The Silence is Deafening, but not Illuminating

Okay, don’t worry: this post is not about Rush Limbaugh or birth control pills. Alas! That stories so voluminously begun as the Chronicle of Limbaughpalooza 2012 (or Slutpocalypse Now) should come to so lame and impotent a conclusion. And yet, what kept popping up here in the course of that kerfuffle was an argument that strikes me as residing in the same rhetorical zoo as “when did you stop beating your wife?”- namely, the “silence is deafening” argument. So, let’s pick at that scab, shall we? Now, there probably is a bigger lesson here, in that Liberals seem to have a free-floating belief about the misogyny of Conservatives that they’re more than willing to extrapolate from one example to the whole bloody lot of them; while Conservatives have the same belief in the hypocritical intolerance of Liberals that they’re more than willing to extrapolate from one to the whole. Political philosophies were once about convictions, instead of suspicions, right? Maybe not. Henry Adams defined politics as “the systematic organization of hatreds” about a hundred years ago and that line might even be topped someday.The Silence is Deafening, but not Illuminating

Admittedly, my own silence was deafening on Limbaugh until I had any idea what the hell people were talking about. Not having a television connection, my silence is probably deafening on any number of issues; I have no clue who “Snooki” is, for example. At any rate, the ‘silence is deafening’ argument has generally struck me as illogical, if not plain humbuggery, when it’s applied to individuals, which it quite frequently has been here. Now, by all means, it is a valid argument when applied to the inconsistency of political parties, public officials, or news outlets. But, when private individuals are expected to respond in the same way, it just seems like surrealism to me. Let me try to articulate why that is.

This, as I see it, is a logical inference:

1. Person A tells us they despise a certain behavior for its own sake on an occasion when they see it coming from members of the other side of the political aisle + 2. A fellow member of their side of the aisle exhibits that behavior in a public forum + 3. we know that Person A is fully aware of the behavior+ 4. when pressed on the issue, we know that Person A willfully chooses to ignore the behavior because it is coming from their side of the aisle, and thus 5. Person A says nothing about the behavior from their side of the aisle= thus, Person A is hypocritical when it comes to this issue.

Here is what I do not see as a logical inference:

1. Person A says they despise a certain behavior for its own sake when they see  coming from members of the other side of the political aisle + 2. Another member of their side of the aisle exhibits that behavior in a public forum + 5. Person A says nothing about the behavior from their side of the aisle= thus, person A is hypocritical when it comes to this issue.

Obviously, #3 and #4 are important pieces of information, but the “silence is deafening” argument pretends they’re not. It doesn’t matter if Person A said nothing because they had no knowledge of the behavior, nor if they said nothing because the behavior was so heinous they assumed it was just understood that they found it offensive, nor even if their opinion wasn’t of interest to anyone else; instead, it assumes whatever we want for steps three and four. This is why I’ve said that a fair question would be: “Have you heard about this offensive thing someone else from your side of the aisle did or said recently? Well, what do you think about it?” That seems reasonable to me. What’s not fair, and what we’ve seen much more often here, is to just equate someone’s “silence” with consent or agreement (i.e. “you said this now, but your silence was deafening back then, unless you can prove it wasn’t”) because the logical extension of that principle is something like, “I’ve never heard you say that you don’t think Asian people are an inferior subspecies of humanity and I’m offended that you would think something like that”. This sort of game can go on all day.

It shouldn’t go on all day. Liberals and Conservatives are starting to remind me of an old married couple that seeks constant reinforcement of their worst suspicions about each other. It’s clearer to me what they think of each other than about anything else. Nevertheless, if you want to know what other people think about a particular issue, ask them. Most likely, you’ll be surprised. If not, you can then excoriate them.

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107 thoughts on “The Silence is Deafening, but not Illuminating

  1. Oh, but Rufus, it will go on all day, and all century, and on unto the end of our American Empire, because the Culture War is forever, and it gradually consumes an ever greater portion of our existence!

    Look! Here is Victor Davis Hanson heroically revealing such at NRO’s blog the Corner: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/293336/back-byzantine-blues-and-greens-victor-davis-hanson. Did you know that Obama is actually the one behind the curtain encouraging it all with his black nationalist socialism? I didn’t.

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    • The other day, I saw a headline on Salon for an article, about the writer’s grandmother’s home recipes, that promised to remind us of a time in which home growing and canning was “apolitical”. I just thought, “wait, it’s political now?!” I didn’t read and find out if growing your own tomatoes is liberal or conservative though.

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      • My immediate reaction was “liberal” because of the whole crunchy localism thing, but then I remembered that property owners and grandmothers are both necessarily conservative and the hatred just flowed through me.

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      • If there’s one thing blogs have taught me, including this one (mostly certain commenters), it’s that for some people, everything is political. If you talk about canning too much, someone will say that you’re liberally or conservatively biased, and a fight will break out about it. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before how you take a shit has political implications.

