After These Messages


I’ve come to believe that there’s a huge disconnect between the world portrayed in the media, and the world of ordinary working people. Case in point: a co-worker—one of the nicest, most patient, most generous people I know—mentioned off-hand to me that she enjoys listening to Michael Savage when driving home from work.

It took me a few seconds to absorb this. Then I shook my head and said softly, but emphatically, “Oh…I don’t like him.”

She seemed slightly taken aback. “Oh, he does exaggerate quite a bit, I guess.”

“He preaches hatred,” I said. “He says that people like me are enemies of America, and I’m sure if he had his way I would be shot or put in a camp, along with my family.”

Visibly flustered, she changed the subject.

I had a similar experience with an acquaintance—not quite a friend, but not a stranger—who always showed me a great deal of kindness and concern, expressed his admiration for me, and was supportive during difficult times. In a casual conversation it emerged that he liked Bill O’Reilly.

“Bill O’Reilly!” I said. “He’s a right-wing extremist, and a liar.”

“Well, I don’t want to get into a political debate with you. I just know that I feel grateful for the information I get from his program. He’s a very smart man.”

“So was Goebbels.”

“Who’s Goebbels?”

At that point I became speechless, but in any case the particular circumstance was such that it made no sense to pursue the subject.

How often do we run up against these startling incongruities between the positive qualities of someone we know and their political inclinations? I don’t even know in these cases how serious or casual their beliefs might be. It seems the best I could do was express my disapproval of the persons referred to (Savage and O’Reilly) without making it disapproval of the person I was talking to. Why? Because disagreements should be about principles, and not about attacking the person we disagree with. However, this is the very idea that Savage and O’Reilly and the rest of the rightist haters never honor.

Incidents like these make me wonder about the awareness of the media audience. My co-worker is a thousand times the human being that Michael Savage could ever hope to be. So I can’t help but think that she fails to make the connection between a voice on the radio, ranting and raving, and the reality of people’s lives. Perhaps it’s something abstract to her—“other” people out there who are undermining America and need to be stopped (or whatever), and not real people that she might know, that she might like, that might even be in her own family.

I don’t know what percentage of the hate media audience consists of died-in-the-wool wingnuts. But I suspect there’s a good chunk of the viewing/listening group that resembles my co-worker and my acquaintance: people who listen and believe without thinking too hard or suspecting where the beliefs might lead. In our culture politics is made to seem like a kind of entertainment—powerful people doing things in a world from which we are both excluded and insulated. The media is very much like a drug that lulls the mind into a softly pliable, semi-conscious state of passive acquiescence.

What does it take to get through to this limited type of consciousness? But before asking that, I should ask, how do I first break away from this consciousness myself, and in such a way that I can act as a force for understanding rather than reaction? Reaction is understandable for progressives, considering the attacks that have been aimed our way for so long. It’s even necessary and appropriate, to some degree. But when I hear friends say that they love Bill Maher, I realize that the sword does cut both ways. I suppose because Maher hates George Bush, folks nod their head without really listening critically and realizing what an inane and superficial prick he is. On a recent show he asked why the Bush gang even talks about waterboarding—why not just do it and keep it a secret? There’s so many things wrong with this statement that I won’t even try to analyze it, but the point is that there’s a kind of cultural liberalism that pretends to represent an alternative, but in fact doesn’t.

Actual debate with people of a right-wing persuasion is a rare event for me. In the instances I mentioned, the topic came up in awkward situations that didn’t really allow for a meaningful discussion. For the most part, the people I hang out with share my general outlook. More importantly, though, the narcotic nature of the media has made it difficult for many people to even grasp what actual debate would look like anymore. Name-calling, catchphrases, and talking points are not methods of argument, they’re strategies for preventing meaningful discussion.

The only thing I know for sure is that it’s wrong to be silent, to deliberately avoid stating my views on a subject. If someone, no matter how nice, praises Bush or parrots Sean Hannity, or whatever, I’m going to speak my mind. Where it goes from there, however—where it can go, I still don’t know.

~ by cdash on March 20, 2008.

28 Responses to “After These Messages”

  1. You performed your hatchet job well as well as your character assassination, but you neglected to realize that I knew what you were doing all along.

    I have spies working for me, too, and angels on my side.

    Never forget who your real enemy is.

    Or who you don’t want to make your enemy.

    Trust me.

    True friends stab you from the front.

