Monthly Archives: March 2009

More willful ignorance, though now with perhaps not so gleefull idiocy

As a not so brief follow up to the post I just put up concerning intentional rightwing silliness over global warming and climate change, I want to make a quick foray into Greater Wingnuttia with an eye toward their current apoplexy du jour over Obama’s joke at the expense of the Special Olympics.

I will talk more about their faux outrage more below, but I first want to try to get to the heart of the true outrage Obama’s insensitive joke caused them. What really burns them about this is their basic contention that if a Republican or a conservative had said it, then all hell would have broken loose.

This tact feeds nicely into their view of themselves as victims while also giving weight to their charges of liberal media bias and double standards. As an added bonus, it also provides an opportunity to hit Obama with what they seem to think is a double A plus super duper attack line: that Obama supposedly cannot utter a coherent sentence without being hooked up, cyborg like, to his, in their view, beloved teleprompter.

Taking these three points in reverse order, I’m truly pretty perplexed by the teleprompter meme. I could of course be wrong, but, as I understand it, it originated in response to the acclaim Obama received for rhetorical quality and frequently astounding attendance figures for his speeches during the campaign. The claim was and is that he is only able to speak well when teleprompted. Under this scenario I suppose Obama is actually a faux elite, a sockpuppet for the socialists string pullers who are actually running the whole show from behind the scenes.

But again, to really believe this requires willing self delusion and necessitates pouncing on every ill conceived or even stupid gaffe that Obama, like all people, make. The geniuses at Redstate are actually even trotting out the supposed “lipstick on a pig” slur, supposedly sexist language directed at Clinton and mild, and, I would argue, hardly undeserved, dig at Nancy Reagan regarding séances.

Again, more on the faux outrage below, but for now, think of the blinders a person must put on to believe Obama is inarticulate while speaking extemporaneously. On top of that, consider the utter self delusion for people who vociferously defended every last one of Bush Jr’s malapropisms to claim, with a straight face, that Obama can’t properly speak the language without the aid of a teleprompter.

The other two points, that the right is in a perpetual state of victimization and the the evul librul media is biased against the “real Americans” of Palin’s campaign speeches, will have to wait for another post. Even though they have been addressed by a wide range of other writers, they do deserve attention and I will write about them. But now I want to move on to the faux outrage put on so unconvincingly by so many on the right lately.

It has a long pedigree, going back ages and capitalized on in a previous American political era, as Rick Perstein points out in Nixonland, by a tricky pol who rallied his straight laced put upon supporters in opposition to those durned elites who were dirty dealing behind closed doors.

Much more recently, it was adopted, with much less success, by Republican and conservative concern trolls who were just mad as hell at the rotten awful no good misogyny of Obama and his supporters after he took the lead over and eventually defeated his now Secretary of State. That this concern trollery was coming from some of the least believable sources of such concern did not seem to enter into their calculations. Much like McCain’s seeming hip shot pick of Sarah Palin, they displayed their outright contempt for women and feminism by making such transparent allegations.

And such transparent contempt for women and feminism again and again was put forth during the campaign. The “lipstick on a pig” remark was of course the most ridiculous and, frankly, hilariously out of touch. If the moment when McCain ditched Letterman and, supposedly, halted his campaign was the moment when a majority in this country ceased to see him a viable potential president, then the pig lipstick flap was the moment when many, many people saw the faux concern over supposed sexism for what it was.

It became painfully obvious that it was nothing more than a cynical, callous, and ultimately clumsy attempt to pander to women and all feminists in a way that betrayed their utter lack of understanding of and respect for the issues, people and cause they were shouting so loudly about.

And this of course bring us to the current faux outrage over Obama’s Special Olympic joke on Leno last week. Yes it was insensitive. Yes it was, frankly, dumb. But it was also human. Obama was right to quickly apologize and he should probably do more to make amends, to make this a teachable moment and to resolve to make this a constant concern throughout his presidency.

But it does not show some elite bias. It doesn’t show that he somehow cannot speak coherently or intelligently with the aid of an electronic device. Nor does it show some, as many rightwing bloggers and commenters are claiming, that Obama, and liberals in general, favor eugenicist culling of the gene pool via mandatory abortions of developmentally disabled fetuses.

It shows that he can make mistakes. And, unlike our last president, his quick apology shows that he can recognize, take responsibility for and work to undo the damage caused by those mistakes.

And yet, for some reason, Republicans and conservatives think they can use this to hurt him politically. In thinking in this way, they seem hellbent on repeating their performance in the last two elections.

And I’m okay with that.

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Willful ignorance and gleeful idiocy

Anyone who pays attention to global, national, regional or local news, or the gossip in their local social networks, or who possesses a modicum of self awareness knows that acting in our long term best interests is not something we humans unfailingly excel at.

