reinforce our prejudices and ignore points of view that we don’t think we will agree with. We no longer share as individuals the same perspective on what events are most important, and what point of view is correct.
      The internet gives us the power to be lazy: we can access the web sites that take a point of view that we agree with, and we can ignore the information presented elsewhere that does not support what we already think. We couldn’t do that with low-tech newspapers or the nightly television news. We took what was given to us, and had no choice in knowing what we weren’t being told.
      I think all of us as free individuals have an obligation to read web sites that are 180 degrees out of sync with what we already believe. Science and technology makes this possible; we are not condemned to “an unavoidably collectivist endeavor”.

      • Primrose

        While I agree with getting multiple perspectives, I don’t think we are required to listen to crazy.

        • Pattyman

          But the challenge for society today is, who defines “crazy” for the majority.

        • Primrose

          I think we can define it as a disconnection with reality. If facts themselves are denied, and ideas spun from that, that is colloquially speaking crazy.

        • Redrabbit

          It might be hard to draw a clear line between crazy and “not crazy”. On the other hand, what we have right now are people who are SO far past where that line might be that we should have little problem in calling them crazy.

      • democat

        I agree with much of what you say, but not the part about seeking out view points that are 180 degrees different. That gets us into one of the other big problems of the day – that the mainstream media gives equal weight to competing viewpoints even when one is crazy. I don’t need to read the arguments of those who choose to believe the earth is 6000 years old to form an opinion on the matter. Life is too short to watch Fox News or listen to Limbaugh.

  • Marioth

    Ask Grover Norquist what comes after drowning gub’ment in the bathtub. Hint: it rhymes with theocratic oligrchy.

    The crazy has always been there. It used to stay home on voting-day, but the GOP’s Southern Strategery woke it up, got it howling mad, and sold it a bunch of unconstitutional hooey.

    The rate of change is not the problem. The deliberate, flippant, self-destructive insertion of fingers into ears when confronted with change is.

    Put another way, if you are in your 40s or older, and you intend to go back to school because you pretty much have to just to keep up, expect to enroll for life.

    This is the Last Gasp of the old GOP, which is being unmade before our eyes, having zero governing achievements to run on since Nixon went to China. No GOP candidate has articulated any plan, or put forward any serious policy position. They have put forward only some pretty ugly temper-tantrums.

    • canuckistani

      Agreed.
      It is interesting to witness the anti-intellectuals and flat-earthers take over the discourse. They would rather scorch the earth than stand their ground and refute arguments with practical solutions of their own.

      Inherit the Wind and the Ox-Bow Incident films were over 50 and 60 years ago, and yet we repeat, and repeat and repeat. Simply add 3D, update the wardrobe and voila, a new movie reflecting today’s failings.

      The problems of the country start and finish with the people. We permitted the financial industry to act like pushers and pimps, and only a few are in the slammer. We impeach a president over lying about a BJ, but not one person is held to account for a war based on lies and incompetence that killed 5,000 troops, another 30,000 wounded, 100,000+ locals dead and up to 2M new veterans. No one is in the slammer – and we put the Wikileaks private into Leavenworth.

      When people start seeing perp walks up and down the power structures here, some sense of integrity and trust will begin to return.

      Watching FDR drag Avery from his office in WW2 is something we need symbolically today. Let’s start with Blankfein et al and add the National Security Study Group to the list as well.

      • LauraNo

        You are so right. People no longer expect fairness and justice. Since Nixon walked it’s only gotten worse. S&L, Enron, BP, Financial crisis, illegal wars and outing CIA agents, Iran-Contra…The middle class keeps losing ground and doing the right thing doesn’t seem to help but doing the most horrible wrong things doesn’t seem to hurt. You end up feeling like “what’s the point?”.

    • anniemargret

      Cheers!

    • Pattyman

      Until real Americans do as Egypt did earlier this year, this mess will continue. Those with a common “crazy” need to use Facebook and plan a national revolt. What has happened today is a willingness to allow the new “crazies” the floor to display what we all agree is real “crazy”.

  • Graychin

    One of the reasons that this left-leaning reader comes to this website is to save myself from the epistemic closure that is epidemic in politics today. So I’m a bit shocked to find this essay here from Mr. Ladd – which I find to be very sensible. I was particularly impressed with his finding that much “conservative” dogma is merely “an infantile form of waving the middle finger leftward.” Yep – that pretty much nails it.

    But Mr. Ladd failed to give examples of “crazy” from the Left, so his essay is not “fair and balanced.” I submit that finding an equal dose of “crazy” on the Left is extremely difficult. That’s why the 2012 presidential election is going to be a choice between (another) dim-bulb BS artist from Texas and a moderate Democrat who is a grave disappointment to his more liberal base.

    Of course the belief that fairness requires balance is a fallacy. It does not. Fairness requires calling out nonsense by its name.

    “Teaching the controversy” about evolution, about global warming, or about the HPV vaccine causing mental retardation, is not “fair.” There isn’t anything “fair” about “balance” like that. The Flat Earth Society does not deserve equal time.

    As long as “conservative” authors can make lots of money by calling liberals “Satan’s spawn” and accusing them of “treason,” we can be sure that their audience has forgotten whatever critical thinking skills it ever learned.

    The insanity is spread daily on AM talk radio and a major cable “news” outlet. I don’t see things improving any time soon. Our only hope is a re-alignment of our two party system – abandoning the Republican Party to the crazies who have overrun it. Many Democrats would join a centrist party – possibly even Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

    But not David Frum. He’s a tribal Republican.

    • Chris Balsz

      ” I submit that finding an equal dose of “crazy” on the Left is extremely difficult.”

      Chaining yourself to a tree to stop logging is “crazy”, as is putting nails in trees so sawmill operators are maimed or killed.
      So is firebombing car dealerships and ski lodges to preserve the environment, buglarizing laboratories and releasing the animals, and throwing feces and urine into McDonalds to protest a banking conference.
      Storming a loading yard and destroying cargo to protest the hiring of the wrong union labor is “crazy”.
      I would also say camping out in a statehouse or blocking traffic in a busy street to protest legislation was “crazy”, and leaving the state to avoid going to work to spare yourself a bad day, is being a irrational jerk.

      • Graychin

        I said “an equal dose.” Those people won’t be nominating a candidate for president.

        • balconesfault

          In fact, I daresay that most of the types Chris referred to voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, rather than supporting Al Gore, who they consider way too establishment in his support for institutional responses to climate change.

          Except for the camping out in a statehouse example. That was non-violent, and it was done to draw attention to the fact that elected leaders began enacting policies that they had not aired during the election, and therefore had no mandate for. If Balz thought that crazy, then he must think that our Founding Fathers were a group of raving lunatics.

        • Chris Balsz

          You think revolutionaries aren’t generally regarded as “crazy”?

        • baw1064

          The converse doesn’t necessarily follow. Most revolutionaries may be regarded as crazy (except by their followers), but most people who are regarded as crazy aren’t revolutionaries–they’re just crazy.

    • wileedog

      +1. Great post.

      “Our only hope is a re-alignment of our two party system – abandoning the Republican Party to the crazies who have overrun it. Many Democrats would join a centrist party – possibly even Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.”

      Count me in. I’m currently a registered Democrat specifically because I want nothing to do with the current GOP, their blind hatred, culture wars, and mind-numbingly hypocritical positions, not because I have any great affinity for the Democratic party or many of their positions. I’d jump on board a pragmatic centrist-right party in a heartbeat.

      • balconesfault

        I’d jump on board a pragmatic centrist-right party in a heartbeat.

        That functionally makes you a Democrat these days.

    • hlsmlane

      +1 for this: Fairness requires calling out nonsense by its name.

    • teragrammy

      Thank you for giving me an ‘aha’ moment. I’ve often found myself wondering why, some demonstrably sane people such as David Frum, cling to the Republican Party when it has clearly become an abominable religious cult. Your term ‘tribal Republican’ provided instant clarity for me. Spot on!

  • seeker656

    Well said and thought provoking Chris.

  • Arms Merchant

    What an echo chamber. Yeah, just call your opponent’s worldview “crazy.” Then you don’t need to bother dealing with his arguments.

    Half the population has IQs that are below average. You are going to find those types everywhere, including the woman who said she wouldn’t have to pay her gas or mortgage if Obama was elected.

    I agree with balconesfault that there is a lot of pent-up frustration on the right, and much of the rhetoric is designed specifically to piss off liberals.

    There is also another factor, though, and that is that liberals have made what Mark Steyn calls “The Long March Through the Institutions:” Education, Old Media, and Old Hollywood. The PC factor is so stifling that people are ready to discharge with absurd overstatement. Example: government has so completely subsumed the need for people to be responsible for themselves, and to criticize that in polite company is to be branded “a wingnut,” some moron shouts “Let him die!” when the correct answer is, “Well, of course you treat him and then give him the bill. He can then pay it, work it off, or seek help from charity/non-profits. But it was his decision to blow it off and he has to own it.”

