Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Sun 7 Nov 04 10:35
Let me try to take some of the questions one by one. Kathy: I'm not sure we need to draw the parallel with Hitler to fully understand the dangers of the Bush Administration. On the level of rhetorical or persuasive force, I think we put our potential audience off by making the comparison. We give them an easy out. But I'll say this, even moderate-to-conservative types who are somewhat alarmed by Bush are bringing such comparisons up in conversations with me. Also, Hitler's rise was specific to a particular historical context. We could address some of those features and miss what we have to fix today. Stephanie: I had an eerie feeling before the election that 2004 had something in common with 1972 besides an increase in voting by 18- to 29-year olds. That is that a significant majority of Americans disliked Nixon, knew he was corrupt, knew he was taking the country in the wrong direction. They just weren't going to give it up at the request of Democrats. So they elected Nixon, and, with Goldwater's help, impeached him themselves. I think we're in much the same situation with Bush. Trouble is, Republicans control the whole front, and the extremists sense their City on the Hill is just over the next rise. They're going to put up with the things they don't like about Bush. And we don't even have the votes to begin an investigation. Jack: I think what David said is important. Like you, I'm also troubled by voting irregularities and the possibility that Bush's victory is suspect. We need a much more transparent process. That has to be part of the political reform we're exploring and advocating. But we also have to address the much more profound issues at hand. To use David's image, we could persuade Americans to look up and recognize the value of the sky, only to watch it fall upon them. Ted: Right again. I'd encourage everyone to examine in detail the election breakdowns and analyses -- demographic, geographic, ideological -- available to us. Somebody out there is going to spot a trend, a possibility, a reason for encouragement. We've never before had the opportunity for so many minds to look at so much information. Let's take advantage of it.
from CHARLOTTE TUCKER (tnf) Sun 7 Nov 04 11:29
Charlotte Tucker writes: > Voters in Seattle voted 82% for Kerry, 4 out of 5. Why are they so better > informed than the rest of the nation? Or why so much more enlighened?
Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Sun 7 Nov 04 11:41
Maybe because that's where Gary Snyder taught Jack Kerouc that you can't fall down a mountain? Or maybe we should all get a volcano. It's really that there's a higher concentration there of the kind of people (a little better educated etc.) that tend to be progressive. The effect's exagerrated because they are there with one another, talking to one another, listening to one another. We see the same thing in every blue pool and puddle across the country.
Ted (nukem777) Sun 7 Nov 04 13:18
You talk about the "complete reduction of politics to marketing" and the deceptiveness of political advertising as it co-opts the every day notions of freedom and patriotism making it difficult to resist the 'message'. A great example of this are the flags and ribbons on so many automobiles these days. It is brilliant political manipulation (credit where credit is due). It wraps up the war on terrorism and Iraq in the flag of patriotism. 'Freedom isn't free' and 'Support our Troops' effectively stifle any dialog. Like the Czech grocer who took down his sign "Workers of the world Unite", it would be good if people quietly took these signs off their automobiles while we as a nation ponder what freedom and patriotism really mean. We should declare a national moratorium while we consider what it really means to be a part of the polis.
Vote or whine (divinea) Sun 7 Nov 04 13:38
I think that oversimplifies the matter, although I take your point. It's all interpretation, isn't it? I'm absolutely antiwar, but at the same time I have loved ones who have served and are serving in Iraq. Am I being manipulated if I believe we do need to support the troops we've sent? When I say support, I mean equip them properly, feed them properly, don't send them into impossible situations and get them killed, bring them all home, and, in the meantime, let them call home once in a while.
Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Sun 7 Nov 04 13:53
I almost used yellow ribbons while talking earlier about the green grocer and his sign. The grocer is looking for invisibility while the flag-decaled car owner is looking for recognition from the patriotic collective. The latter is projecting his will onto the state. The former is just demoralized and forgetful. We do need to think hard about these small symbolic performances. And no, we have to care about the lives and well-being of our troops. A simple way of meeting the concerns of both Ted and the questioner above would be the invention of new gestures of support, new symbols.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 7 Nov 04 14:06
Here in Idaho, we were told we should get one of those yellow ribbons *especially* if we had Kerry stickers on the car, to show that Kerry supporters were supportive of the troops as well.
