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Verbal, if not literate.
September 10, 2004 1:42 AM   Subscribe

Sure, it's just more Bush-bashing, but it's gussied up durn pretty. Philip Gourevitch on Bushspeak.
He is grossly underestimated as an orator by those who presume that good grammar, rigorous logic, and a solid command of the facts are the essential ingredients of political persuasion, and that the absence of these skills indicates a lack of intelligence. Although Bush is no intellectual, and proud of it, he is quick and clever, and, for all his notorious malapropisms, abuses of syntax, and manglings or reinventions of vocabulary, his intelligence is—if not especially literate—acutely verbal.
posted by grrarrgh00 (87 comments total)

 
Living in a country where for 80% of the population English is a 2nd or 3rd language, I have worked with numerous people who really clever but who have to struggle to actually express their ideas/opions.

I've learnt to never assume that just because someone does not speak like you does not make them any less intelligent.
posted by PenDevil at 2:50 AM on September 10, 2004


Speech is not a very good indicator of intelligence.
posted by ZippityBuddha at 2:52 AM on September 10, 2004


"Speech is not a very good indicator of intelligence."

Don't spoil their fun. Trashing the speaking mistakes and mis-stepes of Republican presidents is the main sorce of fun many peopel on the left have. They seem to find it addictive the way Slashdot kiddies love saying "Internet Exploder" and "Micro$oft".
posted by soulhuntre at 3:03 AM on September 10, 2004


"The search for the mot juste is not a pedantic fad but a vital necessity. Words are our precision tools. Imprecision engenders ambiguity and hours are wasted in removing verbal misunderstandings before the argument of substance can begin." Anon civil servant

Of course for an argument of substance to begin, you need to have some substance in the initial comment. That is a separate issue altogether in the case of Bush ;o)
posted by DrDoberman at 3:27 AM on September 10, 2004


Portraying Bush as an idiot actively helps his campaign. It sets expectations low, which is how he "won" the debates in 2000. It implicitly brands his supporters as idiots as well, which is a lousy way to convince anyone to change their mind. It plays directly into Bush's strategy of labelling his opponents as pedantic members of the "liberal elite". In an anti-intellectual culture like America's, it makes it harder to hate him. Finally, it undermines any attempt to portray his administration as calculating and corrupt.

Funny how all the people who are so proud of being smarter than Bush spend so much energy playing Karl Rove's stooge.
posted by fuzz at 3:40 AM on September 10, 2004


Indeed.

This underlines recent research that shows differences in Amygdala function between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats worry (anticipate), while Republicans scheme (strategize).

The liberal chattering classes need to be - one and all - repeatedly beaten over the head with "The Book of Five Rings" and Sun Tsu's "The Art of War"
posted by troutfishing at 4:09 AM on September 10, 2004


Feint to the east, attack to the west?
posted by asok at 4:25 AM on September 10, 2004


I think Saddam Hussein's life story is not unlike that of Miyamoto Musashi.

Mass murderer becomes poet recluse.
/derail
posted by asok at 4:27 AM on September 10, 2004


Fortunate Son speak.
posted by nofundy at 4:34 AM on September 10, 2004


trout, I believe that the amygdala thing is pretty counterproductive as well. It's looks to me like a continuation of a basic error: since there's no reasonable explanation for why anyone would want to vote Bush, his supporters must be idiots. Or it's a media conspiracy. Or maybe it's just their brains!

I've been completely disheartened for about two years now by the inability of the left to take a huge swath of the country seriously. The Democrats have to accept that people are afraid, that their fears are legitimate, and that the only way to win the election is by speaking to them in plain, direct language that makes emotional sense to them about their concerns. Why should a white man living in Texas vote for Kerry when his supporters spend all their energy telling him that they don't identify with him in any way?
posted by fuzz at 4:48 AM on September 10, 2004


I stopped caring about Amygdala when she made out with that wuss by that lake on Naboo.
posted by mr.marx at 4:51 AM on September 10, 2004


The Democrats big long-term problem seems to be that they've lost support in the South and with Baptist/Evangelical Christians.

In the last forty years they've only had two presidents elected, both of whom were Evangelical Christians from the South: advantages John Kerry doesn't have.

So I'm pretty confused as to why their supporters think it's a good idea to criticize Bush on the grounds that he's a fundamentalist who talks like a hick...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:02 AM on September 10, 2004


fuzz - Your reaction confirms your Democratic amygdala! That's why I posted two descriptive words to characterize each political tendency.

It's not about intelligence at all ! - far from it.

"Located in the brain's medial temporal lobe, the almond-shaped amygdala (in Latin, corpus amygdaloideum) is believed to play a key role in the emotions. It forms part of the limbic system. In humans and other animals, it is linked to both fear responses and pleasure.....Fear conditioning, which trains animals to associate fear with other (previously neutral) stimuli, alters the information stored in the amygdala, as shown by experiments from Joseph Ledoux's lab and others. In this regard the amygdala serves as a simple Pavlovian learning machine that associates aversive events with neutral events, helping animals react to their world." (Wikipedia)

The Democrats seem to show stronger fear based responses than Republicans. Fear based responses, deeply tied into the Limbic System, may trigger long term learning or immediate fight or flight responses, but the associated wave of hormonal activity is a stress response.

Republicans - with their less reactive Amygdalae - are likely better at strategic planning. They're calmer.

I'm assuming that these differences are mostly learned and behavioral.
posted by troutfishing at 5:24 AM on September 10, 2004


".....Or it's a media conspiracy. Or maybe it's just their brains!

I've been completely disheartened for about two years now by the inability of the left to take a huge swath of the country seriously." - Yes, Democrats must speak directly and honestly, in clear and plain language.

However, the Republicans are not currently doing that - the honesty is absent : the equation of Iraq with 9-11 amounts to honest political speech ? Quite the oposite.

