I Must Be Stupid

Because I enjoyed many of the 45 Dumbest Signs at the 9/12 Tea Party Rally.

"Stupid" and "doesn't agree with me" should never be synonyms in the mind of a thinking person.

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Hmmm, despite the rampant

Hmmm, despite the rampant "t-shirt syllogism" and oversimplification, most of those signs hardly seem dumb. Unfortunately, these same conservatards could be found watching Fox News and bleating like a sheep when Bush Jr was in office.

Hypocrisy, gotta love it.

I cant wait for November, because the weeping and gnashing of teeth has only just begun and the inevitable betrayal of the voters by the politicians will create a wave of butthurt big enough to ride all the way to Japan.

The comments at that page are

The comments at that page are are mostly contemptible, judging by the sample I read.

Most of those signs are sort

Most of those signs are sort of like President Reagan: spouting all sorts of truth without meaning much of it at all.

When people consistently

When people consistently (i.e. "most of") spout truth, it's not usually by accident. And these signs aren't even a random sample, they're cherry-picked by the enemies of the tea party with the intention of discrediting the tea party, and they're still mostly true.

I don't know how it is that you manage to read between the lines of what you acknowledge to be mostly true statements to discover that the people making those true statements don't actually mean them. Since I don't believe in telepathy, let alone digital-photograph-assisted telepathy, I don't think you can possibly be genuinely making an observation about the people holding these tea party signs.

If you are not making an observation, then what are you doing? There are many possibilities. One possibility is that you are coming up with a rationalization that allows you to reject what your eyes see. Why you would want to do this, I don't know.

I think the observation is fitting...

I love how you seem to ignore the fact that the "tea party" activists could have cared less about liberty when Bush was president and Rush had his back. No need to read between the lines.

Some of these tea party folks may have felt that the course the government is taking was wrong during the previous administration, and are finally getting out and doing the protest thing, good for them. I just cannot believe that this is the way that all or most of the sign holders feel/think/behave, it simply doesn't make sense that the motivation for all of this political activity lies purely in rational self-interest.

Since we cannot look into the minds of the activists, we are left with a black box. Purely analyzing that which the box produces, without looking into the goings on within, we are left to guess at what it is that is powering the output. The output is not consistent, what does that tell us about what is inside the blackbox?

I think most got really mad

I think most got really mad at TARP 1 with Bush as pres. Did they get as mad at the Patriot Act and the Farm Bill and the Prescription Drug Plan? No, but I sure did. Late to the party doesn't make you wrong, just late.

Short answers to a few people...

Late to the party doesn't make you wrong, just late.

@Steve: I prefer that explanation to the logorrheic screed of Constant. Better late than never, I suppose.

What you are implying without saying straight out is that the tea partiers are mere Republican party partisans who are pretending to care about liberty but really only care about putting the Republican party back in power.

@Constant: I do feel that most of the Tea Partiers are Republican Party partisans. A majority of those are probably disenfranchised republicans, but they will continue to vote republican if the proper rhetoric is spoken by the candidate.

Pretending is a harsh word to use, but it comes as no surprise that you would create that artifice within your straw-man of my position. I think they are just repeating the same old rhetoric, without really thinking through the implications of a consistent application of said philosophy. Are they pretending? no, just failing to think.

Well, if you're right, then the Republican Party must be a newly formed party

What is this... I don't even...

I think they lack sufficient incentive to be consistent in politics.

@jtk3: Of course they lack incentive to apply their "beliefs" to every aspect of government, for the most part they think not much is wrong. If Constant is correct, they think I shouldn't drink my next and probably last glass of water, not that the initial idea of drinking enough water to die is a bad idea.

My theory? their knowledge of liberty is incredibly limited. Since true freedom is indeed a double-edged sword, it is easier for these lightweight statists to backpedal when presented with an argument (or conundrum) instead of maintain consistency. Is lack of knowledge the problem though? no, the problem is trying to get all of these folks to unify for political purposes. Its just easier for them to vote for the republican or independent that uses their language and colloquialisms, they will be betrayed in the end not for a lack of reading some dead philosophers, theorists and doctors... but because they believed the politicians rhetoric and the big lie that government can be accountable to the people.

The fact that the output is inconsistent is probably a sign that the inputs are contradictory.

@Mark: I misstated my "black box" comment. Indeed I was wondering about the inputs not whats "inside", as that is truly of no concern. The inconsistent inputs you present certainly account for the bizarre output.

