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Posts Tagged ‘tea party’

– My half-baked, quarter-drafted post on the Occupy movement may never see the light of day (and you’re not missing much), but here’s one way in which they’re different from the Tea Party: nobody connected with the Occupy movement has yet publicly called for the assassination of the President and his children.

– Police in the UK are apparently not above calling a 15-year-old “gay” if he annoys them by trying to take their picture in public. Not a great advert for anything when someone legally recognised as a child is the mature one in a conversation with a man whose job is upholding the nation’s laws.

– That Bill Donohue’s a smart guy with a firm head on his shoulders. I’ve always liked him.

– Remember Marc Stephens? The creepy not-a-lawyer who sorta kinda maybe somehow represented the quacktastic Burzynski Clinic in some unspecified manner? He’s still up to his old tricks. And say what you like about him, but he knows how to put on a hell of a show.

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Heroic supremo of satire Jon Stewart is holding a “Rally To Restore Sanity” in Washington, D.C. at the end of the month.

The intent is to provide a counterpoint to the frenetic, zealous, ideological, deranged tone that seems to have taken hold of Stateside politics in recent months. “Take it down a notch for America,” is the cry going out to everyone who wants the best for their country but can’t seem to stop screaming incoherently about it.

Predictably, there have been some objections to this idea, mostly from the right-wing, anti-sanity lobby. But there are some more reasonable-sounding people taking issue with the rally.

Mark Engler has some interesting points, but in the end I’m not sure he’s being entirely fair.

The idea of “both sides equally going overboard” in current US politics might be something of a straw man, but it’s not one I’ve ever seen Jon Stewart attempting to erect. The impression I’ve tended to gather from his show is that the right wing are the ones most disconnected from reality by far, and that while the left are certainly capable of the same kind of delusional retreat into their own parallel world, it doesn’t seem to happen to them on the same scale. Most of the ridicule they’ve received has been centred on their dismal failure to take advantage of the right’s dissolving grip on its logical faculties, or to take charge and push forward with any sort of coherent plan.

So I don’t see his point as being that anyone who’s not politically central needs to rein it in, whatever their views, for exactly the same reasons as everyone else on either side. That really would be crazy. The skeptical movement knows full well the ridiculousness of always insisting on a middle road between any extreme views (cf. “Teach the controversy” in science classrooms, and also this from SMBC Theater). And it’s not like The Daily Show’s never taken a strong stance and made it very clear that one side is simply correct on some matter.

(It’s implied in a quote from another article that right-wingers who claim Obama is a Kenyan socialist and lefties who want George W Bush tried as a war criminal are equivalently nutty ends of the spectrum, according to Jon Stewart’s apparent political perception. If this is a fair representation, then I’m not entirely with Jon on this, and I can see how this seems as if he’s over-keen to be taking the politically safe middle road.)

Jon’s point doesn’t seem to me to be that all political views should be centrist – moderated from any politically right or left opinion so as to be always inoffensively middle-of-the-road. He seems to be focusing more on the tone of the debate. One of the example placards he held up when announcing the rally read something like: “I disagree with what you say, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler”. Which is the sort of thing it would be nice to hear sometimes, as a counterpoint to… well, you can find some recent examples of Godwin’s Law in action yourself.

And I’m still on board with this sense of “moderation”. I’ve met people who I disagreed with strongly but who I could have a pleasant chat about it with; I’ve met people I’ve shared almost every important opinion with but who somehow manage to seem like dicks. And as much as I’m hesitant to encourage people who disagree with me in their ongoing wrongness, I think the former kind of relationship deserves to be nurtured more than the latter.

The article cites Bill Kristol, who’s been on The Daily Show a few times, and confirms my half-remembered assessment of him: charming, polite, reasonable in tone, and dangerously wrong about how the country should be run on almost every level.

Obviously this isn’t ideal, but I don’t agree that the tone is irrelevant to the quality of the discussion, when considered against the effect of the ideas being expressed.

Actually, that’s not quite right. What I think this article misses is that the tone, volume, and demeanour themselves express ideas, which can be conducive to dialogue or dangerously oppressive.

When Bill Kristol politely and composedly says what he thinks, it might promote some pretty dreadful ideas. But it doesn’t tacitly promote the idea that anyone who disagrees with him must be some kind of communist nazi antipatriot.

The Tea Party’s tone, however, seems to carry exactly that sort of implication for anyone who dares to question whatever future proclamations issue from this self-selected band of “Real Americans”. And that is a dangerous idea.

It makes it difficult, once people have been drawn into the movement by the pervasive sense of tribalism, for them to hear any criticism, consider their own position rationally, or escape from the manic path on which they find themselves, regardless of where it ends up taking them. That’s something I feel I can support taking a moderate stand against.

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An attempt to change the damn record already is edging into sight. To that end, I’m just linking to a few things tonight, some of which will continue the Popey protesty theme, but with strictly limited accompanying ranting from me:

– It’s annoying when the Guardian gets stuff really wrong. It has many excellent regular columnists, a political stance largely not far from my own, and a clearer interest in at least making an effort at things like impartial fact-checking than I’ve come to expect from most tabloids.

