[politics] Flinging poo from the top of the progressive ladder

Sometimes people question why I bark so loudly at American conservatives. Yesterday I was asked on Facebook:

And yet, honestly, Jay, I like you. You’re a nice guy, but you’re pretty ruthless in the criticisms you make of anyone who’s not Liberal or progressive in ways that I’d have to wonder if you’d really say to someone’s face. I’ve had a hard time with posts of yours on FB and your blog to the point I’m very careful what I read.

To which I responded in part:

You’ll note that most of my criticisms of conservatives and the religious are rooted in responding to their own words and deeds. In other words, I’m not sitting on some progressive ladder flinging poo, I am looking at what people actually say and do, and being astonished.

Which got me to thinking about what it is that causes me to respond so viscerally to conservative rhetoric. I mean, really, liberal-progressives get it wrong a lot of the time as well. People from all walks of life and perspectives say stupid things to themselves and each other every day.

The problem, I think, is that the modern conservative position has become unreasonable, in a most literal sense, founded on a combination of willful ignorance and deliberate intellectual dishonesty. Many of the things conservatives say and do don’t arise from honest differences of opinion about the world and how it works and should be run. This isn’t about divergent views of policy or preference of philosophy. These issues don’t have two sides in any rational world, any more than a dispute about the existence of gravity has two sides. No, these foundational conservative opinions arise from flat-out lies. And based in lies, the conservative worldview then generates more lies in a vicious downward spiral of destructive feedback.

This offends me intellectually and morally, and it creates an enormous problem for government and politics in the United States.

To get to specific examples…

Evolution denial. 58 percent of Republicans believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years. (To be clear, so do 41% of Democrats, but the resulting social agenda has little sway within the Democratic party or liberal-progressive politics.) In order to hold the majority Republican view on evolution, you have to believe that 99% of the biologists, geologists, chemists, physicists, science teachers and science journalists are all engaged in a century-long conspiracy to cover up and obscure the Biblical truth with falsified evidence and slanted classroom instruction and biased journalism. You have to be willing to disregard the absolutely overwhelming web of interlocking physical evidence that supports the theory of evolution. In order to hold that worldview, you have to train yourself to habits of thought that are literally paranoid and delusional. These habits of thought in turn influence the rest of your worldview. And through conservative dominance of the public school system via school boards and textbook selection committees, evolution denial itself has direct, destructive consequences for education of all people everywhere, not just the children of religious conservatives. Not to mention fostering a profound distrust of science that colors all other opinions and decision making. All of this to support a minority viewpoint of one particular religious faith?

Global warming denial. 47% of Republicans deny the evidence of global warming. (Fewer than 20% of Democrats do.) Much like evolution denial, in order to hold the majority Republican view on climate change, you have to believe that 99% of climate scientists, atmospheric physicists, meteorologists, geographers, and science journalists as well as governments, research authorities and colleges and universities the world over are all engaged in a decades-long conspiracy to cover up and obscure the truth with falsified evidence and slanted classroom instruction and biased journalism. Again, though the scientific case for anthropogenic climate change is not as profoundly overwhelming as it is for evolution, you have to be willing to disregard the extremely substantial web of interlocking physical evidence that supports the hypothesis. Again, to support that worldview, you have to train yourself to habits of thought that are literally paranoid and delusional. These habits of thought in turn influence the rest of your worldview. Conservative control of the balance of power in American public policy means that climate change denial risks direct, destructive consequences that could range from trillions of dollars in property loss due to rising sea levels all the way to species extinction. All of this to support an anti-environmentalist political agenda?

