A safari into the far right


Almost all my Facebook (and real-life) friends are liberals. I see a ton of posts about how outrageous, insane, and stupid the far-right media (Fox editorial/news, Tea Party politicians berating park rangers enforcing the shutdown they voted for, bigotry and homophobia, etcetera.)

It’s been sad that a liberal is someone so open-minded they won’t take their own side in an argument. It’s also been said that reality has a liberal bias. So now I’m off for a safari into right-wingery with a trip to RedState.com.

(Ten minutes later)

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrgggghhhh!

Seems like whatever happens, it’s Obama’s fault. You’d think Bill Clinton had nothing to do with setting us up for the disasters Bush was barely able to avert.

I’m not sure if there’s any rational position behind these sites. There seems to be no argument, just assertions. Of course Obama just wants to make everybody hurt. No concept at all of why someone might take a position with which you disagree. It’s not a rational discussion if you can’t accept the possibility that someone might be well-meaning but incorrect.

It would be like a liberal claiming that the Koch brothers really want to destroy the environment, and just happened to choose global warming via fossil fuels as their weapon. Or that the opposition to Obamacare is simply because they want poor people to die off faster, thus reducing the burden on society.

I doubt many people would think those things. Sure, the Koch brothers are sociopathic bastards, but their evil comes from a complete disregard for the consequences of fossil fuel use and a disdain for anything that might cut their profits.
And a principled dislike for government regulations and programs, while I vehemently disagree with it, is a rational grounds for supporting a fully free-market health care system. Every now and then you find someone willing to make that case, but the Scroogeonomics position doesn’t sell. “Sick? Pay for it yourself, and tough beans if you can’t afford it. It’s your money to spend on health care, don’t ask for mine.”

So, why the extremism and scare tactics? Is it because that has been found to be more effective at selling a position, compared to rational argumentation? Is it because, in the polarized, pick-your-own-channel media, confirmation bias generates an irreversible centrifugal force? Or is there really a market for utterly delusional positions?

Politics is a polarizing business, no doubt. Only on large scales, where appealing to the middle is required, do you get any force for moderation. When political views get concentrated by region, either naturally or via gerrymandering, extremism pays. In a sense, Republican efforts to lock up majorities by redistricting “safely red” zones after 2010 have led to this problem.

On the off chance that any right-wingers stumble upon this, and haven’t clicked away, here’s a hypothetical. Imagine that the liberals in 2003 had suggested that Bush’s true motivation for starting the Iraq war was because he hated America so much that he wanted to dramatically weaken the military by deliberately screwing up. You’d think they were nuts. That’s one of the few things (almost) nobody claimed.

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