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Holly Lisle the Wingnut

You never really think that "my people" (by which I mean geeks, gamers, and writers) are infected by corrosive right-wing propaganda. But fantasy writer Holly Lisle has recently posted a "Why I'm Not Voting For Kerry" rant against John Scalzi and others. Scalzi's crime? Daring to express an opinion against people who might re-elect the current administration. Apparently only wingnuts are allowed to practice any form of negative campaigning in Red America.

Scalzi's response is measured and puzzled, and he mainly seems confused and annoyed that a writer fails to actually read what he wrote, and that she likewise refuses to allow comments, email, or any other response to her own writing on her site. It's a little odd for an author to actively shut off feedback that completely.

I was surprised to see a writer — even a writer of rather low-grade fantasy — on the other side of the political fence. My underlying assumption is that people who write and read are educated enough to see through Fox spin and the Cheney/Rove smokescreen. If Lisle's rant is a typical example of the bile coming out of the "swing voter" camp, it's disappointing that supposedly educated writers are taken in. Most of her points against Kerry are either false on their face or mildly paranoid. For someone who supposedly makes a living thinking and writing, none of what she says holds together. Her comments on the history and nature of Islamic terrorism don't address the Bush administration's complete failure to confront the Saudis, Al Qaeda, and other sources of terrorism. Bush's leadership lost the crucial battles: 9/11, Tora Bora, Guantanamo, Abu Graib, etc. He's made no progress against Iran or Korean proliferation. Everyone knows the list. Scalzi is right on target: People who vote for Bush are stupid, ignorant, or hypocritical.

The comments about Kerry cynically joining the Navy and volunterring for service in Vietnam is especially creepy; do all wingnuts really think like this? That only Republicans can serve in the military honorably? That all the evidence for Kerry's service and against Bush's Vietnam record can just be wished away? That the record of the Bush administration is somehow competent or praiseworthy?

I feel hopelessly out of touch with the Fox propoganda machine, the dittoheads, and so forth. They seem to be moving further and further away from the facts and into some kind of dream world. I worry that this is what it felt like during LBJ's administration, or during the Weimar republic, a time of drift and political failure leading to more and more polarization and partisanship. Reality and ideology are diverging dangerously. How is it that the press seems not to notice?

Is political discourse really going to hell as quickly as it seems? Where have all the moderates gone?


( 10 sutras — Your wisdom )
Sep. 23rd, 2004 05:26 pm (UTC)
Like you, I have trouble believing that intelligent people support the Bush administration. But in my calmer moments, I try to look at the empirical evidence: can 75 million Americans, give or take, really be that stupid? It seems unlikely that they're all morons (or ignoramuses or hypocrites, as Scalzi would have it).

I think maybe the choices we make about our president (and "we" includes us smart people who're voting for Kerry) have as much to do with emotion as intellect. I haven't really thought this through, nor do I want to post an essay-length comment here. I think the Bush administration is both incompetent and corrupt, and while agreeing with Scalzi might make me feel better, I'm not sure it's the whole story.
Sep. 23rd, 2004 05:32 pm (UTC)
PS—Holly Lisle really does appear to be a wingnut. As a former enlisted man I'm a little disgusted that she supports Bush because "My first reason is personal.... The lives of the people who offer themselves for the protection of this country matter to me. Having a president who values their lives matters to me." (Emphasis mine.)
Sep. 24th, 2004 09:35 am (UTC)
Yeah, it's pretty insulting. And bone-deep ignorant.
Sep. 25th, 2004 08:21 am (UTC)
"can 75 million Americans, give or take, really be that stupid?"

I've gone over that in my head many times, and many times, the only conclusion I reach is: yes, yes they can. And the problem, in my growing cynicism and disgust, is that these folks will probably never change, because they don't want to change; I'm reminded of Plato's Allegory of the Cave. We can run around telling them about the shadows all we want, but in the end, they are comfortable seeing shadows; we know the shadows are false, but to these people, that's reality, and thinking otherwise would require such a drastic change in worldview that they are not willing to take the time and make the effort.

Sep. 25th, 2004 10:32 am (UTC)
There's an offshoot of this conversation going on in mckitterick's LJ. See especially the link to Ellen Goodman's column in today's Washington Post.
Sep. 23rd, 2004 05:28 pm (UTC)
It doesn't really seem like there are any moderates any more, does it? I saw the cover of a readers digest from not too long ago that had pictures of Kerry and Bush with the headline "Who will unite the country?" I almost laughed out loud (in a depressed kind of way) because I've never seen the country as divided as it is now -- two sides standing up and yelling at each other. No dialog, no listening, although as a certified left-wing nut, my feeling is that a certain amount of that is because the right-wing doesn't listen and rarely says anything with substance. But then, I'm biased. Okay, I'm right, but I'm biased...
I just hope my side yells a little louder in November.
Sep. 24th, 2004 10:20 am (UTC)
I think moderates still exist, but nobody's listening. The "Who will unite the country?" headline is pretty sad, because once upon a time it would have been a sincere question instead of a joke. Politics has become a blood sport, more like the vicious attack politics of the 19th century. After a period of relative restraint, anything goes.