The Iraq War. 63% of Republican respondents still believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded in 2003. (Again, to be fair, 15% of Democrats believe this.) This is flatly counterfactual. A blatant lie. There isn’t even the tiny amount of wriggle room that climate change denial has for intellectual skepticism. There were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. There weren’t when we invaded. There aren’t now. No one has ever found meaningful evidence to the contrary. Yet a majority of Republicans believe this. That completely false viewpoint causes them to see President Bush’s Iraq War as justified for America’s national security, and to see anyone who opposed or still opposes the war as obvious traitors working against the national interest. To hold this completely false viewpoint against all evidence is again paranoid and delusional. To hold this completely false viewpoint generates profound distrust of those who don’t.

President Obama’s religion. 45% of Alabama Republicans think Mr. Obama is a Muslim. In Mississippi, the same poll showed that a majority of Republicans, 52%, believe this. There’s never been a shred of evidence to back this up. Yes, he had a Muslim step-father. Yes, he lived in Indonesia as a child. I lived in Taiwan as a child, this didn’t make me a Buddhist or a Confucian. The president has a lifelong record of church attendance, one that become a significant campaign issue in 2008 due some of the pronouncements of his long-time pastor Jeremiah Wright. To believe that the president is a secret Muslim requires faith in an assertion with absolutely no objective evidence. That is again a paranoid, delusional worldview that endorses other paranoid, delusional worldviews about the president, and about liberal-progressives in general.

Taxes. More than 70% of Republicans believe that the tax burden on middle-class Americans has increased since Barack Obama became president. (20% of Democrats believe this.) In fact, taxes on the middle class have decreased during the Obama administration. The 2009 stimulus bill offered substantial tax cuts, including expanded tax credits for workers, people with children, college students, home buyers, and the unemployed. In 2010, a temporary reduction in the payroll tax was passed, and recently extended through 2012. To believe that the president has raised the tax burden on middle class requires a complete rejection of actual hard data in favor of an assertion which is another flat lie.

Guns. In a slightly less objective arena, that of Second Amendment rights, there’s a widespread belief among conservatives that Obama wants to take away their guns or restrict their gun rights. Yet Obama hasn’t proposed any anti-gun legislation in his first term, and has rarely mentioned the topic at all.

That doesn’t even get into the swamp of misrepresentations and flat-out lies that conservatives buy into on everything from healthcare reforms (Death panels? Really?) to women’s health (Blood spattered clinic floors?). Those areas aren’t as readily argued objectively, so while the conservative view seems just as insane to me as everything else cited here, the rebuttal is not quite so amenable to hard data.

Taking all this together, from a liberal-progressive perspective, half this country is literally nuts. Nuts in a way that leads to such arrant nonsense as the Texas GOP party platform opposing the teaching of “higher order thinking skills” — a curriculum which strives to encourage critical thinking — arguing that it might challenge “student’s fixed beliefs” and undermine “parental authority.” What sane person of any political persuasion wants to live in a society where imparting critical thinking skills to our children is seen as a bad thing?

How do you reason with people who insist on being so literally unreasonable? How do you have a useful debate on policy with people who simply reject out of hand the reality of the world around us all? Why should anyone take any conservative anywhere seriously, or extend intellectual credibility to them, when their worldview and their political fortunes are based on fostering and extending wholesale denial of reality? How is it possible for me or any other reasonable person to see these positions as anything but willful ignorance and intellectual dishonesty?

When liberals and progressives are wrong or misguided, it’s for a host of reasons, but it’s not usually because of profound bias in the foundational assumptions of their worldview. It’s because they’ve made a mistake about something. A reality-based error, if you will. The nice thing about reality-based errors is that they are amenable to correction through new evidence or logic. Faith-based errors (i.e., errors of thought which explicitly deny data or external reality in favor of a presupposed conclusion), the type which conservatives have committed themselves to whole-heartedly, are self-reinforcing and resistant to evidence or logic. Proof to the contrary of the erroneous position is just seen as further evidence of the conspiracy against the cherished truth. At this point, conservatism is so overwhelmed with faith-based and systemic errors that it’s impossible for someone outside their frame to distinguish what is sensible from what it is not within their worldview.