Republican political speech draws on memes and associations, and evokes resonances, which have been painstakingly, skillfully built up over decades at the cost of several billion dollars. But that does not point to a conspiracy - it is merely advertising.

Or, it is a conspiracy if you consider the selling of dog food, mouthwash and toilet paper to be conspiratorial as well.
posted by troutfishing at 5:32 AM on September 10, 2004


Die!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:43 AM on September 10, 2004


Asok: "Miyamoto Musashi....Mass murderer"

Please: serial murderer. He did generally kill them one at a time, after all...

Remember, language is our precision tool...
posted by lodurr at 5:59 AM on September 10, 2004


Live!
posted by troutfishing at 6:05 AM on September 10, 2004


Linger in a coma!
posted by dhoyt at 6:15 AM on September 10, 2004


Eat!

Sleep!

Shit!

Fuck!

posted by troutfishing at 6:15 AM on September 10, 2004


It doesn't really matter if it's the truth when all you need to do is continually repeat the same talking points. In a way it's just simple reinforcement and marketing. Having simple talking points or statements repeated endlessly through all media channels will influence people in the same was as advertising for everyday products. That's all that politics is nowadays - just more advertising (not that I have proof that it has ever been anything more than this).

I wish people FNORD could see through advertising FNORD (none of us is immune) and discover the underlying truth FNORD about the products we see, be they political FNORD, shampoo or whatever FNORD.

Trout - I have a cool pair of sunglasses you might want to try on (after we have a random five minute fight scene)...

/me enjoys a "They Live" moment
posted by longbaugh at 6:27 AM on September 10, 2004


Grammar is overrated. Of all the reasons to oppose George Bush, that's probably the least important one.

Portraying Bush as an idiot actively helps his campaign....It plays directly into Bush's strategy of labelling his opponents as pedantic members of the "liberal elite"...I've been completely disheartened for about two years now by the inability of the left to take a huge swath of the country seriously. The Democrats have to accept that people are afraid, that their fears are legitimate, and that the only way to win the election is by speaking to them in plain, direct language that makes emotional sense to them about their concerns. Why should a white man living in Texas vote for Kerry when his supporters spend all their energy telling him that they don't identify with him in any way?

You're my real daddy, fuzz, aren't you? Remember when the Republicans started refering to Clinton as "Bubba?" I'm willing to bet he got some bounce from that.

Very cogent take on the situation. As long as the left is more concerned with showing the world how smart they are rather than actually getting people into office who can enact policies, they'll continue losing elections. Unfortunately, the left is to a large degree made up of smartasses who haven't gotten over playground butt-kickings enough to be constuctive.
posted by jonmc at 6:36 AM on September 10, 2004


Or to put it another way, the ceaselss wearing on the sleeve of intellect by the intellectual left is becoming almost as obnoxious as listening to jocks boast about their bench-press numbers.

We get it, Artie Ziff, you're very bright boys and girls, now have a cookie and shut up.
posted by jonmc at 6:39 AM on September 10, 2004


What the Left is completely obvious to (which is, with reasonable certainty, why they are the "Left," is that formal intelligence = intelligence, and that intelligence = wisdom. It does not. President Bush is a good, perhaps great President because he is wise (and sensible). And the American people, thankfully, understand that.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:50 AM on September 10, 2004


(oblivious)
posted by ParisParamus at 6:50 AM on September 10, 2004


Actually (to be civil...) Paris, I would say you've got it backwards. Bush is proud of his lack of what anyone would call 'wisdom', he's said as much. But no one can deny that to get to be the president requires a fair degree of cunning and ability to insert yourself into people's plans. The real George Bush did have another son who is, on his face, much more suited to political leadership. So one can assume that GW has something that puts him ahead of the game in that respect.

But wisdom? Hahahaha. no.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:58 AM on September 10, 2004


I have never liked the whole, "Bush is dumb, so let's not elect him" response from many on the left. Because it allows anyone to paint a picture of the left as intolerant of stupidity. While intellegence does matter to an extent, making fun of people is not part of my agenda. The President is not wise nor sensible, if he was, we wouldn't be fighting the wrong war. [self link] The President does not have book smarts, but what he does is have an innate ability to connect with people and make them feel that he is just like them and really cares for them. This is the kind of intelligence that is innate and has a great deal of power in our media-centric political life. The Left generally see this as a cover or a whitewash concealing the true nature of the man. The President's supporters see this as a kind of moral clearity in the face of change. I bet it is somewhere in the middle, but my mind is not made up.

The Democrats big long-term problem seems to be that they've lost support in the South and with Baptist/Evangelical Christians.

Yeah, and the Republican's big long-term problem seems to be that they've lost support of the North East and with Secular Americans. The Baptist/Evangelicals are a static, if not decreasing voting bloc. While religion has grown in America during the last few years, secular Americans continue to outpace evengelicals. Publius states (and I agree) that, "Republicans’ only chance of long-term viability is to adopt (or at least tolerate) Schwarzenegger-style Republicanism - fiscally conservative, market-oriented, but socially moderate." But this year the President, at the urging of his advisers, are pushing a more fundamentalist agenda - which will ultimatley backfire.
posted by plemeljr at 6:59 AM on September 10, 2004


What the Left is completely obvious to...

The word you're looking for, I think, is "oblivious"... obvious != oblivious.
posted by clevershark at 7:01 AM on September 10, 2004


I see that PP had already corrected himself :-)

I still fail to see how refusing to face painful realities strikes one as being "wise".
posted by clevershark at 7:02 AM on September 10, 2004


I've been completely disheartened for about two years now by the inability of the left to take a huge swath of the country seriously.

Two years? Listen, you puppy, I've been completely disheartened by it for over 30 years now, and I've about given up waiting for them to come to their senses.

