Roger Ebert Goes to More Than The Movies
April 24, 2003 9:22 AM   Subscribe

"I begin to feel like I was in the last generation of Americans who took a civics class. I begin to feel like most Americans don't understand the First Amendment, don't understand the idea of freedom of speech, and don't understand that it's the responsibility of the citizen to speak out....When I write a political column for the Chicago Sun-Times, when liberals disagree with me, they send in long, logical e-mails explaining all my errors. I hardly ever get well-reasoned articles from the right. People just tell me to shut up. That's the message: 'Shut up. Don't write anymore about this. Who do you think you are?'" Roger Ebert chats about dissent, celebrities, the power of film to effect change, and Moore.
posted by fold_and_mutilate (114 comments total)
 
Thanks foldy.

Bob Edwards gave a speech recently in Lexington and touched on some similar topics. It is also well worth a read.

My favorite excerpt from above link:

If the young are getting their news only from MTV, who can blame them? Where are the role models for something better? Well, apparently not among the White House press corps.

Did you see that news conference last month? First of all you should never miss a George W. Bush news conference because they are as rare as comet sightings.

posted by nofundy at 9:33 AM on April 24, 2003


Where would we be without foldy to explain the world to us?

Let's see if I've got it straight:

Michael Moore, PETA, Marxism, Pacifism, Veganism, The Left = Always Good.

Meat, The Military, Capitalism, The Right = Always Bad.

There's a reasonable analysis of a complex world for ya!

Congratulations, mr. mutilate, you and your right-wing doppelganger MidasMulligan have done more than any other beings on the planet to turn me off of any form of political involvement whatsoever.

I hope you're happy.
posted by jonmc at 9:42 AM on April 24, 2003


jonmc, where does F&M bring up M. Moore, PETA, Marxism, Pacifism, Veganism, Meat, the Militray or Capitalism?

Strawmen'r'us?
posted by signal at 9:49 AM on April 24, 2003


"I hardly ever get well-reasoned articles from the right."

If no right-leaning reader of the Chicago Sun-Times ever takes time out of his day to write a reasoned response to the political opinions of a man who watches movies for a living*, I think we can safely conclude all those who espouse "conservative" viewpoints are nuts.


*not that I'm knocking the job or the reviewers, I'm just saying a cobbler should stick to his last. Maybe they're writing their responses in other forums.

posted by yerfatma at 9:53 AM on April 24, 2003


Well, I'm clearly a f'ing idiot.
posted by yerfatma at 9:56 AM on April 24, 2003


If the young are getting their news only from MTV, who can blame them?

I can, and I will, and throw their parents--who should be the earliest and best role models for a kid--into the bargain. There's no excuse for this type of assumption. Moore makes it in the link foldy gave us as well: they give the phenomenon of celebrity too much legitimacy, more than it already has and deserves. Especially with Ebert and his seeming disillusionment, I would suggest he quit hanging out with and reporting on celebrities for awhile to regain a balanced perspective.
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:57 AM on April 24, 2003


jonmc: the politically involved world needs no new perpetually drunk participants, it's had its quota for years.

as for the right, why, it's just
the new mother nature takin' over
it's the new splendid lady come to call
it's the new Mother Nature takin' over
she's gettin' us all
she's gettin' us all

posted by quonsar at 9:58 AM on April 24, 2003


I hardly ever get well-reasoned articles from the right. People just tell me to shut up.

Funny, I've heard the opposite argument from the right. For example the "Free Mumia" or the "Anti-WTO" protestors aren't always the most articulate about exactly why they're protesting. I'm sure Albright would have a different opinion on how well-reasoned the left are once they get worked up.
posted by bobo123 at 9:58 AM on April 24, 2003


Ebert: There's an interesting pattern going on. When I write a political column for the Chicago Sun-Times, when liberals disagree with me, they send in long, logical e-mails explaining all my errors. I hardly ever get well-reasoned articles from the right. People just tell me to shut up. That's the message: "Shut up. Don't write anymore about this. Who do you think you are?"

Truer words are hard to find.
posted by Cerebus at 9:58 AM on April 24, 2003


There is truth in what yerfatma says, however this is also truth in the fact that the conservative ideology is more rigid, by design-- which is both a strength and a weakness.
posted by cell divide at 9:59 AM on April 24, 2003


Ebert is such an eloquent and interesting guy. Comments on two things he says in the interview:
1. He calls Sean Penn the best actor of his generation. I agree and I'm glad that someone of Ebert's standing says so. I haven't seen enough Penn films, but I thought he did a devastating job in "Sweet and Lowdown."
2. "I think Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman are the two best active directors right now." Then, answering the follow-up question, he says a good movie is "a way to empathize: to try to understand what it would be like to live in a different time, to be a member of a different group, and that's important. It makes us more broad-minded."
I think Ebert is right about empathy, and that's why I would call Pedro Almodovar the best director working today. His latest movie, "Talk to Her," features a character who has sex with a catatonic woman. Other characters are horrified and disgusted, but Almodovar loves this character and has sympathy for him, and he leads the audience to feel the same way. It's an astonishing accomplishment. No person is alien to Almodovar; he loves humanity and forgives our weaknesses and our selfishness. I wonder what Ebert thinks of Almodovar?
posted by Holden at 10:05 AM on April 24, 2003


yerfatma... the guy is famous, I imagine he gets quite a bit of e-mail from both sides of the political spectrum.

bobo123, I just wrote a paper on this very issue. Anti-globalization protesters have no solidarity or a clearly defined purpose, which is why the movement is so fractured. Some are anarchists that want the entire socio-political structure of the U.S. abolished, some have lost their jobs to NAFTA and want their jobs back, some oppose corporate rule and want democracy, some thing the WTO just needs to reform itself, etc. The movement is basically a coalition which is not consistent.
posted by banished at 10:06 AM on April 24, 2003


yerfatma... the guy is famous, I imagine he gets quite a bit of e-mail from both sides of the political spectrum.

bobo123, I just wrote a paper on this very issue. Anti-globalization protesters have no solidarity or a clearly defined purpose, which is why the movement is so fractured. Some are anarchists that want the entire socio-political structure of the U.S. abolished, some have lost their jobs to NAFTA and want their jobs back, some oppose corporate rule and want democracy, some think the WTO just needs to reform itself, etc. The movement is basically a coalition which is not consistent.
posted by banished at 10:06 AM on April 24, 2003


Michael Moore, PETA, Marxism, Pacifism, Veganism, The Left = Always Good.

Meat, The Military, Capitalism, The Right = Always Bad.

There's a reasonable analysis of a complex world for ya!

Congratulations, mr. mutilate, you and your right-wing doppelganger MidasMulligan have done more than any other beings on the planet to turn me off of any form of political involvement whatsoever.

To be perfectly blunt, jonmc, if you honestly believe that line of logic, and honestly believe that's the limit of someone else's political insight, then your problem isn't that you're turned off from politics; your problem is that you're too stupid to understand it. I don't think you're stupid, therefore I sincerely doubt you actually subscribe to logic as stupid as that.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:12 AM on April 24, 2003


"I begin to feel like I was in the last generation of Americans who took a civics class. I begin to feel like most Americans don't understand the First Amendment, don't understand the idea of freedom of speech, and don't understand that it's the responsibility of the citizen to speak out....When I write a political column for the Chicago Sun-Times

Freedom of speech? He is paid for his column, the one writing back to him is the one speaking for free.

Roger Ebert chats about dissent, celebrities, the power of film to effect change, and Moore.
(from the poster)

Michael Moore, PETA, Marxism, Pacifism, Veganism, The Left = Always Good.

posted by thomcatspike at 10:19 AM on April 24, 2003


The movement is basically a coalition which is not consistent.