But still, the modern online right is taking this foible to heights that are difficult to fathom by those of us who can still claim with some legitimacy to in the terrestrially anchored reality based community. I don’t want to provide links, but the likes of Rush Limbaugh and the Redstate bomb throwers are having near out of body experiences over the team researching the effects of global warming and climate change nearly died of exposure. It’s similar to the comments you might hear from a neighbor or someone next to you at the gas station during a snow storm: “Well, maybe this snow will shut up those ding-dang DFHs yapping about global warming!”

Of course, they have heard by now – but have deliberately and willfully ignored – that overall global warming can cause local and regional climate change and well as less stable and more chaotic weather patterns. This of course means that in some places at some times the weather will be cooler than was previously the pattern.

But what do so many on the right do? Do they look at changing weather patterns as evidence of human caused climate change or even – gasp! – global warming? No, they are ideologically and politically committed to absolutely refusing to believe in or even concede the remotest possibility of global climate change. So, even though it does nothing to prove their denials, they are gleeful and outright giddy at the prospect of a team of scientists dying in the arctic cold because they delusionally believe it shows that they are right.

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send in the angry Republicans and conservatives

There’s nothing new in the phenomenon: an angry conservative republican, generally a middle age, middle class white male, fed up with all the filth, corruption, secular humanism, socialism, or what ever else those people represent these days. No doubt many of them fantasize about a Charles Bronson Death Wish rampage and unfortunately, some of them carry out such fantasies, egged on by plain old crazies with bullhorns.

But most of them just vent their anger by listening to and perhaps calling talk radio, commenting online and by talking it out in their daily lives. But why is this premise so pervasive? It’s certainly not unique to American conservatives. The nazis capitalized on the dolchstoss idea decades ago. It comes up in many internet comment threads as well, put forth by people coming from a vast range of cultures and nationalities, both within and across cultural, ethnic, national and other boundaries.

It’s a powerful feeling and, paradoxically, it can be satisfying. You are not responsible for your current unhappiness with your lot in life. It’s the rotten so-and-sos who are holding you and your country, group, religion, ideology, etc back. You have been acting in good faith and they have been nefarious.

But now you see what’s what. And you’re mad. As hell. Not gonna take it anymore. Righteous anger flows through you and your enemies are going to regret doing you wrong. And make no mistake, those people are your enemies. It’s a zero sum game and you must destroy them like the vermin they are. There is no room for compromise or conciliation. They are not really even people in the strictest sense.

We’ve been seeing more and more of this lately. Get ready: we’re going to see a lot more of it in the coming months and years. Some of it will unfortunately be very violent. Other instances won’t be physically violent but will nonetheless try to shut down civic (and civil) discourse and silence anyone who doesn’t agree with the 20%ers. The trick is to not get mad and descend into the mud but, rather, to recognize the tactic for what it is and to carry on rational discourse with those who are of a mind to engage in it.

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a brief observation

Although the Rush Limbaugh flap seems to have been successfully tamped down, for the time being, the Republicans are still joyfully forming circles and pointing their rhetorical assault rifles toward the center, this time over the latest gaffe unleashed by Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele. Steele asserted in an interview with GQ that abortion was a choice.

The commenters at some conservative blogs and sites seem to be in one of two camps: either Steele is inartful and/or learning on the job and the base of conservative Republicans must be patient; or, Steele is a squishy moderate willing to sell out true conservatives and conservatism and he, as with all RINOs, must be purged from the GOP for the sake of party and ideological purity.

In this micro debate, as is the case with the post election debate in the Republican party and conservative movement in general, those who advocate purges and purity seem to be routing those in the party and movement who advocate moderation and reaching out to potential supporters beyond the hardcore base.

But of course Limbaugh won’t be silent for long, whether it’s this specific assertion by Steele that sets him off or some other entry point into the larger debate over the future of the party. (And it actually is really more of a debate over the future of the party rather than the future of the movement.) Steele might not last long as RNC chair, but his personal presence or absence in that position is less important that the symbolism of what he, or a more doctrinaire replacement, holding that office says, about the face the party wants to put forth.

If he is forced out by a nasty pubic fight culminating in a vote of no confidence or else suddenly decides he wants to spend more time with his family, his replacement will undoubtedly be an ideologue who favors purges and purity over what will then be seen as the failed efforts of a bumbling moderate to reach out to people real conservatives should not really want to reach out to anyway.

From my left of center view, this seems like a broad strategic mistake for conservatives and Republicans. Also, from my left of center perspective, this perceived mistake by my political and ideological opponents seems like a very good thing.

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