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One of the defects of our political process is the degree to which it brutalizes us, and we brutalize it. Certainly, as, in essence, pacified civil war, whenever and wherever we succeed in substituting the verbal and ideological brutalities of politics for the physical violence of warfare we have taken an enormous step forward. But wherever we settle for the verbal and ideological brutalities of politics rather than reach further in our ongoing struggle to replace brutality with civility and irrationality with reason, we have cause for shame rather than pride.

Many people seem to believe that being a candidate is something that one does only for their own benefit, and, of course, one’s own benefit is generally a consideration, on some level or in some manner. But more often than not, wrapped up into what one perceives to serve their own interests is their commitment to certain ideals, or goals, that serve some public with which they identify (hopefully, but not always, the public as a whole). Politics is a human enterprise, a human endeavor, not fundamentally different from those enterprises and endeavors with which we all are familiar in our own lives: We aspire, we care, we want, we try, we succeed, and we fail.

Sometimes, we do so in competition with one another. If I start a business that sells widgets, then I am in competition with other businesses that also sell widgets. It is not unusual (though neither is it universal or inevitable) to feel some animosity toward my competitors, since their success comes at my expense, and mine at theirs. But we are both just striving to succeed in our chosen endeavors, and the animosity, unless for other reasons as well, is an unnecessary addition of brutality to a shared existence that is already far too brutal.

In politics, more is at stake. We are competing over how we will define ourselves, over who and what we are, over how we will organize our shared existence. And the emotions of those most involved run very high indeed. Some anger may be inevitable, may even be useful, but when some feel glee not only over the victory of their vision for our state and nation, but also over the loss and suffering of others, they contribute to what we should be trying to transcend rather than what we should be trying to augment.

To be sure, sometimes the animosities aren’t ideological, but personal. During my years posting on Colorado Pols, for instance, a few bloggers there decided that my form of argumentation made me a despicable person, and sought every opportunity to shoot any irrelevant barbs within their reach. On three occasions (twice for having knowingly and intentionally posted false factual assertions about me, and once for threatening me both physically and to virtually stalk me) I mentioned that there are legal limits to how they can express their hatred. Now, “Ralphie” (with the help of  the one who both threatened me physically, and promised to stalk me on Pols, who recently posted a highly revisionist reference to that encounter) wants to turn that into yet one more vehicle for his relentless vendetta.

In the wake of the election, I’ve noticed them coming out of the woodwork on Colorado Pols, creating the same group-think reality, piling on as a form of entertainment (which helped inspire the following two posts: The Battle of Good v. Evil, Within & Without, The Battle of Good v. Evil, Part 2). Initially, I felt a far more muted annoyance than usual, the degree of pettiness appearing to me too obvious to be effective. But, to my dismay, others, including some who have been friends, helped reinforce rather than confront the meme, some casually and carelessly.

It is, in part, the expression of a strange cultural attitude, one which, on the one hand, cheers malice, and, on the other, dehuamanizes certain categories of people, including “intellectuals” and “candidates,” two categories to which I have belonged, or have been perceived to belong. That combination of approved malice against approved targets creates ideal designated scapegoats, against whom it is not only acceptable but customary to vent all pent-up aggressions, and to do so as rudely and crudely as you like.

The anger, and sense that there is a specially exempt political zone in which it is acceptable to express it with as much hostility, as little restraint, and as much indifference to what we consider to be basic decency in almost all other realms of life, extends beyond our attitude toward politicians and intellectuals (see The Politics of Anger). But a special sphere of heightened disinhibition is reserved for them, both, I think, justified by some perception that both are attempts to put oneself above others, and so inviting of being taken down a peg.

How strange and contemptuous that we should reserve our most vicious expressions of belligerence for those who have chosen to work on behalf of the public interest in these two ways, either by trying to understand or directly affect our social institutional landscape with the desire to improve it. And how dysfunctional that we should remain so committed to reducing our public debate over how to govern ourselves to a frothing-at-the-mouth hate-fest, one which not only drowns out reason, but seems most hostile to it.

The irony is that “Ralphie” and “MOTR” and many others like them do not direct their rage particularly at their ideological opposites, but rather at anyone who “contaminates” politics by treating it as something more than a fairly shallow exchange of arbitrary opinions. They perceive analysis as hostility and hostility as reason, in one of many complete inversions of reality particular to political discourse.