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        • See my first thought was that we have a friend who’s a super-eco and she cans her own tomatoes. But then I thought of the Front Porch guys and their localism conservatism, and I’m pretty sure they would do the same. Plus it’s conserving a traditional practice, which is pretty conservative…

          I don’t know. I’m just waiting for someone to politicize the paper bag versus plastic bag choice at the grocery store. “Paper, of course! What do you take me for?!?!”

          Having said that, you know who started this, right? The left coined the phrase “the personal is political” back in the 70s. That line has always sounded totalitarian to me.

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          • See, I’m not sure Front Porch Republic is all that conservative. There’re shades of Kropotkin-wing anarchism, Marxism, and old school Catholic social welfare there that makes their praise of the old ways more than meets the eye.

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            • Actually, one of the reasons I started blogging was my friend, the hippie, granola, so-eco-she’s-the-eco-expert-on-the-CBC-shows girl- I’m pretty sure she’s a conservative, while the super-back-to-the-local-community, federalist, Catholic, cultural conservatives I meet- I’m pretty sure the’re lefties. They’d get along pretty well.

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  2. The “silence is deafening” is, in my view, part-and-parcel for the larger combination of assumption-of-bad-faith and shirts-and-skins. Not that these things can’t be warranted, because people are often acting in bad faith and shirts sometimes are better than skins. The arena does need its gladiators, I suppose. For the most part, though, I find the discussion dreadfully uninteresting. A whole lot of it is dependent on assumptions of motivation. You’re only picking on Rush because he’s conservative or because he said something against your side and it couldn’t possibly be that you found what he said offensive. You’re only defending Rush because he’s on your team, or you hate women. You only feel this way for this reason. You only feel that way for that reason. That’s not to say that one, or both, of these perspectives are not right, but it seems to have a gravitational force wherein all subjects are pulled into that same discussion. And they allow us to blissfully avoid listening to what they are actually saying.

    I am a fan of the Emerson quote “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying,” but it is too often used as an excuse not to listen to what is being said. I am very, very far from being immune to this.

    On the other hand, my views are built around the conversation that I want to be having. I haven’t worked with a political campaign since 2006 and I’d vote against that guy today, if I could (I did donate to a campaign in 2008, though that was for a primary). I vote as my civic duty, and retain my party membership in large part out of inertia (though my general election voting varies), but outside of that my interest in politics is either knowing what’s going on or alternately having interesting discussions about issues rather than teams. Nothing about this, however, is inherently superior to the person with strong views that the sails should be set to the right or left. It’s simply where I’m coming from. In any battle against Good and Evil, I am functionally useless.

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      • In the same sense that agnosticism is a religion.

        Granted, there are a group of “I Hate Partisanship” people who tend towards the same sorts of stances: The Democrats are too liberal, the Republicans are too conservative, why can’t we have a truly centrist whatnot, bipartisanship makes for good government, what about pragmatism, we’re too focused on ideology, and so on.

        That’s not really where I am coming from, though. I think ideology is very important and that pragmatism is, itself, measured by ideology (pragmatically trying to achieve what, exactly?). In fact, a large source of my frustration is that discussions of ideas continually turn towards discussions of chest-thumping partisan superiority. Less about ideas and more about people. How rotten those rotten people with which we disagree are, and how bigoted they are for thinking that the people I am in league with are rotten.

        There is no sense in avoiding this sort of thing entirely, because there are rotten people out there. It just gets tiresome when the longer a conversation is, the more likely it is to focus on the rottenness of the other side. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that conversation, it is just one I typically find uninteresting because it’s everywhere and my lungs got tired of it a long time ago and the signal-to-noise ratio typically tends to be pretty low. I rarely learn anything new.

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  3. I have no clue who “Snooki” is, for example.

    Treasure this.  Wrap this up in a warm blanket, and cling to it – don’t ever let it go.  Never, ever, ever try to change this wonderful, wonderful gift.

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    • Also, great post.  Over the past month or so I’ve been given a few “SID” arguments about things I had no idea ever happened that were done people I never knew existed.  I wish I had had the clarity of mind to respond in the way you did here.

      I also agree that what defines liberalism and conservatism today seems to have more to do with what you think of the other side than it does what you believe or do yourself.

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      • I also agree that what defines liberalism and conservatism today seems to have more to do with what you think of the other side than it does what you believe or do yourself.

        At some point I will need to write my post on how there is no such thing as “identity politics” because the vast majority of politics is identity: Who we see ourselves as being, who we want to associate ourselves with, and perhaps most importantly who we want to associate ourselves against.

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        • Please do.  I already want to read it.

          I would couple what you just said, though, with my own caveat: once we do connect ourselves with a group like us – and disassociate ourselves with a grow that is “other” – our subsequent choices of what we are for and against, which therefore shape our own identity, are disproportionately colored by those associations.

