Feelings Don’t Care About Facts

"America can survive the demagogues themselves, it's their audience that will kill us."

I have only paid peripheral attention to the Alex Jones saga over the years but Ken “Popehat” White does his usual excellent job of putting it all into perspective.

When Jesus appeared before Pilate, they spoke different languages. I don’t mean that literally — although maybe they did speak different languages and used a translator, or maybe spoke Aramaic, or Latin. I mean that they used language in completely different ways. Jesus was preaching. Pilate was judging. Jesus was talking about truth with a capital T. Pilate was trying to focus Jesus on the practicalities of the case, and perhaps making a mordant quip about the futility of the process when he said “what is truth.” There was no meeting of the minds.

When modern American political culture winds up in court, the effects are similar. The participants are speaking different languages, and using language in different ways. Courts are focused on a taxonomy of words. Are they factual? Are they opinion? Are they literal or figurative? Courts also care about the literal truth of words. That’s central to defamation law — it’s not defamatory unless it was false. Courts are about analysis, and the entire project of the law is about words meaning specific things.

But modern American political culture is emotive and even artistic. It uses language like a musician uses notes or an impressionist uses brush strokes. Whether it’s Marjorie Taylor Greene talking about Bill Gates’ efforts to colonize our bowels through “peach tree dishes” or Alex Jones ranting about gay frogs, modern politicians and pundits use language to convey feelings and attitudes and values, not specific meanings. If you demand Alex Jones defend the specific meaning of his words, it’s like demanding your eight-year-old defend his statement that his birthday party was the best day ever when previously that’s what he said about Disneyland. 

A lot of our conversations here are of this sort. The front-pagers and most of the commentators are operating in a world of words, ideas, and facts and often have a really hard time engaging with this alternate world of feelings, attitudes, and values. So much so that it’s next to impossible for us to distinguish its denizens from trolls.

Sometimes I have deeply-held views on the things I write about and other times I convey first impressions as I wrestle with ideas or phenomena I haven’t before. Either way, I tend to be open to persuasion—even on matters where my perspective is deeply colored by feelings, attitudes, and values rather than deep analysis—because, at the end of the day, facts matter more than feelings. (Admittedly, this occasionally leaves a transition period where my rational and visceral sides are in conflict.)

Because I’ve spent so much of my life in the American South and around the military, I’m more sympathetic than most of the commentariat here to religious conservatives having difficulty adjusting to the rapid changes in our culture. And, indeed, the fact that I’ve been blogging about these issues and wrestling with them with an evolving commentariat for just shy of two decades is a major contributor to my having been able to adjust to them in a way that so many bright and decent folks I went to school or served in the Army with have not.

Still, I’m simply at a loss to explain the Alex Joneses and Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world, much less those who gravitate to them. They simply seem of another world to me.

White continues:

I’m offering a descriptive observation, not a positive normative judgment. Truth exists. Truth matters. Even if Alex Jones’ broadcasts are dreamscapes of spleen, they have real-world effects. Some people take them literally and act accordingly, as we’ve seen as the parents of murdered children tell their harrowing stories of the harassment Jones encourages. And a society where words are unaccountable, where language is just us finger-painting with our own shit, is ungovernable and unlivable.

The point is that courts are ill-equipped to deal with people like Alex Jones, and people like Alex Jones are ill-equipped to deal with courts. Jones’ catastrophic testimony in his own defense illustrates this. Jones struggled to fit his bombast within the framework of the law, within the distinction between fact and opinion. It’s a bad fit because that’s not how he uses words. If Jones had been honest — an utterly foreign concept to him — he might have said “I just go out there and say what I feel.” The notion that Sandy Hook was a hoax is a word-painting, a way of conveying Jones’ bottomless rage at politics and media and modernity, and he can no more defend it factually than Magritte could defend the logical necessity of a particular brushstroke.

I think that’s exactly right. I honestly don’t know whether people like Jones or Greene or Donald Trump actually believe what they say or whether that’s just a category error. For example, we now know beyond reasonable doubt that everyone around Trump was telling him that he lost the election fair and square and that there was no meaningful cheating or error in the vote count. But he may just be wired such that his feeling that the only way he could have lost to Sleepy Joe was though chicanery was the only thing that mattered.

