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Stupid Things Liberals Say

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“When I sleep, I dream about a great discussion with experts and ideas and diction and energy and honesty. And when I wake up, I think, ‘I can sell that.’”- Josiah Bartlett

I know you were expecting another installment of Stupid Things Libertarians Say, and trust me, I’ll get back to that soon enough. There is an almost endless array of fresh inanities from that end of the political spectrum.

But you cannot be a commentator, you cannot speak glibly of the foolishness of others without being willing to turn your critical gaze on your own backyard. I am a liberal. I am proud to be a liberal. I have always been proud to be a liberal. Liberals believe in good things. Liberals believe that all people should be free and that all people are worth taking care of. Liberals believe, in a way, that no one is beyond redemption. And though I am an atheist, I have always felt that part of being a Liberal is to believe like Christians do, that there is no one beyond salvation, and no one too lost to be worth saving.

One of the fundamental ideas in liberalism is that there are two sides to every story. That everyone, everywhere has a reason and a story behind their actions. And when we discuss any conflict, whether it is Israel and Palestine, or Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, the basic thrust of our discussions is to see both sides. Because without being able to see both sides of any conflict, that any stance as made up of human beings with reasons and beliefs, we become no better than those we fight. Without the ability to understand that our opponents are first and fundamentally human beings, we begin to lose our own humanity. If we cannot see that they are people, understand their tears and their laughter, understand the love and the passion and the fear that drives them, how can we ever expect to so be seen?

We fight those who would with one sweeping gesture, condemn the Islamic religion. We fight those who with a thought would dismiss en masse all blacks, all Hispanics as criminals and interlopers in an America made for the white race. Those who would take the actions of a few criminals in Harlem or South Central, or the actions of a few madmen on September 11th, and say that in the actions of those few can be read the purpose and nature of all. This is the bigotry that we fight.

And part of being a liberal is being able to accept that the world is a big and complicated place. There are seven billion people on this planet. This is a big and complicated world, with big and complicated problems, and part of being a liberal is being able and willing to grapple with that complexity, to accept that there are no easy answers, no glib and sweeping statements that can hold any real truth. We accept that to deal with the problems of the world will mean no simple solutions, no easy fixes, but great and collective societal efforts, and small, constant steps towards a better world. We accept that it will be messy and complicated as the world is messy and complicated.

To be a liberal is to grapple with people. To understand both that there are seven billion unique and infinitely complex individuals with which we share this rock, and to understand that each one of those people is much the same as us, has many of the same desires, fears, and dreams. To understand that in that dazzling and overwhelming mass of humanity there are underlying common threads by which our fellow man becomes understandable. But fundamentally, to understand that each of this incalculable herd is a beautiful and amazing individual, worthy of love and respect.

And it seems most passing strange that, as liberals, we will seek to understand the belief and agency that drives 19 young men to fly planes into skyscrapers, or drives a Northern Irish Paddy to firebomb a house, and yet we cannot turn that same comprehensive and understanding gaze on those in our own country. We cannot seem to see them as simple, amazing people, ultimately worthy of love and respect. In this case, I am speaking specifically of the way that we as liberals view Republicans.

Republicans are our great bogyman. For eight years we lived under George Bush, and witnessed the cataclysmic failure of the modern Republican agenda- from the callousness seen during Katrina to the idiotic and rash invasion of Iraq and the fundamentally ruinous handling of the economy. But what we fail to remember is that these people, these Republican people, make up a great wedge of the population, a group far too large to be ignored or cast aside. The Republican party has 55 million registered voters. The percentage of people who identify as Republican hovers around the 33% mark. 33%. One third of the country. Literally one hundred million people who identify themselves as Republicans.

And yet Liberals have little problem with saying Republicans — not some Republicans, not those Republicans in the public eye, like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, but Republicans, full stop — are stupid and evil. And I wonder sometimes why we are so incapable of looking at these people with the same understanding and compassion that we are so quick to offer to terrorists. To criminals. Why can we not extend the same grace toour fellow Americans that we so quickly proffer to the rest of the world? Why can we not understand their story with the same reflexive nature with which we seek the roots of the conflict in Palestine or the rise of Fundamentalist Islam?

