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