It doesn’t render the whole paper worthless or deplorable whenever they simply print something I profoundly disagree with, but it is frustrating. This column by Andrew Brown especially so, for the reasons Greg Laden explains.

You don’t have to like or agree with Richard Dawkins about everything, or about anything much – I’m not going to link to that Neil deGrasse Tyson clip again, but it can certainly be done. But to think that he was really “comparing every Catholic in Britain to Adolf Hitler” is just bafflingly wrong-headed. It makes me wonder how badly someone would have to want to hear Dawkins expressing unadulterated contempt for all religious people (because it’s such a convenient narrative to suppose that that’s what he always does) for them to so completely misconstrue his point. It’s almost like something you get from creationists who’ve taken half a fact about evolution out of context to make it sound ridiculous.

I said something about limiting the ranting, didn’t I? Sorry.

I’m with Jerry Coyne. There, much pithier.

– Also, when the Pope was here, you may have recalled the terrifying conspiracy that was bravely foiled, in which foreigners had been scheming a devilish plot to explode the Pope to bits.

Except none of it was ever really happening. There was a massive furore, with incredibly blatant speculation about “Islamic terrorists” with “links to Al Qaeda” that seem to have been entirely fictionalised by the tabloids. And then, depending on what papers you’re reading, you get a tiny paragraph on page nine later on, explaining that no charges were ever made against anyone.

Mark Steel’s summary of events is excellent.

– Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell is the latest prankster comedian to hit the headlines with her wacky in-character antics. Forget Borat and Joaquin Phoenix – she’s been doing this full-time for years. And the results are hilarious.

– There already was a Mosque at Ground Zero (neither of which was true about the “Ground Zero” “Mosque”, remember). It was there before it got that name, though, back when the site was called the World Trade Centre.

– Apparently it’s offensive to suggest that some Muslims aren’t terrorists. A newspaper recently apologised to its readers for printing a photo which implied that sometimes Muslims are just pretty ordinary people who pray – on September 11th, of all days – without even bringing up all the mass murder they’re probably thinking about. This was clearly a grave error of judgment. Muslims aren’t a diverse, complicated demographic encompassing much of the variety to be found in humankind as a whole; 9/11 is the only thing that there is about them, and it’s important that we never ever forget that. Or let them forget it.

– Finally, there’s one point I’ve seen raised by detractors of the Protest The Pope campaign which deserves highlighting. It was still couched in “stop banging on about the Pope and his pedophile army” whining, but aside from that it’s worth considering.

Not everyone who’s been tormented or abused as a child was suffering at the hands of a religious authority figure. Without looking up any actual numbers, I believe sexual and other kinds of abuse are likely more prevalent among families than churches.

So, while highlighting the crimes of the Catholic church, don’t let’s end up inadvertently marginalising victims of abuse from other directions, whose needs aren’t served by waving signs at a man in a dress. I’m not saying this has been happening, but it’s worth being careful about. And I wanted to give the protest-bashers partial credit for getting something nearly right.

That’ll do for today. Comment with your thoughts on any of this. Or say something about the protests to piss me off again, if you prefer the way things used to be.

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If you didn’t have enough evidence yet that the Tea Party – the bizarre right-wing movement that’s been moving in from the fringes of American politics lately, determined to “take back their country” from the scary black man who somehow took charge – is actively dangerous, then here ya go.

Christine O’Donnell is the Republican nominee for the United States Senate in the state of Delaware, and could be elected into office this November. And she thinks distributing condoms will spread AIDS.

I know a lot of people probably like her mostly because she seems like one of them, and that she “shares their values”, whatever exactly that means. It’s hard not to make your initial judgments about someone on a sub-rational level, a gut sense on whether they seem like the right sort of person. I know I liked Obama based on how he looked and how he spoke, non-specific recommendations from other people I liked, and snippets of reputation, before I could tell you anything about his politics.

But it’s really kinda important not to let that continue to be the one driving force that defines how you see someone; to latch onto them as “one of us” and be forced to justify any other position they take, whether or not you’d normally agree with it. I’ve become somewhat disillusioned about Obama since his election. Maybe I’m still overly hopeful, maybe I’m being too quick to be cynical and should give him more of a break, I’m not really sure – but the important thing is that I’m trying my best to base my opinion rationally, on what he says and does.

I’m never quite going to get there, not perfectly. But it’s important to try. And it’s important to be aware when your preferred candidate has expressed support for a policy based on incorrect information, which will result in an increased spread of a deadly disease.

This kind of introspection is something the Tea Partiers don’t seem to be great at. They don’t seem to be basing their allegiances on actual policies or views on things, in any rational way, as there doesn’t appear to be much consistency as to what they stand for. O’Donnell has spoken out against pornography, and campaigned against masturbation. Carl Paladino used to email colleagues video clips of bestiality.

How much do the people who shout their support for the Tea Party movement actually understand the people they’re championing?

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