Is Useful Political Discourse Dead in America?

2009 November 17

by Daniel Wood

Before I get to the meat of the above question, I want to establish one thing:  I have no problem with bias, either held by a person or by a news agency.  A professor of mine once told me that “truth is in discourse,” and I have wholeheartedly agreed ever since.  As an example of the idea, our legal system is based on an adversarial system precisely because truth is more likely to be uncovered by two opposing zealous advocates than by two people trying to remain unbiased.  It’s also a significant factor in the basis of our two-party system.  Partisanship can be ugly, but often it allows us to reach consensus we otherwise wouldn’t.  The ideal of a presidential debate hinges on the same mechanism:  each candidate argues a point, and the one who convinces more people gets more votes.  In short political discourse was never intended to be collaborative, it was designed to be adversarial.  But the problem I see in today’s discourse isn’t bias, it’s misinformation touted as fact.  Never is this more insidious a problem than when it’s a news outlet doing the touting.

It’s easy to see that MSNBC is as left-biased as Fox News is right-biased.  But the problem as relates to the title of this article is that these days, instead of the sides presenting opposing viewpoints, opposing statistics and anecdotes, the sides simply fabricate material.  Instead of advocates, we now have cultists.  The worst of the bunch is Glenn Beck, but I’ll get to him in just a bit.  As I dive into the material, let me explain why I seem to be picking on Fox News and Republicans in particular.  Admittedly due to the sources I tend to view, I am less likely to be shown an example of a Democrat or of a liberal news source dissembling the facts.  It seems to me that more Republican politicians than Democratic lie outright; it seems to me that Fox News invents facts more pervasively than MSNBC. Everything I cite in this article takes only a single Google search to unearth.  I find less such material when searching for liberal fabrications, but I invite readers to inform me with specific examples to the contrary.

Fabrication, Obfuscation, and Conspiracy-mongering

About a month ago, Whitehouse spokeswoman Anita Dunn declared war on Fox News, calling the agency “either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.”  Personally, I think the statement is 100% accurate, but other than Fox’s hypocrisy in claiming to be “fair & balanced,” I have no problem with that.  I gave up on unbiased American news media years ago; if I want unbiased (and good quality) news reporting, I go to foreign or independent sources.  In response to Ms. Dunn, Cal Thomas of Fox compared the Obama administration to Stalinist Soviet Russia for suggesting that Fox News might be the mouthpiece of the Republican party (at 1:58 of the clip here).  Back when the Bush administration made essentially the reverse suggestion about MSNBC, Cal Thomas argued that Bush should have been tackling the media all along.  (2:45 of the same clip)

Fox News Senior Vice President Michael Clemente continued the volley by stating that news programming occurs from 9 AM to 4 PM, and 6-8 PM.  The rest is opinion programming, which incidentally includes Fox & Friends, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly.  Most of whom, as Jon Stewart pointed out, advertise their respective shows as “fair & balanced.” All of the faces of Fox News, it turns out, are in fact opinion programming, and not news.  But the problem is that Fox intentionally blurs the lines between news and opinion.  And in any case, it doesn’t matter how a Fox executive classifies a particular program, if the host of that program presents material in informative pretense.

In a non-Fox-related example, Sarah Palin, on Nov. 6, gave a speech in which she again raised the specter of Death Panels.  Never mind that they do not exist in the bill, and never did. Palin also gave a brief rant presumably about how the godless liberals are suppressing Christianity in this country. Specifically, she referred to how the motto “In God We Trust” had been moved from the face to the edge of one dollar presidential coins.  She asked, “Who calls a shot like that?  Who makes a decision like that?” then added, “It’s a disturbing trend.”

Well, Ms. Palin, to answer your question, the Republican-led Congress called that shot, which was subsequently approved and signed into law by President Bush.  And in any event, the terrifying problem had been rectified by that same Republican-led Congress, before the heathen Democrats took power in 2008. But facts don’t concern Sarah Palin; stoking fears, conspiracy-mongering, and indoctrinating followers are her real objectives.

