Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Friends, Enemies, and Frienemies

I've been criticizing Amanda Marcotte a lot in recent days, but for an illustration of why I know of her in the first place, consider her perfect treatment of the trailer trash Bible-hugging dead-ender running for office in Alabama on a platform of tax cuts, unfocused belligerence, and willful stupidity that, naturally enough, includes a smug rejection of evolutionary science:

Seriously, nothing is less charming than not only being willfully ignorant, but acting like anyone who actually knows something about something is an object of contempt. You may believe it, but a little faux humility about your own idiocy makes it an easier sell.

I’m beginning to think this whole “only liberals ‘believe’ in evolution” thing is a little like a fraternity or gang initiation that involves humiliation and/or violence. Denying an obvious and settled reality is a way of demonstrating loyalty by going all-in. You demonstrate that you’re so loyal to the conservative cause you don’t care what kind of jackass you look like to everyone else, or how big a shitpile of stupid you have to swallow. Of course, the only remaining question is why someone would be so eager to show their loyalty to the wingnut tribe. The rewards seem mainly centered around being an asshole, which is something you get to do for free in the real world without having to pay the price of believing some walloping load of horseshit.
The rewards are truly slim to none, and yet they do it anyway -- gratuitously, tirelessly, shamelessly, and seemingly without limit.

One obvious reason they keep it going is that it continues to work for them on the level of bare-knuckles realpolitik -- it's not as though, in the present case, someone running for statewide office in Alabama, one of the lands time forgot (or just fled, presumably as weary of its backwardness as the rest of us), is risking the outrage of tee-vee viewers most likely to vote.

Of course, this begs the question of why (say) someone running for a statewide office in the present-day USA, where it is 2010 and not 1866 whether Alabama wants to recognize it or not, can get away with such audacious idiocy, even on the level of bare-knuckled realpolitik. That's tougher to explain.

One proximate cause is a mass media that itself feeds it rather than mocking it, including but not limited to FoxNews and AM radio, but this is only to set the question back one more regress. Why is there a right-wing media machine that so willingly perpetuates lies and disinformation?

This is hardly a new question, of course, and plenty of credible answers have been advanced. For all its banality, it is central to the times in which we live, and it is useful, I think, to step back now and then, witness it, and at very least overcome the world-weariness that would simply take it as a matter of course. It is an outrage -- and a danger -- that a modern-day political movement in a modern-day nation state can base so much of its public words and deeds on the brazen embrace of infantile stupidity.

As to Amanda Marcotte, the truth is, I agree with her nearly 100% of the time, and that's why I'm more likely to get chippy when she says something with which I disagree.

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