In a Mirror, Darkly: Caricature and Condescension

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I applaud Greg, Rich, Tom, John R., and any other left of center readers that come here to FA- it doesn’t bother me if they’re here trolling or engaging in honest debate; whether they’re pushing their political agenda without a desire to listen and understand the perspective and perception of those on the other side of the aisle; or if they are here to genuinely engage in dialogue and civilly break lances in an exchange of ideas.

When commenting at HuffPo, NYTimes, Daily Kos, and any number of other liberal sites where I can leave behind my droppings, I often encounter low information voters from the liberal spectrum and rabid partisans who conveniently offer such predictable tropes as: “That’s what happens when you get your information from Faux. Try reading a real news source” (forget the fact that I am on a liberal newsrag commenting on a liberal article I just read; or that I just provided a link to my source of information that is anything but Fox). “Try reading a book”. “Read history!” “Quit listening to Rush!” (My total amount of listening to Rush might amount to 2 minutes worth of soundclips). I’m automatically labeled a teabagger even though I’ve never identified as a member of any Tea Party movement (a number of organizations have cropped up incorporating the name, with varying agendas). Caricaturized with so many predictable talking points and anti-conservative memes applied. I have no doubt FA’s liberal visitors have received their fair share of derision and dismissive mockery to their positions by those on my side of the political aisle. I bear witness to it. I see elsewhere when my allies can be just as nasty and vitriolic; just as condescending as those on the left who lack the self-awareness to see that they are the very thing that they accuse those on the right of being.

The night of the 1st Republican debate for 2016, I came home and clicked onto FB. I saw a friend who had posted to his wall a thread mocking the debate, comparing it to an SNL skit. Friends of his (some mutual) chimed in their amen chorus approval. An echo chamber of liberal smugness, oversaturated with an affliction of superiority complex.

Yes, conservatives must be women-hating, bible-thumping, gun-toting, narrow-minded, anti-science, anti-gay, racist, rich, war-mongering, xenophobic, family-values hypocrites. I apparently was an anomaly to my liberal friends and not your typical, stereotypical conservative they only know in caricature.

Because conservatives are generally opposed to abortion, they must hate women.

Because they perceive that our cultural history and identity is rooted in 90% Christian tradition and lament its eradication and intolerance for public expression for the last few decades, they must not believe in having a secular government but advocate for a theocracy.

Because they are skeptical of global warming alarmism, they are anti-science.

Because they believe in exercising a muscular foreign policy influence, they are war-mongering interventionists. (Forget for a moment the Ron Paul-wing of the libertarian-side of the Party).

Because they don’t believe in redefining the institution of marriage, they are hateful homophobes.

Because they think the government is doing too much, they are anti-government.

Because they are opposed to a number of welfare legislation, they must be against the poor and non-charitable.

Because they don’t rail against income inequality, conservatives only shill for rich corporations.

Because they want to get illegal immigration under control, they are anti-immigrant and racist.

Because they perceive the dangers and threat of radical Islam, they are Islamophobic and scaremongering.

And it goes on and on. So much time is wasted demonizing and dismissing the other side without bothering to listen to each individual on the merits of his own arguments. We end up setting up and shooting down strawmen, ascribing positions that the person we’re arguing with never stated; we attack the messenger/news source rather than addressing the actual contents. It’s a form of intellectual laziness and incuriosity; a smug belief that we already know what the other side thinks and will say.

Of course, there are some of us who do live up to the caricature- you know who you are! 😉

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Gerard Alexander, in an opinion piece in the NYTimes, writes an article that perfectly encapsulates everything I found wrong and detestable about Jon Stewart. While my FB friends post their laments and love affair of Jon Stewart’s departure, I post the following to my own wall:

Many liberals, but not conservatives, believe there is an important asymmetry in American politics. These liberals believe that people on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum are fundamentally different. Specifically, they believe that liberals are much more open to change than conservatives, more tolerant of differences, more motivated by the public good and, maybe most of all, smarter and better informed.