Isn't that a bit fundamental to the nature of coalitions including "Big tent" political parties?

Much political debate would be much more sensible if everyone took a deep breath and realized that participants in these debates are motivated by an idealized vision of what their country should be doing.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:20 AM on April 24, 2003


the new mother nature takin' over

Quoting Canadians is frowned upon.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:22 AM on April 24, 2003


To be perfectly blunt, jonmc, if you honestly believe that line of logic, and honestly believe that's the limit of someone else's political insight,

XQUZYPHYR, I defy you to show me a time where foldy has ever deviated from the party line, or ever acknowleged that an adversary might have legitimate reasons to disagree with him, let alone that someone else's views are as valid as his.

And yes you could say the same of midas. I would love to be surprised just once by either of them, but nope they're both pretty much fundamentalists without the religion but with extra helpings on the rigidity. And that these days, is just about all I hear from every direction politically and it makes me wanna wait out armageddon somewhere.
posted by jonmc at 10:22 AM on April 24, 2003


I've heard the opposite argument from the right. For example the "Free Mumia" or the "Anti-WTO" protestors aren't always the most articulate about exactly why they're protesting.

This is a little apple-and-orangey in that protests in general are about shouting a lot more than they are about articulating complex ideas and perspectives. Are you going to find civil philosophical debate at an antiabortion protest? Letters, however, are more conducive to careful thought, or should be, so the distinction is more apt.

Angry right-wingers resort to rhetoric of force more readily. Angry left-wingers just tend to be long-winded, and their rhetoric is usually couched in strident appeals of compassion. That whole reductive liberal=guilt, conservative=rage thing comes out more when people lose their shit.
posted by furiousthought at 10:24 AM on April 24, 2003


jonmc: The article begins with some rather harsh criticism of Moore. So the idea most definitely isn't that Moore is "always good."
posted by raysmj at 10:26 AM on April 24, 2003


Jesus, jonmc, instant ad hominem attack: the Mr. Above It All act on the blink today? And the comparison to MM is especially lame--it's not like F&M's linking to the Bizzarro version of the same old same old right-wing-talk-radio-Clinton-bashing pack of lies here. The link is unexceptionable and the language of the post is almost entirely quotes. What is your problem--an ingrown hair in a private place?
posted by y2karl at 10:27 AM on April 24, 2003


> Michael Moore, PETA, Marxism, Pacifism, Veganism, The Left = Always Good.

Especially with ketchup, though Michael Moore is fattening.
posted by jfuller at 10:28 AM on April 24, 2003


If the young are getting their news only from MTV, who can blame them? - WoflDaddy

Looks like someone isn't reading the links before posting. That quote was from Bob Edwards WolfDaddy. You really should read before posting.

they give the phenomenon of celebrity too much legitimacy, more than it already has and deserves. -WolfDaddy
Again, not Ebert but Edwards. But putting that aside:

Amen! Can we just get Rush Limbaugh, the celebrity entertainer, to shut the hell up yet? Or perhaps Charlie Daniels, the fat, over the hill redneck country music entertainer to just shut the hell up too? And those offensive songs glorifying war wafting out of Nashville, can we just get Clear Channel to quit playing them like they did the Dixie Chicks?

Hmmm... must be the message and not the messenger, eh?
posted by nofundy at 10:31 AM on April 24, 2003


Well, jonmc, you certainly derailed the thread real good--now it's mostly about you. Way to go, dude.
posted by y2karl at 10:32 AM on April 24, 2003


Roger Ebert is an enigma to me. He's one of those people who I find completely charming and utterly fascinating as long as he's not actually doing what he's become famous for. I'd love to spend a few hours at a dinner party talking with him, as long as the conversation didn't involve movies, as I rarely agree with his reviews.

Still, this was an interesting interview.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:33 AM on April 24, 2003


I defy you to show me a time where foldy has ever deviated from the party line

You mean deviated from your view of the party line: that's my point. I'm annoyed by the ridiculous idea that, for example, everyone left of George Bush loves Michael Moore, and that extremist nutjobs like PETA are automatically under the wing of "liberalism." Why? Because they don't like eating meat? Liberals can eat meat and (gasp!) conservatives can be against war. Jesus, a meat-eating liberal and an anti-war conservative host a show together on MSNBC, for crying out loud.

Liberals and Conservatives are an ideology, not a party. I'm sick of people labelling support of Michael Moore as "toeing the party line" when Moore isn't even a freaking Democrat.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:36 AM on April 24, 2003


**checks watch**

Ah, nofundy and y2karl, foldy-lite and foldy-emeritus, right on schedule and with the exact responses I would've expected: basically "our asshole is better than your asshole."

This knee-jerking "debate" which more closely resembles a food fight is exactly what I was talking about when I said that this is the crap that turned me off from politics.

the Mr. Above It All act on the blink today?

I'm beneath it all, mister, and I intend to stay there.
posted by jonmc at 10:39 AM on April 24, 2003


Great link, fold_and_mutilate; thanks.

jonmc, did you even bother to read the interview or did you just hit Froth when you saw f&m's name? Jesus.
On preview: There's just one (knee-)jerk in this thread, and if you go to the mirror you'll see him.
posted by languagehat at 10:43 AM on April 24, 2003


Off Topic
Holden: "Talk to Her," features a character who has sex with a catatonic woman.

AKA rape.

Other characters are horrified and disgusted, but Almodovar loves this character and has sympathy for him, and he leads the audience to feel the same way.

I thought Almodovar loved him a bit too much, and I certainly didn't feel the same way.

Back on topic.

In the interview, Ebert says "Movies record human nature in a better way than any other art form, that's for sure." Personally, I think that live theatre does it better than movies (all things being equal), but a great movie experience is probably more feasible for most of America than a great theatre experience.
posted by witchstone at 10:48 AM on April 24, 2003


nofundy, I read the links, and didn't attribute my cut'n'pasted quote to Edwards, Ebert, Moore, or you and I'll thank you not to put words in my mouth: anyone who blithely assumes that kids only get their news from MTV--both wings do this--and then holds those kids blameless should be chided for their assumption, but also recognize that in if such a situation exists, one must wonder why the parents are also blameless; one must wonder why parents are not given the same measure of stature as a celebrity when considering role models.

The only mistake I made in my thoughts when posting them was the sentence "Moore makes it in the link foldy gave us as well" should have read "Ebert makes it...".

Hope that clears things up. Amen to axing Charlie Daniels: I haven't enjoyed anything out that man's mouth for about 25 years now.
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:57 AM on April 24, 2003


I'm beneath it all, mister, and I intend to stay there.

Oooh. Edgy! So will you loose the 'Darkyr JonMC' image by your 16th birthday, do you think? Or is this here to stay for a bit?

Anyways, jon, tell us a little more about yourself, won't you please? Because, and I'm sure my 'comrades' here agree, that seems to be the point of Metafilter. I say 'comrades' because from your perspective we probably do look like commies.

Metafilter: getting to know you. Getting to know all about you (and then some).
posted by Ryvar at 11:03 AM on April 24, 2003


Ebert had me until he goes into his theology:

Pope sent an emissary to Bush to say God does not want this war, and God does not endorse this war. Nor, for that matter, does God not endorse the war...I'm saying this not as a Catholic but as a student of Catholic theology........

The Bush theory, of course, is that he has a personal dialogue with God: God talks to Bush, Bush talks to God. And Bush gets God's message, and Bush really believes that God's on his side.....

