Monday, September 22, 2008

Two Minutes' Hate

The GOP plays the victim card

If conservatives hate victimhood so much, why then does the Republican Party encourage its base to feel so aggrieved, especially at the hands of those snotty "elites"?


When Americans go on the attack against elites, historically we think of economic populism, the kind of class warfare pushed by the left wing. This is about money, inequality and an agenda to redistribute wealth. Liberal activists rail against robber barons and corporate fat cats. Conservative populism leverages social rather than economic cleavages. The agenda is mobilizing resentful masses that get a vicarious go at thumbing their noses at anyone they feel looks down on them. The enemies list is made up of professors, public intellectuals and entertainers, not captains of industry. And without any real redress in mind, conservative populism is all about emotion and personal grievance, not righting any particular social or economic wrong. You'd think the rise of conservative media, eight years of a conservative administration and a conservative-leaning Supreme Court would have undermined the GOP's victim strategy -- they are in power, which is one way to define "elite."

The real question we need to ask here is not why they like playing the victim. That's obvious. What I want to know is what exactly their problem is with excellence. I think part of the reason that conservatives can become more convinced of their own rightness when faced with a refutation of their views is that if an "expert" says it, it must be wrong. Refutations and actual facts can make misinformation worse because "facts" are often given with the names of people who have degrees, expertise, or something like that which makes them better than you. Something that makes them untrustworthy, in other words.

And I hate that. I hate it, even though it reminds me why social scientists exist. For example, I have my own little ethnocentric blind spot. It's hard for me to imagine not having the perspective of an anthropologist, because it comes so easily to me. Then I'm faced with someone like this who honestly believes, "Anyone who cannot see, refuses to see, or who actively obliterates, the distinction between civilization and barbarism in their work is either not doing their job properly or is part of the problem, and in either case has absolutely zero claim to being an intellectual. Though that doesn't stop them from trying." This from a self-described "unemployed pizza delivery driver" who thinks that any anthropologist who doesn't treat certain cultures as though they're barbarians is part of "the problem" because Ayn Rand says so.

Thank you for reminding me why the world needs people with anthropology degrees.

I realize this guy posted all this shit a while ago, but it still absolutely floors me. If I gave this guy a detailed explanation for why social scientists don't use the term "barbarism" anymore, I'm sure that me taking the trouble to explain the evolution of my discipline would actually make things worse. He would probably be more convinced than ever that anthropologists are wrong, and I would trace it to his distrust of educated people and everything we stand for.

How in the hell can you educate people, when offering them evidence actually harms your case? What in the hell do you say to someone who stops listening once they learn your qualifications?

My boyfriend's away message right now is, "To argue with a man who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead." ~Thomas Paine

Just because they're dead doesn't mean they can't ruin my life. They still have power, money, and the ability to vote just like I do. Maybe if I ignore them they'll just go away? Talking to them sure as hell isn't helping...

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