The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

[F]or much of the left, we seem perpetually to be responding within the terms set by the right. And while part of that is the deadening influence of neoliberalism, this episode shows part of it is the difference in strategy between the left and the right. Until we’re willing to demand that others respond to questions rooted in our concerns and our values, we will necessarily be operating from a position of weakness. And not only are people less inclined to do it, but [they’re] institutionally ill-equipped to do it as well. These things, unsurprisingly, are mutually reinforcing.

David Kaib, How the NRA Shifted the Debate: Or One Way Conservatives are Better at Politics

Generally true, however. Maybe we’ll see a turn (christ, you lost the Post LaPierre).

Thoughts

pieceinthepuzzlehumanity:

What’s really troubling and frustrating about left wing politics in the US, or at least the politics of the mainstream left (Democrats), is that there has been a failure to counteract the march further to the right by conservatives. Because of this, our country’s political discourse and, to some extent, overall ideological framing has been dragged to the right practically unopposed. The subversion of neoliberal thought and the overall lack of a spine (I’m especially looking at you Democrats) has brought us to the point where compromise is on conservative terms and passing the shell of a bill is considered a victory.

The left in this country needs to stop trying to play touch football when the right is playing rugby.

At this rate, the Republicans could be preaching fascism, calling it freedom, and Democrats would call it a testament to our democracy that we can have a civil exchange in the marketplace of ideas.

Amen, brother.

(via pieceinthepuzzlehumanity-deacti)

Socialism and Smaller Government | William Shaub

The public relations industry has a prominent place in American politics indeed, and its value to the establishment is clearly rising. What’s central to a strikingly illogical dilemma—namely, how one can support socialized programs while identifying with conservatism—is the notion that “big government” is left-wing while “small government” is right-wing. These associations are, however, entirely (and crucially) exclusive.

Bureaucracy, red tape, inefficiency, and all of the words used to describe public institutions can be found across ideological lines. They extend frequently into the private sector, into small and big businesses, and therefore private property in general. Any institution or collective that finds itself in a position to make decisions will do what it can to concentrate more power and decision-making capabilities at the expense of others. The political systems in which institutions grow thus sponsor such behaviors or condemn them (to the extent that they’re democratic).

Well, conservatism is marketed as an ideology that diametrically opposes things like bureaucracy and inefficiency. This notion is marketed so well, that when Americans have to deal with AT&T or GM’s insanely slow customer service, they don’t see that as inefficient. Sure, it’s efficient for the company, which saves money by outsourcing their customer service positions to India. But it’s inefficient for everyone dealing with the company, because they have to waste an enormous amount of time courtesy of the technique that’s making AT&T more profits.

Another clear example can be found during President Obama’s push for health reform, when Americans were unremittingly told that the red tape of socialized medicine would kill their grandmothers. The overhead of their private insurance premiums, however, was never considered ‘red tape’. The middle-man position of the private insurance industry which has been gathering record profits was never categorized as bureaucratic.

No, those terms are used exclusively when discussing the problems of public institutions, like social security, which has pea-sized problems compared to the grossly wasteful healthcare system in the United States. But a brief look at the problems that conservatism supposedly targets leads to the wrong conclusion if one is actually concerned with solving such problems.

The Science of Fox News: Why Its Viewers are the Most Misinformed

In summary, then, the “science” of Fox News clearly shows that its viewers are more misinformed than the viewers of other stations, and are indeed this way for ideological reasons. But these are not necessarily the reasons that liberals may assume. Instead, the Fox “effect” probably occurs both because the station churns out falsehoods that conservatives readily accept—falsehoods that may even seem convincing to some liberals on occasion—but also because conservatives are overwhelmingly inclined to choose to watch Fox to begin with.

