Beck vs Moore & other examples

I heard Michael Moore interviewed on NPR the other day. It was the best interview of him that I’ve come across. He spoke about his personal life which gave the background for what motivates him. He was raised in a politically active family, but fairly conservative. His grandfather was a Republican politician who taught him the values of conservatism such as conserving the environment. He grew up Catholic and still goes to church. He has been married to the same woman for something like 3 decades. He tries to be a good person and live by the principles that Jesus taught. Moore is one of those social justice Christians that Beck thinks are the worse of the worse.

I bring up Beck for a reason. Beck often uses violence as a theme in his show. One particular example was when he was talking about killing Michael Moore and he wondered if he should kill Moore himself or hire someone. I think that is an extreme statement to make on mainstream tv. Conservatives don’t seem offended by such hate-filled language, but if a liberal said something like that conservatives would go batshit crazy. Moore has never made a statement like that. Moore even said he wouldn’t even say he hated Bush even though he strongly disagreed with him. From Moore’s Christian perspective, hatred and violence aren’t Christian values. Also, he believes religion is a personal matter and shouldn’t be used as a talking point or a wedge issue. Moore chooses to live his values rather than righteously preach down at others.

Moore is considered by rightwingers as the most loony of the leftwingers. So, if Moore is the worst kind of liberal, that is a compliment to liberalism. Compared to the worst kind of conservative, Moore comes off as a moderate. Even if you disagree with Moore’s claims or arguments, at least he doesn’t threaten violence and spout hate speech.

This distinction isn’t limited to Moore and Beck.

There was an interview Buckley did with Chomsky. Buckley threatened to punch Chomsky in the face and it wasn’t the first guest he had threatened in this manner. It’s a rather odd response to have in a televised interview especially with someone like Chomsky who is as cool-headed of an intellectual as you can find. Chomsky is very easygoing and quite understanding of those different from himself. Chomsky even defended Tea Party protesters saying that they shouldn’t be criticized by liberals but instead that liberals should try to understand their perspective. Understand the perspective of someone you disagree with? Why does it take a liberal to point out that sympathetic understanding is better than righteous hatred?

Let me provide two other examples.

Compare Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart. Stewart is fairly easygoing although not the intellectual that Chomsky is. Like Chomsky, Stewart doesn’t come off as mean-spirited and always gives people the opportunity to speak and he actually listens to others. O’Reilly, on the other hand, often yells at people, tells them to shut up and talks over them. O’Reilly isn’t always that way, but my point is that he acts that way quite often and Stewart never acts that way. I truly doubt that Stewart has ever told a guest to shut up.

And compare Ann Coulter and Bill Maher. Maher also lets anyone to state their opinion. He has strong opinions, but he doesn’t bludgeon people with them. He for some strange reason even considers Coulter a friend of sorts and has had her on his show. Coulter is very different. She is the most rude and bigoted person I’ve ever seen on mainstream tv. She either intentionally makes offensive statements or she is almost entirely oblivious, but she doesn’t seem stupid enough to be that oblivious.

Obviously, this isn’t limited to the behavior of people on tv. I’ve discussed this topic before and I mentioned the differences between conservative and liberal activists. A clear example are the two sides on the abortion issue. Pro-life activists have committed decades of a wide variety of violence, but I never hear of violence by pro-choice activists. I’m not saying that all conservatives are violent. What I am saying is that the conservative mindset seems to make one more prone to violence. As a contrasting example, I like to bring up the Weather Underground which is considered the most violent liberal activist group in US history. The difference is that the Weather Underground never killed anyone nor tried to kill anyone. In fact, they went out of their way to avoid killing anyone.

Another example is that of guns. Conservatives bring guns to rallies and protests. Liberals don’t. If asked, many liberals support the right to own guns or even carry guns. But, for whatever reason, the threat of violence bothers liberals more… maybe because the violence is typically turned towards liberals. And yet it’s conservatives who feel the most defensive when violence is used against the country.

There are many explanations for why this difference exists. I tend to favor psychological explanations based on personality research, but there are cultural reasons that could be considered as well. Anyways, the reason for this difference isn’t my concern in this post. I was partly just noting the difference as I just heard the interview with Michael Moore. But what ultimately concerns me or rather what makes me wonder is: Why do liberals notice this difference but conservatives don’t? When I’ve seen this brought up with conservatives they tend to explain it away. If a liberal used violence, even liberals would condemn it. But when conservatives use violence, conservatives often will defend it or try to find some kind of rationalized justification. For example, Palin said a conservative who killed some liberals wasn’t a terrorist even though the killing was politically motivated. Even a conservative politician can defend violence and not be held accountable.

As a liberal, I fear violence by American conservatives more than I fear violence by Islamic extremists. And my fear is reasonable. A large percentage of recent acts of violence have been committed by conservatives and often directed at liberals. It’s a fact of life in the US that conservatives are prone to violence. Maybe it’s a fact of life in all countries.

Ann Coulter: Plagiarism (and general idiocy)

Keith Olbermann taking on the issue of Ann Coulter’s plagiarism.

Plagiarism isn’t exactly a big surprise.  Listening to her rant, her words don’t give evidence to a deeply moral character.  Her Christian ideology is filled with the extremes of righteousness, hatred and bigotry.  She isn’t a person who hides her true opinions, and those true opinions are not only offensive but often just plain nonsense. 