The evidence for these beliefs is not good. Liberals turn out to be just as prone to their own forms of intolerance, ignorance and bias. But the beliefs are comforting to many. They give their bearers a sense of intellectual and even moral superiority. And they affect behavior. They inform the condescension and self-righteousness with which liberals often treat conservatives. They explain why many liberals have greeted Tea Partiers and other grass-roots conservatives with outsize alarm. They explain why liberals fixate on figures such as Sarah Palin and Todd Akin, who represent the worst that many liberals are prepared to see in conservatives. These liberals often end up sounding like Jon Lovitz, on “Saturday Night Live,” impersonating Michael Dukakis in 1988, gesturing toward the Republican and saying “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy!” This sense of superiority is hardly the only cause of our polarized public discourse, but it sure doesn’t help.

And Mr. Stewart, who signed off from “The Daily Show” on Thursday, was more qualified than anybody to puncture this particular pretension. He trained his liberal-leaning audience to mock hypocrisy, incoherence and stupidity, and could have nudged them to see the planks in their own eyes, too. Instead, he cultivated their intellectual smugness by personifying it.

I don’t mean the know-it-all persona he adopted on the air. That’s normal for a host. If anything, he was unusually self-deprecating for his line of work. And I don’t mean that Mr. Stewart thought all progressives were perfect. When some self-styled smart liberals didn’t vaccinate their children, he cracked: “They’re not ignorant. They practice a mindful stupidity.” But there was no doubt where he tilted politically. Conservatives were his main target when George W. Bush was president, and also when Barack Obama took office.

His claims to be objective fell flat. For instance, Mr. Stewart denied being in President Obama’s corner by re-airing a clip in which he had made fun of the Obamacare website’s rollout, as if that was the same as questioning Obamacare itself. That was par for Mr. Stewart’s course, mocking liberals’ tactics and implementation but not their underlying assumptions or ideas.