Paris, you forgot to close a parenthesis.
"Bush is a good, perhaps great President because he is wise" is the funniest thing I've read all day.
posted by languagehat at 7:04 AM on September 10, 2004


languagehat: it's people like you who will be crying in their milk on November 4. And with your attitude, thank G-d!
posted by ParisParamus at 7:25 AM on September 10, 2004


Funny - I've always thought that one's command of their language was, to a healthy degree, a reflection of their intellect.
It's a mistake to call out the left for their "ceaselss wearing on the sleeve of intellect"...this is all relative. Next to Bush, it's hard not to look intelligent, and, I guess, by extension, "elitist."
posted by ghastlyfop at 7:25 AM on September 10, 2004


"President Bush is a good, perhaps great President because he is wise (and sensible)."
Jesus Fucking Christ.
posted by ghastlyfop at 7:26 AM on September 10, 2004


It's a mistake to call out the left for their "ceaselss wearing on the sleeve of intellect"...this is all relative. Next to Bush, it's hard not to look intelligent, and, I guess, by extension, "elitist."

Intelligence and intellectualism do not neccessarily equal elitism, but to many people, showing off your intellect needlessly has become the equivalent of a body-builder walking around in a muscle shirt, and it just as insufferable.

It's not about intelligence, but the "Gee, I'm so much smarter than you.." ostentatious displaying that goes on that gets people alienated and a mite resentful. Not that this should in an ideal world decide votes, but we do not live in an ideal world.

Bush may actually be not too swift, or he may be stupid like a fox (to coin a phrase) but the people surrounding him are by no means stupid and to play this election as a smart vs. dumb battle is a big mistake, IMO.
posted by jonmc at 7:35 AM on September 10, 2004


the thing that kills me about those on the right who make the "just because bush doesn't speak properly or well doesn't mean he's not intelligent" argument is that many of them are the same people who deride and dismiss jesse jackson, al sharpton, and other prominent blacks (includng black athletes) for speaking non-standard english. i can't figure that out.

when i was growing up in the state that shall be the first one burned to the ground when i'm running things (known to the rest of you as florida), i initially spoke just like the people in my family and my neighborhood spoke, in non-formal rural southern black english. this led to my white classmates (and occasionally parents of other students and teachers) making fun of me and dismissing me.

i can't escape the feeling that some of those same people who mocked me back then for not speaking proper english and concluding that i must have been unintelligent now exemplify the bush supporters who assert that his inability to speak properly is not an indicator of his intelligence level.

these are probably also the same people who reject black applicants for jobs -- even non customer/client-facing jobs -- when they don't speak standard or high register english.

can someone please explain this to me?
posted by lord_wolf at 7:40 AM on September 10, 2004


The way you speak is an indicia of intelligence, not intelligence itself. By becoming President, Bush has, for all intents and purposes, negated the theory that he is not reasonably, sufficiently intelligent.

Moreover, what if the guy is dyslexic, or has some other cognitive issue? Lots of articulate people are rather stupid, if you ask me.

Wisdom is not intelligence. Moreover, Bush has great emotional intelligence.

But, keep hitting your head against the wall with the intelligence thing--it'll assure that the dangerous Left keeps spinning its wheels forever.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:48 AM on September 10, 2004


when i was growing up in the state that shall be the first one burned to the ground when i'm running things (known to the rest of you as florida),

As someone who spent two years stuck in South Dade, let me just say "Here's my Zippo!"
posted by jonmc at 7:50 AM on September 10, 2004


I stopped caring about Amygdala when she made out with that wuss by that lake on Naboo.

Now THAT was funny.

Metafilter: Tasty in a ripped jumpsuit.

can someone please explain this to me?

Sure. Your generalizations are incorrect.
posted by soulhuntre at 7:52 AM on September 10, 2004


to play this election as a smart vs. dumb battle is a big mistake, IMO.

No one is playing this election as smart vs. dumb. The article certainly doesn't do that. We've got a few people in a largely anti-Bush community who are having some fun at his expense. The rest is all in your mind.

And if anyone around here stokes the intellectual vs anti-intetellectual flame war, it's you, jon. You're constantly railing against "the Left" as a bunch of elitist snobs, which we're not. Once again, you're hypocritical to the end.
posted by jpoulos at 7:52 AM on September 10, 2004


(By "his" I mean Bush's, of course. And by "We've got" I mean "We are".)
posted by jpoulos at 7:53 AM on September 10, 2004


"quick and clever"?

Hello? Since freakin' WHEN?
posted by soyjoy at 7:56 AM on September 10, 2004


But, keep hitting your head against the wall with the intelligence thing--it'll assure that the dangerous Left keeps spinning its wheels forever.

Paris, would it be too much to ask you to limit your trolling to threads where people aren't trying to be civil? This has been a pretty thoughtful thread so far, and your comments here stand out like a petulant four-year-old begging for attention.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:00 AM on September 10, 2004


And if anyone around here stokes the intellectual vs anti-intetellectual flame war, it's you, jon. You're constantly railing against "the Left" as a bunch of elitist snobs, which we're not.

Some of you aren't and some of you are. I've seen it way too much to discount it entirely. I've had too many eyes rolled at me and smug smiles turned on me when I question an opinion or even play devil's advocate to not get rankled at the implication (and often publicly stated assumption) that anyone who dares pose a different opinion must be stupid.

When I was at the big march in NYC, I posed the idea that Kerry had a good chance of winning the election. The guy next to me rolled his eyes, smirked and said "I'd never underestimate the stupidity of the American people like that." I've heard variations on that hundreds of times both online and IRL. What other conclusion am I supposed to come to. The right holds people in similar contempt but they at least are smart enough not to put it on display.

The label wouldn't stick if there weren't some truth to it.

And the reason I bring it up often is that I'd actually like to see some of the policies of the left put into practice, but I'm tired of us shooting ourselves in the foot with a lousy attitude.
posted by jonmc at 8:11 AM on September 10, 2004


Deciding to get rid of Saddam, or help in Sudan, or lower taxes is not a function of intelligence (having the highest). It's a function of judgment; of wisdom. I trust President Bush because he is decent, not because he is smart (or not smart). Somehow, a lot of you were mislead as to what matters in life.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:16 AM on September 10, 2004


Your generalizations are incorrect.

