is conducting an interesting experiment to determine if it is actually possible for leftists and neo-cons to engage in substantive debate without it quickly degenerating into name-calling and mutual demonization. To make things manageable, ShrinkWrapped is going to narrow the focus down to the differing perceptions between left and right as to the existential threat posed by Islamofascism. Obviously, those of us "on the right" regard it as a much more serious threat than do those on the left, who generally believe the threat has been manufactured by the President in order to consolidate power and impose a theocracy of his own. Not much middle ground between those two positions, for they aren't just "opposite," they're operating in two irreconcilable realities.
Although I am hoping for the best, I am personally pessimistic, as the first day of the experiment didn't seem to go particularly well. Partly my fault (you should read all the comments to get a sense of how it went). As I posted on ShrinkWrapped, "It's very simple. Leftists are naive about human evil, and always have been. For example, during the cold war, leftists refused to characterize the Soviet Union as evil, and castigated those who did. The identical pattern is occuring now with regard to Islamofascism. This has all sorts of ramifications. For example, if one cannot recognize true evil, one will see the non-evil as evil. As such, the left saw Ronald Reagan as evil, and now see George Bush as evil.... Leftists suffer from a poverty of imagination on the one hand (with regard to the true evil of Islamofascism), but an excess of it on the other hand (with regard to the fantasied evildoings of President Bush)."
Harsh words, perhaps, but are they inaccurate?
I find it virtually impossible to debate with most leftists, not just because they are wrong, but because they cannot possibly be right
. In other words, they are not even wrong
, for being wrong presupposes some rational basis upon which one can reason someone into, or out of, a position. Not so with with the typical leftist of contemporary America. As I posted, it would be pointless "to debate Cindy Sheehan as to whether George Bush is a bigger terrorist than Osama bin Laden, Howard Dean as to whether Republicans enjoy seeing children go to bed hungry, John Kerry as to whether this is the worst economy since the Great Depression, Kos as to whether Americans working in Iraq are mercenaries that deserve to get killed, Kennedy as to whether the Iraq war was 'cooked up' in Texas for political gain, and Michael Moore as to whether those with whom we are fighting in Iraq are 'minute men' analogous to our own founders."
The psychoanalyst W. R. Bion used the term "saturated" to describe a particular kind of pseudo-thinking commonly encountered by the psychologist. That is, the proper use of language in a healthy mind fosters the evolution of thought. A word or concept is saturated
when it cannot do this--it is already so full of meaning that it loses its capacity to actually facilitate thought. Words and concepts can become so overloaded with personal meaning that their use for communication with others becomes extremely problematic. Among other problems, when words are saturated, there is no space left for them to accumulate meaning through experience: the word has become functionally dead insofar as its capacity to allow a space for thinking about internal or external reality.
I believe this is one of the key problems that underlies leftist thought. It is so saturated with meaning that it is absolutely useless for conveying ideas to anyone who doesn't already believe them--anyone who isn't already franticly twirling about in the end-times liberal Ghost Dance
To illustrate my point, I went straight over to Petey's favorite idiotarium, huffingtonpost, knowing that there would be many fine examples of what I'm talking about. I plucked one off the top, entitled Bush as Bad Theatre
, by a playwrite named Sherman Yellen. Although I am a film school graduate, I'd never heard of the man, but that doesn't mean anything. Apparently he's quite eminent in show biz circles, having won two Emmys and a Peabody Award, among other various encomiums.
Yellen's bio states that, having grown up in New York under FDR, he "has watched with great sadness the Bush administration’s dismantling of social programs and social progress in this country." That's quite an accomplishment to have escaped my notice, but no examples are given. I can't help wondering if it didn't really happen. Yellen "believes it is the obligation of artists to speak out against the erosion of our democracy during these troubling times." Again, no examples of the erosion he's so concerned about. No need to give any. Everyone who agrees with him already knows exactly
what he's talking about, wink wink.
In fact, in the piece, one searches in vain for anything resembling an unsaturated thought--anything that can actually convey a fact or create curiosity in the unpersuaded, but persuadable, reader. Again, note the difference between Yellen's brand of saturated writing vs. writing that would allow a space for you to engage your curiosity as to just what has him so manifestly overwrought:
--"Bush is our own Tartuffe, Molière's insufferable pseudo-religious comedic character who uses his so called piety to gain power over the lives of others.... it is Bush's voice we hear as Tartuffe pronounces, 'How dare you even hinder or annoy when I've the means to ruin and destroy. You should have thought before my toes you trod. Attacking me, you set yourself 'gainst God.'"
