Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Republican Town Hall Vandalism

In this health care debate, the Republican Party is continuing to prove that it is morally and intellectually bankrupt and, ultimately, a culture that is harmful to the well-being of the people of the United States and the world.

This is evident not only in their decision to vandalize the town hall process where representatives come to meet with their constituents, doing damage to the meetings with the intent of shutting down debate and discussion and replacing it with mock outrage. It is also evident in the fact that the reasons that the Republican culture accept to 'justify' this outrage have no bearing on truth or reality.

Both of these behaviors – the eagerness to shut down civil discussion and the willingness to accept untrue claims about the subject to be discussed – both demonstrate the same set of values. It is not a coincidence and it should not be a surprise that the two tendencies travel together among the same group of people. They are both motivated by a lack of interest in truth and reason. A culture that hates truth and reason enough to shut down civil debate is quite likely to also be a culture that does not care whether their reasons for doing so are true or reasonable.

This posting is not motivated by a belief that this health-care proposal has any merit and that I therefore have an interest in criticizing its critics. If there were an intellectually honest and morally respectable opposition to this health care proposal I would probably join it. I think that it is inevitably going to become the foundation of a large bed of political corruption that funnels money to companies, not the best health care providers. The winners will be the companies with the best lawyers and lobbyists, not the companies with the best health care providers.

Nor do I need to postulate that these disruptions are organized from the top-down. If orchestrated, the problem with the Republican culture is that the orchestrators could find an audience for this type of behavior within it. If not orchestrated, the fact remains that the Republican culture embraces intellectual bankruptcy and town-hall vandalism.

However, it is wholly unethical to enter into this debate with the desire and the intention to vandalize the town-hall process, which is the tactic that the Republican culture has apparently decided to embrace. Opposition should be expressed in terms of reasoned argument grounded on well-founded premises with intent to persuade others that the best course lies in some other direction. It should not be expressed by a plan to enter a town hall to make as much noise as possible to shout down and drown out all chance of civil debate.

These town-hall vandals operate on the pretext that they care about what happens to the elderly. One of the complaints is that the medical plan will set up death panels by which those who are no longer useful (or, newborn who are not likely to become useful) will be encouraged to suicide by a society that has better use for the money. These claims stretch the truth beyond the breaking point. They cross the line between gross exaggeration and outright lie. Or, in those instances where the speaker actually believes this lie, they display gross intellectual ignorance.

This is not an isolated case. This is the most recent expression of a growing history of intellectual recklessness and vandalism of the political process that has become such an integral part of Republican Culture. That history includes the Republican culture’s rejection of evolution and the science of climate change, and the total disregard for the principles of evidence and reason leading up to the invasion of Iraq.

This current bout of town-hall vandalism and the lies on which this it is founded is not an aberration. It is the recent manifestation of a long-term trend that I had hoped, in the Republican defeat in the last election, would begin to turn itself around.

Apparently, the Republican culture continues to be a culture of intellectual and moral bankruptcy.

They cannot even honestly claim a genuine concern for the well-being of others.

One of the behaviors that we can count on from those who truly care about others is that they will go to the effort to make sure that they are truly helping, and show some amount of worry or concern that they might not be doing the right thing. One of the things we can infer from somebody who does not care about whether they are truly helping or only giving a pretense of helping, is that they value giving the pretense of help more than actual help.

So, the antics that we find in the Republican culture today is not just one of intellectual recklessness and town-hall vandalism. It is one that shows no genuine interest in the well-being of others. It is a culture that cares about 'winning' in political terms, but in a way that only pretends to care about whether people will actually benefit from that victory.

We will see evidence that the Republican culture is starting to embrace intellectual values when the culture as a whole condemns town-hall vandalism and the use of false pretext to manufacture faux outrage – when it starts showing an interest and a degree of respect for evidence, truth, and rational debate.

But, apparently, that is only something to hope for in the future.


NAL said...

That was the best analysis I've read anywhere on that subject.

Chris said...

WEll said!

Hume's Ghost said...

A Democratic rep. from Ga. (who happens to be black) found a swaztika spray painted on the sign outside his office today.

I'm not sure that this is ethically much different than had they put a burning cross in front of the building, despite the vandals obviously intending to suggest that the rep. is a Nazi for supporting the President's health care proposal.

Hume's Ghost said...

Disturbing video from outside Obama's townhall.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

"The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore.' He continued 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"
-- Ron Suskind, New York Times Magazine (October 17, 2004)
[The aide is widely said to be Karl Rove.]