Tag Archives: Talking Points Memo

Conservativeface

I’ve encountered a fair number of people who do not understand satire (some of them here).  For them, satire is just a sneaky way of straw manning someone–only to say “I’m kidding, jeez” at the end of it, as if that were immunity to the basic responsibilities of argument and evidence.  They then complain relentlessly about The Daily Show or The Colbert Report.

Two points.  First, satire–satire faithful to the genre at least–kicks up, not down.  It pokes fun at the powerful, not the powerless.  One reason for this is that it’s not fair to pick on the powerless: they don’t have their own media empires, for instance, or publicists, or people who should warn them not to do an interview with the Daily Show (because they’re going to cut and paste the crap out of it).  What’s funny about many Daily Show or Colbert Report interviews is the fact the that interviewee thinks she can spin the comedian.  She can’t.

Second, satire isn’t really argument.  This drives critics of left wing satire around the bend; how is it that Stewart gets away with mockery, when Rush Limbaugh doesn’t?  They don’t get the difference.

Talking Points Memo brings us an example:

This routine, in which Colbert plays at conservatism in order to portray it as unendingly ugly, should be labeled for what it is: vile political blackface. When Colbert plays “Colbert,” it’s not mere mockery or satire or spoof. It’s something far nastier.

Blackface, which has an ugly history dating back to at least the fifteenth century according to historian John Strausbaugh, was used to portray demeaning and horrifying stereotypes of blacks. Such stereotypical imitation has not been limited to blacks, of course; actors tasked with playing stereotypical Jew Shylock often donned a fake nose and red wig, as did actors who were supposed to play Barabas in The Jew of Malta. Such stereotypical potrayals create a false sense of blacks, or Jews, or whomever becomes the target of such nastiness.

And this is precisely what Colbert does with regard to politics: he engages in Conservativeface.

That’s Ben Shapiro, a conservative commentator somewhere on the internet.  The objects of Colbert’s mockery–which is, by the way, sadly milder than much common right wing commentary–are powerful and rich people.  Colbert’s satire is directed at that.  I can’t really explain why Shapiro doesn’t get that.

Million-dollar man

Students of Critical Thinking 101 know (or ought to know) that not all instances of the tu quoque are fallacious.  After all, someone’s hypocrisy on an issue is relevant insofar as it reveals that her proposal is insincere or too difficult or impractical to implement.

Talking Points Memo provides an example of both of these conditions:

More than a decade ago, Arkansas Rep. Josh Miller (R) was in a catastrophic car accident that broke his neck and left him paralyzed. Medicare and Medicaid paid the $1 million bill for his hospitalization and rehabilitation.

But this week, as the Arkansas legislature has debated continuing its privatized Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, Miller has remained steadfast in his opposition.

The Arkansas Times highlighted the contrast in a Thursday report. The alternative newspaper reported that Miller receives ongoing coverage through the government programs, including Medicaid-covered personal care assistance.

The Times asked Miller, 33, about this apparent contradiction: Shouldn’t someone who has experienced the benefits of health insurance, including insurance paid for by the government, understand the importance of expanding those benefits to others?

The difference, he said, is that some of the 100,000 people who have gained coverage through Arkansas’s Medicaid expansion don’t work hard enough or just want access to the program so they can purchase and abuse prescription drugs.

“My problem is two things,” Miller said. “One, we are giving it to able-bodied folks who can work … and two, how do we pay for it?”

The accident that paralyzed Miller occurred about 11 years ago, the Times reported. He was driving with a friend, alcohol was involved, but Miller said he couldn’t remember who was driving. When he arrived at the hospital with his life-changing injuries, he was uninsured.

In case you don’t know, Medicaid expansion consists in extending the benefits of Medicaid (federal health coverage for the poor) to those working poor people (138 percent of the federal poverty line) who would otherwise be too poor to afford insurance, but too, er, rich to qualify for Medicaid.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (at the link), this would account for half of the uninsured people in America.

According to Miller, these people–mostly people who work low-paying or minimum wage jobs–ought not to have health insurance (and thus health care) while he, uninsured twenty-something drunk driver, ought to.  Indeed, the latter’s needs are to be protected against incursion by the needs of the former.  If only some of them were drunk drivers, then maybe he’d be more sympathetic.

