Monday, January 10, 2011


The political discourse surrounding the horrific shooting in Arizona has been awful .

The MSM has delighted in portraying the wacko shooter in Arizona as a "right wing fanatic". I'm watching Katie Couric making that case on CBS news as we speak. She just fed a loaded question to the Sheriff in Tucson, who just said that the 2nd Amendment is the "height of insanity"... that nugget of wisdom led directly into a CBS "hit piece" on the right to bear arms, suggesting that a CBS-style gun ban would have prevented this tragedy.

I went out to the barn to check on the horses and came back inside and, 10 minutes later, CBS was _still_ suggesting that the 2nd Amendment and the Tea Party movement was responsible for the shooter in Arizona, who by most accounts was a seriously crazy pot-head nihilist, with no coherent political affiliations at all.

The Arizona shooter reportedly asked Congresswoman Giffords "What is government if words have no meaning?". Giffords was reportedly bewildered by the (bewildering) question and Loughner became angry from her inadequately-sympathetic response.

The guy had (and still has) several You-Tube videos online that are completely nonsensical: "Every human who is mentally capable is always able to be the treasurer of their new currency" Huh? And it gets weirder from there.

He goes on: "Secondly, my hope - is for you to be literate! If you're literate in English grammar, then you comprehend English grammar." Uh-huh... "If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn't have happen." So much for literacy...

He reportedly had a fuzzy-headed thing about grammar, but the question about government and words having no meaning was interesting.

Ultimately politics is about communication, the expression of ideas. Ideas can be powerful, whether or not they are connected to reality or evidence. Smart political operatives have long understood this. Lyndon Johnson famously sought to accuse an opponent of copulating with livestock. He, and everyone else, knew it was a scurrilous libel - but he also knew it would work.

So the problem is not that words have no meaning, but that they do - they have more meaning than they deserve, so much so that tangible, real evidence pales next to their semantic and psychological potency. Another way to express this is the axiom that "perception is reality". In other words, truth doesn't matter - what matters is what people believe.

And people can be counted on to be reactionary and have short attention spans - what you tell them now will often have more impact than what they knew to be true yesterday.

I think the left wing understands this all to well - which explains what they report on CBS news. It almost always works, even as the people, at a deeper level become even more disaffected and distrustful of almost all public voices. Disapproval of Congress currently stands at 74%. I don't know exactly how this compares with opinions of Congress in other times in history, but its the worst I can remember.

What this seems to mean is that the cacaphony of demagogery works: in a short term sense it confuses the people about what to believe, causing them to become somewhat disoriented and disconnected from their core understanding and belief. In the longer term it causes deep disaffection, disconnection, and cynicism about public institutions. If you're an anarchist or a nihilist (like the Arizona shooter may have been, to the extent he was lucid at all), this can be just what you want. If your goal is the destruction of traditional public institutions - in our case the institutions of Western civilization - then it's a pretty good strategy.

The basic question is whether loss of legitimacy of public institutions is a good thing. If you think it is, you probably would qualify as a revolutionary. The trouble with revolutions, though, is the revolutionaries seldom know where they will lead.

In our own case, the American Revolution was profoundly positive, creating the worlds oldest, greatest, and strongest democracy. Most folks (although these days maybe that's a stretch) would probably agree it was positive because it was strongly grounded in traditional western Judeo-Christian ethics. Most other revolutions have not worked out so well.

I reflect on the fact that today I am hesitant and wary about expressing my political opinions - even though those opinions are almost identical to the ones expressed by Thomas Jefferson. I write this blog (semi) anonymously and am much more wary about what I say in attributable fora. It makes me wonder where we are in terms of the political climate in the western world, and reflect that my opinions, which I'm wary to express, are pretty much the _exact same_ as the ones that got the founding fathers in trouble with the British 235 years ago.

In closing, I'll say this: if we are not willing to defend liberty - freedom from oppression, freedom of expression, freedom to pursue happiness - we won't have much of it for much longer, and none of it pretty soon.

We're lucky: we have a constitutionally-established republic that accords special status to individual freedom and liberty. Unlike the founding fathers, we don't need a revolution to preserve it. But if we do not think about, and defend, what we believe in, rather than about the demogogery and rhetoric telling us things we know are not true, we could lose it. When it's gone we'll understand we did the wrong things.