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[politics] Flinging poo from the top of the progressive ladder - Lakeshore
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Jay Lake
Date: 2012-07-03 05:53
Subject: [politics] Flinging poo from the top of the progressive ladder
Security: Public
Tags:christianism, climate, guns, iraq, media, politics, religion, science
Sometimes people question why I bark so loudly at American conservatives. Yesterday I was asked on Facebook:
And yet, honestly, Jay, I like you. You're a nice guy, but you're pretty ruthless in the criticisms you make of anyone who's not Liberal or progressive in ways that I'd have to wonder if you'd really say to someone's face. I've had a hard time with posts of yours on FB and your blog to the point I'm very careful what I read.

To which I responded in part:
You'll note that most of my criticisms of conservatives and the religious are rooted in responding to their own words and deeds. In other words, I'm not sitting on some progressive ladder flinging poo, I am looking at what people actually say and do, and being astonished.

Which got me to thinking about what it is that causes me to respond so viscerally to conservative rhetoric. I mean, really, liberal-progressives get it wrong a lot of the time as well. People from all walks of life and perspectives say stupid things to themselves and each other every day.

The problem, I think, is that the modern conservative position has become unreasonable, in a most literal sense, founded on a combination of willful ignorance and deliberate intellectual dishonesty. Many of the things conservatives say and do don't arise from honest differences of opinion about the world and how it works and should be run. This isn't about divergent views of policy or preference of philosophy. These issues don't have two sides in any rational world, any more than a dispute about the existence of gravity has two sides. No, these foundational conservative opinions arise from flat-out lies. And based in lies, the conservative worldview then generates more lies in a vicious downward spiral of destructive feedback.

This offends me intellectually and morally, and it creates an enormous problem for government and politics in the United States.

To get to specific examples...

Evolution denial. 58 percent of Republicans believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years. (To be clear, so do 41% of Democrats, but the resulting social agenda has little sway within the Democratic party or liberal-progressive politics.) In order to hold the majority Republican view on evolution, you have to believe that 99% of the biologists, geologists, chemists, physicists, science teachers and science journalists are all engaged in a century-long conspiracy to cover up and obscure the Biblical truth with falsified evidence and slanted classroom instruction and biased journalism. You have to be willing to disregard the absolutely overwhelming web of interlocking physical evidence that supports the theory of evolution. In order to hold that worldview, you have to train yourself to habits of thought that are literally paranoid and delusional. These habits of thought in turn influence the rest of your worldview. And through conservative dominance of the public school system via school boards and textbook selection committees, evolution denial itself has direct, destructive consequences for education of all people everywhere, not just the children of religious conservatives. Not to mention fostering a profound distrust of science that colors all other opinions and decision making. All of this to support a minority viewpoint of one particular religious faith?

Global warming denial. 47% of Republicans deny the evidence of global warming. (Fewer than 20% of Democrats do.) Much like evolution denial, in order to hold the majority Republican view on climate change, you have to believe that 99% of climate scientists, atmospheric physicists, meteorologists, geographers, and science journalists as well as governments, research authorities and colleges and universities the world over are all engaged in a decades-long conspiracy to cover up and obscure the truth with falsified evidence and slanted classroom instruction and biased journalism. Again, though the scientific case for anthropogenic climate change is not as profoundly overwhelming as it is for evolution, you have to be willing to disregard the extremely substantial web of interlocking physical evidence that supports the hypothesis. Again, to support that worldview, you have to train yourself to habits of thought that are literally paranoid and delusional. These habits of thought in turn influence the rest of your worldview. Conservative control of the balance of power in American public policy means that climate change denial risks direct, destructive consequences that could range from trillions of dollars in property loss due to rising sea levels all the way to species extinction. All of this to support an anti-environmentalist political agenda?

The Iraq War. 63% of Republican respondents still believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded in 2003. (Again, to be fair, 15% of Democrats believe this.) This is flatly counterfactual. A blatant lie. There isn't even the tiny amount of wriggle room that climate change denial has for intellectual skepticism. There were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. There weren't when we invaded. There aren't now. No one has ever found meaningful evidence to the contrary. Yet a majority of Republicans believe this. That completely false viewpoint causes them to see President Bush's Iraq War as justified for America's national security, and to see anyone who opposed or still opposes the war as obvious traitors working against the national interest. To hold this completely false viewpoint against all evidence is again paranoid and delusional. To hold this completely false viewpoint generates profound distrust of those who don't.

