Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reading: Policy matters/policy doesn't matter

Over the weekend, Lance Manion tweeted:
When and why did "myth" become a synonym for bald-faced lie?
In a great long-form post at The Vagabond Scholar, Batocchio doesn't spend much time on the “when,” but has a pretty convincing answer for the “why” part:
Among honest, sane, reasonably intelligent and well-informed adults, the following are taken as givens:

1. Neither major party is entirely pure or entirely corrupt. You can find despicable and honorable people in both parties.

2. There is an inherent level of bullshit in politics. All politicians lie to some degree.

Naturally, the same crowd also holds that:

3. Nevertheless – actually, because of this – it's very important to take a closer look at politicians, parties, and their policies, and try to make an informed, comparative, qualitative judgment. Responsible citizenship and basic voting depends on it. Policy matters.

Strangely, most Beltway political commentators will endorse #1 and #2, but reject #3. The same media figures who sagely inform the public that politicians lie, as if this a revelation... will also refuse to fact-check their political guests. Instead of #3, they tend to hold the following views:

A. Wisdom lies precisely between the parties. One side cannot be significantly better/more correct than the other. It's impossible that one side can be overwhelmingly better!

B. It is rude to call out liars, or not invite them back after they lie.

C. Giving both parties a fair hearing necessitates judging that both arguments have equal merit.

D. Anyone saying harsh things about conservatives/Republicans clearly is closed-minded, hyper-partisan and not a Serious Person, regardless of the evidence.

All of this also entails:

E. Policy doesn't matter.

So, within a hot-house political media culture that values civility more than honesty, the  refusal to call a lie a lie comes from a corruption of the same common-sense views of language and politics that most thoughtful people share, and it's that very resemblance to common sense that makes the pattern harder and harder spot, let alone to shake.

Batocchio's full piece, “Civil Both-Sides Bipartisans,” explores the difference between honesty and civility, and between accuracy and politeness. It's going onto the p3 Readings list.

(Note that the links to recent readings in the sidebar will soon go away as part of the long-overdue p3 site redesign, but all readings will remain available through the Readings link on the p3 List at right.)

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