    But the gut response is anger and frustration. “Yeah, I really want to kill these people that are screwing up the country.”

    This was on full display recently at lefty rallies in Wisconsin. So knock off the whole “holier than thou” shtick. It’s not working.

    • Marioth

      When my conservative friends put forward rational governing policies and articulate their plans, they will have listeners. I will be listening for those plans which unite the whole country, and serve the interests of citizens.

      Until that happens, the echos will only grow louder. The GOP is currently on sabbatical when it comes to governance, and that is not going to change between now and the general.

      • Arms Merchant

        This is so bogus. The policies and plans are out there; you’re just too lazy to refute them. Obama yelled, “Pass This Bill” when there wasn’t even a bill! Then the ideas came out and they were warmed over Porkulus I from 2009. At least Ryan has a plan. Where’s the Dem Senate budget? Losers.

        “We had to pass the bill to find out what was in it!” — SanFranNan, 2009

        • Herb

          No offense, Arms Merchant, but your use of the term “Porkulus” doesn’t exactly redeem your comments. Sounds like you’re a full participant in the right-wing echo chamber. In other words, part of the problem.

          What’s that Latin phrase for “you proved my point” again?

        • Primrose

          Also, half the populations IQ can’t be below average. It’s adjusted to what the average amount of people have as an IQ. And there was an article just recently in NYT I think, that said IQ’s are rising, (by smartness not numbers of course, for the reasons mentioned abo ve)

        • wileedog

          “At least Ryan has a plan.”

          I’m so tired of this ridiculous argument. Ryan’s plan is garbage. Its total political red meat that will never ever ever pass a Democratic Senate and White House. Its a plan that would require the debt ceiling to be raised at least 10 times – something Ryan as recently as a couple of months ago said he was against doing. Its a plan that depends on utterly unprecedented economic growth that will be achieved by….wait for it….. cutting taxes drastically for rich people. Something that has been more than adequately proven by the Bush cuts to be not even remotely effective in stimulating economic growth.

          And to pay for those cuts he’s going to gash Medicare. Even if everything goes right for the GOP in 2012 and they manage to cripple the country to the point where they sweep into power, and the GOP House sends the Ryan plan to the GOP Senate and President Perry signs it into law, the first time granny goes to the doctor and gets handed a bill that has to come out of her own pocket this country is going to go apeshit. It might be the last thing the GOP ever gets to pass for decades.

          Its not a plan. Its a fantasy. Its a political document. Most sane GOP Congresspeople would actually be horrified if it passed and they had to go home to their constituents and start handing out Medicare vouchers saying “good luck with that.” The Democrats could write “Universal Health Care” on a napkin and submit it and it is just as viable.

          But iof course the Dems aren’t going to submit a plan. Why would they? Keeping the Ryan piece of propaganda-posing-as-a-plan front and center would be the first smart political move they’ve made in years.

        • Pattyman

          What we should do is vote for all Tea Party candidates, let them win, allow the country to take a nose dive, and then run them out for good. What we will see is what crazy looks like and in the end will have the pleasure of making sure we never allow it to happen again. In today’s world the demise of a strong nation will be the only evidence the country will accept, so give it to them. Can it end up being much worse than what we have now?

    • Solo4114

      Half the population has IQs that are below average. You are going to find those types everywhere, including the woman who said she wouldn’t have to pay her gas or mortgage if Obama was elected.

      I will agree that stupidity and ignorance is not native to one political party alone.

      [quote]I agree with balconesfault that there is a lot of pent-up frustration on the right, and much of the rhetoric is designed specifically to piss off liberals.

      There is also another factor, though, and that is that liberals have made what Mark Steyn calls “The Long March Through the Institutions:” Education, Old Media, and Old Hollywood. The PC factor is so stifling that people are ready to discharge with absurd overstatement. Example: government has so completely subsumed the need for people to be responsible for themselves, and to criticize that in polite company is to be branded “a wingnut,” some moron shouts “Let him die!” when the correct answer is, “Well, of course you treat him and then give him the bill. He can then pay it, work it off, or seek help from charity/non-profits. But it was his decision to blow it off and he has to own it.”[/quote]

      That’s not really political correctness. Political correctness is insisting that that thing in the street be called a “person-hole cover” and it hasn’t really been relevant since about, oh, 1995 or so. But that’s as may be. More important to me is that what you describe is also not entirely the way the argument goes or should go.

      You can have a rational debate with someone over whether and how far the government (or the public’s or whoever’s) duty extends to those who make bad decisions, and in what instances we classify someone as having made a bad decision vs. being stuck in a crappy situation not of their creation. There is a difference between a 30-something who CHOOSES to forgo insurance and, say, blow that money on frivolous pleasures, and one who genuinely would love to afford it but cannot find a job that will pay them enough to do so. All those matters are open for debate…..with rational people.

      Rational people, however, do not yell “YEAH!” when given the option of “Do we just let them die?” Rational people say “Come on, Wolf. That’s a ridiculous straw-man argument, and you’re being intellectually dishonest. Of course you don’t just let the guy die,” and then discuss the other options. So, I make a distinction between truly rational people who are willing to discuss and debate in a civil, thought-through manner and those who simply reflexively say “YEAH!! LET HIM DIE!!” One is rational, and the other is an asshole. We need to start making those distinctions clearly because too much is swept under the rug both by those who would coddle the irrational assholes by telling them that they’re rational, and by those who would paint everyone who disagrees with them as merely irrational like the assholes who cheer “YEAH!!”

      It may be a gut reaction of frustration, but that doesn’t make it a good thing, nor does that make it something that we should shrug off as “mere frustration.” And while I don’t expect a candidate for presidency to say “Someone shut that asshole up!” I WOULD hope that they would say “Come on now, folks. I know you’re angry, but what does that help? That just makes you look crazy, and I know you’re not crazy. I know you’re angry, but that’s not the way and all it does is make us all look bad. Now, let me tell you how I’d solve that problem….”

      Ah well. I suppose you can wish in one hand….

      • Houndentenor

        Why, then, didn’t a single candidate on the state make the argument you just made. No, we aren’t just going to let someone die for not having insurance. So then tell us how we deal with this problem. No one said anything, and that’s because they have no plan for how to deal with this. It’s a valid question because that situation comes up in emergency rooms every day. It’s not a hypothetical that is unlikely to happen. Those of us with insurance are paying for those who don’t. Either we let those who won’t or can’t find insurance go without care or we make those who can afford to buy insurance do so.

    • jamesj

      “I agree with balconesfault that there is a lot of pent-up frustration on the right, and much of the rhetoric is designed specifically to piss off liberals.”

      I honestly don’t see much of this in my experience. When in solid right wing company with zero liberals to be found I take part in discussions that remind me of the debate crowd’s reaction. Actually, I often see more extreme rhetoric in these private settings. I hear overt racism. I hear people saying the government is nothing but a giant leach. I hear people happily applaud the dismantling of public sector jobs (I mean, it surely has SOME negative consequences in an unemployment crisis). I get emails about how the unemployed should be euthanized. I hear people scoff at the very notion of “community organizing”. I hear people advocate lower taxes while complaining about the debt. I hear people say cutting taxes will certainly raise revenue as if that were true. I hear people call liberals “pussies” for fearing the execution of falsely-convicted inmates.

      I don’t think you can assign a majority of blame for this behavior to pent up frustration. Honestly it goes deeper. We’ve fostered a culture that spits on the face of pretty much ANY collective action or authority in this country aside from the military. I mean, hey, I love the rebellious American spirit, but there are limits to what I can agree with. I don’t agree that we’d be better off if we tore down the entire federal government and replaced it with a semi-anarchic social order where corporate owners serve out justice in their own private districts. But I have a few associates that honestly believe this would be fantastic. They talk about it and imply it all the time, their eyes shining with a vacant look that is hard to describe. This is rabid ideology, not an honest humble attempt to come up with Conservative policy.

      • Solo4114

        Sounds like these folks want to return to the good ol’ days of feudalism.

      • Redrabbit

        Do you have any thoughts in why the military in particular has escaped this scorn?

        I’ve tried to come up with some answers, but they all seem lacking.

    • teragrammy

      Half the population has IQ’s below AVERAGE ? Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha . There’s gotta be a ‘blonde’ joke in there somewhere.

  • cdorsen

    So much of this just comes down to understanding the other side. For instance, based on so much of what I hear in left wing websites like the Frumington Post is a complete lack of understanding of the right. The left hears the right calling for tax cuts for “wealthy” Americans and cuts in spending for the poor. They never understand why this could actually be good policy or someone could believe it, so they believe the right is just being mean. They believe that it could possibly be due to racism since whites would largely be the beneficiaries and minorities would be the losers.

