On Dialogue

Happy New Year to you, JP. I have enjoyed the dialogue as well, from the pleasantries and common ground to the sparring. I’m going to write some thoughts that may seem random, but I will try to weave something together out of it.

2011 was a tough year for a lot of people. The Republicans played flavor of the month, destroying every poll leader they could in turn. Six different candidates have each led their pack, and now number seven is rising. It has been just perfect for the press; all they could hope for. The Right media has claimed that the “liberal press” has driven this circus. But look at the PILE of ads that flow in each primary state.

The destruction came about partially from common sense, but its main architect was the Super PACs, who largely are the support system for Mitt Romney. He is first of all a very wealthy businessman, part of the 1%. He is second of all a nearly permanent campaigner. And next, and maybe most important, he is connected to the political corporate money stream. The barrage of anti-Gingrich ads in Iowa have been – get this – pretty much all true. I personally could go on and on about what a bad, evil man he is, but it is gratifying to see that a lot of others agree. Gingrich is super connected to the wealth too. JP, you say, “Duh! All Republicans are the conduit puppets of the super-rich.” And you are right. The PACs are actually guiding the election. They spoon-feed the press messages while avoiding being themselves the message. We know this happens in both parties, but is most active on the Right these days.

This all says something about dialogue, namely that according to the Supreme Court, money is human speech. Money doesn’t vote, though corporations are supposedly people. Crazy-ass SCOTUS! Money is buying votes. And that is hardly news, either. Bob Dylan says, “Money doesn’t talk, it screams.” But that is not quite true. For the average person, money quietly pushes. After all, if you don’t have or receive the money, then you just see its fruit from somebody else’s orchard.

And what PACs do so well is gray the area between selected actual facts and invented facts, or spin. This is also what the Right talk media machine does (and there is plenty of overlap between those two, of course). The purpose of a PAC is to begin with an ideology and then support it. JP, you fault me for not always backing up my own claims with facts, and you usually do support your own, to your credit. However, you do the same thing the PACs do; select the facts that make your case. And then you do what the extremists do as well, leap to a conclusion, claiming it is now supported. Causal links are hard to make, I admit, but when you can make a legitimate one, then you really have something. When I smell inconclusive logic, I tune out. I put my time into learning the facts and analyzing the process. I admit that this work pushes me away from citing facts, which might be lazy, but I think it ultimately stays closer to the rational and true.

Examples of this faulty process on the right include the idea that the size of the deficit is all Obama’s fault, or that Social Security is screwed until we privatize it, or that any effort of the government is intrusive and bad. You and the left have the same problem when you say that greater power for unions will lead to more opportunity, or that regulating big banks is a straightforward solution, or that nothing good can come from a gas pipeline.

Issues are complex. Choosing the facts on the side that proves your ideology remains a backward approach. The vanity I accused you of, JP, is this alleciage to ideology. It behooves us all to try to stay above this fray. I don’t work for or support any big business I can easily avoid. I try to make up my mind after learning things. I follow a variety of media and opinions, being a fan of few. Politics and economics are like sports, in that they involve both spectating and playing. They are not like sports in that their consequences matter. So be careful and deliberate.


About Jim

I've been leading outdoor environmental education in the YMCA since the 1970s. I love teaching nature, history, current events, being a dad, fixing stuff, groups, and general thinking.
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