I think it’s because we’re too close. We’ve never been bombed by Israeli planes. We’ve never seen the riots when the Orangemen march, or feared a Palestinian mortar round. We have the privilege of distance, and with that distance comes an ability to see perspective and depth that we cannot apply to our lesser but home grown issues. These are the people we must argue against, we must fight, we must oppose to create our greater world, the world that has been in our dreams for two hundred years and more. What Johnson called “The Great Society.” And they are fighting for their own dream, a dream that we cannot understand but that stands in fundamental opposition to ours. It is the nature of conflict to dehumanize the enemy. To say that they are less than us, that we hold the moral and intellectual high ground. That we are better people, and that those we are fight must be stupid and evil, or else why would they oppose us? We, after all, are right. And they are wrong. And if they cannot see the light, they must be blind.

In the course of my blogging, I’ve drifted off in a different direction from where I started. The earlier posts here are more clearly focused on the “New Scum,” the idea I drew the title of this blog from. The New Scum are the disenfranchised of the world, those without power, without money, without influence. Those outside of the great machine that drives the world, who are crushed under its treads, who are ground in its cogs. It’s you and me. Unless Bill Gates and Bill Clinton have stumbled across this blog (and if you have, please send money) it’s all of us.

And the biggest trick ever played on the New Scum is the idea that there are separate and disparate groupings, that this group must be on one side, and this group on the other. That there is such a thing as black and white, middle class and lower class, blue collar and white collar. When in reality, we are all in the same boat, and it is not the ship of power. We are the greatest force in human history because there are more of us than there has ever been before, and yet we continue to squabble endlessly over differences that are no differences, over perceived issues set in place as shiny and meaningless baubles to distract us from the fact that we’re all getting screwed, and getting screwed by the same people.

And the Republicans are in the boat along with us. These people are not stupid. They are not evil. They are not blind morons staggering around in an orgy of callous destruction. They are our fellow Americans. They are from all walks of life, all levels of society and education, and to casually dismiss them as stupid does both sides a grave injustice. What they are is wrong. Wrong, at least, from our point of view.

To engage in this fatuous mudslinging is not only pointless, it is creating a schism. A deeper and deeper schism in American life between those on the liberal side and those on the conservative side. Every round of name calling, of mutual accusations of stupidity, anti-American sentiment, willful destruction, societal sabotage and whatever other charges we continuously pile up at each other’s doors, pulls us further apart. It dehumanizes us both, because you cannot demonize your fellow man without reducing yourself. Every drop of foaming anger, every moment spent in general and sweeping condemnation, is another small cut into our collective souls. And every inch that we push these people away into a small box labeled “Other,” is a step we take away from our own decency.

These are serious charges. And I do not make them lightly. I will freely admit, I am as guilty as the next person in line of making broad statements about Republicans, of making jokes and comments about their stupidity. But the more I watch what passes for public discourse, the more I am convinced that this endless cycle of retort and counter-retort only strengthens our enemies and destroys ourselves. It destroys the best parts of us, the empathy, the understanding, the ability to comprehend the complexity of the world by forcing our perception of that complexity into the two simple categories of Stupid and Evil. It makes us like the worst of them, like the Glenn Beck’s of the world, to whom all Muslims are potential terrorists, all Liberals traitors in waiting. Glenn Beck cannot or will not acknowledge what every Liberal should know in their bones: that there are a lot of people with a lot of beliefs, and that most of those people are fundamentally the same, with a difference in political varnish so small as to be laughably unimportant in the grand scheme of humanity. There is an old saying that you should never fight with a pig, you both get dirty, and the pig enjoys it. Why then, would we borrow these cheap and dirty tactics?

The most common response I hear when I bring these issues up is a reminder that Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin use them. As one person I know put it, “I’ll stop demonizing Conservatives when they stop jabbing me with pitchforks.” And I sympathize with that feeling. I too have friends who have been hurt by the mistaken beliefs of conservatives. I have friends who would like to marry, who cannot, whose honest love is denied by a hateful and unnecessary bigotry. I am not seeking to exculpate conservatives of the harm that they have done or the pain that they have caused. But their souls are in their own keeping, and I cannot speak to that. All I can speak to is my own people.

And it is tempting to lash out, to return blow for blow and to use their same cheap and vicious weapons against them. But it seems to me that when your justification for using these weapons is nothing more than “Well, they started it!” it is time to reconsider these tactics. What is more, I believe that the liberals are the good guys. That we stand on the right side of the lord, on the right side of the arc of the universe which is long, but which bends towards justice. But being the good guys comes at a price. Being the good guys as a nation means there are some things we cannot do, tactics of our enemies that should be barred to us by our own decency. Things like torture, and terroristic attacks on civilian populations.

