Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Hard Bigotry Of High Dudgeon

So much to say, so little reason...

Rick claims that if your bigotry is supported by a religion, it's not bigotry, definitionally. By that standard, I assume ex-Senator Frothymix also believes that if a Muslim kills his wife for uncovering her face in public, it's not murder.

More interesting, given the wholesale rejection of science by all but one of the Republican presidential cabal, is his dismissal of the findings of studies with a completely off-point claim about membership in a professional society, as a way to reject research without a second or first thought. This affords some insight into the lack of insight that characterizes Republican thinking (as opposed to conservativism, for which, if it still existed as a philosophy in that disaster of a party, I have a lot more respect). It's the sort of thing that makes it impossible to carry on any kind of meaningful conversation with people like Santorum, of whom it now seems there is no other kind on that side of the divide. His is not an argument; it's a deflection --which is probably to give him too much credit for strategy. More correctly, it's idiocy, passing in his mind (and, likely, in those of his audience, the smarty pants girl excepted) for brilliance.

In the video he asserts (on what basis who knows?) gay marriage will destroy us all, and I'm pretty sure he believes it. I mean, all you have to do is look at a state like Massachusetts, where it's been legal for years, and see ... well... never mind.

And there's the point: blind to evidence in front of his face, able to reject it without breaking a sweat, Rick Santorum will never change his mind about same sex marriage. Nor will his constituents; nor will they about any beliefs they hold, unable to distinguish them from reality. Given the sort of non-arguments he considers actual argument, there simply is no way to get though. We see it universally in our politics, on the airwaves, and, when they unskulk, in commenters on this blog. And then there's the comfortable ease with which Rick Perry dismisses evolution and fudges the age of Earth. Or finds ways to replace people who threaten his agenda.

The most perfect exemplification of the Rick Perry/teabagger/Republican party way of thinking (if that's what to call it) is his response to a question about Texas' insistence on abstinence-only education in the face of the highest teen pregnancy rate in the US. It's worth taking the time to view the video, as he claims it works despite the evidence in front of his face. He believes it works, and to him, that's all that matters. Belief. God help us.

The other day I received an email from a peripherally-known college classmate (who claims, among other interesting things, that that classmate is literally dead and his body is now inhabited by an entirely new person, who also has a new [and new-agey] name). The email contained a link to a video in which President Obama admits he was born in Kenya. When I pointed out the obvious chops and edits, and that the "telltale" words are all spoken when you can't see his face, and took the time to include Snopes debunkery, his response was to claim the Snopes article was mere statement of opinion -- despite the fact that it quoted the maker of the video! In the course of several emails, in which he asked why Obama hasn't released his birth certificate or records from Occidental College (he has, and he has), I couldn't get him to see otherwise, and I finally requested that we end the correspondence. There was simply no way in.

How is political discourse even possible when the two sides have literally no commonly-held assumptions; when there's no factual starting point from which to begin discussion; when, for example, there's not even understanding of what science is, let alone what it says? I can understand, and I sympathize with many of the arguments of conservatism. Yes, government is inefficient, and expensive as hell; yes, some regulations can be stifling; sure, when taxes are too high the economy can be ground to a halt. And I suppose it's a legitimate (if heartless and unChristian) argument to make that government has no business providing for the needy (and taking a pretty narrow view of the concept of "promote the general welfare"). But when such arguments are supported with falsehoods, or when facts that call them into question (as did the girl in the video) are simply rejected without legitimate refutation, there's nothing to be done. The concepts of intelligent debate and principled compromise become irrelevant and impossible. One only has to watch debates between evolutionary biologists and creationists to see words literally bouncing off a brick wall, falling into the audience unheard (when the debates are in creationist venues).

I don't claim -- far from it -- that Democrats and liberals are exempt from criticism in this regard. Nor would I assert that science is flawless. But in the former case, examples are individual ones. When a Democrat makes an outrageous statement, it won't be accepted by their mainstream. Not so, Republicans. Against all evidence, they repeat their anti-factual claims and are believed by their credulous congregants. Death panels, reeducation camps, anti-drilling, anti-American, anti-capitalism, doesn't believe America is exceptional. (Who has the time to list all the examples?) In what other instance has a major political party adopted lying and ignorance as central to its policies, has sought constantly to deceive and propagandize its supporters. (Other than, you know, in the Soviet Union, North Korea, Iran...) In what successful democracy could such behavior, and willing acceptance thereof, be par for the course? And how do you deal with it? Obviously, there's no way.