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        • I remember getting annoyed once at a comment someone posted here and thinking, “Do all conservatives think that way?” Then it suddenly struck me that I was only assuming that the dude was a conservative and that was only because he complained about liberals frequently; but he had never said anything at all about his own opinions- it was just an inference on my part. I decided to keep my thoughts to myself.

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          • In a very large way, the game between liberal and conservative is a diversion and cop-out. Beyond all the talking points are real economic situations that are getting worse and will cause real pain and suffering. We’ve been able to play the conservative/liberal game in comfort as long as government/the Fed was able to postpone the day of reckoning and it all seemed okay in the end. Now, though, economic reality is taking the stage to have its say — the 70 to 80 trillion in unfunded liabilities and the cost of ACA if it goes through unchanged and the stubborn unemployment due to unprepared workers and the pressure on welfare and the doctrine of intervention in the mideast will all create decline and suffering unless radical systemic changes are made — the liberal/conservative game will look very silly as many people suffer, and not just the poor.

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  4. Part of the problem with the public punditocracy is that there are a lot of folks who get paid to go on the television to say “I am shocked, shocked, to hear that people on the other side of the aisle would be so insensitive as to say X!”

    A year or three later, these same people can be found saying “well, you have to understand… circumstances are different and matters of privacy really should be respected by people in the media and this show is an example of overreach when it comes to the privacy of everyone involved.”

    The best one of these, in my opinion, was the whole Anita Hill/Paula Jones thing that happened. It wasn’t the best because of partisan reasons, mind, it was the best because it took place in the space of a breath. We heard Anita Hill’s testimony in October of 1991.Paula Jones submitted her lawsuit in May 1994.

    Far too many cases involve there being too much time between this and that happening making it more than reasonable to conclude that, yeah, someone might have changed his or her mind. “What, you oppose invading Iran… but you supported invading Iraq!” is an argument that *COMPLETELY* does not take into account *ANYTHING* that happened in the last decade.

    Anyway, there are times when the game makes sense to play. The problem is that, too many times, we’re arguing against each other (and we may not have said stuff on the record on any of this stuff) and we use each other as surrogates for the people we *WISH* we were arguing against. I wish I could yell at James Carville… but you’ll do. I wish I could yell at Ann Coulter… but you’ll do. *THAT* is exceptionally unfair.

    Every now and again, however, it’s fun to notice two things that are sooo very similar and happened sooo close together that it’s just a blast to see what happens when folks are called on it (another, recent, example being David Vitter being asked about Eliot Spitzer).

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    • Yeah, and I do remember during the whole Paula Jones thing there being a lot of public speakers making comments where I thought, wait, what?!? I don’t have nearly as much problem with the “silence is deafening” argument when it’s about something that someone actually did say, usually something along the lines of “Oh, well, that’s different though”. That’s a lot different than, “here’s this news story that happened and you haven’t said anything about it- hypocrite!!”

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  5. “Person A tells us they despise a certain behavior for its own sake on an occasion when they see it coming from members of the other side of the political aisle.”

    Actually, it’s more often presented as “Person A tells us that they are morally superior to Person B and therefore ought to listened to because of a certain behavior of Person B.”  The issue is not that the behavior is commented on or not commented on; the issue is the derivation of moral authority from not performing that behavior.

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    • Yeah, I know. I sort of wish everyone was a lot more closely related. It’s a lot easier for me to not get caught up in that because my sister is a godless, heathen, America-hating, hypocritical left-winger and my father is a woman-hating, heartless, anti-poor, hypocritical right winger who votes against his interests.

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  6. What frustrates me is the endless cycles this leads to…

    HEADLINE:  ALL ABOUT RUSH LIMBAUGH

    Person A: What Rush said was gross.

    Person B: Why aren’t you going off on Bill Maher?  SID!

    Person A: Well, what Maher said was gross, too.  But this story is about Limbaugh.

    Person B: Well, why didn’t you make a story about about Maher?  SID!

    Person A: For the same reason I didn’t make a story about Limbaugh.  I simply commented on a story that was already there.

    Person B: It’s all part of the left-wing media conspiracy.  SID!

    Then we get to play THAT whole game.  The biggest problem I have is when major media members, with audiences in the millions, play the, “Why is no one talking about THE OTHER SIDE?” game when A) they are talking about the other side and B) they are as influential on public discourse as anyone and had every opportunity to talk about the other side when they did/do it.

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    • And I will confess that I pulled the SID argument on someone here (probably Tom, but maybe not) a while back, was taken to task, and appreciate posts like this for fleshing out the fallacy of this approach.

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    • Yeah, it’s pretty annoying. Admittedly, though, what probably inspires people to do that about Bill Maher is hearing a few days of:

      “Rush Limbaugh said something pretty horrible the other day”.

      “I didn’t listen”.

      ‘Well, he’s a Republican. And you’re a Republican.”

