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October 24, 2008

Comments

As far as I'm concerned, anyone, of any political party, who blames the actions of someone like Susan Smith on his or her opponents shows that he or she is without shame. In a sane world, politicians who did this would be thrown out of office: their constituents might or might not agree with their political views, but they would be revolted by anyone who said such a thing.

I have some worries here related to the phenomenon of availability bias. I'm (and I don't think I'm out of the ordinary in this way) more likely to hear about disgusting comments by people whose politics I oppose than by people whose politics I support.

Hilzoy's Blog, God's Ear.

As far as I'm concerned, anyone, of any political party, who blames the actions of someone like Susan Smith on his or her opponents shows that he or she is without shame.

Hilzoy, you are orders of magnitude more likely than I am to meet the odious Mr. Gingrich in public. That's a good thing, for you are much more civil than I am. But is it possible that even you would treat him, in person, with the contempt he deserves?

--TP

*cliched response about the Internet changing everything*

*cliched response about 24-hour news networks killing time*

I got nothing.

TP: I would at least aim for a calm explanation of my view of this matter. I normally go for calm, since screaming generally doesn't convince anyone. The person I might have a really hard time with is Rumsfeld. Cheney would be tough too, but in his case I think I might be sufficiently curious that I held back. He really is an abiding mystery to me. I think someone once described Iago as 'motiveless malignancy'; that's how I think of Cheney.

Exactly what rob! said.

"Motiveless malignancy" is a phrase that will stay with me for life. Thanks, Hilzoy.

As for screaming not convincing anyone, I take it for granted that you're not talking about convincing Gingrich. In my fantasy scenario, I stumble upon you and Newt participating in some learned panel on C-Span. You do not get up and deck him. You do not even raise your voice to him. You calmly and reasonably explain to him why he's a shameless hypocrite. Your calm reason convinces the audience, not him. If Newt is visibly discomfitted, good! Many people, David Broder fans perhaps, might consider you uncivil for publicly embarassing a shameless hypocrite. I would be cheering you on, myself.

--TP

I agree with the main argument.

That said, I stopped reading Broder a while ago. He has become empty, inconsistent, and vacuous. The only reason to read him is to take note of what other people *might* be exposed to.

Hilzoy, on the other hand, is worth reading!

I don't think political vileness is ever going out of style- it pays off often enough to be, overall, a good investment. Witness the fact that today, conservatives are trying to blame Obama supporters generally for the attack on a McCain volunteer at an ATM.

OK, maybe this is a bit of political vileness on my part, but... I actually think Gingrich himself is not completely innocent in the death of Susan Smith's children. Sounds absurd? Hear me out. Ginrich has worked for a hierarchical, anti-feminist society where the authority of a man over his family is not questioned, and where the authority of traditional religious leaders is respected.

Susan Smith's father had committed suicide, and her mother then remarried a man who molested Smith. Smith tried to get help from her high school counselor, who reported the crime- but the case was dropped, apparently because her stepfather was a leader in the religious right and the Republican party, and no one could believe that a man so positioned would have done such a thing. After the case was dropped, the molestation continued. (At Smith's trial, the stepfather admitted he actually had been molesting her all along.)

Speaking from experience- I was severely abused as a child- I cannot believe that Smith's hideous teenage experiences did not contribute to her crime- ESPECIALLY the fact that she took the risk of seeking help and got no help. The end result of the society that Gingrich was working for is this: a society where teenagers like Smith get no help when the abuser is a male authority figure.

The Newt and his ilk should get the Sir Robin treatment:
He should be mashed into a pulp, have his eyes gouged out and his elbows broken, his kneecaps split and his body burned away and all his limbs hacked and mangled, his head smashed in and his heart cut out and his liver removed and his bowels unplugged and his nostrils raped and his bottom burnt off...
And that's just for the warming-up :-(
[/rant]
Full stop or I'll really violate the posting rules

Hmm.... While I agree with the general sentiment of the post, I have to disagree with the assertion that Gingrich's comment was merely a vile and cynical attempt to politicize a tragedy. There's a real political argument there, though it's pitched pretty high up in the dog-whistle spectrum. It goes like this.

Liberals aren't to blame for Susan Smith's actions, at least not directly. Demons are. Clearly, Susan Smith was, if not actually possessed by a demon, then at least strongly under the influence of servants of Satan. What liberals are responsible for -- the argument goes -- is helping to create a culture where Satan has so much influence. Keeping prayer out of schools, legitimizing the homosexual lifestyle, legalizing abortion, and so forth; all the usual America-is-going-to-hell cultural warfare stuff. There's a large constituency on the right who, while mostly silent, actually believe that these things strengthen Satan and give him power over America. Thus voting for Republicans, who claim, though never quite in so many words, that they will shift the country back towards godliness, would weaken Satan and help prevent things like Susan Smith's actions.

I think it can be really hard for people on the left who were raised in the secular, modern rational tradition to believe that this kind of thinking exists, but it does, and it's a political force. So while it is still vile for Gingrich to say such things, it's not completely without reason.

while it is still vile for Gingrich to say such things, it's not completely without reason.

Blaming demons/Satan is not without reason? Sorry, but to me that is completely extra-rational. That people do believe this stuff doesn't make it rational.

I'd also note that Newty himself surely didn't believe in literal demons, etc., and that's true of plenty of people in his intended audience. And actually, if you want to explain this phenom in biblical/Christian terms, it is Gingrich himself who is the demon/Satan figure. Satan is always a false god and liar. And the stepfather is an even more obvious incarnation.

Here's hoping, with Hilzoy, that the amoral style of politics we've been cursed with is going out of style.