And as people, as the good guys, there are tactics that are barred to us as well. It would be good politics to play the cards that Karl Rove used against John McCain in 2000, spreading the rumor that he had an out of wedlock black child. Playing on cheap morality, bigotry and slander worked for Rove. It was good politics. But it was wrong. It was evil, cheap, cruel and vicious. And the good guys don’t do that because we are the good guys, and that means something. That means we stand for something. That means we don’t just use whatever weapons come to hand but fight as cleanly as we can. We avoid the cheap shot, and the easy, callous and alienating because we know that we are not fighting monsters, but people like ourselves. And we know that we are better than they are.

At this point, I’d like to take a bit and discuss heroes. Heroes are odd creatures. Canonization, whether formal or informal, tends to strip away a bit of their humanity, making heroes into unfamiliar, almost inhuman characters. But to me, the true inspiration of a Gandhi, an MLK, an Oscar Romero or a Susan B. Anthony has been that they were only human. That we too, are capable of their courage, their vision, their humanity and compassion.

But heroes are more than figures to be posted on your wall, or convenient eunuchs to serve as subjects for reflective college essays. To hold someone as your hero means that you find in them some calling force, something that pulls you forward into more admirable actions. That they serve as a sort of prop, a support that by their example bears up your own insufficient strength. And I cannot help but believe that those who we revere as heroes would be deeply and irrevocably opposed to this mutually destructive and alienating practice of judgment and condescension. The response that I have heard to this point is that we are not Gandhi, or MLK. To which I respond that we should be thankful that our enemies are not theirs. If Martin Luther King could face the blind and vicious hatred of Bull Connor and Jim Clark and still say In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred, then I think it is not too much to ask that we face the infinitely less malicious Glenn Beck with the same charity of spirit. If we cannot rise with our lesser strength to a lesser evil, then perhaps we should no longer call these men our heroes, and instead put them down as historical oddities, freaks of nature twisted by fortune into something greater than our mean strength and courage can aspire. But I do not believe that is the case. I believe that same greatness is within us. That our strength is equal to this smaller task of charity and love to which we have been called.

And finally, I would like to turn my attention to a less pleasant task. To begin, I would like to say that I have nothing but respect and admiration for Fred Clark. I dream of being half the writer he is. He is one of the most humane and kind writers I have ever read, and has a generosity of spirit I envy. He is very much the sort of person I would like to someday be. But in this case, I completely disagree with him.

He writes here:

52 percent of Republicans believe that President Barack Obama “sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world.”
More than half of all Republicans say they believe this. The same poll found that 59 percent of Republicans believe “Obama favors the interests of Muslim Americans over other groups.”…The stupidity required here is just too vast, too disabling, for it to be a plausible or a possible explanation.

And that only leaves one choice: More than half of Republicans are evil. They’re lying. And lying out of malice.

Their telephone rang, they answered it and thought, “Ooh, here’s a chance to bear false witness against my neighbor” and then proceeded to do so in the hopes that it will improve their prospects for seizing political power. Because political power won by deceit and malice is so very democratic.

I’m not the one who handed Republicans this rope. I didn’t force them to tie it into a noose and slip it around their own necks. No one made them do this to themselves and no one encouraged them to do this to themselves.

So you can’t complain about my identifying them as evil here — as awful, mendacious gossips with a contempt for the democratic process. This is information about themselves that they eagerly volunteered on their own. Given the chance to respond to a poll, they proudly seized the opportunity to declare to all the world that they are malicious liars willing to embrace any slander, no matter how ridiculous, if they think it might improve their electoral hopes.

And I disagree. I do not think this people are as malicious, as evil as Mr. Clark claims. I cannot believe that anywhere from thirty to fifty million people are simply evil. Or stupid. And I say that because I know these people. There are people in my family, good, kind, generous and loving people who believe that. People who give to charity. People like my grandmother, who sends hundreds of dollars a month to orphanages in Haiti, and who sends even more to disaster relief whenever there is an earthquake or tsunami. This is not the act of an evil woman. I know many others who are charitable, kind, and loving. Good people. People who give to charity, who stop and give rides to strangers on the street. People who are the first on your doorstep in a family crisis, people who would give you the shirt off their backs without a thought or a whimper. I have seen these people, I have known them all my life in a thousand different forms.