He could have made the liberals in his audience more open to dialogue across the great left/right divide by asking them to examine themselves more carefully and to admit that both ideological camps contain fools. Instead, he was a cultural entrepreneur who provided those viewers with the validation they wanted.

~~~

After all those years, the comedian turned liberal standard-bearer still didn’t really comprehend the conservatives on the other side of the divide. Worse, he didn’t help his liberal viewers better understand themselves.

The whole piece is worth reading. Don’t forget to share it with your Jon Stewart-loving liberal friends.

15 Responses to “In a Mirror, Darkly: Caricature and Condescension”

  1. 1

    Nanny G

    The Left very quickly turns on one of its ”protected class” when that individuals shows he/she can think instead of toe the official Left-y party line.
    Case of the week:
    Senator Charles Schumer.
    1. Daily Kos posted a cartoon showing Schumer with an Israeli flag and calling him a “traitor.”
    2. MoveOn argues that “our country doesn’t need another Joe Lieberman in the Senate,” a reference to Connecticut’s ex-senator — who, like Schumer, is Jewish.
    3. Fareed Zakaria waved at anti-Semitic stereotypes, saying Schumer’s motive is just “money” — “If he were to support President Obama on this, if he were to support this deal, he knows it would create a firestorm of opposition, particularly among, perhaps, you know, wealthy supporters.”
    4. Former top Obama adviser David Plouffe blasted Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for opposing the Iran deal, suggesting it makes him unfit to lead Senate Democrats.
    http://nypost.com/2015/08/10/the-anti-semitic-drive-to-make-schumer-shut-up-on-the-iran-deal/
    http://www.jammiewf.com/2015/team-obama-goes-full-anti-semite-on-schumer/
    http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/250795-plouffe-blasts-schumer-on-iran-position

    In all my years keeping track of how Jews (my heritage, not my religion) are treated in public life, I have never seen worse treatment of Sen. Charles Schumer.
    And these are all from his fellow Democrats.

  2. 3

    john

    I try to leave my sense of reality and also pke a bit of fun at some. I mean look at the initial reactions t showed how they could pre judge both on limited informationo the stories on Bill Cosby ( a few women seeking publicity) and of course my fav and one I will keep mentioning UNDERAGE DOMINICAN HOOKERS !! (which turned out to be entirely false)
    Posters here often denigrate the low information voters but i can’t remember anyone ever printing a retraction of a story that later proved false”hillary orders Army to stand down” or 2 Inspector Generals ask for criminal inquiry” ANY unnamed source that speaks against the Dems is accorded 100% credibility.
    At least SOMETIMES the new York Times prints retractions/corrections
    As for Stewart’s failure to help liberals understand the GOP well please exactly why is Trump polling twice as high as anyone else?

  3. 4

    Brother Bob

    author

    Good shoutout to our lefty pals , and I do miss one of our old lefty commenters – I believe his handle was something along the lines of “Larry Weisenthal from Huntington Beach” . Never agreed with him but damned if he didn’t put more thought and research into his comments than any lefty I’ve sparred with.

    Loved the NYT article. There was another great piece today about how Stewart’s walking away when the left needs him the most.

  4. 5

    Nathan Blue

    @john:

    Trump polling twice as high as anyone else?

    Read the above article, particularly this:

    And it goes on and on. So much time is wasted demonizing and dismissing the other side without bothering to listen to each individual on the merits of his own arguments. We end up setting up and shooting down strawmen, ascribing positions that the person we’re arguing with never stated; we attack the messenger/news source rather than addressing the actual contents. It’s a form of intellectual laziness and incuriosity; a smug belief that we already know what the other side thinks and will say.

    Trump aids the Left because the media and the “polls” show him in front *he’s not*. It stokes the rage and ignorance of the left.

    Example:
    Conversation with a friend — I explain why I think Hillary isn’t qualified to run for president.

    The response (from my left-leaning friend)?
    “She’s better than Trump!”

    I never brought up Trump. She’s attacking a position I didn’t assert..and her mind is already closed. Trump isn’t going to win the Republican primary. He’s not a viable candidate either, but unlike Hillary, he doesn’t have idiots already pining over him….and offering their vote (See Pharrell). But I wasn’t arguing or offering that point. Trump’s viability was useless.

    The point? The Left uses tactics that would sink them…but by manufacturing a right-leaning analog, they place the focus on them via their media control. They manufacture expendable strawmen while do the same action just behind.

    80% of the media is liberally-biased:
    “But Faux….!”

    Obama fails at something…anything.
    “But Bush….!”

    Hillary isn’t a good candidate:
    “But Trump…!”

    It’s the same reason they keep telling everyone that Jeb Bush has a real chance…he doesn’t.

    The leftist media promotes things that will give advantage: i.e., candidates no one takes seriously.

    A very dirty tactic, and rather unethical. But as the article above states, they think they are so right, no action they take could ever be wrong…

    ….right?

    Stewart…good riddance.

    The most shameful propagandist I’ve ever seen/heard.

  5. 6

    james raider

    Great piece, Word.

    There are numerous reasons for the ‘great divide,’ but a couple stand out IMHO, . . . . a) personal greed (who butters my bread) and b) the level of insight into human nature.

    Some can listen to a speech and get tingles, others see narcissism on full display. Narcissism means insecurity and insecurity is dangerous. I fully appreciate that we have a tendency to ‘like’ those who support our own views.