I remember that shortly before Susan Smith killed her children, a working class woman wrote to her representative, asking for his support for literacy and schools so her kids could escape poverty. She got back repellent letter in which, without taking any responsibility, the legislator suggested that "other" taxpayers might resent any "special" help she or her children received, and suggesting that since everyone else succeeded on their own, she and her children should too.

here here

So while it is still vile for Gingrich to say such things, it's not completely without reason.

I think you mean to say that while it's vile nonsense to accuse your opponents of being in league with Satan, it isn't incoherently vile nonsense, as say, accusing your opponents of being in league with the butchering wing-back chairs of the Montana salt flats might be.

Meanwhile, a FOX News political columnist is is actually accusing Obama of being a friend of Lucifer.

Re: Alinsky dedicating his book - the excellent 'Rule For Radicals' - to Lucifer:

I can see how nominal Christians, who are shockingly ignorant about their own religion (add link to Eric's post about Muslim jihadists who know nothing about Islam - sorry, I couldn't find it) could get frothed about this. They wouldn't know anything about the 'Judeo' part of their beloved 'tradition', even though the Old Testament is right there in their bibles.

Blaming demons/Satan is not without reason? Sorry, but to me that is completely extra-rational.

Well, yes. Exactly. It is extra-rational, to you, because you lack the world-view necessary to understand the argument. Please understand that I'm not saying that pejoratively; I think you're quite right not to see the world that way. But some people do, and they're not necessarily crazy idiots, either. To dismiss them as irrelevant loonies is to be blind to part of what's going on across the aisle. It's a qualitatively similar mistake, if not quantitavely similar, to those on the right who are baffled about why women aren't lining up in droves to vote for a ticket with Sarah Palin on it.

because you lack the world-view necessary to understand the argument.

I understand the argument. If someone argued to me that since homosexuality causes earthquakes, homosexual sex should therefore be illegal, I would understand the argument, would comprehend the worldview, but I would still find it to be irrational, since the premise is irrational.

The McCAin supporter was probably not attacked by anyone, least of all a looming Willie Horton figure , at the ATM. AS of last night anywya the police investigating the incident had serious doubts about the woman's sotry.

On the subject of politicians who are getting retribution for nefarious behavior: Robin Hayes and Randy Kuhl are expected to lose their races. I am raeally going to enjoy Kuhl's departure as I have been a Massa backer for several years now.

Susan Smith...I remember that well. My wife and I were interviewed by the local news for a spread-the-horror piece after that happened. Basically, we were smack in the middle of trying (and failing) to conceive a child, and we were furious at Susan Smith. So we allowed ourselves to be used for that piece, because we were angry, and we wanted to (I suppose; this was a lot of years ago) share our pain and anger.

None of which had much to do with Susan Smith's family tragedy, but we were embedded in our own family drama at the time, and that was bigger than everything else.

Gingrich was an ass for saying that, kind of like we were asses for hijacking the deaths of some kids in order to have people feel sorry for us. Nobody reelected us, though.

What liberals are responsible for -- the argument goes -- is helping to create a culture where Satan has so much influence.

This reminds me of Santorum's comment that the Catholic clergy sex abuse problem was rooted in the liberal culture of Boston, MA, because a Catholic seminary was located there.

Apparently, some kind of icky liberal Satanist mojo is in the tap water up here.

If there were a Satan, Satan's favorite thing in the whole wide world would be hate.

I think it can be really hard for people on the left who were raised in the secular, modern rational tradition to believe that this kind of thinking exists

Actually I think most people, no matter how secular, have some exposure to, and familiarity with, the kind of thinking you refer to.

What is true is that they have a hard time taking it seriously. They have a hard time taking it seriously because it makes no sense. Or, it only makes sense in a closed little universe where all of the axioms required for it to make sense are accepted uncritically as a matter of faith.

You're on the bus or you're not.

You are correct to note that liberals tend to find that kind of thought process hard to step into.

I would still find it to be irrational, since the premise is irrational.

Oh yeah?

What's your position on the correlation between pirates and global warming?

Thanks -

Gingrich was an ass for saying that, kind of like we were asses for hijacking the deaths of some kids in order to have people feel sorry for us.

There's a fundamental difference though: you did what you did to (try to) exorcise your pain. He did it to accumulate political capital. What you did was human and understandable; what he did was avaricious and reprehensible.

Hilz, I am so totally with you: Rummy is the first U.S. political figure whom I have not so much feared, opposed, or even despised, as hated.

"Motiveless malignity" is Coleridge's coinage, innit? Interesting: nowadays we have all kinds of philosophical resources to analyze narratives of human destructiveness which he may not have had --in the wake of Nietzsche, Freud, Girard, et al, I don't think many people see Iago's conduct as motiveless.

I certainly hope you're right about this, hilzoy!

On the other hand, before her story was entirely discredited today, McCain's Pennsylvania communications director was apparently spreading the rumor that the "B" carved on Ashley Todd's cheek stood for "Barack", so the Bachmann lessons have yet to be learned by all those who are tempted to engage in this sort of politics.

the "B" carved on Ashley Todd's cheek stood for "Barack"

This was the first I'd heard about the Ashley Todd thing.

Punching yourself in the eye and carving a backwards 'B' on your own face. That is some special kind of crazy.

The new John McCain campaign theme song: Helter Skelter.

It's like somebody opened some weird Pandora's box in the American psyche, and all the freaky gibbering ghosts are flying out.

I hope she finds someplace far from the cameras, chills out for a while, and gets her head together.

This stuff is starting to creep me the hell out. What worries me is thinking that it's only the tip of the iceberg.

Thanks -

What you did was human and understandable; what he did was avaricious and reprehensible.

NB: my comment that this was in response to was not an attempt at minimizing Gingrich's 'holiness.

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