Re: Another Look

1

You probably think I despise Kaus because of my cultural conditioning.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-22-08 3:03 PM
horizontal rule
2

Paglia is the only person in anything near the mainstream press who takes that seriously and tries to address it with actual insight

I know that Kaus is frequently horrible, but very few other writers, particularly nationally read writers, do this kind of self-reflection.

I love you, ogged.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-22-08 3:03 PM
horizontal rule
3

OT: Someone give Farber a link and plug, please. Liz?


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 04-22-08 3:16 PM
horizontal rule
4

This is genuinely difficult problem: how to explain social phenomena without condescending to the people being described.

I'm not sure I think it's that hard a problem, ogged. WJC was, and Obama appears to be, pretty good at finessing this tension. People can usually tell, from a variety of cues, whether you like and respect them even when you disagree with them. (Sommerby once pulled a piece from WJC's biography to make just this point.) And I think that usually they don't even demand that you like and respect each and every part of them; they just want to know that you sincerely like and respect some part of them.

Perhaps this is why we don't find it quite so difficult to criticize our friends, even when we claim that their mistake lies in the structure of their lives.

Kaus's problem--which is different than Obama's--is that he's not really a people person. Liking and respecting them is not really on the table.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 04-22-08 3:20 PM
horizontal rule
5

Would Obama be in more or less trouble if he'd said that they beat their wives and girlfriends to compensate for their lack of power? Or that they turn to meth to escape their hopelessness?


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 04-22-08 3:24 PM
horizontal rule
6

5: He'd be in less trouble if he was a Republican. You'll notice that Kaus' posts are always aimed in one direction.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-22-08 3:26 PM
horizontal rule
7

It's about 10% insight and 90% "did I mention that I'm not as bad as Obama, who condescended mightily when he condescended to condescend?"


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-22-08 3:28 PM
horizontal rule
8

5: The wife-beaters and meth-heads would have rightly objected to this condescension.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-22-08 3:30 PM
horizontal rule
9

6. He's only in trouble because he needs the votes of the people he was disparaging. When McCain disses the latte sipping Volvo drivers, he is not courting their vote. That kind of pandering is reserved for the evangelicals, but of course the guns nuts don't ask why we need the Bible thumpers.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 04-22-08 3:31 PM
horizontal rule
10

Kaus's problem--which is different than Obama's--is that he's not really a people person.

Man, that really crystallizes my thoughts on Kaus. Watching him and Bob Wright together, it's like a nephew looking in on his kooky housebound uncle that he dutifully takes care of.


Posted by: Klug | Link to this comment | 04-22-08 4:06 PM
horizontal rule
11

Kaus's problem is that he is a colossal, flaming asshole with a creepy predilection for theorizing about the sex lives of minorities.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 04-22-08 4:11 PM
horizontal rule
12

My reaction was quite similar to Cala's, my full appreciation is blocked by Kaus's condescension. (I will grant that Kaus does seem to have been concerned with "social equality" dating back at least to The End of Equality from 1995.)

||
Semi-OT: If you want a campaign post with some actual substance rather than "self reflection", I strongly recommend Bérubé's latest at CT. A lot of info on Obama and HRC's positions on "Disability" and a discussion of why we all care, whether we realize it or not.
|>
If you want a


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-22-08 4:19 PM
horizontal rule
13

It's not condescension because nobody in China believes in the party. We pretend to believe, they pretend to govern. If you're talking about eating dog, that's totally different.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 04-22-08 6:59 PM
horizontal rule
14

We pretend to believe, they pretend to govern.

Wasn't the old Soviet joke "we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us"?


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 04-22-08 7:04 PM
horizontal rule
15

Trolling only works if you don't do it too often too soon.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 12:02 AM
horizontal rule
16

Isn't the issue that all the concern about 'condecension' is phony? Having opinions about what's in someone else's best interest isn't innately condecending, and people like Kaus who pretend that it is are just trying to come up with a stick to beat anyone who gives a damn about anything other than the market with.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 5:40 AM
horizontal rule
17

Having opinions about what's in someone else's best interest isn't innately condecending

Probably not. But I think certain types of people on both the left (I want to say "technocratic universalists," which probably includes a lot of the well-known soft left) and right (e.g., Kaus) have a specific general formulation that is condescending: "I'm obviously right, which the poor dears would recognize if only they weren't such stupid fucks."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 6:43 AM
horizontal rule
18

I agree with LB's 16, but the evidence indicates that it's very easy to get people riled up about such "condescension." It's at least 50% of Rush's schtick (the other 50% being outright racism/sexism/etc.). People really do hate being told they're wrong*, and it's very easy for demagogues to make the argument "They think you're stupid." In fact, that exact line is used by a local Rush clone in ads for his show.

Digby (I think) was talking about this yesterday - people who've been conned feel ashamed, so even pointing the finger at the charlatan tends to make people defensive. You could "prove" to every single person in America that Rush has been lying, and it wouldn't change more than a handful of minds, because accepting that he's been lying is tantamount to accepting that you're the dupe.

I honestly don't know how to escape this; it's a thought process that leads me to utter despair.

