Monday, November 17, 2008

OK, don't touch that dial, but ...

Before I leave the topic of the nature of political discourse (something that I have a great interest in), I think I have one more post in me.

Discourse, in my view, can only occur between people who believe that the other side is worth listening to. I certainly understand - and even appreciate - a bit of sharp riposte. Nor do I deny that the reality of politics affects the propensity of (and language with which) we are willing to dump on people on our side of the tracks.

But if you really think that your side has a monopoly on intelligence, moral character and honesty, you are unlikely to say anything worth listening to. One of the ways to guard against this, I think, is to try to understand (and to assume that others will understand) the argument to which you are responding. As I am sure I have blogged before, I encourage students to do that because I think this is the most effective starting point.

The key, it seems to me, is whether you try to do that and not whether you are just as quick to criticize folks on your side of the study hall or whether you use all of the same adjectives.

But I also know that some people read blogs for affirmation. Local bloggers like this guy (who I pick on because I think he could do better)have no interest in responding to folks on the other side because he doesn't think there is anything worth responding to. But if you want an adjective-laden example of a white guy playing the dozens on conservatives, it's there for you.

It's there that the rhetoric can get overheated and people can get mislead about the nature of the other side. If you're main purpose is to entertain people who already agree with you, then some exaggeration is required and, really, is OK.

Still, there is a line there. And a need to remember that when we exaggerate to get a laugh, we're still exaggerating. If you come to believe - really believe - hat conservatives have no soul and that liberals hate their country, you need to rethink things.

32 comments:

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Anything that points out that Plaisted is a windbag is, by definition, good and right.

In all seriousness Rick you are the only partisan I know who writes with a good measure of intellectual honesty and a distinct lack of hypocrisy.

One question though, when you say this,

"But if you really think that your side has a monopoly on intelligence, moral character and honesty, you are unlikely to say anything worth listening to."

Doesn't partisanship require, to a degree, that you believe your ideology has a monopoly on those things?

It sure seems like it.

Anonymous said...

To answer your question, I think it depends on how deeply you believe you have a monopoly. It's possible to have strong convictions that you are on the right side but, at the same time, recognize that like those on the other side, you too are an imperfect, fallible human being who is capable of being wrong on issues.

Anonymous said...

What Rick is referring to is the demonizing and name calling that has become the Wisconsin blogosphere, with very few exceptions (he is one). The rest? Not worth reading anymore.

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Anon 1,

I wish I could say I've seen evidence of that from any partisans I've seen on tv or the blogosphere, or even the ones I know personally for that matter.

Anon 2,

Agreed.

Anonymous said...

Give it up, Rick. You are well meaning, but you are wasting your talent, energy, and time trying to "reason" with liberal bloggers who are not capable of reason. They would rather sit around on their sofas and trash other people and pretend they are serious commentators when the only commenting jobs they will ever get are ones they create for themselves. This is just a fact. They engage in hate speech. Would you stand on a street corner and endlessly try to convince a KKK member to be "reasonable"? No. What's the point. They are beyond reason.

This is an extreme example, but it proves the general point. You are wasting your energy trying to deal with these liberal hatemongerers, who are not interested in reason. Their game is to be as nasty as possible to gain some kind of "cred" in their tiny little circle of 50-100 daily readers.

Furthermore, there is a little bit of a conceit in constantly trying to position oneself as the "reasonable" blogger for any given side, is there not? An attempt to separate oneself from the riff raf? Ever notice how each "side" in this world has chosen a blogger they deem "reasonable", giving them cover to trash and name call everyone else. You are there person. Folkbum is that person, even though he name calls and trash talks on a daily basis. It's wasted energy.

The Wisconsin blogosphere has become a complete joke. You are not going to be able to change that with these endless handwringing commentaries. Wasted energy. Wasted talent.

3rd Way said...

Rick said:

if you really think that your side has a monopoly on intelligence, moral character and honesty, you are unlikely to say anything worth listening to.

Then Anonymous said:

you are wasting your talent, energy, and time trying to "reason" with liberal bloggers who are not capable of reason. They would rather sit around on their sofas and trash other people and pretend they are serious commentators when the only commenting jobs they will ever get are ones they create for themselves. This is just a fact. They engage in hate speech. Would you stand on a street corner and endlessly try to convince a KKK member to be "reasonable"? No. What's the point. They are beyond reason.

Rick hit a bulls eye with this notion that the underlying problem is the mindset that one side has a monopoly on "intelligence, moral character and honesty". It certainly is a problem on both sides. But it is an underlying theme with a lot of conservative talk radio, there isn't anything on the left side that has a reach that can compare to conservative radio. Broadcasting that sort of intolerance isn't good for our country. Shutting them down or regulating equal time for oppsing viewpoints that might make airtime less profitable for advertisment sales isn't good for our country either.

