August 26, 2004

Curious George: Parables for the Limbaugh masses? I have been wondering whether short, interesting parables, koans, thought exercises, or allegories exist that might give a conservative guy like my dad or one of my Limbaugh-listenin' friends something meaty to mull over.

It seems like there is a dazzling beauty about the Republican view of thought that provides a simplistic explanation for everything, and herein lies the root problem. That crystalline fortress has an aesthetic simplicity, yet an impermeability that resists digging deeper. I strongly suspect that because of the complexity of the underlying issues, it falls upon parables, thought exercises, and allegories to get those gears going and shake people out of the teachings of Limbaugh University. I found Al Franken's Supply Side Jesus to be an awesome allegory. Why is there not more Supply Side Jesus? Why are there no Chick Tract type allegories that can be left in public places? The only way I can win over someone like my dad or my Limbaugh-steeped friends is through something like this (yeah, I know that doesn't say much of them). On the other hand, I'm well aware that I may be trying to perfect an art that pundits, politicians, and campaigners have spent decades trying to perfect. I'm not a political expert, but I thought I'd at least ask. Any ideas here?

  • As my Republican grandfather used to say: Don't confuse me with fact, my mind's made up. He was joking, of course, since I believe he was a rather thoughtful person, and conservative in the sense that you had to prove that change was necessary, but he would grudgingly accept it. Unfortunately, it seems more modern breed of conservative (and liberal) is not interested in fact, even when it is dick-slapping them across the face.
  • Or, they believe that there are two sets of facts which may or may not overlap. (see: Swift Boat nonesense)
  • Maybe the limited scope has something to do with distaste? Most people I know aren't very fond of tract-style communication, and though neither party's opposed to propaganda per se, there's just something a bit slimy about it. Of course, that's just for little paper tracts, not so much for parables or allegories. Not a bad idea, but hardly as punchy as a nice slogan ("Keep Hope Alive", "Morning in America", "Contract with America", etc.). It's more about carpet-bombing the masses with message-infused soundbytes than it is about creative, thoughtful engagement. Damn shame.
  • (speaking of swiftboat nonsense: newsweek has breaking news, it's located a previously undisclosed navy document that backs kerry.) *sorry for derail, thought you might be interested*
  • Ooo! Ooo! Give 'em the book! (And for O'Reilly... There's a book for him, too.) FAIR rocks the media-watchdog house!
  • Two Americans and a Frenchman are in a bar. "If it wasn't for us, you guys would all be speaking German now," says one American. "Yeah, or Russian," the other says. The Frenchman looks confused. "But I speak both." Zat what you mean?
  • That's more a joke about American education, but I like it!
  • surely any self respecting frenchman would refuse to speak in english with americans
  • I think drivingmenuts' grandfater has summed up the situation - these folks have made up their minds, facts and reality be damned, and they aren't about to think one bit more about it. Using logic in this situation is a waste of time. If you're serious about this topic, see the article about George Lakoff on how the conservatives have "framed" the issues in ways the progressives can't debate effectively. Lakoff says "Frames trump facts. The facts alone will not set you free. You have to reframe the issues before the facts can become meaningful and powerful."
  • The Republicans that I have come across, in particular my in-laws, definately have their minds made up and refuse to talk about facts. They refuse to even support why they are Republican. Whenever I question his (Bush's) intelligence, they're outraged because he went to Harvard. That's about as far as their reasoning will ever go, and they are not stupid people. They scoff at the very idea of voting Democratic. I used to email all sorts of articles and opinions on/about Bush and Co. and finally stopped after getting an angry phone call from my mom-in-law. I had sent them a particularly bad exposure piece on Bush and they just did not want to know about anything that opposed their beliefs. I was so dissapointed as I always felt gleefully mischievious at being able to email things like that.
  • Thanks all -- glad I'm not alone here.
  • Silly rabbits -- just replace the word "conservative" in each instance above with the word "liberal." Same attitude towards the other side, same approach.
  • Since when did liberalism become the snooty, elevated, patronizing ideology that this post reflects? Please, by all means, continue talking down to us! Tell us parables--we hold simple beliefs, so tell us simple political morality tales--it's all we can understand. I'm sure it'll win us over eventually...
