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Lifestyles of the White and Suggestible

Video from the 9/12 tea party in Washington:

Even more stunning video:

UPDATE: I find it amazing to watch these videos. I mean, these people went to a lot of trouble to go protest, so I don’t doubt that they feel strongly. But when you ask them the simplest questions they seem to have little idea of what they actually want to happen (other than to go back to some non-existent time in the past when things were better).

Even worse, if they claim to know what they want, then they seem to have given it little thought. For example, the people who say they want the government out of “everything”. Do they really want the US to be like Somalia?

Where is all this anger coming from? Is this anger that is being drummed up by people like Limbaugh and Beck? Or are Limbaugh and Beck merely tapping in to an existing anger (about the economy, about having a black president, about loosening morals, etc.). Are these people correctly sensing the decline of American hegemony, but then being manipulated into misdirecting their anger? Or am I just unable to understand their frustrations?



  1. Ralph E. Bry wrote:

    Where are these people from? What a sad tragic commentary on the American Educational System.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 8:54 am | Permalink
  2. Sammy wrote:

    I will respond to this by saying that yesterday afternoon instead of listening to the radio and the inane yammerings of talk hosts, I instead hopped over to Shadows Falls’ Myspace site, where they are currently streaming their new album, Retribution. And I will tell you that it’s an amazing metal album that made me forget about morons like those in these two videos.

    Then I went home and watched five hours of football (with a break in between to walk my pooch). Ignorance was so bliss.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink
  3. Sammy wrote:

    Okay, I lied. I really do have to comment. It’s amazing that people can just repeat from memory what they’ve heard Beck or Rushbo or Hannity say without even having one iota of actual knowledge.

    The first thing I do when I hear a statistic or some so-called fact is a Google search for opposing points of view. I do that whether the source is liberal or conservative. If Maddow says it, if No-lip Olbermann says it, if Maher says it, I question it. Okay, if Jon Stewart says it I believe it.

    Yesterday a conservative co-worker came up to me and said, “Did you hear that Maureen Dowd said Joe Wilson called the President ‘boy’?” I asked where he’d heard that, because I, in fact, had actually read the article. I told him that instead of “hearing” something and believing it, it’s really better to question everything you read and hear and investigate.

    I have a saying: If you only look for the bad in someone, that’s all you’ll find.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 10:23 am | Permalink
  4. Iron Knee wrote:

    Sammy, I loved your last comment. I totally cracked up when you said “if Jon Stewart says it I believe it”.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 10:40 am | Permalink
  5. Cyn wrote:

    its that THEY don’t know what they are frustrated or angry about…they can’t distinguish between taking responsiblity for and control of what is happening in THEIR world or their lives. so they are lambs led to slaughter by their religions, by fast talking snake oil salesmen radio talk show hosts etc etc etc. they are deluded into thinking that all things should be simple quick fixes that they alone can solve & have no clue what to do when that is not brutal reality. its an old old story… gullible desperate people taken in by clever evil salesmen.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 11:00 am | Permalink
  6. Iron Knee wrote:

    Cyn, you make a good point, and I see the same thing on the left as well. For example, those people who think that just by electing Obama, he will instantly fix everything that is wrong with our government (end all the wars, end poverty, fix the economy, stop pollution, end global warming, etc.)

    When will people realize that it took us years to mess everything up this bad, and it will take even longer to fix it. There are no quick fixes.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 11:13 am | Permalink
  7. Bump wrote:

    Those people would be hilarious, in a scary sort of way, if my parents and brother weren’t part of them.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 11:24 am | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee. You sort of aimed those questions at me… and to be honest, I’ld need a book to answer them. I’ld also need a couple of co-authors (someone in sociology, someone in psych).

    Rhetoric works, no question. But it’s usually working not because one group does something and another responds: it tends to only work when the context is going to let it work, the author’s reputation (ethos) is appropriate and reaffirmed by the message, and when the audience is receptive and responsive (allowing the speaker/author to interact, sometimes in real time, usually not).

    And that’s oversimplifying it badly, I know. Why does this sort of hate-mongering rhetoric work so well now? Like I said, I’d need a book and lots of analysis to answer that. But I would like to point to other times when anger and hate were used to persuade: from the US civil war to the civil rights marches (just for one set of examples), usually the more… aggressive rhetorics were successful because of such factors as audience fear/frustration/finances, speaker’s ability to articulate and admonish, limited data to correct lies, and a cultural context that promoted pathos over logos (feelings over logic).