At the same time, it’s important to note that they’re also disinclined to watch anything else. Fox keeps constantly in their minds the idea that the rest of the media are “biased” against them, and conservatives duly respond by saying other media aren’t worth watching—it’s just a pack of lies. According to Public Policy Polling’s annual TV News Trust Poll (the 2011 run), 72 percent of conservatives say they trust Fox News, but they also say they strongly distrust NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN. Liberals and moderates, in contrast, trust all of these outlets more than they distrust them (though they distrust Fox). This, too, suggests conservative selective exposure.

And there is an even more telling study of “Fox-only” behavior among conservatives, from Stanford’s Shanto Iyengar and Kyu Hahn of Yonsei University, in Seoul, South Korea. They conducted a classic left-right selective exposure study, giving members of different ideological groups the chance to choose stories from a news stream that provided them with a headline and a news source logo—Fox, CNN, NPR, and the BBC—but nothing else. The experiment was manipulated so that the same headline and story was randomly attributed to different news sources. The result was that Democrats and liberals were definitely less inclined to choose Fox than other sources, but spread their interest across the other outlets when it came to news. But Republicans and conservatives overwhelmingly chose Fox for hard news and even for soft news, and ignored other sources. “The probability that a Republican would select a CNN or NPR report was around 10%,” wrote the authors.

In other words Fox News is both deceiver and enabler simultaneously. First, its existence creates the opportunity for conservatives to exercise their biases, by selecting into the Fox information stream, and also by imbibing Fox-style arguments and claims that can then fuel biased reasoning about politics, science, and whatever else comes up.

But at the same time, it’s also likely that conservatives, tending to be more closed-minded and more authoritarian, have a stronger emotional need for an outlet like Fox, where they can find affirmation and escape from the belief challenges constantly presented by the “liberal media.” Their psychological need for something affirmative is probably stronger than what’s encountered on the opposite side of the aisle—as is their revulsion towards allegedly liberal (but really centrist) media outlets.

(Source: azspot, via pieceinthepuzzlehumanity-deacti)

The Santorum Strategy | George Lakoff

The idealized conservative family is structured around a strict father who is the natural leader of the family, who is assumed to know right from wrong, whose authority is absolute and unchallengeable, who is masculine, makes decisions about reproduction, and who sets the rules — in short, the Decider. Children must be taught right from wrong through strict discipline, which is required to be moral. This maps onto the nation. To be prosperous in a free market, one must be fiscally disciplined. If you are not prosperous, you must not be disciplined, and if you are not disciplined, you cannot be moral, and so you deserve your poverty.

When this idealized family model is projected onto various governing institutions, we get conservative versions of them: conservative religion with a strict father God; a view of the market as Decider with no external authority over the market from government, unions, or the courts; and strictness in other institutions, like education, prisons, businesses, sports teams, romantic relationships, and the world community. Control over reproduction ought to be in the hands of male authorities.

For conservatives, democracy is about liberty, individual responsibility and self-reliance — the freedom to seek one’s own self-interest with minimal or no commitment to the interests of others. This implies a minimal public and a maximal private.

We can now see why the Santorum Strategy is so concerned with family values. Strict father family values are the model for radical conservative values. Conservative populism — in which poor conservatives vote against their financial interests — depends on those poor conservatives having strict father family values, defining themselves in terms of those values, and voting on the basis of those values, thus selecting strict fathers as their political leaders.

The Three Conservative Philosophical Frameworks | The Firebrand

Matthew Bruenig on the second of three conservative frames:

Conservatives who are a bit scared of making the utility argument — as they should be because it is probably the weakest one they have — often fall back on a procedural justice framework to justify their viewpoint. Procedural justice theories rely on the idea that a just economy and political system is one that follows just processes. So long as just processes are followed, whatever outcome that results is necessarily just. The conservative/libertarian thinkers most prominent in this camp are Robert Nozick, Murray Rothbard, and the super-bizarre internet sensation Stefan Molyneux.

