Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Today In Both Sides Do It: Village of the Damned Villagers


I've never met Amanda Taub and do not know a thing about her except what I could piece together from a couple of her bios out there in the great big internet.

She graduated University of Illinois University High School right about the time Texas governor George W. Bush won the 1999 Iowa Straw Poll and was road-testing the bullshit phrase "compassionate conservatism".

Not very long after that, Team Bush killed the campaign of his political rival -- Senator John McCain -- by unleashing one of the filthiest and most racist whisper campaigns in modern presidential history.  Because South Carolina Republicans go for that sort of thing.

And while John McCain was discovering just how lethally effective rousing the racist base of the Republican Party could be, Ms. Taub off to the University of Edinburgh to pursue “a joint degree in literature and political science".  

After that, she vaulted over Hadrian's Wall to pursue a "Masters Degree in Violence, Conflict, and Development Studies from SOAS at the University of London."

And after that, back across the Atlantic for another degree -- this time a J.D. from Georgetown, which she completed in 2007.  Then a few years at a litigation house in New York City.  Then the inevitable stint at Vox specializing in "foreign policy, human rights, and shetland ponies."  And since last summer she has been a regular contributor at The New York Times where she has written about, foreign policy and human rights but not (as far as I could tell) Shetland ponies.

So what do we know about Ms. Taub?   We know that she is very well-credentialed and could undoubtedly kick my ass at Genocide and Tyrant Trivia every day and twice on Sunday.  We also know that she spent most of her adult life deep the Elite University Bubble before taking the shuttle over to the Elite Media Bubble.  And there is nothing in the world wrong with that: the world needs all the foreign policy experts and human rights advocates is can get, and if they're also packing a JD in their rucksack, all the better!

However, for those who have been fortunate enough and capable enough to make a life for themselves among the rarefied heights of towers of ivory, there exists an occupational hazard not unlike the Synthecoccus novae virus (which will be accidentally created by the sterile, technological society of the 23rd century and will cause, among other things, Mr. Spock to jam badly and inexplicable with space hippies):


Truly the survivors will envy the dead.

Anyway, the modern, non-fictional environmental ailment I am referring to is known variously as Elite Opinion Dependence Disorder, Ideological Asymmetriphobia and David Brooks Syndrome.  It happens when elite opinion-havers who have lived too long inside an Elite Bubble stray far outside their areas of expertise and suddenly finds themselves hip deep in shit about which they don't know the first damn thing.  

Which is no big deal, except when, those very well-credentialed people work for newspapers with deadlines and find themselves hip deep in shit about American politics, media and culture about which they don't know the first damn thing, far too often their overwhelming impulse is to follow the same course which served them well at every other elite institution which they have ever called home:  seek out the most revered dogma of the long-term residents of their ivory tower and reverse-engineer it to fit their current assignment.

And thus did the very well-credentialed Ms. Taub make a damn fool of herself in The New York Times today:
Why Americans Vote ‘Against Their Interest’: Partisanship

Working-class Americans who voted for Donald J. Trump continue to approve of him as president, even though he supported a health care bill that would disproportionately hurt them.

Highly educated professionals tend to lean Democratic, even though Republican tax policies would probably leave more money in their pockets.

Why do people vote against their economic interests?

The answer, experts say, is partisanship. Party affiliation has become an all-encompassing identity that outweighs the details of specific policies...
What follows is just one more, dreary, by-the-number Both Sides Do It column which you have already seen a million times before.  As always, the tent-pole is a single, perfunctory and objectively ridiculous "example" of Both Sides doing something, which in no way supports the premise of the essay.   This is followed by psychologists and/or professors waxing on about the concept of "partisanship" in an abstract and heavily expurgated manner devoid of historical or political context.  