And:

Trashing the speaking mistakes and mis-stepes of Republican presidents is the main sorce of fun many peopel on the left have.

What was that about generalizations? What about people who happen to be on the right-side of the political spectrum who find it amusing as well? I thought a good deal of people, be the left, right, or atheist found "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" equally hilarious. Why wouldn't this be the case with Mr. Bush?
posted by juiceCake at 8:22 AM on September 10, 2004


Sure. Your generalizations are incorrect.

well then, please correct me.

i have observed people -- in meat space and online -- who mock black politicians and leaders but defend bush's gaffes and misspeaks.

with regard to my 2nd paragraph, are you trying to tell me that my firsthand experiences are generalizations that are incorrect?

as for how non-standard english affects blacks in the workplace, it's a very real phenomenon, not a generalization. this article discusses it. (i couldn't locate any rigourous study on the matter that was available online for free).

again, please be kind enough to correct me. it'd be awesome if i was right all the time, but despite the fact that i'm a member of the elitist, america-hating, bush-bashing left (some generalizations in this thread and elsewhere on metafilter that i don't see you calling out), i do realize that i'm (infrequently) wrong.
posted by lord_wolf at 8:26 AM on September 10, 2004


Back on topic:

Bush communciates more effectively than Kerry because he picks a few points and states them simply. Does anyone remember Clinton and Gore in the inane 1996 election? They repeated the same simple phrases over and over: "build that bridge to the 21st century" and "risky 250-billion-dollar tax scheme that will blow a hole in the deficit." Neither of them made sense (blow a hole in the deficit? didn't they mean "blow a hole in the budget"?)

It's not just Bush. Unfortunately, the way to win an election is to pick a few stupid phrases and parrot them. A candidate has to dumb himself down in order to win.
posted by Tin Man at 8:31 AM on September 10, 2004


Fortunate Son speak.
posted by nofundy at 1:34 PM CET on September 10


indeed. check out Wyclef Jean's amazing cover of the John Fogerty classic in "The Manchurian Candidate"'s opening scene.
re Fogerty's song:

When interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine, John Fogerty was once asked: "What inspired 'Fortunate Son'?" His response: "Julie Nixon was hanging around with David Eisenhower, and you just had the feeling that none of these people were going to be involved with the war. In 1969, the majority of the country thought morale was great among the troops, and like eighty percent of them were in favor of the war. But to some of us who were watching closely, we just knew we were headed for trouble."

now everybody sing along with Wyclef, especially you, FreedomParamus:


Some folks are born
made to wave the flag,
Ooh, they're red, white and blue.
And when the band plays "Hail to the chief",
they point the cannon right at you.

It ain't me,
it ain't me.
I ain't no senator's son.
It ain't me,
it ain't me.
I ain't no fortunate one.

Some folks are born
silver spoon in hand,
Lord don't they help themselves.
But when the tax man comes to the door,
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale.

It ain't me,
it ain't me.
I ain't no millionaire's son.
It ain't me,
it ain't me.
I ain't no fortunate one.

Some folks inherit
star spangled eyes,
Ooh, they send you down to war.
And when you ask them,
"How much should we give?"
They only answer "More! More! More!"

posted by matteo at 8:36 AM on September 10, 2004


oh, I forgot: my amygdala hurts
posted by matteo at 8:37 AM on September 10, 2004


I've seen it way too much to discount it entirely.

And I've seen too many people who believe that Iraqis attacked us on 9/11 to discount that. We're both (you and I) guilty of the same thing--generalizing the political extremes, and then being provocative about it. Of course, I'm not out there claiming that I call things down the middle.

And, jon, you tend to look at The Left as this group of fringe wackjobs who are pissing the pool. Gore won the popular vote in 2000; Kerry is polling near 50%; Bush's unfavorables are still, if I'm not mistaken, over 50%. A lot of people are unhappy, and vocally so--and they're not ideological extremists.
posted by jpoulos at 8:38 AM on September 10, 2004


I trust President Bush because he is decent

Was it "decent" of him to mock Karla Faye Tucker shortly before he fried her ass?

Was it "decent" of him to reply "who cares what you think" to a citizen politely expressing his views?

Is it a "decent" person who refuses to have ANYONE near him who might possibly disagree with him?

Is that what you consider a "decent" person?

Damn. I'm hoping for more indecency then.
posted by nofundy at 8:40 AM on September 10, 2004


And, jon, you tend to look at The Left as this group of fringe wackjobs who are pissing the pool.

That's about half right.

The problem I have (I can't speak for anyone else) is that extremist wackjobs tend to have big fucking mouths and they tend to play right into the republican's hands. And the mainstream left (of which I consider myself a sometimes reluctant member) isn't doing much to combat that impression in the media, which can hurt us.

And I've seen too many people who believe that Iraqis attacked us on 9/11 to discount that.

Well, there's a huge propoganda machine dedicated to giving people that false impression. Organizations use propoganda because it works.
posted by jonmc at 8:46 AM on September 10, 2004


The label wouldn't stick if there weren't some truth to it. - jonmc

jon, jon, jon, jon, jon:
you have been following the whole Swift Boat Pets for Bush brouhaha, right?
posted by dash_slot- at 8:46 AM on September 10, 2004


I don't know jonmc. I only know you from your writings on MetaFiter, but if I were asked to pick out the one member of the community who feels and consistently presents an attitude of superiority over others it would be you. You clothe it in a "who me? Why I'm just a common man" sensibility, which may hide it from your eyes, but it certainly seems pretty clear in my eyes. I think this may be one of those the things we hate in others is the thing we hate in ourselves kind of thing.

