The Uninformed Agrieved: at least they know they’re mad

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Mathews conduct of this interview and it brings up an important trend: the proud and willful rejection of any reference to facts and rationality in preference for stridently reactionary emotionalism.

Chris Mathews actually came down pretty hard on Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence Rhode Island over his refusal to allow Rep Kennedy to take communion. Mathews asked him if abortion is murder, what should the penalties be and Tobin dodged the question.

Mathews said Tobin must either make specific recommendations or stay out of “law making,” which the Bishop has “transgressed” into. Pretty strong stuff about separation of church and state, saying the church needs to stick to moral suasion.

Mathews notes that, although he shares the Bishop’s views on abortion, Tobin is reluctant to advise “even a minute in jail” for women and girls who have abortions because Americans, Catholics and others, don’t view abortion as a crime.

The piece began with a clip of JFK, still a presidential candidate in Houston, seeking to allay fears that he would be beholden to the Pope as President:

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish. Where no public official, either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of churches or any other ecclesiastical source. Where no religious body seeks to impose its will, directly or indirectly, upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials.

Mathews repeated the quote, asking Tobin what he thinks of it. Tobin replies that JFK was talking about “establishing a national religion.” Incredulous, Mathews asked how he can assert such a transparently untrue assertion.

You think he meant something different from what he said?

The short answer is yes, he probably does. Although he could be cynically manipulating the faithful, it’s also entirely likely that the good bishop has deluded himself enough that he can purposely accept a ridiculous interpretation of Kennedy’s meaning.

It happens so often that it can become hard to notice. Here is just a short selection from today’s toobnetz:

  • New Left Media (via HuffPo) has a great video showing the vacuousness of Palin autograph seekers:
  • Via TPM, the RNC thinks they lost the last two elections because they were just too leftist, so they think it’s a good idea to implement a purity test.
  • Via Think Progress, teabaggers think it’s just a hoot to jeer a woman whose uninsured pregnant daughter in law died.
  • Via Crooks and Liars, Tucker Carlson, in all seriousness, asserts that Palin is “as smart as” Al Gore and “more experienced than” Obama.
  • Via Plumline, Cheney slams Obama for bowing the the Japanese Emperor despite serving two presidents who did exactly the same thing.
  • Via TPM, Crist spells it out:

    “It’s hard to be more conservative than I am on issues — though there are different ways stylistically to communicate that — I’m pro-life, I’m pro-gun, I’m pro-family, and I”m anti tax.” … “I don’t know what else you’re supposed to be, except maybe angry too.” [Emphasis added]

  • And last, via Political Animal at The Washington Monthly, Steve Benin, addressing the issue, quotes Isaac Chotiner at TNR

    The first problem with this argument is that … Palin is unlikely to become a policy wonk because she is not very smart. What’s more, Douthat’s argument is tautological. Sure, it would be nice for the GOP if Palin and Huckabee were interested in policy. But if they were interested in policy, then they would not be so appealing to the GOP base.

    In other words, the problem is that a large part of the right has no interest in a policy wonk, and sneers at intellectuals and elites and the types of people Douthat would like to see running the party. A candidate who was interested in learning the ins and outs of the welfare state and health care policy is unlikely to ever achieve Palin/Huckabee levels of popularity with the grassroots.

These examples illustrate the views and psyches of a fairly large segment of our society. Recent polls estimate this group to comprise around 20 to 25 percent of the general populace.

That means, assuming you live in an average place, demographically speaking, and you’re in a room or on a bus with 19 other people, four or five of them believe things that are demonstrably untrue and act on those beliefs politically and socially.

In some areas the percentage of your 20 busmates or roomates will be lower; but in other areas, it will be higher — and in some of those areas, very, very much higher.

The web, along with older media like talk radio and Fox News, help fan the flames of such irrationality. But, like printing presses and cans of spray paint, this specific technology is still neutral. Barring further corporate intrusion, it is not in and of itself responsible for the ignorance spread through its reaches.

It just as readily carries counter arguments and refutations. But to do so, it must be peopled with those who are ready and willing to counter the ignorance. Thankfully, it is.

And after coming of age doing so much to fight the spread of misinformation during eight years of rightwing Republican misrule under Bush and Cheney et al, progressives and liberals on the web are well positioned to keep banging on the outside walls of the rightwing echo chamber.

[This post has been changed since original publication to correct the wording of the final paragraph and to acknowledge that emphasis was added to the Crist quote from TPM.]

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