As with Mr. David Brooks' Great Project -- 
..it is now painfully clear that Mr. Brooks is engaged in a long-term project to completely rewrite the history of American Conservatism: to flense it of all of the Conservative social, political  economic and foreign policy debacles that make Mr. Brooks wince and repackage the whole era as a fairy tale of noble Whigs being led through treacherous hippie country by the humble David Brooks.
-- in Ms. Taub's very well-credentialed fairy tale, Fox News simply does not exist.  Neither does Lee Atwater or the Southern Strategy.  Newt Gingrich and GOPAC are nowhere to be found.  Neither is Rush Limbaugh and 30 years of Hate Radio.

For Ms. Taub, our politics are just a free-floating universe of partisan tribal identifiers completely unmoored from actual policy differences or facts or consequences. Just Team Blue and Team Red locked in perpetual and escalating hostility not because their differences actually matter, but just because they're Team Blue and Team Red:
The result of those overlapping, powerful identities is that Americans have become more willing to defend their party against any perceived threat, and to demand that their politicians take uncompromisingly partisan stands.

But while those demands can affect policy, they are rooted in emotional attachments, not policy goals. “When we talk about being a sports fan, there’s no policy content related to that,” Ms. Mason said. “It’s just this sense of connection. And that’s powerful! It makes people cry. It makes people riot. There doesn’t really have to be any policy content for people to get riled up, and to be extremely committed.”
Everything from climate change to health care to public education stripped of political context and moral implication.  Just an intellectual curiosity to be puzzled over by academics floating high and detached above the world.

This, right here -- the passing down of the Villager's Both Siderist pathology from one generation to the next --  is what must not be allowed to continue.

15 comments:

Neo Tuxedo said...

Just an intellectual curiosity to be puzzled over by academics floating high and detached above the world.

Like Laputa's Academy of Projectors only more so. And taking advice from struldbruggs imported to the flying island against the advice of literally everyone who's ever been down to Balnibarbi.

dinthebeast said...

From Steve Benen at the Maddow Blog:
"More Americans than ever view the news through red-colored glasses. In 2013, when Barack Obama was president, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that only 22 percent of Republicans supported the U.S. launching missile strikes against Syria in response to Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons against civilians.

A new Post-ABC poll finds that 86 percent of Republicans support Donald Trump's decision to launch strikes on Syria for the same reason. Only 11 percent are opposed."

There are the infinitely reprogrammable pig-people who are to blame for this whole hideous mess in all of their fucked up glory.

Those same two polls showed that 38% of Democrats supported Obama's proposed missile strikes in 2013, while 37% support Trump's strike last week.

Both sides don't.

-Doug in Oakland

Andrew Johnston said...

A lot of elite journalist types feel that it's wrong for them to talk about actual issues. To do so would require staking out a position, validating facts, identifying liars and truth-tellers, and other things that could be construed as partisan. Better to talk about abstractions, horse races, minor controversies and other things that won't risk rubbing someone the wrong way.

In sum: A serious journalist talks mainly about ephemera because bringing up substantive issues that might affect someone's life could also rub someone the wrong way. This is the state of Our Wonderful Newsmedia.

Robt said...

It may be your Amanda Tuab although well versed in the educated stratosphere.
From the sample of her professing-opine Does understand the basic principals of hitting the baseball.
It may be she lacks the lab time of observation. In essence, getting the at bats facing opposing pitchers.
If she had this (experience) the findings that not all pitches are the same and not all pitchers trow them identically.
At the plate, (observing the fast ball, spotting it, it;s release and timing your swing and a miss. Seeing the fastball again realizing from the others you seen cause you to commit to your swing earlier than other pitches.. As then you see the curve. The slider. Fork ball.

Amanda Tuab identifies the symptom of looking for the curve ball and getting the heater and swinging through it so late.

The economic pitch that even if hit, the Umpire will cal foul noo matter.
It is few that get the At bats needed to adjust. Which makes for a very low ERA against many voters.

Tuab merely nudges that Shetland pony . As she rode it for the brief moment of economic in differences. How that economic power has been used to institutionalize greed and to use that power and wealth to not only keep that wealth but steal more and hoard.