The guy you met at the rally probably believed that Kerry was an obvious choice. Half the country seems to believe that the Bush presidency has been something close to catastrophic. He's decimated economic, social and environmental programs and despite his rhetoric, his response to terrorism has inflamed the situation and has made the country weaker while endangering people. By contrast, half think he's been a good and compassionate man who has been and will continue to be the best choice for responding to terrorism, and protecting the country and taking it forward into the future.

They can't both be right. If you've decided on one side or the other, then the half of the country that believes the opposite must be wrong, and so obviously wrong that they couldn't be anything but misguided, fooled or stupid. How could you possibly expect that in the mass of people who cared enough to go to a rally, you wouldn't find at least one person and probably many people who express the opinion you described? If you were at a rally for Bush, you'd find a similar type of attitude.
posted by willnot at 8:47 AM on September 10, 2004


the thing that kills me about those on the right who make the "just because bush doesn't speak properly or well doesn't mean he's not intelligent" argument is that many of them are the same people who deride and dismiss jesse jackson, al sharpton, and other prominent blacks (includng black athletes) for speaking non-standard english.

You make a good point, but why did you decide to use Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as examples? I thought the general consensus is that they're both excellent orators?
posted by gyc at 8:50 AM on September 10, 2004


"Speech is not a very good indicator of intelligence."

I think the problem is what people mean by intelligence. Language is the way we understand the world, so the ability to use it seems plainly important to reasoning and organizing ideas and seeing connections and negotiating and all that. Instinct is something different, "intuitive intelligence" if you like, and people may have that without being very articulate.

The trouble is that they can't communicate the reasons very well to anyone else, so to accept intuitively intelligent leaders is by definition to be willing to trust someone, not comprehend their reasons for decisions. The fear that democrats have about trusting dear leader is very real - we have a fear of fascism somewhere, while republicans have a fear of exterior threats which is greater than ours, and are not worried about trusting the leader.

Both sides have a point, I think, but as someone with a strong interest in an open, communicative society, I fall naturally in the first category.
posted by mdn at 8:50 AM on September 10, 2004


The guy you met at the rally probably believed that Kerry was an obvious choice.

As do I. I never gave a moment's thought to votish for Bush. I'm just put off by that level of contempt for people.

I only know you from your writings on MetaFiter, but if I were asked to pick out the one member of the community who feels and consistently presents an attitude of superiority over others it would be you. You clothe it in a "who me? Why I'm just a common man" sensibility, which may hide it from your eyes, but it certainly seems pretty clear in my eyes.

It's not an attitude of superiority, trust me, it's alienation.

I didn't ask for the "average guy" label. But if I embrace the word "average" it's in the "mediocre, uninteresting, nothing special" sense not the "representative of the masses" sense.
posted by jonmc at 8:56 AM on September 10, 2004


Orwell: Politics and the English Language. (via MeFi, I think.)

jonmc: as willnot alluded to, you do play that "Oh you guys are all extremists, I'm the sensible moderate who sees all sides" card a lot. On the other hand, I respect you for what you write, so maybe you should feel superior. ;)
posted by callmejay at 9:03 AM on September 10, 2004


callmejay, there's a difference between labeling everyone exteremists and acknowledging that, especially in times of crisis, loud extremists can foul the political waters.

And I don't believe most people are extremists. If they were then they wouldn't be extremists, would they?

Seeing all sides of an issue is an important thing as far as I'm concerned, though. If I can figure out why a person feels the way they do, I have a better chance of making myself heard to them than if I simply assume their evil/crazy/stupid. That's all.
posted by jonmc at 9:09 AM on September 10, 2004


You make a good point, but why did you decide to use Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as examples? I thought the general consensus is that they're both excellent orators?

If by "general consensus" you mean "a few Democrats and some dudes on the web".

Otherwise the "general consensus" is that Jackson & Sharpton are hypocritical buffoons who favor rhetoric over logic, and sound, oratory-wise, like Southern preachers on a bender. Not necessarily my opinion, but it's one easily absorbed when traveling far enough outside urban America to obtain a "general consensus".
posted by dhoyt at 9:14 AM on September 10, 2004


Well, dhoyt, to be fair, one can be both a great orator and a corrupt hypocrite. Verbal facility and moral fiber are not correlated.

And I've heard self-descibed conservatives describe Jesse as eloquent and a great speaker even while deriding his politics.

We're both (you and I) guilty of the same thing--generalizing the political extremes, and then being provocative about it. Of course, I'm not out there claiming that I call things down the middle.

A lot of that impression has to do with the context of MeFi. This site (by chance, not design) is predominantly left-leaning. When someone on the right does something buffonish, there's a whole squadron of people who'll let him know, and I have no real interest, in just saying "Me Too!"

But in my daily life I'll call out other people too. I'll fully acknowedge that there's idiots of every political stripe out there.
posted by jonmc at 9:21 AM on September 10, 2004


I think it's clear that Bush is a good orator, but he uses emotions and sentimentality to connect with or push his audience in a certain direction. There are many amoung us that find such overtly sentimental overtures cheap and off putting (much in the same way a comic will use the F-word or C-word to get a laugh when s/he's tanking), but he's plainly excellent at it.
posted by psmealey at 9:24 AM on September 10, 2004


I were asked to pick out the one member of the community who feels and consistently presents an attitude of superiority over others it would be you.

Wow. jonmc, along with mathowie, is pretty much the last person on MeFi I'd describe that way.
posted by keswick at 9:36 AM on September 10, 2004


Hm, I don't remember if this has been on MeFi already, but it seems related to this discussion:

Linguistics professor George Lakoff dissects the "war on terror" and other conservative catchphrases
posted by mr.marx at 10:08 AM on September 10, 2004


You know exactly where your "average man" schtick comes from, jonmc. As willnot correctly points out, you're constantly involving yourself in political threads and claiming superiority by denouncing "the liberal elite". Then you make such obvious claims like, "Gee, the loud fringe groups seem to muddy the water" and expect it to silence fringe speech.