Sounds like the Pope has the same personal dialogue???

And so what we have here really is a rather alarming situation where religion in the White House has crossed the line between church and state.

Ok for Ebert's religion not Bush's? This is where I see a problem of "my freedom of speech" in public as it seems to be me me me...we, would be a lot better from both sides on the line between church and state . Since we are not in the same church, then we leave our religions out of it.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:08 AM on April 24, 2003


Loose instead of lose. @#^&!! I'm no longer fit to live. Anyway, this:

Holden: "Talk to Her," features a character who has sex with a catatonic woman.

AKA rape.


Ohhhh. But you know nobody complains it was 'rape' in The World According To Garp when a woman did this to an unconscious man who had lost control of his erectile function, now do they? Yes, waiter? I'll have the double standard with my eggs and toast this morning, thank you!
posted by Ryvar at 11:09 AM on April 24, 2003


Ryvar, your comment proves that you know absolutely nothing about me.
posted by jonmc at 11:12 AM on April 24, 2003


You know, while all of you chew the fat about Roger "Hey, I wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls!" Ebert, I hope you're not ignoring the far more brilliant and earnest Bob Edwards link that nofundy provided.

If you did, here it is again.
posted by grabbingsand at 11:13 AM on April 24, 2003


TO ALL PARTICIPANTS
Please stop using the two following trite expressions:
"straw men" and "ad hominem".
Whatever other arguments you make, the use of these two expressions make you sound like Dilbert's pointy-haired boss.
posted by kablam at 11:16 AM on April 24, 2003


Sounds like the Pope has the same personal dialogue???Thomcatspike, he was making the exact opposite point -- that at least in R.C. theology, God does not intervene -- it's up to us to work things out. Which by the way meshes very nicely with U.S. political theology, which states that God should have no involvement in the affairs of state whatsoever. And he finally wraps up by pointing out (as if it were ironic) that it was JFK, a Catholic, who inspired fear of church involvement of state dealings, but it is actually the right that has proved most likely to want to blur that line.
posted by luser at 11:16 AM on April 24, 2003


Hey look, another facile characterization of the right/left from a laughable pseudo-celeb. Christ, who gives a shit?
posted by kavasa at 11:22 AM on April 24, 2003


Ryvar - Garp himself complains that it was rape, as I recall. Also, I don't agree with jonmc here, but I can testify that he's not fifteen.
posted by Songdog at 11:25 AM on April 24, 2003


But you know nobody complains it was 'rape' in The World According To Garp when a woman did this to an unconscious man who had lost control of his erectile function, now do they?

Hey! Don't be hatin'!

I haven't seen the film, but based on what you said, I would agree that this is rape as well. My issue with Talk To Her is that no one is calling it rape in the reviews I've read (one woman called the film "quirkily romantic"), they're just slathering all over themselves praising Almodovar. And for the record, I find double standards disturbing as well.
posted by witchstone at 11:26 AM on April 24, 2003


I love how people dismiss ebert's thought-out, intelligent comments because of his profession. Think for a second about what YOU do for a living, and how you'd feel being summarily dismissed because, well... he's just a programmer, what the hell does he know!?!. If he can be ignored because of his job, why do you think we should listen to you?
posted by GeekAnimator at 11:36 AM on April 24, 2003


Hey look, another facile characterization of the right/left from a laughable pseudo-celeb. Christ, who gives a shit?

Ebert is quite eloquent (more eloquent than kavasa, at least), and I found this interview pretty engaging. I thought his criticism of Moore was right-on, from a progressive point of view, and I really enjoyed his humanistic take on the power of cinema. Asked for a "transformative" director, he names Ozu--it's great to see a popular critic championing Ozu: I, too, wish he were better known.

On those (like kavasa) who criticize celebrities for expressing political opinions: what is it about fame that makes a celebrity "laughable"? Does success render one an idiot? That's a little counterintuitive, isn't it?

Ironic, also, that in declaring Ebert's characterization "facile", kavasa manages to reinforce it. Hey, here's someone dismissing an opinion by saying "shut up, you don't matter, stupid celebrity!", just like Ebert claims he's been experiencing!
posted by mr_roboto at 11:53 AM on April 24, 2003


Ryvar -- regarding "The World According to Garp"

I thought it was made quite clear in the book that his mother's behavior wasn't normal and it certainly wasn't portrayed as a romantic encounter. It was a cold, clinical and deeply perverse thing to do.
posted by Julnyes at 11:55 AM on April 24, 2003


Oooh, an interview with Roger Ebert? Well... I am over-fucking-whelmed. Thanks, Foldy, for your insightful, "Look guys! Another semi-famous person says liberal=genius, while conservative=stupid redneck! Wow, that's what I say, too!" Yay, now we can all talk about how smart we are, at least we could have, until jonmc walked in here. Way to go, dude.

But, while we're here, let's talk about some things. When celebrities decide to use the fame they've acquired through entertainment to shout to the public their personal opinions on world politics, they are taking the chance that their favorable public image outweighs their unfavorable personal opinion. Frankly, that's a mistake. Especially, as in the case of the Dixie Chicks, when you obviously are not in tune with the common opinions of your fan base. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. Similarly, when people criticize Mr. Penn and Ms. Sarandon, they're saying, "I like your movies, but I don't like your opinion. Keep saying things that I find offensive, and the latter will negatively impact the former." It's not a conservative conspiracy to turn the public against liberal entertainers, it's liberal entertainers turning public opinion against themselves. It's not so much trying to squash dissent as it is more of a "Shut up, you're ruining it" piece of advice.

When people say, "Oh, shut up" to the TV as Mr. Moore takes the microphone and immediately begins bashing Mr. Bush, it's because he is using the Oscars for his own personal political agenda. There is such a thing as time and place. Mr. Moore, talk about your film. That's why you're on stage. Reserve your opinion for talk shows, or write op-ed pieces, or make more films... but don't use a nationally televised awards show for the purpose of honoring achievement in film to invade my living room with your political speech.

Side Note: jonmc, don't sweat it. These are mostly newbies you're arguing with, they just don't get it because they have no sense of the past. You are, of course, correct. Foldy does not deviate from his own agenda nor does he acknowledge the possibility that any ideas contradictory to his own could hold a shred of merit. He has turned more users than just you away from politics, and more middle-of-the-roaders away from the left than MM could ever hope to drive from the right.
posted by David Dark at 11:56 AM on April 24, 2003


thomcatspike: Freedom of speech? He is paid for his column, the one writing back to him is the one speaking for free.

that has nothing to do with his argument. he was referring to (first) the backlash against celebrities speaking out about their political opinions and (later on) the connection between the Dixie Chicks' statements and the ensuing quasi-boycott by some clearchannel stations.

whether or not he gets paid for his column has nothing to do with the attempts to stifle free speech.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:57 AM on April 24, 2003


He has turned more users than just you away from politics, and more middle-of-the-roaders away from the left than MM could ever hope to drive from the right.

Well, MM tends to paternalistically condescending where foldy is antagonistically accusatory. And I know directly from other mefites mouths that he tends to piss off just as many people as F&M. Hell, he makes me wanna join a commune and burn down banks. But then I'll read foldy and want to join the NRA and cut down old growth trees.

It's a vicious circle. I need help. MAKE IT STOP!!
posted by jonmc at 12:05 PM on April 24, 2003


that has nothing to do with his argument. he was referring to (first) the backlash against celebrities speaking out about their political opinions and (later on) the connection between the Dixie Chicks' statements and the ensuing quasi-boycott by some clearchannel stations.

