Sunday, August 14, 2016

Two Posters, One Rant

The biggest problem with the denizens of Bullshit Mountain is they act like their shit doesn't stink. If they have success, they built it.  If they failed, the government ruined it for them. If they get a break, they deserved it.  If you get a break, it's a handout and an entitlement. It's a baffling, willfully blind cognitive dissonance... Jon Stewart
The appeal of such hate speech is that it doesn't look like hate speech at first, so people can continue to think well of themselves while subscribing to it.  It describes an attitude that is present in a mild form throughout humanity. Few people think like this this all the time, and even they not with anything near this intensity.  I know a person who has an enormous degree of resentment which spills out into her politics, angry at people who don't work as hard as she does, and have no obvious disability, but buy nice things with money they get from government and charity.  Yet even she acknowledges that she is lucky in many ways, and recognises that people besides herself might deserve better than life has dealt them.  I know a few others that display more of this attitude that Stewart deplores more than I like to hear.  They put up posters of their own on FB or drop comments at work, many of them unfair.

The group of people I hear this from the most are a subset of Mental Health Workers at the hospital; that is, people who work very hard for not very good money, putting their safety in danger daily and enduring regular verbal abuse, who nonetheless act very kindly to difficult people. While most of the patients they deal with are rather obviously sick and not capable of behaving much better in the moment, there are others - indeed, there are always one or two on any unit at any given moment - who act entitled, as we used to say. They do not seem to be incapable of working, yet they receive benefits in aggregate which are not much less than the hospital workers make. Worse, they have an attitude about it.

Those workers are the people I know who come closest to fitting Stewart's description.  And they aren't very close.  I would like for you to imagine who the people are that Jon Stewart hangs around with every day.  I have no knowledge, but I'm guessing that he doesn't spend a lot of time with the small contractors and appliance repairmen who grouse unfairly about people on welfare and exaggerate how many of them there are. If he actually knew them, he might have more sympathy with them and moderate his words.  He might say "Y'know, Americans overestimate how many undeserving people receive benefits. And most of us aren't grateful enough for the breaks we've received in life." That would be true, and fair. But he would rather paint them in black-and-white.

I searched around for how different the perceptions are among the various American political tribes on the matter, to see if there were any justification for Stewart's cartoon. There's no justification. He doesn't know such people, he just makes them up on the basis of what he reads, and the teensy subset of people who write in to criticise him. His readers don't see it as hate speech, they see it as "strongly-worded," or whatever.

Exercise:  in Stewart's quote, take out the phrase "the government" and put in one of the racism/sexism/homophobia-type words. You might play with the last sentences about "corporate entitlements" or "patriarchy" or whatever if you want to really tighten it up, but it works okay just as it stands.  Imagine any public figure making that statement and the amount of retraction and backpedaling they would have to do the next morning over complaints of their hate speech.  Which would be fair, BTW.  It would be a terrible thing to imply about some group, deeply unfair.  It's one thing to read someone ranting like that in a comment section or typing along on some blog even more obscure than mine, but people with any audience are held to higher standards, and should be.

It's just a lot more fun to hate, I guess, to imagine that the people who disagree with you are not just wrong, not just insensitive and a bit hypocritical, but flat out evil.  Life is simpler that way.

Second Poster: I have been seeing variations for the last three months on the theme of The Reason That I (am a liberal/ don't support Trump/ am not a conservative/ am voting for Sanders) is that
I love my Mexican friends.
I want gay people to be respected.
I think everyone should have the opportunity....

Well aren't we special, then, loving so much and being such nice people. The implication being, then , that the people who aren't like you are...not as righteous as you are.  They don't just disagree with you, they are, by double reverse, not good people.  I wouldn't bring this up if it weren't Christians who were posting it so much. There are half-a-dozen places in the Gospels where Jesus makes it pretty clear that this sort of thinking yourself better than others is a very grave sin. No, no, I don't think I'm better than those others, or more loving or anything.  It's just that...

Yeah you do.  That's what you said, and you meant it.  You just don't like to be called on it.


Sam L. said...

Set #2 sounds rather like what I've read about Pharisees. At least, that's what came to mind. Which reminds me of Social Justice Warriors and their virtue signalling. Which is what the Pharisees are said to have done, if I got the story right.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

You're not supposed to be encouraging me in this, Sam.

Christopher B said...

Part of my annoyance with Stewart's comment is that it's not very hard to find evidence that he and the other glitterati don't think of their careers in this fashion at all. They may give lip service to the fact that one important person noticed them but more often they will opine at length on the struggle and the hard work of entertainment. Stewart undoubtedly knows (even if he doesn't remember) ten people who were equally funny but didn't get noticed by the right people. The woman whose dad had a heart attack and had to go back to manage the family business. The guy whose kid got sick and had to return to the 9-5 grind for a steady paycheck and being home every night. The guy whose car broke down a day or a week before the big show and could barely scrape up bus fare back to get back home instead. I do recognize that they do a kind of work that I'm not suited for but they seem to forget that other people feel they are putting forth just as much effort, often in circumstances that (as in the case of your hospital folks) don't offer any chance of becoming wealthy, or even financially comfortable. Worse they seem to project the realization that 'there but for the grace of God' when they look at people and assume that fate (or luck, or happenstance) played an equally large role in their successes (or lack of).

