Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Lofty Framing Behind the Embarrassing Hypocrisy

As you've surely heard, armed secret police are beating peaceful protestors and pushing them into unmarked cars without clear authority or Miranda warnings, Constitution be damned.
Am I repulsed and horrified? Yes. Am I fearful? Not particularly. This isn't how a nation falls into authoritarianism. That outcome would require years of smart maneuvering and patiently disciplined frog boiling, all far beyond the feeble talents of this oafish administration. This is merely Fascism Theater, designed to juice the base, cleave the country, and draw attention from Trump's mishandling of coronavirus.

Does that make it tolerable? Absolutely not. Does "authenticity" matter if you're being beaten by anonymous goons? Uh-uh. But though we flirt with the unthinkable, this is not the news reel we'll watch to recall the point when the totalitarianism started. There's immense distance between our present location and that endpoint. This is to "1984" as pasty-faced suburban douches with citronella torches are to Kristallnacht. This is to a police state what Stephen Miller is to an actual tough guy.
My salient concern is the millions of Libertarians who've spent the past decades screaming their heads off about exactly this scenario. For this, they've subjected us to an unceasing second amendment hissy fit and turned the nation into an arms locker. “Nobody loves school shootings,” they explained, “but if we gave up our guns, who'd confront the tyranny?

So where are those guys right now? Hello?

Obviously, they were never anti-tyranny. They were just against being personally tyrannized, themselves. After all, the sign says “Don’t tread on me”, not “Don’t tread on us”, and certainly not “Don’t tread on them”.

"Hypocrites!" you hiss. And, yes, they are. But so are we all.

The Left is against runaway government spending, hollering "Cut the military budget!" The Right is against runaway government spending, hollering "Cut entitlement programs!" Everyone loves spending on their stuff, but nobody would frame it that way. Both sides claim fiscal responsibility.

Black people stand solemnly against prejudice, but dark-skinned blacks are perennially persecuted by light-skin blacks, and neither is fond of Jews or gays. Their demand is for tolerance applied to them, but they’d never frame it that way. They claim devotion to justice and equality.

Every American is a staunch free speech advocate when someone tells them to shut up. But I can report - from my experience managing a huge community - that everyone wants to make someone shut up about something...though they wouldn’t frame it that way. They claim devotion to truth. Latest example: pressuring Facebook to remove “the lies.” Remove the lies! Just like that!
I'd love to explain the insanity of this proposition, but I'm frozen because the notion is so moronic on the face of it that I don’t know where to begin. Perhaps I’d start with the immense difficulty of defining what constitutes a lie, or by observing the fatuous certainty that lies are what other people tell and that arbiters of Truth will always share your values and viewpoint. 
We don’t want to expunge lies. What we really want is to expunge lies we dislike under a hypocritical mantle of righteous full-spectrum truthiness.
If we removed all the lies, you wouldn't like it.

If we let everyone speak freely, you wouldn't like it.

If we thwarted all persecution, you wouldn't like it.

You and yours would get caught in every one of those traps, screaming “Doh!” like scorched lemmings.

The issue isn't hypocrisy so much as unsubtle use of language. We bridle at distinctions and fine-tunings. It's simpler and more flattering to frame a position as broadly and nobly as possible, even if the words don’t quite fit. We couch our personal and tribal agendas in bizarrely universal terms, ensuring hypocrisy as a side-effect of our vain obliviousness.

The Right favors Small Government - except for the vast military complex and monthly disability checks for aging red state boomers. And the Left insists on respecting Scientific Consensus - except issues like vaccination, where they snidely rebuff those so-called "experts.” Nah, everybody just wants their bundle, while wrapping themselves in lofty credos that never truly applied.

The shrunken, calcified psychic pellets exuding our gaseous lofty ideals seem both obvious and ridiculous to a dispassionate centrist. But I’m still stuck on seemingly smart, savvy people demanding that Facebook expunge Lies. Hey, who doesn’t love Honesty and Truth? That’s a good thing, right?

It’s always about other people’s lies. In a late stage duopoly, what's good for the goose is never good for the gander. The Right wants a forceful, even dictatorial executive....so long as he's one of theirs. The Left wants democracy, with power to the people...just not the deplorable half. Both sides twist themselves so badly to avoid self-awareness that it's a miracle spines don't snap. We only notice the hypocrisy and the lies of The Other.

It's hard to imagine a much less tolerant movement than the Left's sweeping, indignant, and messianic demand for ultratolerance on their terms. Rigidly conformist tolerance is demanded for the bundle of realms where intolerance has been declared intolerable, but there's no higher commitment to Tolerance as a consistent principle. Just tolerance for a particular bundle. It's another "Don’t tread on me".

Gripped by the primal impulses of prejudice and contempt they profess to oppose, they’ve forgotten the lesson of the French Revolution: that the worst atrocities arise from blind sanctimony. Again, we couch What We Want in loftily universalist language, ensuring a rich flow of unbridled hypocrisy, and, inevitably, outcomes we’d hate to see flipped. The problem is that history has often shown that treaders may soon find themselves treaded upon. Attention sinners: avoid rock throwing.

Both Left and Right try their damndest to increase presidential power while they hold office. Can everyone possibly be too dumb to recognize the greater danger? Yes, we're that dumb. It's the same stupidity that led us to arm the mujahideen during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. We consider only immediate expedience.

The pivotal political delusion of our era is that geese think it’s all geese, and ganders see only ganders. Lacking the minimal empathy necessary to flip perspective - to consider the reciprocality - we unceasingly find ourselves hoisted by our own petards. Whether we're patriotically opposing an imperial president or patriotically fortifying Our Guy with glorious evil-fighting superpowers, we feel so irrefutably justified, and frame our actions in such lofty terms, that, amid all the righteous glory, none ever ponder the precedents set by their hypocrisy, earth-salting, and doomsday trap-baiting. This will not end well.

Pay no attention to people’s characterizations of their stances. Not the libertarians, not the MAGAs, and not the progressives. It's long been Ideology Theater, all around; a drama of self-justification and self-mythology. We peer at our own reflections, framed in poses of valiant transcendence, as we devolve into vile neotribalism.

Joe Biden's a last bastion of the old way, a ghost of sanity past. We do not deserve him, and it’s abundantly clear why extremists detest him. And, Christ, will both sides ever make his life miserable...

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