The thought of a left or Democrat version of the tea party... that makes me smile. One could only hope that recovering statists could find enough to agree on.

The thought of a left or

The thought of a left or Democrat version of the tea party... that makes me smile.

Wouldn't it be great to see them carrying signs that said:

Obama:
All we wanted was a President who was anyone but Bush.
Couldn't you manage that?

My theory? their knowledge of

My theory? their knowledge of liberty is incredibly limited. Since true freedom is indeed a double-edged sword, it is easier for these lightweight statists to backpedal when presented with an argument (or conundrum) instead of maintain consistency. Is lack of knowledge the problem though?

Hard core libertarians (and I mean that term broadly and inclusively) are a tiny minority of the population. So you already know ahead of time that any mass movement is going to be composed of people whose devotion to liberty is a lot more heavily qualified, limited, circumscribed than that of your typical hard core libertarian. It's inevitable. If you're going to say that they're disgusting hypocrites as RWW does, if you're going to identify them with the KKK as that fearful fifth, if you're going to reject them, turn your back on them, and desire something different from them, then either you're living in a fantasy world, a world in which a truly libertarian popular political movement is possible, or else you're just given up on democracy altogether. But if you've given up on democracy altogether, then it's wrongheaded to direct your disgust and hatred specifically at the tea parties. The tea partiers are the least bad of a bad population of voters who are going to vote themselves bread and circuses all the way to the collapse of the empire.

[...]or else you're just

[...]or else you're just given up on democracy altogether. But if you've given up on democracy altogether, then it's wrongheaded to direct your disgust and hatred specifically at the tea parties.

Yes, I do reject democracy. Thank you for noticing. :)

Hatred? Nah, that takes too much work for the democratically disinclined. Not much of what I said could seem like a passionate rejection of the tea-party types. If I did hate them, I might use the ever popular pejorative term for them.

Least bad, lesser of two evils, vote the other guy out... bah. The tea party to me is like an adorable child who still believes in the tooth fairy, fundamentally flawed but so well intentioned. If only - like a child - they would learn from their previous experience, rejecting the democratic process which has created the problems they rail against.

The tea partiers are the least bad of a bad population of voters who are going to vote themselves bread and circuses all the way to the collapse of the empire.

True as that may be, I am loathe to distinguish between bad and less bad. Both are bad, which is enough distinction as far as I am concerned.

I love how you seem to ignore

I love how you seem to ignore the fact that the "tea party" activists could have cared less about liberty when Bush was president and Rush had his back. No need to read between the lines.

Okay, since you are not stating explicitly what you mean, I will state it for you. I wish people would just say what they're saying rather than letting it be implied. What always happens is I make it explicit, point out why it's wrong, and then surprise surprise, having been warned ahead of time, the other person finds an alternative and less likely meaning for what he was implying without saying straight out.

What you are implying without saying straight out is that the tea partiers are mere Republican party partisans who are pretending to care about liberty but really only care about putting the Republican party back in power.

Well, if that's the case, then why didn't we see them under Clinton? Or under Carter? There was plenty of government intervention under those guys. Plenty of government spending. Plenty to complain about. What's different now?

Well, if you're right, then the Republican Party must be a newly formed party, or the Democratic Party must be a newly formed party. If A causes B and B only started up a year or so ago, then A must have started up a year or so ago. So if you're right, then either the Democrats or the Republicans came into existence a year or so ago.

Or maybe you want to push the line that the tea party is a bunch of black-hating racists. Is that what you're trying to push?

Okay then, if the tea partiers are just a bunch of black-hating racists (some of whom are black themselves), or if they are just a bunch of Democrat-hating Republicans, then what's the deal with O'Donnell versus Castle? What's the deal with Joe Miller versus Lisa Murkowski? Is Murkowski black? Is Castle black? Murkowski and Castle sure don't look black. Go and check them out. Google-image search them. I'll wait. Done? They're not black. And they're not Democrats. So what gives? How does this square with your implied theory - your read-between-the-lines theory that forces me to read between your lines because you have the correct instinct that if you actually say what you're implying it'll be refuted.

Yes, the output is consistent, because the tea partiers are not a bunch of anarchist libertarians. They never were. They never claimed to be. If they were a bunch of anarchist libertarians then sure, they would be out there fifty years ago, a hundred years ago. They would have been out there are the Constitutional Convention of 1787 protesting the very existence of the national government.