    What they either don’t know or won’t admit, is that there can be very legit policy and ideological reasons for this far removed from racism or just being mean. Even if you do not agree it will help the economy or agree with the ideology, that doesn’t make them racists, stupid, or any less legitimate than your ideas. Unfortunately, we do not live in a bubble. There is no way to prove if lower taxes and government spending definitely help an economy. But, there are legitimate correlations that can be pointed to throughout history. So, it is by no means dumb, racist, or mean to believe it. The same can be said for Keynesian/leftist views of bettering an economy I’m sure (With all sincerity I don’t personally know any, but I am sure someone here can point a few out). Both sides will argue that the correlation is just that and there is no causation. But, both views are legitimate and not in most cases driven by any darker motives.

    Ideologically, this view stands up as well. Believing that people earn their wealth and that it belongs to them, not government, is not a backwards, stupid, racist, or mean worldview. Allowing the “wealthy” to keep more of what they earn as a moral standard does have merit. Even though it’s not my view and I don’t agree with it, I don’t discount the left’s view that it is okay for government to take money earned in a society that benefited them to help those that have not received such benefit. It is not dumb, immoral, racist, or mean to think that.

    In fact, both views at heart generally want to help the poor. The right just believes the best way to do this is not through a system of dependency financed by force by those who could spend the money creating jobs for those dependent (admittedly a very simplified view). The left feels the poor are better served by just giving the money so they don’t suffer and taking it from those that can afford it. Two roads to the same house.

    I won’t speak to social conservatism of which I am no fan, but fiscal conservatism is a legitimate system. Those on the left would probably hear a much more tempered debate if they would stop acting, noses in the air, as if fiscal conservatism is not legitimate. Not everyone that disagrees with you is a dumb, racist, uneducated hick that sits around the farm all day listening to Rush. Is every leftist out there some uneducated union thug that just wants to game the system and threaten all those who oppose for benefits?

    The bottom line is that until BOTH sides at least recognize the other’s belief system as legitimate, the violent vitriolic rhetoric and craziness from BOTH sides will continue.

    • balconesfault

      There is no way to prove if lower taxes and government spending definitely help an economy. But, there are legitimate correlations that can be pointed to throughout history.

      Actually, there aren’t. Granted, in the short term lowered taxes can function as a less-efficient form of Keynesian economics. On the government spending side there are some very flawed data analyses that see correlation between cuts in government spending and economic increases, but inspection of those analyses show that they don’t really pick times when there was actually any political action taken to reduce government spending … and in fact generally have occurred when economic activity has increased without being “stimulated” by cuts in government spending, and the resulting economic boom reduced the need for social safety net spending.

      I daresay that most liberals who enter into these forums try to understand conservatives far more than conservatives try to understand liberals. Part of that lies in the basic definitions that define personality types … liberals are inherently more likely to consider a position that is antithetical to their belief structure, or they wouldn’t be liberals.

      For example, I would personally love it if a substantial portion of my tax bill didn’t have to go to supporting those unable to work, with (thanks to inevitable inefficiencies) some lazy scofflaws living on my earnings as well. I enjoy driving a car, and would love knowing that buying a bigger engine or going for joyrides or just letting the car run with the AC blasting on a hot Texas afternoon while my wife ran into the store to pick something up wasn’t cavalierly denying future generations access to a non-renewable resource and adversely affecting climate. And who the hell enjoys having to file a building permit if they just want to add 400 square feet to their home? And while I might get dissed for this, deep down inside I would be quite unhappy if my son ever brought home a guy he intended to marry, even if I would fully support him.

      I’m willing to consider with any of my positions above that I’m wrong – shown good evidence that churches really CAN sufficiently provide for the poor in our country without leading to massive human suffering and social unrest; or shown that the vast majority of scientists are wrong and climate change is a myth and by-the-way God keeps creating oil as fast as we can burn it; or that no builder would ever design or construct some shoddy work below code to make a quick buck and then disappear; or that there really is no genetic predisposition to being gay, and gays really just all wanted to pick a lifestyle that would lead them into a life of massive discrimination – I could change my mind on any of these.

      But I see no such flexibility of thought from today’s right. They know what they know what they know. And providing facts or evidence that dispute the facts provided to them by their leadership is not considered welcome and helpful – it’s considered treacherous and deceitful.

      • Chris Balsz

        Well no, liberalism is in its fourth generation. It can be as inherited and uncritical.

        I do not see a lot of critical thinking by liberals. There seems to be a constant failure to appreciate the difference between inference, fact, evidence, and proof. Right-wingers have ‘talking points’, they don’t rely on ‘credible’ sources, they aren’t addressing the ‘main point’, and my favorite, “the sum of anecdote isn’t evidence” (which would shock most social scientists). When confronted by a liberal study or graphs, questioning definitions, terms, methodology is “evasive” or ‘begging the question’. Our refusal to adopt liberal goals is ‘obstinate’ and ‘unreasonable’, therefore ‘irrational’ and ‘mentally defective’.

        A recent downturn in a social quality, such as unemployment, literacy, government revenue, etc., is absolutely not an opportunity to look backward at a society that had better results; all ‘open-minded’ people know that is an opportunity for liberal experimentation. To attempt to recover and restore, rather than ‘progress’ towards the new and untried, is a symptom of ‘ideology’ over ‘pragmatism’.

        The liberal criticism of the right usually boils down to attitude and aspirations. I don’t seek empathy, and I don’t wish for the same outcomes; therefore, I am a destructive kook.

        • Marioth

          “The liberal criticism of the right usually boils down to attitude and aspirations. I don’t seek empathy, and I don’t wish for the same outcomes; therefore, I am a destructive kook.”

          Aside from playing the victim, your argument suffers from two catastrophic failures: if you are not here to find ways to uplift your fellow citizens, you belong in neither government nor church, as you have failed the basic entrance exams for both.

          Empathy is not something one “seeks.” All that changes is your own awareness of your empathetic potential. Put pictures of your loved ones on the faces of “those libruls” you deride, and your empathy tune will change right-quick.

          Ergo, this change in awareness is, in an adult, at all times a choice.

          The measure of your character — and the country which grants you your freedom — is the sum of the choices you make, and how you respond to those in need, regardless of whether you share their politics.

          At the moment, democrats want choices that are constructive, and benefit all. However dems are mad at Obama, they see dems as still wanting to find ways to solve actual problems. The GOP, on he other hand, is busy in its playpen having the mother of all tantrums.

          Where is the conservative plan to govern? Hint: it had better include all the people. You could start with a lousy $150 billion to remove the phrase “crumbling school” from the American lexicon. It will pay for itself 100 times over in 20 years. You’ll have to do without classes on the Flat and Holy Earth, however….

        • Solo4114

          Well no, liberalism is in its fourth generation. It can be as inherited and uncritical.

          I’ll agree with that. Any information system passed down dogmatically can result in uncritical inherited beliefs. However…

          I do not see a lot of critical thinking by liberals. There seems to be a constant failure to appreciate the difference between inference, fact, evidence, and proof. Right-wingers have ‘talking points’, they don’t rely on ‘credible’ sources, they aren’t addressing the ‘main point’, and my favorite, “the sum of anecdote isn’t evidence” (which would shock most social scientists). When confronted by a liberal study or graphs, questioning definitions, terms, methodology is “evasive” or ‘begging the question’. Our refusal to adopt liberal goals is ‘obstinate’ and ‘unreasonable’, therefore ‘irrational’ and ‘mentally defective’.

          Define “critical thinking,” please. Your criticism here seems more to be around the way liberals denigrate conservatives. And I’ll agree that plenty of liberals denigrate plenty of what is presented as “conservative” today. That’s not without reason, however. If someone cited a clearly biased or suspect source as “evidence” in an argument, I don’t care if they’re liberal or conservative, you call ‘em on it. Some points deserve to be denigrated. That doesn’t mean that everything a conservative (or a liberal) says is idiotic or wrong-headed, but plenty of times…it is.

          A recent downturn in a social quality, such as unemployment, literacy, government revenue, etc., is absolutely not an opportunity to look backward at a society that had better results; all ‘open-minded’ people know that is an opportunity for liberal experimentation. To attempt to recover and restore, rather than ‘progress’ towards the new and untried, is a symptom of ‘ideology’ over ‘pragmatism’.

          Now you’re getting into some of what I think is actually “legitimate” conservatism. The thing that, I think, liberals (and some so-called “conservatives”) forget is that true conservatives look to the past because the past is the known and the reliable. The past works, or if it didn’t work, we know why it didn’t work and therefore shouldn’t do it again. True conservatism is just as reflective as true liberalism, and when either approach becomes a matter of dogmatic faith rather than pragmatic consideration, it ceases to be what it claims to be.

