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Friday, February 12, 2010

Politics as pathology: A series.

I'm increasing convinced that most political commentators on the left and the right are suffering from a collective psychological pathology that reinforces itself and worsens with time. Instead of the openness of online dialogue leading to more intellectual debate, the effect has been principally anti-intellectualist.

Those wanting to actually talk about facts and scrutinize the world around them as objectively as possible, are increasing being relegated to what the neoconservative and ultraleftist fringe call "armchair philosophizing", "intellectual masturbation", or "utopian fantasy".

In fact, a growing number of people on the left and the right balk at intellectualism in general. Believing instead, that their intuition, their feelings and their faith provides them with a more robust framework for evaluating the world around them.

It really doesn't.

What it does, is leave them with a black and white interpretation of the world around them where it's so increasingly clear that "the other" is the source of all of their and societies problems as a whole.

A good example is to look at Islamic terrorism, and how the left and right both evaluate it's cause and it's solutions. Here's how the right basically explains it:

1. Caused by belief in violent religion that advocates for genocide of all non-Muslims; and
2. allowed to fester by left-wing, politically correct policies. In fact, left-wing ideologies are held to be nominally supportive of Islamic terrorism; and
3. Left-wing politicians (like Bill Clinton) neglected to address the Islamic threat because of their politically correct, leftist world view.

... and the left:

1. Caused by military conflicts in Muslim countries due to neoliberal imperialist agendas to secure oil resources; and
2. a result of poverty brought about by right-wing capitalist agendas that impoverish entire nations to the benefit of rich countries; and
3. the right-wing explanations for the cause of Islamic terrorism are racist, as Islam is a peaceful religion where people just want the same thing as everybody else.

Now, both sets of explanations contain grains of truth. Except, you'll never find a rightest or leftist admitting that. And it's not what set of truths and falsehoods regarding the Islamic terrorism issue that I'm trying to tease out, but rather the common thread of thinking: that the right blames the left, and the left blames the right. When in truth, they're probably both to blame.

Like a sports fan who's emotionally incapable of seeing the faults with his own team, and usually takes to blaming the rules, the coach, or unfair practices on the part of the opposing players, political pundits see the game of politics in the same hyper-polarized way.

They have completely rationalized why their own worldview is perfectly infallible, and how the opposing viewpoint is completely and utterly insane. They believe they've unlocked universal truth, which actually makes them both insane.

For conservatives, even asking the question of whether or not US foreign policy has contributed to religious and political movements against it, culminating in the attacks of 9/11 is immediately shut down with claims that you are blaming the victim. This despite the fact, that there's plenty of good evidence to suggest that US foreign policy played a fairly significant role in galvanizing Islamic extremism against America. Even the CIA had concluded this prior to 9/11, specifically that US foreign policy was contributing to rising opposition against it around the world and predicted the increasing likelihood of terrorist strikes against America, referring to the whole phenomenon as "blowback".

But try saying that to a neoconservative. You will be labeled an apologist for Islamic extremism. You will be called a far-left extremist. You will be told that you're on the side of evil. Which ends up being the crux of the matter for neoconservatives; there's two very well defined black and white buckets of good and evil. Essentially anything that falls outside the neoconservative doctrine at any given time is evaluated as an evil position. Here's a few examples:

1. Against the Iraq War = On the side of evil.
2. For "enhanced interrogations" = On the side of good.
3. Support universal due process rights, even for arrested terrorists = On the side of evil.

It's a very simple dogma, and it's easy to understand. The delusion that neoconservatives have convinced themselves of, is that this all represents an intelligent position.

Conversely, try telling a ultraleftist that poverty is not the primary cause of terrorism, or even that many Islamic radicals legitimately are motivated purely by conservative theological doctrine, and they'll call you a racist and an apologist for imperialism.

So over the next few weeks, I will choose various right-wing and left-wing examples from the Canadian blogosphere and dissect their logic, and build a case for why they both ultimately end up being their own worst enemies. We'll also look at how they rely on each other's extremists to reinforce their worldview.

There will be a lot of well-known names in the blogosphere dragged through the mud, a lot of feelings will be hurt, and I'll probably firmly establish myself as one of the most hated bloggers by both the left and the right. But I'm up for the challenge.

Watch this space.

Posted by Mike Brock on February 12, 2010 | Permalink


I look forward to more Mike. Good post. That's pretty much how it is. I think neither side is willing to look at the root causes for all this and deal with it. Don't forget of all the self interest in the various issues. Societies "I got mine, screw everyone else" attitude.

Posted by: Steve Bottrell | 2010-02-12 12:52:09 PM

It's refreshing to see someone trying to make an objective argument on an issue for a change.

Too many conservative and liberal commentators are often just cheer leading as opposed to analyzing.

Posted by: Dennis | 2010-02-12 1:45:06 PM

should be an interesting response from readers regarding criticisms of various bloggers' one-sided political hobby horses. i just hope that commenters keep it libertarian and don't take the statist "centrist" approach. f:)ck that.

i try to be as objective as possible, and give both sides shit:



...but i defy anyone's claim to total objectivity and lack of sympathy for the right or left.

here's a little test: think of the media you gravitate toward. does your upper lip curl with contempt when you read The Globe and Mail/Toronto Star and The Huff Post/Daily Kos, or listen to the CBC? would you rather enjoy the National Post/Sun chain and Steynonline/Small Dead Animals, or listen to Corus?

as much a libertarian as i claim to be, i still have my biases.

just sayin'.

Posted by: shel | 2010-02-12 10:06:23 PM

I sure hope your series lives up the billing that you have given it - this is a great start and I am definitely tracking with what you've written here.

Posted by: Norm | 2010-02-13 10:55:25 AM

Right on Mike!
Excellent start, I hope the rest of the series is as good as this.

Posted by: Ed Ellison | 2010-02-13 5:29:23 PM

Your meta-methodology is "analytic dualism". I look forward to seeing how you apply it for this "political" analysis and the narratives you invoke to back up your conclusions.

Posted by: holographic | 2010-02-13 10:16:43 PM

I also look forward to how you will expose the faulty doctrine coming from both the left and the right. As well, how you will support it. It will be fun to see the chirping from all the usual suspects.

Posted by: TM | 2010-02-15 6:54:35 PM

I look forward to it too so long as you don't try to pretend that it's all 50/50 or some such middle of the road idiocy. That would be intellectually insulting. Much like the divorce industry and we can plainly see how well that's turning out.

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2010-02-21 8:21:52 PM

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