      “So?”

      “Well, aren’t you going to denounce him?”

      “I don’t know what he said.”

      “Well, it really revealed what Republicans think.”

      “Okay…”

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      • True. But they get tripped up because of all the righteous indignation being thrown about by ALL sides, assume you were up in arms about the OTHER guy, demand that you get up in arms about YOUR guy, and insist doing otherwise is hypocritical. It is not enough to say what Maher said was shitty and wrong and that he is a blowhard who loves the sound of his own voice more than anything. You have to publicly denounce him… Even if you didn’t publicly denounce Rush. SOMEONE with whom you might somewhat identify did, though, and you, sir, are responsible.

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        • Pretty much my view on it. The guy’s made a bundle doing it, and he’s not going to stop any time soon.

          Seriously, the first time I heard Michael Savage, I was driving through Columbia, Mo., trying to find a station that would come in. I heard this guy going, and the reason I kept listening was the idea occurred to me that I’d hit a public access channel and some nutso that needed a bit of attention from the authorities was spewing hate speech. I honestly thought that the man was likely insane and perhaps dangerous, and was considering calling the police.
          Only a few days later, I saw one of his books in the bookstore. I would never have recognized the name had I not been previously traumatized by having heard a chance portion of his radio show.

          But after that, I have a fairly high tolerance for talk radio.
          They’re shock jocks, like Marilyn Manson is to rock ‘n roll.

          I pity the poor guy the D’s have sitting around listening to Rush so they can get upset over things he says.
          That guy’s got a rough job.

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          • Will, I think you’re right. I’ve felt the same pity for the Media Matters dude. Also, I had the same experience with Pamela Gellar. I found her site totally at random while researching the Ottoman Empire a few years ago and just thought, “okay, here’s some insane woman. Poor lady. Hope she gets some help.” It never occurred to me that anyone else had ever read her site and thought anything else until she came up here in a discussion last year.

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          • Marilyn Manson at least has some good songs before he went from being a musician who engaged in shock rock to a shock rocker who engaged in music. I don’t know if these other guys were A) ever genuinely involved in their craft in a serious way or B) if so, if they were any good at it. Listening to Maher on the Adam Carolla podcast, it seems that Maher came up as a straight up comic who dabbled in political humor before morphing into what he is now. Were Limbaugh or Savage ever serious commentators?

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      • Ten to one odds that neither party to that conversation actually knows what Limbaugh said. Usually it just gets reported as “Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute.'” Which is technically accurate in that he used those words, but he wasn’t actually accusing her of engaging in prostitution. It was a metaphor. Not a terribly apt one, granted. If you actually listen to the clip, it’s clear that Limbaugh is vaguely aware of this and is reaching for a better metaphor, but he never quite gets there.

        He was making a perfectly legitimate point about the unfairness of externalizing the costs of private benefits. More crudely than I would have chosen to make it, and not as clearly as he could have, but what he actually said is very different from what’s implied by the decontextualized second-hand accounts.

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        • If it was merely a mataphor, why was Limbaugh talking about how her parents should be ashamed of her, how he’s amazed she managed to walk into the hearing room (after all the sex she’s had) etc etc? What are those metaphors for? And I’m being calm here and asking a question, no need to tell me to ‘calm down’ again :)

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          • And what are these metaphors for?

            Do you realize at the end of the day what’s happening here? The Democrats are putting on parade a woman who is happily presenting herself as an immoral, baseless, no-purpose-to-her-life woman. She wants all the sex in the world, whenever she wants it, all the time. No consequences. No responsibility for her behavior.

             Your daughter appears before a congressional committee and says she’s having so much sex, she can’t pay for it and wants a new welfare program to pay for it. Would you be proud? I don’t know about you, but I’d be embarrassed. I’d disconnect the phone. I’d go into hiding and hope the media didn’t find me. See, everybody forgets what starts this, or what started this whole thing. Or maybe they don’t! Maybe that’s normal behavior on the left now, for all I know.

            Did you notice in that sound bite Sheila Jackson Lee or Maria Cantwell or one of them talked about the strength that Sandra Fluke had to go before Congress, which is amazing. She’s having so much sex it’s amazing she can still walk, but she made it up there.

            Link here, in case people think I’m making it up. Granted, it’s the WaPo (liberal media consoiracy!).

            http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/post/rush-limbaughs-personal-attack-on-sandra-fluke-more-like-20-attacks/2012/03/04/gIQA1OkHtR_blog.html

            And yes, BB, I’m stil being calm, so you don’t need to tell the little lady to calm down again.