To some degree, she is just an attention whore who just says extreme things to get attention.  However, she states her extreme opinions with vehement conviction and she can often be very aggressively emotional in defending them.  This next video is a humorous response to one of her many idiotic statements.

Intelligent Americans?

The first video is commentary about Glenn Beck.

Some people think this proves that Beck is a liar, but I think he simply is inconsistant.  It isn’t even that he is necessarily irrational but that his rationality is swayed by his emotions.  As such, it would be smart to not to rely too heavily on his analysis for objective reporting.  Beck, as I see it, is somewhat hit and miss.  He says things that others won’t say in the mainstream media, but sometimes there are good reasons why respectable journalists stay away from particular topics.

Anyways, emotional as he is, his emotions do resonate with the emotions of many people and so I think it’s unwise to dismiss his view.  It’s important to understand the raw nerve he is touching upon.

More to my taste, these next videos are of Bill Maher.  His comments about America’s stupidity reminds me of Jon Stewart’s criticisms of the low quality of mainstream news reporting and the uninspiring ideal of average joe politicians.  And his criticisms of Bush jr remind me of Steve Colbert’s roasting of the former president.

Maher is what I consider a liberal libertarian which is a stance I respect even when I may disagree with particular opinions.  I think he is almost too easygoing sometimes.  It’s not that he doesn’t have strong opinions, but that he isn’t prone to judging others even when they deserve harsh judgment.

I was a bit surprised that he considers Ann Coulter a friend.  From this position, he strongly defends her right to an opinion.  That is fine as far as it goes and is a very liberal attitude.  However, Coulter’s opinion is far from being equal to that of the opinion of Maher.  Coulter preaches bigotry, she constantly makes slanderous accusations, she is very loose with her facts and never admits she is wrong even when it’s obvious to everyone else.  Coulter lacks intellectual humility which is bad when combined with her lack of intellectual insight.  She doesn’t treat others with the patient listening and understanding that someone like Maher offers to her.

The one weakness of this kind of libertarian liberal stance is that it’s easy for someone like Coulter to take advantage.  What saves Maher from being taken advantage of is that he isn’t afraid to challenge any claim, but unfortunately neither does he often hold a person’s feet to the fire.  It seems that he’d rather not be confrontational to the point of being an asshole.  Unlike Coulter, he isn’t a blustery ideologue nor does he want to compete on that level.  However, he has a very sharp mind and incisive wit that he could compete on that level if he wanted to.

Ann Coulter: Is she really that ignorant and bigoted?

I just watched about 20 random videos of Ann Coulter on Youtube.  That was the first time I’ve watched her for any extensive period of time.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but she was highly disappointing.  Her comments weren’t intelligent or even funny.  She just constantly repeated the same few ideological statements, and whenever she tried to back up her claims with facts it was just silly.  She seemed quite ignorant about the basic issues of politics and religion.  Furthermore, she was incapable of separating her opinions about an issue from the issue itself.  The truth of everything she said was simply obvious to her and she usually refused to even try to rationally explain most of her opinions.  In every show she was on, she made everyone else look smart.

I really can’t comprehend why anyone would take her seriously.  I watched an interview she did with Bill O’Reilly and even he didn’t seem to have much respect for her.  I realize she in some ways is purposely acting like a buffoon, but most of the time it does seem like she actually thinks her loony statements are somehow reasonable.  Also, her views on Christianity are straight out of the most ignorant Bible Belt sub-culture and she apparently believes that the majority of Christians are Fundamentalist extremists.

I could forgive all of this if she were entertaining, but at best she is simply an annoying ideologue.  Her opinions weren’t even that interesting in the way someone like Glenn Beck is interesting, and her accusations were mostly just empty claims and childish taunts.  Maybe her writing is more entertaining, but her tv appearances don’t go beyond ignorant superficialities and stereotypes.

I find it quite scary that someone like her gets so much attention on mainstream media.  It’s a truly sad state of affairs that anyone thinks her opinions are worthy of even the time it takes to dismiss them.  I was considering posting some of the videos and analyzing them, but then I realized there was no point.  It’s easy for an ideologue like her to throw off soundbite accusations which lack any real substance.  However, to try to rationally dissect every instance of looniness would be an endless project.

For example, I could make an argument about Christianity which would put into context her religious ideology, but it doesn’t change anything.  Religious fanatics are religious fanatics.  What more can be said?  Who cares what ignorant religious extremists believe?  I don’t see much difference between her and an Islamic fundamentalist.  She says that the world would be better if it was forced to convert to her narrow vision of Christianity and she seems to think that tolerance for differences is undesirable.  It’s easy to laugh at her stupidity, but Christian extremists are as dangerous as Islamic extremists.  Anyone who pays attention to ideologically motivated violence in the US will notice that most of it is committed by Christian extremists.

I spent a couple hours listening to her and I didn’t gain much insight from it.  According to her, the ideal world would be a Republican theocracy where everyone was patriotic and dissent didn’t exist.  All I can say is that she is living in the wrong country if that is what she truly wants.  Her hatred and bigotry for everything different from her was more than obvious.  She certainly didn’t try hide it.  I accept that she is free to believe and say whatever she wants, but someone please explain to me why the mainstream media thinks the average American wants to hear such ignorance.  Is this kind of inane ranting actually considered worthwhile public debate!?!