Got it? Bush uses religion and so-called piety to gain control over others, whom he will ruin and destroy in the name of God if they resist. (Yellen is a pretty brave--even reckless--fellow to trod on this vindictive President's toes.)
--Bush "would serve nicely as a foolish father in a sit-com, or a ridiculous boss in an office comedy, but he is the Commander-in-Chief who can and does send young men and women to their deaths. Sadly, he does not even have the true villain's consciousness of when he has done wrong. This is why apology and admission of error is so difficult for him. He believes in his God-given rectitude in all situations."
Right. Bush is so stupid, he doesn't even know how wrong and evil he is. Plus, he thinks he is infallibly guided by God. This is convincing stuff. How foolish of me not to have recognized it myself.
--"Nobody can accuse George Bush of eloquence or locate his courage and love of country as he labors to strip it of its natural wonders, and sell his power to its worst exploiters. What he shares with Henry V is a ruthless ambition wed to a sense of royal entitlement. As Henry exploited his soldiers' patriotism, Bush exploits his nation's fears."
Haven't you been curious about what happened to all the natural wonders of the country? Stripped! That's right. Gone. Kaput. Bush did it while he had you looking the other way, at those two big buildings that fell down on TV. Because he thinks he's king. Plus he's not even eloquent. Not like a deep-thinking, silver-tongued New York playwrite, anyway.
Any more Emmy-worthy thoughts from our serious thinker of the left?
--"Like most incurious people Bush starts with a belief and then searches desperately for the evidence to support it. This faith-based approach to the world is one that most often has tragic consequences for others, rarely for the man himself, protected by his power and by the fear he has exploited in others.... In his heart of hearts he still believes that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to be found if only we had the right dogs to sniff them out."
Incurious. When Yellen calls Bush "incurious," this is code for "not interested in what fascinates secular New York intellectuals who have never encountered an alien thought in their hermetically sealed cognitive bubble." Thus, it is Bush who "searches desperately" for evidence to support his beliefs
. In fact, Bush was so desperate in his search that he somehow got every single intelligence agency in the world to confirm his wacky beliefs about WMD--before he even became president!
Yellen continues his analysis:
--"... in Bush we have a man who cannot understand and feel the emotional weight of any situation, or recognize the consequences of his actions. If becomes clearer over time that he has never learned in the course of his misadventures, as he kept failing upwards toward the Presidency, the most essential lesson of life -- the value of other people's lives. For this inherited characteristic we need only look at his mother, Lady Barbara..."
So, not only can President Bush not think or understand consequences, he cannot even feel! Now we are in the realm of the truly monstrous--the reptilian. Bush is a sociopath: he places no value
on other people's lives. And there's not a thing he or you or I can do about it, because it's an inherited trait
from his beastly mother.
Yellen saves the most devastating critique for last. That is, President Bush cannot be dramatized
, no, not even by an Emmy award winning playwrite!
--"A character such as Bush who lacks such consciousness may preside over a country but he cannot command a stage. Bush's smirk is a poor stand-in for Richard's hump." Yes, the hopelessly "boring," "self-righteous, unexamined bad behavior," that "we see in Bush on a daily basis" is just impossible to bring to the stage.
Noooooooooooooo! Not that! You can't make a TV movie out of his life? Scott Peterson? Sure. The Menendez Brothers? Of course. Tonya Harding vs. Nancy Kerrigan? Yellen would write that script in a New York minute. George Bush? No way. Worse yet,
--"We have three more years of Bush as the main player in our national drama, three more years of platitudes, certainties, grinning, winking, cajoling, but never owning the consequences of his own actions. Since he cannot change his act, we will continue to get what we see -- an empty man propped up with a foolish sense of his own worth, taking us from one new disaster to another..."
Hmmmm. Platitudes. Certainties. Inability to change. Empty. Foolish sense of his own worth. And, I might add, saturated
. Who does that remind me of?
What's that, Petey?
I won't say it. That would just cheapen the debate.