          I do think that liberals are often more willing to roll the dice and try new, untested things. And I do think that this impulse needs to be checked at times. By the same token, conservatism isn’t always the way. Sometimes the facts are different from what came in the past, and it’s a good idea to try something new. Sometimes we know that the past didn’t work, and reflexively adhering to it will be foolish.

          Part of the problem with much of modern “conservatism” is that, well, it isn’t actually conservatism. It’s simply dogmatic, knee-jerk obstructionism for the sake of getting one over on the other guy. That’s not conservative. Not by a longshot. True conservatism would reflect on what worked, AND recognize what DIDN’T. True conservatism would be honest about what it wants to achieve.

          The liberal criticism of the right usually boils down to attitude and aspirations. I don’t seek empathy, and I don’t wish for the same outcomes; therefore, I am a destructive kook.

          Hmm. I think it depends on what you do seek. And this, ultimately, gets to one of the points that someone made earlier. The problem is not that people refuse to accept the legitimacy of the other side’s position, but rather that they refuse to listen to it and both sides refuse to come out and say why they believe what they believe and make a case for it.

          So much of those arguments is treated as “given” already, that we forget sometimes WHY we believe what we believe, and then why we believe what we just said as our answer.

          When I was in law school, I had a terrific professor who taught me one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned. He taught me about the “is” and the “ought” in argumentation. The “is” is what we argue about most of the time — the surface level issue. Should taxes be higher on wealthy people? Yes! No! Cue the back-and-forth shouting. The “ought” is the deeper held belief of WHY people respond the way they do. Even if you don’t agree with it, it’s essential to understand it if you’re going to have a debate that will result in anything other than that old Daily Show “Even Stephven” bit or “Point Counterpoint” on the first season of Saturday Night Live (see also, “Jane, you ignorant slut…”).

          That’s one thing that is sorely lacking. Both parties spout surface-level talking points without ever explaining why those things matter. They act as if the soundbyte just offered speaks for itself. Often, it does — but only to the “faithful” who already agreed. We need more explanation from both sides on why their policy position or proposed program is actually good and helpful.

          Why are supply-side economics “good”? I don’t mean effective, but rather “good”? Why are they desireable? Why is Keyesian economics and high government spending “good”? Or perhaps substitute “good” with “just and right.” That would actually start getting us to the heart of the problem.

          More than this, however, we as a culture need to start recognizing that we cannot continue to exist in this zero-sum political world that we have created for ourselves (and/or allowed to be created by others for us). There is no “final” victory for either side, and both sides must learn to coexist lest they allow their own destruction. The world will never be either a liberal or a conservative utopia, so putting that aside….now what?

        • balconesfault

          We need more explanation from both sides on why their policy position or proposed program is actually good and helpful.

          I will offer that if you look at the speeches of Obama, he tends to do exactly that. For example, look at his healthcare speech two years ago, and tell me where it fails:

          http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/09/09/politics/main5299229.shtml

          I’d add that he tends to do so in a context of not only liberal dogma but also that of traditional conservatism:

          You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter — that at that point we don’t merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.

        • Redrabbit

          Define “critical thinking,” please. Your criticism here seems more to be around the way liberals denigrate conservatives. And I’ll agree that plenty of liberals denigrate plenty of what is presented as “conservative” today. That’s not without reason, however. If someone cited a clearly biased or suspect source as “evidence” in an argument, I don’t care if they’re liberal or conservative, you call ‘em on it. Some points deserve to be denigrated. That doesn’t mean that everything a conservative (or a liberal) says is idiotic or wrong-headed, but plenty of times…it is.

          Many conservatives seem preoccupied with how liberals denigrate them. The left, however, doesn’t seem to be as obsessed with this. They seem more concerned with right wing ideology and specific policies as opposed to perceived personal slights.

        • balconesfault

          Well no, liberalism is in its fourth generation. It can be as inherited and uncritical.

          A lot more generations than that, since our nation was founded on the quite liberal ideal that government derived its power from the consent of the governed, and not from the divine right of kings. That, as well as the proposition that the point of government was to advance the general welfare of its citizens, are both extraordinarily liberal constructs.

          I do not see a lot of critical thinking by liberals.

          This does not surprise me in the least.

          There seems to be a constant failure to appreciate the difference between inference, fact, evidence, and proof. Right-wingers have ‘talking points’, they don’t rely on ‘credible’ sources, they aren’t addressing the ‘main point’, and my favorite, “the sum of anecdote isn’t evidence” (which would shock most social scientists). When confronted by a liberal study or graphs, questioning definitions, terms, methodology is “evasive” or ‘begging the question’.

          Not sure who you’re debating with. Questioning definitions, terms, and methodology are all acceptable. What is evasive or begging the question is when one throws out chaff … arguing those point just for the sake of argument, rather than for advancing the discussion. BTW – I’d love it if conservatives were willing to apply the same level of scrutiny and rigor to their own assumptions.

          Our refusal to adopt liberal goals is ‘obstinate’ and ‘unreasonable’, therefore ‘irrational’ and ‘mentally defective’.

          Only if you’re unwilling to advance what your own goals are in a rational and internally coherent fashion. Just leave out the magical thinking and in general we’ll do fine.

          A recent downturn in a social quality, such as unemployment, literacy, government revenue, etc., is absolutely not an opportunity to look backward at a society that had better results

          One can certainly look backwards, but to do so without looking at how current conditions may differ from those of the past, or without taking fair stock of what was “better”, is simply reactionary. For example, was it a time when huge portions of society were effectively blocked from access to certain opportunities? Perhaps your definition of “better results” depends on wearing a certain type of blinders.

          all ‘open-minded’ people know that is an opportunity for liberal experimentation.

          Well, it’s an opportunity for considering if liberal experimentation would be a better pathway.

          To attempt to recover and restore, rather than ‘progress’ towards the new and untried, is a symptom of ‘ideology’ over ‘pragmatism’.

          Umm – recover and restore what? White privilege? A world where the Pacific Rim didn’t represent any trade threat to the US? Days where oil companies put lead in their gasoline? An America with 150 million people, and not 300 million to compete for land and water resources?

          The liberal criticism of the right usually boils down to attitude and aspirations. I don’t seek empathy, and I don’t wish for the same outcomes; therefore, I am a destructive kook.

          Right now you’re so vague that your whole comment seems built of ether.

        • Primrose

          Well said Balcone’s fault.

          If one says there was a better way in the past, that is fine, but you better be prepared to defend that it was better,for whom and really what you mean by better.

          And in general, yes I think a rational person should be wary of nostalgia. We always think things are better back in the day. If it is in our lifetime, that means we think our youth was better but, of course we do, we were either children, and protected from the harsher side, or young and were experiencing all the glory and joy of that state.

          And if it was a time we did not live in, well, how do we know? I was perusing Peter Guy’s book on Germany the other day and read a really interesting line. He said that German philosophers reacted badly to the urban world and looked back to a past in which “everyone was peasants and kings ruled wisely”. Yet this Germany was the time when Hansel and Gretal’s abandonment by their parents was real, when life truly was brutal and short. We pick and choose from the past, pick and choose, and a rational person recognizes this.

          We also know where this nostalgia led Germany. I think few here on this site wish to follow them.

          Also, really, since the back to nature movement, the eat local movement, the environmental movement is populated by more liberals than conservatives, I don’t think we can say that wishing to recover and reclaim is strictly a politically conservative value.

        • Ripcord Jones

          A recent downturn in a social quality, such as unemployment, literacy, government revenue, etc., is absolutely not an opportunity to look backward at a society that had better results; all ‘open-minded’ people know that is an opportunity for liberal experimentation. To attempt to recover and restore, rather than ‘progress’ towards the new and untried, is a symptom of ‘ideology’ over ‘pragmatism’.

          Agreed. Any conservative would recognize that unemployment, government revenue, and the economy in general were much better in the late 1990′s than they are now, so we should return to the tried-and-true tax policies of that time period.

    • Primrose

      “In fact, both views at heart generally want to help the poor. The right just believes the best way to do this is not through a system of dependency financed by force by those who could spend the money creating jobs for those dependent (admittedly a very simplified view). The left feels the poor are better served by just giving the money so they don’t suffer and taking it from those that can afford it. Two roads to the same house.”

      I don’t think this sums up either side’s view. If you make the case, that taxes (or as Chris Balcz does, tax credits/payroll taxes) violate the right of private property, you are not trying to help the poor.

      You are making a case about the principle of private property and the rights of government. If you concerned about the poor, and feel tax cuts to the wealthy are the way to go about it, then the private property argument is irrelevant (As it might be to some).