When I read the post, that is what came to my mind, maybe why some memebers responded the way they did.

Luser thanks...was not sure if he was interpreting or adding his two cents with the religion comment. With the JFK part see he was saying as a student of Catholic Theology and was interpreting the Pope's message with it.

Clear Channel is based in Texas. Clear Channel loves George W. Bush. Clear Channel would like the administration of George W. Bush to remove all remaining restrictions on the ownership of media properties.

Live in Dallas, home to Hicks; work right down the road where the two sisters went to Green Hill high school. For me ( on a "no" me kick, arrrg!) Most of the one's I'm actually hearing this, "boycott the Dixie Chicks"(I don't listen to country music) are folks whom did not vote for Bush and will tell you that with a despise added comment too.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:07 PM on April 24, 2003


TO ALL PARTICIPANTS
Please stop using the two following trite expressions:
"straw men" and "ad hominem".


If people wouldn't make straw man and ad hominem arguments so often, it wouldn't be necessary to use those terms so much. As it is, you might as well complain that "galaxy" is used too much in an astronomy textbook.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:09 PM on April 24, 2003


David: having read nearly every thread on this site for almost three years now, I'll thank you not to call me a newbie. I know JonMC's histrionics as well as I do foldy's tin-foil parania or MM's pompous self-righteousness.

In any case - Julnyes, that whole bit is presented as humorous and you damned well know it. When the old man gets shocked and says "You . . . raped a dying man?!" you're supposed to laugh at the absurdity.

That scene wouldn't have been handled in the same way if it was a man with a catatonic woman. There's a double-standard at work here - an assumption that all men 'always want it' and that the audience shares this assumption. You can choose to a) be seen as having a stick up your ass and complain that not all men always want it (and not get laid) or b) throw it right back in the other direction and laugh at how all women always want it, too (and not get laid except in prison). Pardon me whilst I cry "foul!"
posted by Ryvar at 12:10 PM on April 24, 2003


Especially, as in the case of the Dixie Chicks, when you obviously are not in tune with the common opinions of your fan base.

Correction, Clear Channel, not the fan base they are out of sync with. The "fan base" grows daily. Number one selling CD and all concerts sold out does not denote "out of touch with your fan base." Get your winger stats updated.
posted by nofundy at 12:10 PM on April 24, 2003


Thanks, David Darky, for your insightful, "Totally incorrect summary of the article presented!"
posted by gramcracker at 12:11 PM on April 24, 2003


Well, jonmc, you certainly derailed the thread real good--now it's mostly about you. Way to go, dude. -y2karl

You do see the hypocrisy in this statement, considering you've been in similar situations umpteen times?
posted by ashbury at 12:11 PM on April 24, 2003


Especially, as in the case of the Dixie Chicks, when you obviously are not in tune with the common opinions of your fan base. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. Similarly, when people criticize Mr. Penn and Ms. Sarandon, they're saying, "I like your movies, but I don't like your opinion. Keep saying things that I find offensive, and the latter will negatively impact the former."

The Dixie chicks are currently #1 on the Billboard Country charts and have sold out every venue on their U.S. tour. Obviously, the fans have address how much the latter affects the former. Thanks for playing.

Side note: foldy, please don't be worried about the number of right-wingers expressing their deep, deep concern for the number of left-wingers you've allegedly turned away, and the growing number of people entering political conversations to start conversations about how they don't like having conversations anymore. There's just this slight possibiliy that they're talking out of their ass.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:11 PM on April 24, 2003


whether or not he gets paid for his column has nothing to do with the attempts to stifle free speech.

mrgrimm, who is actually trying to stifle his free speech, the letter writers, by saying shut up. Adding that is just plain rudeness to tell someone that, class on etiquette maybe but not civics?
posted by thomcatspike at 12:15 PM on April 24, 2003


I know JonMC's histrionics as well as I do foldy's tin-foil parania or MM's pompous self-righteousness.

Histrionics?

Gee, that's rich coming from the author of this. If that prose was any purpler, It'd come in a can marked "Welch's."

Glass houses and stones, kid.
posted by jonmc at 12:20 PM on April 24, 2003


I, for one, am so relieved that we have Roger Ebert to think the big thoughts that we ordinary people are incapable of thinking. I am continually fascinated by how both sides characterize "the people" as simple and unsophisticated when "the people" don't think the way they are supposed to think...ie, oppose the war, support tax cuts, and so on...

I hear lots of well reasoned discussion both for and against a variety of polarizing topics in my daily news graze. Those who don't hear those well reasoned arguments from the other side are just ignoring what they don't want to hear.
posted by cyclopz at 12:28 PM on April 24, 2003


While not a pundit and not attempting to be, might I propose the following? The only people who think rationally about what position they wish to hold are a small minority on either side of highly principled people. Since everybody else is somewhat irrational, whichever "wing" is currently more influential has by extension, more irrational people on its side.

Therefore, since the "right" currently has more people supporting it, it has more irrational people on its side. This isn't to impugn the policies or politics of the right - under Clinton, there were more irrational left-wingers and I doubt anyone on the left would say that therefore discredits their ideas- but it would explain why Ebert gets a few e-mails from reasonable left-wingers and a lot of e-mails from irrational right-wingers. The signal to noise ratio is lower on the left at the moment.

That's just a hypothesis though.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 12:28 PM on April 24, 2003


The only thing that will solve all this wailing and gnashing of teeth is a huge make-out session. Or a sock hop.
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:34 PM on April 24, 2003


what is it about fame that makes a celebrity "laughable"?

Have you ever spent any appreciable amount of time with a famous actor or actress on a personal basis?
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:40 PM on April 24, 2003


I'll second that, Wolfdaddy.
posted by y2karl at 12:44 PM on April 24, 2003


"Have you ever spent any appreciable amount of time with a famous actor or actress on a personal basis?"

Not without an open jar of Vaseline nearby, no.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:45 PM on April 24, 2003


Ryvar -

are we talking about the movie or the book? I read the book and only have a very dim recollection of the movie.

I can only comment on my impressions and conclusions from reading it - all very subjective obviously. The book was very funny at times, but it had a very dark sense of humor.

What I took away from the book is that Garp's mother had serious mental problems - her use of that comatose soldier for her own purposes without any regret or sense of wrongdoing bothered me then and I still feel it shows her as a person with definite issues.

I do agree with you, however, on the annoying and sometimes dangerous double standards when it comes to sexual assault of men / boys.
posted by Julnyes at 12:53 PM on April 24, 2003


You do see the hypocrisy in this statement, considering you've been in similar situations umpteen times?

In my own threads perhaps, but very rarely, if at all, in other peoples'--so fie on your ad hominem straw man hypocrite self,
neener neener nyah nyah *lip fart* *lip fart* and so forth.

jonmc condemns MM and f&M for their intransigence in never admitting error and ignores his first comment derail of the thread here. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.
posted by y2karl at 12:57 PM on April 24, 2003


The only thing that will solve all this wailing and gnashing of teeth is a huge make-out session. Or a sock hop.

Breast self-exams for everybody!
posted by MrBaliHai at 12:58 PM on April 24, 2003


...does not deviate from his own agenda nor does he acknowledge the possibility that any ideas contradictory to his own could hold a shred of merit

Well, considering the source, more proof irony is alive,
kicking and screaming.
posted by y2karl at 1:01 PM on April 24, 2003


grahamcrackery, i didn't summarize the article, i summarized the FPP and the quote foldy chose to represent the link. But thanks, grahamcrackery, for your insightful "misrepresentation of my intentions!"
posted by David Dark at 1:02 PM on April 24, 2003


David Dark, and anyone else still tempted to mindlessly attack Ebert for being a "celebrity" daring to express himself on the issues of the day, go read GeekAnimator's comment and then come back and tell us why we should listen to your insights. I don't ask what somebody's job description is; if they make sense, I listen to them. Some people around here just look at a name and turn off their brains.