Last week, Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) held an anti-health-care-reform rally in Washington, D.C. She claimed it was an “organic” and unplanned groundswell, consisting of 20,000-45,000 people.[1] So spontaneous that she and her staff just happened to have thousands of copies of pages from the health care bill to hand out to folks.  The Washington Post listed attendance at 10,000 people.  MSNBC put the crowd at 4,000. Even assuming one of these three figures is correct, are the other two sources lying? But more frustrating is the fact that instead of arguing the pros and cons of the actual issue, our information sources argue over the number of people protesting.  They have successfully framed the issue as a war between Obamists and Republicans, so naturally, the focus of a good story should be how many foot soldiers marched on the Capitol rather than, gee, maybe the provisions of the bill they’re fighting over.  This is the root of my frustration.  That political discourse has moved from the substance of the thing being fought over, to the fight itself. It has been happening to nearly every issue, and it may be intentional.

By focusing the discussion on things like tea parties and protests, the various news outlets can cheerlead their particular biases, and gain support through subconscious popularism rather than by persuasion. Such a subterfuge is more insidious than simply claiming that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen.  By puffing the numbers up or down, the speaker suggests that the majority either really supports or really opposes health care reform, and thereby invokes several psychological effects of herd mentality.

Specifically, an instance like this conjures information cascade and emulation.  Briefly, when a person sees a crowd of others doing something, irrespective of what his own sources of information may be telling him, he experiences an irrational tendency to follow suit, thereby adding himself to the growing crowd, and thus further influencing other passersby.  That is an information cascade.  Parallel to this impulse, emulation occurs when some people simply do what others of higher status do. Both are irrational and unconscious behaviors.

But back to the Fox News punching bag, and Rep. Bachmann’s tiny/gigantic rally. As if Bachmann inflating the numbers herself wasn’t bad enough, Sean Hannity on Fox News got into the act.  He showed a clip of a much larger crowd, from Glenn Beck’s September 12 rally at the Capitol, and showed it as though it portrayed Bachmann’s event, in order to make the totally organic and spontaneous groundswell seem much larger than it actually was.  After Jon Stewart caught him in the act, and skewered him on the Daily Show, Hannity admitted the “inadvertent mistake.”  My question:  how does a news agency mistake its own footage, from a larger, two month older event with completely different speakers, taking place in an entirely different season, with different weather?  The idea that this was an inadvertent mistake strains credulity.

Why, at every opportunity, are the news agencies and politicos consistently, insistently lying?  Have I simply not studied history carefully enough to know that this has always been the case?  It seems to me that at many points in our country’s past, the object of political discourse was not to confuse and bamboozle the public, but to educate it as to two opposing positions.  Instead, the public debate has been overrun by ideological cults.  Which brings me to Glenn Beck.

The Cult of Glenn Beck

“And where totalism exists, a religion, a political movement, or even a scientific organization becomes little more than an exclusive cult.” – Robert J. Lifton[2]

Robert Lifton wrote what has been the fundamental classic work on social brainwashing.  Lifton defines ideological totalism as “the coming together of immoderate ideology with equally immoderate individual character traits.”  Basically, absolutists; what Lifton also refers to as an “all-or-nothing emotional alignment.” Later in that chapter, he explains that ideological totalism divides the world into absolutist bins; either a thing is absolutely good or it is absolutely evil.[3] Once a thing is placed in its proper bin, the ideological totalist can proceed with his proper response to it, irrespective of context or circumstance.  E.g., since Obama is absolutely evil, we may cheer with glee whenever he fails, even though that might mean America losing out as an Olympics venue. No matter how reasoned or reasonable a liberal proposal may be, it must be opposed.[4]

Lifton’s book goes on to discuss how the powers that be use language to brainwash and suppress independent thought:

The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliché. The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. These become the start and finish of any ideological analysis.[5]

Sound like anyone we know?