President Obama's religion. 45% of Alabama Republicans think Mr. Obama is a Muslim. In Mississippi, the same poll showed that a majority of Republicans, 52%, believe this. There's never been a shred of evidence to back this up. Yes, he had a Muslim step-father. Yes, he lived in Indonesia as a child. I lived in Taiwan as a child, this didn't make me a Buddhist or a Confucian. The president has a lifelong record of church attendance, one that become a significant campaign issue in 2008 due some of the pronouncements of his long-time pastor Jeremiah Wright. To believe that the president is a secret Muslim requires faith in an assertion with absolutely no objective evidence. That is again a paranoid, delusional worldview that endorses other paranoid, delusional worldviews about the president, and about liberal-progressives in general.

Taxes. More than 70% of Republicans believe that the tax burden on middle-class Americans has increased since Barack Obama became president. (20% of Democrats believe this.) In fact, taxes on the middle class have decreased during the Obama administration. The 2009 stimulus bill offered substantial tax cuts, including expanded tax credits for workers, people with children, college students, home buyers, and the unemployed. In 2010, a temporary reduction in the payroll tax was passed, and recently extended through 2012. To believe that the president has raised the tax burden on middle class requires a complete rejection of actual hard data in favor of an assertion which is another flat lie.

Guns. In a slightly less objective arena, that of Second Amendment rights, there's a widespread belief among conservatives that Obama wants to take away their guns or restrict their gun rights. Yet Obama hasn't proposed any anti-gun legislation in his first term, and has rarely mentioned the topic at all.

That doesn't even get into the swamp of misrepresentations and flat-out lies that conservatives buy into on everything from healthcare reforms (Death panels? Really?) to women's health (Blood spattered clinic floors?). Those areas aren't as readily argued objectively, so while the conservative view seems just as insane to me as everything else cited here, the rebuttal is not quite so amenable to hard data.

Taking all this together, from a liberal-progressive perspective, half this country is literally nuts. Nuts in a way that leads to such arrant nonsense as the Texas GOP party platform opposing the teaching of "higher order thinking skills" — a curriculum which strives to encourage critical thinking — arguing that it might challenge "student's fixed beliefs" and undermine "parental authority." What sane person of any political persuasion wants to live in a society where imparting critical thinking skills to our children is seen as a bad thing?

How do you reason with people who insist on being so literally unreasonable? How do you have a useful debate on policy with people who simply reject out of hand the reality of the world around us all? Why should anyone take any conservative anywhere seriously, or extend intellectual credibility to them, when their worldview and their political fortunes are based on fostering and extending wholesale denial of reality? How is it possible for me or any other reasonable person to see these positions as anything but willful ignorance and intellectual dishonesty?

When liberals and progressives are wrong or misguided, it's for a host of reasons, but it's not usually because of profound bias in the foundational assumptions of their worldview. It's because they've made a mistake about something. A reality-based error, if you will. The nice thing about reality-based errors is that they are amenable to correction through new evidence or logic. Faith-based errors (i.e., errors of thought which explicitly deny data or external reality in favor of a presupposed conclusion), the type which conservatives have committed themselves to whole-heartedly, are self-reinforcing and resistant to evidence or logic. Proof to the contrary of the erroneous position is just seen as further evidence of the conspiracy against the cherished truth. At this point, conservatism is so overwhelmed with faith-based and systemic errors that it's impossible for someone outside their frame to distinguish what is sensible from what it is not within their worldview.

In other words, I don't bark at liberals and progressives, because there simply isn't the wholesale denial of reality in that wing of American politics and culture that there is on the Right. (With the partial and bizarre exception of vaccine denial; which I also bark at fairly often for the same reasons cited in this post.) People being wrong or believing me to be wrong or holding positions I disagree with is part of life. People being willfully ignorant and intellectual dishonest on a wholesale scale is another problem entirely.