      Nor does the left think we should just give the poor money. We feel that it is possible to mitigate some of the brutality and morbidity of poverty. And dependence society or not, the so-called welfare state is less brutal, and less deadly than the life of the poor in other parts of the world, and other parts of history. That can be quantified.

      To create this net we may have to take more from the wealthier, yes. But here is another place where you misrepresent the liberal position. Our position is not to simply take form the rich. We feel that a tax burden should be allocated based on the actual burden felt. Thus, the wealthy may actually put more dollars into the pot but the burden of that contribution is considerably less. The wealthy will not risk being evicted, be unable to send their kids to preschool or some such negative consequence because of higher taxes.

      As to your claim that we call you mean because you don’t want to be taxed more, no, most call you wrong. I call you myopic.

      That is unless you have actually gone to countries where there is no social safety net, and stepped far enough out of your hotel to see even casually the life of the poor there. If you can witness some of the soul-grinding poverty and obvious desperation, and you still think it is more important to keep every cent you earn than to create a somewhat humane life for another human being, then yes I would accuse you of lacking empathy and compassion because you would be.

      • cdorsen

        Oh Primrose you ignorant fool. I spent over half a year in southeast asia in poorer parts of the world than your Ipad will allow you to explore. Do not preach to me about what real poverty is because it does not exist in this country. Our country has taken people that cannot afford cable and made victims of them. They are not victims. Nor are they poor. They live quite comfortably compared the people’s lives I have encountered. I have been given thanks for shacks that I embarassingly helped to build. Embarrased that I would be thanked for the pitiful living conditions that I “bettered” because the simple idea of better was far inferior to what people of my own country in “poverty” would laugh at.

        Go to Cambodia and then preach to me about those poor Americans that are out of work. They are suffering without 2 years of jobless benefits? Try 4 generations of joblessness. Oh, and if you do find a job, it will pay you enough to keep plywood over your head. There are 40 million out of work? Agreed, and do they suffer nights where they sleep in the rain because the cardboard didn’t hold up?

        And, this was a communist country. A country expected to have the largest social safety net ideologically. The people there even dared to tell me that they were all one people and that they didnt work for themselves, but for each other. Great beautiful concepts that fail miserably. Now, they are trying a capitalistic approach. I know this will come as a surprise, but amazingly the economy there is greatly improving. Foreign investment is increasing. I know. I know. Capitalism kills wealth. So, we should kill it before communism has just a chance to take hold. Then, we will all live better.

        For that matter, government took over in Cuba. Cuban government told people that it could do a much better job of governing their lives than the people could itself. That worked. Cuba is now one of the most prosperous countries on earth, just ask Michael Moore.

        Every single time statism has been tried, it has failed. Why is this concept so hard?

        I know this coming from an uncultured idiot that has spent 2 years overseas in 10 different countries.

        • Primrose

          Well, so much for believing another’s perspective is legitimate starting out with the oh so civil ” you ignorant fool.

          Since you completely missed my point I’m not sure why I’m the only fool here.

          While your idea “we’ve taken people who can’t afford cable and made victims of them” is fairly clueless about people’s actual lives, it is true that people here don’t suffer the way they do elsewhere….

          ….because we have social programs that prevent that kind of experience. Take away those safety nets and that kind of poverty returns. Take away section 8 and families are homeless on the streets during Northeastern winters. Take away WIC and Snap and they starve (or become criminals). Take away unemployment insurance and families do both. Take away Medicaid and they die. Take away the earned income tax credit and the poor have no cushion against even ordinary shocks.

          Since I wasn’t advocating a return to a command economy, I’m not even going to respond to that whole foray into anti-communism. I’m saying we should keep and conserve our social programs, because the alternative is not worthy of a great nation, or a compassionate people.

          The alternative is what you saw in Southeast Asia. I can’t help but wonder why if you were so affected by the poverty you saw, you would wish to relegate your fellow citizens to it? If you can not make the connection between why it doesn’t happen here and our social programs, then I’m sorry but I get to call you stupid as well—because then you would be.

        • democat

          “I’m saying we should keep and conserve our social programs, because the alternative is not worthy of a great nation, or a compassionate people.”

          Well said!

        • Primrose

          Also, it is not just liberals who believe in the utility of these social programs. See David Frum’s essay “Thank God for the Welfare State.”

        • democat

          I’ve spent time in Cambodia and Viet Nam, but I don’t think that makes my perspective more valid than Primrose’s. How dare you dismiss others who disagree with you as “ignorant fools.” And, are you arguing that since Cambodia has it worse, that we are doing too much for our poor? That we shouldn’t aspire to do more for our people? I’m relatively affluent, but I don’t want to see the US turned into a third world country. As for people receiving 2 years of unemployment, I have friends in their 50s who played by the rules their entire lives and are unable to find jobs. They have advanced degrees, and decades of work experience, and are losing their houses and forced to live off what is left of their 401(k)s. This is becoming a widespread problem in our country. Couple that with the fact that 50% of new college grads can’t find any work, and we have a real crisis that is only building. The only people who have “recovered” from the recession are the wealthy, and they are paying record low taxes. They can pay a bit more and never feel it. Or, we can become Cambodia. And, BTW, Cambodia never had a social safety net, even when it was communist.

        • Primrose

          Thanks Democrat! I was fairly startled at cdorsen’s response, not the least quite a number of assumptions about my life, considering I am a stranger to him/her.

          But I disagree with you about the crisis facing our country, I don’t think it is our financial problems (thought I agree they are pretty damn serious with long-term consequences) but the real crisis, the essential crisis, is loss of public consensus about how to treat each other and what kind of country we are. (Ok, that line was a bit of literary device, I’m sure you do agree with me here.)

          Not only does it seem suddenly O.K. to not care, this attitude is presented as a virtue. One poster says he does not ‘strive for empathy’, as if empathy is not a necessary component of a sane life. (The absence of empathy is a psychiatric disorder) Another poster suggests that not wanting to fund social programs is fueled by a desire to help the poor.

          I believe in America’s ability to overcome the gravest of obstacles but we have to agree this is an obstacle to be overcome. We don’t seem to anymore. They don’t regard the suffering of others as something to be opposed. The rule of oligarchs over a large dispossesed population just struggling to get by is presented as capitalism working well, or to borrow a phrase from Mr. Frum, not a flaw but a feature.

          Until this outlook changes I don’t see how we can change anything for the better.

        • Redrabbit

          Oh Primrose you ignorant fool.

          Charming.

          Just utterly charming.

  • Oldskool

    This is the result of the Ignorance Movement created in the late ’70s to excite the religous right. The Silent Majority morphed into the Moral Majority and it was clear even then that they were willing to believe a lot of nonsense if it was spoken by the right person at the proper volume.

    • Redrabbit

      This movement is, more than anything, a self-help/therapeutic movement for people that feel displaced, lost, or otherwise slighted by modern society. They never really get what they want, they constantly lose battles of public opinion, etc.

      But it never phases them. I do wonder if one reason for this is that the real purpose of this entire movement is just to make the members of the movement feel better about themselves. They KNOW they will never get what they want. They don’t care. This is, for lack of a better way of putting it, a way of blowing off steam every now and then. It gives them a sense of purpose, makes them feel better for some reason, or whatever.

      I’m just thinking out loud here. Still, this entire movement sometimes seems more like a primal scream then a genuine attempt to accomplish anything in particular.

  • shinnok

    I think the most amazing thing about the insensitive, callous behavior directed at the imaginary uninsured in Monday’s debate is that it came from people that wear Christianity on their sleeve. Christianity, based on the teachings of a dude called Jesus that said love one another as you love your self, the same one that gave the Sermon on the Mount. That so many people can maintain this dichotomy between the religion they hold dear and what they consider a civic duty is pretty scary.

    • Marioth

      Shinnok, this arises from leading a dual life. Immersed in Belief, one has to maintain a public face that isn’t too over the top, and another face for ‘turch. Most of the second face is consumed with being seen by others in ‘turch. Brother Marioth, when was the last time you heard the Word? That sort of thing. It is hard to determine which face is more false. It seems to be a competition.

      The GOP suffers from the second face taking over the conversation, not realizing that the country will turn away from it next year. The angry screech and holler of a dwindling minority bent on disassembling our democratic institutions does not a majority make, nor is it a platform for governance of all the People.

      Ask any gay person about the dual life of living in the closet, and the nutty beliefs that keep them there. It’s a living hell, by all accounts.

      Most, if not all, of the above bears no resemblance whatsoever to actual christianity.

      • Houndentenor

        That attitude certainly doesn’t represent all of Christendom. Just a loud-mothed faction of Christianity. Sadly, those who disagree with this world view are not the in-your-face type so their disapproval doesn’t register on the media’s Richter scale.