At the Jefferson County Democratic Party’s election night vigil at the Lakewood Holiday Inn at Hamden and Wadsworth, I sat with fellow candidates and supporters, in what was a very emotional night for us all. We rejoiced at our party’s victories, and mourned our party’s losses. We felt for our friends in office who were not re-elected, who we knew had given so much, with such a sincere desire to serve others, and who at times lost to opponents who, to our minds, represented the insanity of politics. Those of us who knew we could not win joked about the inevitable, and, if anything, found some joy and comfort in watching the culmination of our small slice of the shared story of this election cycle, one which we agreed was really a pleasure to have lived.

I will continue to argue passionately for the policies and perspectives that I believe best serve our long-term collective interests. And I will continue to seek out all people, of all perspectives, who are willing to engage in an ongoing discussion, in a context of mutual goodwill, as fellow human beings trying to do the best we can, regardless of what policies they believe would best serve the public interest. If we occasionally get angry with one another, let’s not enshrine our anger as the defining quality of our relationships. If we disagree, let’s not turn disagreement into justification for implacable hostility. If an olive-branch is offered, take it. If one might be taken, offer it.

If we err in our treatment of others, let’s use it as a reminder to redouble our efforts to do better. If others err, let’s give them every opportunity to find their way back to civility, and accommodate and encourage their efforts to do so. There is never any justification for viciousness and malice. There is never any need to condemn or mistreat any individual for any sincere belief about what best serves the public interest, but there is neither any need to insulate those beliefs from critical scrutiny and blunt challenges. We need to put everything we have on the table, set aside our animosities, strive to cultivate mutual goodwill, and work together as reasonable members of a single society working together to do the best we can.

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  • Oddly, as “Ralphie” (Ralph D’Andrea of Grand Junction) continued the endless expression of his one-sided grudge, on a blog on which I’m not registered and cannot post, he criticized me for discussing it here (“it takes a real man to rip me on a blog where I’m not even registlered”), where he or anyone else at Colorado Pols can register and post if they like (http://coloradopols.com/showComment.do?commentId=384062). It’s hypocrisy on steroids, which I would expect to be as transparent to others as it is to me.

    While I was being honest above about how Ralphie’s and MOTR’s continuing implacable belligerence against someone who cannot respond on that site affects me (annoying and disgusting, but too much more a reflection on them than on me to be hurtful in the intended way), the opportunity it provides for others of similar disposition, and the fact that someone who I had had more respect for would enable and condone such behavior, is more upsetting.

  • Libertarian:

    Why can’t you register and post on ColoradoPols?

  • Libertarian, I’ve confirmed what I suspected from your first post, that you’re “bagzzaf” (whose real name I also know, but whose anonymity I will honor), the one and only poster banned on this site. You were banned for being more determined to flame and focus on explaining why you despise me personally than on making arguments about issues. I also see that you’ve carried that attitude and purpose to Colorado Pols, where you registered and posted one time only for the sole purpose of calling me names and accusing me of hypocrisy for banning you, something that occurred only after several warnings to focus on issues rather than on how “pompous” I am. Fortunately, your post on Colorado Pols makes my justification for banning you pretty clear.

    Interestingly, in the midst of your righteous indignation on your Pols post, you weren’t too righteous to tell a few outright lies, such as that I don’t tolerate dissenting voices here, knowing full well that Uncle Fish has been able to post as many long, very angry and oppositional comments as he likes. Nor did I delete your “last few posts.” Apparently, the strategy of making up facts in service to hatred isn’t limited to your ideological convictions.

    You seem, for some reason (probably a negative one, but for now I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt) to be very eager to be able to post here, so I’m going to give you another chance. Please stay within the guidelines that I’ve laid out: To focus on issues, and to direct your passions to your discussions of issues. The debate on the issues can get heated, and some spill over into borderline pejoratives may be inevitable from time to time when we argue postions passionately, but if you are posting mere strings of pejoratives completely devoid of any other substance or purpose, that is not just spill over; that’s outright flaming. Please don’t do that this time around.

    Judging both from your past behavior on this blog and your recent highly hostile comment under your new screen name on another thread, I am assuming that your above question is not as innocent as you would like it to appear. In any case, it is not relevant to the purpose of this blog. As I already said, you’re welcome to post arguments on matters of policy, or other thoughts that are focused on issues, from any perspective or ideology. This isn’t a “gotchya” site, or a place where attempts to undermine or discredit individuals divorced from reference to their arguments (generally announcing a lack of ability to argue postions) is welcome. There are more than enough places to play those games on the internet and in the blogosphere; if that’s your purpose, go to one of those sites. This is a place for analysis and, if and when pursued, robust debate, focused on the issues.

