"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The height of political sophistimacation

 "Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative."
-John Stuart Mill

This epigram from Mill has been bouncing around my brain for a few days now, sparked in part by an evening of sparring on Twitter with a bunch of dedicated gun nuts who were crowing about the end of the gun registry, and in part by this post over at the Galloping Beaver condemning some of Margaret Wente's recent columns in the Mop&Pail.

 Both bring me to the same conclusion: that conservatives have abandoned any pretense of trying to put together sound, practical public policy based science, professional expertise and common sense and have instead decided to just do whatever they think will piss off "liberals" or "socialists" or "hippies" or whatever nonsensical catch-all label they've adopted this week for their imaginary enemies from Rush Limbaugh, Charles Adler or FOX TV's evil ventriloquist dummies .
We see it every year when they hold Earth Hour. You know the environmental awareness event where everybody shuts off all the unnecessary gadgets and goes without electric lights and stuff for part of an evening as a sort of feel-good event with little actual practical impact on environmental problems that is intended to raise awareness. You might take part, you might ignore it, but to the hard-core conservative base, it is taken as a challenge to turn on every light in the house and idle the truck in the driveway for an hour, just to be contrary and hopefully bait a 'liberal.'

My evening on Twitter with the gun nuts was like trying to push shit up hill. Every time you demonstrated that their argument was nonsensical, they would change tack. You showed via statistics that most gun murders were committed by people without previous serious criminal records, they argued that the government was afraid of an uprising by armed patriotic law-abiding citizens. You explained that no matter many times they had seen Red Dawn and how many guns they cached, the police and military would still have them outgunned, they suddenly wanted to talk about the right to hunt to put food on the table. You point out that they admitted they didn't hunt and they wanted to claim that cars are more dangerous than guns and on and on.
I'd go back and list some of the Twitter conversations if I had an infinite amount of time and patience but the tone of most of the posts from the pro-gun tweeters was "nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah stupid liberals!" They were mostly delighted to have won a victory over the forces of law, order and common sense mainly because they figured they had shown us evil, prejudiced, corrupt, intolerant authoritarian liberals at thing or two.
When I tried to pin down one guy on why the hell he needed a collection of semi-automatic (which sometimes means convertible to full auto) military style weapons, he admitted that he didn't hunt and he wasn't a sports shooter - he more or less said that he wanted to have them because people like me didn't think he should have them. In other words, he wanted them because he thought of it as some kind of trangressive behaviour that would annoy "liberals" and "socialists," which sounds to me like a very dangerous and expensive way to annoy your neighbours just for laughs. If that's all he wants them for, why not just get a yappy dog that barks all night instead of something that, if handled carelessly or used with malicious intent, could leave people dead? 
But no, this gun nut and many others would rather spite "the enemy" than let the police keep a valuable tool.
Speaking of valuable tools, let us move from the aptly named base to the elites: Margaret Wente's column, while it points out that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, then goes on to tell us that poor aren't really poor because they all have colour TVs and none of them are dying of smallpox anymore.

The story is the same in Canada. In Ontario, for example, 65 per cent of the bottom fifth of families by income have air conditioning. Seventy per cent have DVD players, 65 per cent have cable TV, 56 per cent have home computers and 98.9 per cent have colour TVs. (Thirty years ago, even the most affluent families had few, if any, of these things.)
Wow, it sounds like the poor in Ontario really have it easy! Until you think about just how much stupid and wrong is packed into this one paragraph. Many public housing developments or rental apartments come with air conditioning whether you can afford it or not. Getting your TV via cable has been the norm in Canada for about 40 years, especially in cities - have you tried using the old rabbit ears to pick up the new digital signals? Good luck with that.
Wente is correct that not even the most affluent families had DVD players or home computers in 1981, because DVD players hadn't been invented yet and home computers were still in their infancy (The original Apple Mac didn't come out for another few years, though a few of  us already had big 16K or even 32K desktop BASIC machines from Radio Shack. I don't think even the Commodore 64 was on the market at that point.)
As for her claim about colour television being a rarity in 1981, let me say two thing. First, Ha! and second, I'm not sure you can even buy a B&W set anymore, hell it's tough to find a TV that uses a tube anymore. 
What this column, and so many, many more of Wente's have in common is that they are built around her efforts to be contrarian, to challenge what she sees as "conventional wisdom" and "political correctness" - to be a rugged individualist and an independent thinker. Which is all well and good if one is:

  •  a) someone who is an outsider, not a member of The Establishment and former managing editors of the Globe and Mail and the Report on Business are pretty much the definition of The Establishment; and 
  • b) not completely full of shit. Independent thinking still requires thinking, not merely contradicting what a lot of other people are saying and then trying to justify your contrarian position by making shit up. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.

This column, like much of Wente writing is little more than a defence of privilege and justification for being a selfish prick, which is pretty much the entire raison-d'etre for most people self-identifying as conservatives these days. They are selfish pricks who needed to come up with a justification for being selfish pricks, so they constructed a rickety morally-bankrupt psuedo-philosophy to try to defend their awful behaviour.
It was much the same when the civil rights movement was gaining momentum. Lots and lots of comfortable white people came up with all kinds of bullshit reasons that segregation was necessary and even beneficial rather than simply admit that they were racist shitheads. Over time, these bullshit reasons were seen for the bullshit that they were and the racist shitheads recognized as what they were.
So when someone claims they are a Randite libertarian conservative or a lassiez-faire market capitalist -- which loosely translated mean "I'm all right, Jack" -- what it usually means is they are a selfish prick who just doesn't want to admit they are a selfish prick.