So you think it's a great mystery why they're out there now and not before? I don't see the mystery. These are people who aren't stupid. That's it. They're people who aren't stupid. End of explanation.

Maybe you need more explanation. Okay, here it is. A government can afford to tax and spend quite a bit. Obviously. Our government has done it for two hundred plus years. But, as with anything, there is a limit.

Let me tell you about limits. Suppose you drink some water. You can do that. You drink a glass of water, and then at the end of it, you're not dead.

But suppose you get it into your head to drink a thousand glasses of water in one day. Well, if you give it a serious try you'll be dead long before you're finished.

What happened? Is this a great mystery? No, it's not a great mystery. What happened was that you reached and passed your limit. Your friends, who had been sitting around watching you drink a glass of water, or maybe two, who looked at you with some concern after your fifth glass of water in the space of five minutes, at some point are going to grab you and try to stop you before you kill yourself.

Who are these friends of yours? Who are they? Can you guess? I'll make it explicit. They are the tea party.

The Frightened Fifth

[W]hy didn't we see them [tea partiers] under Clinton? Or under Carter? There was plenty of government intervention under those guys. Plenty of government spending. Plenty to complain about. What's different now?

Interesting question.

I’d always heard about the “frightened fifth”: The idea that roughly 20% of any population exhibits social anxiety and therefore focuses on security and the need for group cohesion/conformity in the face of threats – and there are always threats. They combine anxiety about declining status with a longing for an imagined idyllic past. Consider the Klan. The Red Scare. The Moral Majority. Their political power tends to surge during bad economic times and recede in good economic times, but they’re always with us.

Tea Partiers seem to be the latest incarnation and now that we’re in the worst economic times since the 1930s, they’re out with a vengeance. But while the frightened fifth have tended to be authoritarian, the Tea Partiers seem to be doggedly anti-authoritarian – more like the flower children of the 1960s and ‘70s. In this sense they do seem different that past movements I can think of.

That seems an overly facile

That seems an overly facile jumbling together of different phenomena, whose only value seems to be the dubious value of dismissing the concerns of the targets. And the tea party is onto something very real here, namely the accelerating expansion of government, which, using the term environmentalists like to use, is unsustainable. See Greece for a preview. The difference is, Greece is small and can be bailed out. We are immense. Nobody will be able to bail is out.

That seems an overly facile

That seems an overly facile jumbling together of different phenomena, whose only value seems to be the dubious value of dismissing the concerns of the targets. And the tea party is onto something very real here, namely the accelerating expansion of government, which, using the term environmentalists like to use, is unsustainable. See Greece for a preview. The difference is, Greece is small and can be bailed out. We are immense. Nobody will be able to bail is out.

Since we cannot look into the

Since we cannot look into the minds of the activists, we are left with a black box. Purely analyzing that which the box produces, without looking into the goings on within, we are left to guess at what it is that is powering the output. The output is not consistent, what does that tell us about what is inside the blackbox?

I think they lack sufficient incentive to be consistent in politics.

What's your theory?

Black Box

Since we cannot look into the minds of the activists, we are left with a black box. Purely analyzing that which the box produces, without looking into the goings on within, we are left to guess at what it is that is powering the output. The output is not consistent, what does that tell us about what is inside the blackbox?

Generally, the idea of "black box" analysis is that you don't care what the internal workings of the process are, you are only looking at what goes into it and comes out of it.

I would guess that the inputs to the Tea Party movement are:

  1. improved peer-to-peer communications over the last 30 years (cable/satellite TV, talk radio, Internet)
  2. increased awareness of libertarian ideology (from the sub-percentage point to single digit percentages)
  3. increased anxiety at government action (bailouts, wars, destruction of civil liberties, economic mismanagement)
  4. reactionary inputs from Republican Party leadership in an attempt to maintain power

Some may also identify a resurgent/nascent racist movement as one of the inputs, but I tend to discount this. I believe reports of racism are straw man attacks by Democratic Party leadership attempting to maintain power. But, I could be wrong; add it as an input if you wish.

The fact that the output is inconsistent is probably a sign that the inputs are contradictory. I identify the contradiction as between item (4) and the others. Racism, as form of collectivism, is inconsistent with libertarian individualism, though recognition of the rights of association and speech decriminalizes non-violent racist behavior.

The general output of the Tea Party black box is anti-government, which I take as a sign that the political conversation in the country has taken a significant step away from a Left/Right argument toward a Central Control/Individual Liberty argument. In response, the establishment players are trying to heat up the culture wars as their traditional distraction to keep attention away from anything other than Democratic or Republican rule.