Alas, White’s conclusion is both depressing and utterly persuasive:

It’s fit that Alex Jones is held accountable for the impact of his words. He used false statements of fact to paint his picture, and those false statements of fact caused harm. But I suspect that a vast judgment against Jones won’t have much value as a deterrent or proclamation of truth. Jones is loathsomely rich because people want to consume his art. His landscapes of hate and fear and mistrust resonate with a frightening number of Americans. The people who enjoyed his Sandy Hook trutherism didn’t enjoy it because it was factually convincing or coherent; they enjoyed the emotional state it conveyed because it matched theirs. The plodding technicalities of law are probably inadequate to change their minds.

Defamation cases like this one — or Dominion’s case against Sidney Powell, or the parade of defamation claims against Trump — are just, and it’s just that the victims receive compensation. But they don’t solve the problem. America can survive the demagogues themselves, it’s their audience that will kill us.

The Bulwark‘s Jonathan V. Last adds,

What White is talking about is of a piece with a conversation I had with my colleague Will Saletan on Friday. Will asked me what I thought motivated the segment of Republican voters who are openly illiberal. Here’s my response:

“I think they are voting on hating other Americans. . . . They have an eschatological view of the country. They know exactly who they hate. And who they hate are not the North Koreans, not the Chinese. It’s not the Russians. Those are the far out-groups. What they hate are the near out-groups. They don’t disagree with them. They hate them. And that’s what they’re voting on.”

I’m not describing every Republican. Maybe not even a majority of them. But it’s clearly a share that’s bigger than 2 percent. It’s a share that’s big enough that it has nominated gubernatorial candidates in Arizona and Pennsylvania and a Senate candidate in Georgia. It’s a share big enough to have made Alex Jones and Sidney Powell rich and made Donald Trump president of these United States.

Take Ken White’s admonition and put it on a pillow: “America can survive the demagogues themselves, it’s their audience that will kill us.”

That’s because democracy has no solution for how to fix itself when a large enough share of the populace goes sour.

While I think that’s right, I take a bit of comfort from a ray of optimism from an unlikely source, our own Michael Reynolds:

I have a sense – based on feeling more than hard data – that the US is centering itself, pulling in from both the far right and the far left. Kansas, obviously, but also the Blue-ward movement in 538’s averages, an absence of new left-wing hashtaggery, expressions of weariness from the right re: Trump, a retreat from clumsy Hollywood performative virtue, Biden’s success legislatively and his stabilization in polling, bits of unifying American jingoism on Ukraine and China, the January 6 committee, record low polls on this radical SCOTUS, just a bunch of straws in the wind.

There are plenty of countervailing threads one could point to, obviously, but I do have some hope that we’re going to pull up before crashing into the ground.

As Steven Taylor (especially) and I have harped on so much in recent years, our systems for doing politics aren’t particularly representative of “the people.” It’s not even just the over-representation of small, rural states in the Senate, which is compounded by a supermajority requirement for most legislation. Or gerrymandered House seats and the Electoral College. Party primaries, wherein the most rabidly interested in politics choose the candidates that the rest of the voters will choose between—often in contests where the plurality winner in a crowded field is damn near random—are an abomination. Rather than choosing between two really good candidates offering different programmatic choices, the voters are often left to choose between two unqualified extremists and default to the one wearing their team’s jersey.

Still, Democrats seem to be nominating better candidates. The phenomenon White and Last point to is obviously much more pervasive on the Republican side. And, while Herschel Walker and Mehmet Oz are likely going to get most Republican votes, it’s just hard to believe swing voters, to the extent they exist, are going to vote for idiots and charlatans against decent, centrist candidates.

Beyond that, I think most Americans are just tired of this level of tension in our politics. Biden got elected, first and foremost, to restore a sense of normalcy and he’s finally starting to deliver on some of that. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema finally got on board with doing something. Gas prices are coming down, lessening a motivating factor for “change.” We’ve mostly just accepted that COVID is with us forever and therefore going on as though it’s over.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    In reading this piece (excellent, by the way), I’m reminded of a comment I saw on Lucianne.com in response to Bill Barr’s remark about the DOJ taking a hard look at Trump: “They touch a hair on the MAGA king’s golden head and they’ll see the insurrection they’ve all been tslking about. Shut up, Bluto Barr. You f’n traitor!”