Drew Trott (druid) Sun 7 Nov 04 14:59
I worry about me-tooism. Maybe progressives need a peace symbol for the 21st Century -- perhaps a peace symbol combined with a yellow ribbon? Throw in the scales of justice, somehow, and a handclasp. It seems to me, though, that we're all kept off balance by the sheer volume of the lies that surround us. It starts with commercial advertising and then spreads into political advertising, subjects on which you make some really troubling observations. Perhaps the most disturbing of them, to me, was that advertising can produce the desired subject reaction even in people with a high level of "visual literacy," i.e., appreciation of the techniques of manipulation. This suggests that merely educating people will not overcome the hazards of advertising, which include actually "rewriting our pasts." (You cite a study in which subjects were shown a fake ad for Disneyland that left 16 percent of them convinced they themselves had shaken Bugs Bunny's hand at Disneyland as children -- though Bugs Bunny is not a Disney character, and would never have been seen at Disneyland.) You raise the possibility that new clinical evidence about the corrosive effects of political advertising might persuade courts to reexamine the degree of First Amendment protection afforded to such advertising. But short of that, are there other things people can do, individually or collectively, to reduce the power of advertising?
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 7 Nov 04 16:40
In the members only part of the Well, another person who lives in the red states had a very thoughtful posting about how important conformity is there, and how simply being a nonconformist is an affront to people. Consequently, having some sort of similar-but-different ribbon symbol probably wouldn't work here. (I do have a Subaru Outback, the Official Car of the Idaho Democrats, but also the soccer mom car here; it gets good gas mileage and also has all wheel drive.) I've seen cars with at least three different kinds of ribbon magnets. Incidentally, my first one disappeared a few days after I put it on. I'm not sure whether it was stolen or what.
Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Sun 7 Nov 04 19:46
Sharon, I haven't read that post about conformity, but your comment raises a question. And I don't think it's such a small question. Let's say we're going to make a "gesture of freedom," whatever it may be. Can it do its work and conform to dominant interests at the same time? I don't think so. So were I in Idaho, I might not worry so much about the immediate persuasive power of a new gesture. Such a symbolic gesture is supposed to be subversive, not persuasive like an argument. So the gesture might be just a slight alteration in the dominant habit, say, a camouflage ribbon rather than a yellow one. If questioned, one might answer, "We're displaying this to remind others that our troops need more equipment than they are receiving from the government." Then let it go at that. I don't want to get hung up in a discussion about different colored ribbons, though, because you raise an issue that to some may seem less important than it is. So I'd like to know what you and others think. To what extent are we to engage in actions that conceal more than they reveal about our beliefs in order to persuade? If we conceal too much, are we failing to live within the truth? These are different questions than wondering whether we should alienate others just to make a point, or whether we should simply capitulate to the dominant symbol makers. These are the extremes of possible answers. I'm not loading up questions to make a further point. I think it's important to talk about, because so many of our political actions or possible actions run into the difficulty.
Ari Davidow (ari) Sun 7 Nov 04 20:25
Hi, Just checking in without any questions yet - I had the book read and stickers all scattered through it, but sure enough, another family member snagged the book and is in the middle of reading it. That hasn't happened since I brought Richard Clarke's book home months ago.
Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Sun 7 Nov 04 20:39
Ari, it's okay if some families buy two, three, or even more books. Welcome.
Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Sun 7 Nov 04 21:28
In answer to Drew's question about reducing the power of advertising, at least in the political sphere, I think there is a way to diminish that power short of court challenges or legislative reform. There are studies that indicate that a very high percentage of our information about candidates or issues comes from paid advertising. Some studies of non-presidential campaigns (the press plays a little bigger role in national elections) say it could be as much as 70 to 80 percent. One way to reduce that percentage is simply to go get information from other sources, and to give information to other people. Restoring a public to the public sphere is critical. We've made a start, and as we've discussed, the internet is bringing people together in new ways and for many making much more critical information available. Sooner or later, though, we're going to have to address this issue head-on. I've been talking about this quite a bit on my travels throughout the country, and I am always struck by the fact that many people shrug it off. All of us, myself included (even though I know better and have written about it), tend to think it's only the less sophisticated who are being manipulated by advertising. But that's not the case. Follow the money. Another reaction is, well, everyone does it, and somebody loses, so the loser's manipulations were overcome by the electorate. What's the problem? As I say, systems are adept at perpetuating themselves. If we have to advertise to get the message to the public that advertising is destroying the public sphere, we're just reinforcing the power of a system we're trying to dismantle. I'm convinced that even with the U.S. Supreme Court's extreme privileging of political speech (generally a good, even great thing), if it was understood that in many ways television advertising is irresistible, that it bears no resemblance to human speech, to writing, or to the spoken word, the Court might consider an exception.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 7 Nov 04 21:30
>To what extent are we to engage in actions that conceal more than >they reveal about our beliefs in order to persuade? Well, that's an interesting question. I suppose my doorknocking could have consisted of, "Hi! I'm a divorced bisexual pagan Catholic former drug user from San Francisco who's committed premarital sex and adultery and had an abortion, and I'm not all that thrilled with Kerry but he's the candidate, and we're asking for your vote!" Think it would work?
Uncle Jax (jax) Sun 7 Nov 04 21:42
To which San Fran door-knockee's proper reply is, "Get in line, lady!"
Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Sun 7 Nov 04 22:05
No. But it made me chuckle. I think I know you. Perfect self-transparency is not required.
Drew Trott (druid) Sun 7 Nov 04 23:36
Y'know, I think that approach *would* work with some people. And I don't think it would have hurt the candidate much. (Especially since it includes a statement of your lukewarmness toward him, leaving room for the voter to disapprove of you and still approve of the candidate.) I'm not sure about Idaho, but I know there used to be a streak of thinking in Montana that honored the maverick, if s/he was honest about it. I don't want to sidetrack the discussion on whether that streak is still there, but my own sense of human culture is that memes can persist for a long, long time after they go dormant. The possibility is always there that they might be reawakened with the right stimulus.
Ari Davidow (ari) Mon 8 Nov 04 05:26
>buying more than one copy Only if we give them away. There are books in stacks all over the house. We argue more about where to put new bookcases than about politics. While I find the opportunity to retrieve the book and my notes, let me move on to something that I think I'm hearing from the discussion so far. First, Glenn, you said that people shouldn't (and won't) join churches just to counteract the right. That makes perfect sense, but it also ignores the fact that many places of worship (a synagogue, in my case) are quite happy to the left. In fact, my congregation is part of something called the "Greater Boston Interfaith Organization," a gathering of (mostly) places of worship - Jewish, Muslim, Christian - maybe be some Hindus or Buddhists - and at least one secular organization, the Workmen's Circle, all focused on social change. Truth is that for those people who worship regularly, those places of worship are the perfect gathering places, and form one center of people's lives. (The days when they are =the= center of people's lives is over for all but the fundamentalists, I think.) I don't think that discussion groups, bowling leagues, or whatever fill anywhere near the same need. I do wonder if places like the WELL, where people gather regularly specifically to talk and (for many) to engage ideas, might be the next best thing. Does the online moveon.org fit that category? Does it harness discussion, or do most people know it as I know it - a place to make campaign contributions and a source of voluminous e-mail? If not online gathering places, what, besides houses of worship, draws in a large, relatively consistent group of people who know each other and engage each other, regularly?