But there is a strange characteristic of many people who are good, and honest, and hardworking. They are easily tricked. Their own honesty is such a bedrock of their lives that it does not enter into their minds that people could willingly carry on with the massive and evil lies of a Sarah Palin or a Glenn Beck. They trust others, believing that others are as honest as they, as good as they. And so when they are lied to, and on such a massive scale, they believe it because they cannot think so poorly of someone to believe that they are charlatans, liars and frauds. Their own charity of spirit betrays them to the vicious and predatory wolves who feed on their honest duplicity.

And here, I think, Mr. Clark has taken a stance against those whose only crime is their own honesty and trust. Do I think that in those tens of millions, they are all good and honest people? No, I’m sure there are many who fit Mr. Clark’s description of willful and self-delusional liars. But not all of them. Not most of them. Most of them are good, smart, and honest people who have been viciously and willfully lied to. And it is the liars we should attack, not those on whom they prey.

I don’t want this to be seen as an attack, or a condemnation. I am not trying to say that you are bad for calling Republicans stupid or evil. Nor am I trying to set them up as saints. Their actions have done a great deal of harm, and caused a great deal of pain. But attacking them, calling them stupid and evil, is not the path we should walk. It is the easy way, the quick and mindless way, but it is cheap. More importantly, it is driving a permanent and, I fear, dangerous wedge between us and our fellow citizens. We cannot chose those who share our country, but we can choose the methods by which we deal with them. We can — we should — be the examples, showing the tawdry and classless nature of our enemies by our own better nature. We should be seeking reconciliation and common ground across this boundary. No one has ever been convinced by being called a fool. And no one has ever been ennobled by calling someone else a fool.

We have a choice. To extend across this gap a hand of fellowship, or to stand on the brink shouting insults until the banks crumble beneath us and drop us into unknown depths. To raise the level of debate, or let it die. This is the nation that spawned Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, Bull Connor and Father Coughlin, David Duke and the KKK. But for each of these vicious and demagogic monsters, there has always been an equal and greater opposing force, meeting their hatred with love, their alienation with inclusivity. Now it is our turn. We have our own battles to fight, and it is our choice whether we will take the high ground of moral consciousness, of grace, reaching out to our fallen and mistaken brethren not with condescension and rage, but with a kind and friendly hand, and move together to build a greater future.

Written by newscum

September 1, 2010 at 7:22 am

Posted in Uncategorized

20 Responses

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  1. “And the Republicans are in the boat along with us.”

    Maybe so, but they’re the ones who are loudly saying we need to drill more holes in the bottom so that the water can drain out.

    Consumer Unit 5012

    September 1, 2010 at 7:55 am

  2. Anyone who allows themselves to be lied to, who listens to Faux News, Glen Beck, and Sarah Palin because they find comfort in the lies they hear, and does not stop and say, “Wait, now that doesn’t really make sense” or “Is there any proof of these statements?” or “This story says this about that group of people, but what do those people say about themselves?” — this person is stupid. They might have a Ph.D. in Physics, but even if that’s the case they are allowing themselves to be politically stupid.

    But there is a strange characteristic of many people who are good, and honest, and hardworking. They are easily tricked. Their own honesty is such a bedrock of their lives that it does not enter into their minds that people could willingly carry on with the massive and evil lies of a Sarah Palin or a Glenn Beck. They trust others, believing that others are as honest as they, as good as they. And so when they are lied to, and on such a massive scale, they believe it because they cannot think so poorly of someone to believe that they are charlatans, liars and frauds. Their own charity of spirit betrays them to the vicious and predatory wolves who feed on their honest duplicity.

    So their kind, honest natures lead them to believe vicious rumors and gossip about the President of the United States? They can’t abide the possibility that Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich could be lying to them, so they instead entertain the possibility that the President is lying even more egregiously? Is it because the talking heads and politicians they listen to are people like them, and the President is not a person like them? Or, not to beat around the bush, replace the words in italics with ‘white’ and ‘black’ as appropriate.

    So the choices are between stupid, evil, or racist? I think that’s repetitive, as ‘stupid or evil’ is not an exclusive ‘or’ — it implies the the possibility that they are both stupid and evil.

    If the subject of what is being lied about was something less predatory, less divisive, less destructive of American goodwill, I might buy your argument. But you can’t say that these people are so honest and kind and generous and loving, that they simply cannot bear to think that the sweet generous man Bill O’Riley, or that dear wonderful woman Ann Coulter, could possibly be lying, so it simply must be true that the depraved, unchristian, anti-american, uncaucasian, terrorist-loving, sharia-law-enacting, monstrously dishonest, socialist-fascist-communist man in the white house, Barak HUSSEIN Obama, is everything they say he is.