Edstock said...

Rev —

Ya gotta believe what ya wanna believe.

"the police and military would still have them outgunned" — just like Mayerthorpe?

"But no, this gun nut and many others would rather spite "the enemy" than let the police keep a valuable tool."

You don't specify, but it seems that the "valuable tool" you are referring to is the Long Gun Registry. The LGR doesn't work, but is a sop to the hard-of-thinking, a motherhood, knee-jerk issue. When you believe in things that you don't understand . . . life can be frustrating for the Right — or the Left.

Some 40 years ago, a libertarian SF writer by name of Mack Reynolds (there's a Wiki) wrote a short story called "Radical Center". With the hard-of-thinking crowding both wings, it's the place to be, lol.

Unknown said...

Mayerthorpe was an isolated incident of four mounties walking into an ambush, not a trained tactical squad taking out a suspect or the government responding to an armed insurrection. Call me when the citizen patriot movement acquires an air force.
the valuable tool is the Long Gun registry. The cops say it is a valuable tool and in this case, I can't see how they are wrong. It tells them who has guns when a thing like a peace bond is issued and firearms are forfeited. It makes gun ownership more cumbersome, thus less attractive. There are a million and one argument in its favour that I'm just not going to bother with here and now.
Is it perfect? No, but I'll take a partial solution to the problem over waiting forever for a perfect solution.
There is no good reason NOT to register firearms, especially now that the money to set up the registry has been spent. There is no logical argument for people in Canada to own large numbers or military style weapons.
Guns are not toys or stamps or hockey cards. They have no other function but to throw lead at a target, and as much fun as paper targets and tin cans are, the danger they pose far outweighs that fun.
Guns are needed for those who hunt for the table and to shoot varmints like coyotes, but none of the military-style or concealable guns the government want to ban are much use for that, unless you want to make a case for the M-60 as the perfect gun for hunting grizzly bears or some crap like that.

BC Mary said...

And here I was, blessing you Rev., for the best laugh in a long time when it comes to the subject of the Alberta political mindset.

JJ said...

Conservatives aren't the only ones who appreciate well-engineered weaponry and detest badly-engineered legislation.

Rev, you know I love ya baby, but being called a "nut" because I own certain property and don't concur with the "progressive" party line on certain legislation is getting a little old, to say the least.

Unknown said...

JJ - I never called you a nut. Lots of people who own guns - probably the vast majority - are not 'gun nuts.' And the vast majority of gun owners are responsible. But the troglodytes I was exchanging messages with the other night were, by and large, not people who should be trusted with anything more dangerous than a damp towel.
Reasonable people across the political spectrum can and do disagree about gun ownership and registration and lots of other issues.
But these were not reasonable people, these were NRA-talking point spewing, knuckle-dragging, blar-har-harring, bona fide ding bats -- in other words, the conservative base

democommie said...

Dear Mr. Reverend Paperboy, Sir:

You have to remember that one of the other defining characteristics of the modern KKKonservatard movement is religiosity and that means no "fun" sex, only the procreative sort between two adult opposite sexuals, at least one of them (yes, of course it will be the man) willing. So, when the opportunity for gettin' ones freak on is sorta removed from the table, well there's gotta be somethin' to replace it.

Gunz are long and hard (at least the long, hard ones) and they have a very satisfying discharge./s

I used to rent a room from a guy who kept seven or eight long guns in the house, none of them secured, with plenty of ammo lying around. He was/is more than a bit rightwing.

His job back then involved going to Fort Drum, NY and other military installations on sales calls.

One evening somebody started a conversation about Type 2A's safeguardin' LIBERTY with their Bushmasters and Glocks. He laughed at them and said that considering what the 10th Mountain Division had available in the way of equipment and personnel he would be betting on the gummint in that fight.

Many of the gunzloonz are very pro-war and military. They also hate the gummint. I'm not sure who they think the gummint's gonna send to pick up their gunz at the designated collection points--it won't be somebody from the EOC.

JJ said...

Rev - Oh, my jerking knee. Sorry!

FWIW I know it wasn't you specifically calling me a nut, I guess it's just that the expression "gun nutz" is so ubiquitous these days, and most of the people using it don't have your rational POV. (I am not opposed to gun control in principle, just the LGR, yet I've been called a gun nut and a teabagger :p so I guess I'm getting a little sensitive.)

Bukko Boomeranger said...

This is why Jaib! Bush! has a chance at becoming Preznit of the (temporarily) Yooknighted States -- assuming it's still in existence as a functioning entity in 2016. (Hopey is a shoo-in for 2012 because the money powers like having a pliant house Negro in charge, and have thus put up a pack of poltroons as his token opposition.) Reichwing fuckwits would vote for Jebby just because they know it would piss off liberals to see another Bush up there. You could tell a reich-winger "If you select this guy, he will send Muslims to come to your house and kill you, but they'll kill the liberals down the street from you first, and you get watch as they rape the liberal wimmens." And the reichwinger would be find with that.

I don't waste time trying to talk sense to such dipshits. Just like I don't try to reason logically with the paranoid schizophrenics on the psych ward where I work. Not worth the calories I expend flapping my jaw.