Wednesday Round-up

1. “Make America Great Again” and various fallacies and dystopian fantasies
I have only two questions when I read the slogan “Make America Great Again”.
1. When did America stop being great?
2. What things do you think need to be made Great again or for the first time?
When I look at some of the classical measures of greatness, the USA seems to be doing pretty well.
Military Spending
Unemployment rates
The interesting thing is, when I ask the above two questions, I never get a coherent answer. I often get crickets, or much huffing and puffing.
My tentative conclusion is that this is not about “Make America Great Again”.
That’s not what the people wearing the caps or the t-shirts are saying.
What they are really saying is “make me feel better about the USA again because right now it is not working for me”.
Which is fine, but that makes the slogan into yet another piece of meaningless word salad, a blank canvas on which any sentiment can be projected.
It may also be an example of people invested in The Golden Age fallacy. After all, as Steve Martin once joked, “Ronald Reagan wants to return the United States to the country it once was. An Arctic tundra covered with ice and snow”.
The problem with the past is that people tend to adopt one of two positions, sometimes concurrently. They remember the bad stuff, in an attempt to dramatize their youth (I need a dollar for every time I heard “You don’t know how lucky you are today” when growing up). Then, sometimes almost simultaneously, you hear statements like “I like the old days, when people respected each other/adults/the law/authority”. What that slogan often signifies, by the way, is a desire to stamp out dissent. “Respect my authority” is a not a message that is rooted in mutual respect and discussion and resolution of differences. It is a demand for unquestioning obedience, usually issued by the insecure or dictators.
This, folks, is not coherent, objective thought you are hearing in those contexts when people peddle variants of the Golden Age fallacy. It is incoherent inconsistent memory recall as people try to make sense of life changes and world changes. The reality is that this is the safest time ever to be a human in the Western world. However, to hear the dystopian fantasty-peddlers, you would think that it is not even safe to get out of bed.
So, I wait for the adherents and fans of the slogan “Make America Great Again” to tell me exactly what needs to happen to Make America Great Again. And I sit here ready to eviscerate any suggestions that involve the imposition of authoritarian ideas on a country that, at its hear, damn well needs to respect some fundamental libertarian principles if it is to stand any chance of making it to adulthood in country terms.

2. Why is satire dying?
This Guardian article attempts to answer the question.
One thought that is not really surfaced in the article is that originally 15-20 years ago, the gap between reality and satire was much clearer. The political climate was much more polite, with a focus on policy and less on personality and muck-raking. So when The Onion published this parody article about Pat Buchanan’s attitude towards gay people in 1992, it was clearly satire.
Today, with political leaders actually suggesting publicly that gay people should be jailed, and religious leaders calling for gay people to be exterminated, this article would be regarded as truth by many readers.

3. The SCANDAL VIDEOS OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY! (Yes, that’s how excited GOP partisans shout)

Project Veritas, the investigative organization fronted by underground provocateur James O’Keefe, has snapped into action this week, publishing videos that it claims prove that the Democratic Party is engaging in electoral fraud.
Based on actions taken by the DNC since yesterday, it seems that at least one of the videos shows behavior by DNC employees that was unacceptable.
The main challenge, as Snopes points out in this detail summary, is that the track record of James O’Keefe is rife with distortion, selective and out of context editing of video evidence and law-breaking. Whenever the unedited videos surface, they always prove to have been deceptively edited. As Snopes also points out, there is a “Gish Gallop” element to the way that the video evidence is presented. The aim seems to be to overwhelm the viewer with closely-spaced, absolute sounding allegations. When I see that presentation style, I always have one hand on my bullshit detector.
Everybody needs to understand that Project Veritas is a deeply partisan organization that almost exclusively focusses on claimed misdeeds and malfeasance by the Democratic Party. That, plus the timing of these video releases in the run-up to the last debate, should tell you a lot about motives. In the meantime, some experts should review the videos for signs of editing and other forms of message manipulation.
For a comprehensive list of the various attempted stunts and stings of Project Veritas since 2009, see here.
And here is an article from the Detroit Free Press showing that when it comes to voter impersonation, O’Keefe would rather pretend to do it and then claim after the fact “Look! I could have done it!” than actually do it, and open himself up to being charged with a felony and possibly jailed. Whatever else he may be, James O’Keefe has no intention of going to jail for his cause.


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