The only way to counteract that sort of counterproductive mindset is to denounce it and call it out when you see it. Ignoring it and dismissing it as benign due to its counterpart on the other side of the spectrum only perpetuates it.

Curt said...

Amen Tosa. While I would agree that Rick is probably the most consistent blogger from either side that I read as far as being fair and listening to both sides. But other than Plaisted, who is so off in his own world of virtue and really really big words, that a logical thought hasn't yet crossed his mind, I think many of the bloggers honestly try to understand the other side. Even many of the shots between them are fun and well meaning. It would be nice to toss some of the less civil or logical posters off the blogs. I dont' even read responses from Plaisted or Gus/Mickey, as they have yet to post anything that made sense or was constructive, but everytime they post the threads digress to the same level of civility or madness....so even though I ignore them, their echoes are almost as annoying. It is amazing how many reasonable threads get destroyed that way, by the same handful from both sides. There are of course some topics that just start off as laughable...but on those you can either just skip over, or enter knowing it is just going to be grenades going back and forth, as when you start the thread with the basis that the other side is evil...there isn't much middle ground to camp on.

Anonymous said...

I know you're talking in general but I think we must acknowledge that there is a great divide between informed and uniformed voters in the country.

It appears to me that 65 million people that voted for a man that said he campaigned in 57 states need to start doing a little learning. How can you have reasonable discussion with them?

3rd Way said...

I certainly hope that was an attempt at humor anony 12:21.

It was funny no matter your intent.

Anonymous said...

3rd way -

Go here and listen to the interviews from Zogby pollsters of Obama supporters -

http://www.newstalk1130.com/cc-common/podcast/single_podcast.html?podcast=vicki_mckenna.xml

McKenna Show Tuesday Hour 2 Part 2
November 18: Obama voters interviewed by Zogby pollsters...AMAZING stupidity!!


As funny as it might be, the ignorance is scary.

PS - Vicki did not do the polling, just the reporting, so do not attack her.

3rd Way said...

Sorry anonymous, I guess you weren't joking.

Please read Rick's post again. Especially the part about it being unlikely that you will say anything worth listening to if you really think that your side has a monopoly on intelligence.

Paul Volcker and Colin Powell helped Obama get elected as much as anyone, if you want to make the case that they are ignorant go ahead, but it is unlikely that any serious person is going to listen to you.

John Foust said...

To put it another way, Anon 12:21: "You know how smart the average person is? Well, half of them aren't that smart."

(I'd digress into discussion of "average" and "median" and the "all the children are above average" in Lake Wobegon but I might be accused of intellectual elitism and it would just ruin the wise-crack.)

Professor, yes, adjectives matter. (As does "your" vs. "you're" and "misled" vs. "mislead" but there goes my inner pedant again.)

I think choice of adjective and choice of target can point to someone's bias. Why, this strikes at the very heart of what the average Joe doesn't like about lawyers: the stereotype is that they're always willing to use verbal misdirection with flowery words and under- and over-statement to make their case. Yes, exaggeration can get a laugh, but it's also a way to try to steer the jury to your desired end. It's the old interaction between rhetoric and logic, isn't it?

Vituperative self-righteousness is right up there with ALL CAPS and punctuation!!! as weak methods to stress your point in a blog. It doesn't better the argument. Sometimes it looks like someone venting their stress or anger. Some of that comes from righteous indignation, some of it comes from inner demons. I think we've got enough brains between the two of us to know the difference, and I hope we both find the courage to point it out when we see it. There's often not just two sides. I don't like the talk-radio demagogues who stress "Us versus Them" as the logical knife that cuts through all the problems in the modern world. It's more complex than that.

Anonymous said...

< Yawn ... > are we ever going to get off this done-to-death topic?

sean s.

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Anonymous 1:17,

I'm a highly educated, politically astute individual who voted for Obama. I know plenty of people like me who voted for Obama, and who voted for McCain.

For every poll you have showing uninformed people voting for Obama, I can show you a poll that says the majority of Republicans think Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 or point to a die-hard partisan Republican friend of mine who was convinced that revenues actually doubled after Reagan cut taxes.

I don't know that "misinformed" is the same as stupid. Because let's face it, the average American either doesn't have the interest or the time (usually both) to figure out the truth behind every issue; nor are mainstream or partisan media outlets all that interested in providing all the facts.

Mainstream media is biased - towards scandal and conflict. And partisan media is biased - towards anything that makes their side look good and the other side bad, regardless of the facts involved.

apexcutter said...

I'm with (yawn) Sean S.

Where's the music??

Anonymous said...

To 3rd way -

I was not suggesting that Rick isn't right about how bad it is to demonize those who hold countering ideological viewpoints.

Conservatives should not demonize Democrats in general. They should engage them on the issues. And vice versa.

