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Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Why I’m Ignoring the 2012 Election (mostly)

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

I honestly think I’m going to sit out the 2012 elections. I’ll vote, of course, but I’m going to try to avoid arguments and day-to-day news.

I just can’t see the point. I’m not talking about apathy. I have very strong opinions, as anyone who has talked to me about this junk knows. But I honestly don’t know what the point of arguing about an election actually does. I don’t know what paying attention to day-to-day politics does.

Usually, in one of these debates, the supposed point is to convince the other person to vote for your candidate of choice. Short of the occasional political equivalent of being born-again, however, when does that actually happen? If you’re lucky, you end up with a fun and engaging intellectual exchange. Too often, though, people get bogged down with identity politics and inconsequential bullshit.

For those of you who will jump head-first into this election season (masochists), here are my suggestions:

  • Always ask yourself, “what would convince me that I’m wrong?” There should always be something — perhaps many things — that would convince you that you’re wrong. If your answer is “nothing”, you are not engaged in a real debate, and you’re not being intellectually honest. If the only thing that will convince you is extremely far-fetched to the point of being effectively impossible, you’re also not thinking it through. And if you’ve ever said, “If [politician] told me that 2 + 2 = 4, I would not believe them”, at best you’re not being funny (it’s a tired joke). At worst you’re betraying irrational partisanship disguised as humor.
  • Remember that “liberals” and “conservatives” are your family, neighbors, co-workers, etc. They are good people who want to live in a just society. No one wants to ruin the country. If you assert that “liberals” or “conservatives”, or even a “liberal” or a “conservative” are evil, you being uncharitable, even dishonest.
  • If you’re going to pay attention to political news, avoid the day-to-day news cycle. That means no cable news. The job of cable news is to retain viewers so that they can retain advertisers. That doesn’t mean they are complete bullshit, but it does mean they will gin up controversy over trivial “news”. In fact, any shallow political reporting should be avoided, whether on television, radio, the Internet, etc.
  • Don’t pretend that radio/opinion show hosts are in any way objective. If you’ve ever said, “just listen to [personality] for a while” or something along those lines, think about what that means and why listening to a radio show can, over time, convince you of their point of view.
  • Pay attention to your own reaction when you see an “R” or a “D” next to someone’s name. Be honest with yourself. Does it color your interpretation of what they’re saying? Remember that the easiest way to bullshit others is to bullshit yourself.
  • This is not the most important election. Even if it is the most important election in the history of the republic, anyone telling you that is trying to manipulate you. Recognize that come election season, candidate X , despite what many people will say, is not the most liberal/conservative or radical/reactionary candidate in history. If you believe that, you’re being manipulated. If you say that, you’re being manipulative. And you are, for all intents and purposes, wrong.
  • Patriotism is not a legitimate political position. It is a sentiment. An often harmful one, at that. You can love your country and love your ancestry, but recognize that it’s a personal preference; a sentiment. Saying, “America is the greatest country in the world” is a meaningless statement at best. It’s about as intellectually relevant as “Tacos rule!” I’m not denigrating America, anymore than saying the same thing about the statement “X-Files was the best sci-fi show ever!” means that I don’t like the X-Files. I think my mom is the best mom ever. That doesn’t mean that anyone who disagrees with me hates my mom or that I should throw a hissy fit.
  • Talking about “character” is usually an appeal to your irrational prejudices and biases. “Restoring dignity” and the like are similar.
  • Calling a candidate an idiot is mean-spirited and extremely unhelpful. Claims to intellectual superiority ring about as true as statements of superiority by school-yard bullies. Moreover, it’s fallacious and losing strategy. George W. Bush’s supposed intellectual deficiencies did little to keep him out of office.
  • Do you make fun of soccer moms? Latte-sipping liberals? You’re being an ugly bully and you’re spewing prejudicial bullshit. Correct that.
  • Are you conspiracy-minded? Have you used the term “Manchurian Candidate” to describe any politician? Realize that you are not being “open-minded” — you’re likely suffering from confirmation bias.
  • Are you a single-issue voter? You’re free to do that, but you’re being lazy, and you’re likely a hypocrite.
  • We don’t live in tribes anymore, at least not in American society (outside of street gangs). Recognize that our brains haven’t adjusted to this reality. That’s why we argue so viciously. That’s why we care what celebrities and politicians do/think/fart. Try to keep things in perspective.
  • Your political hero from yesteryear was much more liberal/conservative than your memory admits.
  • There aren’t two sides to any argument. There are many, many more.