Pseudoephedrine: Good point, but it's a mistake to think of Clinton as a left-winger or to think that left-wingers had popular support under his hapless administration. He was as right-wing as a Democrat can get without actually becoming a Republican (using "left" and "right" in their proper economic/political sense and ignoring the distractions: "Ooh, he plays the sax and is comfortable with black people!"), and the reason for that (since he clearly has no actual principles of his own) is that the populace had moved significantly to the right since the '70s. Why that happened is a good question which I am totally unqualified to answer.

Oh, and how did this thread get to be about Garp?
posted by languagehat at 1:03 PM on April 24, 2003


come now, y2k, it's not like I've never typed the words "I see your point."

Find those words coming from foldy, if you can.

Should I post a picture of The Cat in the Hat now?
posted by David Dark at 1:07 PM on April 24, 2003


I hereby declare my laughable prejudices better than your laughable prejudices.
posted by UncleFes at 1:07 PM on April 24, 2003


I was hoping this would be more involved in the Civics in school bit. I also think people would benefit from learning a bit of what the individual's role in society is as well as responsibilities and a review of the rights in our Constitution. Unfortunately, a primer of that sort is probably seen as unAmerican by both left and right.

From what I see in here I must ask "What are words for if nobody listens anymore?"
posted by infowar at 1:07 PM on April 24, 2003


When celebrities decide to use the fame they've acquired through entertainment to shout to the public their personal opinions on world politics, they are taking the chance that their favorable public image outweighs their unfavorable personal opinion. Frankly, that's a mistake. Especially, as in the case of the Dixie Chicks, when you obviously are not in tune with the common opinions of your fan base. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

Well, whether it actually affects sales remains to be seen. The Dixie Chicks thing is quite baffling given how mild the comments were. (During the first Bush Administration much worse was said about Dan Quayle.) In spite of all the protest "Home" just dropped from the #1 spot on the Billboard Country Album chart and has clocked 34 weeks on the chart overall. Only a handful of their concerts have not sold out, so overall it seems either that outrage is limited, or that people are not outraged enough to boycott.

But there is a definite trend of saying not only that celeberties should shut up, but that anyone disagreeing with the current administration should shut up. The "love it or leave it" cries have been so numerous that I don't think they can just be dismissed as paranoid fantasy. Whatever happened to "I might disagree with your opinion, but I will defend your right to say it." This always seems to happen in war time. "Agree to disagree" becomes an unacceptable option.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:08 PM on April 24, 2003


I hear lots of well reasoned discussion both for and against a variety of polarizing topics in my daily news graze. Those who don't hear those well reasoned arguments from the other side are just ignoring what they don't want to hear.

Maybe we have opened up our society to freedom of speech by so many means to date that it becomes over whelming to hear it all. Find myself ignoring to tell a possible other side to a tale or even pointing to the truth, just so I can hear some silence in it all. The saying: the squeaky wheel gets the oil; the squeaky wheel gets ignored too.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:09 PM on April 24, 2003


It's a vicious circle. I need help. MAKE IT STOP!!

I can think of a very simple way to make your wish a reality...

I read this interview a week or so ago, and really enjoyed reading it. The more I read of Ebert's stuff, the more I like him, and while I don't always agree with him about movies, I find that when we do agree it tends to be for the same reasons.

My favorite movie related quote from the article:

A lot of people just go to movies that feed into their preexisting and not so noble needs and desires: They just go to action pictures, and things like that. But if you go to foreign films, if you go to documentaries, if you go to independent films, if you go to good films, you will become a better person because you will understand human nature better.

I think there's definitely a place for movies that feed into preexisting notions. Sometimes the last thing I want from a movie is to be challenged, but I think movies are an easy way to help yourself different perspectives.
posted by jennyb at 1:14 PM on April 24, 2003


But there is a definite trend of saying not only that celeberties should shut up, but that anyone disagreeing with the current administration should shut up.

Or agreeing with this administration, in certain (ahem) circles, for that matter.

Whatever happened to "I might disagree with your opinion, but I will defend your right to say it." This always seems to happen in war time. "Agree to disagree" becomes an unacceptable option.

It's not just war, it happens all the time. There are people who can agree to disagree, and there are many of them right here in this thread. But they are not the loudest, nor the most prolific, nor the most provocative. And they are susceptible to point-scorers and shout-downers, to the point where they soon find there efforts unrewarding. So: in much the same way in that if you want justice, work for peace? If you want rational discourse, work for equanimity. That means criciticizing those who troll and bark, even when you agree with them. And that is not easy to do, especially for the local majority viewpoint.
posted by UncleFes at 1:18 PM on April 24, 2003


jonmc condemns MM and f&M for their intransigence in never admitting error and ignores his first comment derail of the thread here. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

Dude, I admit error all the damn time.
posted by jonmc at 1:23 PM on April 24, 2003


From what I see in here I must ask "What are words for if nobody listens anymore?"

Infowar, That tune has been sung,"What are words for if nobody listens anymore?".
They are:Missing Persons.

Do you hear me
Do you care


Hopefully the chorus of the world will say, Yes.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:29 PM on April 24, 2003


languagehat, just to be clear, I am not criticizing Ebert on the basis of his celebrity. I like him as a journalist just fine no matter what he chooses to write about. Indeed, I'm quite concerned over the disillusionment he expresses in f_and_m's post.

However, the best actors--who often become celebrities not because they're good at their craft, instead due to nothing more than dumb luck or because they're exceptionally pretty--in my experience, are laughable because they never. Stop. Acting. It's impossible to determine if they mean what they say, because they never say what they mean. How is that in any way not laughable? Why do we respect these people so much? Probably because they don't allow anyone to get to know them as people, only as the image they choose to project. We're complicit in this, yes? We are laughable as well.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:35 PM on April 24, 2003


LH> I'd agree that Clinton is an opportunist, but I'm not sure how fair it is to say that America's become "more right-wing" than it was previously, at least socially.

Fiscally, sure, America's gone far to the right, but I think they've gone as much to the left socially. Where it gets confusing is that a lot of the "social" stuff like affirmative action etc. has an economic dimension to it - if university spots are limited, then they are a commodity; and government control of commodities is wrong, so affirmative action, a type of governmental control, is wrong; goes the argument.

However, a lot of the socially progressive stuff that _doesn't_ have an economic dimension is doing quite well. For example, homosexuality is pretty widely tolerated, if not necessarily approved of. Divorce and abortions, while contentious, are firmly rooted in the law. Banning interracial marriages would be unthinkable. Obscenity charges are so rare as to excite public outcry when they occur. Everybody loves the environment, even if they don't necessarily want to save it. And so on, and so forth.

It's important to point out that Dubya is _reactionary_, not moderate, and he is so because his social viewpoints are not really all that mainstream. Even magazines like National Review, which tends to be agit-prop for the Republicans, have shown themselves at times to be very uncomfortable with the package of social issues, if not necessarily any particular part of it. Clinton, as an opportunist and populist, is probably more in step with what most people believe than Dubya the ideologue.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 1:38 PM on April 24, 2003


thomcatspike: who is actually trying to stifle his free speech, the letter writers, by saying shut up. Adding that is just plain rudeness to tell someone that, class on etiquette maybe but not civics?

i don't think he's saying that his speech is compromised. i think he's saying that the letter writers who tell him to shut up are indicative of a broader attempt by society to keep publicy expressed opinions (especially by celebrities (not that Ebert necessarily included himself in that group)) within an acceptable spectrum.

it's the same argument that the right-wing demagogues on the radio use when they denigrate "PC" attitudes or campus restrictions on hate speech.

imho, it's a fine line between responding to someone's opinion with your own and dominating (or even inflaming) the discussion so that their opinion can't be heard (or isn't tolerated, e.g. the Dixie Chicks' (actually i think it was just the chubby one) anti-Bush statement).