  • Primrose

    “The bottom line is that until BOTH sides at least recognize the other’s belief system as legitimate, the violent vitriolic rhetoric and craziness from BOTH sides will continue.”

    No, that is not actually required. It is not necessary that I as women think those who advocate patriarchy and the inferiority of women have a “legitimate” view point. It is not necessary that African-Americans recognize that racists have a “legitimate” view point.

    Nor do If those of us on the left don’t agree with the idea that there are good reasons not to tax the rich, it is not simply because we think people are “being mean”, it is because those on the other side have not made their argument.

    That’s rather the point of argument isn’t it. If we think that this kind of tax decision is unfair to the poor, that’s our argument against it. We don’t have to abandon our own arguments for tolerance.

    What we have to do is speak in a civil manner that is respectful to the person (not the idea). If the person advocating this opinion, says that all people who want to tax the wealthy are “ obese, reparationist, welfare queens riding around in Cadillacs” to take a random example, we can call them racists. If they say it is fine for the poor to suffer because they are “just filler”, we can call them unfeeling and mean. We don’t have to see the “legitimacy” of their view.

    On the other hand, if they make an argument about the supposed job creation of tax cuts, we must counter with facts or alternate analysis. That can include pointing out that one thinks the outcome of a certain policy will be racist or cause undue suffering.

    To put it another way, that we think there are implications of your ideas that are racist is not the same as calling you racist. Disagreeing with your ideas is not the same as saying you are dumb.

    And FYI, fiscal conservatism is not defined as advocating low taxes. Fiscal conservatism means that you are cautious about debt, and take great pains to avoid it—which could, and sometimes should, include raising taxes.

    • jamesj

      “And FYI, fiscal conservatism is not defined as advocating low taxes. Fiscal conservatism means that you are cautious about debt, and take great pains to avoid it—which could, and sometimes should, include raising taxes.”

      Strongly agree 100%. The essence of Conservatism is using calm realistic judgement and applying it to your problems while avoiding idealism. Automatically dismissing an entire set of possible solutions due to ideology is not Conservative.

      • John Q

        Fiscal conservatism means that you are cautious about debt, and take great pains to avoid it

        Like the Republican fiscal conservatives who accused Kennedy of fiscal recklessness when he proposed lowering the top marginal income tax rate – they thought it should stay at 91%.

        Ah, for the good old days….

    • Chris Balsz

      “To put it another way, that we think there are implications of your ideas that are racist is not the same as calling you racist.”

      No. There isn’t. Save it for when you spot somebody deliberately trying to advance one race over another.

      • Primrose

        Ideas can support a racist structure, or create a racist outcome. Racism by its nature systemic, instead of simple bias or bigotry. In this country, it is tied to the legacy of slavery and the social caste system that created.

        But it is perfectly possible for reasonable people to not have considered all the results of a idea they like. In fact, if those implications are outside of their experience, it is likely.

        That’s the point of argument. We discuss. We argue the points, share perspectives, perhaps we see things we did not realize at first.

        Or at least rational people do, Rational people don’t take every critique of their argument as a personal affront.

        • Redrabbit

          +1 Primrose!

          Many people on the right are extremely uncomfortable discussing racial issues, as they tend to see even the mere mention of such issues as a de-facto accusation of racism, directed towards them. Protesting too much indeed….

          Of course, it stems from more than just slavery. You can also trace it back to our original act of racist horror; the treatment of the native Americans by the colonists. Which itself stemmed from the entire colonialist mentality of Europe

        • Primrose

          Fair enough.

  • jamesj

    “But the fresh rise of what can only fairly be described as ‘crazy’ is hitting us like an invasive species dropped into your local pond.”

    It is not “crazy”. It is extreme cynicism or extreme nihilism.

    The Republican party needs to back away from the edge of the cliff. We’ve been going in this direction for a while now, constantly beating the drum of fear that the American government is completely incompetent and that it is literally impossible for government or collective institutions to do anything of value. We promote self-interest and corporate success over virtues such as service to one’s country. We’ve pushed it too far. We used this extreme rhetoric as a means to an end, but we didn’t realize that a significant section of the American public would take our rhetoric as literal truth and lose all faith in the country as a collective entity, thus eroding the very essence of our nation’s strength and unity. When I hear people deriding community organizers as blood sucking leeches on a regular basis I know an ugly form of mindless nihilism has taken grip of my own party.

    But I do agree with the premise that information overload allows people to only consume information they already agree with. That is sad and certainly makes the problem worse. And I see it mostly from my fellow Republicans. If you truly believe what you’ve written in this piece you need to start preaching it to those who need to hear it, your fellow party members and right wing acquaintances. This is the only path back to a sound philosophy and true patriotism in the party again.

    • balconesfault

      We promote self-interest and corporate success over virtues such as service to one’s country.

      And somehow convinced people that wearing a flag lapel, putting their hand over their heart when listening to “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch, or putting a little ribbon bumper sticker on their car actually represents service to one’s country … and that those who don’t do those things are skipping out on their most basic civic responsibilities.

  • Marioth

    Or, as a dear friend of mine recently asked, what could possibly be more important than finding out how the greatest nation on earth was decimated and no one was jailed?

    Seat grand juries TODAY. Use Vermont as the model.

    • Oldskool

      Lack of accountability has also played a part. Except for an unlucky few, there are no longer consequences for high crimes & misdemeanors or for telling outrageous lies. Or shouting at the president.

      No one even suffers from shame anymore.

  • Steve D

    You nailed it with “Facts are elitist.” The problem traces back to when we first began using “elitist” as a bad word. We had “egghead” in the McCarthy Era, but the hue and cry over “elitism” began in earnest in the Sixties.

    Facts ARE elitist, and the people who discover and master them ARE elite. That’s our scientists and educators. It’s also our skilled workers and successful business people. But being elite in one way doesn’t make you elite in everything. Having a Ph.D. doesn’t qualify you to to build a house. Being a skilled carpenter doesn’t qualify you to have an opinion on evolution. The fact that you can run a successful insurance company doesn’t qualify you to speak on climate change or the War in Afghanistan. The fact that you’re a successful actor (or even Jenny McCarthy) doesn’t qualify you to have an opinion on vaccination. Facts are NOT democratic.

    But one thing’s for sure. Just putting in 40 hours a week watching the clock doesn’t make you elite in anything.

    • Redrabbit

      No, facts are not democratic.

      But facts are also inconvenient. Especially if they conflict with so called “deeply held religious beliefs”. When that happens, we demand that facts be subject to the democratic process, so the facts don’t hurt our feeling anymore. Of course, if the democratic process yielded a result about human origins the precious delicate babies did not like, then they would say facts be subject to something else, like religious dictates.

  • Emma

    Bullshit!! There have always been folks willing to believe crazy conspiracy theories. Responsible leaders shut them down.

    Positive Example: Bill Clinton sat down with the 9/11 “Truthers,” listened carefully, then dismantled their “arguments” piece by piece and politely told them to go away. No such responsible behavior is to found among the Republican leadership. They never faced down the proponents of the Kenyan crap, the Obama is a Muslim crap, Obama is a socialist or facist or communist crap, and so on, and so on. To the contrary, they fed the paranoia because they hoped to profit from it. That’s why this craziness is going on.

    Negative Example: Had Romney or Perry had the balls to face down the audience when they applauded at outrageously inappropriate times, the world would seem less crazy today. But they didn’t. And that is one very good reason why neither deserves the presidency. They haven’t the courage to be honorable.

    • Hunter01

      Precisely right, Emma!! Chris Ladd is not only talking nonsense, he makes matters worse by deflecting responsibility from those who are culpable.

    • Diomedes

      +1 Emma

      That false dicotomy that is continuously stated, indicating that ‘both sides are just as bad’ is getting to be quite the tired canard.

      The left has its share of crazies. Certainly true. But it does NOT enable them for political gain. As stated, show me ONE dem politician that tried to stoke the 9/11 truther rubbish. The dismissed it out of hand without a thought.
      Yet what did politicians on the right state with regards to the ‘birther’ movement? They never denounced it, they simply gave a cliched answer stating that ‘well, I can’t tell people what they should believe’. It was a pathetic cop out.

      I am sorry, but you will not find the functional equivalent of Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann or Rick Perry on the left. Not even Dennis Kucinich crosses that line of sanity. And certainly no one with aspirations for the highest office in the land.

      In the end, the Tea Party and the heavy right wing of the Republican party act in the way they do for one sole reason: they are frightened at the demographic changes occurring in the USA. They see more ethnic minorities, more middle class blacks and hispanics and now a black president. And it frightens them. You can call it racism or merely fear due to the fact that they are concerned they will be treated the way they treated those minorities once the shoe is on the other foot. So they are desperately trying to hold on to that last stred of political power.