* Which is why the human brain is so good at fabricating the past - I'm sure nearly all of the 2/3 of Americans who think the war was a mistake believe that they opposed it, when simple math shows they must not have.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 7:28 AM
horizontal rule
19

utter despair.

That said, there's a part of me that believes - as I said in the Israel/Iran thread yesterday - that President Obama would have the skills and the bully pulpit to do at least some deprogramming. Probably the way to do it is through, yes, class warfare. "Rush's interests, Charlie Gibson's interests, are not your interests." Of course, the President can't name names - he would need to talk in general terms, and his media machine (that would be us, more or less) would need to fill in the blanks for people.

I suspect that Obama feels that he's more effective with a strictly positive message, but I think we need to push back, not just push forward (the metaphor works, btw - the Rs are pushing us to the right; if we only move forward, they still keep pushing us rightward; we need to push leftward and forward if we want to get where we want to be).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 7:38 AM
horizontal rule
20

People really do hate being told they're wrong* *Which is why the human brain is so good at fabricating the past

The former is true, the latter not so much. That, though, is neither here nor there.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 7:46 AM
horizontal rule
21

You don't think that people produce retroactive rationalizations and soft memories?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 8:20 AM
horizontal rule
22

21: I do, I just don't think that's why they do it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 8:24 AM
horizontal rule
23

Huh. Why do you think they do it? (Note, I don't think that this is done exclusively (and certainly not consciously) to avoid admission of wrongness, but I do think it's what happens in practice).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:07 AM
horizontal rule
24

23: well, I think that memory, as such is "soft", because it's a fragmentary record of fragmentary information. Also, narrative consciousness itself is mostly retroactive rationalization. The brain is tremendously biased towards trusting it's own judgment -- otherwise it'd be impossible to actually accomplish anything. So in that sense, the bias is to create a logical story where you understood things correctly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:19 AM
horizontal rule
25

The brain is tremendously biased towards trusting it's own judgment

OK, I don't actually see this as disagreeing with my "People really do hate being told they're wrong ... Which is why the human brain is so good at fabricating the past." Even people who are pretty OK with criticism and upfront about admitting wrongness tend to emphasize the extent to which they were correct - "Of course I expected the Pats to win, but I did think that the Giants D-line would be formidable." That sort of thing.

What this means in practice is that you can't simply tell people they were wrong; you need to give them an "out," a way to tell themselves that they were right all along, albeit with different apparent results.

I might add that this is part of why framing arguments are legit - don't tell someone that they're wrong to support torture, tell them they're right to want effective interrogation, but the most effective interrogation isn't torture. This doesn't work on hardcore torture advocates, but it brings the fuzzy middle back to your side.

It's also why I think that the class war approach can work - it tells people who've been blaming gay Mexicans for all their problems that there really is a bogeyman, just not the one they thought it was.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:40 AM
horizontal rule
26

People finding out that they were wrong in the past produces cognitive dissonance. Which is exactly the sort of thing that memories end up smoothing over.

Where's the disagreement here?


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:44 AM
horizontal rule
27

Really I was only disagreeing with the direction the causality flowed. People hate to be told they're wrong because they don't like to be wrong (for very good reasons), which is also why the brain is so good at fabricating the past.

Really, boring and subtle bit of nuance, is all.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:47 AM
horizontal rule
28

26: there isn't one, I don't think. We're both right!

At least, that's how I remember it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:48 AM
horizontal rule
29

What this means in practice is that you can't simply tell people they were wrong; you need to give them an "out," a way to tell themselves that they were right all along, albeit with different apparent results.

I think (as with claims that they've been conned) it is a mistake to believe this applies uniformly, and the mistake leads to reasonable charges of condescension. Sometimes they just disagree with you, and arguments about how they were really right and really agreed with you smell of snake oil. But just because they disagree with you in one area--and may even vote against you because of that in the next election--doesn't mean deals can't be struck and that they won't vote for you the next time around. I think both WJC and Obama understand that, and manage that well. Obama just got caught conning the Nation folk, and it rebounded badly for him.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 9:54 AM
horizontal rule
30

Sometimes they just disagree with you, and arguments about how they were really right and really agreed with you smell of snake oil.

Absolutely. But if you want to achieve something transformative, then you need to tap into people who are ready to change their minds, but need that "out." We don't need the 30% of Americans who still think the war is great. But we do need the 40% who thought the war was great in March 2003 but think it's a disaster 5 years later. Howard Dean would still be a bad candidate to reach those people, b/c they'd remember how he told them (implicitly) they were wrong at the time. Whereas Obama doesn't directly evoke those fraught times, and makes it easy for people to believe that he and they always agreed, more or less. Same deal with the Republican Kool Aid of the last 30 years. Most Americans have spouted various R talking points over the years; it'll be a challenge to get them to stop believing that shit, but we need to do it (getting their votes while they still believe in deregulation and Free Market Magic just means another hamstrung Dem administration).

Obama just got caught conning the Nation folk, and it rebounded badly for him.

What's this?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-23-08 10:17 AM
horizontal rule