Read This: Bad Faith

Ever since the McCain campaign put out this little piece of propaganda (in which McCain points out that Obama supported teaching kindergarteners to how to recognize and respond if someone tries to molest them, and treats that like a bad thing, I, who haven’t been exactly slow-to-anger in matters political for a few years, have sort of shifted into an “Incoherent with rage” position. The phrase “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more,” keep popping into my head.
I’m really too angry about it to formulate ideas coherently, but here’s some people who aren’t:

For what it’s worth, I do disagree with Adam on the matter of Red-State folks being stupid. I’m actually breaking with most of my friends — liberal and conservative here, but I don’t think stupidity actually enters into it. In a quasi-unrelated article, Fred Clark over at Slacktivist talks a bit about bearing false witness. One of the things he has to say is this:

Stupidity alone doesn’t make one hostile to irrefutable facts. Stupidity cannot account for their vicious anger when the rumor is debunked — anger at the person doing the debunking, and anger at the whole world for not turning out to be the nightmare they wanted it to be.

Elsewhere, in his discussion of the epic eschatological “prophecy” novel (The scare quotes are intentional, because of my opinion of the authors’ grasp of theology) Left Behind, the Slacktivist asks this:

The authors’ disproportionate sense of the U.N.’s importance and their utter ignorance of its actual role and function cannot be easy to maintain. How do you convince yourself that a topic is of unrivaled significance while simultaneously preventing yourself from learning anything about it?

But no matter how intricate or comprehensive such theories are, the authors can never rest. Unreality cannot withstand the ever-present and unavoidable contact with actual reality, so the lie must always be reinforced and reconstructed.

He knows — knows — that he cannot allow himself to read that article if he wants to continue believing the things he wants to continue believing. In other words, he knows — or at least some part of him knows — that the things he wants to continue believing are not true.

If you’ve ever had occasion to research how a polygraph works, you may have heard that one of the fundamental principles on which it operates is that, simply put, it is harder to lie than to tell the truth. It requires effort. This has nothing to do with being tense or nervous. It has to do with the fact that to tell the truth, all you have to do is recall the truth and say it. To lie, you have to think of the truth, and then go out of your way to avoid it.
So, no, I don’t think the red-state “Reality Show” voters are stupid. Someone who was simply stupid would not behave this way. Someone who was stupid would respond if you could just “dumb down” your message enough. But that’s not what’s going on here. When you show them the absolute, undeniable, incontrovertible truth, they don’t fail to comprehend, they get angry. They don’t just fail at learning the truth, they avoid the truth.
And that’s really something. It’s, as Fred Clark says, a lot of work, and it implies that they actually do know the truth — they have to be able to recognize it in order to avoid it. They know the truth and they are wilfully ignoring it. That’s actually a rather complicated feat of mental gymnastics. That’s not stupidity. It’s insanity.
Yeah. I said it. It’s not stupidity, it’s insanity. The economy is in trouble. We’re stuck in an unpopular, vaguely defined war that isn’t working. Our civil liberties are being stripped away. We’ve become a country that supports torture. And there are still people who want to vote into office a man who would continue the Iraq war for Ten Thousand Years with a running-mate who Doesn’t actually know what the Vice President’s job is. That’s not stupidity. That’s insanity.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein
But I’m not actually saying that as a personal attack or anything. I don’t blame them for their insanity. It’s not like I think there’s something in the water or, outside a few remote areas, the result of generations of inbreeding. No, I think this is socially-induced insanity. Lots of people have pointed out that in the past few elections, many of the campaigns have sold us their candidates by presenting America as a sort of family, and we’ve been trying to “elect dad”. In ’04, a lot of this was about electing a “dad” who could beat up Iraq’s dad.
So here’s the thing. Something happens when you elect your dad based on the fact that he’s big and strong and can kick the asses of the other kids’ dads. You end up with a dad who’s a bully. You know who else says, “He’s consistently done the wrong thing, and I am constantly the worse for it, but I’m going to close my eyes to all that and remain loyal, and if I just love him and do what he says, daddy will stop drinking, and things will all be better someday.”? People whose husbands or dads are bullies.
So no, red states, I don’t think you’re stupid. I really don’t. And I know that you feel like you’ve got so much invested. And I know that it’s scary and painful to face the truth. But the chickenhawks aren’t going to stop warmongering until it stops winning them elections, and the religious right aren’t going to stop hatemongering until it stops winning them elections, and the obscenely rich plutocrats aren’t going to stop destroying the economy in order to ruby-encrust their bald-eagle-tipped walking sticks until is tops winning them elections, and he’s never going to stop hitting you unless you leave him.
Oh, and one more thing. When Karl Rove says– Sorry. I meant, when Karl “John McCain has an illegitimate black baby” Rove says you’ve crossed the line in your smear campaign, you have crossed the line in your smear campaign.

One thought on “Read This: Bad Faith

  1. Adam Cadre

    For the record: I drew (or tried to draw) a distinction between, on the one hand, the types of voters you mention, the ones who steadfastly and angrily deny reality – I think I called them “dead-enders” – and, on the other, the “reality show voters” ones who are just stupid. The “Granny Barbara will straighten Dubya out” woman wasn’t a faith-based voter… she was just dumb as a box of rocks with the smarter rocks taken out of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *