All the recent hubub about our political rhetoric led me to re-read a book by Peter Wood called A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now. It was published in 2006, so at the time Wood focused mainly on the angry political rhetoric of the left. He didn’t claim that political anger was solely a phenomenon of the left, but most of the examples of heated rhetoric came from left-wing sources. (This, by the way, is where I got that quote from Paul Krugman that I cited last week.)
At any rate, Wood concentrates on what he terms “new anger.” He acknowledges that there has always been heated political argumentation, but that stylistically much has changed. People worked hard to suppress anger – witness George Washington’s dedicated attempts to control his quick temper. Now anger is celebrated. It has become something of a performance art in our modern society, and we celebrate expressions of righteous anger. As someone who titles his personal blog (tongue-in-cheekly) the Cranky Conservative, I can see the merits of his argument.
Though Wood makes many decent observations, there are two problems with his book. Continue reading
One of the main problems with politics is that it is complicated. Take, for example, the recently passed health care bill. The bill was over 2,000 pages. I haven’t read it. Neither, I imagine, have most of our readers (indeed, it would not surprise me if no single person has read every word of the bill, though obviously each of the bill’s many provisions has been read by someone).
Of course, even if someone had read every word of the bill, this would not be sufficient to have a truly informed position on it. To have a truly informed position one would have to not only read the bill but understand it. And to do that would require a great deal of knowledge about fields as complicated and diverse as the law, medicine, political science, economics, bureaucratic management, etc.
And, mind you, even if one were somehow able to master and muster all of this information, that would only entitle one to a have a truly informed position on that one bill.
I give an incredulous salute to the liberal Commonweal for publishing a magnificent column by Kenneth Woodward where he discusses the New York Times Magisterium:
No question, the Times’s worldview is secularist and secularizing, and as such it rivals the Catholic worldview. But that is not unusual with newspapers. What makes the Times unique—and what any Catholic bishop ought to understand—is that it is not just the nation’s self-appointed newspaper of record. It is, to paraphrase Chesterton, an institution with the soul of a church. And the church it most resembles in size, organization, internal culture, and international reach is the Roman Catholic Church.
Like the Church of Rome, the Times is a global organization. Even in these reduced economic times, the newspaper’s international network of news bureaus rivals the Vatican’s diplomatic corps. The difference is that Times bureau chiefs are better paid and, in most capitals, more influential. A report from a papal nuncio ends up in a Vatican dossier, but a report from a Times correspondent is published around the world, often with immediate repercussions. With the advent of the Internet, stories from the Times can become other outlets’ news in an ever-ramifying process of global cycling and recycling. That, of course, is exactly what happened with the Times piece on Fr. Murphy, the deceased Wisconsin child molester. The pope speaks twice a year urbi et orbi (to the city and to the world), but the Times does that every day.
Again like the Church of Rome, the Times exercises a powerful magisterium or teaching authority through its editorial board. There is no issue, local or global, on which these (usually anonymous) writers do not pronounce with a papal-like editorial “we.” Like the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the editorial board is there to defend received truth as well as advance the paper’s political, social, and cultural agendas. One can no more imagine a Times editorial opposing any form of abortion—to take just one of that magisterium’s articles of faith—than imagine a papal encyclical in favor.
The Times, of course, does not claim to speak infallibly in its judgments on current events. (Neither does the pope.) But to the truly orthodox believers in the Times, its editorials carry the burden of liberal holy writ. As the paper’s first and most acute public editor, Daniel Okrent, once put it, the editorial page is “so thoroughly saturated in liberal theology that when it occasionally strays from that point of view the shocked yelps from the left overwhelm even the ceaseless rumble of disapproval from the right.” Okrent’s now famous column was published in 2004 under the headline “Is the New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?” and I will cite Okrent more than once because he, too, reached repeatedly for religious metaphors to describe the ambient culture of the paper.
My friend Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia takes the clueless David Brooks, a “conservative” commentator who endorsed Obama in 2008, to the verbal woodshed.
… The center has been losing political power pretty much my entire career. But I confess that about 16 months ago I had some hope of a revival. The culture war, which had bitterly divided the country for decades, was winding down. The war war — the fight over Iraq and national security — was also waning.
The country had just elected a man who vowed to move past the old polarities, who valued discussion and who clearly had some sympathy with both the Burkean and Hamiltonian impulses. He staffed his administration with brilliant pragmatists whose views overlapped with mine, who differed only in that they have more faith in technocratic planning.
Yet things have not worked out for those of us in the broad middle. Politics is more polarized than ever. The two parties have drifted further to the extremes. The center is drained and depressed.
History happened. The administration came into power at a time of economic crisis. This led it, in the first bloom of self-confidence, to attempt many big projects all at once. Each of these projects may have been defensible in isolation, but in combination they created the impression of a federal onslaught…
Yeah, that’s it – “History happened”. What a bilious load of vomitous nonsense and absolute crap!