    Eighty-three people gave this a thumbs up.

    Pure rage. No facts.

    These people constantly quote Limbaugh’s dictum that “liberalism is a mental illness.” The pot may be calling the kettle black there.

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  2. gVOR08 says:

    Yes, excellent piece, by White and by you, James. Also Michael Reynolds comment, which struck me when I first read it. Yes, it does sort of feel like maybe the fever broke. But I’ll wait to see if that feeling survives the next crisis. And the midterms.

    On Trump, I think it misses the mark to worry about whether he believed he won the election. Yes, he doesn’t care. But that’s not post-modernism, it’s that he’s always been able to get what he wants with bluff and bluster. It even got him the presidency against his own expectations. And he thought he could do it again.

  3. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:
    He seems to have believed not that he won, but that he could con his base into thinking he won. And in that he was successful.

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  4. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR08:

    Yes, it does sort of feel like maybe the fever broke.

    I wonder if it’s a case of the fever breaking or just the same members of the community finally giving up on trying to convince the crazies…

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  5. Moosebreath says:

    This post gets at what is, to me, the deepest problem I have with Dr. Taylor’s posts on changing the voting mechanisms. There is no way to get there without a large change in the attitudes of the voting public. And yet, if the voting public changes in such a way, we will get to a point where the mechanisms of voting matter far less, if at all.

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  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I love Ken White’s twitter feed. I always learn something about the law there and it’s practitioners, plus every addition to his Bad Legal Takes collection makes me laugh out loud. He’s not quite a daily read for me, more like an every other day read.

    I honestly don’t know whether people like Jones or Greene or Donald Trump actually believe what they say or whether that’s just a category error.

    They do, right up until they don’t. It’s hard to explain how the sociopathic mind works, or maybe how it doesn’t work is the better way to phrase it. The most important thing I learned from dealing with my ex for nearly 20 years was, don’t. Just don’t. Stay as far away from those people as I possibly can. The other thing I learned was that no matter how good a truth will reflect on them, they have to lie to make it even better. So, if their lips are moving, you know they are lying.

    Beyond that, I think most Americans are just tired of this level of tension in our politics.

    I think it’s always been that way for the majority of Americans. They pay no attention at all between elections because they just don’t want the headache. My wife is like that. Sometimes I think the only reason she votes, is to shut me up about the importance of voting.

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  7. Mimai says:

    The front-pagers and most of the commentators are operating in a world of words, ideas, and facts and often have a really hard time engaging with this alternate world of feelings, attitudes, and values.

    Generous and self-congratulatory. This is not a critique. Indeed, I advocate for more generosity, for oneself and for others. 🙂

    Beyond that, I think most Americans are just tired of this level of tension in our politics.

    Stated vs. revealed preferences. I wish they aligned more. Perhaps they will. In some spheres, I’m hopeful. In others, I’m optimistic. At least I try to be.

    Stray thoughts:

    When I find myself frustrated by such things, I try to remember that belonging needs trump accuracy needs. And that this is adaptive…for the most part. Unfortunately, it gets exploited by Alex Jones, MTG, et al. “This person sees me…we share secret knowledge…” It also gets exploited, er, leveraged by less nefarious actors. #TEDtalks

    A lot of people are disoriented by the slow and rapid shifts in society, feel unequipped to navigate these shifts, and thus join the cultural nihilists because, well, “why the hell not!?” Scapegoating and self-preservation mechanisms also contribute. Internal generalized fear channeled as external specified hate.

    Add to this the fact that people want (need?) to be entertained. And we (yes, we) are entertained by shocking and norm-bending/breaking behaviors.

    The point about language in the OP is a good one. Arnold Kling wrote I nice little book on language, though he adopts a different (complementary?) lens.

    Take a contested/hot-button issue. Immigration. Drugs. Criminal-legal. Liberals typically talk about the issue as one of oppressor vs. oppressed. Conservatives use the language of civilization vs. barbarism. Libertarians use the language of liberty vs. coercion. Who are the “bad guys”? The oppressors, barbarians, and coercers, respectively.

