Monday, January 17, 2005

Leo on Liberals

Here's John Leo's latest column for Town Hall. It's the same litany of anti-liberal slurs and steroetypes that Town Hall publishes at least five times a day. But there is one statement that really stands out. In his attempt to show how superior liberals fancy themselves to be, Leo writes:

*Bush got re-elected because Americans are stupid. Many Democrats now refer to themselves as “reality-based,” meaning that they are neither “faith-based” or “unreality-based” like those irrational Republicans.

This was part of a series of bullet points intended to show how liberals view the world and how foolish they are for thinking the way they do.

It's hard to believe that Leo is not aware of the origin of the term “reality-based.” He wants us to believe that this is a term conjured up by arrogant liberals to distinguish themselves from the ignorant masses. Actually, the term was first used by an anonymous Bush advisor as a negative description of the opposition to Bush's policies, as described in this article by Ron Suskind.

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That's not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

After this, many liberal bloggers coopted the term as a badge of honor.

So if Leo thinks it is a sign of arrogance and “crazy thinking” (that's the title of his column) to use the term “reality-based,” then he should direct his ire at the Bushies.

Of course, it's especially rich for someone like Leo to lecture the rest of us about the perils of thinking ourselves superior. After all, there are no people on Earth more smug and superior than the right-wing punditocracy.

As James Carville once said in a different context, most of Town Hall's readers use the site the way a drunk uses a lamppost, for support not illumination. People aren't looking to Leo for sound argumentation and cogent thinking. That's a good thing, since he is incapable of providing it. What Leo, and most right-wing columnists, do is parrot simplistic talking-points to ignorant people who fancy themselves very learned. If saying that makes me an arrogant liberal then so be it. It's just that I have a fondness for reality myself.


At 4:46 PM, Blogger Edward said...

It is unfortunate that there such a strong connection has developed between evolution, which is simply a broad and well established explanation for the biodiversity observed in the natural world, and the political left. Although my own politics lie substantially to the left of center and I am an atheist, neither progressive politics nor atheism are directly relevant to one's "belief" in evolution (except in the trivial sense that an atheist cannot believe in the creation of species or anything else by god and maintain his or her disbelief).

As you have emphasized in previous posts, it is possible to believe in god and/or have conservative perspective on specific political questions and "believe" that biological evolution represents the best possible explanation for the observed biodiversity on our planet.

The unfortunate relationship between Christian fundamentalists, many of whom probably have no real interest or understanding of the economic policies advocated by the right, and the Republican party really is a deal with the (metaphorical) devil. Libertarian Republicans have far more in common with liberals and progressives than they do with Christian fundamentalists. The sooner libertarians wake up to that fact the sooner our country can return to sanity. Like you, I would probably continue to vote Democratic (or possibly Green) but I would worry less about the future when the Republicans win.

That said, you have to have some grudging admiration for the ability of the conservatives to push their talking points into the public area. People like John Leo, Michael Savage or Ann Coulter, who would have been dismissed as complete nut-jobs 20 years ago, are now viewed as mainstream conservatives. The distortions and innuendo present in the Leo column you have linked aren't that different from any of his columns, but a number of people are fooled. Notice that he doesn't actually supply evidence for his so called censorship by the left. There certainly have been occasional stupid moves on university campuses that curtail free speech, and some liberal groups have tried to "shout out" conservatives, but there is hardly a systemic problem on any of the universities I have been associated with. In sharp contrast, the right has the power of the FCC to protect us from the danger posed by Janet Jackson's boobs. I must admit, there are many boobs I'd rather see than Janet Jackson's silicone enhanced and nipple shielded boobs, but I realize that I can turn the TV off (for the superbowl halftime I actually didn't turn the TV on in the first place, but that is beside the point).

One final thought - how is it that liberals get blamed for the dreck on TV and in pop culture. Fox is responsible for more than its fair share of morally repugnant programming, and the last I checked Rupert Murdoch was not a raving liberal. Although I have been guilty of watching some less than stellar material on TV, I almost exclusively listen to NPR on the radio and I watch a fair amount of PBS, Sundance channel, Discovery channel, and the History channel. Most of my liberal friends have similar tastes. Those nasty liberals, polluting the airwaves with classical music, independent films, and documentaries. How dare they!

At 5:19 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Thank you for the comment. I agree with everything you said.

Like you I am an evolutionist, an atheist, and politically liberal. But I see those as three entirely separate things. I blog about all three because all of them are important to me. But it's a pity that to many people they are all the same thing.

At 6:18 PM, Blogger David said...

You wrote:

After all, there are no people on Earth more smug and superior than the right-wing punditocracy.I guess it depends on perspective. Having spent eleven years as a professor, I can say that there are no people on Earth more smug and superior than left-wing academics.

At 8:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason, keep up the good work. Edward, I liked your commment :)



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