I could go on, but I’m rambling.

I’m not saying that these things will help you win arguments, or even keep you sane. It’s precisely these things that make me want to avoid this sort of discussion at all. It puts you at a disadvantage, because almost no one follows most of these “rules”. I certainly have a hard time following them.

That said, I will get into the occasional discussion. I can’t help it. At the end of the day, I live for good arguments. I feel like I’m getting dumber if I don’t engage in these sort of discussions on occasion. But I won’t debate stupid “political” nonsense other than to call it out as exactly that: nonsense. I try to be respectful (or at least diplomatic) but I have no patience for appeals to emotion, conspiracy theories, slippery-slope arguments, etc. And that’s what dominates election-season discussions.

I recognize that plenty of family and friends don’t like to debate with me, precisely because I have a low tolerance for certain lines of discussion. I probably need to work on that.

To a larger point — do political arguments ever make people happy? Does it ever accomplish good? If so, is that enough to balance out the all the negatives that usually result?

And (to people I know personally) do you really want me to hide or block your posts to facebook/twitter because you buy into and repeat nonsense? It’s entirely possible that that doesn’t bother you. In which case, go nuts. I probably won’t block you, but no promises.

(As an aside, part of my motivation for writing this stems from something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately — the propensity for people to be mean, especially on the Internet. This is well-travelled ground, but I find myself increasingly irritated and upset when otherwise intelligent, kind people say hateful, stupid things. Do you say nasty things about hipsters, soccer moms, “guidos”? Do you say nasty things about celebrities? Have you ever called someone a “fanboy”? Do you think most people are stupid? If so, you may want to ask yourself some serious questions.)


Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

What a crazy day.

First of all — I’m now an uncle. Lisa and Pat have a little girl named Isabelle Marie. I can’t post any pics until Lisa’s updated her blog.

So, yeah. Pretty amazing.

Then there was the election, of course. Kelly and I were both very happy and excited, but it was tempered by the fact that we were watching the results come in with my parents, who are pretty conservative. So we couldn’t jump on the furniture while giving each other high fives.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m not interested in discussing politics much here right now. I will say that I’m proud, that it was historic, and that both candidates’ speeches last night were inspiring.


Friday, October 24th, 2008

I have avoided politics on this blog for a while. I find day-to-day politics exhausting. It’s irrational, it’s ugly and it’s almost entirely unproductive. And I’m not about to start discussing much of it here.

That said, I do have something to say about the political climate. If my personal pick for president becomes obvious, sorry. Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised anyway.

Every 4 years, everyone proclaims this election to be the most important election in the universe. Ever. And it’s bullshit. Every election can’t be the most important. I could see the 2016 election (for example) being more important that this one. The 1932 election was probably more important that this one.

People say this because they’re trying to scare us. I don’t care who’s saying it. They’re trying to scare the shit out of us. And I’m sick of it. Our nation isn’t a delicate knick-knack. It’s not a fragile dish. We can weather terrible leaders. We’ve certainly done it before. We’ve weathered crappy Supreme Courts and crappy court decisions. Crappy Congresses.

I’m certainly not saying that we’re invulnerable. The question I’m asking is: How do we conduct ourselves in trying times? And a lot of us ought to be ashamed.

Western civilization is not in peril.

Support your candidate, be proud of your candidate. And don’t be an asshole.

Sorry. Just wanted to get that off my chest. I’ll get back to the humping dog videos without delay.

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