Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Interesting distraction.  Blogger tells me I could make about $11/month with AdSense on my blog.  I'm thinking that's about $0.11/month for the privilege of irritating each of my regular readers. I refuse to do this.  So don't think you aren't loved.  You are loved at least eleven cents a month's worth.

Outside my office door today, co-workers complained that Trump is bringing in the KKK with his cabinet appointments, and worried with all this Russian influence that we are headed for a dictatorship.  Both have graduate degrees, and are people with whom I have discussed Kafka or the Peloponnesian War, or pressures on Sami culture within the last week. Here is the interesting part that is not often noted in the conservative press.  They both giggled over saying parts of this.  I don't think it was nervous laughter by the sound of it.  I think it was the joy of reciting the Great Secrets of Their Tribe.  They liked bonding and agreeing over this.  Not so hard in a human services agency to find other liberals, sure, but I think this desire to connect - not just to exclude others or demonstrate tribal acceptance, but the simple human need for contact and reassurance is what drives them.

If you really thought we were headed for a dictatorship, or that the KKK was suddenly being empowered in America you wouldn't laugh about it, not even nervously. Therefore, I conclude that something else is happening.  I am reminded of CS Lewis's shock at hear soldiers  during the war say offhandedly that they thought they were being propagandised, and the sins of the Germans exaggerated.  They thought the rich were all lying to them anyway. Lewis wondered at this.  How could men go to die for a country they thought this corrupt?  I think he missed a bit of the understanding of people talking cynically like this. They are trying to show that they can't be fooled, that they can't be take in.  They see through it all.  Their cynicism is only at 1% this strength, but they fear to be seen as a fool.

Something similar is happening with my friends outside the door, and with hurting liberals in general after this election.  Anyone who really thought the KKK was taking over would be taking up arms. They actually only believe a milk-and-water version of this, whatever they say. They want to believe they've still got it right, and the good people around them agree with them. (As they were outside my door and speaking loudly, apparently my disguise is still working.)  They still vote as if they believed the extremity of bad things about their opponents, they still speak that way, and there is a part of them that thinks it might be true.

But not the part that controls their actions.  They don't move to Canada, they just laugh that it would be a cool idea.  They don't start organising groups of trained opposition, not most of them.

The infographic that has been making the rounds about the bias and complexity of news sources (can you imagine that Bethany of Graph Paper Diaries shared an infographic?) is interesting.  First the good points, and they are real.  I have seen liberals circulating this with some amazed and curious comments.  If the general idea that some of their sources are better than others, and conservative sources vary in complexity penetrates at all, I am very pleased. Most will fade back to their previous reading.  Yet if even a percentage get it...

Secondly, it is a good exercise for conservatives for similar reasons.  I disagree with the specifics, but the general idea that some sources need to be held at arm's length is a good one, and recognising that some sources that lean left are still valuable (I personally like The Atlantic) is important.  I opened back my FB follows a month after the election and unfollowed almost all of them again in 48 hours.

However, the specifics are wrong.  In an effort to make a tidy graphic, facts got butchered. The huge difficulty is assigning any semblance of neutrality to that line down the middle.  They are more balanced than HuffPo.  But they are about even with Fox (or sometimes worse), which is presented as a highly biased source.

Let me give evidence.  Today I went over to Volokh Conspiracy at the Washington Post.  First point, yes they do carry VC, and good on them.  They have George Will and some other more conservative columnists.  But let's look at the sidebar of "most read" articles that they would like me to click on. Whenever you go to a WaPo article you get these.  I consider them revelatory.

1. Ethics Experts warn that Trump is 'courting disaster.'
           Okay, let's imagine the headline "Ethics experts warn that Obama is 'courting disaster.' Now or in 2008 or whenever.  What brand publication on the right of the infographic would publish that? NRO and Instapundit would not be that vague with the emotive term 'ethics experts.' We're talking Drudge, Breitbart, Red State here.

2. Trump is Threatening To Wreck Our Democracy.  Blame the Republicans Who Are Looking The Other Way. 
           Okay, " Obama is Threatening To Wreck Our Democracy.  Blame the Democrats who are looking the other way." That fevered "wreck our democracy" stuff only comes off the conservative clickbait sites.  Fox doesn't touch that stuff, never mind the top-of-the-chart complex ones. So the Opinion page of WaPo has some elements reminiscent of The Blaze. Great. Though to be fair, The Blaze doesn't carry anyone like a George Will of the left.

