Wednesday, October 22, 2008

bachmann's overdrive

One of the more disappointing characters to emerge as a national figure in the 2008 presidential campaign is this woman, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (recent news, website, wikipedia).

On a personal note, I'm troubled by a concern that my dislike of this woman may be in part a tacit sexism. I can't stand her smile. Just like Sarah Palin's nails-on-chalkboard voice, whenever I see this woman and her plastic smile on TV my esophagus burns a little with bile. And so I ask myself, are there men to whom I react similarly, or is this sexism? In other words, do I hold persons like Bachmann and Palin to the same standard as I do men, or is there some deeply engrained cultural bias at work here?

Well, whether I'm sexist or not seems slightly less important than Bachmann recently associating "liberal" with "anti-American" and her call for media inquiry into which members of congress hold "anti-American" views.

(This is my first embedded youtube clip, by the way. Are you proud of me?)


(I'm no great Chris Matthews fan, but I loved how he just let her hang herself, which she seemed all too eager to do.)

So let me get this straight, if I don't like something my country is doing or has come to stand for then I am anti-American? McCarthy would be proud of this woman. He also saw no value in dissent. What is it that breeds this kind of absurd rhetoric?--the rhetoric of the unreasonable, as I've taken to calling it. (Note: McCarthy was from Wisconsin, Bachmann from Minnesota. Does that mean anything?)

I'll try to put as objective a hat on as possible and say that I'm pretty sure this woman is mildly insane. (Though, now that I think of it, she's probably not saying anything half as absurd as one might hear daily from the likes of Limbaugh and Hannity--people who I'm pretty sure are more than just mildly insane. Hey, maybe I'm not sexist afterall!)


KanyonKris said...

I postulate that anyone way out on the fringe, far from the center, are insane (at some level) if they really believe their extreme views. The non-insane extreme are even worse - they know what they're preaching is bunk but they're doing it for personal gain (power, money, etc.). Am I wrong?

goat said...

As to your first point, I suppose that may be true, but...

I also agree with the critique of folks like Freud and Fromm who argued that in fact society is sick, and that discomfort with the status quo is in fact evidence of psychological health (and that comfort with the status quo--"society"--would indicate the opposite).

Another way to say this, perhaps, is to say that John the Baptist is my favorite Biblical character. Here's a dude (from what little we're told) who--in the Old Testament prophetic tradition--completely removed himself from civil society. In the eyes of "good" society, he was an outcast, a crazy man, a complete weirdo. But he was awesome.

In other words, it may be that in the extreme we find the arguments that actually make the most sense. But the extreme, the fringe, is a wide, wide space. Most of it crazy, but certainly not all.

As to the second point, I've often wondered if personalities like Rush Limbaugh and the like really believe what they're preaching or if they honestly see themselves as entertainers. It's a great marketing case, frankly. Create a demand for a product that people didn't know they wanted until they got it...then they can't get enough.

Did you know that Jerry Springer was a successful, up-and-coming politician before falling in a blaze of glory over some kind of prostitution scandal? From what he has become, as an entertainer, you would never know that this was (and, it seems from recent fund-raising appearances, still is) an intelligent, articulate, insightful political mind.

KanyonKris said...

I made a hasty generalization and almost by definition that's not going to hold up, as your rebuttal and example demonstrate. The old saying, "don't throw the baby out with the bath water", comes to mind.

I try to be open to all points of view as there is often something to be learned. But we only have so much time to devote to exploring the myriad points of view so judgment is prudent. I find I get turned off if those espousing a point of view, platform, action, change, etc. are unwilling to consider other perspectives - this is where the insanity starts, in my opinion.

Very few things in this world are absolute. Most are compromises, often imperfect but workable. Those who cling to all or nothing don't usually get too far. However, as you noted, sometimes they're right. History is replete with bold people who clung to unpopular truths, and most were only vindicated posthumously. So if I consider myself wise I better be open minded and not one of the crowd shouting "burn the witch!". (Sorry, couldn't resist that homage to Monty Python.)

In the case of rabble rousers like Rush Limbaugh (far right, left, whatever), I think they are mostly an act with maybe a small part of real belief. My reasoning: they seem too smart to really believe the outlandish things they say. I think they've sold out. But perhaps articulate people can also be insane. Or maybe I'm just cynical.

Jerry Springer is an interesting case. Yes, I knew he was a politician before becoming a freak show host, which made it all the more puzzling. Gifts squandered or just a guy seizing an opportunity to make a buck? In this age of rampant moral relativism, I'm sure opinions of Jerry's career path range all over the map. But I can't help wonder if Jerry died a little inside with each Spring Show.

KanyonKris said...

On another topic, I've been on a reading kick and "Confederacy of Dunces" is on my list and I hope to get to it next month. I just finished "The Road" which is bleak but the writing is so good I couldn't put it down.

Elise said...

Just out of curiosity, is there a reason that Glenn Beck does not get thrown in with Limbaugh and Hannity?

goat said...

I don't know Glenn Beck, except by reputation. Which is to say I've never seen/heard his show. (I've had the misfortune of listening to both Limbaugh & Hannity.) Though I do remember some hubbub about Beck's fantasy to kill someone. (Was it Michael Moore?) So, I suppose that probably qualifies him as nuts.

I think we can safely conclude that people honestly engaged in reasonable public discourse don't fantasize about killing those who share an opposing political viewpoint.