DavidDark, there's a difference between a grassroots community boycott and a corporate-owned radio conglomerate's decision to ban a specific artist b/c of a non-critical number of listener complaints.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:39 PM on April 24, 2003


Exquisitefur, etc. The Dixie Chicks tour sold out, in one day, weeks before she made the remark. So that doesn't count for anything. (Thanks for playing!) It tells you how immensely popular they are, and considering LP sales fell a considerable percentage until she realized that her band is not sliced bread and apologized, it says more for my theory than it does for yours.

mrgrimm, listener polls were sometimes as high as 3-1 against playing their music. More often, it was about 50-50. Is 50% of your audience a non-critical number?

BTW, I never wanted to discuss the Dixie Chicks. I don't give two shits about them or their political opinions, I only brought it up because it was in the article. I'm done talking about country music artists for today.
posted by David Dark at 2:09 PM on April 24, 2003


[Note: This post attacks no one.]

American Liberalism (that's with a big "L") isn't so liberal after all. Remember when it was all about property rights? Remember when to be liberal was to read John Locke and to believe that the state came after the rights of the citizen and existed to protect his stuff against the rogues who would steal it from him? (including the government) Then those wonderful Pragmatics came along, telling us that we can improve our Selves via education and knowledge. Nationwide schools were developed. Touchy-feely liberalism began. The recognition of the individual began to become about the importance of individuality.

Being a liberal isn't a bad thing. It isn't about being leftist or rightist. My politics are fairly lefty, but some of my best dialogues have been with a fellow conservative & lifelong Republican who is also a Liberal. I know this post is not exactly 100% on topic, but I would like to define better and defend the word Liberal. People banter it around like it was some sort of horrible thing sick people do with children. The United States was founded on Liberal ideas; these are ideas that resist herd mentality. The Left in America may have problems keeping themselves together because they are a Big-Tent party, and the Right may trend towards dittoisms because their ideology works that way--but neither of those things are really Liberal at heart.
posted by Tystnaden at 2:19 PM on April 24, 2003


WolfDaddy: Wasn't aiming at you; you're one of the more sensible people around here, in my opinion.

Pseudoephedrine: ...at least socially. That's why I said "using 'left' and 'right' in their proper economic/political sense and ignoring the distractions." Don't get me wrong; I'm delighted that this country has progressed in the ways you mention (though it sure took its sweet time). But this has nothing to do with economic issues (except in the sense that everything has something to do with the economy), and it too often distracts lefties from attacking on that front. Whew, gay people can hold hands on the street and black people can be cabinet members—guess we don't have to worry about unions any more! The working class is getting screwed in every possible way, while being distracted by bread and circuses (fast food and cable TV) and taught by politicians and media in cahoots to think of themselves not as working people who need to fight for their rights, or at least a few crumbs from the tables of the rich, but as potential rich people themselves, so they vote as if they were rich. And the Democratic Party, which used to at least pretend to care about these people, has pushed its way to the trough and is sucking down the corporate swill right alongside the Republicans. And let's face it, Clinton wasn't even very good socially. Remember "don't ask, don't tell"?
posted by languagehat at 2:20 PM on April 24, 2003


Jesus you people are vocal. Anyways.

To begin with, I must say I did not in fact read the article. Thus, if Ebert was eloquent and stated a coherent and consistent etc. I'm sorry because I didn't know.

I reacted to what foldy* had decided to post, namely, a facile characterization of The Right as (at least in the vast majority populated by ignorant, thoughtless apes and The Left as populated by subtle intellectuals.

To be fair, smacking me with my own stick (just because someone is X profession what they have to say doesn't matter) is well-deserved. In my defense, even if Ebert is a reasonably reasonable person, I was so put off by the initial post that I didn't even check and so couldn't have known. Also I would like to note that one of the reasons the "let's ask celebs" thing irritates me is because it makes such a superficial judgement. Celebs' opinions are given more weight because they're celebs. I'd be happier if they were just as ignored as everyone else; if the only way for them to prove that they're sentient creatures was to, for example, get online and argue pointless points with other people.

*That it was foldy posting it undoubtedly added to my dismissiveness. I find him or her in all ways anathema to me and also maddening, and have so found since the first post of his or hers which I had the displeasure of reading.**
**If you're wondering, yes, my frequent run-ons and strange of use of words like "also" is a conscious, stylistic choice SO THERE.

posted by kavasa at 2:25 PM on April 24, 2003


I'm annoyed by the ridiculous idea that, for example, everyone left of George Bush loves Michael Moore, and that extremist nutjobs like PETA are automatically under the wing of "liberalism." Why? Because they don't like eating meat? Liberals can eat meat and (gasp!) conservatives can be against war.

You just take that nuanced analysis and get RIGHT out of here, buddy! That crap don't fly 'round these parts!

I love how people dismiss ebert's thought-out, intelligent comments because of his profession. Think for a second about what YOU do for a living, and how you'd feel being summarily dismissed because, well... he's just a programmer, what the hell does he know!?!.

Didn't you get the memo? We're all just programmed worker bees propping up society. Dare to step outside your assigned unidimensional role and you will be chastened by any means necessary. If your role is not to tell others what to think, don't presume to do so, or suffer the consequences.
posted by rushmc at 3:05 PM on April 24, 2003


The claim that Dixie Chick album sales dropped when the controversy began is incorrect. They only slipped from the #1 country album spot this past week.

Further, their other albums had a nice little spike upwards on Amazon right after the controversy got underway; they're back down now, but it certainly didn't do them any harm.

If you have specific nation-wide sales numbers, I'm honestly curious, since I'm aware that the Billboard position is a relative ranking.
posted by Bryant at 3:06 PM on April 24, 2003


::: reviewing thread :::

When did we all turn on one another like savage beasts? Even those I once respected seem eager to contribute to the feeding frenzy in the pens.

Disagreement != disdain; and no one scores a point here by goring his idealogical opponents. It's like Lord of the Freakin' Flies meets the Roman arena anymore.
posted by rushmc at 3:11 PM on April 24, 2003


When did we all turn on one another like savage beasts?

Er, I know it's not my place to point this out, but didn't you go into a dramatic self-exile awhile back, rushmc? I'm not offended but a little amused you've returned to the fold only to label us all "savage beasts."
posted by dhoyt at 3:24 PM on April 24, 2003


Drama? What drama? I was angry and sad at the behavior of people here, which was poisoning the pool and interfering with the intent and enjoyability of the site, so I restricted my participation until I wasn't angry anymore (with no traditional goodbye-forever-and-fuck-you-all post--don't let jonson's bizarre vendetta fool you). What I didn't like then seems far more prevalent (even the "norm") now.

It remains a fascinating question, though. Where did the civility go? Is it a reaction to the increased tension of the political atmosphere? To the habitual trolling of a few dedicated extremists who respect no one? Is this last batch of folks let in just sub-par and the straw that broke the camel's back? Or is it something else altogether?

