Friday, June 19, 2009

The Moderate Voice

I have been dropping by The Moderate Voice group blogsite the last few days. I had been a few times before, but was looking around because my brother had gotten some Walpin info there, exculpatory for Obama.

Just so you know...

They don't actually deserve the label "moderate," but they're close. They have some centrist bloggers, and at least one who claims to be right-of-center, though I haven't done an appraisal of his work. Before I move to an overall commentary on the site, let's do a bit of history.

When I was in college, the idea that the popular culture, such as advertising, sitcoms, and movies, was consistently portraying unfortunate stereotypes of women and blacks was just coming to the fore. The complaint was that these groups were often ignored in spots where they might be expected to have just as much prominence, and when they were portrayed, it was in some demeaning stereotype. People denied it. Then they acknowledged the worst examples as being something that should be excised. But the idea that this was all a ridiculous complaint, revealing an oversensitivity on the part of blacks and women, held on persistently. It held on as things slowly changed, with a large subgroup of Americans maintaining all along that the prejudice-sightings were exaggerated and overinterpreted.

You may take whatever view you please as to how things are now. I don't have TV and don't go to movies, so I am in no position to agree or disagree on the current state of affairs. What is interesting for this discussion is that we can now go back and look at those commercials and TV shows from the 60's and 70's and see that of course they reinforced stereotypes. Everyone can see it now. It seems amazing that anyone could ever have denied it.

Somehow the people then just didn't see. I saw it some, but being neither black nor female, did not have the sensitivity to it that they did.

Were some people oversensitive and overinterpretive, seeing evil and harm where none was intended? Certainly. People with victim mentalities will see discrimination in the slightest difference. But in the main, the complainers were correct. There was prejudice, and it is now painfully obvious.

I think of that when I hear liberal denial of double standards in public discourse. I try to allow for my own confirmation bias and selection bias, but am still left with a large pile of data that seems quite obviously a double standard to me.

Back to The Moderate Voice. One of the bloggers decried the "vile hypocrisy" of a conservative politician, generalizing that to right-wingers in general. Another uses the words "Christianist," "warmonger," and "crazed" pretty offhandedly. One can certainly find such invective in the comments sections on the right as well. But you don't find that in the posts of even most far-right blogs. I certainly don't encounter anything like that from anyone on my sidebar. Even Little Green Footballs, which is pretty over-the-top, doesn't tend to such hyperbole.

When folks on the right use that sort of invective, those on the left are either enraged or simply dismissive that one could even hope to reason with such a ranter. I can play either version of this arguing sport, but merely require that the same rules apply each way.

As with the lack of ability to see what later became obvious with black and female portrayals, I think something similar is going on here. The very simple exercise of "how would this sound to me if the roles were reversed" seems to be lacking.

The Moderate Voice is a center-left blog. And not a bad one. Just not quite what they aspire to be.

1 comment:

@nooil4pacifists said...

Agreed--though I think much of the left are "enraged and dismissive" even absent provocation. They rarely credit the good faith of conservative opponents and inflate hypocrisy to the sole relevant morality (while misunderstanding the concept).

When debating public policy, it's usually wise to avoid imputing motives, concentrating instead on the underlying factual data and the methodology to move from means to ends. I concur that--contrary to the conventional wisdom--conservative blogs and comments are less likely to demonize as compared with liberals.