In other words, I don’t bark at liberals and progressives, because there simply isn’t the wholesale denial of reality in that wing of American politics and culture that there is on the Right. (With the partial and bizarre exception of vaccine denial; which I also bark at fairly often for the same reasons cited in this post.) People being wrong or believing me to be wrong or holding positions I disagree with is part of life. People being willfully ignorant and intellectual dishonest on a wholesale scale is another problem entirely.

Do I believe that individual conservatives are ignorant and mendacious? No, not in the slightest. At least, not those outside of the conservative political and media elite who create and foster these lies for partisan gain. Without exception, all of the conservatives I personally know in real life are kind, thoughtful people that I’m proud to call friends and relatives. But the beliefs they espouse and the evidence they refuse to examine about those beliefs is toxic to their worldview, and to the body politic as a whole. We all have to live with the consequences of distorted conservative thinking.

Like I said, I’m not sitting on some progressive ladder flinging poo, I am looking at what people actually say and do, and being astonished.

26 thoughts on “[politics] Flinging poo from the top of the progressive ladder

  1. Paul says:

    This is why news organizations like CNN are failing the public so hard. They treat issues such as global warming like there are two rational and equal sides, that it is up for debate that the problem even exists.

  2. Interesting commentary, Jay. I may have a rejoinder for you, when I have time. Suffice to say I think it’s right and proper to highlight the actions and words of those you criticise. But this can be a double-edged sword. I can think of a few words and actions on the part of the Left that send me barking to the fence. Back with you later, when I’ve collected my thoughts, and a few links.

    1. Jay says:

      Bark away, my friend. I’ll be very interested to see what you come up with.

      (Also, Bryan and I are going to do a joint followup post on points of agreement.)

  3. Nancy says:

    Jay, you amaze me with your calm, articulate, and ultimately winning arguments. Kudos on your meticulous research as well.

  4. Jeri 2.0 says:

    “And yet, honestly, Jay, I like you. You’re a nice guy, but you’re pretty ruthless in the criticisms you make of anyone who’s not Liberal or progressive in ways that I’d have to wonder if you’d really say to someone’s face. I’ve had a hard time with posts of yours on FB and your blog to the point I’m very careful what I read.”

    This quote is, in part (aside from all the excellent points you made in your post), why I want to punch most conservatives in the throat. They seem to have become experts at giving what seems to be a reasoned compliment but is really nothing but a sugary way of telling you to shut up. Their statement doesn’t address any of the points you may have made; instead it tells you that you’re being perceived as rude and strident and would you please stop before you give them the vapors! It always makes me want to double down and really give them something to clutch their pearls over.

    1. Jeri, I could respond by saying that what gets my goat about certain liberals is their apparent belief that the absolute iron-clad correctness and truth of their own views and opinions forgives them the obligation of actually having to be civil towards people who do not hold those views or opinions. JMHO. Unless your sole objective is to be a political asshole (like Rush Limbaugh or Bill Maher) I suggest that minding language and tone is in fact a productive skill to have. Whether your of the Left or of the Right.

      1. Gagh, “you’re.” Today is the day for typos.

  5. TS says:

    Jeri, what if the person is saying that the tone and phrasing used is combative and disrespectful to the point that they can’t hear what you’re saying? How is that telling someone to shut up? Maybe the person is actually interested in what you have to say but just finds your approach abrasive? You’re also assuming the commenter is conservative when they could be one of many moderates stuck in the middle and offended by rhetoric of both sides. It’s also a quote out of context and thus cannot be expected to address the points Jay makes here. He is quoting it for purposes of addressing questions it raised for him. The rest of the discussion and dialogue needed to know the person didn’t try to address any points is not even included so it seems to me you’d be overreacting to punch anyone. That plus the fact that punching people tends to not prove your point but instead put you on the low road.