Glenn Beck never misses an opportunity to oppose anything to do with President Obama.  Even, for example, when the President merely campaigns the IOC on behalf of Chicago’s Olympics bid.  Or, as another bizarre example, ranting about Obama’s volunteerism initiatives. He spouts thought-terminating clichés regarding socialism, communism, and fascism all the live-long day.

Yes, Glenn Beck leads a cult, and I say this with a nearly complete absence of hyperbole.  I am also not the first person to make the claim.  Who are the cult members? The partially educated, “core” Republican voters who feel betrayed by George W. Bush and who hate President Obama.  Democracy Corps, (admittedly, an organization founded in 1999 by James Carville and Stanley Greenberg), conducts polls, research, and focus groups to analyze, among other things, political trends in America.  It recently concluded a series of focus groups with conservative Republicans in Georgia, and the results bear directly on this article.  Please read the 18-page report; I think you will find it fascinating, even if you distrust the source.

To briefly summarize, the report states that these conservatives unite under four central beliefs:

(1) President Obama has a hidden agenda and is purposefully deceiving the nation about it;

(2) Obama has been attempting so much, so quickly in order to accomplish his secret agenda before people realize what has happened;

(3) Obama’s agenda involves driving the nation toward total governmental control; and

(4) Obama is intentionally driving us toward socialism and an end of liberties

Under these beliefs they see themselves as a unified group, apart from the rest of society.  This shared identity derives largely from their belief that they are “an oppressed, mocked minority,” and that they possess special knowledge the general populace does not.  These beliefs lead conservatives to see themselves as an underground movement.

Although the participants possessed mixed opinions about some figures, like Rush Limbaugh, they almost universally adored Glenn Beck.  He “received nothing short of adulation from these voters.”  More than half of respondents admitted that they try to watch or listen to Beck on a daily basis, sometimes going to great effort to ensure that they and their families catch every enlightened Beckian word. So, to recap, we have a unified group, outside the mainstream, which believes is possesses secret knowledge, and which dedicates itself to Glenn Beck.

Experts don’t agree on all the necessary elements constituting a cult, but something of a consensus arises around certain factors.  Some of the crucial ones include people in distressing situations (like, perhaps suddenly finding yourself part of an ever-shrinking political minority during the worst economic crisis in 75 years); reduction of problems to simple explanations which are repeatedly emphasized (see Rhetoric, Fox News); a charismatic leader (Beck, Palin, et al); members deriving a new identity from the group; strict control of information.[6]

Cults grant their members a sense of importance, often by providing noble and sweeping goals.  Here, Beck continually preaches to his followers, encouraging them to question President Obama and take back “our country.”  According to John Hochman, a psychiatrist expert on cults, cults promise their members salvation by replacing existential anxiety with structure and certainty, alienation with community, and impotence with solidarity directed by all-knowing leaders.[7] Beck burps forth his wacky conspiracy theories under color of imparting secret knowledge.  (For a deeper discussion of how Beck brings the crazy, take a look at this article I wrote on my blog, regarding two recent incidents on Beck’s TV show.)  He grants his followers the solidarity observed by the Democracy Corps above, and by organizing marches on Washington, gives them a sense of potency.  Most of the elements fall into place.

When we stop looking at Beck as a news man (which, according to Fox’s programming, he is not) or even as a political analyst, and start looking at him as a cult leader, much of the inanity of his diatribes becomes logical.  (As for his rhetoric being inane, he himself has said that, “if you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.”  Well put, Mr. Beck.)  His goal isn’t to inform, nor to contribute in a meaningful way to the public discourse.  His goal, aside from pulling in $23 million per year, is to muddy the waters and stoke the irrational fears of poorly informed conservatives.  Period.  This is the man, remember, who, when interviewing the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, charged, “Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.”  In this light, spouting nonsense about communist-slash-fascist symbols hidden around NBC headquarters and about how volunteerism is communism seems perfectly reasonable.  His purpose is neither to inform nor advocate, but instead he aims to swell the Cult of Glenn Beck.

