Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Joe Wilson Ends the World

Michael Lind on
Like today's right, the '60s and '70s left was emotional, expressivist and anti-intellectual. (One of its bibles was Abbie Hoffman's "Steal This Book!") Like today's right, the '70s left favored theatrical protest over discussion and debate. The prophets of the Age of Aquarius and the "population explosion" were every bit as apocalyptic as Glenn Beck. And just as today's right-wing radicals play at Boston Tea Parties, so Abbie Hoffman dressed up as Uncle Sam. The teabaggers are the Yippies of the right.
Joe Wilson's guttural outburst in Congress deeply unsettled me. Sure, initially I, too, was disgusted at the absence of respect for the institution played out before the watchful eyes of the entire world (and, not at all surprised when the likes of Osama bin Laden and Vladimir Putin immediately joined the rousing chorus of disrespect). The "racist" angle really didn't offer much relief either -- even as endorsed by the prophet, and sometimes musician, Dave Matthews himself.

The right's rush to rationalize this buffoonery helped me out a bit. The basic defense turns on a flawed syllogism that concludes: "We've put up with all forms of civil disobedience from the left all of these years, so the right can give as good as it gets." There's the rub.

At the core of our democracy is the quasi-static equilibrium balancing conservative and progressive forces. It's a Kabuki piece where each player, acting out his prescribed role, insures that we will adapt to radical changes in a tolerable and predictable fashion. The conservative forces are meant to be the proponents of order, of the status quo, of our national traditions. Progressives urge us forward, ask us to question where we are, where we intend to go and shake our very social foundations in the process. Everybody has a role.

That conservative forces, with their tea parties and Congressional outbursts, have become this era's Yippies is dangerous and contrary to conservative tenets. It is a nuclear instability that will destroy our social construct as surely as any WMD. What is right for left-wing Yippies is wrong for social conservatives -- conservatives, sit down and speak rationally with the voice of our traditions.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Godwin and the End of the Democracy

The American political dynamic always seems to strike an uncomfortable equilibrium, making me exceedingly proud and deeply ashamed in similar portions. And, the greatest pride is generally followed by the deepest shame.

I'm ashamed.

I walked a little taller abroad, knowing that our profound commitment to democratic ideals made history last year and, more than any military invasion of foreign autocracies, made those ideals palpable to despots worldwide.

The source of my shame is complex. Did our Framers not understand that the precipitous decline in civil culture would twist the First Amendment so that pernicious reductio ad Hitlerum, criminal slander in more civilized nations, would become a staple of public policy discourse? Or, that the Second Amendment would be so malleable that the ill-intentioned could openly stalk our leaders in public with loaded semi-automatic assault weapons?

I bash the media gently and with great care. I'm one of them. I know that it's very hard to turn away from a train wreck. And, appreciating the recursive irony of this very post, I'm not sure that we should so readily give voice to these destructive slanders and self-accelerating excursions past civility.

I can't stop CNN. Nor, in another brush with irony, could I actually stop Yahoo!. But, I do think that our newer media have a deeper understanding of these cultural indicators. And, we can contextualize them in a manner that enhances understanding, rather than conceding to the prurient voyeurism of network news.

I watched the accompanying clip in disbelief. That an entire panel of network journalists could analyze this "Nazi" drivel without reference to Godwin's Law is incredible to anyone who's ever actually used "those Internets."

Godwin got it, in the old Usenet days, by identifying basic digital mob behavior:
As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.
As "those Internets" grew to include sophisticated commenting, it wasn't hard to see that Godwin's initially-humorous Law had legs. Check out any good-sized chain on HuffPo. My man was dead on. The Law applies to meat-space, too.

So, my point is that the MSM pundits missed the key conclusion, derived from the "jumping the shark" corollary to Godwin's Law:
For example, there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished [.]
I guess, then, the remaining question is which "thread" has ended in this application of Godwin's Law? Is it our democracy generally? The healthcare debate more specifically? Our culture and civility?

Monday, August 3, 2009


I chuckled a little when TechCrunch's Michael Arrington, presumably in a fit of pompous rage, announced that:

Truth is, this train left the station a while ago. Before Om Malik and Arrington, anyone following the incessant tweeting of my man, @iancr, or his fistfulatyen blog got the distinct, sinking feeling that all was not well in the iPhoniverse of Apple acolytes (in early October of last year):
Anyone wanna buy a three week old iPhone 3G, 16GB? You don’t even have to stick with AT&T for two years to get a cheap price. Make me an offer.
I'm moving against the tide, having just picked up an iPhone after they added the Fat Finger Feature (horizontal keyboard).

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Gates of Hell

Obama/Gates '08?, originally uploaded by tabomabi12.

Oh, wait, that's Bill Gates. Not the esteemed Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates, but the Harvard dropout who likely has never locked himself out of his massive estate nor managed a wry disaffection while posing for a mug shot.

The really cool thing is if you haughtily insult the mildly educated, working class lout who's come, bristling with sticks, sprays and bullets, to protect your personal wealth from people who look like you --- you get to have not just a beer, but the beer of your own choosing, with the POTUS and said lout. They'll even throw in a loose-lipped Veep to provide the entertainment. This country rocks. This sh*t never happens in Jamaica.