  • Parables? Koans? All you need are two words. Chalabi. Plame. Repeat alternately until they give up. Chalabi forged documents and produced fake nuclear "scientists" to drag the US into war- and other members of the Iraqi National Congress admit as much. Then, he got drunk and told the Iranians we'd cracked their codes. Ooops. Plame was outed by the Bush administration as a covert operative who worked on weapons of mass distruction in order to attack her husband, a critic of the same administration, totally undermining the defense of this country. Any other arguments will just end up going around and around... You: "Enormous deficit!" Them: "War on terror!" You: "Tax cuts!" Them: "Clinton recession!" You: "Bush recession!" Them: "9/11!" You: "Quagmire!" Them: "War on terror!" cnt'd
  • So maybe I'm being horribly naive, but I believe that only a very small percentage of the population has closed thesmeves off to logic. Liberal or conservative -- whatever those labels are supposed to mean -- I think people will listen to facts. HOWEVER, I also think people are very rooted in their ideologies and their worldviews; so all we need is something to shock us out of our coccoons. For me, it was the story of East Timor. I've always used a logical, rational approach to sharing ideas and perspectives with people (it's one of the reasons I became a teacher). I've reconsidered my opinions many times because of new ideas or perspectives I've heard; and I've had people tell me that they've done the same because of things I've said and/or done. I agree with f8x that talking down is bad. But I also believe that the Borg mentality of many Limbaugh and O'Reilly viewers is disturbing and naive (and their logical/factual errors far surpass in scope and significance the various foibles for which Michael Moore -- for instance -- is responsible). However, the key to creating a positive dialectic of evolutionary reflection such that we can ALL grow, evolve and get the F*** off this PLANET is to use logic. Didn't you all see 12 Angry Men?
  • rolypolyman, I hear you. It's not about "talking down" to conservatives, but rather being able to articulate your beliefs as succinctly and compellingly as they can articulate theirs. One of the frameworks I use is the idea of America as garden. During a political discussion, a conservative friend will say to me, "It's MY money! I earned it! The government's got no right to it." I'll agree with them. It is your money. But that's only half the story, I'll say. I tell them America is like a garden, and in this garden, we have people picking carrots. Some people say, "I picked these carrots! These are my carrots! No one has a right to a single carrot that *I* picked!" But who planted the carrots? The people who planted the garden are the ones who made your labor possible. And they didn't do it just so you, personally, could benefit, but so that everyone could. You owe them a lot of your success. Public education helped make you smart. Public roads gave you the ability to buy and sell from distant places. The FDA made sure no one was poisioning your food or watering down your medicine. In a thousand different ways, you've benefitted from the gardeners who came before you. Shouldn't you be trying to plant the garden, too?
  • So, stim-cap, when shall we expect your nomination to the presidencey. Should I go ahead and just write your name in on Nov. 2nd? :) You continue to make excellent points. (as in the other thread) Most Democrats I know are more than willing to pay more in taxes. Why? Because they recognize that it takes money to run this country. If this country is running well, we are more willing to pay for what we need to. Aren't we most loyal to the one making the best decisions? Aren't we more willing to work harder when we know it will actually count for something? If we didn't have the eight-year cap, Clinton would still be president. /off thread rant. Also, I am not talking down to anyone. I am relaying what is a constant annoyance in trying to understand those that I am closer to, who are Republican, why they are Republican. It's as if they get defensive before they even get started. In fact, other than on various community blogs on the net, in person, I definately do not get such wonderful debates. For the record, let me just say that I enjoy the debates even if I disagree with some of you. You are, for the most part, patient, well-spoken, and even have some good arguments. What's not to respect about that?
  • You continue to make excellent points. Thanks, Darshon. You're very kind. Everyone hold their political views for different, sometimes very personal reasons. We attach ourselves to our politics based on other, deeper observations about the world, and sometimes even about our families. That's why political argument rarely converts anyone. The heart of political discussion is getting past politics to ideas. Like: Does offering a helping hand to someone in need make them dependent or enable them to succeed? Do disadvantaged people deserve to be exploited? Answers to these sorts of questions are more illuminating and can actually bring you together instead of tearing you apart.