Monday, February 03, 2014


"I told you they were all that way!!!"

There's a game people play with politicians and major pundits.  Its fun for their side and it can work very well for political advantage, if you can get the press to play along.  I call it "Spot the Loonie."
Here's how you play: you wait until you find a news report of some really weird thing someone has said or off the wall legislation that someone has proposed, and you yell about it, post it on facebook and other places.  And here's how you win: if you can convince people that this person and their idea actually represents what your opponents believe or stand for, you win.
For example, a recent Daily Kos article all about how Kansas is trying to ban broadband internet!  Why that state is so evil and backward and stupid!  Those red staters, those conservatives, here's what they would do if they had power!
See how it works?  Its great!  Sure, this bill has no chance of passing and is being promoted not by some right wing crank but the cable company trying to smash competition, but if you can get people to believe this represents conservatives, you win!
Or take this example.  A Virginia Republican proposed legislation which would make oral sex between teenagers a felony!  See how Republicans secretly think sex is bad and should be banned?  Its just like the Texas anti-sodomy laws the Supreme Court struck down!  Those stupid Republicans!
And its done against Democrats and the left, too.  Democrats in Georgia proposed a bill that would outlaw vasectomies for men!  In Connecticut a Democrat proposed legislation to change the date of Halloween to always be a weekend!  Senator Yee of California wants 3D printers to be tracked and registered like weapons!
On and on it goes.  A lot of the time when you look more closely at these bills they end up being either not as crazy as they seem or a stunt (the vasectomy bill, for instance, was a group of women opposed to the state's bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks; you men want to stop our 'birth control' we'll stop yours!).
The thing is, rarely do these bills represent the positions of anyone in that political sector.  They're usually just one guy with a loopy idea that the rest of their party doesn't go along with.  And that would be okay, except for how these stories are used.
 The Virginia legislator is held up as proof, proof that Republicans are against sex.  99 Republicans can say "no, we love sex, and do what you want" and one says "this particular act is bad" and the left jumps up and down screaming SEE?  SEE????  WE KNEW IT!!!
Their belief is that they know what their opponents secretly believe and deep down are really like, so its all lies until someone comes along that seem to fit their image of the opposition.  Then its proof of the secret conspiracy behind all the statements to the contrary.
And the right does the same thing; Cloward Piven!  Communist takeover!  The country is being run by people who want to take away all your freedoms and use the constitution as kindling for the bonfire to burn a pile of flags and crosses!
Its not that there isn't some slim basis for the accusations.  Some Republicans are opposed to some sexual activity - such as that between young people or homosexual behavior on moral grounds.  That doesn't mean even a large minority want to craft legislation to stop it, but there is some opposition out there.  Only a very tiny few believe they should use the government to impose their moral ideals on the nation.
And some Democrats really are communists who want to change America to match that viewpoint, thinking it more noble, free and good than any other system.  There are even some very few radicals who think that if the system can be overloaded with demands it will collapse or reach a crisis point, requiring heavy intervention which would permit the changes they want.  But only a very tiny number believe that they should take power and over throw the constitution and impose a Soviet dictatorship.
The problem is, from the perspective of each side, it can seem like that's not the case.  When Republicans say "lets not change our laws and cultural insitution on marriage to overthrow thousands of years of human history and the will of the majority of the nation to make a tiny minority happy" that's taken as using legislation to impose morality by the left.  You won't let us have homosexual "marriage!"  You're a tyrant imposing your religion on everyone else!!!
And when Democrats say "look, a lot of people are going without health insurance, we need to pass a bill that helps them out" that's taken as "lets rip up the constitution and impose Marxism on America!!!"
Now, the rhetoric on either side doesn't help matters.  When the left trots out idioticially bloated numbers on the people who are uninsured - including people who neither want or need insurance or those who went a month without because they changed jobs, and illegal immigrants - that doesn't help their cause much.  Its basically a lie designed to manipulate people by giving the pretense of a crisis.
But the truth is, most of the time this is just a political game, and its trumpeted louder than the simple good stuff that's done behind the scenes without anyone noticing.  Particularly because the cultural and media establishment are left-leaning in America, you'll see the dumb and weird (and misleading) ideas or bills proposed by Republicans being shouted the loudest and broadest, but its all over out there.
The thing to do, and I am not always good with this, is to stop, question the validity of it, look more closely, and see how accurate the report is.  And then step back and ask if this really is what people believe, or if its just what this particular person does.  Because while sometimes it is true, and it is what a given group really wants to do, but  usually its not.
Its one thing to see Mayor Bloomberg ban drinks over a certain size in New York City, but its another to act like a proposal by some crank in a city council has any hope of passing whatsoever, or that it is what anyone but they think should be done just because they belong to a certain group.

1 comment:

Philip said...

Unless you can get the news cycle to slow down, or bring back true investigative journalism (or basic reporting, for that matter,) it's not going to change.