    Yeah.

    Real sweethearts, those folks.

    I hope you’ll forgive me if I conveniently forget to invite them for Thanksgiving dinner.

    Andrew Glasgow

    September 1, 2010 at 8:21 am

  3. Sorry, no, I’m with Mr. Clark on this one.

    I don’t buy your “they’re too GOOD and PURE and HONEST to understand that they’re being lied to!” explanation. Sure, right-wing pundits are telling them lies, but left-wing pundits are telling them the truth (-ish) at the same time. And still they listen to one but not the other.

    Let’s accept, for the sake of the argument, that they are entirely incapable of telling truth from lies. Each version has exactly 50% chance of being the correct one, as far as they know. In that case, what it comes down to is what they WANT to believe.

    Apparently they want to believe the right-wing version. They want to believe that they live in a world filled with monsters and horrors and, above all, moochers who want to bleed them dry. Clarke has talked about this on occasion – the way that conservatives choose to live in a nightmare world, where they face an evil so great that any means of resisting it is legitimate.

    I’d say that the inability to tell truth from lies is plenty stupid. And when you are too stupid to tell truth from lies, choosing a spiteful lie over a compassionate truth is evil.

    As for your saintly relatives, who are kind to their families and friends and gives to charity… I say to them what I say to any libertarian who cries, “I’m a good person! I give to charity!” (now there’s a topic you could use for a STLS post!) I say to them, “how NICE that you give as much as you feel like giving, when you feel like giving it, towards the end that you feel like supporting! But until you get your head out of your ass and realise that giving isn’t about YOU, that you have a duty to help society at large even when it doesn’t get you any personal credit or thanks and even when it means helping people that you don’t much feel like helping, then you’re still a bad person.”

    Being a nice person is fine and all. But it’s not the same as being a good person. And while I fully agree that remaining good (by which I mean being honest, law-abiding, devoted to the common good, and so forth) is essential to getting anything worthwhile done, I can see no advantage in being nice to the opposition.

    This is just a little comment at the end of your great long post, but if you really want to hear me rant about the topic of good and nice, then I’d be happy to give you about sixty billion links to my own blog posts. I’ve thought about the subject a lot.

    Baeraad

    September 1, 2010 at 8:23 am

  4. I agree with you the Republicans are neither stupid nor evil, and I do not like to hear anyone say it. I, too, have family I love and admire who are Republicans (although none who believe that Obama is attempting to make sharia the law of the land; I’m still trying to understand how anyone can believe that), and I do not like to hear them discussed so. Why, you may ask me, do I not speak up with you over on Slacktivist, and object? Me, of all people?

    Because I’m very tired from the last conversation, and because this is one of those things I standardly only ask the people who are closest to me not to say in front of me. My closest friends, the people I date. That’s the people it hurts most from, and those are the people I ask not to say it. (I’ve also, somewhat strangely to me, had to ask some of those people not to say that all CEOs are evil.)

    I do not agree, however, that we need to be the nice guys, especially because trying to be the nice guys seems to be turning us into Nice Guys ™. We are allowing nice to become the enemy of good. When we focus on being nice, we do not get things done. I do, of course, think that there are tactics which are beyond the pale, but we must, if we wish to win, start fighting more effectively, and fighting is not nice, nor something that can be done nicely.

    MadGastronomer

    September 1, 2010 at 9:02 am

  5. I agree with Baeraad and by default, Fred as well, regarding the motivations of people. A great many people are stupid, petty, selfish, self-deluding, and malicious. However I am with Newscum on the issue of how WE should be behaving towards people like that. Be smart, generous, selfless, educated, skeptical,and kind.Set a good example for others to follow.

    Nobody has control over anybody else, particularly what they think and feel. But by setting an example of calm good will towards all, it sure makes the other people look a fool, and maybe causes the more moderate types to rethink their own beliefs and actions.