[1] By the way, Representative Bachmann also once claimed that because carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring gas, and is necessary to life, we should not impose restrictions on its output.  In that instance she got the science wildly wrong (was off by a factor of 100 as to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere), and ignored the obvious rebuttal that most naturally occurring substances in sufficiently high concentrations become lethal to any living system.  Either she is titanically stupid, or she purposefully obfuscates the truth as a habit.  This goes beyond merely putting a favorable spin on statistics.  (And if you’re interested, after CO2 levels deviated by no more than 2.5% in the 800 years leading up to the 19th century, they have risen by 36% in the last 50 years.)  As if we needed more evidence, let’s tie the discussion back to Death Panels:  Bachmann stoked the Death Panel fires by reading from the House floor, an erroneous N.Y. Post article by Betsy McCaughey, which twisted the words of Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel.  As a result of that incident, Sarah Palin took up the misinformation baton by posting about Death Panels on Facebook (here and here).  Phew!  With all this bullshit flying around, how is any average citizen supposed to arrive at an informed opinion about anything?

[2] Lifton, Robert J., Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism:  A Study of Brainwashing in China, 419 (University of North Carolina Press, 1989), available at http://bit.ly/23iEtV.

[3] Id. at 423.

[4] For example, after a young woman employee of KBR was gang raped by other KBR employees, while in Iraq, she tried to sue.  Unfortunately, her employment contract prohibited any action.  In response, Senator Al Franken introduced a bill that would require any company wanting a government contract to remove any such clause from their employment contracts.  This so-called anti-rape bill was opposed by 30 Republican senators.  Some sources here and here, and Jon Stewart’s amusing spin on the issue here. It is worth noting that this example has little to do with Beck, beyond the fact that it represents the ideological totalism rampant among conservatives today.

[5] Lifton, supra, at 429.

[6] See Cordon, Luis A., Popular Psychology: An Encyclopedia, 46-47 (2005), available at http://bit.ly/Iscxs.

[7] Hochman, John, Miracle, Mystery and Authority: The Triangle of Cult Indoctrination, Psychiatric Annals, April 1990, available at http://www.rickross.com/reference/brainwashing/brainwashing14.html.


9 Responses leave one →
  1. Jego permalink
    November 17, 2009

    But the problem I see in today’s discourse isn’t bias, it’s misinformation touted as fact.  Never is this more insidious a problem than when it’s a news outlet doing the touting.

    I guess, Dan, that right here at the beginning is where the problem starts for me. Sure, it’s an insidious problem. But I think it’s actually equally insidious when the administration is touting misinformation and lies as facts and truth as the Obama administration does on a frequent basis (Geithner’s repeated remarks that we have a strong dollar policy, Obama’s claims that he won’t raise taxes on those making less than 250K/year, Obama and Biden’s comments that stimulus was necessary to avoid certain unemployment figures, the very idea of green shoots…) I agree with you that cultism is rampant, but I don’t see that Beck is any more dangerous than Obama.

    It may seem to you that Republicans lie more often than Democrats: I don’t know how we’d count. We could perhaps just say that persons who are politicians lie a lot. My bet is that it would come out pretty even as to frequency and amplitude of whoppers. It’s not clear to me that your appeal to psychological principles gives you any argumentary force considered in light of the current Administration’s fibbing or monstrous policy. I mean, the yes-we-canners were pretty clearly information cascading and emulationing all over the place. Anybody who can look at Obama’s desired tax hikes and think that’s going to create prosperity is ignoring 1921;s and 1980’s Laffer lessons–pretty clearly herd bias. So who gives a shit? Any club you like, you’re going to get a pretty messy herd bias. That’s OK. And I’m OK with people making irrational and unconscious behaviors–exploiting that lovingly is how lots of folks make their dough–including me, sometimes.

    The totalist charge is something you have to lay at the feet of both sides. I don’t have a lot of exposure to Beck–I went and read some of his stuff tonight before writing these comments, and he is a nasty little toad. Just as nasty as Obama, but seems like he’d be way less fun to have a bottle of wine with.