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  7. What has always irked me is that the people who make themselves out to be the spokespeople for certain movements or ideas or groups of people generally, and are often taken to be the spokespeople for those groups (Rush is, unquestionably, considered a spokesperson of movement conservatives by many on both the left and the right), are giant asses almost as a rule. This means that these people are going to say assholish things on a regular basis, and they’re going to do so in the process of representing large groups of people, not all of whom, or even most of whom, are assholes themselves

     

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    • This sort of person often gets a big assist from the other side, which is already predisposed to see the most simplistic picture of its enemies as representative of the entire group.  This happens in religion as much as politics, and probably in many other domains as well.

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        • that’s their own damn fault.

          Not sure what you mean here — I’m sure the supposed spokespeople are more than happy to be seen as representative, so it’s odd to say it’s their “fault”.  The ones who pay the price are the more sensible or moderate folks in the same group who get lumped in.

           

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          • Yeah, I agree. I mean it’s the spokespeople’s fault that they play into the hands of their opponents. What I really dislike about it is that it just makes our entire political culture even more adversarial, to the point that even the more sensible and moderate folks get sucked in.

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  8. Me, I’m not much on the Hypocrisy Game, because you can just keep turning it back on the other fellow until the snake eats its tail.

    Re Limbaugh:  If you were really offended at Maher calling Palin a c*nt or a dumb tw*t and A) swear to Buddha you didn’t or wouldn’t laugh, then you may proceed to Question Two.  Otherwise, B) just fess up to being human and give it a rest.  If you answered B), then please leave this comment now and read no further.

    No, I mean it.  Honor system.  No squawking on Question Two unless you’re ready to swear on a stack of Bhagavad Gitas that you wouldn’t laugh even if you heard Sarah Pain called a…

    OK, I won’t tempt you.  But you’re on notice.

    Question Two:

    OK, that leaves about 2-5% of us still here: Me. And you, the kool-aid drinkers, the walking dead, the clones, the drones, you lefto-zombies.  Frankly, you scare the bejesus out of me, although I’m intrigued that you’d honestly be offended at Sarah Fishing Palin being called anything.  But that’s cool.  That’s cool.

    Next:  In 2008, while Barack Obama was still backstage at an Obama fundraiser, his “favorite rapper” Ludacris did a “rap”—a “rap” is like a song except without any actual music in it—that called his recently defeated Democrat rival [and now Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton an “irrelevant bitch,” sitting President Geo. Dubya Bush “mentally handicapped,” and opined that GOP challenger John McCain  “shouldn’t be in any chair unless he’s paralyzed.”

    OK, that’s not funny.  But did you laugh?  Smirk? Sneer, especially at the McCain bit?

    Aw, jeez, if there are any of you left, it’s not even worth a Question Three.  It was kinda funny.  For the record, the Obama “campaign” gave Ludacris a slap on the wrist.  Future president BHO himself remained silent.

    Which is Rufus’ bottom point:  Commit political suicide to please people who won’t vote for you anyway, and Sister Souljah every jerkish utterance from your base?  Uh huh.

    The whole point of Bill Clinton’s “Sister Souljah Moment” was that he had the black vote so in the bag that he could risk alienating it to attract reticent whites.

    This is why the “Sister Souljah Moment” is a Wiki entry and why Ludacris calling our current Secretary of State a bitch is a footnote to a footnote of history.  Me, I didn’t think it was funny.  The McCain bit, hey, I’m human too.

     

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    • Tom, you know, I’ll try to answer this in good faith, in spite of the fact that answer A means I’m a zombie who scares the bejeezus out of you and Answer B means I’m human and should give it a rest because I’m full of shit, or something like that.

      Bill Maher: I watched Politically Incorrect twice on ABC in the 90s and thought he was an oily, unfunny creep whose shtick consisted of saying mildly shocking things in a deadpan way to get the cheap uncomfortable laugh from people who aren’t very discerning about comedy. In other words, what every hack comic has done since Sam Kinison. I’ve done stand up and one reason I quit was that so many comics do this sort of crap and it’s never funny. So, I stopped watching his show before 9/11.

      Rush Limbaugh: Same thing. I listened to him twice in the 80s and thought he was an unfunny creep whose shtick consisted of saying mildly outrageous things in a deadpan way that wasn’t particularly funny. So, I stopped listening. In neither case was I horribly offended, but Christ, if you’re going to do this shtick, be funny! Both of them are C-level comedians at best. In a sane world, neither would matter. They don’t matter, except to nerds who wish they had the guts to say those mildly offensive things. Yawn.

      Sarah Palin: I have said here over and over again that I’m a Palin Agnostic- I don’t understand the raw hatred some people have for her; nor the weird adulation that others have for her. She’s a mediocrity. Lots and lots of politicians are mediocre. Big deal. For the record, we’re now at three mediocrities: Maher, Limbaugh, and Palin.

      So, my response to Maher calling her a cunt was weirdly similar to my response to Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a slut: I heard about both incidents here, last week, and thought, “there sure aint a lot of women taking part in the political process, so a public figure who’s going to call out a woman taking part in the political process as a cunt or a slut is most likely a mean spirited, sexist piece of shit when you get right down to it. Screw that guy.” 