I've never met you, so I'm not sure how your real persona plays out, but your web persona reminds me of y6y6y6, in the sense that you both have very discernable speech which leads to certain conclusions. Incorrect conclusions most likely, but because of the assumptions made in your speech, and assumptions made by the reader, you (and y6y6y6) come off as slightly, and possibly very, different than what's true to your character.

The most basic problem with playing Devil's Advocate is that you have the distinct possibility of coming off as a complete asshole. This is especially true on the 'net because it gives off an air of superiority, such as "I've already had your thought, and I'm past it, so I'm going to play the devil to make you think." which is remarkably presumptuous. Even good friends get pissed off when you "make them think" without letting them know ahead of time. Imagine how a bunch of strangers will react when you "make them think" without their permission. You're likely to piss some people off that way.
posted by BlueTrain at 10:11 AM on September 10, 2004


Wait, Bluetrain. I thought all you PolitcalFilter people were all about "discussion." You mean you guys actually prefer it when the political posts are actually giant echo chambers? I am shocked! SHOCKED!
posted by keswick at 10:33 AM on September 10, 2004


Heh, I flattered that you consider me a part of the political wing of MeFi, though I doubt the official cabal would condone such a statement. (They moved their secret meetings when I defected and moved against all politics, all the time here.)
posted by BlueTrain at 10:41 AM on September 10, 2004


The Democrats have to accept that people are afraid, that their fears are legitimate, and that the only way to win the election is by speaking to them in plain, direct language that makes emotional sense to them about their concerns.

Their fears are not legitimate. They're irrational and based on ignorance. What the Democrats should (but won't) do is educate them to this fact instead of campaigning that they'll assuage it better than the Republicans, who foster the fear as part of their tactic to stay in power. There are reasons Americans should want Al Qaeda eliminated--if, in fact, that's possible--but it shouldn't be based on fear. Ignoring the larger scope of the fear, it's similar to the fear cultivated by the media in regards to shark attacks and kidnappings a few years back. While a certain amount of rational fear is healthy, this sort of irrational fear-mongering is a counter-productive way to live one's life.

It also makes Americans look like scared lambs being taken for all their worth by what must be the stupidest wolf in the history of the world's fairy tale, something much of the rest of the world can only shake their head at.

I have never liked the whole, "Bush is dumb, so let's not elect him" response from many on the left. Because it allows anyone to paint a picture of the left as intolerant of stupidity. While intellegence does matter to an extent, making fun of people is not part of my agenda.

We're not talking about a bunch of intellectual elites laughing at the poor plebes here. He went to an ivy league school. Obviously growing up affluent isn't going to automatically mean you're intelligent, but growing up with the opportunities he had and attending an ivy league school should mean he's at least capable of carrying some sort of intelligent, extended dialogue about important issues, especially when it's his job to do so (or at least that used to be the job of the President).

But you know what? He doesn't really care to do that, even if he could. He'd rather repeat the list of talking points they give him every morning, even if they directly contrast what he said the day before. That's American politics right now. It's absolutely unbelievable to me that the Republicans can turn the election into such a dirty smear campaign and all you hear on CNN is the talking heads telling everyone how "nasty" both sides have gotten--and everyone believes it. From what I've seen the underhanded tactics have got to be about 90-10 with the Democrats firing back a few barbs after getting buried under shift for months. But it doesn't really matter because the Republicans keep marching to their "liberal media" tune.

If Bush wins in November, Americans will have facilitated the easier continuation of the endless war on terror (I'm sure Al Qaeda will send a postcard from their cave to thank the American electorate for making things easy on them), and Americans will deserve absolutely everything they get. If they can't be bothered to do even basic research into the world around them instead of blindly accepting what they're told by big business, then it's going to be an interesting future.
posted by The God Complex at 11:56 AM on September 10, 2004


I've always thought that one's command of their language was, to a healthy degree, a reflection of their intellect.

String "their", and I think you're there. Command of language is a really good indicator of (human) intelligence. Language is, after all, just about our single most human attribute; it's what synergizes all the other nice stuff like cooperation and problem-solving.

Look to GWB's command of language, not of English. There you will start to find something interesting. By most sociolinguistic measures, I think you'll find it's quite poor.

Many illiterate people have great command of language. Many literate people have poor command of language. What's really remarkable about GWB is that he's a great communicator, with a really, really poor command of language.

Which tends to imply that what he's communicating is mostly sub-linguistic stuff.
posted by lodurr at 11:57 AM on September 10, 2004


When I was at the big march in NYC, I posed the idea that Kerry had a good chance of winning the election. The guy next to me rolled his eyes, smirked and said "I'd never underestimate the stupidity of the American people like that." I've heard variations on that hundreds of times both online and IRL. What other conclusion am I supposed to come to. The right holds people in similar contempt but they at least are smart enough not to put it on display.

Ah, I see, so you're denying the existence of a very large percentage of the American public that is shamefully unaware of what's going on in the world? There can be as many different reasons for this as there are days in a millenium, but the simple fact remains that large swaths of America rely on inadequate news sources and don't do any critical thinking. In many cases this clearly isn't entirely their fault; it's a product of upbringing, the corporate media, etc. However, some responsibility must fall on the American people to, you know, think about these things, especially when there are thousands upon thousands of people dying overseas.