    *As noted in the OP, it’s damn near impossible to have a discussion with someone who speaks a different language. The language of politics highlights this as well. Of course, that assumes one seeks to have a discussion. Witness how often people attempt to demonize vs. persuade. It’s a striking (and depressing) ratio.

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  8. Kathy says:

    If Benito still thinks he won and the election was rigged against him, he’s even more delusional than the bank robber who thought lemon juice would render him invisible to surveillance cameras.

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Mimai:

    Generous and self-congratulatory. This is not a critique. Indeed, I advocate for more generosity, for oneself and for others.

    I think most of us, myself certainly included, have feelings, attitudes, and values that distort our consumption of the news. At the same time, most of the regulars here are able to change our minds—if slowly and begrudgingly—when presented with evidence. There’s a sizable chunk of people—20%? 30%? more?—who will simply ignore evidence, even if it comes from previously-trusted sources.

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  10. Mimai says:

    @James Joyner:

    There’s a sizable chunk of people—20%? 30%? more?—who will simply ignore evidence, even if it comes from previously-trusted sources.

    As written, this assumes fixedness in who occupies the 20-whatever%.

    I think it’s much more fluid than that.

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  11. dmichael says:

    Interesting and thought provoking post (Yes, I am being positive about a Dr. Joyner post!). However, several threads should be pulled apart. My views on those who say “We need to reach out and persuade the Trump voters” is normally “What language do you propose we use?” This post uses the same “language” but it is inapt. “Language” in a formal sense use words that have a commonly accepted meaning. The problem is not a matter of misunderstanding the words, but of not sharing the same framework: reliance on evidence, logic and science, for example. If I say “Trump lost the election” the Trump voter would say “He didn’t because there was fraud” and when they can’t provide evidence for this, they ultimately would say “I don’t need any evidence.” There is simply no way to convince the unpersuadable. Perhaps there is some psychological technique to defuse the anger of Trump voters to begin the process of reconciling them to facts. But I doubt it.

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  12. Scott F. says:

    As others have noted, James, this is an excellent post to promote other excellent OPs from Ken White and Jonathan Last. I particularly appreciate your transparency on your conflicted visceral and rational sides. That’s helpful to me in understanding where you are writing from.

    However, JVL writes…

    That’s because democracy has no solution for how to fix itself when a large enough share of the populace goes sour.

    …and I don’t think this is right.

    I believe democracy itself is the solution for when a large share of the populace goes sour, it just has to play out. A large number of “sour” people have always been there in the populace. They’ll always be there. Most of the time, they live out their “sourness” by flexing some power in their little corner of the world. Or they have little or no power, so they stew in their own juices.

    Trump let these people out into the open and showed them some power. They liked how it felt and reveled in thrill of it. But, out in the open there are norms and laws, both defined by the majority when you live in a democracy. Bigots really don’t like to be called bigots. It hits too close to core identity. (Whereas non-bigots tend to not care about being called a bigot as much, because they’ll reflect on where the accusation came from and try to learn from it.) Alex Jones is learning what happens when small corner power meets up with the legal system.

    It’s got to be exhausting to fight against the tide that is the popular will all the time. I believe the “sour” will eventually withdraw again because their indignation will only take them so far. But this will only happen if our democracy holds. And that’s not a given at this point.

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  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    Objective truth exists. We live on a tiny planet, spinning and circling around a tiny sun, that is a tiny part of one galaxy containing 100 billion stars, in a universe that holds a hundred billion galaxies, and the whole show has been playing for something like 13 billion years.

    Three score and ten vs. 13,000,000,000.

    That makes some people feel small, which is one way to look at it, but another way is to realize that while tiny we are a part of something inconceivably vast. Look at all there is to learn and understand. We will never know a trillionth part of what there is to know, but at the same time, we little humans with our absurdly short lives have seen and taken pictures of, events that occurred 13 billion years ago.

    Q-Anon vs. the Webb telescope.

    Compare the impossible-to-encompass vastness of reality with the narrowness of the lies we tell ourselves. We invented stories, myths, at various stages in human development, to help us make sense of a world we did not understand at all. Lightning scared us and we didn’t understand it, so we invented beings who direct that lightning, making something inexplicable, understandable. But over time we came to understand what lightning is so we didn’t need Zeus or his progenitors to explain it. Science expanded our understanding beyond the need for false but reassuring explanations, but most humans can’t handle the truth, or choose not to, not even the little slice of truth that we own. Most people prefer false but reassuring over true but unsettling.

