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November 09, 2004

Well, Crap.

I've avoided blogging about the intellegentsia's post-election meltdown as much as possible, because, hey! Being bitter after a loss isn't really endemic to any one political party, but I must link to this one piece by Simon Schama, mainly because I enjoyed his History of Britain so much, and so his apparent loss of all deductive skills and sanity hits me hard.

At least he loses his mind in a quintessentially British way, which is to say, with slightly more evolved sentence structure than that of Maureen Dowd, but that's really all this piece has going for it; after all, a mule in horse harness is still just a mule, and condescending bigotry dressed up in ten dollar prose is still just condescending bigotry.

Mr. Schama, if I may be so bold as to point this out--I come from a state which HAS an "outward-looking coastline," I live in an area that actually houses immigrants from Asia, India and Europe and which still went almost completely red. I have LIVED in Europe, although I imagine Scotland is a tad provincial for the evolved tastes of one such as you, and I have an excellent educational background. So I am puzzled, to say the least, by your extrapolation that not only must I be "mythic, messianic, [and] conversionary," in my approach to both life and my fellow east coast denizens, but I must also be a "rock-ribbed" "creationist" who downloads "Pastor John Ashcroft singing the Praises of the Lord right to [my] Godpod."

Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt. Well, I am familiar with both red and blue types, and I tend to reserve my contempt for those whose over-arching self-importance eclipses every other aspect of their personalities, regardless of geographical location, education, or the designation of their voter registration cards. So my contempt of your ill-informed screed is richly deserved.

I think that UN-familiarity is the real culprit in breeding contempt, and that it is possible that the insular, close-minded, fear-mongering folk you ridicule MIGHT reside a bit closer to you than you think.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at November 9, 2004 09:53 AM

Not to defend Schama's point too much, since each party is a large umbrella, but it is a fact that a significant part of the Republican umbrella comprises creationists, who really deserve condescension. I think the point about Red staters being mythic is valid too, because of the campaign's neo-fascist tendency to portray Bush as a heroic deity, which apparently worked for some voters.

Posted by: Chris Martin at November 9, 2004 11:14 AM

Not to put too fine a point on it, but religion is the poetization of ethics. Expertise is not. What you get with expertise is encroachment.

What would an expert make of the following passage :

``We have just seen that the Messiah is the just man who suffers, who has taken on the suffering of others. Who finally takes on the suffering of others, if not the being who says ``Me''? The fact of not evading the burden imposed by the suffering of others defines ipseity itself. All persons are the Messiah.'' (Levinas, _Difficult Freedom_ p.89)

Is he going to notice its truth, and if so what to do about those red-staters? Is it not the same truth?

Posted by: Ron Hardin at November 9, 2004 11:33 AM

Chris -

Neo-fascist? (Raising Arizona voice:) Well, okay, then.

If you want to make a valid point about disagreeing with conservative Christians, go ahead. There's plenty to disagree with, and even Christians "do the disagreeing" with one another. But this tripe from Schama isn't about "disagreement," and you know it. It's about denigrating a bunch of people who didn't vote for the correct candidate by mocking their faith, their geographic location, their lifestyle and by implication their intelligence.

And that is what deserves contempt.

Posted by: BAW at November 9, 2004 12:05 PM

Dave Weinart has extensively documented the recent fascist tendencies of the right wing on his blog and his essay "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism."

Posted by: Chris Martin at November 9, 2004 01:27 PM

Webster's says:

fas-cism (fash'iz em)n. a system of government characterized by dictatorship, belligerent nationalism and racism, militarism, etc.: first instituted in Italy (1922-43)

You know, it's almost comical how the left continues to throw around this word, almost as a curse.

Iraq under Saddam - now, that was fascism. Say the wrong thing, and end up with your hand chopped off or getting stuffed head-first into a plastic shredder. Last I heard, Bush and the Republicans weren't doing this sort of thing.

Sheesh! When will you liberals grow up and realize that when someone holds an opinion that differs from yours, that it isn't a personal attack! In spite of what your fellow liberals are constantly telling you, you don't have all the answers to the world's problems, so get over yourself and stop whining.

