Fact-Basing

Andy J. W. Affleck likes the fact-based politician meme:

Facts versus Influence

Escapable Logic may have nailed the answer to my “why do people still buy the bullshit” question:

…we’ve never had a fact-based politician and if you read or write a blog or software code, you’re committed to the outrageous notion that facts matter. For many people, facts don’t matter. The process of discovering, testing, discarding and describing facts is such a mystery to many that they’re not willing to trust it. Most of us, and certainly most people in power, are interested only in what increases our influence, which is rarely factual.

This rings true to me on a number of levels. Recently, the local paper here in Herndon has had a bit of a back and forth about the Bush Administration. The thing that my wife pointed out to me was how the anti-Bush letter writers produced facts and specific points to illustrate their position. The other side threw out things like: “Clinton lied” or “What about Whitewater?” or “Liberals who don’t want to stand up for the brave men and women fighting for freedom” and so forth. All of those are invective. They are not facts. They do not put forth an argument and then support it. They are purely attempts to influence (read: manipulate). Even trying to answer those statements moves the conversation immediately into a no-man’s land where no one can win. If you try to point out that what Clinton did or did not do has nothing to do with what Bush is currently doing (or that two wrongs don’t make a right, etc.) you end up in a long discussion about Clinton, the nature of morality, and why the liberals have no family values or some such nonsense. If you try to point out that being against Bush or the war in Iraq or the like has nothing to do with supporting to people in the military you get sucked into another vortex.

Can a facts-based politician win in this country? That would be a very interesting thing to see and experience. Maybe Howard Dean is the person to do it?

Andy has many thoughtful posts at Webcrumbs. Check them out.

Mitch, Dean of Misgivings

Mitch Ratcliffe is not so sure that all is swell in the Dean Camp. In Becoming what we don’t want to be?, he describes the attack dog tactics of some of Howard Dean’s supporters, who flame even a hint of negativity about their candidate:

I’m glad to see an aggressive liberal, particularly an anti-war liberal. But a campaign encouraging the attacking of comments made by people with dismissive one-liners is disturbingly like the Republican strategy these past 12 years and that style has reduced the level of public discourse to a flavorless radish paste, it’s bitter when you bite into it and not particularly filling–it will also back-fire with most liberals in the long-run, because we do believe in free speech and free thought (and as many folks know, I am not averse to an energetic debate, but one of ideas, not zingers). Frankly, I don’t want to be led by people willing to be as stupidly anti-intellectual as most of the conservative talk show hosts and commentators. Talk to people, don’t dismiss them–that’s the essence of liberalism.

Mitch is touching on the ancient issue of ends justifying the means, which the neoconservatives have raised to an art form. If one advocates a return to traditional values, why would you adopt politics which every previous administration would consider beneath contempt. I sincerely believe Nixon and his convicted Attorney General John Mitchell would not have stooped to the depths that Ashcroft and crew have, subverting the Fredom of Information Act (FOIA) in the interest of Department policies:

When you carefully consider FOIA requests and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions unless they lack a sound legal basis or present an unwarranted risk of adverse impact on the ability of other agencies to protect other important records.”

Do the Ends justify the Memes?

It’s a tough call. How far should Dean go to “Get my country back!”? How far should his supporters go? Perhaps Dean should treat this as a leadership opportunity to define and enforce a standard of behavior from his fans. But it’s not unusual for campaign managers to develop and defend some extremists to go toe-to-toe with their counterparts on the other side. The evidence that Mitch cites is from this accessible version of Ryan Lizza’s New Republic article from 5/23:

I am concerned about the tenor of the Dean campaign, which is shaping up like a war, and here is why: The New Republic in an article called “Dean.com” (it’s a password-protected subscription site) reports that the Dean camp is using the Web, blogs in particular, to go after critics.

Anyone who writes critically about Dean can expect his copy to be chewed up by this army of zealous Dean Internet scribes. When I wrote a piece recently that contained a few paragraphs about Dean, a member of the Dean2004 blog team filed an almost 2,000-word entry slicing my article up into sections with labels such as “true,” “false,” “inadvertently true,” and “foolish.” Not content with this, the Dean blogosphere recently established a rapid-reaction team called the Dean Defense Forces (DDF)–an e-mail list of hard-core Dean supporters who swiftly push back with e-mails, letters to the editor, blog entries, and phone calls against anyone spreading anti-Dean sentiments. “When he gets attacked, we’ll respond,” pledges the DDF’s organizer, Matthew Singer, a 20-year-old college student in Montana who once blogged about Dean on his own site, Left in the West.

It’s also possible that the referenced sections of Ryan Lizza’s piece were, respectively, true, false, inadvertently true and foolish. The New Republic is big J journalism, after all, as Mitch points out, and hanging on to its fragile franchise.

The Leadership Thing

I’d love to see Howard Dean go public to assert that his campaign should be superior in every way to the hegemony of small minded capitalists he is fighting on our behalf—in demeanor, logic and heart.

Then I’d like to see his team go forth among the people wielding calm logic and patient, reasonable dialogue to knock the livin’ shit out of the people who took our country away from us. On that point I’m archly conservative.

7:20:22 PM    comment [commentCounter (142)]

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