    Some understand that a majority of human beings want to self-actualize. Others follow a fraud and are ‘believers’ who want all mankind to live forever-after in a utopia of communism or dictatorship.

    Fortunately America still has a Constitution, written by prescient men, which has not yet been completely burned. Someone who loves his/her country AND demonstrates insights and common sense may yet turn this around.

  6. 9

    Skookum

    I have often wondered why Liberals come to a site like FA, often they seem surrounded and fighting attacks from every direction.

    I like to drive a wedge into the commentary at the NYT once in a while, but they only publish one in five from me, and you don’t hear about it until hours later, so the dialogue is stunted. You can only challenge up to a certain point, but if your comment cuts too close to the bone, they won’t print it. They prefer a fawning pack of ideological lap dogs, and they print those by the thousands.

    Our Liberals can collectively tweak the conservative beak within wide parameters of decorum before falling into the sinewy mesh of mechanical screeners, but the wrath of our loyal conservatives may make them wish they had been deleted into oblivion with certain comments. I enjoy reading the commentary as much or more than the original articles, and rarely join in on the bloodletting, but let me say this for our resident libs, “You guys know how to take a beating.”

  7. 10

    Bill

    Beyond any doubt, Stewart is funny. Even when he was being blatantly partisan with the purpose of spreading a partisan viewpoint (as opposed to simply being funny), he was funny. Some, however, are not capable of taking Stewart with a liberal (so to speak) measure of salt.

    Like the SNL skit in which Fey did the “I can see Russia from my house!” skit, the left does not seem to be capable (or willing, perhaps) to separate fact from fiction. From that point on, that quote was actually attributed to “stupid” Palin. Thus was much of Stewart’s skits transformed into “the news”.

    The left frequently relies on HuffPo, MoveOn, Kos and the like to get their “information” (all obscenely liberal and partisan) while decrying Fox and anything suspected of coming from it. How many has asked for specific examples of “lying” from Fox only to receive the reply, “they do it all the time”?

    @john:

    ”hillary orders Army to stand down” or 2 Inspector Generals ask for criminal inquiry” ANY unnamed source that speaks against the Dems is accorded 100% credibility.

    Well, john, the FIRST step is…. they have to be false. Since the true data about Hillary’s responses to Benghazi has yet be revealled… thanks entirely to Hillary. Further, the report WAS that the inquiry was criminal and only after the Hillary camp demanded “criminal” be removed from the story (which, of course, the NYT happily obliged with) was it removed. So, who should apologize there; the NYT?

    The one notable time Fox got something terribly, obviously wrong (the Sherrod incident), they had retracted the story, on the evening news broadcast that day.

    For the record, in my opinion, I wish there were more detractors posting (posting rational bits, of course). I care not for a site where everyone sings the same tune. What’s the fun in that? Who ya gonna argue with?

  8. 11

    Richard Wheeler

    @Skookum: I’d call it defending with the “rope a dope” I’m having fun with these maniacal right wingers don’t get too enamored with The Donald.—bullies eventually go down for the count.

    Bill EXACTLY

  9. 12

    Richard Wheeler

    @Skookum: “Surrounded and fighting attacks from every direction.”
    When Marines were surrounded at THE FROZEN CHOSIN an American newspaper said ” For the first time in their glorious history U.S. Marines are retreating.” ” Retreating hell–we’re attacking in the opposite direction.” was the Marine General’s response.
    Semper Fi Marine Stay strong

  10. 13

    mike191

    “…chamber of Liberal smugness…with an affliction of superiority .”complex.” Perhaps, this helps explain the lack of civility and decorum ,so obvious lacking in the “liberal worldview.”

    Some years ago ,I attended my daughters graduation from the College Of William and Mary. The key note speaker was John Stewart, a distinguished alum of the college. This college was not your typical bastion of Liberal pedological doctrines. However, during his speech he often mentioned the virtues of the College and its impact on his life. His speech was witty and humoresque. At the climatic finish ,he attempted to make sense of 9/11 and its impact on New York City. His thesis, NYC was back on track for he saw a person that was masturbating in Public ,ergo the city was back on track .The audience gave him a wonderful round of applause . Afterwards,meeting many of the Parents, my daughter shared in her major, the reaction to Mr. Stewarts ‘ ending ranged from dismay to outrage .Mr. Stewart in his ending, forgot the axiom, know the audience ,and veered back to his Comedy Show for the climax of his speech ,which was not in the decorum of this setting.

  11. 14

    Skook

    @Richard Wheeler: i was on PI for the birthday when Chesty came aboard. They gave him a 21 gun salute with some old naval batteries and I was wondering if a war was starting on the coast. Those old WWII barracks shook like they were going to fall down.

    Trump is serving a real purpose. He shook up the other candidates and made them stop acting like skim milk clones of one another. He has made them hustle or be swept aside like Jeb. It’s early, Trump has some qualities, but Cruz and Carson are brilliant men. Carly can think on her feet and is no slouch in the brain pan. I am happy to watch the events play out, but I am confident that the Repubs have competent people. Like the circus in the old Roman Coliseum, there will be lots of struggles before we have a winner.

  12. 15

    Rich Wheeler

    @Skook: Chesty– what year was that? What years were you active duty? Met his son summer of 68 in V.N a couple of months before he was so badly wounded—-a tortured soul–his Pulitzer Prize winning “Fortunate Son.” a good read.
    Looking forward to many more great reads from you.

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