It doesn't mean these people aren't capable of intelligent thought or understanding complex issues. It means that in many cases they'd rather not, opting instead of believe whatever is shoveled their way because it's easier. I've even heard--more than a couple times, believe it or not--people say that having the freedom to drive an 8-passenger SUV to work by themselves is what America was founded on. That's not stupid--it's fucking crazy.
posted by The God Complex at 12:08 PM on September 10, 2004


Interesting link, Mr. Marx, though it sounds a bit like Lakoff is suggesting a new Leftist version the infamous GOPAC vocabulary lists. (Putting the Dems exactly 10 years behind GOPAC in the sophistry arms race -- as usual.)
posted by eatitlive at 12:09 PM on September 10, 2004


TGC: I don't neccessarily disagree with you about people being unaware, apathetic, or easily led when it comes to political issues. I just don't know whether simply writing people off as stupid is either fair or productive. And (yeah, this maybe my own personal hangup) I'm just not comfortable with dismissing huge swaths of the population. Maybe I'm naive or sentimental. I dunno.
posted by jonmc at 12:39 PM on September 10, 2004


Keep in mind that when I say "stupid" I don't mean it in the sense that they're of below average intelligence or capabilities, simply that they're unwilling to apply their intelligence to bring about a more comprehensive awareness of the world and their places in it. Somebody who has all the opportunities in the world (say, for example, Bush) but refuses to examine issues fully because they're such ardent anti-intellectuals are, in my mind, being willfully stupid. Willful ignorance and apathy is a cloud that many in the west live under; it just seems that given the poor education system for impoverished Americans, you end up with a lot more of it.
posted by The God Complex at 1:14 PM on September 10, 2004


Somebody who has all the opportunities in the world (say, for example, Bush) but refuses to examine issues fully because they're such ardent anti-intellectuals are, in my mind, being willfully stupid.

I'd submit that Bush's refusal to examine many issues has nothing to to with anti-intellectualism, but because to examine those issues would be to his political disadvantage. The antipathy to intellectualism is just a smokescreen.
posted by jonmc at 1:19 PM on September 10, 2004


The God Complex, Americans vote for more reasons that simple current events. I once read a stat that said that 50% of voters in the US are among the top 20% of wealthiest Americans. Quite frankly, if I were middle aged and rich, why the fuck would I care about the budget deficit when my taxes were just significantly lowered, and if I vote for Bush again, it will stay that way.

That's just one example. Many voters vote straight pro-life. I did just that in 2000. My views have since changed, of course, but the point is valid. Many voters vote pro-NRA. Many voters vote pro-death penalty. Many voters vote pro-prayer in school. Many voters vote pro-flag burning amendment. Many voters vote pro-gay marriage amendment. The list goes on. The Republican party has done a fantastic job of defining itself and despite a stupid, bumbling President, their party may just get him re-elected.

Of course, that still doesn't take into consideration that intangibles like, am I confident in the man (vs Kerry)? Does he make me feel good about the safety of this country? Does he strike fear in our opponents? Is he principled or wishy-washy? Do I get a good vibe?

I believe, at this moment, that Bush will win, barring a huge blunder on his campaign's part. I'm not happy about it. I will probably vote for Kerry (in PA). And the election is damn close. But to suggest that it's just plain dumb to vote for Bush, is in itself dumb. There's more to Bush than just his personal failures.
posted by BlueTrain at 1:20 PM on September 10, 2004


When does the primary wave of CYA/the election must be rigged posts start? October 10? 15?
posted by ParisParamus at 1:22 PM on September 10, 2004


PP: *thwacka thwacka thwacka*

You mean other than the diebold stuff?
posted by eatitlive at 1:29 PM on September 10, 2004


There's more to Bush than just his personal failures.

but that's the thing BlueTrain -- when you're the president, your personal failures are the nation's failures. that, i believe, is one of the reasons some republicans hated bill clinton so much. (i think some republicans would have hated him if he was holier than jesus, buddha, and krishna combined: i'm aware that some on the right believe we on the left have a similar attitude towards pres. bush.)

i also believe bush represents spit in the face to the so-called american dream. it enrages me that he once told a little girl "i'm a c-student and look at what i've accomplished" and that he takes such a dismissive attitude toward the world and towards "book" learning.

he has that attitude because he can get away with it -- as has been famously said of him, he's had money shot at him through a waterhose most of his life and he's got the safety net of a rich and powerful family. how many among us enjoyed or can enjoy the luxury of being able to fuck around and not do much with our lives until our late 30's? most people i went to high school with were figuratively dropped into the deep end of the pool with just a few swimming lessons by the time they were 17: working shit jobs, raising families, etc. how dare someone like bush condescend to the rest of america and pretend he's "folksy" and "reg'lar" and act as though his is an attitude towards the world and towards life that others should emulate.

i simply do not understand how it can be that there are millions of americans who do hold him up as a shining paragon and exemplar of all that is great about america. i'm aware that, as has been noted in this thread, there are a great many people who are single-issue voters. but it seems apparent to me that there are also a great many people who are zero issue voters; or, rather, their single issue is that they love george w. bush and think he's the greatest, all other issues be damned. this angers and puzzles me. and if that makes me, someone who a frighteningly large number (never to be acknowledged by the republican party) of bush supporters in the south would treat like something they would want to scrape off their shoes, an elitist, well, america is proper fucked.
posted by lord_wolf at 1:49 PM on September 10, 2004


lord_wolf feels my pain. Spot on. It's no so much that the people you mention are zero issue voters. Their issue is that they want to vote for a president that they (think they) can "relate to". That notion is patently absurd, but you hear the talking head brigade on the news parrot the "shares our values" and "likeability" issue all the time. Personally, if I'd have been of voting age at the time, I'd probably have voted for the crooked, shifty scumbag like Nixon over the decent and honorable war hero McGovern, just because I'd have thought he was more qualified to do the job. Doubtless, many people in 1972 felt the same way. I don't know what has changed in all these years, but I too, wish we'd grow up as far as that issue goes.
posted by psmealey at 2:12 PM on September 10, 2004


That's just one example. Many voters vote straight pro-life. I did just that in 2000. My views have since changed, of course, but the point is valid. Many voters vote pro-NRA. Many voters vote pro-death penalty. Many voters vote pro-prayer in school. Many voters vote pro-flag burning amendment. Many voters vote pro-gay marriage amendment. The list goes on. The Republican party has done a fantastic job of defining itself and despite a stupid, bumbling President, their party may just get him re-elected.