    To briefly summarize, the report states that these conservatives unite under four central beliefs:
    (1) President Obama has a hidden agenda and is purposefully deceiving the nation about it;
    (2) Obama has been attempting so much, so quickly in order to accomplish his secret agenda before people realize what has happened;
    (3) Obama’s agenda involves driving the nation toward total governmental control; and
    Obama is intentionally driving us toward socialism and an end of liberties

    This was surprising to me, though. Is there any serious disagreement about these four? It was all the same stuff that Bush was into. The only thing that I really disagree with is that the agenda is hidden: he’s a hard-core redistributivist and has made no bones about it, all the way back to Joe the Plumber.

    So, to recap, we have a unified group, outside the mainstream, which believes is possesses secret knowledge, and which dedicates itself to Glenn Beck.

    OK. How’s that different from President Obama’s fans? The ‘secret’ knowledge there is that central planning can be effective. And they’re maybe not outside the mainstream, but who gives a shit? Buddhist monks are a unified group, outside the mainstream, which believes it possesses secret knowledge and which dedicates itself to Buddha. Catholics, Yogis, Mormons…what’s the problem? And of course he aims to swell the Cult of Glenn Beck.

    *time passes while I do some more reading of Beck*

    …did some more reading….Good God, he’s a nasty little piece of work. Beck, that is. Obama is just distasteful and stupid. Beck is an insect. Bachmann is titanically stupid, by the way.

  2. November 18, 2009

    The news agency inventing false facts is more insidious to me – and this may be an admittedly personal perspective – because the hypocrisy level is higher. I expect politicians to lie, and I expect news agencies to call bullshit. But I agree that politicians have gotten worse and worse, and that was part of my point. I wasn’t really singling out the news guys, it’s just that their transgressions seem worse to me, so I spent more time writing about them.
    Disputing your Obama and Geithner examples requires a serious economics education, which I lack. And in the end, I suspect that due to the complexity of a lot of that (our dollar policy, or the consequences of not enacting the stimulus, for example), you can’t completely wreck what they’re saying with the results of 10 minutes of online research. You have huge problems with the economic policies of both the last administration and this one. Much of that is based on your educated analysis and other economic hoodoo, and as I understand it, there’s still room for equally educated economists to disagree with you. Even if your opinions on some of those issues are more accurate, that’s not the same thing as saying that the health care bill creates Death Panels, or that a rally of 4000 (or 10,000) people had 45,000. I’m talking about straight up, bald faced, easy to disprove, lies.
    Also, I hold campaign promises in a different, more benign category since there’s an inherent credibility problem. Obama promising not to raise taxes on those earning under $250K, then doing the opposite, qualifies as a broken promise, perhaps a lie. It’s different and less insidious than making up facts in the process of informing the public. I understand if maybe I’m alone on this, but I’m just explaining why I picked on the things I did in the article.
    As for cultism, there is absolutely a cult devoted to Obama, but it is not one that he actively cultivates, caters to, or leads. I have a feeling you’re going to disagree strongly with that last sentence. But I still see a big difference. A group of people who think Obama is the second coming of Christ is frustrating and infuriating. Beck is actively engaged in the process of growing and directing his cult. He speaks directly to them, he imparts to them his secret knowledge (like the secret communism hidden in Rockefeller Center), and has created his own ideology (see his 9/12 Project: http://www.the912project.com/). Every time I hear a drinker of the Obama Kool-Aid open his mouth, I shudder. But that sort of devotion has developed largely independently of Obama himself.
    I agree with you that we could just say politicians lie a lot. Again, I welcome any documentation of the democratic equivalent of Sarah Palin or Representative Bachmann. I don’t say that as a challenge, out of disbelief that such politicians exist. I just don’t have that information, so I’m hoping someone can educate me. (It’s easier for someone with that bent to point out the misinformation coming from Democrats than for me to go blindly searching.)
    As for the psychological and cult brainwashing principles, I brought them up because cultists like Beck and Palin are consciously exploiting those notions. Obama may have a devoted following, and you may find much of what he says or does to be repugnant, but I don’t think he’s actively tweaking your subconscious in order to create more brainless drones in his machine. I could be wrong. And if I am, that doesn’t change the point of the article, which is that the way these professional misinformers are using these techniques has caused immeasurable harm to the public discourse.
    I hope you don’t see my article as simply an attack on the conservatives. It wasn’t meant to be. It just happens that I have seen some truly abhorrent behavior coming from that quarter, so they comprised all my examples and illustrations.
    (Oh, and yes, there is absolutely disagreement over Obama’s supposedly hidden socialist, anti-liberty agenda.)
    The reason I despise the Cult of Glenn Beck is that it poses as an information source in the national political dialogue. Buddhists, Mormons, et al, are religious cults and therefore occupy an appropriate corner of society. Glenn Beck and his ilk have successfully hijacked our information streams and our political discussions. Do you really think that President Obama showing the Japanese Emperor some respect by bowing should be news? Yet it was all that Fox and MSNBC (not to mention the online talking heads) could discuss for the last two days. I don’t mind cults per se, I just can’t stand having to sidestep them like dog turds when I want to get information about what’s happening in the world. And I can’t stand when they divert attention from substantive discourse.

