Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Starving The Beast

It is a column tailor-made for the blogosphere. Dana Millbank's piece in today's Washington Post is a parody of blog writing, an example in "Blog Writing 101 - How To Be Outraged, Lesson 4: Sarcasm and Superiority":
After preaching for weeks about the urgency of Washington taking action to create jobs, lawmakers decided to put their mammon where their mouths are. And so on Tuesday evening they descended from the mountaintop and came forth to anoint a jobs bill of biblical proportions:

“H.Con.Res 13 — Reaffirming ‘In God We Trust’ as the official motto of the United States.”

The grace of this legislation, taken up on the House floor, was not immediately revealed to all. “In God We Trust” has been the nation’s official motto for 55 years, engraved on the currency and public buildings. There is no emerging movement to change that. But House Republicans chose to look beyond the absence of immediate threats and instead protect the motto against yet-unimagined threats in the future.
It's all right there. The smug superiority, the condescending tone, the sarcastic aside that our national motto, whatever its merits or demerits, is not a fit topic for symbolic legislating in these perilous times.

What should come as no surprise to anyone who has spent more than a day or so perusing the internet's political corners is that less than a few hours after posting, the column already has over 300 comments. SageThrasher wrote:
This piety posing could have come straight out of Machiavelli, see: "How to keep the rabble quiet: act holy." A motto that actually confirms something about American values is "E pluribus unum," which worked just fine until 1956. It certainly inspires higher ideals than the Talibanesque nod to passive fatalism and religious supremacy over secular politics implied by "In God We Trust." It also hints at genuine cooperation as necessary to succeed--something else worth thinking about.
andrew23boyle wrote:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"

It doesn't say "A religion". It says "religion" in general. It is no better to officially endorse a number of "religions" than it is to endorse only one.

The phrase "In God We Trust" does just that because it endorse and lends official validation to any number of philosophies or ideologies that believe in a "god" while excluding others that do not. Since it is not the Republic's business to declare for this or that "religion" , the Republic has no business making such declarations.

Furthermore, Congress has MUCH better things to do with its time.

This is why I can never call myself a Republican. They talk a good game about personal liberties but then turn around and try to use the state to force their religion on everyone else. We need a "Mind you own business party". The radical wing can be the "Mind your own g-dd-amn business!" party.
So, from a nonsensical bit about a meaningless resolution come forth the frothing masses to denounce an overt danger to our secular Constitution and multicultural, multireligious society. While I doubt the commenters really get too worked up about it all, even taking the time necessary to think through such sentences, reaching such conclusions, seems like far more work than the event itself deserves. Yet, it serves its purpose of feeding the beast.

Yesterday, a story broke on TPM that Ann Coulter, who manages to eliminate any sexiness her image might dredge up the moment her mouth opens, said something that sounds pretty racist. I'll be perfectly honest. I neither know nor care whether Coulter is a bigot. By and large, Coulter wants only one thing - attention. Stuff like this is designed to drag out even the most casual reader of the day's events. We can all feel better about ourselves that we don't associate ourselves with someone whose public persona is, to say the least, horrible.

Then there's the latest wankfest at Dan Trabue's blog. No disrespect to Dan, who seems like a really nice guy, thoughtful, tentative. Sadly, Dan feeds the trolls, so they keep coming back. A modest observation that there are links between Hebrew prophetic announcements regarding the LORD's justice and the OWS protests becomes yet another 100+-comment wankathon. Instead of telling folks like Doug and Art that his observations are just that, they are entitled to their views, but please go away and stop bothering me, Dan still believes, long after such behavior should have been as discredited as negotiating with Republicans on taxes, it is possible to have a discussion with them.

They aren't interested in discussion. By and large, they demonstrate little understanding of the topics involved. They get off on pissing off folks by saying outrageous things. Like Coulter. Like House Republicans. Not to say that there are not some among House Republicans who believe legislative action reaffirming our national motto is a good thing. They probably do. The reason the leadership allowed it come up and take up time on the floor is simple - it is a slab of meat to the lions, some bread and circuses for the masses. Meaningless in any substantive way, it is a political gesture of the most transparent, crass sort. Rather than spend 800 words in the precious op-ed space of one of the nation's leading newspapers, Millbank might have spent 800 words on what happened to former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine Mutual Fund, or the obvious anti-democratic sentiment among the leaders of the EU as they shout in rage over the Greeks determination to vote on the latest round of austerity.

As you may have noticed, I've been mailing it in with the whole music-thingy. Bored bored bored would best describe my feeling about that. Rather than be bored, I gave it up, which is fine with me. All the same, I'm not going to sit around here and feed the beast of internet nonsense, showing how more outraged I can be than the next person over meaningless drivel. Spending even a few minutes showing the world how much smarter I am than everyone else does little more than demonstrate I have way too much time on my hands.

So, I'm not gonna feed the beast. Observing the various rituals of the political internet, I believe that was once a promising venture in new ways of doing national dialogue has become, and been for a while, a ritualized dance rather than a serious attempt at informing or persuading anyone. Far better to be constructive in one's pursuits than end up being the liberal version of Ann Coulter - saying stuff just to get attention.

Virtual Tin Cup

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