  2. Say what you have to say.

    After all, if you don’t, who will?

    Sleep Walkers can exit stage left.

  3. I understand why Bush wouldn’t keep waterboarding a secret. I started waterboarding my kids and I want to tell the world.

  4. //Because disagreements should be about principles, and not about attacking the person we disagree with.//

    Wowsers…..this blog is starting to make too much sense……

  5. It generally goes into yelling matches. I don’t know how hard I tried in 2004 to convince my now-wingnut sister and – laughably – my dittohead dad to not vote for Bush. After awhile, when you realize that the three of us have had roughly the same life experiences and education for the most part, yet ended up on nearly opposite sides of the political spectrum, I’ve all but given up with them. And, like the archetypes you’ve given, they’re not ‘evil’ people, but gladly latch on to such evil viewpoints because SOMETHING has to be the bad guy. Maybe people like that are just fucking mutants.

  6. Don’t ever do it again.

    Don’t ever do it again.

    I am watching you and I always was.

    And you know who I am.

  7. You made so many good points, Dash, I hardly know where to begin. These are experiences I have, too, and it’s hard to reconcile the person you believe someone is to what they profess to believe. I have a relative I love very much who, when asked WHY OH WHY she supports the Shrub so vehemently even NOW, says, “I admire his morals.” HIS MORALS? The first time, I was so flabbergasted, all I can do was sputter phrases that barely made sense: “But…but…dead people…Iraq…and tricked us…and lies all the time… and Cheney…evil….” Flabbergasted. And those people who watch Faux News because they tell them what they want to hear. Sad.

    You put into words things I know to be true.

  8. Well it always changes my opinion of the person unfortunately. I just can’t reconcile it and make it okay. Great post.

  9. Hello, Dashiell.
    I don’t seem to have that problem with people on the Right. I can talk to people on the Right. You have to give them incontrovertible facts, and do it without an open bias. They back away a bit at first, circle the wagons a bit. But I think the dialogue is important. You’ve got to be nice about it, and you can’t tear down the whole house at once. Maybe break a window or two, and come back later, ya know.
    There’s a few right-wing blogs I comment on to stir things up. Most recently, one with a post about Limbaugh’s reaction to Obama’s speech. That was one long comment I left.
    I’ve noticed though, that many times when I comment, it ends the thread. Go figure.
    Anyway, I believe the dialogue is important. Real important. I see the lack of dialogue between the Left & the Right as one of the big things fvcking up this country.
    People like Limbaugh & Savage couldn’t exist were there more open dialogue. As it is, their spew is unchallenged all-too-often.

    I have more difficulties in discussions with the people from the Left. I understand their feelings. They’ve just felt left out and unrepresented for so long that they’re on pins & needles waiting for payback time. But it’s not going to happen. The more they try, the more they will shoot themselves in their collective feet.
    I was looking at the Contract for America the other night, and one of the guiding principle behind it was the 60% strategy. That’s why issues like abortion & school prayer were left out of it, was because it was intended to be a document that could gain broad support.
    The Left is happy with a 20% strategy. I don’t think it will be so successful, but they try to make up in vehemence what they lack in concensus. Dumb bastards.
    They tell me that “progressive” is the new word for “liberal.” But that’s not progressivism, and that’s not liberalism either.
    Give me social democracy.

    I think I was working toward a point of some type, and in the translation of thought to word it got lost. Whatever. Not the first time.

  10. This was an extremely thoughtful post, Dashiell. Thank you. I, too, find a certain amount of cognitive dissonance when I find out that an associate or colleague, with whom I’ve worked and who I respect on any number of levels, is on an entirely different plant than I am with regard to politics and general world view. Sometimes (actually, usually) I find it is best to just avoid confrontation. I try to take people at face value: people are very often just a function of their family situations, their life experiences, or, most often, and unfortunately, their lack of curiosity and mental and intellectual laziness, things over which I can have no impact or control. For me, it’s best just not to engage them on that level because, ultimately, we all have to answer for our own lives and choices.

    I like what you said, as well, about Bill Maher. While I often find him funny and on-point, some of his rants are sometime really lacking in both humor and intellectual legitimacy. He’s becoming almost as nutty as those of the people on the right that he villifies.

  11. break a window or two, and come back later…
    Yes, I am a hooligan of the blog world.

