This article describes Far Left and Far Right Loons Perfectly

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Flashy, Aug 3, 2009.

  1. Flashy

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  2. bigbull29

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    They both have a screw or two loose.:biggrin1:
     
  3. mynameisnobody

    mynameisnobody New Member

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    Although the thesis is doubtless correct, it is, at root, almost tautological. Yes indeed, one can find a whackjob damn near anywhere if you look hard enough. But, so what? The author strikes me as intellectually lazy and far to quick too impose his own wild-assed guesses as obvious truth.

    The unfortunate fact is that humans are not particularly rational animals. Most have a need to believe. But they have no need to believe the same things, and that gives rise to some of the great conflicts of history. Even if you remove politics and its influences from the problem, some have a need to believe some proposition, others have as urgent a need to not believe the same proposition. Neither necessarily have any factual foundation for their respective beliefs. But they are impervious to argument, or even to further actual fact. One cannot convince a man with logic to abandon a view he didn't use logic to arrive at in the first place.

    In this article, the author seems to be engaging in a bit of intellectual slight-of-hand. He is hoping to discredit a particular belief, or several beliefs, by claiming that some hysterics love those beliefs. This is rubbish. People believe all sorts of weird crap. Some of that weird crap is false, but some of it is true. The obsolete Aristotlean view is that facts about the world can be determined by cogitation, reasoning from first principles. This belief hobbled the growth of science for many centuries - actual fact is often much weirder than most of us can imagine. This is a weakness of intellectualism which persists to this day (at least by some definitions of "intellectualism"). I suppose a paraphrase would be that nobody is quite as smart as he thinks he is.

    That fact that weirdos believe something, or deny it, tells us nothing about the something itself. However, some think it does, which is why we continue to have news stories trying to link a belief in something to a group which is easily ridiculed, in hopes that that will make the something look ridiculous as well. This sort of inductive logic is mere "smearing by association." It's logical hogwash.

    Basically, the existence of witch hunters tells us nothing at all about the actual existence of witches.
     
  4. vince

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    Good article. I'm old enough to remember when American politics was less polarized. I think there are probably a large number of contributing reasons why it has become so hysterical. By hysterical, I don't mean funny.

    First of all, the public has never been very well educated in civics or history. I don't know when those subjects became boring or hard or unfashionable. I remember as a very young kid when we moved to Wisconsin from Canada my parents being appalled it how little our new friends knew about a foreign country that was one hour's drive north. I don't want to to belabour the point, but Americans in general, for whatever reason, don't have much of a grounding in their own history beyond the big picture fairy tales they were fed in school. I was an A student in history in High School and it was super easy to be so, because the standards were so low.

    The Vietnam War, the racial wars of the sixties, and the Watergate affair, tore apart the old social contracts and opened new divisions in between many, many groups. The young no longer trusted the old and vis a versa, Nixon was drummed out of office and the right never forgave the left for that.

    The advent of the 24 hour news cycle ushered in the era of the screaming me-me's (to borrow a phrase from Spiro Agnew :rolleyes: ). Today, it's very hard to find the news presented the way Cronkite and his contemperaries did. Journalistic integrity is a oxymoron this days. The sources of information are so many that it's hard to avoid tuning into the one you are most comfortable with. Most people I've observed, don't want to think outside their comfort zone. They want to hear news that does not challenge their world view.

    Why is that? I think it comes back to the fact that real history and real civics are not taught in a way that makes it interesting. Independent thought is not encouraged, rote learning is still the dominant method and memorization is how you pass the tests. Too many kids think it's boring and uncool and find celebrity to be an easier and more interesting thing. So do their parents and I'm afraid it's a downward spiral. I'd guess that more people watch Big Brother and Survivor than all the primetime news shows put together.

    Not that they all do. I spent two weeks hanging out with my daughter and her fourth year university friends in Montreal last year. I was so pleased to find out how well informed and interesting to talk to they were. Politics, art, history, sex, you name it, that house was in a content chatter about the world around them. Plus they didn't even own a TV. But I fear they are in the minority. Most twenty-two year olds are not like that. They sure weren't when I was twenty-two. Most of my friends from those years were and still are, dismally misinformed about the world around them.

    So the CNN's Fox News, MSNBC's of the media pander to their demographic. It's all about holding on to their base and hopefully increasing it. Profit is the motive; it always was. But combine a undereducated, bored and lazy audience, with corporate machines that are more than happy to feed their fears, to the point of saturation, and you get folks who are ready to believe anything.
     
    #4 vince, Aug 3, 2009
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2009
  5. D_Gunther Snotpole

    D_Gunther Snotpole Account Disabled

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    Well, maybe there are far more whackjobs than before, mynameisnobody.
    The author cited some interesting facts.
    Here's one:
    "Between 1960 and 2005, one study found that ideological activist groups of all political persuasions increased sevenfold."
    Here's another: "
    After his first six months in office, Gallup found that only 23 percent of Republicans approved of Obama. After six months in office, Gallup found that only 28 percent of Democrats approved of W. Bush. Now travel back four to five decades.
    "
    After six months in office, 60 percent of Republicans approved of John F. Kennedy. After six months in office, 51 percent of Democrats approved of Richard Nixon. And lest we forget, Nixon and Kennedy both won by less than a percentage point."
    The observations in the article are not trivial.
    The U.S. is obviously getting more and more polarized, a fact that is dismaying to the larger world looking at domestic politics in the Land of the Free.
    I sometimes think that politics in the U.S. has become the MMA for Joe Citizen.


     
    #5 D_Gunther Snotpole, Aug 3, 2009
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2009
  6. Notaguru2

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  7. sparky11point5

    sparky11point5 New Member

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    First, I don't find the conclusion all that remarkable -- politics has become more divisive in America. I think this is true, but not all that interesting. I think the public dialog in the 1790s and 1850s were ardently partisan too, and the Republic survived (barely).

    There is one slight of hand in the article that is pretty typical of RCP, which represents itself as centrist, the classic false equivalence. Note that the poll he reported was that "Democrats believe George W. Bush had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks". This can actually include the warnings by the CIA, FBI, and other governments that some kind of attack using civilian aircraft was being planned. This is actually not fringe, but fairly mainstream. This is not the same meme as the idea that Bush or the CIA executed the attacks, which is clearly on the fringe. I think that would have been equivalent to the Birther claims.
     
  8. SpeedoGuy

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    Why dismaying, rubi? I've heard this frequently in the last few years but it compels me to ask:


    Does perceived polarization really portend anything more substantial than the increased possibility that two US citizens sitting next to each other on a bus might have a unpleasant political argument? What are the real consequences to the outside world of increased partisanship within the US?


    I've come to think that politics as blood sport entertainment is nothing new in our history. In my own 45 years I've come to observe political debates carried out much more often with four letter words than with civility, decorum, or respect. I might even go so far as to believe that the periods of relative political unity in the US are much more the exception rather than the rule.
     
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