  3. Jego permalink
    November 18, 2009

    Sorry for disorganization and rambling: here we go!

    Well, at least we agree that we can expect politicians to lie.

    And you’re right–there’s room for other economists to disagree, much as Catholics and Mohammedans may disagree with an atheist. Much like that example, we root sensible public policy from an atheist perspective. Sadly, that’s not so in economics and the religious hold sway.

    I don’t understand why you distinguish between a politician’s broken promises (though you admit they might be lies) and the lies of the so-called news. They have the same root: a desire for power.

    Dan: That political discourse has moved from the substance of the thing being fought over, to the fight itself. It has been happening to nearly every issue, and it may be intentional.
    Jego: I agree. Who benefits?

    I think somebody’s got to be benefiting. Advertisers? Viewers/Listeners/Readers saving the time to make up their own minds? The rapacious immoral vultures whom we permit to rule us (on both sides of the aisle)? I dunno. But would it be as fucked up if it weren’t good for somebody? Even if it’s only good in the sense that, say, smoking is good for smokers because they get upset if they can’t.

    I don’t think there’s a point in my setting out documentation of the democratic equivalents of the preposterous and virulent grotesqueries (my word of the month) Palin and Bachmann. It’s easy enough, using Pelosi or Barney Frank or Chris Dodd but: you’ve got your side picked. I don’t happen to care. I hate the Republicans and the Democrats equally–I think both of their narratives are utter hogwash and hurtful to any of my goals which are, roughly: being left unmolested by governments and other thugs, having fun with my family and friends, making lots of money with fun, interesting projects and doing with that money as I see fit.

    Dan:I hope you don’t see my article as simply an attack on the conservatives. It wasn’t meant to be. It just happens that I have seen some truly abhorrent behavior coming from that quarter, so they comprised all my examples and illustrations.
    Jego:Buddy, that’s worthy of Fox News right there. Well done, misinformer. :)

    I agree entirely that the professional misinformers are causing harm to the public discourse: I just think that all the news outlets and all the papers with perhaps the exception of the Financial Times and all the politicians from the Chicago thugs in charge of the White House with their Christian nutcases and the Republican thugs with their Christian nutcases and the UN and just about every Senator and Representative regardless of party are the misinformers. We should also include every talk radio person from the loons at NPR to the folks longing for Stasi badges at the AM stations. In short, I think it’s pretty much game over for public discourse and thus game over for the country.

    I don’t understand how there could be disagreement about Obama’s socialist agenda. He nationalized GM and a bunch of banks, and is trying to seize control of the nation’s health care resources and programs. I dunno. Maybe it isn’t socialist. Dan, would it be more accurate to say this:
    “He has a redistributive theory of wealth, believing in taking from the rich and giving to the poor which seems socialist but in fact is just leftist and he occasionally engages in socialist acts like stealing a company or attempting to assert much greater government control over large sectors of the economy. This isn’t socialism, though, since he’d like these things to go private again. It’s leftist corporatism, or left-fascism.”
    Is that putting it more accurately? Keep in mind, I hated the Bushies too.

