Thursday, May 31, 2012

Goodbye to civility

Conor Friedersdorf at Atlantic has been admonishing other conservatives to watch what they say, and he's getting dissed as a nag, scold, damp squib, etc. I wish he'd be successful, but frankly I think civility is a goner. Some people will practice it, but it isn't generally practiced or expected. So I'm going to try writing a post where I'm totally unrestrained, and I say whatever I want in the harshest terms I feel like using. Maybe this will be fun.

One area where civility that is really a waste is giving the benefit of the doubt to politicians and their shills. Conor had a 10 or 12 volley twitter fight with someone from Breitbart, who finally tweeted:
"I guess it's all worth it if you have a handy cudgel to use against the dread left."
What a fucking waste of time. Of course someone from Breitbart or Fox or DNC is going to use anything imaginable as a cudgel to beat the other side. It doesn't take 12 tweets to figure that out, and 12 tweets is no guarantee that the pundit or shill or whoever is going to admit he's an opportunistic dick. We already know that, so why would we waste time on it?

Ridiculous talking points
I am so fucking tired of the talking points phenomenon. People who repeat them and write them endlessly on the web really should be choking on the stench as they type because it's the same as puking out pieces of cadavers. You don't win any independents with stupidity like that, and you only confirm the biases of the committed on both sides. If I could, I would make anyone mouthing a talking point (right or left) submit to a lie-detector test and make them confess that it's a ridiculous talking point. And I would video it. Maybe start my own channel on youtube.


The prizes for media bias go to...
The biggest prize for lying belongs to Fox News, for advertising itself every second of every day as "Fair and Balanced" when they are completely in the tank for conservatives. Fox, you really think you'll going to lose credibility if you start calling yourself "conservative news" and change the tag line to "The other side you really need to hear?" Come on, you have the barest credibility anyhow, which is why the Obama administration could threaten to ban your reporters due your network constantly launching attacks on their officials in fall 2009.Yeah, I remember that.


Other prizes are for the mainstream media for pretending it's neutral just because it's not nearly as bad as Fox. If the mainstream media was so neutral, why is there so much space for Fox and conservative talk radio? The obvious answer, if you think about it or watch this media, is that it's riddled with a low to moderate level of liberal bias. A prime example is talking about social problems and social programs without talking about certain favorite conservative issues like personal responsibility and taxpayer costs. Of course we need a conservative media if that hardly ever happens in MSM. That kind of coverage should be right in those articles and reports, not something that only gets consideration in budget reporting. My credit card bill soars if I don't watch how much everything costs. There's a huge multiplier when government acts that way. (This is why I hate idiot bleeding heart liberals and the endless social programs they would create and how they would raise my taxes over and over. I lived through it in New York state, so I'm speaking from experience. I definitely have compassion fatigue. It's real, and it happens when we're asked to do too much. I feel no guilt about it. It's called not being a saint, something I shit-sure am not.)

Fucking Stupid Campaigns
As I've complained before, the presidential campaign coverage is focusing on miniscule, unimportant shit like misleading statistics about women's job losses, Ann Romney's spending habits, and ... (I've already forgotten what yesterday's stupidity was). This is partly the media's fault, but also the campaigns' because they send out their shills and surrogates to repeat this crap on TV.

In the meantime, we know what the important issues are: the size of government, the size of our debt, what programs we really want and what we don't what, how much it costs, tax reform, how much can we afford to spent on policing this unruly world, and trying to stay out of unnecessary, deadly, and expensive foreign messes.

Come on people. We know that what's important. So stop wasting all this bandwidth on other fucking shit.

Your reactions
So, was this too much? Should I return to civility, practice it and defend it, or give up? I'd like feedback, civil or not.


Anastasios said...

Are those the important things? I'm not sure everyone would agree. And that I am afraid is where much of your frustration is coming from, MP. Yes, the incivility is tiresome, and stupidity reigns as it always has. But I strongly suspect that you are deep down very tired of being lied to. You really care about the things on your list. The people to either side of you claim to care about those issues, and do care in a way. But ultimately they don't, not in any deep or systemic way, certainly not as you do. Heck, I really like you, and I really don't care about most of those things the way you do. Now, I don't want your vote. Those that do will make all sorts of noises. But do liberals really care all that much about reining in foreign wars? As a group, nope. Do conservatives really care about the budget? Nah, not as a group. Do liberals really respect you the way they say they do? Of course not - they think you are a selfish boor. Do conservatives respect you as an independent thinker? Even less than liberals do, as they see you as an enemy flying a false neutral flag. But both will lie to you for your vote. Now here is where things get interesting, since most partisans are fully aware of being lied to by their own side, but can live with it, as they see the triumph of their side as more important than honesty. When you are not a partisan the lies sting ever so much worse. That is why most people are on one side or another - it is less painful by far.

ModeratePoli said...

Thanks Anastasios. You are right that I'm tired of lies, but pretty much the same as I was when I started this blog. (Example, in the first month I debunked a bunch of talking points.)

Thanks for getting into the spirit with "selfish boor." But the important question--WHAT ARE THE IMPORTANT THINGS? In your opinion, of course.

Anastasios said...