    People want to believe that the universe has a purpose, that it’s all part of some story with a neatly-packaged moral message we can understand. I don’t. But if you are inclined to believe life has a purpose, how can you imagine that our brains exist to turn away from truth and hide in little cubbyholes of tiresome, recycled lies? If you believe in a Creator, how can you possibly think that It built a universe for you to hide from?

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  14. Jay L Gischer says:

    Ken White describes something I’ve been trying to reach for myself. How language is used in a completely different way. I’ve sort of had a foot in both worlds – as a programmer and computer scientists, I use language (human and machine) in an extremely precise and grounded way.

    As a person who has dabbled in theater and read lots of “great literature”, I have considerable experience with the the other way of using language. I have people in my life daily that do the latter, as well. No sociopaths, but there have been some with other issues, and others who are really just good folks who do things very differently.

    So, foot in both worlds. I don’t see them stopping their way of engaging with the world. I don’t think that most of them are sociopaths. When someone has exaggerated fears, trying to “talk them out of it rationally” flat doesn’t work. There’s a very different process that can work, but I have no idea how to do that at scale.

    This involves getting them to engage, even at a very large distance, with their fears. Usually this will be because it brings some other reward that they want. The take one step closer, and then you ask them to take another.

    A different kind of engagement is the friendly bet. I had a friend – a really great guy otherwise – who was just certain that when Obama was elected, there would come to pass a bunch of laws restricting gun ownership. So I bet him 20 bucks that in the course of one year, there would be no gun control legislation passed in the House (or Senate).

    I won that bet, he has taken a lesson from this about not buying all the hype.

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  15. @Moosebreath:

    This post gets at what is, to me, the deepest problem I have with Dr. Taylor’s posts on changing the voting mechanisms. There is no way to get there without a large change in the attitudes of the voting public. And yet, if the voting public changes in such a way, we will get to a point where the mechanisms of voting matter far less, if at all.

    I get that. I really do. The change part is hard–super hard.

    But I still say that we should not dismiss the diagnosis because we don’t have a ready cure.

    Right now the problem is that even when I (or others of like mind) can convince some fellow American that we have cancer, the response is: since there is no cure for cancer, let’s not talk about the cancer.

    My view is that we have to get enough people to believe that the cancer it real before we get any movement towards funding a cure.

    I like to think that, for example (and on a very small scale) I have gotten some readers here to at least see the problem, or aspects thereof.

    And, I have seen in the broader discourse discussions of the problem, even if those discussions are nascent.

    But all I know for sure is that ignoring cancer is deadly and ignoring what causes cancer because it is hard to know just leads to more cancer.

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  16. Heck, it has been within my blogging lifetime (like James, almost 20 years) that I really came to change my mind about primaries. I used to buy the notion that they were a clearly more democratic nomination process than conventions or other processes. I was very much blinded by my US-centric existence and its prevailing narrative on the subject.

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  17. Mister Bluster says:

    @dmichael:..Perhaps there is some psychological technique to defuse the anger of Trump voters to begin the process of reconciling them to facts. But I doubt it.

    This might do it…but then again it might not.

  18. MarkedMan says:

    @Scott F.:

    I believe democracy itself is the solution for when a large share of the populace goes sour

    I think you are correct, but would add the caution that democracy without the rule of law is fragile and easily broken. Iraq, Afghanistan, and many Latin American countries prove that out. We have a tendency to promote democracy as the first thing needed and then Al. Goodness flows from that. But unless there is a rule of law that provides predictable results and holds even the elites responsible for breaking those laws, democracy cannot hold.

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  19. Michael Cain says:

    @Moosebreath:

    This post gets at what is, to me, the deepest problem I have with Dr. Taylor’s posts on changing the voting mechanisms. There is no way to get there without a large change in the attitudes of the voting public.

    Just to drop in an encouraging word, the 13-state western region of the US has converted to >90% of votes cast are ballots distributed by mail. When experts rate the methods used in different states for accuracy, security, and ease of voting, the top several places on every such list is dominated by western vote-by-mail states. Most mail voters, after a couple of election cycles, are “You can have my mail ballot when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.” Attitudes can change.