    1. Jeri 2.0 says:

      TS – Too often I hear conservatives use this as a tactic to derail an argument they are not prepared or equipped to deal with. Instead of addressing the issues, they find fault with presentation. If a person finds any blogger abrasive, my suggestion would be to read elsewhere. It’s not up to the blogger to change their tone to try and appease every reader.

      And I will give you the benefit of the doubt on the throat punching line. It’s a saying. I’ve never been arrested, so it’s a safe bet I don’t physically assault people who disagree with me.

      Brad – “Unless your sole objective is to be a political asshole (like Rush Limbaugh or Bill Maher) I suggest that minding language and tone is in fact a productive skill to have.” And as far as I can tell, Jay generally doesn’t fall into a frenzied, obscenity-laced rant, which is what made me wonder why the FB poster seemed so offended.

  6. Elizabeth Moon says:

    Yes. A deliberate refusal to accept facts is one component of insanity.

  7. I got a lot out of Chris Mooney’s new book The Republican Brain that covers a lot of science (psychology, neurology) about the differences in thinking between conservatives and liberals. It explains some of the astonishing refusal of facts and kind of groupthink that places tribe before truth. The book also makes a convincing case that the differences between right and left are not symmetric. Mooney has a sort of pie-in-the-sky solution to making the best of the strengths of the right and left in our society, but no practical solution on the national scale. Personally, I’ve grown weary of engagement as a coping mechanism since I actually used to believe conservatives would accept facts and reason to correct their misconceptions about the world, but that’s obviously not true. The deny reality-based evidence again and again and again and don’t even know they’re doing it, so deep is their motivated reasoning. My whole business is science and figuring out what’s likely true and how we can test it, and when Republicans started regularly crossing the line to deny that which they know nothing about — or only a tragically biased view — well, it’s hard for me not to get emotional about it. It strikes me as insane, too.

    Yeah, the left does it too, but not as much and not in the same way or in the same numbers. Pretending or arguing otherwise is ignoring the facts. The right needs to own their bullshit and not say it’s the same as the left’s bullshit. The left has different issues it needs to own (e.g., why they can’t rally around Obama and their own leaders).

  8. Cora says:

    Looking at this from a Non-American perspectives, what passes for the political left in the US has its own share of orthodoxies that must not be challenged, as anyone who doesn’t wholly agree with some of those orthodoxies quickly notices in online discussions. And yes, I’ve been lumped in with Republicans/Tea Partiers/Conservatives for deviating from American left core beliefs in one point or the other, even though I’m very clearly not any of those things.

    But that does not change the fact that the unalterable core beliefs on the American right are highly problematic or flat-out insane in a lot more cases than vice versa. Nonetheless, the American right does not have a monopoly on going on believing things that are flat out wrong in the face of contrary evidence. The left is pretty good at it, too, and not just in the US.

  9. Nat says:

    Sadly, while I think you are right on a national level, on a personal level I think you are asking the impossible. We like to claim liberalism is grounded in fact-based analysis, but we simultaneously hang our moral sense on love and mutual aid: the “people” working together cooperatively. It really is a matter of faith for us, not a belief brought up out of scientific evidence.

    The thing many people don’t get is that faith is itself based on evidence; not repeatable evidence, but the evidence of one’s personal experience. The same sorts of evidence we use in building our personal relationships: we trust (or distrust) one another to the extent we do based on non-rational personal experiences.

    It doesn’t have all the answers, and I found the last chapter really disappointing, but I think the approach begun by Jonathan Haidt’s recent ‘The Righteous Mind’ is potentially a useful one.

    From a liberal religious perspective, I think the fundamental problem we have is rejection vs replacement: we say no to this, that, or the other aspect of religious life, without acknowledging the need that aspect fills, and suggesting an alternative. Your examples above are mostly immediate political ones, but how about “Liberals can’t have faith because they demand repeatable evidence.” This one stops conservatives cold, even before they start formulating reasonable-sounding arguments. The proper response is to own our faith: dig deep and post it in front of everything you do. And be willing to admit it isn’t, in itself, all about evidence. I don’t base faith in my marriage or my friendships on evidence, and though I’d accept evidence of betrayal of that faith, I wouldn’t necessarily let that evidence wipe the slate clean. I might instead say “my friend screwed up and maybe I can’t trust him as far as I did, but he/she is still my friend.” That’s not evidence-based behavior, and we need to own that, loudly.