And the extension is "You didn't build that". The empty suit with no principles or convictions (that he's willing to own up to, anyway) knows he's living on a glib tongue willing to say whatever the person mostly likely to move him up the ladder wants to hear.

Sam L. said...

Not my intent, AVI, just regurgitating what came to mind. Stewart, now, likely doesn't know the people he demeans (I've recently read that Garrison Keillor actually does, or did. And he reminds me of Bill Bryson, as one who has "grown" beyond the "narrow-minded precepts of small towns" in which they grew up.) and does not want to know them. Because he's "better" than them.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Sam, music to my ears. I wrote on this very topic over a decade ago, and I think you will find it interesting.

Brad said...

"The implication being, then , that the people who aren't like you are...not as righteous as you are."
It's an easy trap to fall into, but I see this much more from my Progressive friends than conservatives, although both do it. I will get accused of being bigoted/ racist/ selfish/ heartless/etc because of some policy issue. I usually rebut with something like, "What if you assume I have the same goal as you (reduce poverty/better racial relations/better economy, whatever), but I just see a different solution to that goal? Can we now talk about which policy might be best at achieving that goal without just assuming I must be *bad*"

Sam L. said...

AVI, I actually met PJ, at the Bondurant School For High Performance Driving. Interesting and funny guy. Now, however, I find him past his sell-by date. Perhaps now that he has money and a reputation, he's changed. Or I have, though I don't think so. I've been wrong before.

Brad, that's a great rebuttal line. How often does it work for you?

RichardJohnson said...

The biggest problem with the denizens of Bullshit Mountain is they act like their shit doesn't stink... Jon Stewart

Ironically, "they act like their shit doesn't stink" is the criticism I make of the left side of the aisle. The left side of the aisle spends considerable time claiming that the other side of the aisle is bigoted, prejudiced, ignorant, what have you. I call it the Chevy Chase school of bigotry: "You're bigoted/prejudiced, and I'm not." Which mirrors his line "I'm Chevy Chase, and you're not."

My first exposure to "they act like their shit doesn't stink" came from my high school days in the 1960s. As the offspring of good liberal people residing in NE, we were all aghast at the way blacks were treated in the South.

I attended a regional high school. My home town was more rural, less affluent, and less well-educated than the town that hosted the high school. I found out that many in the host town considered those from my home town to be "dumb farmers." This disdain was not ubiquitous- I was not the only one from my home town on the student council [I'm sure the "dumb farmer" vote in my homeroom helped me get elected] - but it was there. More than one source has informed me it is still there at the high school. A home town friend who attended our most recent high school reunion encountered it at the reunion.

I learned a valuable lesson from this. Classmates in my home town formed in-groups and out-groups. Students in the host town also formed in-groups and out-groups. Those who thought they were free from prejudice, in contrast to those horrible Southerners, had no problem labeling those from my town as "dumb farmers." [Perhaps not so ironically, one who really hammered on the "dumb farmer" theme became a social worker.] I learned from this that we all have our out-groups, we all have our particular prejudices. Yes, all our shit stinks.

Self-righteousness is not confined to any one side of the political aisle. While the stereotype is that those who are religious tend to be self-righteous, this self-righteousness is usually attenuated by the humility involved in acknowledging a Supreme Being much greater than a mere individual. Many on the left side of the aisle lack belief in a Supreme Being, which will tend to reduce their humility and increase tendencies towards self-righteousness. Disclaimer: I am not a churchgoer.

Second Poster: I have been seeing variations for the last three months on the theme of The Reason That I (am a liberal/ don't support Trump/ am not a conservative/ am voting for Sanders) is that...I love my Mexican friends...

I know quite a few Tejanos whose families were in Texas before the Anglos came. One found out that his ancestors were conversos, Jews who had converted to Christianity in 1492. They do not tend to support open borders.

The reason that I would never vote for Sanders is his support of Latin American despots, such as Castro or the Sandinistas, as I previously commented. While Sanders has been very careful to not say anything about Venezuela, if is of interest that both Venezuelan President Maduro and Bernie Sanders have called Dilma's impeachment in Brazil a "coup." Yet the Sanders fanboys scream to the rafters that Bernie's "Democratic Socialism" has NOTHING to do with Venezuela. So why do Sanders, Maduro [and Castro] think the same way on Dilma's impeachment?

Texan99 said...

I just sat through a public meeting concerning a proposed Groundwater Commission. The whole program was badly conceived and alienated the voters with shifty tactics. The essential problem is that our groundwater situation here is a bit unusually and seemingly unlikely to create the kinds of groundwater problems other Texas counties face. But the proponents can't seem to stop themselves from retreating to the argument "If you cared about the groundwater, you'd be giving this proposed new District blank-check taxing and regulatory powers." As if all the people showing up to voice concerns happened, inexplicably, to be fans of destroying aquifers and polluting public water supplies. None of them care about their posterity, and so forth. As Brad said, they'd do better to assume we all want clean water, and are arguing about the policies that are most likely to get us there, without strings attached that will turn out to be worse than the problem.