Saturday, November 06, 2004

How and why?

When I was a kid, the "how and why" books were among my favorites at the school library. First of all, they were interesting, encompassing many subjects so if one book didn't do it for you very likely another one would. Secondly, they didn't talk down to you, like so many books written for children, but rather spoke plainly but directly on the given topic. Third, well... there really wasn't much competition, given how limited and meager size and breadth of the grade school library collection.

When debating the 'how and why' of the latest election debacle, we should try and remain true to the principles I've identified above. First of all, we should try and take into account the wide range of possible explanations that might explain it. Secondly, we should follow Occam's razor: the simplest, most direct explanation is typically the correct one. And thirdly, we need to take into account the origin and quality of competing explanations.

Sadly, Secular Blasphemy, which can usually be counted on for provocative if not necessarily intelligent takes on issues, fails on all three counts. He fails to address all of the information that is out there, particularly the extensive exit poll data from CNN, in dismissing the importance of 'values voters' and embracing the notion the Bush won due to his on-the-job 'performance,' particularly with regard to terrorism. Secondly, in discarding what our 'lying eyes' tell us regarding the impact of religion and 'values voters,' he discards Occam's razor for an overly intellectualized analysis: in plain English, for a 'rationalization.' Thirdly, he fails to take into account the origin of the revisionist history. Listening to David Brooks is one thing, actually believing that anything he writes is not for the express purpose of pushing the 'Moralist-Leninist' line of God's Official Party (GOP) is quite another. If Brooks is pushing a line of interpretation, then you can be sure the GOP has a reason for his doing so. And in this case the GOP is terrified of the idea that people will realize that the flat-earthers won them the election, because that identifies the GOP with the anti-evolution core of their party, which is not the image they wish to project.

Now, of course, it is true that red-neck fear and loathing of a lesbian planet is what propelled Dubya to victory. But that is not the explanation that comports with the image that the GOP wants reinforced. This should not surprise us, since the same principle is at work in their depiction of the splendid little war in Iraq and the the state of the national finances: truth is sacrificed for the sake of greater good: the good of the GOP, that is.

After all, it is only the cheese-eating, wine-sipping, effete, liberal surrender-monkeys that must be tagged with unflattering stereotypes. And by swallowing--as we say in English: hook, line and sinker--the disinformation being peddled by the usual suspects, Secular Blasphemy has played a small but essential part in legitimizing the machinations of the GOP propaganda machine.

That is the how, now the why.

The usual reward of revisionism is inflated feelings of intellectual superiority. The forbidden pleasure of intellectual sin is the feeling that somehow you have uncovered a 'truth' hidden in plain sight--hence the endless allure of revisionism. This applies even if others have also shared your insight; in fact, these others help 'validate' it--just so long as the revisionist position is controversial and over-intellectualized. Add to that the malicious shadenfreude implicit in the cheap shot taken at Daily Kos for even suggesting that the Dems push back (rather than roll over and play dead) on the 'mandate' spin wars. Intellectual vanity and shadenfreude: we've got a poisonous brew steeping!

A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but it is often the vanity of intellectuals that often leads to their own--unknowing--self-prostitution in the service of a far larger lie. The work of Rudyard Kipling comes to mind...