      As for Ludicris, I don’t know who that is and you haven’t convinced me that my knowledge base would be richer for knowing. I know he chewed out Weird Al for parodying him, right? Sounds like a genius.

      My overall point was that the fact that Limbaugh or Maher are mean spirited, sexist pieces of shit does not tell us anything at all terribly profound about people who are not Rush Limbaugh or Bill Maher. Yes, maybe their fans have some lousy taste, but I don’t agree that this provides us some window to their soul. Have you ever listened to Lou Reed’s Berlin album? Man, there’s some (fictional?) vitriol in there directed towards a (fictional?) woman. It’s still a great album and I’m glad I own it. I don’t think that makes me a misogynist. I find the notion that people who might vote the same way as Rush Limbaugh or listen to his radio show really hate women, while those who might vote the same way as Bill Maher or watch his television show really hate women and are hypocritical about it to boot, to be really crappy logic and not wort taking seriously. That was my bottom point.

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      • I know he chewed out Weird Al for parodying him, right? Sounds like a genius.

        That was Coolio.  Or did Ludicris do that too?

        My overall point was that the fact that Limbaugh or Maher are mean spirited, sexist pieces of shit does not tell us anything at all terribly profound about people who are not Rush Limbaugh or Bill Maher. Yes, maybe their fans have some lousy taste, but I don’t agree that this provides us some window to their soul.

        I’ll agree with that, which might surprise some given the post I wrote about Rush, but the post wasn’t about him or even about people who like him being bad people.  In fact, I could probably retroactively junk that whole post and write it again with this comment as a better jumping off point and do a much better job of getting across what I was trying to say.

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          • The Coolio-Weird Al story is one of miscommunication. Weird Al was told by some of his people that Coolio had explicitly agreed to let him do the song (Weird Al always asks permission), so Weird Al did it. Turned out, Coolio didn’t give permission, or at least didn’t remember doing so (if I remember correctly, Weird Al’s people said they got the permission at a party). So, Coolio’s pissed, because Weird Al is parodying what Coolio saw as a serious song without asking him, and Weird Al is confused, because he thought he had permission. It’s my understanding that they eventually kissed and made up.

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      • I can’t disagree with anything you’ve explicitly said here, but it does imply a false equivalence.  To wit:

        • A Democratic office holder who criticizes Bill Maher does so with complete impunity.  It’s not likely to happen, because the response would be “Bill who?”, but it could.
        • A Republican officeholder who criticizes Rush Limbaugh has to cravenly apologize a few days later.

        One of this things is not like the other.

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      • Rush Limbaugh is not a comedian, C-level or otherwise.  He’s a for-the most-part rather dead-serious political communicator who occasionally attempts humor.  Bill Maher, on the other hands, is a regularly-touring stand-up comedian who works politics (do we want to put politics off-limits to comedians?) who does amble into ostensibly serious (but really mostly still part of his act) commentary occasionally, which means, yes, we should take what he says a bit more seriously than we do what a comedian who never does that says, but not nearly so seriously as we should take what Rush Limbaugh, who, again, is actually a quite earnest and serious political communicator for the most part, whatever your opinion of him or his comedic talents, especially in light of the amount of influence he wields as a serious political communicator among conservatives. (Those two things are not unrelated, btw, your opinion of his comedic talents and the fact that he’s really not a comedian but rather a serious political communicactor).

        These are basic realities about what kind of communication/entertainment these two figures do that simply stands up to any and all attempts to smudge or fudge them into seeming to be doing similar work.  None of which makes it okay for Maher to call Palin (or any woman) a c or a t.

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        • Bill Maher, on the other hands, is a regularly-touring stand-up comedian who works politics (do we want to put politics off-limits to comedians?) who does amble into ostensibly serious (but really mostly still part of his act) commentary occasionally…

          I don’t think it was intentional, but you didn’t mention here that he also ambled into hosting two round table political discussion programs for over a decade now. It’s not as if he’s just some guy appearing at the Laff Shack next Wednesday. He’s taken more seriously than, say Doug Stanhope, because he hosts a discussion program, where ostensibly serious people appear to discuss the events of the day, even if Maher’s on-screen persona is the unfunny jester.

          These are basic realities about what kind of communication/entertainment these two figures do that simply stands up to any and all attempts to smudge or fudge them into seeming to be doing similar work.

          Any and all? I’m fairly certain the producers of their respective programs would disagree. They both have essentially the same goal on those programs, which is to get high ratings by saying provocative things in the course of offering dumbed-down political commentary. They are both in the entertainment industry, even if the dittoheads want to pretend that Limbaugh is Thomas Paine. Yes, there are differences in the style of entertainment that they offer on their programs, but it’s not totally incidental that they both host political discussion programs.