Well, the wisest thing I have ever heard about politics is that it is a form of moral philosophy. It isn't financial management or policy analysis or strategic planning. Those things are the servants of politics, not its essence. So the really important issue is quite basic - what is the country all about? Is it about freedom? Is it about justice? Is it just about continuing to exist? Or is it only about power, with even existence per se not being all that important? I think this last is probably the largest view, if people were totally honest. Mostly I think people want power, and the specific issues are not particularly important to them. Even the good of the country, even it's ongoing existence, is not really all that important to most people, despite what they say. Now, they may have some honesty in that they equate the country with themselves and others like themselves. But in any objective or realistic way, that is in any sense of dealing with the actual good of the actual country, most people really don't give a damn.

So, I guess the most important issues is do we give a damn about the actual country or not? And if we do, what is the point of the country we care about? Or does it even have one?

ModeratePoli said...

Most of what you ask is settled already. The country was founded as a republic with an emphasis on individual rights and freedoms that had to be respected. Perhaps the most succinct expression is Lincoln's statement "of the people, by the people, for the people."

However, within this broad outline are a lot of choices in the details. So I don't think most people would disagree with "of the people, by the people, for the people" but they might disagree about what it entails, and how such a country is best structured. Actually, a communist country could bill itself "of the people, by the people, for the people" too but what it entails and how it is accomplished is quite different.

I disagree that most people want power, and care little for the other issues. If anything, Americans talk a lot about their visions for how life could and should be in this country, and it's not about how much power they personally have. It's about whether we care for each other and give a hand up, how hard work is necessary and rewarded, how government should help or should intrude less--those kinds of visions. So, yes, people do give a damn in this country, though not universally. Some people get carried away in their own passions--amassing wealth or screwing some rival, and some have little energy to expend after ekeing out a living.

But most people do care. However, the thicket, double-speak, and willful misrepresentation in politics don't make it easy for people to translate their values into political action.

So, maybe I'm saying that I still don't see what big picture items are in dispute. Care to try again to explain it to me?

Anastasios said...

Chuckle. I suspect we are just doomed to see these kinds of things in a different way. You are a hands on, practical issue kind of guy at heart. I am an esoteric, philosophical kind of guy at heart.

So rather than talking past each other, let's try this another way. You find the budget to be a huge issue. Many people in the political world claim, at least, to agree. Yet we seem unable to grapple with the issue in an effective way. If the budget really IS the important thing, not an illusion of power as I suspect, what can we do to let that importance become determinative? Do we need different political actors? Do we need different institutions? It seems self evident that something is not working right. Why can't we seem to admit that and figure out what it is?

ModeratePoli said...

I really didn't think I was talking past you in my last comment. You're right that I'm a hands-on person, but please help me by giving me an example of the esoteric/philosophical way you see things.

To answer your questions, yes, we need different actors. We're stuck with our electorate, but they can be led to think differently. We could have a near total change of leadership if we wanted to, but that's a difficult and scary proposition. (Be careful what you wish for.)

If what we need is new institutions, it's no wonder that we can't see it, can't admit it, and aren't ready to move ahead, and don't know what we want to move to. Those sorts of changes are the hardest to make, especially if the institution worked in the past.

Anastasios said...

Okay, now I think we are getting somewhere. Let us relate this to the recent discussions at Bernstein's Blog about the ACA and the Madisonian system. Put very crudely, we seem in our political culture, at least with the ACA, to have evolved two different philosophical approaches, one based on a kind of hyper-Americanism based on markets and one based on a (admittedly romanticized) view of a more European model emphasizing collective action. The lines are drawn and apparently hardened.

But we are stuck with a system that assumes an enormous level of basic consensus to function. How do we get around that? If the philosophical differences do not allow for cooperation and compromise, do the institutions have to give?

Personally I think our problem is even worse than it appears. As Bernstein has intimated, in fact said, ideology has really become a stalking horse for partisan warfare. That is, the true philosophy at play is one of power, that is one of "we hate, Hate, HATE those people and will not tolerate them being in charge no matter what.." The way this plays out is complex, and perhaps Bernstein is correct that it is mainly an elite situation.

However, it is a situation that the American system, unlike for instance many European systems, cannot handle. Madisonian democracy goes into a seizure when faced with that kind of intransigence, if this were a matter of policy differences then compromise might win out, as both sides could get some advantage. But the differences are deeper than that. Many political actors, yes especially on the right, are signaling that "Yes I know that te system cannot handle this and I don't care. I want my philosophy to win no matter what.". The even more pernicious thing is that they are really saying "I want my group in charge and if the system breaks in the process, oh well."

One might hope the American public would recoil from the danger, but they show little sign of doing so. The generous view is that they are confused and ignorant of the danger. That is certainly true. However, deep down I also suspect that mostly they don't care about fundamental issues of the system. They want people like themselves in charge, and if that breaks the system, then it was not worth saving (which s what the Tea Party, for instance, is really saying when they long for an imagined purer form of federalism).

ModeratePoli said...

@Ananstasios, Fascinating view, and probably correct, insightful, and realistic. I want to explore these ideas some more, and I'd do it right now but it's Saturday morning, which means couple time for my sweetie and me. Homemade breakfast--yum.