The other day I put up a paragraph from a blog post by Bill Maher up as my facebook status:
"We all read what Trump said about Obama's election, as well as Ted Nugent and Victoria Jackson. I'm just saying, it's the second term -- maybe it's time for those re-education camps. There are a lot of people in this country who are in need of some serious deprogramming."Some acquaintances of mine on the Right were upset by this status. For example, one wrote he thought Maher was a "sicko." I told him I thought it was obviously a joke and he gave me his reasoning otherwise:
...it sounds like a liberal throwing out an idea that harks to an approach of liberalism over the last 20 years, which is that anything that disagrees with them needs to be "educated". . It's just taking it to a new level. If it's a joke, great. But coming from Maher? Doesn't seem far off from his typical view.It became clear to me that my acquaintances and I had fundamentally different epistemologies. I thought it obvious the paragraph I quoted was satirizing the FEMA camps conspiracy theory and making fun of wingnuts. Friends apparently thought Bill Maher (and I guess me too, since I publicized his quote on facebook) was actually advocating putting conservatives into re-education camps.
This isn't the first time I have seen my epistemology fundamentally differ from that of the Right. Everybody gets things wrong sometimes but I am thinking of examples of instances where the disagreement doesn't seem to me to come down to complex nuances or opinion, but where we clearly disagree on what the obvious facts are:
1) I was looking for some information on Pete Seeger and came across this post by Mark Steyn in National Review Online. Among other things Steyn says which aren't true (note to Steyn: Seeger repudiated Stalin before 2009, implicitly in 1982 by performing at a benefit concert for Poland's resistance movement, and explicitly in 1993), he maintains that Seeger has been "reliably wrong on every single issue for the last 70 years, starting with his opposition to the Second World War." It's true that Pete Seeger opposed World War II at first (as did, incidentally, a young Charles Lindbergh supporter by the name of William F. Buckley) although I think it should at least be noted that by 1942 he was singing in support of the war. But more importantly...I mean, c'mon, Pete Seeger was wrong about every single issue? Really? For the sake of argument, let's not even talk about Vietnam. One only has to read up to the third line of Seeger's Wikipedia article to learn he was a supporter of the civil rights movement (unlike, say, National Review). In feeling the need to write that Seeger was wrong about everything, Steyn reveals himself to be either an idiot (for not realizing Seeger supported the civil rights movement) or a racist (for thinking civil rights were a bad idea). Judging favorably, I'll assume the former, but what's scary is that the dittoheads who commented on his article didn't see fit to point out this glaring error.
2) The Right has long declared Obama's anti-Israel. Back in May 2011, Obama gave a speech where he referenced America's longstanding position that Israel will be divided along the 67 borders with mutually agreed land swaps and the Right went apoplectic. Facebook friends linked to Krauthammer wondering aloud whether Obama hated Israel. In response, I linked to moderate Will Saletan fisking that Krauthammer column. Now with the Iron Dome which Obama got funding for saving Israeli lives, Obama committing to get more funding for the Dome, telling the world Israel has the right to defend itself...my honest acquaintances on the Right are now either admitting they were wrong or claiming that Obama's defense of Israel in his second term represents a 'sea change' (for the record, Krauthammer's most recent column on the conflict in Israel doesn't mention the President. Charles, whatever happened to the our peoples' concept of hakoras hatov, expressing gratitude?). But it seems to me that for years now it's been clear where the President stands and they just invented a fictional narrative to put him in.
3) George Will declared that if Obama won, it was probably because despite him allegedly being an obviously failed president, America didn't want to get rid of its' first black president. Forget the obvious failures of the Romney campaign, forget the 47% comments and all the other gaffes, forget the sophisticated targeting used by the Obama campaign, forget the fact that Americans didn't relate to Romney, forget Romney's comments about self-deportation, forget the fact that congressional Republicans had made a mockery of the People's House (even more than usual)...no, Will looked at all the facts, and basically said, "If Obama wins, must be affirmative action."
There are a myriad of other examples (I've documented elsewhere a bunch from Mediaite's profilic house conservative Noah Rothman alone). I seem to read differently from people on the Right. Satirists on the Left have referred to their epistemology as "Bullshit Mountain" or the "Republican Bubble", it seems so divorced from what we see as reality.
Some people will say that it's FOX News's fault, but I think going back to at least the 19th century, conservatives have been regressive. Buckley managed to kick out the elements which marginalized the right-wing and made the brand more acceptable, but the brand was and is still fundamentally flawed; I think the critiques David Ross Locke made of conservative values (on both economic and social issues, lest your more "libertarian" friends think it need not apply to them) in the 19th century can be applied today. FOX News can only exist in a country which wants it, and for reasons I fundamentally don't understand, people want to think Obama's the worst president in history (after the last one, even!), as they wanted to think Bill Clinton killed Vince Foster. Racism? There certainly is some racism (yes yes, Republicans will tell you there's no racism in the GOP because they all liked Herman Cain and got Clarence Thomas on the SCOTUS, but let's not forget some Republicans like Cain and Thomas because "they're not like the others"), but with an exception or two, I don't think my Republican friends are racist, nor do I think racism comes close to explaining how our worldviews differ so fully.
Would appreciate your thoughts.
2:31 PM PT: Much obliged for Community Spotlight.