Those 19th-century American politicians fought a lot of duels. No, really, the Burr-Hamilton duel was one of literally hundreds; they typically happened when the loser of an election challenged the winner. Andrew Jackson fought in, oh, a dozen or more political duels. By the Sword, by Richard Cohen, covers the history of real political bloodletting in America.

Which is a long way of saying, maybe Zell Miller was onto something.
Sep. 23rd, 2004 07:39 pm (UTC)
Stupid, Ignorant, or Hypocritical?
Possibly, none of the above.

Yes, its hard to fathom people who are your polar opposites, who not only disagree with what you say, but wish ardently to deny your right or even ability to say it. But here are a couple more, hopefully less incendiary reasons that half-the-country may make a less-than-optimal choice this fall.

Denial - This is a meme that's spreading about the upper echelons of the Administration, but it applies to you and me as well. You're in a bad marriage. You have a rotten job. Your dog is ugly and incontinent. Your reaction is not one of "I have a terrible marriage/job/dog!", but rather "I can live with this. Its not so bad." Being reminding about your ugly dog just embarrasses you, and leads you to:

Opposition - Some people are contrary. You say white, they'll say black. Political discourse has been reduced to a team sport - the Republic Reds against the Democratic Blues. Any form of agreement is considered treason. You press harder, bring in facts, and they will dig in even deeper. My team may be bad, but your side is worse. And then there's:

Fear - Its a trump card at the moment, and has been for the past three years. Bad things have happened. Bad things will happen in the future. Why tempt fate? Why become responsible for further badness? The joke is "Don't change horsemen in mid-Apocalypse", but its appropriate. If you're scared for your job, your children, your safety, you're willing to agree to a lot. You don't want to be the one to make things worse. And then theres:

Comfort - There are people who ARE comfortable with the present admin. Who DO agree that we have to do what we have to do. Who feel we have to fight for our virtues, regardless if this is the smartest fight or the wisest decision. There are people who think that, if we just come together, and stop bickering, and unite behind the administration, everything will work out. Progress is a dangerous, reckless thing - why take the risk?

That's a few ideas. I don't think that typlifying those that disagree with you is particularly good for you (unless you disagree with me, in which case you hate America, of course).

(Oh, and your dog is incredibly cute and a legend among canines. I wasn't talking about Snaggles at all)

Sep. 24th, 2004 09:54 am (UTC)
Re: Stupid, Ignorant, or Hypocritical?
Denial seems like another word for ignorance.

Blind opposition seems like another word for hypocrisy. If a Democratic president had taken the actions of the Bush administration, the Republican congress, press, and courts would have impeached him, crucified him in the media, and attempted to drive him out of office. The fact that deficits, false justifications for war, etc are acceptable when done by one of their own is a sign of political sickness. There's a reason Jeffords, McCain, and others have distanced themselves from the worst abuses. The lack of a centrist backlash still mystifies me.

Fear is interesting, because it shuts down rational or considered responses to a problem, short-circuiting everything to appeal to our most basic instincts. I'm convinced that the current round of fear-mongering going on in our political life (and driven by Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Ridge, and Cheney) is a deliberate attempt to stampede the fearful.

Any fearful person armed with the facts on proliferation, port safety, terrorism convictions, pre-emptive war, terrorist attack trends, homeland security funding, and so forth cannot vote for Bush if they wish to increase their personal safety. Fear seems like a form of ignorance.

Comfort is the most interesting alternative you suggest. Given what has happened to Democrats who reached across party lines to form a National Unity response to 9/11 (Max Cleland and Tom Daschle, for two of many examples), it's clear that the "come together" strategy has been rejected by Bush/Cheney. They have vilified and smeared political ALLIES for the crime of being Democrats. Democrats who went along with Bush's plans post-9/11 have been attacked for their support of the President in a time of national crisis.

I think that typifying those who disagree with your right to oppose them is sometimes necessary; the Bush record is terrible. The extremists on the right seem to be shifting the national dialogue ever further to the right, and ever further away from "uniting, not dividing". This way madness lies. To pretend otherwise is complicity in the slow hijacking of our political system.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 24th, 2004 10:03 am (UTC)
Re: Sad.
Yeah, I'm fortunate in that my family is largely politically united: liberals and moderates. The argument is between those who think Bush's failures are a matter of incompetence or weakness, and those who think they are calculated betrayals of the nation for personal or corporate motives.

I don't think this is how conservatives felt. During the Clinton years, the conservative attack media spent their energies on scandal, rabble-rousing, and impeachment. The response from the center and left is more despairing ("Is this our fault somehow?") than enraged.

If the moderate attack machine existed, it would be calling Bush a cocaine-sniffing alcoholic, a Vietnam-dodging Jesus freak, and a corporate lapdog constantly on talk radio and on the web. There's some of that going on, but nothing like the Clinton-bashing. Perhaps that just a function of Republicans controlling all three branches of government and many media outlets, but I don't think so. The right, the center, and the left all work differently.

Most of the moderates complaints are less about character assassination than they are about righteous anger at successive policy failures.
( 10 sutras — Your wisdom )

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