How about this for a REAL explanation, Mr. Pantcrease Admirer:
All the “post-partisan” posing was a lie. You KNEW it was a lie, but WANTED to believe the lie, so you CHOSE to believe it. You then aided and abetted the lie by writing glowingly of the “moderate” credentials of a man who had NEVER exhibited one iota of political centrism in his entire (albeit short and unremarkable) political career, all the while trashing the REAL centrist in the race who, ironically, you had up until then spent the previous 8 years heralding, fellating, and otherwise trying to foist upon the rest of us.
Meanwhile, all us yokels out here in Jesusland saw right through the lie and chose NOT to believe it. For that, you belittled us, called us a “cancer”, questioned our intelligence and intellectual curiosity, and treated us as generally inferior to your more sophisticated and urbane sensibilities. Maybe the “uneducated class” is a whole lot smarter and more politically astute than the coastal elites in the “educated class” give us credit for. At the very least, it appears that the riff-raff are a whole helluva lot smarter than you are.
[Update at the bottom of this post]
Salvete TAC readers!
Here are my Top Picks in the Internet from the world of the Catholic Church and secular culture:
1. The USCCB scandal continues as the U.S. bishops continue to issue denials of wrongdoings.
Mary Ann of Les Femmes blog asks why does the USCCB continue to cooperate with evil.
An interesting twist to this story is how the Boston Globe and New York Times covered the homosexual pedophile abuse scandal in the Church quite vigorously yet not one peep when the USCCB is caught red-handed with direct links to anti-Catholic organizations.
2. A great discussion about the origins of the phrase, “The Dunce Cap“, provided for a clarification by Friar Roderic. He provided a video that explains the steady progression as a Protestant insult, ie, to call Catholic dunces for being aggressive in their Catholic beliefs, to the more secularized version which has turned it into a catch phrase for idiocy.
Here is the State of the Union Speech that will never be delivered:
“Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, Distinguished Guests, my fellow Americans. Each year it is a duty of the President to report on the State of the Union to the Congress. Often these speeches have been mere feel good exercises, frequently containing little of substance. Tonight is going to be different. Tonight it is time for blunt truth.
America is a great and strong nation, but in many ways the State of our Union is troubled. We have the worst economy in the last three decades. Signs of recovery are few. I could attempt to assess some responsibility for this poor economy to my predecessor, but that would be pointless. You, the American people, are not interested in blame. What you are interested in is improving the economy, and so far, under my watch, that has not happened. I, in good faith, attempted to stimulate the economy through a massive stimulus bill. Thus far the results have been meager for the amount of money spent. Time for a course correction. Beginning tomorrow I am going to hold meetings with the Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress. The economy is my number one priority, as it rightly is yours, and I am open to all ideas, from whatever source, to jumpstart the economy and return us to the path to prosperity. If taxcuts and spending cuts are necessary to get the economy moving, so be it. Whatever works is my watchword on this key issue. To quote another President from Illinois, “The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present.” I am a Democrat, by the standards of many Americans a Liberal Democrat. I’m proud of this, but I will not allow my adherence to certain beliefs to stand in the way of improving the economy. Time for us all, past time, Republicans, Democrats and Independents, to work together to get out of this recession. This is my chief concern and I will do whatever it takes to accomplish this task.
[Updates at the bottom of this post as of 1-27-2010 at 4:20pm CST]
Victimhood personified by a modern liberal of the Democratic Party. Where is Harry “the BUCK stops here” Truman?
Symbolic Politics and Liberal Reform, Dec. 15, 1972
“All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling,” wrote Oscar Wilde, and I would like to suggest that the same can be said for bad politics. . . .
It seems to me that the politics of liberal reform, in recent years, shows many of the same characteristics as amateur poetry. It has been more concerned with the kind of symbolic action that gratifies the passions of the reformer rather than with the efficacy of the reforms themselves. Indeed, the outstanding characteristic of what we call “the New Politics” is precisely its insistence on the overwhelming importance of revealing, in the public realm, one’s intense feelings—we must “care,” we must “be concerned,” we must be “committed.” Unsurprisingly, this goes along with an immense indifference to consequences, to positive results or the lack thereof.
I made the mistake of following a link to a Frank Rich column this morning — an activity liable to cause lowed IQ, severe irritation, or in extreme cases, the gnawing off of one’s own arm. In an effort to channel possible side effects into a vaguely positive outlet, I hope that readers will forgive me if I revisit a topic that I already touched on once before: the increasing attempts by Democratic partisans to insist that the only people who could possibly oppose their agenda are evil, racist, gun-toting, potentially-violent freaks.
Like many of Rich’s pieces, this one is wandering and somewhat inarticulate. However, the basic thread is that the right as a whole is made up of violent extremists who should not be a part of the current health care debate in congress. In support of this, he points to the handful of 2nd Amendment activists who have been showing up at Townhall Meetings and other public venues in states that allows the open carry of firearms and exercising that selfsame right. This, he argues, proves that they are just like Timothy McVeigh (after all, one of them quoted Thomas Jefferson, who was also quoted by McVeigh), and to cap it all off some Republicans opposed counter-terrorism bills proposed in the wake of the OKC bombing. Got all that?
A couple things strike me about the unreasonableness of this line of thinking. Continue reading