  10. Silly Interloper says:

    Funny. When I was young, naive, and full of myself, I used to think that liberals were complete idiots. Understanding that there are honest brains and dishonest idiots on both sides is the first step of leaving your own delusions behind.

    1. Jay says:

      Agreed completely. However, the difference between liberals and conservatives at the moment is that the dishonest idiots pretty much control the conservative political and media agenda. On the liberal side, they are fringe voices at best.

  11. Silly Interloper says:

    I think you are grossly overestimating the dishonesty and idiocy on the liberal side. Other than a few select blogs, I am no longer aware of a single news venue, publication, politician, activist group, etc. that I could characterize as rigorous. Admittedly, however, I have withdrawn from reading a lot of them out of discouragement.

    I’ll say one thing, the (so-called) conservative side of things used to demand a much higher amount of rigor because they were so outnumbered in public discourse. With the rise of talk radio and Fox News the cacophony of idiocy on the right has increased a hundred-fold. (It also amazes me how dumb the formerly rigorous ones have become along the way.)

    That probably gives the left the impression that they are much worse because it’s not what they were used to. However, the left had such a huge head start on them, they are really much the same now.

    For what it’s worth, I think both parties are disparate permutations of the same ideologies that blind them both. Their self-contradictory ideologies make it possible to rationalize anything that suits them, and both have spun themselves toward irrational and immoral end or agenda that have far reaching and destructive results. There is no one that I can vote for with a clear conscience, and it is laughable to me when either side pretends their opposition is more ignorant or more dishonest than they are.

    Here’s something from Douglas Adams for you:

    “It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”
    “You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
    “No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
    “Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
    “I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
    “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”
    “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
    “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
    “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
    “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
    “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”
    “I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”
    “I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”
    Ford shrugged again.
    “Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happenned to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”
    “But that’s terrible,” said Arthur.
    “Listen, bud,” said Ford, “if I had one Altairian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say ‘That’s terrible’ I wouldn’t be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.”

    ― Douglas Adams, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

    1. Jay says:

      it is laughable to me when either side pretends their opposition is more ignorant or more dishonest than they are.

      So you really think the pecadilloes and oddities of the liberal-progressive movement are as ignorant and dishonest as climate change denial, evolution denial, and the long term concerted attack on women’s health and women’s right? Remember, those positions of the conservative are mainstream positions held by a majority of Republican voters and politicians. With the partial exception of the anti-vaccination movement, which holds no traction at the formal political level, I can’t think of any major position on the American political left that even remotely approaches the ignorance and dishonesty of those keystones of conservative political thought.

      By taking a “plague on both your houses” approach, you’re abandoning any reasonable hope of a solution within the current political framework. Which, bluntly, is why the idiots keep winning. Because too many people who do know better are sitting out the struggle, instead of working to make the good guys better and keep the idiots out.

      1. Silly Interloper says:

        Allow me to precede this entry with the observation that you have largely set the terminology and tone of this discussion by using words such as “ignorant” and “dishonest.” “Ignorant” is less problematic because it is used by most grown-ups without the assumption of insult. However, “dishonest” is fully charged with accusatory implications of shameful behavior. I write the following entry using the language of your familiarity to best illustrate things to your perspective and understanding. In other words, I use them the way I think you do. However, when I attribute words like “dishonest” to you, I am not necessarily entirely convinced that you are aware of the deception in your words.

        “So you really think the pecadilloes and oddities of the liberal-progressive movement are as ignorant and dishonest as climate change denial, evolution denial, and the long term concerted attack on women’s health and women’s right?”