    Granted, it’s going to be much harder to convince people to adopt some of the proposals made at this site that require giving up things like FPTP and geographic districts.

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  20. Gustopher says:

    @gVOR08:

    Yes, it does sort of feel like maybe the fever broke. But I’ll wait to see if that feeling survives the next crisis. And the midterms.

    The anti-gay and anti-trans rhetoric and actions have been getting steadily worse. I wonder whether you would see any kind of fever breaking if you were queer.

    (I do not keep a spreadsheet of people like someone here does, so I might have missed something…)

    It might be a last, desperate gasp as everything is receding away from the far right, but being in the target group, it feels more like they are about to start killing people.

    Not death camps (yet) but getting their base so angry and scared and causing a wave of stochastic terrorism to go along with policies that are killing queer kids (suicide rates for queer kids is much higher than for straight kids). They’re angry because they think they’re losing, and our systems are so stacked that they stand a good chance of winning anyway, and they will use their power to hurt and kill.

    I see no signs of moderation on the right, and no sign of people in the middle pulling away. Kansas votes to keep abortion protections, but at best that’s a call to focus their hatred a bit more carefully.

    Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe I’m too close to see it because I’m in the targeted group. I hope so.

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  21. JohnSF says:

    “…often have a really hard time engaging with this alternate world of feelings”

    I don’t think I have much difficulty recognising or dealing with those who want to live “in a world of pure imagination.”
    I just default to mockery. 🙂
    Standard response of the feelers, and the gefühleverstehung: this is why you lost the referendum/election/school popularity poll…
    Meh.
    The innocent must suffer, in order that the guilty shall be punished. 🙂

  22. Michael Reynolds says:

    I see no signs of moderation on the right

    I agree, but I’m looking at something different: overreach.

    During the Civil War some saw Antietam – the first real invasion of a northern territory – as a sign of Confederate power. It wasn’t. They not only lost the battle but demonstrated their limits, even against an inferior Yankee general. Gettysburg was just the same lesson taught a second time: the CSA had overreached.

    In WW2 the Nazi invasion of the USSR and its rapid early success looked to most people like a harbinger of eventual Nazi victory. It wasn’t, it was overreach. Pearl Harbor? Catastrophic overreach. Argentina in the Falklands.

    Arabs vs. Israel. The 1973 war was touted as a signal that the Arabs were performing far better than in the past and yet, having done their very best against a much smaller foe, they lost. And since then the Arab world has surrendered to Israel, bit by bit.

    A man’s reach should exceed his grasp is an inspirational epigram. It doesn’t work in military history or in politics. FDR trying to pack the Supreme Court: overreach. George Wallace on the schoolhouse steps. Nixon and Watergate. LatinX, #Defund, ‘cis’, CRT: overreach. Tesla self-driving. Putin in Ukraine. January 6.

    The waves rush in and look like they’ll eat the beach until you see that they’ve reached their high water mark and realize that, Oh, this is when the water recedes. But caveat: like I said, I’m reading tea leaves. Might be wrong. Maybe much worse is coming, and the enemy will certainly try, but my instinct is no, we are at overreach from Right and Left. The center may well hold.

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  23. JohnSF says:

    Also, Michael Reynolds re. Kansas.
    Also me hereabouts, on the Supremes handing the Dems an electoral weapon.

    Performative tomfoolery can, and will, be ignored, when it is just performative.
    When, as they say, sh1t gets real, it may be a whole other tale.

    Instead of being just “signalling” for the right, and “not gonna happen” for the left, both local and “off year” politics becomes far more important to a lot of people.

    Even some, otherwise conservative, women may question where their interests lie, in the privacy of the polling booth.

    Latest polling I’ve come across in the UK re. US elections this Autumn seems to show increasing chance of Democrats holding both House and Senate.

    It may just be that the Republican “long march through the court” has in fact ended up shooting itself in the foot.

    (But then, I’m always the optimist: this time, surely, Lucy is not going to move that football…)

  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Random sentence fragments like: The US attempt to turn Israel are why I cry for edit function.

    ETA: Removed the offending sentence fragment, because of course, edit is back, rendering this comment irrelevant. Leaving it here as a silent protest.

