Sunday, September 12, 2010

Look beyond the lies


Everyone seems to have a solution for “restoring” America.

Take power away from liberal intellectuals, say some, and put “ordinary” people in charge.

Or make this a white-run, Christian nation.

Or insist on leaders who are intelligent and informed.

Or stop wasting American lives in pointless wars.

Or honor truth-telling and stop allowing ideologues to finance phony “research” to serve their interests.

Or restore traditional marriage and family life.

Or allow new forms of marriage and family.

On and on they go, prescriptions of astonishing contradiction, grounded in smoke, expressed in absolutes, claiming the moral high ground while denigrating opposing views as morally repugnant.

What these solutions have in common is a belief that America needs “restoring,” that something is fundamentally wrong in America, that America has lost its way and is in danger, and — here comes the money pitch — that they alone know how to fix it.

It’s an old form of argument, of course. In debate it’s called the “straw man.” I deflect the point you made by insinuating that you said something else, something profoundly stupid.

Or as Sarah Palin said at the “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington: “Say what you want about me, but I raised a combat vet, and you can’t take that away from me” — as if someone had been denying her son’s military service.

In marketing it’s called “selling the problem.” Before you can sell diet products, first convince people they are fat. To sell hatred, first convince people they are being hated.

In religious history, it’s called “scapegoating.” Denominations stir solidarity by declaring themselves under attack. To stir rage among working-class Americans, tell them that the college-educated look down on them.

In everyday life, it’s called lying. To rescue a dying candidacy, fabricate stories about illegal immigrants and blame them for falling property values and distressed retirement portfolios. To stir anti-Islamic rage, misstate the facts about a cultural center planned for lower Manhattan.

More here-

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