        I think, if you will pardon my saying so, that such wide-sweeping, monolithic characterizations of these items as if every human being in these categories were exactly the same is indicative of an excessively ignorant approach in general and an excessively ignorant understanding of population surveys in the specific.

        I also think that the imbalance with which you present this comparison is very telling, using euphemisms of “peccadilloes and oddities” to describe the extremes of liberalism as if they properly match up with the broader conservative themes, which you then characterize in a most extreme form. That is either extremely blind to irrational thought, or it is blatantly dishonest.

        A little dissection is in order in case lack of reason is the culprit.

        I assume by “peccadilloes and oddities” that you refer to such things as 911-truthers, those liberals who would allow the murder of babies immediately after birth, and fans of “Star Trek: Next Generation.” All of these are extreme, and, I hope, in the minority. However, do they really represent the full picture of leftist irrationalism, and do they truly match up with the “conservative” subject matters that you chose? Of course, they don’t. These things more readily compare to those conservatives who think that the right to bear arms includes bazookas, that pharmaceuticals should be solely controlled by the market, and that there is no finer instrument than a banjo.

        That’s one side of the coin. The other side is your question-begging characterizations of “climate change denial, evolution denial, and the long term concerted attack on women’s health and women’s right [sic].” By doing so, you distract from the notion of rational discourse, and replace it with some kind of intellectual litmus test that has nothing to do with how rational, honest, or responsible one might be in defending any given position.

        Normally, in the throes of a postprandial brawl or in a spirited interlude between bowling frames, I might forgive such nonsense. However, you–a presumably adept writer–have crafted phrases here which deliberately over-simplify complicated matters in such a way as to hide the truth about them and portray them as extreme in order to score a point. That’s dishonest, my friend, and the black kettles are grumbling. It is so obviously dishonest, I get no small frustration having to explain them to you, lest, like the only boy in the house, basket ball in hand, next to the broken vase, you refuse to own up to your, -ahem-, peccadillo.

        Item one: climate change denial

        What, mind you, does “climate change denial” even mean? No one, after all, denies that climate actually changes. It’s been changing long before the appearance of man. Does it mean to deny that there is significant change? Does it mean to deny change caused by man? Does it mean to deny the findings of the scientific community? Does it mean to deny that there is a catastrophe in the making? I could go on for days asking qualifying questions. The permutations of ideas and attitudes that feed into one’s disposition toward the climate change discourse is incomprehensibly complex.

        Now let’s examine what the average righty has been attuned to in the last few decades regarding global wa. . . oops, I mean climate change. From the very beginning, explanations for temperature change based upon sun activity has been intentionally swept under the rug. After listening to leftist environmentalists bust their spleens, warning against doomsday, they come to find out that the measurement of temperature during the industrial age amounts to about one degree. They find out that most of the increase happened before the industrial age boomed. They find out that in the recent past before the industrial boom there were much colder and much warmer times than today. They find that the vast majority of the findings regarding global warming is based upon obviously inadequate computer models. They find that there is, in fact, dissent in the scientific community. (I am personally acquainted with a NASA meteorologist who insists that the bit of warming we’ve had can be explained by changes in the sun.) They find that funding for “research” has been largely skewed toward scientists inclined toward proving global warming. They find that the aforementioned scientists have been fraudulently representing the data, and they find that the CRU has been deliberately destroying and hiding data to make the case for global warming.

        Then there are those who do a little digging and help to inform those who trust them. They discover that at least some of the temperature change may be attributed to the range of error, to diversity of methods, and to irregularities in how weather stations were distributed–among other things. They discover that when scientists researched ice cores, they disregarded an abundance of core samples because they did not portray the climate change data they expected, but when they found *one* core that seemed to tell their preferred story, they went public to extol its tremendous significance. They find that the melting of the ice caps and the rising sea-levels are routinely exaggerated and overstated. They find that–without any interference from man–the ice caps on Mars are shrinking. They find out that the global warming scare has distracted attention and funding from major environmental issues that are far more important. I’m just scratching the surface here. I could go on for days, and we could spend a month engaged in discussion about just one of these problems, let alone all of them.