Which brings me to an old question I would be willing to read her answers) from that distinguished education.
The simple question;
In the South before the Civil War. About 5% to 10% of all white of the south owned slaves and were plantation owners. They were entirely dependent on slave labor for the profits and life styles of lordship. They were the wealthy of the south and controlled it.
So when the Civil War broke out. How did they get all the poor whites of the south to fight for the wealthy?
What was it the poor white southerner then had to fight for?

Frank McCormick said...

And, of course, two more erroneous assumptions jump out, at the least in my case, and, I'm sure in the case of a large portion of your readers:
- Being willing to paying a higher tax rate is not the same as voting against my best interest. I recognize that taxes are the dues one pays to belong to a civil society and that there is such a thing as the greater good. (The "Soviet communism fell therefore naked greed is best" fallacy.)
- That because I'm a liberal, I am a partisan Democrat, when the Democratic Party is only my best "fit" for my choice in voting. (Examples of Democratic candidates not being truly liberal too long to list...)

Lit3Bolt said...

ARE YOU NOT INFOTAINED?!

bowtiejack said...

Excuse me, but it appears that, in spite of all that edjumacating, Ms. Taub is a very silly person. Sad.

Russell Sharp said...

I dunno about this one, Driftglass. I usually agree with you on your "both sides don't" posts but I'm not seeing the big deal here. If your gripe is that Taub's piece needed an additional contextual discussion about how political polarization is highly asymmetric, then fair enough. But that wasn't the focus of the article. And, setting political context aside, there is a lot of interesting evidence that humans generally form their opinions based on their tribal identity and not the other way around. Returning to the context of American politics, the question of whether one tribe is toxic and one isn't is beyond the scope of Taub's piece.

Dr.BDH said...

I know that Commenters don't get paid the same as columnists (except here at Driftglass), but it's somewhat consoling to read the first 20-30 current comments to that article and see everyone of them say that Democrats vote for higher taxes that support government functions that benefit everyone, like health care and education. The author could get quite the education reading these.

Neo Tuxedo said...

Also and belatedly, on the subject of that photoshop, we have a saying on Tumblr that I think is appropriate here: "First of all, how dare you."

Karen Rea said...

Frank M: Exactly right. I, like most Democrats are willing to vote for higher taxes in order to promote the public good. I see it as a plus that the person standing in line next to me at the grocery store is more than likely not carrying a communicable deadly disease. I see it as a plus that a senior has the wherewithal to support their retirement without burdening the next generation, and the next, and the next. I'll pay more to not have to say a prayer every time I bite into a meal or take a pill or get into a car or breathe the air (granted none 100% foolproof) because of those pesky government regulations. I will trade my economic disinterest so that human beings who I have never met do not starve to death or get kicked out of emergency rooms or die an agonizing death unnecessarily because I was too cheap to care.

On the other hand, I have zero understanding why Republicans vote against their own economic interest that gives them zero return on their dollar and causes widespread suffering of their fellow citizens. There is NO Both Sides argument with equally good or bad results. You either care about your fellow citizens or not.

Karen Rea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robt said...

In a labor market inundated with the caste structure where this task in more important than that tasking.
Where education to lift oneself to the next caste level to improve ones means
Once was praised and supported, is now the target of undermining and profits to be had. yes, profit off those who strive to better themselves. Who does this benefit?
Take the human out of the equation. The CEO who does not actually produce one widget. Who did not create the widget manufacturing but inherited the CEO job as a new hire replacement. Then the actual widget producers.
One position lathered in salary, benefits etc. The other compensated under the minimum wage philosophy that, I would pay you lees if the law would allow it.
Include an ounce of humanity;
The Widget making labor and his family require health care as so the CEO.

We know republicans feel strongly about everyone else paying for their health care. Even if that tax payer earns to little to afford his own.
I imagine if we cut off their health care we provide, they would just sell
America to their donors for their health care.

Fran / Blue Gal said...

Love this one....

Davis Statton said...

Her equating Trumsters voting against their interest out of spite with liberals' willingness to pay higher taxes is nuts. I believe it is in my interest to pay enough taxes to have better schools, libraries, parks, mass transit, addiction & mental health treatment, etc.