    So I would be guessing, but I would have to say that a lot of the “crazy” we are seeing is because 1) the audience is undereducated in logical analysis and critical thinking, 2) the speakers are actually quiet motivating, 3) no one is calling out the excessive use of emotions as the dangerous thing it is, and 4) people are frightened: their lives are not sufficiently secure enough to enable them to feel sufficient courage to consider changing anything.

    I suspect that the wage gaps (rich richer/poor poorer), the smaller majority white populations (and often minority white), the over-emphasis of emotions in many popular religions (the megachurch’s emotionality vs the staidedness of older denominations, for instance), and the “feel good” self-esteem education of the last few decades could be partial causes. But that’s just guessing, off the top of my head.

    What can be done about it? Well, what did people like Martin Luther King, Jr do? He called their lack of logic out for what it was, he created emotional ties to his own positions, he refuted the moral basis under which racism was justified, and he never shut up.

    What happened with the civil war was obviously uglier. I wish we had had a MLK then as well.

    Anyhow, just some thoughts, and only thoughts. There are reasons why studying rhetoric is no longer my goals…, in part, because of watching this sort of vile persuasion.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 11:25 am | Permalink
  9. starluna wrote:

    This is been topic of conversation at our dinner table for a couple of weeks now. I largely view this discomfort as being rooted in the election of a black president. But my husband sees it more like Cyn: these people are beginning to see that they have been lied to, the world is not as they have been told it is, and are desperately holding on to a simplistic world view. The woman towards the end who stated that she’s been learning more about the Republicans and may not be one in the near future I think sums it up. The problem, obviously, is where it is not clear where they getting any of their information and how accurate that information is.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 11:26 am | Permalink
  10. Oh, one thing that also does work: make the vile rhetorics look laughable.

    Comedy is the most effective form of criticism, at least, if you goal is to just stop your opponents. So, making them look silly can work, if you get enough people laughing along with you. (Daily Show comes to mind….)

    The problem might just be that too often liberals believe they should give their opponents their “turn” to rebut, so we don’t just take them down when it’s clear they have nothing more to contribute. I not that the conservatives are often too quick to just make jokes, shutting down debate.

    And that need to play fair in a battle where the other guy has proven to be a cheater is probably the real problem. (When the other guy isn’t cheating–isn’t just using jokes and sarcasm to shut off debate–then great, keep the debate going. But if the other guy has a proven history of avoiding honest debate, then I recommend we treat him (or her) the same way.)

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 11:31 am | Permalink
  11. Iron Knee wrote:

    Thought Dancer, you sum up nicely why I started this blog in the first place. The Daily Show proved that you could respond to the ugliness with humor.

    And, the other example of when anger and hate was used to persuade was Germany after WWI. I do believe that could happen here (and might already be happening), and that scares me.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 11:41 am | Permalink
  12. Iron Knee. You said something about wanting people to write articles? I can’t write comedy, but I can talk about rhetorical choices of political humor.

    And I do need some breaks from my steam-punk novel…

    If so, email me at this nick. I’ll need to let you in on my real name / real nick. (I really don’t check this nick’s email often, but I will tomorrow to see if you want a stringer.)

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 11:50 am | Permalink
  13. K!M wrote:

    I think Cyn made a great point: these people are angry, and rightfully so, I’m pretty pissed myself [Maddoff, AIG, GMC, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, the civil war etc etc etc]. The problem is that the tea-baggers [and generally everyone else] are too uninformed to have a coherent explanation as to WHAT it is, exactly, that they’re so mad about. So they hear something inflammatory that just happens to be aligned with their own political ideologies and they go and run with it. Madness then ensues.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 12:24 pm | Permalink
  14. Iron Knee wrote:

    There is an excerpt from Max Blumenthal’s book “Republican Gomorrah” here that talks about what is motivating the tea baggers. It is a short but very good read. Blumenthal is also the creator of the first video in this post.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 7:00 pm | Permalink
  15. starluna wrote:

    Thanks for the reference Iron Knee. Going to have to check that book out.

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 7:52 am | Permalink