I was referring to most Wisconsin liberal bloggers out there today, who seemed to be the subject of Rick's post. Their own name calling and vicious trash talking has rendered them unreasonable and not worth trying to reason with. This is true, as well, of some conservative bloggers

I am saying that most of the liberal bloggers in particular do not offer the moral integrity, intelligence, etc. that makes them worth listening to. Go read their blogs. Read the blatant name calling. They've descended into the gutter. It boggles the mind why a professor of Rick's intelligence and sophistication even bothers debating with them or trying to reason with them. It's an exercise in futility.

Anonymous said...

3rd way and tosa -

I was not saying the uninformed have no intelligent people. However, I do think it is stupid to vote for someone you know little to nothing about. Had you known that Obama thought he campaigned in 57 states would you have voted for him?

I do wonder how many Obama voters would have voted for him had they known more about him. For many of us, the Oprah endorsement was not enough.

Dad29 said...

I can show you a poll that says the majority of Republicans think Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11

Kinda depends on how you define "behind," no?

Direct involvement, as in SH sent his own people? Nope.

Material support, aid, comfort, afforded by SH to those who conceived the tactic and some of those who executed it?

Yup.

John Foust said...

Anon, read Snopes. Obama was obviously tired, he says he has one state left to go plus Hawaii and Alaska, and yet the chuckleheads repeated the gaffe over and over, not as just a funny slip-up, but as as "literal proof" that Obama was dumb.

tom paine said...

dad29,

You say that Saddam offered
"Material support, aid, comfort, afforded by SH to those who conceived the tactic and some of those who executed it."

Is that just your opinion...and if not, please list your sources for that comment?

Thx

John Foust said...

And Dad29, are you implying that whatever level of support Saddam may have supplied, it justified the war against him? Was his level of support smaller or larger than other sources of support? Are there similar examples of the USA lending support or comfort to opposition forces within another country?

Anonymous said...

apexcutter asked “Where's the music??

Can’t’cha hear it man? It’s 2 Live Crew: As Nasty As They Wanna Be!



sean s

apexcutter said...

Heh, heh ... well said, Sean!

Dad29 said...

No, John, that's not what I said.

All I did was try to get a definition of the terms.

Seems like that's a stumbling block to some.

Anonymous said...

John Froust said -

"Obama was obviously tired"

Sorry John, but I check it last night when I was very tired and there still were only 50 states, not 57. It must only work for you.

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Anonymous obsessed with 57 states,

You bring up one flub by one candidate while ignoring the gaffe-machine at the bottom of the other ticket?

The woman didn't know what percentage of the nation's energy her state produces. She seemed to think the VP sits on Senate Committees and sets the agenda. She couldn't name a single newspaper she reads or supreme court decision with which she disagreed. She claimed to kill a pork project she fought for. She claimed an ethics report absolved her when it did the opposite.

I can abide a candidate making a misstatement here or there, such as the number of states or even not knowing how many homes he owns on a dime. They're human and I surely wouldn't do any better in their situation.

What I cannot abide is a candidate who says the same stupid things over and over again, as Ms. Palin did at least three times on the role of the VP in the Senate.

Remember when I talked about a difference between misinformed and just plain stupid? You're showing yourself to be the latter.

Politicians make flubs and mistakes; the key is to judge whether they were genuine mistakes or evidence of abject stupidity.

Anonymous said...

Although I'm not sure how this string got off on rehashing the election, I am comforted by the fact that our next Vice President won't be a gaffe-machine.

Anonymous said...

tosa -

As I said earlier, "how can we have a reasonable discussion with the uninformed?"

Do you think Obama knows how many stars are on the flag?

tom paine said...

anonymous,

In 2000 candidate Bush said that Social Security was not a federal program.

Did that stop you from voting for him in either 2000 or 2004?

If not, you have just disqualified yourself from judging others!

Anonymous said...

Regarding Obama’s “57 State” gaffe;

Come on folks, is this even worth discussing? Can anybody spend the better part of two years having every comment recorded and not blunder? At a time when the media was a much tinier thing, Abe Lincoln famously resisted extemporaneous speech. If he didn’t have prepared remarks, he would just thank people for their interest, apologize for his unpreparedness and leave it at that. Now you can see why.

Biden, McCain, Obama, or Palin, everyone birthed a few gaffes. So what?

There’s gotta be something that ACTUALLY MATTERS to argue about. We are ass deep in a two-front war, and face an impending recession/depression/panic. There’s international terrorism and piracy, parents in Nebraska abandoning their kid, etc. Pick something that matters.

sean s.

Anonymous said...

Biden's gaffes were really funny, though. And now that SNL doesn't have Sarah Palin to pick on any more, I think Joe's gonna provide a lot of their material.

John Foust said...

Here's an interesting discussion titled "Did Talk Radio Kill Conservatism?".

Anon, Obama said "fifty" when he meant to say "forty". Watch the clip. He was thinking fifty, was talking about counting, and made a mistake. Heavens to Betsy.