And, dhoyt, do you dispute the aptness of the "savage beasts" simile?
posted by rushmc at 3:42 PM on April 24, 2003


rushmc, that 'last batch of folks' comment was a little harsh and a lot off the mark, don't you think? Most of the people being less than civil in this thread are distinctly old hat.
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:52 PM on April 24, 2003


Dammit. Old guard. Meant to say old guard. Now I eat my old hat.
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:52 PM on April 24, 2003


Dammit. Old guard. Meant to say old guard. Now I eat my old hat. - wolfdaddy

No, no, no, I like the old hat part. Old hat will help move this conversation from the semi-polite mudslinging it is currently at towards the more proper and formal point where only profanity prevails (i'm specifically thinking of the phrase 'ass hat').
posted by Stynxno at 4:08 PM on April 24, 2003


*blinks* Okay, having read a bunch of these type of arguments on Mefi, and having sat through the use of vocabulary such as "liberal" and "conservative", "right wing" and "left wing", all used in ways that I don't really understand -- being Canadian and all -- could somebody provide me with an American definition of "Liberal" so that I can have a better idea of what you all are arguing about?

Okay, I know what you are arguing about, but I actually mean this as a serious question: Liberal has a specific political meaning up north, but in the States appears to be a catch all term for everyone from Clinton to WTO firebombers. Everything that Ebert said seemed to me self evident, non controversial, and full of common sense, so I don't quite get the frothing reactions. I'm not sure if anyone is still reading at this point, but I say thank you in advance.
posted by jokeefe at 4:17 PM on April 24, 2003


being Canadian and all -- could somebody provide me with an American definition of "Liberal" so that I can have a better idea of what you all are arguing about?

I would but I'm still trying to figure it all out myself. I do know myself: a citizen of the United States of America, a voter.
PS, didn't the French term the modern "Left-Side"?
posted by thomcatspike at 4:52 PM on April 24, 2003


Okay, having read a bunch of these type of arguments on Mefi, and having sat through the use of vocabulary such as "liberal" and "conservative", "right wing" and "left wing", all used in ways that I don't really understand -- being Canadian and all -- could somebody provide me with an American definition of "Liberal" so that I can have a better idea of what you all are arguing about?

That's a good question, basically, it comes down to the role of government in the United States. There actually are two dimensions involved. One is the role of government in economic life, and the other is the role of government in social life.

Liberals tend to advocate for government intervention to alleviate the worst economic disparities. The most extreme forms of poverty are a violation of basic rights (FDR's "Freedom from want.") Among the proper functions of government are providing a safety net to prevent the worst proverty, creating regulatory structures to promote health and safety and correcting economic segregation based on race. To paraphase Cornell West, businesses when they become a certain size can be just as damaging to individual rights as renegade governments.

On the social sphere. Liberals advocate a cosmopolitan acceptance of differing religions, ethnicities and sexual orientations. The government should take an explicitly secular stance that does not favor any particular religion.

Conservatives in the economic sphere argue that society best benefits if the role of government is restricted to projects that are beyond the scope of private enterprise such as nationwide transportation, and national defense. They act out of a belief that "A rising tide lifts all boats." And a hands-off government produces the highest tides. The function of a safety net is best provided by private and religious organizations.

Social conservatives tend to argue that the government does have a role to play in enforcing community norms. If a community wishes to criminalize homosexual behavior, or incorporate religious displays into public buildings or educational practices, the community should be permitted to do so.

It should be said that these positions do not map all that well onto United States political parties. Within the Republican party a tension exists between groups that emphasize economics and groups that emphasize the social agenda. Likewise in the Democratic party there is a tension between the "New Democrats" like Clinton and Gore who are more moderate in regards to economics than other groups within the party. At least one of causes of Gore's failure to win in 2000 was due to his extremely condescending attitude towards liberal groups that were not happy with Clinton's record on environmental or labor issues.

To disagree with an earlier poster, the notion of government promotion of education goes back quite a bit further than the pragmatists. the Northwest Ordinance that provided a template for statehood mandates that land surveys set aside parcels for local government and education.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:11 PM on April 24, 2003


Kirk: I was unaware of that provision of the Northwest Ordinance. My bad.

What my brain was trying to refer to while I was typing were the broader attempts to educate the new immigrants that were streaming into America around the time of Dewey et al. What I found interesting when I studied the period so many semesters ago, was that among some people, there was this sense that if "we" educated immigrants, they had the potential to become equals to the then "refined American." And they were honest about this. It wasn't so much the implementation of the idea, just its implications in transforming future generations of immigrants into the productive members of society that most of us are. (The continued screwing of the Native Americans best left for another FPP.) The whole point was to have "qualified" citizens--citizens educated enough to understand the functioning of the American political system and to break their bonds with their home countries. It all sounds banal, until you ask yourself this:

How many Americans today really believe that the immigrants they hear about on TV will ever reach their own social status? Do Americans believe that making minority groups upwardly mobile will enrich their [my] society?


My apologies, we are now officially way off topic.
posted by Tystnaden at 5:43 PM on April 24, 2003


rushmc, that 'last batch of folks' comment was a little harsh and a lot off the mark, don't you think?

Of course I do. I wasn't suggesting that I thought they were the cause of the problems (I don't, and I agree that the worst offenders have been around longer—although a few rotten apples can spoil a whole barrel, in theory), I was merely trying to list all the possible causes that came to mind. I'm curious which ones OTHER people think may be applicable.

could somebody provide me with an American definition of "Liberal" so that I can have a better idea of what you all are arguing about?

KirkJobSluder provides a good theoretical definition. However, in practice over the past 10 years or so, "Liberal" has come to be a catchall epithet used to belittle and condemn anyone to the "left" of Rush Limbaugh (and he has a lot to do with this).
posted by rushmc at 7:03 PM on April 24, 2003


However, in practice over the past 10 years or so, "Liberal" has come to be a catchall epithet used to belittle and condemn anyone to the "left" of Rush Limbaugh (and he has a lot to do with this).

Yes, and thereby lies my confusion. I was being a bit disingenuous; I do recognize the difference between the conceptions of the interventionist vs noninterventionist state so well and clearly explained by KJSluder (and thank you--it was very useful). What I am interested in here is how the word "liberal" has picked up the subtext that it seems to carry in general through the American media, and how it now functions as a one size fits all (as rushmc notes) epithet. It was seeing someone described as an "admitted liberal" in some mainstream news article recently that particularly caught my attention.... There seems no room at all in the current American media for nuance, dissension, discussion, or questioning.

Or maybe it's just me, watching America with that fascination that Canadians have always had...
posted by jokeefe at 7:18 PM on April 24, 2003


Just a minor segue - this is probably one of the more informative threads I've read lately. Just wanted to say thanks.
posted by FormlessOne at 7:23 PM on April 24, 2003


[quonsar examines his breasts]
posted by quonsar at 7:27 PM on April 24, 2003


"Liberal" has come to be a catchall epithet used to belittle and condemn anyone to the "left" of Rush Limbaugh

So frighteningly true.
posted by harja at 7:30 PM on April 24, 2003


Uh-huh. And you folks don't use "Conservative" to paint anyone here, right?
posted by yerfatma at 7:52 PM on April 24, 2003


Uh-huh. And you folks don't use "Conservative" to paint anyone here, right?

