The REAL Problem is Corruption, Not the “Politics of Disreason”

by lizard

Sure, the NSA may be systematically violating the 4th amendment of the US constitution, but according to Don Pogreba, the REAL problem is The Politics of Disreason:

I’ve been thinking today about the danger of disreason in American politics. Dis, meaning “ to treat with disrespect or contempt” and reason, meaning “to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.” It seems we’re awash in it.

Two Montana posts, one from the right and one from the left, perfectly illustrate the politics of disreason. One, from the dark money Watchdog organization, darkly hints that the implementation of Common Core education standards will lead to dangerous data mining of children. The other, from 4and20 blackbirds, uses a source who retracted his own claims and apologized for them to suggest that the Obama campaign used “ National Stasi Intelligence style” tactics to win the 2012 election.

Don positions himself as being the thinker who is reasonably anchored to logic for his two-prong attack against political disreason, which he finds on the right, as exemplified by the Watchdog, and on the left, as exemplified by JC’s post slamming Jim Messina for whoring himself out to UK Tories.

To deflect from the broader point of JC’s post, Don zeroes in on this source because the author recanted specific assertions regarding Obama’s 2012 campaign, Facebook, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The broader points about Jim Messina and the 2012 campaign are not crazy, logic-defying assertions. I wrote a post last March, for example, about Jim Messina, Dark Money, and MT Democrats that included a link to a ProPublica piece about Obama campaign volunteers feeding info into a database.

But crazy is the brush Don is painting broad strokes with as he continues exposing the REAL danger of disreason:

What both share in common is an almost pathological willingness to simultaneously ignore objective evidence and the conventions of logical reasoning to make wild, unsupported claims that fit anti-government and/or anti-establishment narratives.

Of course, it’s not just these sites. You can hardly search the Internet without finding someone who claims that President Obama was born in Kenya, that 9/11 was masterminded by FDR to cover up his involvement in Pearl Harbor, or that autism is caused by vaccines.

We’re swimming in a sea of not only wrong information, but information so easily discredited by logic and evidence that it distracts us from substantive discussions and engages a growing segment of the population in politics in a way that is more destructive than democratic. Even those who should be models spew this nonsense on the national stage.

Non-sense being spewed, hmmm, that reminds me of Obama’s recent speechifying about the economy. It’s like his role is to perform a pathological willingness to ignore objective evidence that the economic recovery is fake.

Also a part of performing his role: Obama defends Summers as he mulls Fed pick:

President Barack Obama defended Lawrence Summers on Wednesday in the face of concerns by fellow Democrats that the president may name his former economic adviser as chairman of the Federal Reserve, lawmakers said.

Obama praised Summers at a closed-door meeting with Democratic members of the House of Representatives, rejecting complaints, largely from liberals, that Summers had not been aggressive enough in seeking economic stimulus funds from Congress in 2009, the lawmakers said.

Here’s another great performance: because stopping and frisking the grist of colored youth has been so successful for NYC, that must be the reason Obama recently declared Ray Kelly’s performance has been “extraordinary”, fueling speculation Kelly could replace Napolitano as head of Homeland Security:

Sen. Chuck Schumer has been lobbying for NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to replace Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano when she steps down, and on Tuesday, President Obama added fuel to the rumors. “Ray Kelly’s obviously done an extraordinary job in New York,” Obama said in an interview with Univision’s New York City affiliate. “And the federal government partners a lot with New York, because obviously, our concerns about terrorism often times are focused on big-city targets, and I think Ray Kelly’s one of the best there is.” He added, “Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is, but if he’s not I’d want to know about it, because obviously he’d be very well qualified for the job.”

Clearly, I’m just trying to deflect from the danger posed by disreason. Let’s get back to Intelligent Discontent:

None of this is new, of course. We had John Birchers in the 1950s (and still do) claiming the UN and fluoride were conspiracies, Arkansas troopers claiming that Vince Foster was murdered, and those who claimed that HIV/AIDS was a western conspiracy to depopulate Africa.