Mixed nuts

 

assorted nuts

This post at Talking Points Memo is pretty much the essence of nut picking.  A taste:

Republican politicians have tried to pay homage on Facebook to the late Nelson Mandela since his death on Thursday, but many of their conservative supporters want to hear none of it.

Peruse through comment sections of the GOP’s Facebook tributes to Mandela, and there’s a good chance you’ll find plenty of vitriol for the former South African president and for the politicians who praised him.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wrote that Mandela “will live in history as an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe.” One commenter took a different view of the anti-apartheid leader’s legacy, urging “all you Mandela lovers head on over to South Africa and see what’s going on now that ‘Mandela’s people’ have control of the nation.”

No kidding.  “Peruse through the comments on Facebook” tells you all you need to know. More interesting, however, are the actual comments from the Republicans themselves over the years.  See here for that.

More on nut picking here.

Salarywoman

Fig 1: hypocrite

As we’ve argued here many times before, not all charges of hypocrisy are logically vicious.  Someone’s hypocrisy might be evidence that her view is too difficult to enact (like Newt Gingrich’s conception of traditional marriage) or, more importantly, that she’s logically incompetent.  Here is an example (from Talking Points Memo):

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) told a local television station that she would not be deferring her pay during the government shutdown, as some other members have done.

“I need my paycheck. That’s the bottom line,” Ellmers told WTVD in Raleigh, N.C. “I understand that there may be some other members who are deferring their paychecks, and I think that’s admirable. I’m not in that position.”

According to Ellmers’s official website, she was a registered nurse for 21 years before being elected to Congress. Her husband Brent, the website says, is a general surgeon.

Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield also told WTVD that he wouldn’t be deferring his pay. “I don’t think there should be a shutdown,” he said. “I didn’t create the shutdown.”

The other federal employees–some of whom continue to work–also need their paychecks.  That you cannot sustain the very thing you advocate is evidence that the thing you advocate is unsustainable.

Dig if you will a picture

From TPM here an obvious point to all of you I'm sure, but it bears repeating over and over again:

Imagine for a moment a different kind of investigation. What sort of security failures were involved in letting a US Ambassador get killed for the first time in 30 years? Not just any country but one that has been near the forefront of the US foreign policy agenda in the last two years. Whoever did what, the President is responsible for what happens on his watch. And when an Ambassador gets killed in the field, that’s a big failure by definition. Examining what’s happening could and probably would lead to some embarrassing lapses. More importantly, it might lead to improvements in how we operate in the future and prevent or limit the possibility of similar tragedies.

In other words, mounting investigations that simply dance on the margins of the conspiracies coming out of Newsmax and Fox News doesn’t just lead to more nonsense gas being emitted into the politico-cultural atmosphere of the United States. It leaves likely untouched the kind of screwups we really should know about and need to correct.

The same ought to be said for the debates, if you can call them that, over health care, the economy, etc.

Precise, clear, passionate, and false.

A commenter (John Small Berries) asked if we were going to comment on the Republican National Convention.  The answer is no.  So here's a comment on the RNC. 

Ripped from the headlines this morning (via Eschaton via TPM), here is the following exchange between two kids on the day before their first day in college:

B: So there he is, the republican vice presidential nominee and his beautiful family there. His mom is up there. This is exactly what this crowd of republicans here certainly republicans all across the country were hoping for. He delivered a powerful speech. Erin, a powerful speech. Although I marked at least seven or eight points I’m sure the fact checkers will have some opportunities to dispute if they want to go forward, I’m sure they will. As far as mitt romney’s campaign is concerned, paul ryan on this night delivered.

E: That’s right. Certainly so. We were jotting down points. There will be issues with some of the facts. But it motivated people. He’s a man who says I care deeply about every single word. I want to do a good job. And he delivered on that. Precise, clear, and passionate.

It's difficult to avoid the fact that the theme of the RNC has been a rather enormous lie: "We did build it."  For those who don't remember, this line is an alleged rebuttal to the President's claim that no one but the government is responsible for anyone's success.  He never said that, or anything close to that.  It's the product of a straw man through context-deprivation: in other words, cut out all of the surrounding context and the President did in fact say that.  No matter, as facts are not really at issue.

The commenters above, two grown ups with jobs in the media, fails in the same way kids fail on the first day of critical thinking: but it's true to me!  It's mystifying, however, that the commenter, Erin Burnett, thinks someone who gets basic facts wrong "want[s] to do a good job."  That person, it would seem to me, has promised to do a very bad job.