    But then, again, I am Canadian, and inclined to be excessively polite. Sorry. :)

    Leoal

    September 1, 2010 at 10:32 am

  6. Most of my Republican friends are the saner sort of Republican. I do have relatives that believe the things Glen Beck says (although they were kind enough not to expose the kids to him while we were staying with them). I don’t think that it is out of evil or malice–I think it has a lot to do with the fact that they are isolated. They’ve never lived an urban life–never truly been forced to deal with the fact that ‘the other’ really are just like them. And I’m never going to change their mind by railing at them or hating on them.

    cjmr

    September 1, 2010 at 11:19 am

  7. I really, really recommend you go read this. Being rude and loud and mean works, often when being nice and polite doesn’t. Nice and polite is easy to ignore. Softspoken and logical is easy to ignore. Nuking isn’t good for everything, but it works in a lot of situations.

    MadGastronomer

    September 1, 2010 at 11:47 am

  8. “Their own honesty is such a bedrock of their lives that it does not enter into their minds that people could willingly carry on with the massive and evil lies”

    No. Just no.

    The people you talk of are very much willing to believe that evil people are lying to them. They believe this of liberals. They believe that feminists love nothing more than killing children. They believe that Obama’s out to kill their grandparents with his evil healthcare reform. They believe that Democrats are Nazis who hate America and freedom and apple pie.

    I could go on, you know. Saying that they’re just too good at heart to think badly of people is simply blatant bullshit.

    I agree that it’s not productive to call them stupid and evil and not engage them on a personal level. But saying they’re good people with kind hearts and the bestest of intentions is just as superficial and just as pointless.

    We must ask ourselves what made them the way they are. This requires distance, not only from our personal dislike, but also our love for them. Just a brutally honest look.

    My grandparents are German, and they lived through Hitler’s regime. They voted for him. They believed the slander about Jews that was everpresent. And from all accounts they were kind and gentle people. They gave to charity. They let their friend live with them when he hit rockbottom. When my dad was sick, my grandpa would stay up all night and hold his hand.

    Do I think they were lied to? Yeah, definitly. Do I think that absolves them of responsibility? No.

    It’s futile to label people “evil” or “good”. People are complex and not defined by a single trait or deed. But we can label those single traits and deeds. What my grandparents did was evil. What Republicans today engage in is evil. And that particular lie Fred chose to hightlight is both stupid and evil.

    R-Tam

    September 1, 2010 at 12:32 pm

  9. I’m sorry, I couldn’t disagree more profoundly.

    And maybe it’s because I *am* a Christian (as is Fred Clark), and I think you fundamentally misunderstand the Christian message about grace and redemption.

    Christians don’t say “They” are stupid and evil. Christians say “WE”, all of us, are stupid and evil. We *wilfully* misunderstand. We *choose* to be selfish and shortsighted and cruel. Glenn Beck and Gandhi both.

    Until we recognize the evil, until we are willing to forego our pride and see it in ourselves, until we are willing to let go of our desire to make nice and call it out in our neighbors, until we stand up and call Evil by its name and renounce it wherever we find it, *there is no redemption*.

    Politeness and courtesy are great tools, but they are just that, tool — means to an end. Sometimes they are the wrong tools.

    As the Blessed African Doctor pointed out, you’ll find no greater civility than between the leaders of a gang of thieves and cutthroats, dividing up the territory they will plunder.

    hapax

    September 1, 2010 at 1:36 pm

  10. Fantastic post – I am with you on this one. To be easily swindled because the con man says he stands for Your Values is not the same thing as “lying out of malice” by any means.

    Robyrt

    September 1, 2010 at 1:52 pm

  11. “I cannot believe that anywhere from thirty to fifty million people are simply evil.”

    Where did the simply come from? That simply isn’t in Fred Clark’s post. That simply changes everything. If you can’t see the difference there I’m not sure that I can really do anything, but I’ll try. (Unfortunately I can’t do it concisely, sorry for the length.)

    It’s like the difference between mostly dead and all dead, except most of the time its going to be a lot bigger.

    Simply means that that’s all there is to it. So simply evil means not at all good. Of course you refuse to believe that these people are simply evil. No one is simply evil. No one is utterly depraved.

    I want to talk about Hitler for a moment. I want to because of the reason Godwin’s law is true. I want to talk about him because, with the exception of a small frightening segment of the population, pretty much everyone agrees that he’s evil. In fact, he’s so evil that he’s become our touchstone for evil. All someone has to do is say, “Hitler,” or, “Nazi,” and you know they’re talking about highly concentrated hyper-distilled evil.

    We know a lot about Hitler. When The History Channel isn’t talking about UFOs or running reality programing it seems to fixate on things Hitler related. Hitler’s family, Hitler’s home movies, a recording of Hitler made without his knowledge, the book that Hitler decided not to publish, so on and so forth. Two things come across through all of that. One is that that guy was evil. Almost unbelievably evil. The other is that he loved his dog.