The conservative procedural justice account can get pretty complicated at times, but most have probably run into the basic elements of it from time to time. The account emphasizes free exchange, free association, and voluntary agreements. Advocates of it drone on about self-ownership and non-aggression, two qualities that they think libertarian economic processes possess. When someone complains about their terribly low wages and work conditions, these are the guys who retort back “but you voluntarily agreed to work there didn’t you?” Taxation is called theft, aggression, and slavery because it is not consented to.

I think this account is probably the strangest one, mainly because as far as I can tell the 19th century anarchist philosophers successfully beat back all the libertarian procedural justice arguments that are now popping back up again. But without getting too involved in that whole discussion, I just hope here to emphasize the way the framework works. The procedural justice position is not concerned with utility and it is not concerned even with giving people what they deserve necessarily. It is only concerned with following just processes even if those processes result in widespread misery.

Read the rest →

Words That Don’t Work | George Lakoff

When [Frank] Luntz says he is “scared to death,” he means that the Republicans who hire him are scared to death and he can profit from that fear by offering them new language. Luntz is  clever. Yes, Republicans are scared. But there needs to be a serious discussion of both Luntz’s remarks and the progressive non-response.

What has been learned from the brain and cognitive sciences is that words are defined by fixed frames we use in thinking, frames come in hierarchical systems, and political frames are defined in moral terms, where “morality” is very different for conservatives and progressives. What lies behind the Occupy movement is moral view of democracy: Democracy is about citizens caring about each other and acting responsibly both socially and personally. This requires a robust Public empowering and protecting everyone equally. Both private success and personal freedom depend on such a Public. Every critique and proposal of the Occupy movement fits this moral view, which happens to be the progressive moral view.

What the Occupy movement can’t stand is the opposite “moral” view, that Democracy provides the freedom to seek one’s self-interest and ignore what is good for other Americans and others in the world. That view lies behind the Wall Street ethic of the Greedy Market, as opposed to a Market for All, a market that should maximize the well-being of most Americans. This view leads to a hierarchical view of society, where success is always deserved and lack of success is moral failure. The rich are the moral, and they not only deserve their wealth, they also deserve the power it brings. This is the view that Luntz is defending.

Referring to the rich as “hardworking taxpayers” ignores the fact that a great percentage of the rich do not get their wealth from making things, but rather from investments in other people’s labor, and that most of the 1% are managers, not people who make things or directly provide services.  The hardworking taxpayers are the 99%. That is not the frame that Luntz wants activated.

But Luntz is not just addressing his remarks to Republicans. He is also looking to take Democrats for suckers.  How? By choosing his frames carefully, and getting Democrats to do the opposite of what he tells Republicans. There is a basic truth about framing. If you accept the other guy’s frame, you lose.

Take “capitalism.” It arises these days in socialist discourse, and is seen as the opposite of socialism. To attack “capitalism” in this frame is to accept “socialism.” Conservatives are trying to cast Progressives, who mostly have businesses or work for businesses or are looking for good business jobs, as socialists. If you take the Luntz bait, you will be sucked into sounding like a socialist. Whatever one thinks of socialism, most Americans falsely identify it with communism, and will reject it out of hand.

Read the rest →

Eyes Open, Imagination Awake | Jeffrey Feldman

[…] Disparate groups of people, young and old, various levels of education, various degrees of prior political engagement, different locations–all enter the public square to occupy space and be seen.  To this monumental act, the media could only respond with petty questions.
Will the protesters submit a demand that can be circulated on an index car, bounced from laptop to email, forwarded, cut-and-pasted in time for the 5pm edition, fact-checked by an intern, slotted into public debate before the weather report?
We see, now, that was not the right question.
It was hard at first, but we can see now.  We can see past the failure of the media–the failure of a vast network of information to step inside the conversation already raging in our  heads for years,  already driving millions of us to the boundary separating frustration from rage.
OWS inspired us to listen again–not to the idle chatter, the mindless chatter generated to justify vast sections of cable, print, and internet media.  OWS inspired us to listen to each other.
What is our demand?
We demand that those figures in office stop corrupting the system.
We demand a new generation of leadership.
We demand a new paradigm for understanding citizenship.
We demand a system that values consensus over endless conflict.
We demand a world not suffocated by a neoliberal economic logic that starves, bludgeons, bombs, and manipulates a hard-working majority so that an obscenely wealthy minority may become even more obscenely wealthy.
That is the demand.  Put away your notecards.  It is not on a list, but in our own voices.  If you cannot see it and hear it, now, after all these months of watching and listening to OWS–if your imagination is still asleep–then there is no point in writing it down for you. [→]