          As for the differences in how the political parties treat them, if the GOP wants to take a crappy radio shock jock and treat him like a kingmaker, it’s certainly not the only sign of their party’s decadence.

          None of which makes it okay for Maher to call Palin (or any woman) a c or a t.

          Okay, but you see how you’re arguing that Limbaugh is a serious commentator and not an entertainer because, otherwise, what he said might be minimized in some way; and then it sounds like you’re minimizing what Bill Maher said by making the point that he’s an entertainer and not a serious commentator?

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          • As for the differences in how the political parties treat them, if the GOP wants to take a crappy radio shock jock and treat him like a kingmaker, it’s certainly not the only sign of their party’s decadence.

            Nor is it illogical or hypocritical to pay more attention to a kingmaker than to a standard-issue shock jock.   Unlike the cognitive dissonance in “He’s just an entertainer, but you’re going to pay a big price for dissing him.”

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          • Rufus-

            Based on one’s position in life, equally abhorrent actions can engender very different reactions and consequences, which ought to be considered in the ultimate analysis of the entirety of the situation.

            I’m a teacher.  If I cursed in front of the children, the response would and should be different than if the janitor had.  And not because I should know better or whatever… but because I have a role in the children’s life very different than the janitor’s, the impact of my actions are greater and ought to be considered.

            Likewise, individuals wear different hats in life.  What Maher says on stage in front of a couple hundred people is different than what he says on HBO or ABC in front of millions, in much the same way that what you say behind closed doors is different than what you say out in public or in front of your boss or colleagues or customers.

            None of this ever makes a wrong action an okay or right one.  But it can inform our response.

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          • Rufus,

            At least on Real Time (I can’t recall Politicall Incorrect well enough), the first thing he does is some out and give a monologue of simple, straight-up (off-color) political jokes.  Stand-up style.  By the way, he gets laughs.  This is essentially an announcement of: I am a comedian.  Do not take me seriously.  He then conducts an interview with a newsmaker or book hawker of some sort – the most serious part of the hour.  The roundtable segment is coninuously punctuated by typical humor-writing-style set-up jokes, and has a pre-written comedy segment built into it.

            Rush, on the other hand, comes on at noon, starts spouting his views, and signs off at three.  That’s about it.  There are some attempts at jokes, there are some way-overboard insults and transgressions; it’s not at all clear what’s serious and what’s for laughs (because all of it is potentially serious if it can further his objectives, which are not, repeat not, limited to maximizing his audience).  Rush at no point announces the unseriousness of his purpose or of himself as a figure as Maher does at the outset of every show. That Maher then does offer some earnest opinions does nothing to change the basic way he presents himself, which is as a comedian.

            That’s how I see it from where I sit. I just don’t think these two shows compare in format or intent.  as a result,  to my way of thinking, different standards should apply, which make it worse for Rush to call someone a slut than it is for Maher to call someone a cunt, though it’s still not okay for Maher to do that.  I said way back when this started, I can’t honestly understand contending they do basically the same thing, and so I just have to withdraw from any discussion with that premise.  I understand people do nevertheless see it differently, but I’m not really interested in arguing it all the way out.  But I do feel the need to respond when the equivalence is made.  Peace.

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            • Just to be clear:

              Okay, but you see how you’re arguing that Limbaugh is a serious commentator and not an entertainer because, otherwise, what he said might be minimized in some way; and then it sounds like you’re minimizing what Bill Maher said by making the point that he’s an entertainer and not a serious commentator?

              Yes, absolutely do, because that is  exactly what I am doing.  Unabashedly.  It’s not okay for Maher, but it’s a way bigger deal for Rush.  That is indeed what I am saying.  This is because I do believe in giving that kind of license to legit comedians so that they can make us laugh with them (though I do think that “twat” coming out of Maher’s mouth on HBO crosses a line I don’t want him to, though not “cunt” on the stand-up stage), but not to serious communicators who try to hide ex-post behind the idea that they were just telling jokes. while launching a dead-serious political attack on the credibility of a non-officeholding barely-public figure in the political arena.

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              • …though not, of course, because if I didn’t argue that, then what Rush says could be minimized.  Rather, I argue he is a serious political communicator because that is what (I believe) he is.  If you are saying that is not why I argue this, that is a rather serious charge against my good faith, and I’ll just let it linger, because what can I possibly do to rebut it?

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                • Michael, no, I’m not arguing against your good faith. I’m saying that you are doing exactly what you said you are doing. “Unabashedly.  It’s not okay for Maher, but it’s a way bigger deal for Rush.  That is indeed what I am saying.” That’s how you see it. I understand that. I’m not saying that you’re pretending to see it that way.

                  I just don’t see the line between the two sorts of media as being nearly as stark as you do. To me, Limbaugh might play a serious political commentator on his program, but it’s a mistake to think he has any goal in mind besides stirring up people’s passions in order to get ratings, which makes what he does essentially the same as what other talk show hosts do, and not serious political commentary. I understand that the style of communication is different, but I think the medium announces the unseriousness of Limbaugh’s message for him. You see it differently. And, hey, maybe I’ve read too much McLuhan. But it’s really just a situation where I can understand and respect your opinion, but I have a different one.