I'm looking for several of the Tea Party inputs to manifest as a breakaway movement that hits the Democratic party base. It might include dissatisfaction with the current administration's lack of progress on a long list of promises: foreign wars, domestic war on drug users, restoration of civil liberties, transparency, or controlling corporatism.

While the Republican Party has some headroom to radicalize itself to try to capture its runaway base, I don't think the Democrats do. Red team can offer Palin as a sign of how far they have moved away from their traditional candidates like McCain. Who would Blue team offer as a radical alternative to Obama--Hillary? If the liberal base is disappointed in Obama's performance, they really don't have anywhere to go within the current system. Some will probably head toward a One World UN Socialism, some will join their grandparents as off-grid eco-friendly counter-culture neo-hippies, and some will rush into the arms of the waiting libertarian left. Whatever emerges will probably look just as contradictory as the Tea Party movement, and the Republican establishment (and to a lesser extent, the Democratic establishment) will try to use the most objectionable sights and sounds that emanate to discredit the entire movement.

Maybe I lack imagination: I could see the Republicans finding enough gullible voters to believe that Palin would actually follow through with the libertarian song she is lip-syncing; but I don't see the two-party system having enough credibility to survive an election past that. Only with some half-reform of the economy (as during the Reagan administration) to paper over the fundamental problems could a Palin presidency maintain the appearance of popular support for the welfare/warfare status quo. At that stage, it may even be too late for them to rely on Paul to help the federal government maintain as much power as it had during the Whiskey Rebellion.

"the appearance of popular support"

Just heard Ernest Hancock say this 9:12 into the second hour of yesterday's show:

And it starts with this election cycle. And there will be a lot of Republicans that will take over from the Democrats; assuming that even the election thing is not rigged anyway. Because they don't have to convince you to vote for them. That's not what they have to do. They just have to convince you that all your stupid neighbors and all the crazy other people that don't know nothing, they voted for them. It's just a psy-op. They just have to convince you that everybody else is dumb enough to do what they wanted them to do. And then they just turn the dial... [to manipulate the voting results].

If A causes B and B only

If A causes B and B only started up a year or so ago, then A must have started up a year or so ago.

This is a minor point, but "A causes B" is not the same as "A inevitably leads to B."

As for the rest of your painstaking attempt to wring a drop of genuineness out of the tea partiers, it would be a lot more credible if:

  • instead of "get your hand out of my pocket," the sign read "put your hand in my pocket a little less."
  • instead of "I like to eat your tax dollars," the sign read "I like to use your tax dollars for very slightly different purposes than my predecessors, and that's BAD."
  • instead of "Government should be small," the sign read "Government should be just a tiny bit smaller."
  • instead of "I love capitalism," the sign read... Well actually, this one can't be fixed. It's a downright lie.
  • instead of "Mr. Obama, stop robbing my [piggy bank]," the sign read "Mr. Obama, you're taking a little too much."
  • instead of "There's no such thing as a 'Right' to someone else's property," the sign read "There's a certain limit to the right to someone else's property."

And on and on it goes. Another sign asks "You want the government to control doctors' decisions?" I may be going out on a limb here, but chances are very good that the person holding the sign wants that, albeit in a different form. The hypocrisy of these people is disgusting.

Your criticism of them is

Your criticism of them is that they do not make fully explicit all their intended limitations and reservations, as would be appropriate in, say, a written contract. Have you ever tried to read a contract? There is a reason that contracts are unreadably long and mind-numbingly dull, and that is that speech that explicitly states one's full intended meaning usually has the characteristic of being seemingly endless and maddeningly boring. We do not speak the way we write contracts, and we certainly do not write signs that way.

You demand of these people that they write signs the way lawyers write contracts, implying that to do anything else is to lie. I say you are wrong, for the reason I have explained. There is normally a crowd of unspoken qualifications accompanying anything we say - were it not so, lawyers would be able to write contracts as if they were speaking conversationally, and we know they cannot.

Let us examine what would happen if we applied your reasoning to an everyday statement. Someone says, "it's raining." They left out an important qualifier: they didn't specify where it is raining, or how long. They did not place limits on their claim. Would you criticize them for the omission? You would usually be wrong to, because the qualifications, though unexpressed, would usually be understood by a reasonable listener.

Same thing here.

Is that Matt Kibbe in #15 or

Is that Matt Kibbe in #15 or just a look-alike?