    Even on tapes no one else was ever meant to see, when he said things about other Nazis no one outside of the conversation was ever meant to hear, he still showed what appears to be genuine love and affection for that dog. In the end he killed it (with the same cyanide he intended to use on himself) but even so it appears he really loved the dog.

    Loving a dog is not evil. I suppose you could argue that it is merely neutral, though I would be tempted to call it a good thing. Either way, it means that someone who loves their dog cannot be “simply evil” because there is more to it than that. It isn’t simple. There’s something other than evil.

    So of course you don’t believe that that many people are simply evil, for them to be simply evil they’d have to be more evil than Hitler. That’s a tall order. Maybe someone around today is, but I agree that thirty to fifty million such people seems unbelievable.

    I don’t know exactly why you made the jump from evil to simply evil, but if I had to guess it would be that you’re thinking of the two as unable to coexist. Someone who gives money to charity can’t be evil, so someone who is evil can’t give money to charity. Or something like that. Reality is much more complex. Good and evil may be seen as black and white if you like, but that means there are an infinite number of shades of gray.

    If “EVIL AS HITLER!” leaves room for kindness to (certain) animals then you’ve got to figure that if the height of someone’s evil is bearing false witness against her or his neighbor that person has a hell of a lot of room to do good things. Doing those good things is good, and makes the person good, but that doesn’t change the fact that telling malicious lies is evil and makes the person evil. We can argue all we want about how evil the person is and how it balances in comparison to how good the person is, but that doesn’t lessen the evil part.

    One last thing.

    “And so when they are lied to, and on such a massive scale, they believe it because they cannot think so poorly of someone to believe that they are charlatans, liars and frauds.”

    That’s simply untrue. They believe those things about the Democrats in general and Obama in particular. If they were not so willing to think so poorly of someone to believe that they are charlatans, liars and frauds then they would have no choice to confront the fact that the people lying to them are, at best, mistaken. It is only because they are willing to believe that a certain group of people are charlatans, liars and frauds that actual charlatans, liars and frauds are able to take advantage of them.

    This post is presented without formatting because I am apparently incapable to the point that I have caused Jesus to burst into tears.

    chris the cynic

    September 1, 2010 at 2:03 pm

  12. I see differences here between the kinds of stupid things that libertarians say, and the kinds of stupid things liberals say. In my view, libertarianism is an inherently flawed, internally conflicting philosophy. It demands freedom without responsibility, and a good majority of the stupid things its adherents say are based on that supposition. Liberal stupidity, which is, as you point out, copious and thick, comes not from the liberal philosophy, but from disastrous attempts to marry liberalism to politics. Most of the hypocrisies displayed come, as you mentioned, from pundits and politicians trying to gain moral high ground. Witty metaphor, something, something, high ground.

    Paul

    September 1, 2010 at 9:49 pm

  13. And so when they are lied to, and on such a massive scale, they believe it because they cannot think so poorly of someone to believe that they are charlatans, liars and frauds. Their own charity of spirit betrays them to the vicious and predatory wolves who feed on their honest duplicity.

    That doesn’t work. If the choice is between believing that one group of people is lying, and believing that another group of people is planning to execute elderly people and disabled children, and the evidence points towards lying, it’s not charity of spirit to believe the “Those people want to murder your grandmother and her baby with Down Syndrome!” version. The whole death panel lie is not something people would have chosen to believe if they were too pure and charitable to think poorly of others.

    ako

    September 2, 2010 at 11:45 am

  14. “how NICE that you give as much as you feel like giving, when you feel like giving it, towards the end that you feel like supporting!”

    May I quote you on that?

    ShifterCat

    September 5, 2010 at 1:23 am

  15. I also have an elderly relative who, while genuinely thoughtful and charitable in most things, is being swindled by right-wing scaremongers into believing things that I don’t think he’d otherwise believe.

    First, he’s in his 90s, and his brain isn’t exactly working as well as it used to. He’s ever so slightly suspicious of these mailings (which means that he occasionally calls my Dad, also Republican but not a Tea Partier, who reassures him that Obama’s birth certificate really does exist and is genuine, and no, FEMA is not building concentration camps), but he also finds it hard to believe that a Good Conservative (grandpa’s of the old Eisenhower – and – Teddy Roosevelt school of conservatism) would lie to him, so we’re fighting an uphill battle against these very sophisticated swindlers. The best argument I’ve found against them is that, in a business relationship, you don’t simply trust someone — you look at their books. So you look at the annual statements of these so-called non-profits and when you find that they spend 49.8% of their budget on fundraising, it’s a huge freakin’ red flag. That’s not an ideological argument — he wouldn’t trust an ideological argument from us, his more liberal grandchildren, so we have to resort to common sense. I hope it works.