Eyes Open, Imagination Awake | Jeffrey Feldman

[…] Disparate groups of people, young and old, various levels of education, various degrees of prior political engagement, different locations–all enter the public square to occupy space and be seen.  To this monumental act, the media could only respond with petty questions.

Will the protesters submit a demand that can be circulated on an index car, bounced from laptop to email, forwarded, cut-and-pasted in time for the 5pm edition, fact-checked by an intern, slotted into public debate before the weather report?

We see, now, that was not the right question.

It was hard at first, but we can see now.  We can see past the failure of the media–the failure of a vast network of information to step inside the conversation already raging in our  heads for years,  already driving millions of us to the boundary separating frustration from rage.

OWS inspired us to listen again–not to the idle chatter, the mindless chatter generated to justify vast sections of cable, print, and internet media.  OWS inspired us to listen to each other.

What is our demand?

We demand that those figures in office stop corrupting the system.

We demand a new generation of leadership.

We demand a new paradigm for understanding citizenship.

We demand a system that values consensus over endless conflict.

We demand a world not suffocated by a neoliberal economic logic that starves, bludgeons, bombs, and manipulates a hard-working majority so that an obscenely wealthy minority may become even more obscenely wealthy.

That is the demand.  Put away your notecards.  It is not on a list, but in our own voices.  If you cannot see it and hear it, now, after all these months of watching and listening to OWS–if your imagination is still asleep–then there is no point in writing it down for you. []

The Meaning of ‘Ponzi scheme’ vs. The Consequences of ‘Privatization’

sarahlee310:

This may be the new reality in a politically polarized America, but for liberals who are expected to elevate political issues beyond the talking points and frameworks of Republican demagogues, they failed miserably – and I believe they will continue to fail for three reasons: First, because all ideologues are hard-headed, and the current “base” of the Republican Party is full of ideologues; secondly, because facts that don’t align with a party’s agenda aren’t facts at all; and lastly, because it takes only one liberal to admit publicly that there are similarities between a Ponzi scheme and Social Security, and when that liberal concedes, as Matthews did, it opens a small but fatal chink in the Left’s armor that conservatives will exploit until everyone knows that “Liberals agree,” in this case, “that it’s a Ponzi scheme.”

The Left missed the point – and a great opportunity to actually elevate the debate.

Comparing Social Security to a Ponzi scheme, even if the comparison is intended to show how Social Security isn’t a Ponzi scheme, is still comparing Social Security to a fraudulent scam. It relies on a Republican framework – Perry’s framework – and it criminalizes Social Security from the start.

Who cares what Perry thinks?

How a Tea Partier defines Social Security is irrelevant. The future of the program is the issue. And that should be the framework.

Rather than battling over a definition coined by a crank, the Left needs to focus on what Social Security would become under a President Perry – or a President Romney. Despite the two candidates’ differences in rhetoric, both believe in “fixes” that lead to the program’s demise.

[…]

Rather than letting the Right frame the argument over Social Security by forcing the Left into a battle over semantics, the Left needs to refocus the issue to its core by asking the question, “Do you believe seniors living in gutters is the future of ‘social security’?”

Privatization is the one plan both GOP frontrunners have embraced as a long-term fix to Social Security.

And that’s an argument the Left can win.