Friday, September 3, 2010

Paranoia Strikes Deep

Intelligent people oft have this weird notion that facts, logic and thoughtful, carefully researched and reasoned analysis will carry the day over intolerance, ideology, selfishness, ignorance and blind prejudice. And they sometimes go far as to assume that to be the default position, because most people are reasonable, their sources of information complete enough and grounded in reality enough, so as to render the superiority of the former over the latter obvious.

So, we've had multiple examples of Obama in a group of Republicans discussing issues with which he was far more acquainted, far more equipped with fact and logic. We had Al Gore and John Kerry debating George W Bush. We had Sarah Palin on the platform with Joe Biden, at least, though hard to call her performance a debate since she didn't respond to questions. In every case, few, if any, minds were changed by obviously superior grasp of fact and logic. In every case, criticism based on performance values trumped even the slightest analysis of actual content.

In which context, we have the notion of bipartisanship, which Norquist famously labeled 'date rape'. A nice thought. 'Come, let us reason together' is a more pleasing approach than, 'Shut up asshole'. And if you have a better grasp of reality, a more logical approach to it, then, you might think, once you explain it to those who disagree with you, they'll come along.

Except that for Obama's opposition, the American media, and too many of its citizens, none of this applies. None of their stands have much to do with fact, logic, reality or much else other than the realities of their own power, perceived threats to it, and increasingly self-referential, ever more reality-challenged discourse excluding external reality in favor of intolerance, prejudice and ignorance. Glenn Beck isn't just a conservative. He's crazy. His conspiracy theories and dark fantasies are easily disproven, offer nothing with respect to actual policy making in response to the country's problems. And he's at the center of current right wing opposition to Obama and the Democrats,ever more strident and rigid despite countless conciliatory gestures and compromises.

Nothing new about anti-intellectualism or paranoia in American politics, of course. Hofstadter famously addressed them both during another of America's Scoundrel times. All the more reason for the historically informed, intelligent Obama to recognise the limits of a rational response to these people, and a need to appeal to those whose worlds don't revolve around fact, logic and a building of consensus around them.


BlakNo1 said...

Many people don't want their excuses to hate taken away from them. They enjoy being xenophobic, paranoid assholes.

ProfWombat said...

And they're told, frequently and loudly, that paranoia and xenophobia are not only appropriate responses to others' perfidy, but reflect their virtues, and, therefore, are a positive social good.

Not the way you want to go through life, son...