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Mon 8 Nov 04 05:39
#41: uh oh. Know me from where? #42: that may be. I live in a very Republican section of Idaho, which is itself a very Republican state (1st or 3rd, depending on what guide you use), and I've always been out about being a Democrat, and my neighbors seem to think it's sort of cute. I'm their pet Democrat. And goodness knows there's a lot of, um, mavericks here in town. Actually, the thing I've done here that's most shocked people is agreeing with the Ninth Circuit about 'under God.'
Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Mon 8 Nov 04 07:01
#43 > what, besides houses of worship, draws in a large, relatively consistent group of people who know each other and engage each other, regularly? Nothing, Ari, I couldn't agree more. My comment about the unlikelihood of people joining a church as nothing but a tactical political move should be taken for just the limited observation that it is. We haven't yet addressed the role of spiritual practice in the pursuit of freedom and social justice, so I was just making a small point in answer to a question. Without jumping fully into the matter of politics and religion just yet, there's no better place to address issues of how we're all supposed to live together than churches, synagogues, mosques, sanghas or meditation halls. First, many people attend services of one sort or another, sometimes several times a week. Second, trust is important in giving people the confidence to speak up on political matters, and trust among group members is usually high in such settings. Then there's the obvious fact that the core messages of most spiritual paths involve the pursuit of human freedom and social justice (though those messages have been distorted beyond recognition many times). Online gathering places perform similar roles, though there are significant differences of course. Also, MoveOn and other groups, though not organized around forums, do get people together in the real world, through meet-ups and other events. Here in Austin, many of these groups are called together just once or twice and then begin an autonomous life of their own. I spoke to a group last night that's trying to morph into a statewide progressive organization. Their first meeting was prompted by a single email and a static web site. They meet with one another regularly over meals (more often, over beers). And they don't just meet and talk to one another. They are active.
Ted (nukem777) Mon 8 Nov 04 08:19
Thinking of symbols, maybe a magnetic car sticker of the Liberty Bell with the tag "Don't let it crack" or some other more positive tag line.
Ted (nukem777) Mon 8 Nov 04 08:21
This might be a good place to talk about the spiritual nature of freedom. Would you expand upon that a bit?
from CHARLOTTE TUCKER (tnf) Mon 8 Nov 04 09:11
Charlotte Tucker writes: We do need a symbol to wear or display . I'm proud to be a Democrat and a progressive. And lets let people know we will include everyone. We stand for peace and freedom. The Republicans do not really have the best interests of the masses at heart. Charlotte Tucker
from JSvj (tnf) Mon 8 Nov 04 09:12
"JSvj" writes: Isn't the real divide between the informed and the uninformed? Assuming of course that people are generally 'good' and will do the right thing given, at least, challenging and compelling evidence? There are the informed, the misinformed and the willfully ignorant. If you excuse the arrogant aspect of assuming that I am informed, the corporate media allows only two of the three as a possibility. So, one needs to end run no only the media but the voting machines, the ultimate determinant. Now if you want to really address what went wrong you will have to take into account the attitude expressed in this contribution headlined on Buzzflash. Unusual because Buzzflash is a very pro Kerry site, one which only very rarely criticizes Israel and I think is, whether they know it or not, a left gatekeeper site. In this contributor editorial I see some fire and hey, even a poke at Kerry. http://www.buzzflash.com/contributors/04/11/con04489.html You might want to start thinking about keeping the Democrats you have before you analyze how to bring in more into what many are seeing as a hopelessly compromised system.
from ThatsPaint (tnf) Mon 8 Nov 04 09:13
ThatsPaint writes: What is being done, if anything, about the fact that some electronic voting machines were rigged? For instance, in suburban Columbus, Ohio, in Franklin county, in a Gahanna precint showing only 638 cast ballots, Kerry counted 260 votes to Bush's 4258. According to John McCarthy, AP, who wrotte the article for AOL News, the error was corrected. But how many more went undetected? And who is talking about it?
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