I’ve told the story before. One of the most illuminating lectures I’ve ever gotten on human nature was from my 11th grade history teacher, Mr. Dudley Butts – who was perhaps the most “Big Lebowski”-ish football head coach I’ve ever met.
He’d been drafted during the Vietnam War; he was proud to point out that he’d been stationed in Washington DC, and the Viet Cong never attacked the Capitol on his watch; mission accomplished.
And he told us that during basic training, as they were doing any of the things that mimicked killing people – at the rifle range, while doing bayonet drills and hand-to-hand combat practice – the drill sergeants never referred to their targets as humans. They were always collections of not-quite-human memes; “gooks” and “charlies” and “slopes” and so on. It took him a while to realize this wasn’t just the mark of a bunch of bigots with sergeant stripes; there was a method to it. It was much easier to train people who’d spent 18 years of their lives being taught “thou shalt not kill” to kill if you taught them to kill something that wasn’t really human.
Likewise, the theory goes, it’s easier to convince people you’re right if you get them to believe that your opponent isnt’ operating from rationalism or intelligence.
The Alinski-schooled left has known this for decades, of course. Which is why over my years of blogging the left has followed such utterly predictable memes in referring to conservatives – “ignorant wingnuts” in their parlance. Christians are “extremists”; Second Amendment activists are “crazy gunnies”; they never get exercised and motivated, they “Melt down” or “whine”. Above all – or, in terms of plausibility and intelligence, below all – they never operate from bases in rationality, experience, knowledge of history or cognitive processes of any kind; the only conservative motivation is “fear”.
I’ve never accused Lori Sturdevant of being much more than a willing water-girl for the DFL and all it stands for. I didn’t expect any different from her “coverage” of the Bachmann/Palin rally. I wasn’t disappopinted:
Minnesotans who tuned in to Wednesday’s Minneapolis rally on behalf of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and featuring former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin heard a lot about “freedom” and “liberty.” Those words are taking on a new partisan edge in this election year, not unlike the tinge acquired by the words “family values” a few years back.
Well, let’s shoot for accuracy, here – and we’ll have to do the shooting, because Sturdevant certainly won’t; the “partisan edge” to “family values” was pretty much entirely a product of the left and media (ptr).
It’s a digression – but then, so was Sturdevant’s reference. Offsetting penalties.
Those words also seem to be acquiring new definitions in the mouths of Republican politicians. Freedom seems to have a lot to do with the ability to avoid buying health insurance, thereby forcing others to pick up the tab for one’s hospital stay, should one’s good health run out.
Right. That’s the motivation behind the Tea Parties and all of conservatism, Lori; getting someone else to pick up your tab.
It has nothing to do with believing in limited government, let alone the sense that for most people, Obamacare “fixes” something that needed a tune-up, not a complete overhaul.
Liberty, on the other hand, seems to be about building new nuclear power plants, drilling for oil just about anywhere, paying little or no taxes, and avoiding health and safety regulations in one’s business life.
Oooh, can I play?
Liberalism seems to be about being ashamed to be an American, being thankful to Mother Government for allowing you to exist, and shutting up and doing what your lords and betters tell you to do!
Liberty is also evidently compromised or diminished when the federal government takes emergency action to limit the collapse of major banks and prevent the demise of the nation’s homegrown auto industry.
Well, yeah. As a matter of fact, it is; when there is no freedom to fail, then there is truly no freedom to succeed. Badly run businesses should fail; in a true free-market economy, no business ever gets to be “too big to fail”.
Those countercyclical rescue efforts came in for repeated scorn, from Bachmann, Palin and their warmup man, Gov. Tim Pawlenty — although many of the moves were initiated by a president they supported, George W. Bush.
“A President they supported?” I can’t speak for Pawlenty, Bachmann or Palin, but I don’t know a single genuine conservative who supported Bush’s Kennedyesque spending.
Let’s step aside for a moment, here. When it comes to analyzing dissent, there are really two types of commentators; the ones that painstakingly develop taxonomies that shoehorn all of human nature’s wondrous complexity into implausibly neat but inevitably-pejorative, utterly-unnatural and completely self-serving boxes to make themselves sound all academic and serious, and everyone else:
Times of major economic and social change seem to spawn two kinds of political leaders in America — those who seek to help people overcome their fears and adapt, and those who play on fear and offer the vague promise that unsettling changes can be slowed or reversed.
Which is, of course – pardon a rare disgression into Old English – festering, reeking bullshit.
All political motivation is a complex mixture of education, tradition, self-interest, fear, communitarianism, and all manner of base and noble impulses. Every person’s motivations are different; I’m a conservative because my study of history shows that statism is a cancer, and that limited government leaves the most room for humanity’s most noble natures to emerge, because the Constitution is fundamentally libertarian-conservative and if we don’t follow the Constitution then what the hell do we follow, because I “fear” the competence and motivations of this nation’s current “elite” and what it’ll do to the country I’ll leave my offspring, and because it is my right and duty as a free American citizen to fight for what I believe within our political process.
Likewise, Lori Sturdevant is a liberal because she’s been painstakingly indoctrinated into being a petty statist and D-list elitist, all of the “cool” people in her field have always been liberals, and she fears all of us peasants.
I mean, as long as we’re oversimplifying and caricaturing those we disagree with…
Bachmann and Palin demonstrated Wednesday why they are among the nation’s leading exemplars of the latter category. Their success, this year and in 2012, will depend in large part on Americans staying fearful for a lot longer than Americans typically do.
I saw no fear on Wednesday.
But I read it all throughout Sturdevant’s column on Thursday.
Like Mr. Butts’ drill sergeants, Sturdevant is trying to tell her audience that her enemies – all us Teabaggers, Gunnies, Taxpayers-Leaguers, Wingnuts, God-Botherers, Bitter Gun-clinging Jeebus freaks and the whole lot – aren’t really as human as they are.