Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why We Blog.

Daniel and I started this blog about a year and a half ago... about a week and a half after Obama was sworn in as president.  As I recall, F&OST spilled over from open conversations on facebook during the 2008 election and its aftermath.  We felt that critical engagement in society had gotten clumsy, and often either too belligerently irrational or, on the other hand, too timid and accepting.  As brothers who had grown up arguing with one another, I think we were very keen (ha, get it?) to encourage such argument in a way that was constructive.  The blog has obviously shifted a lot since then; we don't really do paired post & response anymore the way that we had started out doing, and it's mostly Daniel posting now, often on economic issues.  But I think we've retained the same values for F&OST- Daniel's conversations across economic divides is the prominent example of how our goal of good argument has borne a bit of fruit.

I trouble you with all this retrospection/introspection because of all the stupid in the air these days.  Ed Hornick has an article on CNN.com on Obama's "incoherence", especially with regard to the current controversy about the Islamic center in New York City.  Roger Simon is speaking of Obama as a one-term president (h/t Scott Kuhagen), and for similar reasons of inattention to the inattention of the American public. 

The bare strategic facts may not be stupid... maybe Obama should stay out of this fight or talk like an Old Spice commercial in order to remain politically viable.  I won't deny that.  But that's the whole problem.  Here's a gem from the Hornick article, quoting David Morey of the vaguely-titled Core Strategy Group:
"Simpler is better, and rising above these issues and leading by controlling the dialogue is what the presidency is all about. So I think that's the job they have to do more effectively as they have in the past [in the campaign]."
On their own, "simpler is better" and "controlling the dialogue is what the presidency is all about" sound reasonable enough.  But when joined, it strikes me as a dangerous combination.  I doubt a person can do both to good effect.  What do I know, though?  Yes, by all means let's have dialogue controlled by simple platitudes.  Because it's worked so well for us in the past.

It's interesting that the editorial insertion "[in the campaign]" was made, as Simon's piece points out a different sense in which Obama the president should move away from Obama the candidate rather than towards this ideal:
"A candidate says, as Bobby Kennedy did, “Some men look at things the way they are and ask why? I dream of things that are not and ask why not?”

A president says: “What do the polls say?”"
So much for the presidential duty of "controlling the dialogue".  Where does this put us as a society?  Again, set aside Obama's political strategy and expediency.  What does it mean that discourse is controlled by an ugly combination of lowest-common-denominator rhetoric, polls, and figurehead politicians who are being advised to lead the country by telling us what we want to hear and what won't rock the boat?  What does it mean when bullshit accusations of elitism and inside-the-beltway-anti-Americanism lead our elected officials to cower and recycle the stupid that's been fed to them, now with the public imprimatur that leadership tends to grant?

The people of these United States have a duty to grow the hell up.  And this isn't so much about getting any particular issue right, either.  Much as it disgusts me that 68% of the American public opposes the peaceful construction of a religious center in New York City, what worries me more is the extent to which this majority has enough of a stranglehold on conversation to make any meaningful conversation unobtainable.  It's at this point that mere bad decisions (which will be with us always) turn into debilitating cancers of illiberalism. 

Does that make me an "elitist"?  I reject the coherence of such anti-intellectual scare tactics.  People who call other people "elitists" these days tend only to make themselves look incredibly stupid and reactionary.  What they're saying amounts to "conversation is a conversation stopper".  It's an accusation that comes out of laziness, and we don't bear any moral burden to give such laziness the time of day.

This post is devolving into a rant lacking much resolution, so I'll wrap it up.  The point, I suppose, is that this is why we blog.  We are relatively indiscriminate about where our conversations end up here, so long as they end a long (and hopefully interesting) way from where they began.  The main point is to reinvigorate conversation in a political situation that has become paralyzed by various demagogues and clowns.  It's a shame to see more of the same going on at the moment.

5 comments:

  1. 1. People we interact with virtually probably don't realize that "Kuehn" is pronounced "keen".

    2. I don't know why you blog, but I do it for the chicks.

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  2. Is that what they call pseudonymous libertarians these days?

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  3. FYI: When Obama was elected I argued that he would be a one term President and that he would be followed by two more one term Presidents. I still stick to that prediction.

    The thing about Obama for a lot of Obama voters was that Obama was supposed to be this different sort of politician; it turns out that wasn't the case.

    "...what worries me more is the extent to which this majority has enough of a stranglehold on conversation to make any meaningful conversation unobtainable."

    This is much of the reason why libertarians have a healthy distrust of government and so-called democratic institutions. It is a necessary outcome (as de Tocqueville predicted) of the sort of government that we have.

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  4. All I got was this:

    "about a week and a half after ... F&OST spilled over from open conversations on facebook ... because of all the stupid in the air these days ... let's have dialogue controlled by simple platitudes ... And this isn't so much about getting any particular issue right, either ... but ... to make any meaningful conversation unobtainable ... We are relatively indiscriminate about where our conversations end up here ... so long as they ... become paralyzed by various demagogues and clowns."

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  5. Perhaps I should stop skimming posts.

    Or maybe its more fun this way

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All anonymous comments will be deleted. Consistent pseudonyms are fine.