Do I believe that individual conservatives are ignorant and mendacious? No, not in the slightest. At least, not those outside of the conservative political and media elite who create and foster these lies for partisan gain. Without exception, all of the conservatives I personally know in real life are kind, thoughtful people that I'm proud to call friends and relatives. But the beliefs they espouse and the evidence they refuse to examine about those beliefs is toxic to their worldview, and to the body politic as a whole. We all have to live with the consequences of distorted conservative thinking.

Like I said, I'm not sitting on some progressive ladder flinging poo, I am looking at what people actually say and do, and being astonished.

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russ: quo vadis
User: goulo
Date: 2012-07-03 13:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:quo vadis
Well said.

Only one quibble:
>> In other words, I don't bark at liberals and progressives, because there simply isn't the wholesale denial of reality in that wing of American politics and culture that there is on the Right.

I see a large amount of wholesale liberal/progressive denial with respect to Obama and the Democratic party generally. Because of party loyalty and fear of "the greater of two evils", an awful lot of liberal/progressives are in denial about all the extremely anti-liberal anti-progressive policies and actions being perpetrated by so-called liberal/progressive leaders.

Remember when there was so much outrage that Bush asserted the right to merely spy on US citizens, because "hey, we're in a war on terror"? Meanwhile Obama asserts the right to kill US citizens without trial, yet many self-identified liberal progressives seem cool with that, because "hey, war on terror". Similarly consider how we're still running Guantanamo prison, we're making more and more drone strikes which kill civilians who are asserted to be "militants" by definition, whistleblowers are persecuted more aggressively than ever, requests for information are routinely stonewalled, etc etc. President Obama is not at all what Candidate Obama promised to be, and there's a lot of denial about that.

If Bush had done the stuff Obama is doing, there would be massive outcry from liberal progressives.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-07-03 13:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Fair enough. And a deeply serious issue. But that's a political trap, rather than a fundamental of the liberal-progressive worldview, which is the point I was trying to get at.
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joycemocha: guntotinliberal
User: joycemocha
Date: 2012-07-03 15:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:guntotinliberal
If Bush had done the stuff Obama is doing, there would be massive outcry from liberal progressives.

If you get away from mainstream media outlets, there's a LOT more outcry against what Obama is doing than you expect by just reading those outlets. Most of those outlets, however, end up being marginalized by the mainstream liberal/progressive (or at least what is held up as being liberal/progressive) media. They always have been. Sometimes it's because they are as much out there cranks as their Right equivalents...but a lot of it is because liberal/progressive mainstream folks have moved to the Right themselves.
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Swan Tower
User: swan_tower
Date: 2012-07-03 19:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I see a large amount of wholesale liberal/progressive denial with respect to Obama and the Democratic party generally. Because of party loyalty and fear of "the greater of two evils", an awful lot of liberal/progressives are in denial about all the extremely anti-liberal anti-progressive policies and actions being perpetrated by so-called liberal/progressive leaders.

The example you give is more a case of justification than denial. For me to really consider it as parallel to Jay's examples, liberals and progressives would have to deny that Obama was doing those things at all, rather than coming up with reasons to accept them.

I'm upset with those aspects of his presidency, and upset with people who subscribe to the "it's okay when my guy does it" ideology, but I don't think it's the same thing as sticking your fingers in your ears and going "LA LA LA NEVER HAPPENED."
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zxhrue
User: zxhrue
Date: 2012-07-03 13:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

I am more horrified than astonished, also dismayed and disgusted.

I think the negative reaction to your general mode of presentation is the generally implicit, sometimes explicit tone of all conservatives are 'x'. (when clearly it's generally only about half :)
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-07-03 13:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
the generally implicit, sometimes explicit tone of all conservatives are 'x'.

Except that I do mean that. One of my consistent arguments is that the 'good' conservatives have long accepted and enabled their own lunatic wing for the sake of the votes, and therefore own responsibility for the fact that their lunatic wing has taken over the GOP and effectively controls the national agenda.

So while not all conservatives are evolution deniers, for example, all conservative virtually without public exception have endorsed evolution denial. Even those who know better.

In effect, it's a version of the "nice bigot" problem.
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jordan179
User: jordan179
Date: 2012-07-03 16:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
For instance, I'm a conservative, and I am quite aware of the reality of both evolution and anthropogenic global warming. Happy about the first one, too. Less happy, for obvious reasons, about the second!
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cypherindigo
User: cypherindigo
Date: 2012-07-03 14:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
May I report on Facebook? Someone already has, but I wanted to get permission first.