    But I’ll indulge your question just this once. Pols, a privately owned and arbitrarily governed blog, claimed I had violated their policy against “outing” anonymous posters when I posted identifying information, all provided multiple times on Pols by the poster himself, of a non-anonymous poster named (and who posted as) “BJ Wilson.” Many, including myself, considered it a bizarre and inexplicable act on the part of the anonymous individuals who own and manage Colorado Pols. I have my own views about how and why it happened, which involve a combination of factors, including Pols’ determination to create an impression of infallibility.

    As far as I’m concerned, it’s water under the bridge, and a fortuitous turn of events, since I had long felt that Pols was too shallow, too belligerent, and too committed to reinforcing the illusion that politics is just a bunch of conflicting arbitrary opinions competing in what is little more than a bunch of “horse races.” I had long discussed and contemplated starting (including on Pols) a blog of my own, more in tune with my vision of what a political blog should focus on. That event catalyzed my finally doing so.

    There you go, Libertarian; that was your one (really, yet another) free pass. I’m willing to forgive and forget all of your highly belligerent name calling here, on the Denver Post comment boards, and now, on Colorado Pols. Now, if you want to discuss IDEAS here, you are more than welcome to. You can disagree with me on anything you want, and present arguments on any position you want. Any more attempts at playing “gotchya” (including trying to pursue this further), or continued flaming, or any focus on individuals rather than on the ideas discussed, will result in a permanent resumption of your removal from the site. Fair enough?

  • Libertarian:

    I honestly don’t have any interest whatsoever in “participating” in this forum. I came here to ask UF why he stays. As you, just as you did with me, continually are hostile and insulting to him while simultaneously complaining about the tone he is taking.

    You’re as near as I can tell a rater intelligent individual. Unfortunately, you’re not interested in having an honest and open discussion based on your continued belligerent tone and broad offensive generalizations about any that have differing views from you.

    Yeah, I find those petty traits annoying and not accommodating to a productive conversation. Whatever, it’s your site, and you’re entitled to run it any way you wish. I for one would have enjoyed having a discussion with somebody that has a viewpoint so differing than my own. However, you insisted on personal attacks, offensive stereotypes, and insults. Here’s a small sampling of how you describe libertarians:
    ”People whose ideology is inherently absurd.”
    ”their position is ultimately absurd ..”
    ”no sane person can argue is in our collective interest”
    ”by an alchemy of irrationality to convince itself that that makes sense.”
    ”Why should anyone embrace an agenda seeking, stupidly, the lose-lose outcome of absolute conflict”**
    ”Extreme individualists are literally “enemies of society”.”

    Even when I pointed out that this was dominating your message, you chose to reply with only more condescension and insults. Yeah, it devolved from there, predictably. Really, that was fine with me, I can sling mud as well, if that’s the game you want to play. Unfortunately, you insist that this site remain a place where only YOU can be offensive.

    In my final post on the individualism thread: http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=559#comments you not only deleted one of my posts, you actually took only a SELECT portion and commented on only that portion.

    If you want to delete a post, delete it, if you want to ban somebody, ban them. But it’s poor form to selectively post what they have to say and delete the rest, AND THEN ban them so they have no way to rebut what you’ve taken out of context or deleted.

    Why do you spend so much time on this site if you are going to insult and expel those who would make it interesting, those who disagree with you. That’s the big irony, that your front page advertises the site as a confluence of diverse ideas. But you don’t treat all viewpoints equally. I present that you’re bound to end up with a very in-depth and thoughtful blog, that very few people ever visit or participate in.

    Life’s way too short to waste time banging one’s head against a brick wall, never getting anywhere and doing it all only to be insulted.

    No, based on my treatment by you on this site, I don’t like you. I think you’re insecure and petty; I was glad to see you lost the election. From the tone of the posts on coloradoPols, it’s pretty clear I’m not alone in that assessment. Having said that, I wish you no ill will and truly hope that you can open your mind to the slight possibility that other viewpoints are acceptable and relevant. Hopefully you can make this site successful, I mean that. But for me, short of seeing a vast change in tone and tolerance, I just got better things to do than get insulted somewhere where I can’t retaliate with insults of my own.

    Adios

  • First, I don’t selectively delete anything. As I told you at the time, two of your posts had been “pending” for some reason (no intervention of mine) rather than posted, shortly before you posted the one that finally got you banned. Though I had asked you before that happened if you wanted the pending ones posted, and intended to post them, that was no longer appropriate once I banned you. The only post I ever deleted of yours was the one that got you banned. The two pending ones are still there, unpublished but “pending,” I believe.

