Monday, January 17, 2011

The view from the ivory tower

One of the most entertaining periodicals we receive here at Charm House is the Columbia Magazine. Mr Charm attended this bastion of learning so we get the magazine free. I wouldn't miss it for the world.

A citizen of the future could re-create 2011 liberal Ivy League civilization, urban style, just by reading it from cover to cover.

It features an article about death and how much better they do it in France, a short piece about a display of corpses in various stages of decay, and the requisite photographs of wistful Third World people in quaint settings.

But the most typical article is an objective discussion of the recent election by a typical political science professor:

The Tea Party movement, which, despite endless speculation by the punditry about its origins, has never been anything other than a Republican Party faction, tapped into the populist, antibailout mood, while the mainstream media gave voice to far-out accusations aimed at the president: He was planning death panels; he was driven by an “anticolonial” mentality; he lied about his religion; he hated white people; and he probably wasn’t really American anyway. The Democrats’ initial response to these unfathomably strange assertions was to view them as fringe opinions and ignore them.

On some level, given just how absurd these accusations were, this approach made sense. However, by not pushing back, the Democratic Party made it possible for these charges to gain traction among voters. A constant media repetition of these claims made them seem less strange and more plausible to voters with each passing day.

The Obama administration seemed to assume, in spite of increasing evidence to the contrary, that politics could be based on reasonable debate, and that groundless rumor-mongering had no place in the national discussion. Yet the political environment during the first two years of Obama’s presidency showed otherwise. Political debate was replaced by name-calling; any allegation, no matter how baseless, ended up on Fox News and other outlets and Web sites; and epithets like Nazi, fascist, Stalinist, and communist, formerly the refuge of the most marginalized political factions, were more or less accepted as part of the political debate. Rand Paul, the Republican Senate candidate and now U.S. senator from Kentucky, for example, compared President Obama to Hitler apparently because they both came to power during economically bad times and were good public speakers.

The Rand Paul quote is a boldfaced lie, worthy of Paul Krugman at his finest. The assertion about the Tea Party movement is baseless and backed by no evidence. In fact there is no evidence, not even anecdotal evidence, for any of these confident assertions. Every word of the rest, dripping with condescension, is the gospel according to the Church of Morningside Heights, where no-one has ever met anyone who voted for Nixon. Or Reagan. Or either President Bush.

Thanks ever so for explaining the doltish American electorate to us elect.


Kitten said...

I just have to shake my head. The world the writer of that article lives in is diametrically (sp?) opposed to the one I live in. Either that or our word definitions are opposite. In that case, how is it possible to communicate meaningfully? Is it possible at all?

miriam said...

It was a shameful article. I thought it was written by one of the students, and not the brightest of them.

Anonymous said...

If I was a religious person I wouldn't stop sending thanks to god for one life-shaping event in my son's life: among 3 colleges he sent his entry essay to Columbia issued a rejection.
The topic of the essay was something along the lines of "Your thoughts on diversity or lack of it, based on your own encounters". My baby (no nudging on my part!) have written expansive description on our skiing trip to Mont Tremblant in Quebec - a skiing resort where among vacationeers we haven't seen one dark face. Well, there was one exception (and everyone in the restaurant were paying attention) - a family of Indian-American doctor , and that's about it. I guess Columbia didn't like my son's innocent questions - how come educated, upper middle class, liberal clientele of that resort self-segregated to include only people like themselves?

We are so, so lucky they didn't accept him...