                   

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                  • Coolio.  I think maybe you think the essence here goes deeper than I do.  i don’t believe this in all things, but I do think that this is a case where “We are what we pretend to be” applies, or at least where what they pretend to be matters.  So even if, deep down, all Rush cares about is enriching himself by expanding his audience, it still matters that his main mode of communication is as a person offering serious-if-jovial views on current events.  In my view, that makes him more like Thom Hartmann than Bill Maher, and I think that matters (a lot, in fact) to how big a deal it is if he calls someone a slut.

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                    • …perhaps Rush is closer to a Sam Seder, though (i guess I’ll give him that much credit).  Hartmann can be pretty dreadfully un-jovial.  But it would indeed still be worse (in my reckoning) for Seder to call someone a slut on his show than is is for Maher to call someone a cunt on the stand-up stage or even a twat on Real Time (the latter being a closer call than the former).

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                  • You don’t think he has other ends in mind? Do you think Rush would genuinely prefer Obama to win, thus assuring him 4 more years of a prime target to rail against to bolster ratings -or- his preferred candidate (Santorum, I believe) win, which would help him see his political preferences realized but might negatively impact ratings? This is a serious question, mind you. It also begs another serious question that would be interesting to research: How does the makeup of the White House or Congress impact Rush’s ratings? Does it?

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                    • BSK, you really want the answer to that?

                      Okay,  I’m probably cynical here, but let me say I think that, if Rush Limbaugh calling someone a slut would make his ratings go up by 5%, but possibly cost the Republicans an election somewhere, he wouldn’t hesitate to use the term at all. This is the mistake the Republican Party makes- they think he’s trying to help them win elections. I don’t think he cares one way or the other if they win, so long as he has some angle for his program. However, if I was going to speculate, it probably is better for him if the Democrats win because I suspect it does drive up his ratings. I’d love to know if someone’s researched that.

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                    • Rufus-

                      Absolutely.  They were genuinely serious questions.  I do hope someone has more research on the matter.

                      You said that Rush might exchange a lost Republican election *somewhere* for the ratings gains made using the word “slut”.  But what if it lost the Presidential election?  I’m genuinely curious what Rush would prefer, though I’m sure he’d never admit it if he’d exchange a Republican presidency for ratings/money.

                      I’m curious what his listeners would think if this was true and if they did come to know it.

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                    • I remember reading a report of what Rush said after 2006. Some variant of “whew, now I don’t have to keep carrying water for these guys”.

                      Like, he said this, ON THE AIR.

                      That tells me that he’d rather attack people he disagrees with (who happen to be !Conservative) than actually push any particular agenda.

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            • I hate to be the guy to defend Rush Limbaugh, but I’m not sure what’s coloring your views here.
              Rush is a radio guy. He works off of his callers.
              He plays the silly songs about various persons, etc., the same as so many DJs do.
              Personally, I like Leno’s monologue. But that’s not radio. Stand-up is rather limited in that format.
              As I remember it, Rush starts off with some hyperventilating, overblown, trumped-up bs, and he’s fairly repetitive about it. Maybe re-phrasing things is part of his persona; maybe it’s just to fill air time.
              Then he gets the callers on and riffs off of their ideas.

              He’s not Paul Harvey.
              To my knowledge, no one has mistaken him for Paul Harvey.

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              • Is any of it written in standard One-Two-Punchline comedy writing format?

                That the format of Rush’s show is quite hard to compare to that of Maher’s in not much of a problem for the particular contention I am making here.  It kind of is the contention I’m making.

                I hold Rush Limbaugh to basically the standard I hold Ed Schultz or Bill Press to because the intent and format of their communication I view to be basically similar. (And by that standard I don’t freak out nearly enough about the things Rush Limbaugh). I hold Bill Maher  (and Dennis Miller) to a standard way below that standard, because of the clearly defined kind of communication they do.  I think I’m entirely right to do so, and frankly, I won’t be told I’m wrong in it. I don’t usually take such a pig-headed approach to things, but in this case I’m that sure that these classifications are more correct than would be suggesting that Rush an Maher or Schultz and Miller do basically the same kind of communication.

                If you’ve got a problem with that, find a court to sue me in. ;-)

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  9. 1. Person A says they despise a certain behavior for its own sake when they see coming from members of the other side of the political aisle

    Person A probably shouldn’t say this at all, since it’s quite unlikely that Person A is self-aware enough to completely separate his/her feelings about the practice itself from his/her feelings about the other side. Except in unusual circumstances, I’d immediately sort Person A into the “partisan” bucket after reading that statement, without bothering to wait for any incriminating silences.

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