Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Full Moebius Irony

Katy Tur lit up the rightwing media today when she corrected a guest who referred to Daily Caller writers as "journalists." Honestly, that site is somethin' else. Anytime I have been suckered into clicking one of their links it has been bizarre. It must be a new site, right? I never heard of them until recently. Oh I see, Tucker Carlson is behind it.

But I have to admit that the conservative site has done something right this time. They have accomplished Full Moebius Irony, a rare rhetorical feat where a statement so purely mocks itself that it becomes logically inverted and comes out where it started -- proving that in reality there is only One Side.

They sent a writer to a rally in St. Louis where the successful and popular progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke in support of Democratic congressional candidate Cori Bush. The writer's shock is wonderful.

Direct quote, for real:
But then Ocasio-Cortez spoke, followed by Bush, and I saw something truly terrifying. I saw just how easy it would be, were I less involved and less certain of our nation’s founding and its history, to fall for the populist lines they were shouting from that stage.
  • I saw how easy it would be, as a parent, to accept the idea that my children deserve healthcare and education.
  • I saw how easy it would be, as someone who has struggled to make ends meet, to accept the idea that a “living wage” was a human right.
  • Above all, I saw how easy it would be to accept the notion that it was the government’s job to make sure that those things were provided.
I watched as both Ocasio-Cortez and Bush deftly chopped America up into demographics, pointed out how those demographics had been victimized under the current system, and then promised to be the voice for those demographics. The movement, Ocasio-Cortez shouted, “knows no zip code. It knows no state. It knows no race. It knows no gender. It knows no documented status.” I’M A CONSERVATIVE, AND I WENT TO AN ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ RALLY
Yes, I know, this is clearly terrifying to a rational person. Luckily the writer is more involved and more certain of our nation's founding and its history, or she could have fallen for this socialist propaganda.
Bush, after saying her piece, noted that she had been careful to allow speakers from across all demographics to make it clear that she was not running to represent just one particular group, but all. I left the rally with a photo — in part to remind myself of that time I crashed a rally headlined by a socialist, but also in part to remind myself that there, but for the grace of God, go I.
At the top of the page is a nice picture of the writer, we assume, smiling, and a smiling Octavia-Cortez.

So... it is just mind-boggling to think what these people tell their kids, sitting around the breakfast table. And when the kids reach their teens and rebel, what are they going to do, empathize with people? Maybe there is hope.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Civility as a Prop for the Status Quo

The "Trump voter" is not something new. There have always been people in the small towns and backwaters who believe that their way of life is God's plan and everything else is just plain wrong. This happens when a community is isolated and their social reality goes unchallenged, untested; customs and norms become facts, strangers are strange and frightening.

You could see the proto-Trump supporter nearly fifty years ago, in the end of Easy Rider. Warning: violence.

When that movie came out in 1969 -- and everybody saw it -- there was no discussion about this scene. Nobody asked, "Why did those guys in the pickup truck do that?" The concept of "owning the libs" did not exist yet but this sort of thing was well established and well understood. No one at all was surprised when they pulled the shotgun down from the gun rack and had a little fun with them city boys.

A tribe understands that other tribes have different norms. A basic universal part of being human: belonging to a group and realizing that there are other groups. The hard part is when various groups have to share resources. Maybe two tribes hunt in the same woods or row in the same river. Maybe two groups live in the same neighborhood, city, country, planet. Then they have to work things out.

When we talk about civility we mean that people speak to one another with respect. You consider the other as equal to yourself. Our tribe recognizes that your tribe has needs, and we can try to work out a way for both of us to have what we need. Civility requires effort, it requires a bit of sacrifice and concession. Civility is recognition that the world does not revolve around you, which is an attitude you have to learn -- since your eyes always literally see the world from your own point of view.

Civility is the implementation of the Golden Rule.

Let's be clear: the Trump platform was incivility and incivility is the guiding principle of his presidency. He ran on his rudeness, he was offensive, mean, petty, he lied and insulted people, and that is what his followers like about him. Incivility did not start last week.

An outside observer would be totally amused by the outrage over the Virginia restaurant owner who eighty-sixed Sarah Huckabee Sanders last week. By all accounts she was polite about it, took SHS outside to discuss it quietly after her employees had taken a vote on the matter. And woo, the press freaked out about this! Also, two other administration officials trying to order Mexican food were publicly shamed and had to leave restaurants. Another having a binto box in DC, a mom with her two-year-old asks him to please resign and spells out the reasons why. Never mind poor Alan Dershowitz, snubbed by his so-called "friends" on Martha's Vinyard. Liberals are not being passive, and suddenly democracy is in crisis.