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  25. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “I get that. I really do.”

    I have my doubts. Specifically, when you say:

    “Right now the problem is that even when I (or others of like mind) can convince some fellow American that we have cancer, the response is: since there is no cure for cancer, let’s not talk about the cancer.

    My view is that we have to get enough people to believe that the cancer it real before we get any movement towards funding a cure.”

    I think this is the correct approach, but is contrary to the course you have taken.

    From where I sit, you have been focusing on a specific treatment, when what is needed first is convincing the majority of people that the cancer is real (and not a benefit, as many people in the country seem to believe). Once we have enough people believing that the cancer is real, there will necessarily be a change, and the specific treatment for the cancer will matter far less that the belief that the cancer must be fought.

    As a result, trying to convince people that a specific treatment will be an improvement, without convincing the majority of the people that there is a cancer, will not accomplish anything.

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  26. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I see no signs of overreach other than abortion, and no signs that this have moved the needle on candidates by more than a trivial amount.

    All your military examples are lovely, but it isn’t like Pearl Harbor because we aren’t going to drop a nuclear bomb on them. They don’t lose their infrastructure when they lose a battle. They live to fight another day.

    They will start saying that aborting ectopic pregnancies isn’t abortion. And keep saying that queer folks are after your children.

    You put in January 6 as an example, but it’s been entirely embraced on the right and right leaning middle. In a world where Majorie Taylor Green, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Ron Desantis, and Jim Jordan are Republicans in good standing, we haven’t seen the changes that would come from overreach.

    Democrats may do better than expected in the midterms. Kicking the can down the road is good. But it doesn’t solve the problems — while 45% of voters support this Republican Party, we are a trivial disaster away from fascists using the federal government to hurt and to kill. They are keeping a disturbingly large chunk of America primed for it.

    And one more of your examples:

    Nixon and Watergate

    Reagan, one Presidential cycle later. The most effective President since FDR, reshaped America along lines that made Nixon’s wet dreams seem innocent.

    8
  27. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Right now the problem is that even when I (or others of like mind) can convince some fellow American that we have cancer, the response is: since there is no cure for cancer, let’s not talk about the cancer.

    My view is that we have to get enough people to believe that the cancer it real before we get any movement towards funding a cure.

    Cancer is good, actually. It provides natural immunity.

    Those pointy headed scientists want to make you take poison. Alls I know is that when you stop the treatment, you feel better, so the treatment must be bad. It’s just common sense.

    (Alternate response: you are trying to convince the cancer itself that it is bad through logical arguments…)

    I have no answers, I just hope we can keep kicking the can down the road for another 30 years so I can die peacefully of one of the common old age things and never have to live through the hell we seem set upon creating.

    Also, it’s a lovely day outside in Seattle. A little warmer than I like, but lovely in the shade. 30 more years of that please.

    2
  28. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I don’t think cancer is a particularly good metaphor. 😉

  29. Gustopher says:

    @Gustopher: The semicolon right-paren to emoji bothers me because it shifts from the right eye winking in the text emoticon to the left eye winking in the emoji image, at least on the iPhone.

    I offer this additional horror to all your lives, as you will now notice it.

    2
  30. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    The notion that Sandy Hook was a hoax is a word-painting, a way of conveying Jones’ bottomless rage at politics and media and modernity, and he can no more defend it factually than Magritte could defend the logical necessity of a particular brushstroke.

    I’m going to disagree. Magritte doesn’t have to “defend the logical necessity” of anything. Specific tools/techniques in painting accomplish specific tasks. Using one sort of brush accomplishes a specific task/effect. Using a pallet knife accomplishes a different one. Using a sponge brush accomplishes yet another. In the same way, lying about what Sandy Hook was accomplishes a specific task.

    2
  31. Michael Cain says:

    @Gustopher:

    I see no signs of overreach other than abortion, and no signs that this have moved the needle on candidates by more than a trivial amount.

    Come November we will see if there’s much to my own “baggage” theory of elections. Which is, candidates belong to parties that have baggage that individual policy issues do not. Kansas voted 60/40 to preserve something like Roe. It remains to be seen if they are willing to vote for Democrats that come with baggage like environmental regulation and gun control.