  12. PT- “I’ve noticed though, that many times when I comment, it ends the thread.”

    If it makes you feel any better, that happens to me all the time, except on “Liberal” blogs.

    Either I kill the thread, or my comments mysteriously disappear into the ether.

  13. “Jonestown… drink up bitches” is actually rather profound…

  14. Brilliant post man. Seriously thought provoking. I’m always stymied when I meet genuinely nice people with heinous political beliefs.

  15. What an excellent post! Having relatives on my husband’s side who are Bush lovers to the end, I can relate to some of the things you’ve said. I also heard on a radio station that spouses who are on opposite sides of the Democratic primary race, Hill/Obama, are finding that their sex life has dwindled because of their differences. Personally, I think withholding sex for political purposes is just evil.

    I think peace in the world could actually be attainable without politics getting in the way.

    BTW, I linked this post on my blog today…it’s a keeper.

  16. PT- “I’ve noticed though, that many times when I comment, it ends the thread.”

    If it makes you feel any better, that happens to me all the time, except on “Liberal” blogs.

    Either I kill the thread, or my comments mysteriously disappear into the ether.

    Fairlane, maybe it’s that creepy avatar you’ve got. It scares the crap out of me every time I see it!

  17. crap, I forgot to close my ““

  18. I hate computers…and html tags.

  19. Congratulations are deserved. The Gobbels comparison would be spot on except for one thing : compared to today, Gobbels was an amateur.
    Have you read up on media control and what it does to people’s mental facilities ? I think you would have checked the Overton Window stuff by now. Who are the crazy ones ? is blindingly different. But we live in a world of

  20. Because disagreements should be about principles, and not about attacking the person we disagree with.

    Thank you for writing that. It’s something that I think that we (as a society) seem to have forgotten.

  21. Great post, and I know just what you mean when you find out someone you thought you liked likes Michael Savage or Bill O’Reilly. I actually dated a guy who was a right-winger when I was much younger and one reason we finally broke up is we just hated each other’s politics! I don’t know how Mary Matlin and James Carville stay together. Guess it’s more of a game for them.

    The media are very insidious the way these programs lull people into believing them. My own mother, who is an old-time liberal from way back, watches CNN all the time and sees Lou Dobbs and his ranting about immigration. Even she is influenced and starts talking about there being “too many” immigrants. I told her she was a victim of propaganda and she didn’t believe me.

  22. very good post as others have stated here. some of my relatives are republicans and we argue all the time. it gets old because it never solves anything. so we agree to disagree but I can tell, at least from my perspective, that a cooling and distancing takes place. most of these relatives at least now hate Bush although not as much as I do. they hate him because he has ripped the pretences from the republican party and betrayed them. on some level they know that.

  23. Absolutely! You must have your say, of course, but you’ve also got to consider the source of your Maalox, I think. Sometimes it is better to just not waste time feeding the trees. Sometimes no matter how right you are it’s all a wash, you know. I suppose I weigh the potential outcome against how much energy I’m going to expend in the exchange. If what comes out of the discussion is something less than what I’ve invested, I bail…even if it means letting my adversary have the last word. I take that back. There is one exception, my blog. I like the home court advantage. It’s the only place I get to be microphone man…lol. Have a good one.

  24. Wow, Dash! You hit my issue right on the noggin. I’m learning to come back with all the sugar required to keep my job, but to still plant the idea of questioning in the minds of the sheep I encounter.

    Most people are not true wingnuts in practice, but they listen to this hate radio all day long. Locally, there’s nothing but hate radio 24/7 on two stations. If they want local news, they get the hate along with it.

    Thanks for putting it so well. I feel empowered.

  25. It is true we have been ‘dumbed down’.
    Many young people don’t know the presidents in their lifetime.
    Dumbed down from what?
    Voting rights?
    Experimenting on citizens?
    We were pretty stupid to begin with.

  26. Dash, A little late with this, but your post does conjure a question. Does the sputum coming from Savage and O’Reilly appear to you as another form of divide and conquer? I mean if people are so narrow minded on these issues and don’t see the connection between what these wingnuts say and the people they target, do they realize how trapped they really are by hate?

  27. Thanks to everyone for your responses. I’m astonished by how many people relate to this. I think there’s a hunger for real discussion that is not being met in the political culture at all. And I do admire those who are willing to calmly reason with right-wingers. It’s hard for me to do so because I’m so fed up, but really I agree it would be better if I could.

  28. Who is Goebbels?

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