Rush has millions of listeners, and no one at MeFi even has a job. We are not a threat to hijack the national consciousness.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:33 PM on April 24, 2003


I recently came across a discussion of the term liberalism in Commanding Heights, a book that I'm reading. It was very helpful for me so I'm posting it here. Perhaps like progressivsm in the 20s, the word liberalism is becoming so abused that another term will eventually take its place to describe the moderate left in America.
For Americans, the global battle between the state and market can be puzzling, for it appears to pit "liberalism" against "liberalism." In the United States, liberalism means the embrace of an activist, interventionist government, expanding its involvement and responsibility in the economy. In the rest of the world, liberalism means almost exactly the opposite--what an American liberal would, in fact, describe as conservatism. This kind of liberalism supports a reduced role for the state, the maximization of individual liberty, economic freedom and reliance on the market, and decentralized decision making. It has its intellectual roots in such thinkers as John Locke, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill. It emphasizes the importance of property rights and sees government's role as the facilitation and adjudication of civil society. Thus, in this book, when liberalism is discussed outside the United States, whether it is in the former Soviet Union, or Latin America or elsewhere, it means less government, not more.*

* How was the meaning of this word altered so dramatically in the United States? During the First World War, some of the leading Progressive writers began to use the word liberalism as a substitue for progressivism, which had become tarnished by its association with their fallen hero, Theodore Roosevelt, who had run and lost on a Progressive third-party ticket. Traditional liberals were not happy to see their label transformed. in the 1920s, The New York Times criticized "the expropriation of the time-honored word 'liberal'" and argued that "the Radical-Red school of thought . . . hand back the world 'liberal' to its original owners." During the early 1930s, Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt duked it out as to who was the true liberal. Roosevelt won, adopting the term to ward off accusations of being left-wing. He could declare that liberalism was "plain English for a changed concept of the duty and responsibility of government toward economic life." And since the New Deal, liberalism in the United States has been identified with an expansion of government's role in the economy. (hardcover, p. 15)
posted by jacobsee at 9:45 PM on April 24, 2003


It has its intellectual roots in such thinkers as John Locke, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill.

Well, that comment smacks of sloppy attribution, because one of the more intriguing things about the 'liberalism' of Locke in particular, and even that of Smith and Mill -- for those who actually read them, that is -- is that it can be extrapolated into both the 'less government, every man for himself' ideology sometimes known (erroneously, I'd say) as 'classical liberalism' and the 'government as catalyst for personal liberation' ideology which is generally known as 'social democratic' around the world. Certainly, 'liberalism' doesn't mean 'less government' around the world: if you look at the Liberal Democrat manifesto in the UK, for instance -- and the LibDems are affiliated with the international liberal movement -- you'll see an anti-interventionist attitude towards issues of 'personal liberty', but an assertion of an increased role for government in creating the conditions for personal liberty: that's to say, challenging the way that an unchecked market system tends towards increasing inequality.

So, I'm afraid that your author is misleading the heck out of you.
posted by riviera at 11:09 PM on April 24, 2003


Related question: Why have those with liberal viewpoints (i.e., the Democrats) lost so much mindshare since Reagan? Why can't they mount any credible opposition to even such a meaty target as Bush? Why do they try to lead by following?
posted by rushmc at 7:31 AM on April 25, 2003


Here's an interesting and semi-related article about Presidents and their invocation of God:

In God's Name: Past presidents have shown there's a better way to invoke God in wartime.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:39 AM on April 25, 2003


Bryant, I ran across this article this morning that refers to national sales figures and states that the #1 spot was not continuously held...

The contretemps was, at least initially, bad for business. The week before Maines's comments went international, the band sold 124,000 copies of its latest CD, "Home," and 33,000 the week after. (It's rebounded since then, and it briefly reclaimed the top spot on the Billboard country album charts.)
posted by David Dark at 9:50 AM on April 25, 2003


From Tim Robbins' speech (exactly at what event, I don't know):
Our ability to disagree, and our inherent right to question our leaders and criticize their actions define who we are. To allow those rights to be taken away out of fear, to punish people for their beliefs, to limit access in the news media to differing opinions is to acknowledge our democracy's defeat. These are challenging times.
posted by harja at 6:12 PM on April 25, 2003


amen
posted by harja at 6:13 PM on April 25, 2003


Related question: Why have those with liberal viewpoints (i.e., the Democrats) lost so much mindshare since Reagan? Why can't they mount any credible opposition to even such a meaty target as Bush? Why do they try to lead by following?

Because the right has raised the art of dirty politics to a new technological level, is willing to go to farther lengths in their campaigns to smear and spread lies with research projects like Richard Mellon Scaife's Arkansas Project.

Thus you hear the same lies repeated over and over--Al Gore said he invented the internet, Hillary Clinton and Jeanne Houston channeled Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House, Al Gore attended a fundraiser at a Buddhist Temple--long after they've been shown to be lies, because the refutations involve the truth, the truth involves details, and details lose to the same simple big whopper soundbites.

And, god forbid, if a Democrat gets elected... coughendlessWhitewaterinvestigationVinceFostermurdermyth-
Monicaimpeachmentcough --there are few who can walk through the Industrial Meat Grinder of Defamation unscathed--if there's no dirt to dig up, they'll always invent some and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it until it becomes the received opinion of the lapdog press and pundits.
posted by y2karl at 8:56 PM on April 25, 2003


harja, did you just "amen" yourself?
posted by David Dark at 9:18 PM on April 25, 2003


But, y2karl, people have always lied in politics, have always sought to discredit their opponents and cast them in a negative light while holding themselves up as paragons of virtue. I don't dispute the techniques you point out, but there must be something more at work here.

Why does the majority of the public buy the lies and the fearmongering and the blatant distortions of fact? Has the anti-intellectual trend across the nation over the past 25 years finally brought us to the point where people are no longer capable of the independent thought necessary to separate fact from fiction? Has our laughable education system finally brought us to our intellectual knees? Are people so stressed and uncertain in their daily lives due to the various pressures of a society off-kilter that they view everything as equally suspect and unknowable, and therefore abdicate their responsibility to distinguish between right and wrong? The politicians and the media are indulging their darkest impulses for short-term gain, but ultimately it seems to me that the responsibility lies with the people for turning a blind eye to this behavior or shrugging it off as par for the course and inevitable.
posted by rushmc at 7:52 AM on April 26, 2003


Rush> I would diagnose it from the other direction. By what justification do we expect the American people to be better informed, more critical in their thought and less prone to herd behaviour than say, citizens of Athens, Italy or the British Empire? Especially as the technologies of social control have grown more and more advanced. Arguably, it's not the failure of public education on the current generation that causes us to be like this, but a brief, shining and unique success with the previous one that causes them to be _unlike_ others prior and posterior.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 8:55 AM on April 26, 2003


if you look at the Liberal Democrat manifesto in the UK, for instance . . . you'll see an anti-interventionist attitude towards issues of 'personal liberty', but an assertion of an increased role for government in creating the conditions for personal liberty: that's to say, challenging the way that an unchecked market system tends towards increasing inequality.

So, I'm afraid that your author is misleading the heck out of you.


certainly this book is more interested in the economic side of things as opposed to the personal liberty issues. but I can't quite figure out how i'm being misled. (i admit that I don't understand british politics very much -- would you say that the liberal democrats are for more government participation in the the economy (i.e. regulation) than some of the other parties, hence the word liberal in their name? in that case I would agree that their use of the word liberal is similar to that of the US. however, if the term liberal means more capitalist and less regulation or interference, than that would be opposite the american usage)

certainly it is over-simplifying to associate political parties over several decades with a single economic philosophy...for example the republican nixon administration actually implemented price-controls to try to control inflation at one point (miserable failure). and the democratic clinton administration pushed for the nafta agreement.

but in general in the united states, democrats are called liberals, and are also for more governement regulation than the republicans (conservatives).
posted by jacobsee at 5:42 PM on April 28, 2003


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