    Second, all of the quotes of mine you cited are in reference to public policy positions. While you may find them offensive, they are not insults divorced from a discussion of the issues that engendered the disfavorable comments, but rather are in direct reference to the positions held on those issues. For some reason, you’re unable to understand that distinction.

    They also all either precede, follow, or are embedded in comprehensive arguments, referencing evidence, mobilizing reason, and supporting the conclusions so forcefully stated.

    Third, you’re using the fact that I allow a conservative with whom I passionately disagree to post whatever he wants, and to which I respond on point and in depth, as evidence that I’m not interested in dialogue, while you come onto my blog for no reason other than to talk about what a despicable person I am, as evidence that you are interested in dialogue? (Where, may I ask, is the policy argument in your above post?).

    Despite the fact that I continue to offer you new opportunities to discuss actual issues, you continue to post again on the same strictly personal theme, with the same degree of vitriol, a habit you began in your very first response to a post of mine on the Denver Post comment board, and which you brought here from your first to your last post here. Thanks for demonstrating your commitment to “rational dialogue.” It’s an all-too familiar one, unfortunately, and almost always couched in precisely this same topsy-turvy way.

    As I recall (and as is documented on this blog), when you first criticized me, in the same highly inflammatory language that you’re now using, I said (paraphrasing) “you have a point. I can certainly do better at trying not to insult the person while criticizing their positions.” But, just as your choice is to use outright untruths both here and on Colorado Pols to advance your oh-so-relevant argument about what a despicable person I am, your choice is to ignore my repeated invitation to discuss issues, and my offering of yet another chance to do so despite your repeated abuse of all of the opportunities I’ve already given you, to yet again post a diatribe that makes no reference whatsoever to any issue of public interest, but only prosecutes the theme of how much you dislike me personally.

    As for the tone you claim I set: You came onto this site, from the Denver Post message board, posting nothing other than belligerent complaints about me personally from the get-go. I responded with harsh criticisms of your political ideology and of those who adhere to it, harsh criticism made only more justified by your insistent combination of irrationality, anger, and obsession.

    Those who set a tone of cordiality with me, regardless of their perspective, receive the same in kind, always, though I may vigorously argue against their perspective. Though they are few and far between, those people who hold your ideology but profess goodwill and make an honest effort have always received high praise from me, and I continue to exchange cordial notes with several of them. I had such an interaction just yesterday on Facebook, in which I ended by thanking and complementing the Tea Party adherent who had chosen to engage in civil discourse rather than the favored variety you adhere to.

    As for Pols, during the four or five “Posters of the months” competitions that occurred while I was posting regularly, I was winner or runner-up in all of them. You have observed two or three self-selected voices in a given instance, and declared them representative. Another tribute to your powers of reason.

    If, as I am gathering is the case, you are adamant in your need to carry on this discussion about me as an individual, at least move it to email. My whole point about the front page comments that you keep citing is that I don’t want the blog to degenerate into just another flame-fest. Be as harsh as you want while actually discussing issues, but at least limit it to the context of actually discussing issues.

    Also, let me be clear: Neither do I want this blog to degenerate into a Colorado Pols-style reinforcement of the myth that all ideas are equal. They aren’t. There is no final arbiter as to which ideas are better reasoned and better supported by evidence (though universities do create some semblance of one, in peer-reviewed journals), but vigorous debate that demands argumentation is the means by which each side can appeal to those who wish to subject our ideas to the crucible of reason and evidence. This blog is as dedicated to that ideal as it is to civility.

    You may not like my choice of language when I criticize ideas that are presented as mere assertions, but such presentations are almost as unwelcome here as the strings of pejoratives you’ve reverted to in almost all of your posts so far. Please, present arguments, that cite evidence, and that defend a point. And make the point one that is of public interest. And then deal with the fact that it will be vigorously, at times passionately, debated.

    Now, do you want to accept the invitation that you keep saying I refuse to extend (though that you, in fact, refuse to accept) to debate matters of public interest, from any perspective you like? It’s really entirely up to you.

    (Note to readers: Libertarian continued to post on the same theme [me], despite my repeated emphasis that that is not what the blog is about, my repeated assurance that he’s welcome to post on any topic of public interest [which is what the blog is about], and my repeated appeals that he abandon his obsession with me as the exclusive topic of his continuing posts. Somehow, he finds confirmation in the fact that by doggedly insisting on disregarding that one request he can provoke me to eventually block his account and delete the continuing offending posts. Here’s what it confirms, Libertarian: You are not welcome to keep ignoring my polite and very patient requests that you stop posting endlessly and exclusively on why you don’t like one individual. Any individual. No one cares.)

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