I have a liberal friend with whom I have fairly frequent serious discussions. He thinks of himself as a moderate liberal, even a centrist because his owns guns and his guns are dear to him. Yet, he voted for Obama and he can give a spirited defense of every aspect of Obama’s policies and actions. That’s a test, in my book.
He told me once, but only once, that the administration’s program of at-a-distance- assassination-of-the-untried was not a problem for him. He dos not see how assassinating an American citizen, for example, on the presidential say-so, could be a problem, ethical or judicial. He does not discern a slippery slope. That too is a test.
He and I have had repeatedly two bases of disagreement. First, we have different values, of course. Thus, he insists that it’s fine for him to use the vote to take my money by force in order to give it to someone that he, my friend, thinks deserves it more than I do because he, the other guy, does not have health insurance.
Note that this is an actual example of a fundamental value difference because my liberal buddy does not have to go there to achieve the same results. He could try, for example, to convince me to give up some money on the basis of expediency: It’s unpleasant, even messy to have the uninsured dying on my front lawn for lack of medical care. (As they do all the time, of course.) Or, he could persuade me on fellow-human grounds. He does not feel like doing either because, I think, he has no moral qualm about taking my earnings by force for a cause he judges good. That’s a big difference between us.
Then, we have a separate, major differences about dealing with facts, about reality. I, for example, thought that the large number of uninsured in the US in 2007-8 the Democrats touted to justify Obamacare was mostly a liberal myth. (Ask me.) He insists it was real. (Incidentally, I don’t think people need so-called health “insurance,” I think they need medical care. But that’s another story. Ask me.)
My liberal friend always starts from the assumption that, we are more or less equal from an informational standpoint. That’s not plausible as far as the two of us are concerned. You have to ignore the obvious to believe that.
I spent thirty years in academia. Even if the better part of it was in a business school, the density of liberals anywhere in academia is impressive. There is good research that shows that university professors are Democrats about six to one. When I was a professor, I did try to avoid liberals as best as I could but it was not really possible. I kept bumping into them. It was difficult to avoid conversation without being rude. Some took my professed conservatism as a personal challenge and invaded my space. There is even fairly good evidence, though circumstantial, that a leftist -feminist university administrator tried to make a spectacular example of me. I ended up ruining her day. (This is another story. Ask me.)
In addition I have lived in or next to the People’s Green Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz for twenty-five years. I listen to National Public Radio every afternoon. (I do this for about as long daily as I listen to Rush Limbaugh.) I even take in “Democracy Now,” the intelligent leftist station, frequently (which is more than my liberal friend can say, I will bet. I mean that I will bet, literally.) So, no, we are not equal. I know vastly more about left and liberal positions, reasoning, and versions of the truth than any liberal knows about conservatism. I would know more than liberals do even if I did not want to know anything.
Whee, whee, whee, he says, but I am busy. I work. I don’t have time for the media like a retired college professor. Sure enough and, believe me, I am grateful that he works hard and thus contributes to my Social Security benefit. But his hard work and my gratefulness do not change anything to the fact that I know his songbook inside and out while he knows little of mine. This is not a football game where he would have little time to train. Should my liberal friend defer to me a little because of my superior knowledge? Well, it would make some sense, wouldn’ it? (Would it?)
When we argue about politics, my friend has trouble staying on message. He keeps changing the subject very fast, too fast for me. I don’t have an explanation about why he does this although I have observed other liberals do the same: When you begin giving them several instances of the inanity of the warmist cult, for example, they will say, “ How about George Bush lying about weapons of mass destruction, hum!”
My friend also complains that I interrupt him. I do. That’s because, he frequently delivers himself of sentences of the form: “ As the sun rises in the west every morning….” It turns out that if you say: “All cats are black and it’s raining” the whole sentence is false. I did not make this up. I learned it as a freshman in college. It’s in Logic 101.