But the Internet has magnified this nonsense and given it a cancerous growth pattern. It’s just not one farmer with an amusingly paranoid sign on his land about the UN; it’s a whole sub culture of mutually reinforcing bile and delusion. Look no farther than the comment field on any news story and you’ll see demonstrably false, easily fact-checked falsehoods pollute productive conversation. What could contribute to the marketplace of ideas devolves into a scrum of name calling and half-truths.

What’s worse is that most of these ideas are cloaked in a pseudo-certainty that would make a 14th century alchemist blush.

The premise of the marketplace of idea is that, in competition, the best ideas will emerge, bettering and educating society as a whole, but I’m not sure that premise holds any longer, when we’re in a Wal-Mart of terrible, clearance-rack ideas and everyone owns a free megaphone.

I’m not calling for censorship. I’m not calling for government regulation of speech. I am, however, asking if perhaps we can’t show a little restraint.

This call for restraint is incredibly disingenuous when you consider Don can’t even hold himself to his own declaration of disengagement:

4and20 blackbirds used to be the best, most thought-provoking, and most unique political blog in the state. I miss it, but no amount of my disappointment will bring it back to what I enjoyed—and the writers there today certainly aren’t under any obligation to meet my expectations.

But there’s a lot of Internet out there, and interesting and unique voices writing about politics in the state and the nation. Those are the sources I’ll be engaging with, arguing with, and learning from in the future.

So why continue to engage? I think Don provides the answer in this seemingly odd turn from calling for restraint to admiring radicals:

I admire radicals. I admire those who challenge the norms of their society and uncover unpleasant truths or force to see the world in a new way. But my admiration is limited to those radicals who can prove their claims, support them against often fierce scrutiny. Retreating into sophistic dodges or convenient conspiracy theories is certainly not the same thing.

I was talking the other day with a friend about the WTO protests that rocked the U.S. in the 1990s. Sure, they used radical tactics and challenged authority, but they also marshaled an impressive array of statistics, anecdotes, and economic evidence to make their case. It wasn’t enough to just be loud or just be radical. They made a case using reason as well as political theater.

This curious example of admirable radicalism exposes, IMHO, the need to absorb and co-opt the raw discontent that isn’t always depicted so charitably by partisans like Don.

That said, I am happy to see that the opposition to the WTO is acceptable radicalism, and if Don was moved by the impressive array of statistics, anecdotes, and economic evidence of the WTO opposition, then maybe I can look forward to a post about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, because when I plug that in as a search query at ID, I get nothing.

I’m getting side-tracked again. Luckily, Don brings it all back to disreason:

I’m not sure that I have any solution to offer beyond the trite. Before we post a link or share a juicy story online, maybe we can all ask ourselves to do a little verification and research our claims. Instead of couching every perceived slight in the language of totalitarianism or the death of the Constitution, perhaps we can focus on policy and solutions.

The politics of disreason, whether left or right, drive the kind of cynicism and disinterest that is the root of the real problem of American politics today. If I permit myself a bit of hyperbole, it’s those elements that truly pose the risk of losing democratic governance.

I don’t know. But it has to get better. The energy that’s being expended in these discussions certainly isn’t helping.

Cynicism and disinterest are byproducts of systemic corruption, and THAT is the real problem of American politics today.


  1. This site’s claims about Jim Messina are nonsense because you want to see the bogeyman of fascism in everything. Instead of falsely asserting that Messia was using STASI tactics, wouldn’t it make more sense to articulate legal solutions we could pursue? To highlight the specific violations he’s allegedly engaged in?

    Screaming fascism is probably emotionally satisfying, but saying it repeatedly doesn’t make it true.

    And I stand my earlier criticism before JC closed comments on the last post. It may seem like I am harping on a small point, but why is this site engaging in the very activities it says fuels fascism?