    • Marioth

      Give ‘em Hell, Emma!

  • Curiosity

    Another article and subsequent comment discussion of people arguing that the crazies on the other side are worse. Sweet.

  • drdredel

    “Somewhere in the 20th Century our lives came to be dominated by technologies that were products of cultures, not people.”

    I think it’s very important to note that this statement is fundamentally untrue.

    Our entire culture… everything it IS to be human (meaning our whole history) is that of someone having an idea which improves upon a pre-existing idea, and then incorporating that idea into the larger body of knowledge.
    Your very specific point about your “device” which no individual on earth can manufacture single handedly is accurate, but it is the obvious evolution of a society whose primary strength (and point of differentiation over the rest of Earth’s fauna) is its ability to communicate ideas back and forth, and grow collectively in these exchanges.
    But this has been going on for a LONG time. I don’t think any individual has ever had the capacity to make a gun (if we include the extraction of the iron from the ground, and the carving of the wood, and the creation of the gun powder), and that’s just one very small example. A single person couldn’t build the great wall of china, or a pyramid, and those have been around for some time. A single person may have invented bread (probably multiple single people did) but the collective technology for this invention was not anything that a single person was responsible for, nor capable of crafting themselves.

    So, no, we haven’t reached some benchmark or singularity beyond which we dare not go, lest we suffer Icarus’ fate. And yes… we ARE marvelous! :)

    Oh, and btw, if your point was to suggest that there are no people on earth that understand how these devices work, that is absolutely false. These devices are actually not all that complex.

  • t6c

    Toeffler also said that the elderly were involuntary immigrants from the past. As they have been forced into a world they do not like, they are understandably a little unhappy about it. The GOP’s base tends to be older, so it will have more of these involuntary immigrants. Hence the resentful tone coming from the GOP and the calls to restore things back to the way they used to be.

  • Let's Talk About Death - NYTimes.com

    [...] “Our politics is getting weird,” writes Chris Ladd on Frum Forum. While there have always been some odd characters attracted to power, it seems we’re dealing with a whole new category of crazy, something we’ve never encountered at the highest levels of our politics before. [...]

  • TJ Parker

    Boo hoo hoo. The world is changing so fast that the poor dim-witted slobs can’t keep up. So they go crazy …

    I don’t buy that narrative. Not one bit.

    Sure, Ray Kurzweil has been plotting our rate of technological change and its rate of increase and has some startling charts. But I’m not crazy, and I’ve been using a computer since I was an infant. Europe is not overcome by the crazy, nor Japan, nor China. The crazy is an American phenomenon, and it comes from religion.

    Our peculiar malady comes from the notion that truth is relative. Scientific truth is relative. Your opinion about global warming is just as good as an scientific expert’s on the matter. Your gold hoarding grampa knows as much about economics as Ben Bernanke, or more! You don’t need one single empirical fact to expound on the psychophysiology of homosexuality. There is no proof. There is no empirical fact or experiment. The rules of reason that have served us well since the dawn of the Renaissance are breaking down, and magical medieval thinking is taking over.

    And Sarah Palin is our Joan of Arc, with a Twitter account.

    • Primrose

      I don’t think you can discount the effect of new technology on social disorder, hatred or a lack of rational thinking. The rise of talk radio in Rwanda had a great deal to do with the subsequent madness there. People had not learned how to judge what was coming out of the radio, just as some of us don’t know how to judge what comes out of the internet.

      This will effect the older set to a greater degree than the younger. To this day, we can not get my mother-in-law to stop sending forwards, particularly those with photos or images that can carry malware. My husband hasexplained it many times. When she needs tech support she calls him, so it is not as if she doubts his expertise. But will she listen to this advice? No. I once told her I wasn’t allowed to accept forwards, and told her again, how dangerous they were.

      “I don’t care,” she said with a smile and the sense she was just cute for words. I may not have a great relationship with my mother-in-law but I acquit her wishing to destroy all our computers. She just can’t process this information because she didn’t learn how early.

      (Obviously, this doesn’t describe everyone over 65, many of whom by their presence here and the kind of arguments they present, make it clear they do get it.)

      So if you combine this difficulty filtering information coming from new technologies, with a reactionary movement, disconnection from reality (craziness) will increase.

      • drdredel

        My mother in laws (all three of them) refuse to put money into my Nigerian bank account… maybe I’d have better luck with your mother in law? :)

      • Redrabbit

        I can’t say anything for sure about your mother in law, but I want to make a more general statement about what you describe…

        When it comes to people who forward things, I think many of them completely understand why forwarding this sort of stuff is potentially harmful. But they think this is outweighed by the content of the forward, which often strikes some deep emotional chord within them. It doesn’t matter that it can spread malware. It’s more important to show people especially your liberal relations, the latest proof the Obama’s birth certificate was fake and his wife is really a robot that is plotting with the Chinese or whatever.

        Sending that forwarded email serves an emotional function that overrides the sort of practical considerations you try to explain to your mother in law.

        Not unlike an old person who relies on social security supporting a politician who openly speaks of dismantling the program, because that politician says mean things about Democrats.

        Most people in general, are not too good at the sort of cost-benefit analyses that would prevent them from casting that ballot of sending that email.

        • Primrose

          I agree with you but they can’t really understand what malware will do to someone’s computer if the emotional chord is more important.

          Harlan Ellison once told this story about/from the man who played Hoss on Gunsmoke. A fan came up to him, the actor, and instructed him to tell his father to get a good woman to cook for them not that chinese fellow. The actor then explained that he was an actor, that someone wrote his lines,

          “and the woman nodded her head, “I know,” did he think she was simple or something? And then she said, but you tell your Daddy, what I said.

          My mother-in-law and all like her,”know” as you say that there could be malware but they don’t really. They know it on a surface level, but the don’t process it. So they know that the internet is full of lies and paranoid people, that these forwards are not trusted, but they don’t really.

        • Redrabbit

          I see what you’re saying. And you are right, of course. This is why so much of the recent developments in neuroscience and psychology, especially as they relate to belief and political affiliation, are so fascinating.

          There seem to be many different ‘levels’ of what we believe, and how we rank the importance of these beliefs, as well as how they interact with things we ‘feel’.

          Of course, part of the problem is that many people don’t have a deep, or even moderate, understanding of anything. Those individuals turn to their feelings, as well as simple imitation of the actions and thoughts of those around them.

          I do wonder if your observation could be extended to issue like birtherism. Meaning, most everyone ‘knows’ that there is no grand conspiracy spanning decades to cover up the fact that Obama was born outside of the U.S. But this basic knowledge takes a back seat to other concerns.

        • Primrose

          Well since you brought up neuroscience, there was a study/article? a year or so back that reported, simply reporting a lie made it more believable because of how we process memory.

          I’m suddenly not able to articulate the idea properly so forgive me if I am vague, but somehow because we give more trust to memories more recently dredged up, simply hearing a statement said over and over again, makes it feel more true. We forget apparently that what we heard was it was a lie.

          It’s the old Goebbels line of course, but apparently it is isn’t because we are all fools but our neurons have an odd organizational system.

          And even if we apply a level of critical thinking to counter this belief factor, the process can be used to reinforce the very lie.

          So to use your birth certificate example, we hear the accusation so often, part of our brain believes it, even if we look at evidence and dismiss it. This contradiction leaves us with a feeling that we don’t trust Mr. Obama, there’s something shady about his citizenship. Thus, when we encounter this lie again, we are more likely to believe it, and less likely to apply evidence based thinking to the suggestion.

    • SpartacusIsNotDead

      “The crazy is an American phenomenon, and it comes from religion.”

      I think this is correct – and I say that as a believer. Although, I think this is a phenomenon largely among conservatives. It seems that the ability to accept on faith certain things that can never be proven (e.g. the existence of God or an after-life) has given many religious people the license to reject many other things that can definitely be proven.

      I think the agnostic who has no faith at all is more likely to require empirical evidence of everything s/he is asked to accept. That certainly is not the case for those of us who are believers.

      • Redrabbit

        The whole idea of “faith” has been transformed in to a “feel good” endeavor. Having “faith” is seen as a form of feel good optimism. It has become easy, nice, and pleasant. It’s hardly surprising that this feel-good-faith is applied to everything.

        It is also unassailable in polite society.

        Let’s say that you encounter a fact you don’t like. You cannot disprove it. You can either give up your original position in light of new facts, which will cause emotional distress, or you can have ‘faith’ in what you already believe.

        You get to go on thinking what you already though, you get the feel-good rush of modern ‘faith’, AND if you wrap your erroneous belief in the cloak of ‘faith’ then others will be reluctant to challenge it.