        All of these things are up for rational discourse, and discounting them all in an encompassing remark about “climate change deniers” only begs the question, does nothing to engage the discourse honestly, and, in fact, completely avoids examining the discourse itself.

        But, no. Despite all these things, the “climate change deniers” must be irrational and dishonest, and the liberals are all nice and intelligent. Plus they smell like daisies. Why? Because Jay Lake says so.

        That is laughable. To characterize such broad possibilities of beliefs and motivations as some radical rejection of the obvious is laughable and dishonest.

        Item two: Evolution denial.

        The same question arises: What does “evolution denial” even mean? Does it mean to deny the taxonomical progressions of the fossil record? Does it mean to believe that God is responsible for evolution? Does it mean to believe that the origin of life is not explained by evolution? Does it mean, such as in the case of atheist David Stove, to find fault in the theory of evolution and with the scientific community without actually disregarding the possibility of evolution? (Actually, mister Stove died a few years back, so he is a believer now.) Does it mean to believe that evolution is insufficient to explain life? Does it mean to admit that actual speciation in nature has never been observed, and therefore recognize that evolution is an effective explanatory model, but that it has never been verified by observation? Does it mean they reject the vast majority of evolution scientists they’ve met because of their dogmatic and unscientific approach?

        Again, there is a wide range of motivations and beliefs that might shape one’s disposition, and lumping them together as unqualified “deniers” is irresponsible and dishonest. On the one hand it attempts to characterize them as only existing in its most extreme form, and on the other hand it attempts to pretend that that extreme matches a much broader category of beliefs. One could easily do the same to issues on the left if one was inclined toward such dishonesty.

        Item three: the long term concerted attack on women’s health and women’s right

        This one is the worst of the three. It’s simply a bald-faced and gratuitous assertion that conservatives attack women’s health and women’s rights. It is blatantly transparent that you have simply decided yourself that a particular thing or two is an attack on women’s health and an attack on women’s rights, and thus categorized your pet little objections to include some majority of conservatives. In this case, you have not only begged the question–you haven’t even revealed the question that you are begging even as you use it to categorize your enemies. This is pure chicanery, and doesn’t merit an appearance in intelligent conversation. And, once again, you have crafted this phrase as a way to *avoid* the interlocution required to evaluate its reason, and turned it into a simple-minded litmus test.

        You will not find an honest survey that shows that there is a preponderance of conservatives who are for attacking women’s health and their rights. It’s just stupid to think so.

        So far, you have gone quite far in the way of demonstrating my premise.

        “Remember, those positions of the conservative are mainstream positions held by a majority of Republican voters and politicians.”

        Not as you have characterized them, they aren’t.

        “With the partial exception of the anti-vaccination movement, which holds no traction at the formal political level, I can’t think of any major position on the American political left that even remotely approaches the ignorance and dishonesty of those keystones of conservative political thought.”

        Of course you can’t. Partly due to your gross mischaracterization of them, but mostly due to the fact that any belief you hold is one that you believe not to be stupid, ignorant, and dishonest. You have convinced yourself that you are an expert on all things liberal, and without giving the opposition’s counter arguments due consideration (possibly because you have limited them to mainstream media, politicians, and a handful of others instead of seeking out the *best* counter arguments), you have convinced yourself that you understand all the arguments with all their nuances to the effect that you have this singular omniscience regarding your pet opinions that cannot be questioned. You are as entrenched in your personal dogmas as the average fundamentalist Christian is ensconced in his.

