Thursday, July 19, 2012

Vote Quimby (You Might As Well)


I'm thinking tonight of politics and bicycle racing. I used to be invested in both, but then bike racing turned out to be little more than a chemistry experiment in which athletes spent almost as much time in labs and with syringes as they did on the road in the saddle. I stopped watching bicycle racing, then quit following it on the web, and now don't really know any of the riders or teams. I'm pretty sure that the Tour de France is going on right now, but I don't give a damn. They lost me.

Then tonight, figuring that I should probably know something about what's going on in politics since there is an election coming up, I read that Obama's speech is being taken out of context and chopped together to make it look as though he hates business and hard work. The Democrats are frantically trying to find people to fund them the way that the Koch's fund the Republicans. Michelle Bachmann is saying that Hilary Clinton's aide has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. And so on and so forth.

Further, I made the mistake of reading comments on one article in which a person asked, "who cares what Fox News says?" This brought out a pile of comments (there is no way that news sites ever get a conversation going) saying that Fox is terrible or that it presents the other side of things. It's this last comment that drives me crazy.

I've been watching the show The Newsroom and in it, Will McAvoy says that there aren't two sides to every issue and that balance is nonsense. To make his point he brings up evolution. There aren't two sides to evolution and there is no debate. There are those of us who follow the laws of science and know that evolution is far too well documented to reject, that it fits the bill perfectly, and that the theory has proven things such as genetics that weren't even imagined when Darwin was doing his work. And then there are those who follow the teachings of faith and reject logical assertions. That's not a debate, that's two completely different thought processes. It is akin to saying that there are two sides to the issue of whether or not the Earth is round. There just aren't.

Fox News doesn't go about presenting "the other" side of the story. Instead, they promote a different way of thinking that I will label as "faith-based." This thinking relies on people putting their faith in the person speaking instead of on facts. This is part of the reason why Fox News personalities are such a big part of their brand. Bill O'Reilly is a good example and, when he was with the network, Glenn Beck was even better. Sean Hannity is another. People follow the opinions of these guys not because they have confirmation of what they are being told but because they are convinced of the honesty and integrity of these guys. They put their faith in the speakers and go where they are led.

Anyone who questions what these guys are saying is then seen as attacking the guys and attacking the act of faith that believers have put into them. Like evolution, the complaint isn't that evolution is such a bad idea, it's that it hurts the credibility of those who espouse creationism as a replacement for science. Accepting evolution is the same as rejecting creationism which is equated with rejecting Christianity when in fact it is simply rejecting those who say that Christianity must take precedence over science.

This distinction seems important to me in that I like to understand what the problem is at its root. However, understanding the problem doesn't convince me that there is much hope for a solution. I've listened to some of the campaign nonsense coming out of both Presidential campaigns. It is perfectly suited for the news shows and web sites but it does nothing for me. It does not suggest to me that anyone is interested in governing. The only goals are to win and then to keep the system serving those who don't need it while screwing those who do.

If someone can suggest to me a good reason to remain engaged in national politics, I would love to listen to it. Until then, I should stay out of it and let it blow by like any other hot air. I know I will succumb to curiosity and look in on it again sooner or later, but I also know that I would much better use my time doing something productive and leaving the politicians, commentators, and true-believers behind while I write on.