Thanks - M
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-07-03 14:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Fire away!
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dionysus1999
User: dionysus1999
Date: 2012-07-03 15:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've always found it amusing when a conservative type tells me I'm not living in the "real" world. Luckily, since the Matrix movies, it's been easier to explain paradigm shift.

When your political stance is completely based on idealogy with no basis in reality I think you might be in trouble. Or our country is, anyway.
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mcjulie
User: mcjulie
Date: 2012-07-03 15:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
you're pretty ruthless in the criticisms you make of anyone who's not Liberal or progressive

This is telling. When you call out people on the right for being cruel, reality-challenged bigots, this person perceives you as calling them out merely for not being liberal.
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LiveJournal: pingback_bot
User: livejournal
Date: 2012-07-03 16:10 (UTC)
Subject: Watership Down & the naturalist's eye, plus a sundry...
Keyword:pingback_bot
User jess_ka referenced to your post from Watership Down & the naturalist's eye, plus a sundry... saying: [...] format, what you'd want to hear about from any future guests here. * Jay Lake states here  [...]
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jordan179
User: jordan179
Date: 2012-07-03 16:51 (UTC)
Subject: The Iraq Issue
On Iraq:

The 1990-1991 war, which Iraq provoked by attacking an American ally, ended with a truce. The Iraqis proceeded to violate every term of the truce. The violation of a truce means that the violator has provoked war: if one party breaks a truce, the other party may presume that the war has been resumed by that side. Hence, even if Iraq did not build WMD after 1991, they still very much provoked the war. And yes, in 2003 the issue of the broken truce was brought up by the Administration as a cause for war.

Logically, if one sufficient cause for war existed from the broken truce, the fact that there appears to not been a second sufficient cause for war does not negate the first sufficient cause. One needs only one sufficient cause for an event for the event to be occur.

Furthermore, I've never heard a good explanation from the anti-war side of what exactly we were to do about the broken truce short of war. If we ignored it, then the value of truces offered to us would be diminished, since future foes might reason "We can break the truce afterward anyway and America won't do anything about it, since they didn't to Iraq." If we counted on sanctions to work, the problem is that Europe and the UN were in the process of lifting the sanctions.

As far as I can see, had we not gone to war with Iraq in 2003, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, still murdering his own people, and -- by now -- the sanctions would have been lifted. Heck, with lifted sanctions, why exactly would he have refrained from building WMD's? It's not as if anyone would have been stopping him after the sanctions were lifted, and WMD would have been useful to him in prosecuting future wars of aggression -- which, given his track record, he almost certainly would have launched once his forces were again ready for the offensive.

If my logic regarding this is faulty, please do point it out.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-07-03 17:03 (UTC)
Subject: Re: The Iraq Issue
I could make an argument with your logic, several of them, but the key point here is that you've sidestepped my key point. Ie, a significant majority of conservatives believe something about the Iraq War which is simply, flatly untrue. That you can construct an alternate justification is a fine thing, but it does nothing to address the conservative faith in bald faced lies.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-07-03 17:05 (UTC)
Subject: Re: The Iraq Issue
Which is to say, arguing with your logic would be a legitimate political debate. You raise valid points which we might each choose to address differently based on our politics and worldviews, through reasonable debate.

"Iraq had WMDs" is not a valid point, and it isn't subject to being addressed in reasonable debate.

And I promise you, a hell of a lot more conservatives believe Iraq had WMDs than have ever thought through your analysis.
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fjm
User: fjm
Date: 2012-07-03 17:16 (UTC)
Subject: Re: The Iraq Issue
.

You seem to want to fight the preventative war: doing this, America has killed thousands of people who never did them a damn of harm. You can start with the Phillipines, Korea and Vietnam.

From the outside, it's the US that is the deeply unreliable ally.
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Dave O'Neill
User: daveon
Date: 2012-07-03 18:12 (UTC)
Subject: Re: The Iraq Issue
I've never heard a good explanation from the anti-war side of what exactly we were to do about the broken truce short of war

When did we start attacking North Korea? Did I miss that?