3. 'Real America' is its own bubble. 
           So compare to 'Elitist America' is its own bubble.  This one is better.  It clearly shows that WaPo slants left, but you might certainly see that second headline in a more complex conservative source like NRO, Commentary, The Federalist - as well as the clickbait sites. Biased, but not necesarily nasty.

So for openers from these three, WP leans left and sometimes even wanders into unsavory clickbait headlines.

4.  Review of Rogue One - exempt from this discussion

5. If We Had Taken 'Gamergate' Seriously, We Might Not Have Had 'Pizzagate'  
              If we took…idk, Trayvon Martin?, Sarah Palin? Black Lives Matter? Blue Lives Matter? Who’s what here?  That one is too much of a “huh?’ for me to reverse accurately.  Are they saying if we censored or punished people on the internet then conspiracy theories will be stopped in their tracks?  This has a clear left bias, in picking up the SJW fave of Gamergate and tacking it too the outrage du jour of Pizzagate, but I can't make an equivalent because I'm not quite sure what they're saying.

I'm betting those other sources down the center strip - NYT, NPR, AP, Reuters, etc - don't fare any better when you stack them up

I will repeat one of my general observations:  The rhetoric of the mainstream left is the same as the rhetoric of the fringe right.


Sam L. said...

"Anyone who really thought the KKK was taking over would be taking up arms." They hate guns too much, or fear that they'd kill someone if they had one. Perhaps.

Infographic: I'd move the middle line to the right, given where their line is, one or two lines.

Gamergate: First full-on pushback on "Social Justice Warriors", and trampled them into the dust.

Sam L. said...

About The Atlantic:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Sam L - good article. Yes, they are not much different than Mother Jones much of the time. Ta-Nehisi Coates is so devoid of facts and pumped with emotions and tribalism that I may be guilty of not holding his knuckleheadedness against the Atlantic, because I just skip over him. But they have good articles at times, including people who will shake themselves awake and say "Hey! You know that thing that conservatives have been saying for years? There actually may be some truth in it!" Megan McArdle and PJ O'Rourke have written for them (though I admit I haven't seen them lately.)

Donna B. said...

Political correctness, signalling, emotions, and tribalism... I'm really tired of people who don't recognize at least one of the those in their viewpoints.

And I'm trying to make sure I recognize them in my own...

I don't think they are bad, because I don't think they can be completely avoided, but if unrecognized, they can be poisonous.

RichardJohnson said...

The Atlantic has had some good articles on Venezuela.

jaed said...

McArdle writes for Bloomberg View now as their token "sorta conservative-ish on some issues or can at least do arithmetic" columnist. Often very thoughtful (although she does have more than a touch of Trump Derangement Syndrome); her columns just before the Brexit vote were standouts. Excellent commentariat too, if I do say so myself. ;-)

I'm finding that the clickbait sites and the "we bring you what to think in a five-minute read" sites have become about equally useless. (I can't remember the last time I read anything in the Guardian that was actually interesting, for example.) The more thoughtful sites mix a lot of thoughtless tribal dreck in with the occasional good piece, and this is pretty much independent of their political leaning; even the quite lefty sites have some good stuff (this piece in Current Affairs being my current example).

I'm mostly looking for authors at this point, not publications. And even those authors have areas where they're not worth reading (e.g. Megan McArdle's eighth piece about how Trump Can't Possibly Win!).

Grim said...

"I will repeat one of my general observations: The rhetoric of the mainstream left is the same as the rhetoric of the fringe right."

What do you mean by that?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

You can find people on the right posting unfair and insulting things about Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Photoshops of them doing evil or stupid things. I had some this past election in my email, on FB, or at political sites I visit. Comments sections can reveal some pretty rank stuff. It has been that way for years. Those people are out there.

But they don't seem to be writing for major sources, or getting on TV, not even Fox.

Yet the cruel memes about conservatives are on SNL, or in WaPo, or in my case, in my inbox from cousins. And they are definitely part of the liberal mainstream. Mike Pride is the head of the Pulitzer committee now. He was previously the editor of the Concord Monitor in NH. He's my cousin. His wife posts terribly insulting things, generalisations about conservatives.

Did I answer your question?

Grim said...

Yes, thank you. I understand what you mean now. I was confused by thinking of rhetoric more formally; the rhetoric of the mainstream left on public education, say, might not be echoed on the right. But this is not about rhetorical forms, it's about rhetorical tone.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Good pickup. I was using the popular, not the formal meaning.