    The real problem here isn’t an intellectual one, it’s that the swindlers in question are playing on his emotions — his gut tribal instincts of “us against them”. He’s of a generation that’s never worked with non-whites as equals. He’s always been management, whereas we, his grandchildren, have had the experience of working retail and wearing thrift store clothes. He’s always had a very anti-labor stance and just doesn’t get the point of view of someone who is worried that they just might not have health care some day. This, plus his age and decreased ability to have a grasp on the current political scene, makes it easier for those who peddle the “us vs. them” mentality to prey on his fears and sell him their particular brand of snake oil. His being in a retirement community with other people of similar social background doesn’t help. (It gives me the creeps to visit the place — all the cafeteria workers are black, all the residents — I was tempted to write inmates — are white. It’s such a throwback.)

    I don’t think he’s evil. I think the people who scare him into believing their sh*t are evil. You don’t blame the cult members who drank the Kool-aid (much) — they were probably psychologically vulnerable in order to have been seduced in the first place. You blame the cult leader who brainwashed them.

    And the problem with arguing with cult members is that they begin to shut you out even more, and listen only to the cult leader.

    Consequently, we’re trying to help Dad talk to Grandpa rather than talking to him ourselves, since Dad is a Republican, giving him sane, non-partisan talking points and doing research to help prove that these organizations are not legitimate.

    I’m still afraid we’re losing this battle, but I don’t know how else to proceed without losing him altogether.

    Corbie

    September 23, 2010 at 12:06 am

  16. You’re right. I don’t know what I am yet. but, I have known people from both sides of this overly rigid distinction between liberal and conservative. And, each believes they are doing right to the same degree as the other. At least the good ones. I just sat down with some family and made them draw what the best of each party believes, and the affect was remarkable. Each party has drawn strawmen of the other. For, as long as there is a complete unwillingness to understand the other perspective, the people things can remain status quo and a two party, controllable system can remain.

    Talking to people like they are people, instead of demons, results in understanding and understanding could result in fusion and agreement.

    Normal people are not prepared for the kind of indoctrination that they get from new sources, like FOX or MSNBC, or from their churches, or other such institutions.

    Being unable to see that people make decisions about what they think is good, with the limited info they have, even if they are mistaken, is the mark of far less than dynamic mind.

    Yes, Republicans do some stupid shit. Really stupid shit. But, many, if not most, believe that what they are doing is not bigotry but trying to save those people–and our nation as a whole.

    Big timers, like corporations and politicians, love division because it keeps them in power and always gives them something to say. It allows them to feed off of us. They promote it on both sides, so they can keep an issue from being seen from multiple angles. They control perspective, and make it a 2-D rather than 3-D or 4-D (through time) issue. It so easy to control the world and money that way.

    Unfortunately, anyone who can’t see the people on the other side of the rigorously controlled political vomit, are the foot soldiers of the people who maintain the worst of both sides.

    jodajo21

    January 4, 2011 at 3:51 am

  17. And so when they are lied to, and on such a massive scale, they believe it because they cannot think so poorly of someone to believe that they are charlatans, liars and frauds.

    How does that work – when they can so easily be convinced to think that the liberals are charlatans, liars and frauds?

    Alex SL

    April 14, 2011 at 12:15 am

  18. Its just amazing the stupid and rediclous things said by liberals and it gets even more weird but not surprising when the media covers up for them all the time

    SPURWING PLOVER

    May 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm

  19. @ jodajo21: Your entire post contradicted what you stated in your first few sentences.

    Singling out the Republicans? How about the Democrats that do some stupid shit. Really stupid shit. But, many, if not most, believe that what they are doing is progressive but in reality is creates mediocre people–and our nation as a whole becomes mediocre and naive – the bad kind of naive.

    Seems like you’re a liberal but you refuse to label yourself as one. Pfff.

    John

    April 23, 2012 at 11:34 pm

  20. Liberals are evil and will destroy the world.

    runsey@mailexcite.com

    July 20, 2012 at 12:35 am


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