You know, this whining and calling the other guy bad names may have worked during the 60s and 70s. But the grownups are in charge now, and temper tantrums are only going to get you ignored. When you can grow up and converse in the world of ideas like an adult, then you'll be listened to. Until then, go sulk in your room until the next election.

Posted by: Claire at November 9, 2004 02:26 PM

Um, would that be Dave Neiwert?

If so, I think using him as an example to further support the validity of the Schama opinion piece in the article is unwise.

Both men use tactics of name-calling, broad generalizations, and strawman arguements as the foundation to their editorial works.

I was of the impression that BAW's point was that using such tactics further alienates people who are not interested in engaging in such "debate."

Oddly, calling someone stupid because of his/her beliefs doesn't make them say to themselves "Hey, he just called me an idiot and because he's from the superior arm of the human race, he must be right -- I must be an idiot and need to listen to him so I can improve myself to become a learned human being."

That an expert in history completely flubbed a political piece doesn't surprise me. In education, we've had medical doctors (as well as other people in similarly degreed occupations) weighing in for decades on how best to teach and exactly what material needs to be taught. Trust me when I say that not everyone can teach.

Of course, I'd probably make Schama's head explode -- I'm a NY Democrat and I go to my Roman Catholic church every weekend. hee hee hee hee

Posted by: di at November 9, 2004 02:29 PM

Di -

Now you KNOW that NY Democrats aren't allowed to attend Mass!

I'm soooooo telling on you! ;)

I think, given Schama's tone in his histories, that his antipathy to organized religion stems from his research. And given British history and its state Church, I can see how someone might get fed up with religiosity.

The mark of a reasonable person, however, is to be self-actualized enough to see when your own biases might be taking you a bit over the top in the "massive, sweeping generalization" department, and to try to correct for that problem. Schama doesn't, which indicates to me that either:

1. He isn't interested in real analysis and debate so much as scoring cheap points in front of an audience of "fellow travelers"


2. He's hysterical. And not in a ha-ha way.

Posted by: BAW at November 9, 2004 02:42 PM

Show me where Neiwert uses tactics of name-calling, broad generalizations, and strawman arguments.

Posted by: Chris Martin at November 9, 2004 04:43 PM

Oh. Man. That is some meltdown. Jeez Louise. I only hope James Lileks gets his hands on it, because that is serious Screed material — Olive Garden level, maybe.

Posted by: Michelle Dulak Thomson at November 9, 2004 07:07 PM

Reading about the fascination, or downright obsession, we seem to observe in the Brits regarding our Presidential election, it occurred to me to wonder: What happened to England? There was a time when the sun never set on the British empire. Its army and navy kicked butt all over the world. I can't imagine that Queen Victoria ever gave a rat's tail who we put in the White House. What happened to that once great nation?


Posted by: Laura at November 9, 2004 08:14 PM

I actually read some of Neiwert's blog before I posted anything about him.

I debated the idea of pulling out the arguements about how the right, led by Bush, claims to be interested in working with all sorts but in reality only want everything their way; the left is clearly walking the enlightened path while the right is just paying lip service.

I debated pointing out all the snide comments about the politeness and civility that the political right doesn't possess, especially Rush Limbaugh and other radio editorialists. Of course, the political left has truly gifted individuals who can spread the love and pearls of their wisdom around while avoiding basier instincts.

But, Neiwert never called anyone a "poophead."

So silly me is sufficiently chastized.

Posted by: di at November 9, 2004 08:34 PM

What happened to the British Empire? A combination of several things: they gave it up in favor of letting subject peoples determine their own fate; they fought Hitler and could no longer afford it; an empire is not practically sustainable. Socialism doesn't really enter into it, although the Labour Party certainly was not in favor of subjugating peoples around the world.

On another note, BAW, could you please not use "self-actualized" again? It makes my teeth hurt,

Posted by: Michael at November 10, 2004 08:37 AM

Sorry about that, Michael...

Sometimes I have these Psych 101 flashbacks and I can't help myself.


Posted by: BAW at November 10, 2004 09:24 AM

Along the fascism thread, I was also thinking of the Bush campaign commercial The Sights and Sounds of the Campaign Trail: VideoPlayer.aspx?ID=1082&T=2

Posted by: Chris at November 10, 2004 12:54 PM