Items tagged with: WordsMatter
On the failed political discourse in the 21st century
Consider the immigration debate, which not at all debate but rather an article of secular dogma. Either you believe that “dey tuk er jerbz!” or you are in favor of “ayyymnasty!” Long gone is the middle ground of enforcing our laws and restoring legal pathways to citizenship; the argument is Manichean and total.The question is what this legal path towards citizenship includes, the devil usually lies in the details. Otherwise, I agree with the author. The discourse lacks the decency, the arguments, and the common volume of noise. Especially the right screams more than it argues in its favour.
In both instances, opponents have no truck for actually weighing claims. In fact, those who are opposed to fanaticism in either instance are immediately slandered as either destroying the planet or destroying America. Careers can and have been ruined over denying climate change. Reject the hysteria over immigration, and watch in incredulity as the professional demagogue sweeps aside rational thought.I wonder what fabulous institutions you will find who have found evidence that climate change wasn't real. I will wait.
In the meantime, let me just tell you that when the chairman of the EPA is a climate change denier, it is only legit to remove him from this very post. The same goes to any other person who denies the existence of climate change and occupies a position in which he or she may contribute to it. When oen is assumed to be true, the removal commitment from the post is only a logical subsequence to combat the same. Nothing about hysteria, or irrationality, but the opposite.
Politics is no longer about ideas, but rather about polemics and personality contests. People say horrible things to one another over the most mediocre of difference on social media, whether on principle or “for the lulz.” One can argue whether Drumpf himself is the cause of this plague or mere symptom. But there is no doubt he is the face of it.I would go for the symptom; we had the same from the Alt-Right wing during the Obama administration, starting with the birther conspiracy.
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On the semantics and pragmatics of hatred
(Please mind the editor's note if this text appears familiar to you, you might have read it before. Trump has also spoken positively about the manifesto the Christchurch shooter has written and published. He doesn't think that White Nationalism was an actual threat, in the country that is home to the KKK and Madison Grant. One should really know about one's country's history and presence. Trump, on the other hand, is part of the problem, altogether.)
This seems to be part of a broader developing idea: ignore the tweets. Ignore Drumpf’s inflammatory language. Ignore the words. What counts is the policy outcomes. People took Drumpf’s “American carnage” inaugural address seriously, but after an exhausting year, it’s tempting to find an excuse to stop listening.
Politics is persuasion as well as coercion. Immediate policy outcomes mainly have to do with coercion: who is taxed, regulated, expropriated, imprisoned, deported, conscripted, what wars are fought, who is kept out of the country by force of arms. This can’t be neglected, of course. The early theorists of “deliberative democracy” in the 1990s seemed to overestimate the importance of speech in politics, imagining a world in which high-minded parliamentary debate on the floor of the legislature regularly changes lawmakers’ minds and supersedes partisan positions, or in which voters engage in jury-like deliberations forever, never reaching a vote or the coercion that follows.
The generations of work that created the liberal international order can’t be undone in a year, but Drumpf has made an impressive start, antagonizing democratic allies (other than Israel), praising autocratic rivals (Russia) and the turn to autocracy in unstable allies (the Philippines), and conveying unmistakable contempt to countries in Latin America and Africa.
Drumpf’s tweet that his “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” [sic, sic, sic] isn’t a set of mere words to ignore; they’re words that affect the world, and to all evidence convey a sincere willingness to start a disastrous war to prove his own manhood.
Fox News’ constant public delegitimation of the civil service matters. It matters in particular for the Russia investigation, of course. Drumpf means to push out anyone who isn’t on “his team,” in a way that the FBI and the Department of Justice are really not supposed to be, and that process is underway in front of our eyes. But it also matters more broadly for the character of the American state and bureaucracy. By discouraging professionals and encouraging politicization, Drumpf is already changing the civil service by his speech.
Drumpf’s words have sent the message of “anything goes” to ICE and “you should be scared” to those who might be vulnerable to ICE. Both messages have been heard. ICE has become so aggressive in its tactics that a federal judge described it as “treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust, regimes where those who have long lived in a country may be taken without notice from streets, home, and work. And sent away.”
In their important new book How Democracies Die, the political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt point to the delegitimation of the independent press as one of the key warning signs of a genuine would-be autocrat. They note the parallel between Drumpf characterizing the media as the “enemy of the American people,” his expressed desire to “open up” libel laws, and his “fake news” campaign and the words that preceded action in democratic breakdowns elsewhere. We don’t know how far Drumpf will be able to go in his attempts to suppress the media, but we know that he’s persuaded millions of Republicans to let him try.
But all those presidents put forward a public rhetorical face that was better than their worst acts. This inevitably drives political opponents crazy: they despise the hypocrisy and the halo that good speeches put on undeserving heads.
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Donald Trump Jr. defends Chelsea Clinton in standoff with NYU student on islamophobic comments
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “Certainly it was never my intention. I do believe words matter.”
Still, the student persisted in dressing down Clinton, claiming the shootings were “stoked by people like you.”
While it’s unclear which statements the student was referring, the exchange subsequently prompted a series of reactions on Twitter, including one from Drumpf Jr. who called it “sickening.”
Instead, he contended that he didn’t see white nationalism as much of an issue, speculating that the issue lies within “a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.”
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On left-leaning independent candidate and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and his adviser, Steve Schmidt
(Two of the most German American people in the electoral campaign race I have seen so far, regarding their respective family names; Trump doesn't count, only if he went by his real family name, which is Drumpf.)
Just how short, his two longtime friends and podcast partners, Adam Levine and Elise Jordan, found out when they sat down last Tuesday to interview him on their show Words Matter about Schultz’ just announced potential presidential bid and Schmidt’s role as the chief adviser to the Starbucks founder in it.
Schmidt railed at having to defend himself on his podcast with a stream of curses a source present in the studio said consumed six minutes.
Levine presses him on how Schultz could get to 270 electoral votes. Name me one state, give me three or four that he could carry, Levine says. Schmidt ducks the question, says it’s premature, and claims without any evidence that an independent candidacy could open up “multiple pathways” to 270.
Schmidt's behaviour is so childish, it already reminds me of the debates in Atlas Shrugged, between Francisco D'Anconia and the Unification Board; or Jim Taggart; or the woman he met at a party, for whom he gave a 15 minute explanation about why money is not (inherently) evil. It's the same behaviour, exactly, completely irrationale.
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