As to science: by definition it's self-correcting.

In my writing this has been a frequent theme, and it's not just opinion. There's science (yes, science, so...) behind the conclusion that conservatives are more apt than liberals to harden their beliefs in the face of facts that disprove them. Among the few remaining thoughtful and open-minded conservatives, there's been and continues much discussion of the concept of epistemic closure as it applies to the view of their party (in which not all of them claim membership any longer, for that very reason.) And it's getting nothing but worse. What a fulmination of fiction fell in South Carolina last night.

I don't see an end to it. The Rovian plan to cultivate the highly religious because of their neediness for simple answers no matter the truth of them has been highly effective. Likewise the advent of non-stop propaganda passing, amazingly, as fair and balanced news (check out the latest example of deliberate Foxian deception). At some critical mass, it becomes like a nuclear (or is it nucular) chain reaction: get 'em on local and state school boards, and education, with its ability to keep open the occasional mind, goes out the window. Bombard people repeatedly with lies and eventually it sounds like truth. It's not Orwellian, because Orwell wrote fiction. This is real, and it seems to have become irreversible.

Lies, as policy. And willing acceptance, with no ability, no desire to question it, in their cultivated and stupefied believers. We've come to a place where the Republican party embraces a parody of thought that's simply no longer compatible with democracy.

Comes the coup de grace: following a tradition of Republican politics that's been present for a couple of centuries, there's now a concerted effort, in levels heretofore unseen, to see to it that the remaining people who might be able to stop the train of lies and misinformation as it runs us off the rails are prevented from voting.

But that's a subject for another post.


  1. Pssst Sid,
    Our Hah-vud ed-ja-ma-cated Prays-ee-dent is against Gay Marriage too...
    So was the last Democrat to occupy the Oval Orifice, even signed the DOMA, which had nothing to do with DOMA-natrixes...
    Heard him say it, once with that new age religious dude out in LA, again not too long ago.
    Oh he said he was still open-minded about the issue, like he was with Guantanmo, the Bush error(now "Obama")tax cuts, and ending the fighting in Iraq/Afghanistan...
    But the Prays-ee-daint can't be an ignorant bigot, cause he's ...


  2. Pssst, Frank: there was a larger point here, which, as usual, seems to have whizzed by your pore haid.

  3. larger point?? like the on on YOUR haid...

    I'm just X-static over the $40,000+ I'm saving by sending my last daughter to pubic highschool for her senior year..
    BTW, she looks suspiciously like a 17 year old version of your better 1/2...
    You weren't in the Camp Lejeune North Carolina area circa 1993 were yew???


  4. As I remember from dealing with some folks in a veterinary practice--an assitant: You can explain the science to them in the simplest terms, but in the end, it's like talking to the pet. In fact, talking to the pet often receives better reception. How "dumbed"(sp)down does the public want to become?

    (And I need to add, Frank may be witty in some way, but poor me, I don't appreciate or understand his wit.)


  5. bl -- I believe Frank is implying that Sid sired Frank's daughter. Why the daughter would resemble Sid's wife is an interesting question. Maybe Frank rejects not just evolution but also "DNA theory."

  6. Hey Sid, great post.

    I am considering a new strategy and registering as a Republican. That gets us some say as to which nutjob makes it out of the primaries.

  7. I met Rick Santorum once in the late 1980's when he came knocking on doors to garner votes in his first run for Congress. He came across as idealistic and eager to "make a difference". He got elected, went on to be our US Senator (from PA) and somewhere along the way substituted his personal views on morality /religion for his elected duty to represent all people in Pennsylvania. He is beyond socially conservative. As a staunch Catholic he is anti-almost-everything and refused to acknowledge the culpability of the Church for aiding and abetting known child molesting priests. . . but I digress. I think he is a bit of a fanatical nut so his views on gay-marriage are not surprising.

  8. Sam, right now it matters not. But ty for the interesting analysis. :)



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