    I do not disagree with any remarks you make about Beck. He is loathsome, and what really scares me is that with President College Boy being such a fuck up, Beck could maybe take him in 2012. And College Boy, narcissistic, misguided turd though he is, is no threat compared to what Beck’s people could do to the country. Oh….how I flirt with Godwin…

  4. November 19, 2009

    Jego,

    “I think both of their narratives are utter hogwash and hurtful to any of my goals which are, roughly: being left unmolested by governments and other thugs, having fun with my family and friends, making lots of money with fun, interesting projects and doing with that money as I see fit.”

    That makes understanding our string much easier. Please still answer my questions though if you can.

    The Banks and GM have not been Nationalized. They are still being run by the same assholes that ran them before, only with our money. Real Nationalization would mean that the government would be running them and all of their employees would now be federal employees. That is not what we have and I am not sure which is worse…

    As for corporatism, that is a discussion that we should have and is the non-partisan threat that is most likely to destroy our Republic, if it is still a Republic at this point.

  5. November 19, 2009

    Dan:I hope you don’t see my article as simply an attack on the conservatives. It wasn’t meant to be. It just happens that I have seen some truly abhorrent behavior coming from that quarter, so they comprised all my examples and illustrations.
    Jego:Buddy, that’s worthy of Fox News right there. Well done, misinformer.

    *sigh*

    The point is, obviously I’m attacking conservatives. I’m happy to attack liberals (less happy, but happy), but simply didn’t bring the ammunition this time around. Nancy Pelosi is awful. Barney Frank is not much better, but he endeared himself to me with his “talking to a dinner table” comment at that town hall meeting. I don’t know anything about Senator Chris Dodd, so I’ll go read about him.

    The operative word in the above block quote is “simply.” I’m not ONLY attacking conservatives, I’m point out a way that the public debate is being hijacked which is more insidious than previous attempts.

    As for your questions:
    1) Yes, that’s a bit more accurate than saying Obama is a socialist. I still don’t completely agree, but for now, let’s just say that’s a better statement. The important point is that just slapping the label “socialist” on him is the same sort of thought-terminating cliche that gets tossed around by the public ingrates. I would rather we end up discussing pros and cons of his policies in a meaningful way. Dismissively calling him a socialist is . . . uhm, dismissive.

    2) Who benefits from all this horseshit? Well, when we start looking at some of the bullshitters as cult leaders, then there’s the answer. It’s a partial answer, but that’s because there are different breeds of misinformation occurring out there. You keep lumping them all together because they all piss you off. That’s cool. But my article was meant to discuss one particular form of them. (Incidentally, that’s why I distinguished campaign promises. Misinformation? Sure. But different than the subject of this discussion.)

    Glenn Beck gets all the things that cult leaders get out of similar endeavors. Adoration from a devoted following. Money. Influence. A bully pulpit.

    His followers get acceptance and inclusion and a sense of potency and relevance.

    His network also gets advertising dollars (as do his book publishers, his radio producers, his agents, etc.), and viewership numbers (bragging rights). But the network is looking at dollars because it’s a business, not a cult. So if Beck suddenly became unpopular, they’d drop him for another Mad Money idiot screaming about stocks, or another idiot of some type I can’t yet imagine. *shudder* Fox does it’s thing to be profitable. Glenn Beck does it because it’s his mission.

  6. November 19, 2009

    Roy, you did not pose a question.

    Are you asking Jego to dispute your claim that the bailout banks and GM are not nationalized?

  7. November 19, 2009

    Dan,
    Sorry about the confusion…Jego’s answer here helps to explain some things in a string of argumentative comments in a previous string. Please jump on if you will Although I wouldn’t mind some dispute here as well over the nationalization thing…

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