    You’re collecting the third party data that Facebook uses to allow corporations and campaigns to find out information from potential voters. That you’re willing to continue doing that underscores the enormous credibility problems these kinds of arguments have.

    It seems to me that either it is helping the machinery of the STASI to collect this data and you’re collaborating or the original claim is just hyperbolic nonsense.

    Is there some other explanation you can offer?

    • JC

      Don, your reply displays an absolute misunderstanding of what Facebook does, and how it interfaces with the NSA through PRISM. For what it’s worth, all information on all WP blogs is public information, and as such can just be collected by the NSA from there. It doesn’t have to be funneled through Facebook. So no, we’re not collecting information for the NSA via our FB widget. And no, you have absolutely no understanding of how Messina’s use of FB and friends networks generated targeted electioneering tactics. I may choose to write more about that in the future as the information from other sources gels into something that even you could be educated about.

      Secondly, I did not accuse Messina of NSA “Stasi” tactics. I raised the question that if regular methods (like the FB connector techniques) weren’t good enough, might other data mining techniques that the NSA uses be applied? It’s a question, not as statement, and if you had read what I wrote without a knee-jerk response, you would know the difference.

      The reason I raised the question is that the U.S. already has paid the U.K £100m for access to and some control over their surveillance state. Messina, as Obama’s fixer, had access to all of the workings of the NSA and every other “Stasi”-style surveillance organization in the country. Is it too much of stretch to connect the dots and see that use of big data for surveillance and for campaigning has much in common, and Messina is the boy-wonder that can combine the two and get results — which is why the Tories are willing to invest so much money in him?

      Thirdly, you raise a red herring with the word “fascism”. I did not use that word in my post. It is you that pinned it on me in another attempt at ad hominem — to discredit my piece. Your whining is very weak here. People outside of your sphere see your tactics for what they are. I’ll stand by my statement in my comment to you: “Democracy in America has been lost [quoting President Carter here about loss of democracy], and big elections are won not democratically, but fascisticly — a collusion of military intelligence, corporate acquiescence, government power, and election money ”

      I get you don’t like using the “F” word for anything having to do with America, because you are an exceptionalist. But all over the world and across much of America (even at your own blog you were challenged by Larry Kralj about your denial of fascism in America), people are beginning to see the fascist elements falling into place. Eisenhower’s admonition:

      “…we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist…”

      Is a warning of the dangers of fascism in America. You, Don, may not like to explore the consequences of American empire, and how the renting of America’s most advanced and technically adept electioneer (Messina) to the Tories might be a problem. But I have no compunction against understanding how technology and the surveillance state are being used against us (“aiding and abetting the enemy”) and being used to win elections. It is not a stretch to worry that the White House may mix surveillance and electioneering technology — if not this administration, then the next one.

      As to what to do? At least i read law blogs like Volokh and Turley, political economics writings. I study technology sites like The Hacker News and Ars, read Truthout and Counterpunch… the list goes on and on. And I posit solutions, and have written about some here. You should get out and read more, and more widely Don. You’d be amazed at what you could learn.

      PS, you know your statement about WTO activists yesterday… well I was one of them. Thanks for the appreciation [not].

      • You clearly have no understanding of how Facebook gets the data it makes available to campaigns and corporations if you don’t understand the importance of third party plugins collecting that data.

        Do you think it’s altruism that motivates Facebook to allow these universal logins?

        Your post said that Messia and Co. were using Facebook to engage in STASI-like activities. Your words, not mine.

        The NSA is a red herring to distract from your own position.

        I’d suggest you do some research, but I think we both know that won’t happen

        • JC

          God you’re an idiot. I’m not even going to grace your comment full of fallacies with a reply.

          • THE STASI

            That’s an especially compelling argument.

            • JC

              Sending out the sock puppet now, eh Pogie?

              • God you’re an idiot. I’m not even going to grace your comment full of fallacies with a reply.

