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Monday, April 26, 2010

THE POLITICS OF DIVISION

If anyone wanted to make some money, they’d come up with a new bumper sticker for people who have QUESTION AUTHORITY plastered on their car. It would read HOW DARE YOU, and would go right in front of the old one.
That's how James Lileks opens up his Pajamas Media article, and it gets better from there. His topic is the ridiculous, self-parodying reaction of the left to the Tea Party movement; a shocked stare of fear and horror that someone might protest and question their president, that someone might utter dissent from the established and elected authorities! Why, its unprecedented!
Now that things have changed, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Discussing the threat posed by militant Islam and its innumerable anti-American manifestations, based on a long record of attacks: fear-mongering designed to make us accept a police state, and opportunism of the most despicable sort.

2. Discussing the threat posed by citizens who dispute budgetary and legislative initiatives: temperate analysis. Remember, Timothy McVeigh had an AM radio in the vehicle he drove to carry out his attack, and Rush Limbaugh was on AM radio. You have to deny science to say that’s not true.

3. All efforts to roll back any initiatives of the Obama administration are RACIST. Example: say they’re opposed to increasing the penalty on late-reporting of data relating to a Medicaid billing that may have been due to an interpretation on the wording about whether an in-patient procedure required an examination or a consultation. But it’s really about the melanin content of the guy who signed the bill, although he probably has no idea which provision you’re talking about.

4. Bringing up the way some investors in GM got the drive-shaft in the take-over is a subtle threat to violence, because history shows most cross-burners drove to the scene of the crime.

5. Saying you want to “defeat” President Obama is eliminationist rhetoric, a code word that recalls WW2, when everyone knew that “defeating” Germany meant putting Hitler on trial and hanging him.

6. Anyone who describes himself as a “Christian” and a “Patriot” is probably a “Christian Patriot,” which means they probably stay up nights discussing fertilizer bombs via ham radio with Aryan Nation cells in Idaho. Or, writing lesson plans for Sunday school about how marriage should really be about a man and a woman. Six of one, half dozen, etc.
It is truly bizarre to me how people on the left, many of them, are genuinely concerned that any protest or rising up of the people opposed to the left (not necessarily even right wing) must involve violence, assassination, brown shirts, and fascism. That there cannot possibly be anyone who disagrees with their enlightened brilliance unless they are an unstable gun-clinging freak who is one step away from armed revolt.

The fact that these rallies are orderly, calm, polite, and dignified is irrelevant to this narrative; the fact that the only violence so far has been from leftist union thugs attacking Tea Party members is meaningless. The right is dangerous, radical, freakish, and extremist. According to these people, when the left says "revolution" they mean a change, even by the most peaceful, gradual means. When the right says "revolution" they mean violence, killing, guns, explosions, and tyranny. Mind you, that's the opposite in actual practice, just ask unrepentant terrorist and Obama adviser Bill Ayers.

It's not that there aren't violent right wingers out there - they are called anarchists, not the faux organized "anarchists" like the black block infants who run around in black shirts breaking things and calling for stronger world government while pretending to want less. I'm talking about the real kind: the kind that tried to blow up the parliament building long ago in England, the crazy guys with bombs who want to destroy all government and build from scratch a society where any man can do anything he wants without any restrictions whatsoever from anyone, anywhere. That's what the radical right wing looks like (Nazis are left wing). Its just that the Tea Parties are anything but that.

I'm honestly stunned at the incredible degree of self deception and deliberate blindness by the left here. Sure, some of it, as Mark Steyn points out in a recent column, is a desperate attempt to frighten at least enough moderates to help them eke out a narrow win in November. They need minorities to view anyone who dares disagree with the left as bigoted hate-filled violent racists. And, reprehensibly, some of the language is ridiculously contrived and deliberate.

But a lot of it, I fear, is not.

It is born of a genuine fear of the right gaining power. Look at the stark, unhinged madness and terror when the Republican Party controlled congress and the white house recently. No evil, no rumor, no tooth-gnashing fear was too extreme to be believed, every possible bad thing would come from this. The fact that none of it did was completely irrelevant: these people were the epitome of everything which is bad with this world. Because people who disagree with "progressive" thought aren't mistaken, confused, misled, or misinformed. They are malicious, hateful, warmongering, bigoted, and filled with everything wrong in the world; or so we're told by the left.

HOW WE GOT HERE
How on earth can you come to view your opposition this way? Is is some basic psychosis, are leftists mentally deranged like several leftist studies have tried to claim about the right? I think there are three reasons. Keep in mind these are broad generalizations. Any given leftist might have only one or two of these ideas in their head, few have all three. And none of us are consistent, I try to be rational and thoughtful about actions but I can fly off the handle emotionally with the best of them. Nobody is always all one way or another. Yet I think these explain most leftist behavior - and more than that, what's happened to political rhetoric and the union of the "United" States.