Or did we just continue to contain them and ignore the infringements?
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russ: quo vadis
User: goulo
Date: 2012-07-04 06:52 (UTC)
Subject: Re: The Iraq Issue
Keyword:quo vadis
>>> As far as I can see, had we not gone to war with Iraq in 2003, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, still murdering his own people

As far as I can see, had we not gone to war with Iraq in 2003, Saddam Hussein would indeed still be in power, but orders of magnitude fewer Iraqis would have been murdered than have been in fact been killed as a result of our war, and the infrastructure of their country would not have been destroyed, and huge numbers of people in the middle east would not have become enraged and radicalized against the US.

The often implied war justification that the US invaded Iraq to magnanimously help and liberate the Iraqi people is hypocritical nonsense. Cheney (in)famously asserted "We will be greeted as liberators", which showed how cluelessly out of touch (at best) and how cynically propagandistic the war architects were. Given US friendship with many other dictators and oppressive regimes just as bad and often worse than Saddam Hussein, the arguments that the war was justified for getting rid of Saddam Hussein ring very false.

PS: If it's a question of "murdering his own people", the US government now asserts that right, defended by many "conservatives" and "liberals", of course because the government assures us that this new power to murder US citizens will only used against "bad guys".

Yet I would not be pleased if some foreign army invaded the US to "liberate" the US people. And the US citizens who now claim Obama is literally an evil dictator would presumably also nonetheless not be grateful to a foreign army which invaded the US and "liberated" the US as the US "liberated" Iraq.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2012-07-03 20:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"Evolution denial. 58 percent of Republicans believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years. (To be clear, so do 41% of Democrats, but the resulting social agenda has little sway within the Democratic party or liberal-progressive politics.) In order to hold the majority Republican view on evolution, you have to believe that 99% of the biologists, geologists, chemists, physicists, science teachers and science journalists are all engaged in a century-long conspiracy [....]"

Sorry, but there you go again (unless there was a typo). For a 51-48% difference in number of believers, plus a large difference in policy -- you're (apparently) attributing a very large difference in worldview to ALL the Republicans (or even all the 51% of Republicans).
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houseboatonstyx
User: houseboatonstyx
Date: 2012-07-05 00:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That was me. To put it more briefly:

Never attribute to malice what could be explained by stupidity.

Never attribute to stupidity what could be explained by dishonesty.
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fledgist
User: fledgist
Date: 2012-07-04 00:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Jay, you're a humanist. Confucius was a humanist. Post hoc ergo propter hoc?
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Jay Lake: graffiti-shirley_you_jest
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-07-04 00:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:graffiti-shirley_you_jest
Socrates was a man, therefore all men are Socrates.
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houseboatonstyx
User: houseboatonstyx
Date: 2012-07-08 23:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Woops, I just posted a comment and got an autoresponse saying it had been marked as spam. So I'll try again without the link.

A claim is sometimes made, that because a majority of Muslims/Republicans/whatever are not massively denouncing the crazies in their group, they must all share the craziness themselves.

Here's evidence of tu quoque: the same could be said of Liberals/Democrats/Blacks(?). Here is craziness from Obama's 20 yr pastor, Reverend Wright. But where is any massive denouncement from the rest of those group/s -- or from you?

(I'm not just defending the silent sane majority of Republicans -- but the silent sane majority of EVERYONE.)

Attributed to the Daily Caller:
"[....] put them Africans at the breasts of Yale, Harvard, University of Chicago, those trinity schools, UCLA or U.C. Berkley. Turn them into biscuits then they’ll get that alien DNA all up inside their brain and they will turn on their own people in defense of the ones who are keeping their own people under oppression.”
“There is white racist DNA running through the synapses of their under-brain tissue,” he continued. [....]
</i>
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-07-08 23:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hmm, did you see the two response I just posted to your comment?
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Amanda
User: cissa
Date: 2012-07-10 06:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
When I was in 9th grade, I took a "Speech" class. Among the things we studied were logical fallacies- and OMG! was THAT something to bring joy to the rebellious hearts of young teenagers! We not only dissected ads and political speeches, but we had to write our own.

BRILLIANT. But very progressive.
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