        You have made one of the most fundamental mistakes in interlocution. You have looked at the opposition, and you have assumed that he sees everything that you see, and that you see everything that he sees, and that in spite of that, he has made the wrong (and evil) choice. Instead of showing an iota of humility and accepting the possibility that he may see something you don’t or that he may actually understand something better than you do, or to even trying to charitably understand where he went wrong, you just assume that he is some lying, ignorant bastard.

        And, by the way, skepticism of the *left’s* keystone of liberal thought, global warming, does not relegate it to being a “keystone” of conservative thought, and I don’t know a soul who would consider evolution to be a “keystone.” The third issue doesn’t even deserve mention.

        As I said previously, I used to think that liberals were complete idiots, and dishonest to boot. If I were only to gauge all liberals by the media and the politicians, I would still think they were a bunch of lying idiots–because they mostly are. But these days the so-called “conservatives” in the public eye have shown they are perfectly adept at sinking to that level. I’m perfectly okay with you lamenting the status of such people. I will join you in harmony to sing the sad state of journalism and politics. But to limit that lamentation to only the opposition is to join them in their iniquity, not to censure it.

        Here’s a clue–I think liberals and conservatives are two sides of the same coin. Each of them operate upon a common irrational basis, and because of that common ground, both sides are utterly blind to their own irrationality, and blind to the fact that the other side’s irrationality is for those very same reasons. In spite of that, I haven’t set up litmus tests to determine the level of their integrity and intelligence. You have to actually engage the discussion–even the ones that seem extreme, to determine that.

        One difference between you and me is that instead of assuming they are a bunch of liars, I believe that they (and you) have been deceived. That makes the challenge to shine light upon that deception and reveal it for what it is in hopes that those observing will understand it and change their ways. The hazard of such an approach is that you may find a different than expected truth and be forced to radically change your own view. You will have taken the red pill, as it were.

        Another difference is that I recognize some level of rational thought even by those who are under the influence of the deception. Even after taking the blue pill, they still struggle within the Matrix to be reasonable people for the most part. The complexity of the human spirit and the human condition is tremendous, and I only call people liars when they have, in fact, lied to me.

        “By taking a “plague on both your houses” approach, you’re abandoning any reasonable hope of a solution within the current political framework.”

        Poppycock. Who are you to tell me when I’ve abandoned hope? If the current political framework is all delusion and deception, there is nothing I can add to it. The lizards are in charge, and I’m not going to delude myself that I can help the right lizard win.

        Both parties support absolutely destructive, immoral, and even murderous policies–how could I possibly give my support to either one of them?

        “Which, bluntly, is why the idiots keep winning.”

        No. The idiots keep winning because even those who aren’t quite so idiotic have been duped into continuing to put them in power so that the supposed “worse” evil doesn’t get there. if people stopped voting for the lizards, we would eventually stop having lizards for leaders.

        Whatever the case–this latest tirade of yours has done nothing to elevate the public discourse. You are, in fact, flinging poop.

        1. Jay says:

          Thank you for this. If I had the time, I could offer you a similarly detailed deconstruction of your own remarks in response. While you raise some interesting and valid points, I am afraid we shall simply have to agree to disagree.

          1. Silly Interloper says:

            Well, I suppose you are welcome, even if it was not at all anything close to “detailed.” However, in my usual circles, calling for “agreement to disagree” is equivalent to putting one’s fingers in one’s ears and chanting: “La-la-la-la!” So instead of agreeing to that, I will just bid you good cheer and good luck.

            1. Jay says:

              For whatever it’s worth, I’m not la-la-la’ing, though you’re certainly free to hold that opinion of my response to this interchange. It really is a time issue. Good cheer and good luck to you as well.

              1. Silly Interloper says:

                I wasn’t projecting upon your intent–merely explaining my aversion to it. Farewell.

  12. Silly Interloper says:

    By the way, I liked your story on Flash Fiction Online.

  13. Silly Interloper says:

    And I obviously meant underestimating the dishonesty and idiocy on the liberal side.

Comments are closed.