Free Markets, Free People

unreason


The left’s zombie “meme” – “we the ungovernable, the unreasonable, the irrational”

And it is all because of the “radical right”.  We’ve seen the left try to establish this meme before.  We heard a few, early on as Obama’s presidency began to slide toward negative numbers, claim that it was because America had become “ungovernable”.

Ben Smith at POLITICO identifies a couple of examples of where the left is again trying to establish that meme.  First George Packer in The New Yorker:

Nine years later, the main fact of our lives is the overwhelming force of unreason. Evidence, knowledge, argument, proportionality, nuance, complexity, and the other indispensable tools of the liberal mind don’t stand a chance these days against the actual image of a mob burning an effigy, or the imagined image of a man burning a mound of books. Reason tries in its patient, level-headed way to explain, to question, to weigh competing claims, but it can hardly make itself heard and soon gives up. ….

This is why Obama seems less and less able to speak to and for our times. He’s the voice of reason incarnate, and maybe he’s too sane to be heard in either Jalalabad or Georgia. An epigraph for our times appears in Jonathan Franzen’s new novel “Freedom”: “The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.”

Then Andrew Sullivan.

…yet now, especially, that unreason seems to have taken an almost pathological turn. It is as if America is intent on destroying itself, its civil society, its fiscal future, and its next generation in an endless fit of mutual recrimination, neurotic nationalism, and religious division.

As Smith points out:

A couple of influential writers broadly in sympathy with Obama today float the same notion: That we’re living in a fundamentally unreasonable age, that voters basically can’t be trusted, and that democracy is just barely muddling through.

Anyone who spends much time covering American politics feels this sometimes. At the same time, it’s a lot easier to think this when your side is losing politically.

I think the last line is probably the most important point.  When your ox is being gored, it is rarely the fault of your ideas or agenda, it is because the other side is “ungovernable” or “unreasonable”.

Let’s take Sullivan first.  “Yet now” he says, “unreason has taken an almost pathological turn”.  This from the guy who spent months a couple of years ago trying to prove Sarah Palin’s newborn child was her daughter’s.

While there’s some truth in his charge of “mutual recrimination”, there’s nothing neurotic about most of the nationalism if one takes the time to dig down to its source and the religious division Sullivan imagines is one that is mostly whipped up by the news media doing things like paying any attention whatsoever to a pastor in Florida with 50 church members, much less the overwhelming coverage he got.

Yet apparently the “Truthers” escape analysis as neurotic and all of the talk about blue secession and how Bush would declare martial law to hold on to power, or that he “stole the election” was just political happy talk signifying not much of anything.  Only “now” has “unreason” taken a “pathological turn”. 

Yes, Sullivan’s attempt is easy to dismiss.

As for Packer, he too attempts the same sort of useful forgetfulness that Sullivan tried.  “Nine years later” – obviously referencing 9/11 – our lives are now impacted with the “overwhelming force” of “unreason”. 

Only now?  If one thinks about Packer’s assertion as written, it would have to mean one of three things: he has no knowledge of the left’s “unreason” or irrationality during the Bush years, he doesn’t find what the left did to be an example of “unreason” or irrationality, or he agrees with the left’s fringe of those years and doesn’t find anything they said or did unremarkable and certainly not unreasonable.

I find it hard to believe it is reason one, so it has to be either two or three.  And that speaks to Ben Smith’s point and why Packer too can be dismissed as another partisan who doesn’t like the fact that his ox is not only being gored but trampled by the herd.

As for Packer’s assertion that Obama is the “voice of reason incarnate”, none other than Digby at Hullabaloo takes that canard apart:

Yes, let’s all pretend that Obama is the Voice Of Reason Incarnate and that the problem is that those who believe in freedom are prone to puerile tantrums when they don’t get their way while ignoring the fact that the VORI promised shallow, pie-in-the-sky, post-partisan utopia, with ponies and unicorns for everyone, and his followers are now disillusioned and apathetic because it was utter bullshit. Different side of the same coin, I’m afraid.

Couldn’t have said it better if I tried. 

As one commenter on the POLITICO site said, this is just your typical "pity party” this time being thrown by the left.  The reason for it is they really honestly don’t want to face the real reasons things have gone to hell in a hand-basket so quickly for them.  So it’s the other guy’s fault.  I mean it can’t be your problem if the other guy is “unreasonable” can it?

~McQ