But to suggest that it's just plain dumb to vote for Bush, is in itself dumb.

You're right, of course. I mean clearly pro-flag-burning amendments and pro-life issues and pro anti-gays, and pro death penalty are all really intelligent ways to vote as opposed to, say, economic policy, education policy, foreign policy, etc. And you're using these as examples why my point is dumb? You just illustrated what makes America such an, ummm, interesting place.

Americans vote for more reasons that simple current events. I once read a stat that said that 50% of voters in the US are among the top 20% of wealthiest Americans. Quite frankly, if I were middle aged and rich, why the fuck would I care about the budget deficit when my taxes were just significantly lowered, and if I vote for Bush again, it will stay that way.

You've once again illustrated my point while attempting to refute. You've also given a pretty solid example of why people hate Americans. They, like no other nation in the world, are slaves to the almighty dollar. Take the money and run.
posted by The God Complex at 2:17 PM on September 10, 2004


psmealy, I always thought "shares our values" is codespeak for "loves the Jesus." I think for a lot of people that's the only issue that matters.
posted by muckster at 2:19 PM on September 10, 2004


(Apologies for mispelling your handle, psmealey.)
posted by muckster at 2:22 PM on September 10, 2004


Ask yourself this: how many times have you declared your reason for doing X to be Y, when really it was reason Z but Z happens to be extremely controversial and could alienate you from your peers?

IMHO, I believe that "confidence is the president" is actually a superficial cover for "I hate gay marriage" or "Abortions are really killing babies". The opposite, "I'm voting for Kerry because of his Vietnam history" is actually a superficial cover for "religion zealots are taking over the Presidency" and "it's a woman's choice, damnit."

Now, please don't take my examples literally, but in my opinion, people's outwards expressions for why they vote are rarely the full story, if even the truth at all.

You're right, of course. I mean clearly pro-flag-burning amendments and pro-life issues and pro anti-gays, and pro death penalty are all really intelligent ways to vote as opposed to, say, economic policy, education policy, foreign policy, etc.

We don't all live in theoretical bubbles. Abortion, school prayers, and gay marriage are far more practical, and digestible, issues for Americans than the rather vague and non-concrete "economic policy" issue. Don't play the intellectual card on me. My range of issues extends to your examples as well. Generally, though, PEOPLE don't (nor do they care to) understand such complex issues. It's not just silly Americans who aren't paying attention. Japan's economy is in the toilet; Germany's productivity is shrinking and their population is aging. And Canada still doesn't even have a decent standing army. China could knock their ass out in a week.

They, like no other nation in the world, are slaves to the almighty dollar.

We're also the world's most powerful, influential economy. And if you're looking at the numbers, we will continue to be unless China or India's governments seriously restructure themselves.
posted by BlueTrain at 2:25 PM on September 10, 2004


Stockholm Syndrome.
posted by semmi at 9:17 PM on September 10, 2004


"I'd submit that Bush's refusal to examine many issues has nothing to to with anti-intellectualism, but because to examine those issues would be to his political disadvantage." - jonmc, would you care to go into detail on that ?
posted by troutfishing at 11:32 PM on September 10, 2004


Well, trout, I just woke up and I'm a mite hung over, but I'll give it a shot.

The most obvious example would be 9/11 and the war. If that were publicly examined that closer, he'd be forced to admit that could've been done to prevent the the attack from occurring and that the war in Iraq is not helping root out terrorism and is probably making things worse.

Ditto the economy, if Bush were to publicly analyze the situation it'd show that his policies are enriching wealthy Americans even further while hurting the rest of us. Neither of these revelations would make George Bush look good.

So he covers for it by invoking patriotism and a misrepresented version of "values." He also invokes the genuine sacrifices of our military, police, and firefighters, which obviously stirs peoples emotions. But he's using these people as cynical props, which is the opposite of respect, IMHO.

Some people buy into it for a number of reasons: lack of political sophistication, sentimentality, anger over terrorism, and yeah I'll admit a certain gullibility. It's saddening.
posted by jonmc at 7:32 AM on September 11, 2004


jonmc - I'd characterize what you just described as not precisely anti-intellectual but, instead, diversionary tactics : in the end, though, it may amount to the same thing.

But, I'd say that Bush is neither anti or pro intellectual - I think he just doesn't care, because he has other priorities :

He's into power, and - maybe not completely consciously either - quite amoral about how he feeds his desire for power.

I actually didn't disagree with you, I just was curious to see how you'd expand on that theme.

I would say, though, that Bush's approach does feed American anti-intectualism.

Then again, the Democrats - whenever they exhibit snobbery (by, for example, calling Bush dumb) - tend to feed anti-intellectualism as well.
posted by troutfishing at 9:25 AM on September 12, 2004


Abortion, school prayers, and gay marriage are far more practical, and digestible, issues for Americans than the rather vague and non-concrete "economic policy" issue.

Practical and digestible because these are things that you do in your everyday life and they're token issues that people fiercely disagree on. However, all three of them are incredibly unlikely to change at a federal level within the next four years. Abortion has been a contested topic since Roe v. Wade and things haven't significantly changed since. The majority of the country has a queasy dislike of the issue, but there's not enough of a strong interest on either side to actually change anything. This is opposed to hundreds of small economic policy issues that shape not only the US but the world economy over the course of decades. While some have spent thirty years complaining about an issue without attempting to alleviate the source problems, entire countries have risen and fallen because of international trade.

Vague? Non-concrete? This is as opposed to a quick "vote now for someone who isn't Godless?" How about a philosophy of international cooperation, while only letting those nations who adhere to our standards on human rights and militaries completely join in our economic discourse? Sounds vague, let's bomb them instead so they get the damn point.
posted by mikeh at 10:12 AM on September 12, 2004


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