The first and I believe most obvious is the basic approach toward problem solving and understanding life that the left tends to cling to. Instead of examining ideas and situations, policies and peoples in terms of reason and fact, they tend to use emotion and feeling. Rather than decide based on what is true and reasonable, they tend to decide based on what feels right, makes you seem more caring, and appearing to be a good person - as defined by fellow leftists. Sure, that policy has been an utter failure and may have even caused more problems than it could have ever solved (welfare, for example), but its the caring thing to do and opposing it makes you seem hard hearted. This is not an original thought by me, many people have often pointed this out. It isn't that the left is irrational, its that they left feelings and well-wishing trump reason.

A leftist wants what's best, they feel more for people, they love others, and want only peace and justice. The leftist thinks that's genuinely true, and what's more they have a gut feeling, that warm fuzzy comfort of being right inside that is stronger than cold hard fact. So if you disagree or present a contrary opinion, you aren't just differing, you're deliberately mean. You don't mean well, you don't want to help them, so you must be heartless and hateful and awful. So you are a monster for disagreeing, not merely someone with a different opinion.

Why the left does this is because of a basic overarching worldview which I've written about a few times: relativism. Post modernists reject the basic ideals of absolute right and wrong, they reject objective beauty and truth. Truth is as you see it, in your "narrative" - that is, how you grew up and your culture and ethnic identity matters more than reality; what is true for Jamaal Jacquillle is just as true as for Joe Bob Beuchamp, even if they are utterly contradictory. If the Black Studies prof say that Egyptians invented the airplane and the Wright brothers stole it from them, well that's his truth. Few people take it so literally and to that extreme, but the basic idea of truth being ... flexible... infects the left's worldview.

So when reality and logic dictate one thing, but feelings, emotion, and well-meaning dictate another, well truth bends to match what they wish to be true. Whether this is due to education and culture pushing them one way or a natural inclination, I can't say - perhaps both - but I do know that some grow out of it. I did. Yet this worldview allows someone to have the facts explained to them, to even agree and appear to change their minds then later go back to what they thought before, in defiance of all reality and reason. Because reason is flexible, and truth is relative, and you have your truth and I have mine.

And if you aren't flexible and nuanced, then you're inflexible and dogmatic. You aren't willing to "grow" by adapting to other peoples' ideas, you are demanding everyone be like you, and that's just tyrannical. You don't love freedom like the left if you insist everyone thinks your way! It doesn't matter if logic, truth, common sense, and reality dictate that way, you're wrong to insist on that, because it violates other peoples' narratives and oppresses them, probably offending them and making them feel bad.

For more on relativism and truth, I've written a couple of essays on the topic.

AN ALINSKY CORRUPTION
The third major problem with the left's worldview and why things have gotten this way explains not just their ideas of the right but of why the divide has gotten so very brutal in western civilization, not just America. It's bad enough that right and left tend to have very different basic worldviews - relative vs absolute, that tends to cause a constant clash over almost any topic. Left and Right often are like two trains on parallel tracks, they can seem to be going the same way but they'll never meet because their basic understanding is so different and even the words they use mean totally different things. In time you can reach understanding, but the division is so deep that it takes that time over and over, and who has time and patience to do that with every leftist they meet? Especially when they often revert anyway because their worldview allows them to deny objective truth?

Yet this third issue is what most directly explains the present animosity and divide, and it can be traced down to one man and one book: Rules for Radicals. Saul Alinksy didn't come up with something totally new and fresh, nor was he the first to conceive of such a writing, but he was the one who wrote all the ideas down in one place at the right time to impact the most people in the most potent way. This book lays out the way to undermine authority, crumble the establishment, evade truth and reason, and defeat your enemies without even having to bother make a single argument or persuade anyone with logic and truth.

Alinsky's book gave the left the tools to accomplish what they dreamed of without violating their worldview. And what's worse is that the method involves the most infuriating, divisive, and mocking way possible. Its as if at every turn he chose between two paths and always picked the worst. In the place of maturity, reason, calm thought, persuasion, and truth he instead chose mockery, satire, attack, belittlement, emotion, and manipulation. Rules for Radicals is the codification of how an angry 13 year old argues, but in the most effective, useful ways possible to get your own way without ever having to win an argument.

When confronting an opponent, you are encourage not to engage them with fact and reason, but to find ways to make them look bad. You don't debate, you mock and manipulate and try to destroy the messenger so that the message is thought irrelevant. You always stick up for your side no matter how monstrous and awful, and always attack the other even if you'd normally agree, in order to present a continuous and consistent front. Rules for Radicals is the ultimate guide in logical fallacies, in violating every rule and basic ideal of rhetoric to the most effective manner, persuading people not by truth but by feeling and belittlement.