    Here’s another example. Over the last several/many years, Arizona voters have approved in single-issue votes a redistricting commission, higher minimum wage, guaranteed sick leave, recreational marijuana, and higher taxes for K-12 education (the last one ruled unconstitutional in court). But I am one of the few people who believe the trend has reached the point that Arizona will give Democrats control in the legislature and governor’s office this year.

    1
  32. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher: I have a number of gay friends and I find myself thinking of them more and more, wondering what they are feeling and wishing I could just make it all go away. I can’t of course. And I am not going to belittle how fragile yours and their existence must feel with every breath because yes, there is hatred out there and far too much if it is armed and half drunk. There will be violence.

    I believe things will eventually get better, but I also believe they will get worse first. I’m sorry you have to live thru this.

    2
  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Moosebreath: I get past that problem by reminding myself that he’s talking about how change could happen if the citizens were interested enough in change to risk trying some. Sadly, the problem always keeps coming back to systems not being any better than the people participating in them. From that perspective, our current situation is more bleak-ish.

    1
  34. Just nutha ignint cracker- says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Still, I can see her point. Given that I live a fairly frugal life and don’t have any social stigma working against me, it may not matter greatly who gets elected–particularly in my state. Additionally, I don’t believe there’s enough of “you” out there to prevent the trampling of those who are getting and going to get trampled in the coming conservative revisioning of society. I wish there were, though.

  35. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher: I apologize if I slighted your concerns, or anyone else’s. It has been a pretty good week for Democrats. Good enough that Reynolds expressed a feeling the country may be “centering” and James also expressed some hope. And I also feel less pessimistic. It’s only one week, and maybe we’re looking too hard for any positive sign. But it is within three months of the midterms, close enough for voters to remember.

    I quibble with Reynolds in that he says we’re centering from L and R both. I tend to think, outside maybe kid lit, we don’t have much of a far left. We do have Bernie, god bless him, but the Senate just voted down all his amendments. But it is hard not to see a few green shoots in gas prices falling, Moscow Mitch so far supporting Biden on Ukraine, fallout from Alito’s abortion decision, improvement in the generic congressional poll, bad GOP senate candidates, Garland looking more serious, effective 1/6 hearings, Manchin and Sinema both toeing the line (for a few days), GOPs voting down insulin price relief, the Alex Jones verdict, and a killer jobs report. There’s hope we’ll hold the senate.

  36. Beth says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I believe things will eventually get better, but I also believe they will get worse first. I’m sorry you have to live thru this.

    Every day I wear a bracelet I made. It’s just a cheap bead kandi bracelet. It says “it gets amazing”. It doesn’t have to just get better, it can be amazing.

  37. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Beth: In my life, I have seen some truly amazing things. I once saw a 6′ gypsum hair. I am the only human being who ever saw that particular gypsum hair. They are so fragile, that by the time a 2nd person entered that room, it had already been broken by my body heat. I believe in the amazing. I have seen it. I have lived it.

    I have also celebrated the wedding of a lesbian roommate with her somewhat conservative family after arguing with a life long buddy about why did he care about things that didn’t affect him at all. (Years later his wife told me about how I put his (probably not so deep) homophobia to bed)

    This world is amazing. It is also extraordinarily frustrating. But, as long as all things are possible, I have to believe that as long as we don’t give up, the possibilities are within our reach.

    2
  38. Gustopher says:

    @gVOR08: I don’t think you’re slighting anything, I’m just baffled that anyone can look at America right now and say “yup, we just passed peak crazy.”

    I think it’s wishful thinking. Unless the authoritarianism and the pandering to the crazies and the hate mongering is completely discredited, any changes are likely just tactical shifts.

    On the other hand, if there is a collapse of far right authoritarianism and hate mongering, I think it would come so fast that it can’t really be seen ahead of time, except for some wishful thinkers getting it right by chance.

    Things look bad for queer kids and trans folks of all ages, particularly in smaller communities or unprotected by wealth. I’m upper middle class, garden variety queer, cis white male in Seattle. I’ll be fine. My former boss’s trans kid… maybe not (that family is genuinely rich at this point, so they can escape if need be).

    It’s the bulk of the queer kids that are way more vulnerable.

    (And I can definitely see myself becoming counter-radicalized as the Republicans radicalize their base, and I don’t like that)