              • Cute, from the person who blocked me from posting a response to his inane argument. You’re not such a champion of free speech now, are you?

                I hope the data collection for Facebook continues to go well.
                http://www.thekomisarscoop.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Wall-Street-Journal-The-Stasis-Willing-Collaborators.pdf

              • JC

                Closing comments on a blog post because I’m going out of town for a few days and won’t be around to play patty-cake with your prattle isn’t about “Free-speech.”

                And who the hell are you to come here and get your panties in a twist about “free-speech?” Your the bully that banned me from your site, and then proceeded to write shit about me and 4&20.

                You know what Pogie, the more you preen about here, the more people realize just how despicable you really are.

    • lizard19

      I do suffer from confirmation bias and am, at this point, predisposed to be suspicious of the national Democratic political machine, because I think it’s corrupt beyond reform, as is the whole national political process.

      I have also used the word fascism in posts (though not in this one) to describe the trend of corporate/state integration that continues happening despite which party is running the show. I guess you perceive that to be screaming, and no, it’s not emotionally satisfying. it’s damn depressing, which is why so many people choose to remain ignorant.

      I like how you go with the STASI metaphor as a line of attack against wordpress, it’s both a good play and a good point. unlike JC, I don’t know enough about all this internet shit to really understand how much info I put out there, and what info we get from those who read and comment, but I thought your exchange with JC was—despite the animosity—informative.

      also, I’d like to apologize to you, Don, for openly inquiring if you knew anything about what I thought was an attempted outing of my (not very well kept) anonymity. I figured out who it was, and it was an honest mistake.

      getting back to the STASI analogy, I agree it’s a bit hyperbolic, but it’s not non-sense. you wrote a good post about the NSA scandal, so I know on this issue we agree more than disagree.

      policy wise, the vote on the Amash/Conyers amendment to defund the NSA phone-vacuum program really sparked my interest, because, like I have said, I think a new political terrain is emerging, and the shift will be most obvious among GenXers and millennials.

      how establishment Democrats and Republicans respond to these shifts remains to be seen.

      • I’d appreciate it if you acknowledged on my site that I didn’t do it. You certainly don’t have to, but as someone who chooses to post under a pseudonym, I assume you understand the importance of reputation, even online.

        • JC

          Why don’t you acknowledge on your site that you don’t have a clue what you are writing about, re: my last post? You write an article built on a red herring argument in order to discredit me and 4&20. That is pure ad hominem.

          I’d go there and correct your disinformation on your disreason post, but you are too chicken-shit to allow me to post anymore. Your tactics are nothing more than those of a bully: ban me from your site, and then write posts about me and 4&20.

          Talk about disreason. You should make a new banner for your site called “Unintelligent and Content.”

          • Surprisingly, this is also untrue. You’re more than welcome to post at my site, and have been for months. Fact checking issues again.

            • JC

              You’re such a liar. Here’s an email you sent me on July 16, 2013:

              “You are incapable of a civil, non-personal discussion. I’m not sure why you’re so angry, but I’d rather read about it in a long post about why I banned you, deleted your comments, and took you off the blogroll.

              I do so enjoy those.

              Have a terribly nice summer.”

              • Did you actually try to post a comment? That’s that darn fact checking again.

                I hate to get personal with a pseudonym, but sometimes I think you might let your anger get the best of you.

              • JC

                Why would I bother trying to post after you banned me? Especially after you had deleted all my comments and delisted us. I have no desire anymore to even try and defend myself at ID. You just reveal how petty you are every time you take another stab at us.

                Keep backpedaling, buddy boy, if it makes you feel any better.

        • lizard19

          done.

  2. Lizard,

    You pushed the “corruption” button. You do know that word is reserved for special people in special circumstances, right? The only other special button you may not want to push, lest you suffer the eldless wrath of the faux-liberal, Ivory Tower intellectual class, is: “conspiracy.” I think they will calm down if you stop being so thoughtful and practical.