        Maybe we can call this modern feel good version of faith something like ‘prosperity faith’.

        • SpartacusIsNotDead

          Your comment is a more clear expression of what I was trying to say.

        • Redrabbit

          Thanks.

          This shouldn’t be surprising. After all, this is the same country that loves the ‘prosperity gospel’. There are a not insignificant number of Americans who think that god wants them to be rich, and if they believe just the right way then wealth will be granted to them.

          Earlier in this discussion, someone pointed out that some of the most popular T.V. shows of the past decade have been “get rich quick” reality shows. This is really just another variation on that phenomenon.

  • TPOTORONTO

    2,000 years ago Juvenal wrote about “the bad old days” (Satire 10 and elsewhere); and Horace wrote about “the good old days” (Odes, Book III, 6, and elsewhere). Let’s not forget that each moment is both. Context and a sense of history: these things are essential if we want to prevent ourselves from being overwhelmed with the frivolities and stupidities and technologies of our age or any age.

  • Holmes

    Primrose writes: But I disagree with you about the crisis facing our country, I don’t think it is our financial problems (thought I agree they are pretty damn serious with long-term consequences) but the real crisis, the essential crisis, is loss of public consensus about how to treat each other and what kind of country we are.

    Good point, but may not go far enough. Seems to me that the American social compact has unraveled. Our subjective sense of community has been under persistent attack from the right, and the attack is succeeding. Eventually, what we will be left with is a set of cold economic relationships, structured (with a heavy thumb on the scales) by an increasingly politicized legal system, and covered over with thick patriotic symbols and myths. This is story that critics of capitalism have been warning us about since early in the 19th century. A society where the unspoken creed is dog eat dog, every man for himself, winner take all, no mercy for the losers, and let them die in the streets.

    • Primrose

      There is much in what you say. It seems as if there is no endeavor that is not compared against how business would do it, and urged to become business like. A very totalitarian view.

      However, I am still more of an optimist. I think the crisis is at hand not passed. Like Annie Margaret, I believe that larger amount of Americans than the Republicans reckon with, are disgusted by this.

      • Redrabbit

        There probably are more Americans against the GOP than there are for them.

        But at the moment, those people are an impotent force. Easily distracted, easily enticed by aspiration, easily lured by tough talk and the promise of a hard Republican who tells it like it is, because hearing that kind of talk makes them feel like manly men.

        Yeah, I’m being bitter and I am generalizing. But it’s very difficult to have any confidence in the American people. At one point, 65% thought it would be a good thing to default on the national debt.

        Sometimes, I think what this country really needs is some sort of massive push towards extreme secularization. More and more I tend to view reactionary right wing religious thought as one of the primary forces causing our problems.

        • Primrose

          While I am most accurately lumped in with secular America, I am not sure we need that. Many of the most vociferous critics of this dog eat dog philosophy, are those with deep and abiding religious views. In many ways, what need to do is mobilize them; an untapped resource in particular are those Christians who are offended at how Christ’s message to love they neighbor is downgraded, ignored, or dismissed as a liberal overlay of the bible.

          We need to remember that while the terrible Milgram experiment showed that all too many people would ignore another’s suffering because an authority figure said so, others did not. Repeatedly, those few who resisted authority were people of strong religious convictions.

          While I would be the last person to suggest that one needs religion, or even a belief in god, to hold firm moral values, faith is a deep well many use to overcome fear and selfishness. Rather than dismiss religion, a very long-term goal at best, and to my mind a problematic goal, we need to call upon it.

          Is the totality of our society, even God, going to be only directed at, by and for business, or will we say that other aspects of life are good, that the worth of a person goes beyond their net worth?

          Surely there is only one way for believers, even conservative evangelicals, to answer that question?

        • Redrabbit

          I want to divide my reply in to two parts. The first is about economics and the ‘dog eat dog’ mentality.

          I see what you mean, but I also don’t see a lot of evidence that the majority of politically active religious individuals care that much about the issues we are discussing.

          The ones on the right are pretty uniformly in favor of the ‘dog eat dog’ mentality, thanks to the influence of Calvinist thought and modern silliness such as the ‘prosperity gospel’, not to mention many other complex factors.

          I know there is this idea among many liberals that most right leaning christians would vote for democrats if not for social issues, but again, I see very little evidence for this. Most conservative christians I have ever encountered seem just as enthusiastic about right wing economic policy as they do about social policy. The common attitude seems to be “god helps those who help themselves”, which many actually think is in the bible.

          Here is a decent summary of research conducted by the Barna group regarding this attitude;

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_helps_those_who_help_themselves#Prevalence_and_assessment

          If there are others out there with more liberal economic views, they are very quiet.

          I just have serious doubts about how many American christians actually hold anything approaching liberal, or simply non-laissez faire/Austrian-ish views on economics and social policy.

          Unless this is another one of those instances where polling is misleading because answers are incoherent. Meaning, are the same people who believe in the above outlook also likely to support a larger social safety net, etc. without realizing the basic contradiction in their stance?

        • Redrabbit

          Secondly…this is about critical thinking and the approach to problem solving.

          I think this relates to the exchange with Spartacus, a few posts above this.

          It does seem that a certain right wing approach to religion is shaping the thought of many Americans on the right. It is a feel good approach of sorts, but it is also fueled by extreme cultural resentment.

          This may not be cause for a push for some kind of far reaching secularization, but it may be vital to oppose this faith based, antifactual approach to decision making and information processing.

          Whether religion itself is the cause of this, or if it is just another element that has been corrupted by irrational thinking is just another question.

          Andrew Sullivan is probably on to something when he identifies the primary motivator behind much of the Bagger movement, movement conservatism, etc. as resentment. Resentment of minorities, ‘elites’, media, government, etc. The resentment does seem real, but it also seems a bit muddled. It is never clear what, in particular, so many of these people are angry about.

          On a personal level, that brings me back tot he same place I always end up when trying to answer these questions. A lot of these people just seem angry. There may have been a legitimate reason for it, at some point in the past, but now it seems as if the anger is just sustaining itself.

          This is getting in to more speculative territory, but I do wonder if some people aren’t just addicted to anger and outrage. Like Orwells ‘two minute hates’. Albeit of a more grassroots variety. Just an addiction to anger and hate, because it gives you a sense of purpose, or makes you feel more ‘alive’, or whatever.

          This is why I often say the Bagger movement is just a long, loud, primal scream. Or a temper tantrum. Pure Id. Unrestrained emotion. Which is frightening.

          Sure, specific issues and reasons will be given by individual members, but like any other crowd-sized phenomenon, most just seem caught up in the moment.

          I’m just rambling now. Just putting out random thoughts to see if there is anything to them.

          In the end, it is sort of disconcerting to wonder if there IS no sense to be made of the “crazy” that this article is discussing.

        • Primrose

          The addiction to hate point is a powerful one, and one with plenty of merit re the science of addiction The anger lays down positive feedback on neural pathways, done to often and these tracks get too set and one only knows how to get the feedback that way, and like an addiction, what starts out positive ends up the minimum effort required to feel normal. And of course, certain talk radio shows and certain sites dole out anger in doses that would be nearly fatal if said doses were heroin.

          I’d make one small quibble about your point about right, religious folks. While they do lean conservative, they don’t all lean materialistic. There is a section that is strongly opposed to the setting of material above the spiritual.

        • Redrabbit

          I did not know some of those details about hate and neurology, but it certainly makes sense.

          I imagine all of this feels even more pleasing if someone is feeling bewildered by the modern world, and lost in it, etc.

          As far as the religious people go.

          I see what you mean. But I think that some are not looking at it in terms of spiritual vs material when it comes to the dog eat dog stuff. I think some of them look at ideas like ‘god helps those who help themselves’ and all of that as more general principles of behavior, as opposed to being explicitly about material gain or the material world.

          A good segment of American christianity is heavily influenced by Calvinism, especially the strain of Calvinism that says god blesses those for virtuous behavior. And that blessing often comes in the form of material wealth.

          What I’m trying to say is that for some, it is not a matter of whether the spiritual is above the material. For some, the two can be intertwined, and I think you see a variation of that in many of the religious right type conservatives.

  • Candy83

    Does this mean either Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry will win the 2012 Republican nomination for president of the United States?

    • Holmes

      Bachmann, no. Perry, maybe. Mitt, more likely.

      • Redrabbit

        Man….if anyone had told me back in 2008 that I would be rooting for Mittens in 2012 just because he was the safest option compared to the others…..

        How far we have fallen.

  • Political Rants » Family Guy Writer Suffers Nerve Damage From LAPD During Occupy Protest

    [...] Frum wrote a really interesting article about how the unbelievably horrible roster of Republicans is based on future shock: This year we [...]