The left didn't just take this to heart and spend decades carrying it out, they started to believe what they said. Its one thing to claim your enemy is a fascist, it is another to start to, after continual repetition and reinforcement from peers, to start to buy into the lie. And in time, the myth became the truth, and it was printed. So when the left sees a right wing rally, they don't see fellow citizens engaging in 1st amendment rights to dissent just like the left does when they are in disagreement with government. They see a gathering of freaks, radicals, and extremists who want to destroy all freedom, force everyone into the dark ages, stone all gays, chain all women to the kitchen sink, enslave all Blacks, and even burn all the Jews.

It isn't that all the left thinks rationally and sequentially all of that through, its that the rhetoric of decades piles up and the reflexive reaction comes out without even considering its origin or significance. Fear them, they are violent and dangerous. They see the Tea Party as "an underlying antipathy to the core fundamentals of our political system and institutions" as an otherwise smart and reasonable leftist said in comments on this very blog. There's absolutely no logic or factual basis for such a wild accusation, but that's what he feels to be true, reflexively, based on decades of continual reinforcement and repetition. That same leftist admires Alinsky and praised Rules for Radicals.

AN ALCOHOLIC PATTERN
Now, I ask you: what happens when someone continually uses the most manipulative, underhanded, hurtful, sarcastic techniques to undermine you, make you look bad, ignore your arguments, and belittle you to others? What happens when someone continually calls you the worst possible names in every instance, ignoring what you say or try to explain, to deliberately demonize you to everyone, especially your friends and supporters?

Anyone who is familiar with alcoholism and what it does to their families - especially their non alcoholic spouse - knows exactly what that's like. It doesn't just set up a basic divide and antipathy between the two, it makes the one react negatively to anything the other says, on both sides. It creates an unbridgeable anger and frustration that builds and builds continually and until one side or the other changes, cannot be reconciled.

Psychologists have all sorts of phrases and terms for this relationship such as codependency and so on. People who lived through it or saw it in others can see the painful, horrible scars it leaves even when things change and the hate it generates while in place. America has been experiencing this for over forty years now. Debate is healthy, discussion of ideas is part of what the country was founded on. Understanding, tolerance, and even love for your neighbor is what makes a society work. Liberty requires these virtues to continue.

But you cannot debate someone who rejects the very principles of reason and truth. The Rules for Radicals approach to taking over society inevitably, necessarily results in animosity. When you belittle and attack someone for long enough, you make them your enemy and what's worse is that they become an enemy in your mind as well. The political divide in this nation always has existed, and at times was bitter and angry - it even resulted in war, once. Yet in general, debate and ideas tended to rule the discussion. I understand why the left would prefer that not be the case, in the realm of ideas, logic, truth, and reason the left tends to lose. So they changed the game, eliminating the terms by which they lose.

RULED BY RADICALS
This cannot be fought or changed by adopting the same tactics. The right cannot find victory by abandoning reason and truth for the tactics of the left. People who claim the left won because they used these tactics are fools; they won a battle, but are losing the war violently at present. You can find temporary victory by shouting that your debate opponent is a child-molesting sodomite, but that will not in the long run persuade anyone that his ideas are false. The right must abandon this sudden fascination with the tactics of the left.

The only way to win in the long run, if this is to be won at all, is to teach and educate, to lead by example and virtue, to work hard and long and show integrity. To live a life which makes it difficult if impossible to prompt charges of hypocrisy. To do what is right, even when it costs you. To teach your children what the truth is, and why it matters. To reach out to those in need around you, negating the need for government power to do so. To undermine the very foundations of the leftist culture we find ourselves in with countercultural solidity, truth, reason, hard work, virtuous life and ethical ideas.

If we fight on their terms, in their battle field, the left wins, if by no other method than corrupting and infiltrating our worldview. Liberty requires truth and reason behind it, argued by ethical people who live lives of honor and virtue. That is the only way to win, with the right tools, consistent with our worldview and beliefs. It will take a long time - it may not be possible to win - because it took a long time to destroy everything the founding fathers fought for and believed in. It took a long time to crush the momentum of America's liberty and ideals to a shuddering halt. It will take a long time to get that momentum built up again.

And as I said, we might not win. I fear we will not, and perhaps cannot. Yet the battle its self has a certain virtue in it. And doing the right thing is always what we should strive for, even if we lose. We don't fight to win. We fight because that's the right thing to do. So we should always and in every instance do it in the right way as much as is possible within our power.

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