  3. mike

    You clowns are a daily source of amusement….reminds me of the Three Stooges when I was a tadpole. Keep up the good work.

  4. Crow

    How about the time that Jim Messina produced the most homophobic tv ad in political history? I look forward to Don’s spin on that one…

    • Cool non sequitur.

      You certainly won’t see me defend this ad, but it doesn’t change the fact that JC posted a factually inaccurate claim and won’t retract it.

      I’m not attacking the post to defend Jim Messina. I’m doing it because I can’t stand JC’s smug, often incorrect pronouncements and I think he should be called out on them.

      • JC

        Don, either you quote the exact language out of my post that you claim to be “factually inaccurate” and you want retracted, or I’m going to call you out on your bullshit line of argument here. Nothing that I wrote is factually incorrect.

        The Steward Baker article I linked to, I linked to in its present state as it is illustrative about the problems with the CFAA, Obama’s campaign, the Obama admin’s DOJ, and how people understand technology. I have another article ready to go that digs into this in a very deep way. And if you don’t either pony up here on your accusation, and either point to my “factually inaccurate” language in my post, or retract your accusations at ID, I’m going to call you out for the lies you are posting here and on your site.

        • Oh no. You’re going to call me out on my lies? That’s terribly frightening, given the enormous credibility of your work.

          I have nothing to retract. You made a totally irresponsible claim, based on no evidence. That’s true. Embarrassing for you, perhaps, but true.

          All the while, you still continue to collect data. Collaborator.

  5. Steve W

    Don sounds like he’s having a conspiracy panic attack. I read about those and you can too. http://www.globalresearch.ca/media-disinformation-and-the-conspiracy-panic-phenomenon/5336221

    • lizard19

      great read, thanks for the link Steve.

    • Looks like the author of the piece JC linked to had the same attack.

      This is really complicated series of questions, so take time with your answer. Are all conspiracy theories true, by their very nature? Or is it possible that some are not true? Or do those that align with your narrative about the government and corporations have inherent validity because they match your values?

      For a group that talks a lot about the importance of individual thinking, you all seem terribly comfortable with abandoning reason for conspiracy groupthink.

  6. lizard19

    to conclude his post, Don says: “The energy that’s being expended in these discussions certainly isn’t helping.”

    there’s an easy way for Don to stop expending energy on these discussions, and it’s this: STOP EXPENDING ENERGY ON THESE DISCUSSIONS.

    ignore us crazies here at 4&20, and maybe spend some energy figuring out how to make losing a senate seat and house seat appear less disastrous so down ticket races don’t smeared by all this shit rolling downhill.

    just a thought.

    • Maybe I don’t want to give up on you. Maybe I think there is some value in what you write, just not when it’s totally wrong.

      If you guys would prefer that I not call you out for factual inaccuracies and hypocrisy, just ask nicely and I won’t.

      Honest. Just let me know.

      • lizard19

        I’ve been wrong before, and I will be wrong again, so I’m fine with anyone pointing out when that happens.

        between you and JC, though, there is entirely too much animosity for folks to separate fact from personal attack.

        as for you finding value in what we write, I would have an easier time believing that if you hadn’t removed 4&20 from your blogroll.

        in any case, Intelligent Discontent is still one of my daily online stops, and I’ll give you kudos for actively reaching out for new writers.

        I talked with jhwygirl a bit today, and asked if she knew of any other writers who may be interested in writing for 4&20, and she indicated she’s been keeping her ears and eyes open for potential contributors.

        if that sparks anyone’s interest, I believe jhwygirl’s “about” page has contact information.

        • I think you should check in on J.C. If I knew him, I’d be worried about him, honestly.

          The anger in these two comment threads can’t be good for him.

          • JC

            Don’t you worry now Don. Liz and I are having coffee tomorrow. But thanks for the shallow concern anyways.




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