Fear, Evil, and Hate

This video by Penn Jillette has got my brain working a bit. In it he tackles the demonization of the Bush and the right wing by many on the left.

Many … seem to have this feeling, if you boil it all down, that Bush and McCain and Palin agree with the Democrats 100% on everything, and are then doing the opposite. They do not agree that there is a disagreement. They do not believe that Bush is a person who is trying to do the best he can do, who is wrong. He’s wrong about God, he’s wrong about war, he’s wrong about the economy, he’s wrong about who to trust, he’s wrong about just about everything, but he is wrong, he is not evil, he is not malicious.

(emphasis mine based on tone of voice)

Penn dubs this trend “hate”. I think it is simply intellectual laziness. Partisans on both sides refuse to admit that the other side has a right to hold opposing views and refuse to consider what would lead the other to form those positions. Liberals tend to assume it is pure ignorance, conservatives tend to think it is naiveté. It’s easy to believe this, and it displays a lack of empathy, a dehumanization of the other side. The faceless spectre of the red godless communist is not much different than the stereotype of the ignorant red-state yokel, or the money-grubbing CEO, or the corrupt politician. All of these characters actually do exist but they are the vast minority. All leftists aren’t trying to overthrow the government, all politicians are not evil.

I think that Bush actually believes what he says. That doesn’t make me want him as my president, but it doesn’t make him a devious evil mastermind. I also think he should be held accountable for going to war without proper cause. But he didn’t start a war because he likes killing people, he started a war because he thought it was the right thing to do.

This:

doesn’t advance the debate, it hinders it.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Fear, Evil, and Hate

  1. DJA

    Why should I care whether Republicans sincerely believe in thier terrible policies or not? Sincerity doesn’t make their policies any less terrible.

    Plus, you know who was totally sincere in his beliefs? George Wallce. But it’s hard to see how that makes him better as a person.

    Also, you know, when the Republican vice presidential candidate is going around saying that the Democratic candidate “pals around with terrorists,” etc, I have a hard time taking Jilette’s whinging about “Bush hatred” by generic unnamed “lefties” all that seriously. Tell you what, he can get back to me as soon as people start yelling “Kill him!” whenver McCain’s name comes up at an Obama rally.

  2. Mafoo

    Ha, I was trying to decide whether to write about this or the Wallace comparison. I think Lewis’ comparison was apt in that Palin has been catering to the ignorant minority that believe that Obama is arabic, is terrorist friendly, etc. Actually it’s really making me fucking worry about Obama. And McCain’s bullshit playing the victim last night was simply sad.

    Why should I care whether Republicans sincerely believe in thier terrible policies or not? Sincerity doesn’t make their policies any less terrible.

    As you know I’m a fan of Obama’s ‘understand your opponent’ rhetoric over Clinton’s ‘kick your opponent’s ass’ rhetoric. The Republicans’ policies have been fucking horrific, but it’s important to understand why so many people believe in those policies. It’s not because they are all stupid. That belief is why Democrats have lost so much in the past. If it weren’t for the stock market crash this would still be a very close race. If the left wants a sustainable chance to govern they need to understand why so many people identify with the Republicans. I refuse to believe it’s because they are all evil and stupid.


    Plus, you know who was totally sincere in his beliefs? George Wallce. But it’s hard to see how that makes him better as a person.

    But remember, the George Wallace reign of terror didn’t end after his national disgracing. He ran again and again and won through the 80s. This is largely because Alabama is racist as shit. But it’s also another thing. Despite being a hate-mongering racist fuck, he had balls, and that is one thing many Democrats lack.

  3. DJA

    it’s important to understand why so many people believe in those policies

    Resentment, fear, authoritariansim, tribalism, ignorance, and the world’s shittiest media. It doesn’t really have much to do with the policies themselves. There’s no such thing as a coherent “conservative ideology” anymore — the only thing that defines the right these days is that they are for whatever pisses off the “liberal elite” (Exhibit A: “Drill, baby, drill!”)

    I refuse to believe it’s because they are all evil and stupid.

    No, it’s because they are human beings, and all human beings are succeptible to manipulation. Especially by practiced manipulators. The modern-day Republican establishment, taking their cues from Nixon, built a formidable political empire on their ability to stoke the flames of resentment, fear, authoritariansim, and tribalism — aided and abetted by the world’s shittiest media, which is in a dysfunctional co-dependent relationship with ignorance.

    One thing that has been tremendously gratifying during this election is the extent to which the scales are falling from people’s eyes, as they begin to realize that the Republicans were never on their side.

    Note that ignorance isn’t the same as stupidity, and if there’s any evil here, it’s in people like Karl Rove. Not in the people Karl Rove has been playing.

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