Shove it down! Ram it through!

Have you noticed how effectively conservatives use talking points? There has been plenty of videos analyzing the use of talking points by Fox News including management memos telling the hosts which talking points to use on any given day. It’s enough to make a person cynical, but it’s hard to become much more cynical at this point.

I was noting recently how some talking points are code words. Palin’s use of “real Americans” and “hockey mom” are code words for white Americans. The hockey mom was particularly interesting. First, it’s  sport that was originally popularized in Northern states which are predominantly white. Second, because of all the gear, it’s an expensive sport and so poor minority families couldn’t afford to pay for the gear.

There are tons of these talking points and code words. I’m sure people have written books analyzing them. I had one particular example in mind. I came across a discussion about health reform and a righwing commenter used the talking point about having the bill “shoved down our throat”. There are variations on it such as “rammed through”, but the phrasing doesn’t diverge much. It gets repeated by Republicans in Washington and it gets repeated on Fox News.

I was trying to find a specific video I had seen about it. Someone had put together a bunch of clips of this talking point. I can’t remember if the whole video was about Fox News, but at least part of it was. The video showed the Fox News reporters and hosts repeating the talking point over and over. Then the video showed a clip of Fox News version of a debate about health reform, but of course the debate only included conservatives. They invited some old people on to express their views and one old person repeated tha same talking point. Obviously, this old person had been watching a lot of Fox News and had picked up the phrase. That is how it works. Repeating a simple phrase enough times causes people to unconsciously take it in and start using it themselves. I’m sure that old person didn’t even know he was repeating a talking point. It’s the same principle as advertising. Repeat, repeat, repeat, and keep on repeating.

I think that particular video might have been from Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, but for the life of me I couldn’t find the video. I was surprised that I couldn’t even find much discussion about that particular talking point. I just found some references to it in forum discussions and whatnot. I thought that strange. I felt like I was going mad and was glad to find even slight mentions about the talking point. I’d think it would get more media attention, but the media is in the business of spreading talking points and not in the business of analyzing them.

I did finally find one video that refers to it and it was actually another video I had previously watched. It’s Bill Maher and he is on a roll in this video. Maher can be a very funny guy. In this video, he is in top form. He only briefly talks about it around the halfway point (4:40), but it’s hilarious.

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.

Bill Maher on Obama

I totally agree with Maher’s view on Obama.   I wish Obama was more liberal and more tough on big business.

In a recent post (The Authoritarians and the Bush Family) I wrote about the views of Russ Baker.  One thing I meant to mention was that Baker thinks Obama is either (intentionally or unintentionally) essentially the same as Bush on many of the major issues.  Baker pointed out that this isn’t to say that Obama is part of some conspiracy, but it’s simply that the powers that be are so institutionalized and so well established that it may not matter who gets elected president. 

Between the CIA and big business, a president is constrained by so many power players behind the scenes that have enormous influence.  A president has the choice of playing along with these covert forces or else become impotent in trying to get anything accomplished. 

The far right is worried about socialism.  What they should be worried about is some form of fascism.

All of this isn’t conspiracy theorizing.  It’s simply looking at the facts and realizing that there is more going on than what is presented in the news.  The nefarious history of the CIA and big business is there for anyone who wants to know.  It’s not esoteric knowledge.  Just spend a few months doing detailed websearches and buy a few select books, and the obvious will become apparent to you.

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.