21
Sep
08

Sunday News, Sunday Blues. Or, “I’m personally offended you think I’m so stupid!”

Sundays are nice, even though they usually end with a overwhelming sense of anxiety about the tasks of the upcoming week. But they are nice because they offer a chance to catch up on news and read my favorite section of the Times, The Week in Review.

Although I’ve got a lot more to read, and a post to pen about why Sarah Palin is not a feminist (I’m working on that one, it will be up soon), here are some standout pieces so far:

Frank Rich discusses the reign of “truthiness” in the current campaign and the inability of the press to call a lie a lie:

You know the press is impotent at unmasking this truthiness when the hardest-hitting interrogation McCain has yet faced on television came on “The View.” Barbara Walters and Joy Behar called him on several falsehoods, including his endlessly repeated fantasy that Palin opposed earmarks for Alaska. Behar used the word “lies” to his face. The McCains are so used to deference from “the filter” that Cindy McCain later complained that “The View” picked “our bones clean.” In our news culture, Behar, a stand-up comic by profession, looms as the new Edward R. Murrow.

As a social psychologist, I found Nicholas Kristof’s column particularly interesting. He discusses the Republican strategy of boiling down the issues to identity politics of us-vs-them; identities that are misconstrued no less. The effort to “otherize” minorities of any type (based on race, religion, sexuality, gender, etc.) is an age-old tactic that preys on fear and irrationality and, perhaps the most difficult of all to detect, emotional/visceral responses of individuals. The fact that we KNOW Obama didn’t take his oath on the Koran suddenly doesn’t seem to matter; just putting the thought in our minds triggers our fears of what his presidency would look like if he did. We no longer notice that Obama goes to church more than McCain or that McCain left his disfigured wife for a wealthy woman. No, we get trumped because those evil purveyors of linguistic binaries fill our minds with completely fictional characterizations that build upon our fear stemming from a shared tragedy seven years ago. Really, the extent to which Republicans are skilled social psychologists is disheartening.

As Kristof adeptly shows, religion is just a proxy for our more unspeakable prejudices:

What is happening, I think, is this: religious prejudice is becoming a proxy for racial prejudice. In public at least, it’s not acceptable to express reservations about a candidate’s skin color, so discomfort about race is sublimated into concerns about whether Mr. Obama is sufficiently Christian.

The result is this campaign to “otherize” Mr. Obama. Nobody needs to point out that he is black, but there’s a persistent effort to exaggerate other differences, to de-Americanize him.

And third, for now, is an important editorial reminding us of that checks-and-balances system we learned so much about in high school government. The next president will appoint Supreme Court Justices, this much we know; what remains to be seen is how many he will appoint. Supreme Court members shape laws long after the president’s term (or terms) is up. Like it or not, Obama has pledged to introduce moderate judges. McCain has flat-out said that he’ll put judges in place that continue Bush’s radical conservative agenda. Personally, I’d feel more comfortable with a constitutional law professor appointing SC members, wouldn’t you?

Mr. McCain’s justices are likely to join the conservative crusade against the power of Congress. They could be expected to strike down, or sharply limit, federal power to protect clean air and water; ensure food and drug safety; safeguard workers; and prohibit discrimination against women and minorities. They would also likely further erode the separation between church and state.

In sum, these articles all get thrown onto my pile called “how-on-earth-could-you-think-i’m-so-stupid”? We ARE smarter than this. We ARE smart enough to know a lie when we see it, smart enough to not have our fears played/preyed upon, and smart enough to understand the long-term implications of our vote. I want my president to treat me with respect, not try to dupe me.

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2 Responses to “Sunday News, Sunday Blues. Or, “I’m personally offended you think I’m so stupid!””


  1. 1 Tim Vogler
    September 22, 2008 at 10:10 am

    Darn right you’ve got a post to pen about Sarah Palin…I’ve been waiting a week goober! Great writing, keep it up!

  2. September 28, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    He discusses the Republican strategy of boiling down the issues to identity politics of us-vs-them; identities that are misconstrued no less. The effort to “otherize” minorities of any type (based on race, religion, sexuality, gender, etc.) is an age-old tactic that preys on fear and irrationality and, perhaps the most difficult of all to detect, emotional/visceral responses of individuals.

    Sadly they use it because it works exactly the way they want it to and those of use who think for ourselves are helpless to stop it because you can’t force someone to actually think.


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