As a rule, I don’t make the rules and it’s not unfair or rude to expect the other guy who wants to argue with me to also play by those general rules. So, I usually stop him before he can assume that I agree with any part of the whole fallacious statement that follows his early false utterance. He could speak in a more disciplined manner. He could leave out the false statement about where the sun rises and get straight to his point. He could but he won’t. I suspect (I can’t prove it) that that manner of speaking is a form of self-serving self-deception, like this:
“So much stuff comes out of my mouth in such a short time that I can’t reasonably be expected to be responsible for everything I say. Don’t be an intolerant (and rude) bastard about it.”
Know what I have not said: My liberal buddy does not lie. I believe it would seriously disturb him if he caught himself lying. Small mistake, yes; lies, no.
Here is another deeply intellectual anecdote to illustrate where I am going with this.
One evening, my liberal buddy and I talk about what movies we have seen lately. Of course, we have both seen Tarentino’s latest gore fest, “Django Unchained.” (He is no more of a snob than I am.) And, here is a useful story within the story.
In the line for that movie, I bump into an important person. She is only a coffee shop acquaintance, but an acquaintance of long standing. I even held her hand a little when she was going through the agonies of tenure. She is a junior professor in one of the Humanities at a good university. She is one of my direction finders.
I don’t always know what’s intellectually cool but I always know who will know. My professor-acquaintance is one of those direction finders. I am not sure she is a real post-modernist in her heart because she is quite intelligent and thus probably not enamored of cliches or of deliberate obscurity. I am certain she is a post-modernist, or worse, at the faculty club. If she were not, how would she have obtained tenure?
Anyway, I ask my professor acquaintance jokingly in the Tarentino wait line, “ Are we slumming tonight?” She replies quickly, “Oh, no, Tarentino, Tarentino…” I can see she is embarrassed before her companion. I committed a gaffe (again). Tarentino’s products have high intellectual value somewhere, in a sphere where I don’t live. I thought I was going to see gore and fast action. It turns out there might be Culture and “signifié” there except I don’t know how to discern it. (And don’t ask me what that French-sounding word means; I don’t know that either.)
Well, back to my liberal buddy. I allow, in a bar, after only one drink, how I did not much enjoy “Django…” because there were too many mistakes of fact in the movie. I was distracted, in particular, by the segment where pretty, well-dressed young female slaves walk arm-in-arm in a southern plantation instead of attending to picking cotton. There were many other things I found disruptive of my attention. I wasn’t looking for historical accuracy, of course, but too many gross violations of accuracy interfered with my enjoyment of the bloodshed.
My liberal buddy looks at me in disbelief. “It’s a Tarentino movie,” he exclaims aptly – “What do you expect?” So, he is able to turn off his credibility measurement device. I am not. Or, his device is very blunt while mine is a bit sensitive. Big difference either way.
My liberal friend lives in a mental world that is different from mine. Its main component is a culture of indifference to fact. It’s a freely chosen culture of puerile, poetic representation of reality:
“There was a monster under my bed. My Daddy killed the monster.”
There was no monster, kid. Your Daddy did not kill any monster. Tough!
Secretary of State Clinton, testifying before the Senate on the Benghazi (Libya) massacre of Americans, said it well:
“What difference, at this point, does it make”… whether A happened in Benghazi, or B ( and one of your highest-ranking subordinates repeatedly made false statements to the American people) ?
In his inauguration address, President Obama announced a renewed offensive against the threat of climate change. He mentioned specifically:
- raging fires;
- crippling droughts;
- more powerful droughts.
In fact, none of the above has been increasing globally for many years.*
The President is dealing in falsehoods on the first day of his new term.
His aides feed him statements without regard for their truthfulness; he is not interested in checking them; he does not have a fact checker; he knows none of his supporters is likely to call him on falsehoods. He is confident the media won’t look into them. They sound right, What else does anyone want? They are not positively in favor of falsehoods but they don’t care. They deeply don’t care. As I said earlier: The teenagers are in charge.
* My information comes from an article from the environmental activist (and trained statistician) Bjorn Lomborg in the Wall Street Journal of 1/24/13: “Climate-Change Misdirection.”