Here is how the Washington Post summarized the state of the "incivility" debate:
The debate over civility kicked into high gear after a Virginia restaurant asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave because employees didn’t want to serve her. That followed the outright heckling of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen as she ate at a Mexican restaurant in the District. Some people, such as Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), have called for more such confrontations with Trump administration officials. Others warn of a race to the bottom and plea for an end to the boorishness.
In other word, all the name-calling and provocations to violence by Trump and his people since the start of the campaign were nothing. A whole campaign was based on incivility, that was the message and that was the point -- but that was just some rednecks havin' them some fun. One liberal restaurant owner judges a customer by her character and we have a debate kicking into high gear.

I do not have to remind you of the rhetoric during the past presidential campaign. Violence was encouraged at Republican rallies, not just rudeness, not just disrespect, but actual "second amendment" activities, violence against protesters and political opponents. It was funny, people laughed. Outsiders were mocked, called names, criticized for made-up offenses. Innocent people were described as "criminals." Conservatives feel this is their right, they can say anything they want about someone. This offensiveness, the assumption that their way is the only way, is what defines conservatism. The taxes, defense, small-government, economy stuff was just window dressing, they don't even bother saying those things any more. When we say Republicans are racist we mean that they feel that their own way of life should set the standard for all Americans.

Why did the lefties accept the incivility all those years? Well, for one thing, you figured it was a kind of price you paid for standing up for what you believed in. Opposing the war in the sixties was a risky deal, you could end up with a baseball bat upside the head at any moment, they could pick your lifeless body up off a campus sidewalk. But the war was wrong, and thousands of people expressed their opposition to it, and in the long run the war had to end. The civil rights movement was a risky deal, people were literally murdered for acting on liberal principles and the government, from J. Edgar Hoover on down, let it happen. Standing up for peace and freedom has always been a dangerous thing.

Traditionally if you were identifiably gay in public, or black in a white neighborhood, you could expect to be beaten up and harassed by conservatives on the street, if not arrested. Women who need to have an abortion are met with gangs of jeering conservatives threatening them and calling them terrible names -- this has long been accepted behavior in America. This is how conservatism works, it is a movement of people enforcing their own group's norms. The concept of "political correctness" is a force conservatives hate, because it means that people expect -- wait for it -- civility. No, sorry, you can't beat up gays and minorities any more, just for being different. Against the law. Sucks, don't it? Hence, MAGA.

Today's conservatives are breaking up immigrant families, abusing and harassing women, cops are killing innocent black people, they are destroying the economy and our web of international alliances, and the administration -- including liberal-incivility victims such as Sarah Sanders, Kristjen Nielson, Steve Miller, and Scott Pruitt -- routinely lies and manipulates the system to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor and dispossessed. We don't have to be nice to them. Listen to Sarah Sanders lie about the immigration policy, about the president's dalliances and payoffs, about chaos in the White House -- if that was your neighbor lying to you, you would not be nice to them. If a family member was hurtful and lied like that you would not invite them to dinner. These are people who are systematically destroying what is great about our country, they say whatever it takes to make life better for them and worse for us, and we don't have to be nice to them.

Look at the balance here. One restaurant owner called an undesirable customer outside and quietly expained to her that she would not be served. On the other hand, the freakin' PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA went on the Internet and tried to ruin the restaurant's reputation and business forever with a string of lies.
Do you think the press is going to publish stories about how tacky and incivil it is for the President of the USA to try to destroy a small business in Lexington, Virginia, pop. 7,045? For some reason, this is normal but a restaurant owner politely asking an undesirable person to leave is "liberals going too far." Conservatives act like they are afraid of violence now, big scary liberals are going to do mean and nasty things to them -- though terrorists inspired by nationalist and rightwing ideology have killed about ten times as many people as left wing terrorists since 1992. Look at this, Sarah Sanders now has a Secret Service detail. What, so she can go where she is not wanted? Is that a right now, liars are a protected class?

You see it everywhere. The "debate about civility" is nothing more than a way to prop up the status quo and shut up liberals. Maxine Waters said, "If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they're not welcome anymore, anywhere" The President responded on Twitter, "Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low IQ person..." You may or may not agree with Waters' idea, but it's just an idea, expressed in temperate and firm tones, she is urging liberals to assert themselves in protest against morally corrupt public figures. She is not insulting anyone personally, as the President is -- but guess who will be accused of violating the code of civility.

We can thank the owner of the Red Hen Restaurant for bringing this to the front page, for making the media come right out and say that they don't think liberals should be able to act on their beliefs.