CSotD: Life Within The Idiocracy

This Pat Bagley cartoon has been hanging around too long, but I’m going to feature it anyway because it’s such a good introduction to the blatant disinformation circulating in our system.

Of course, nobody said we needed to do away with cattle entirely, but having even said that (A) they produce a lot of methane and (B) feeding them is not the most efficient use of farmland, was enough to provide a toehold for those who are either stupid, ignorant or dishonest.

It’s part of a concerted effort to portray Democrats not as “the Opposition” but as “the Enemy,” and, as this elephant’s T-shirt indicates, it’s hardly the first glimmer of that strategy.

And that is how elections are won, after all, but there is a difference between saying “These deficits will destroy our economy” and “They’re coming for your hamburgers.”

You have to be somewhat intelligent and well-informed to discuss that first proposition. You simply have to be gullible to accept the second.

And, certainly, gullibility can be fed and exploited, as we’ve seen and as we’re seeing.

The problem with living in an Idiocracy is that it’s never quite clear who is part of the fraud and who is an innocent collaborator.

For example, this

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Bob Gorrell)

(Chip Bok)

Both cartoonists are confusing “socialism” with “communism,” and — given both are conservative but neither are extremist — the question becomes whether they are sincerely ignorant of the difference or deliberately lying to their audience?

Yes, communism is a subset of socialism. And snake-handling is a subset of Christianity.

As I’ve noted before, we learned it in eighth grade social studies, at a time, I would add, when “socialism” was considered a bad thing.

But, our teacher explained, most political beliefs are on a continuum, such that there are degrees of everything but very few pure examples of anything.

In fact, he made quite a point of the fact that, while Marx lived in two industrial nations — England and Germany — and Communism is based on an industrial economy, the places it had taken hold were largely agrarian — the Soviet Union and China — where it’s not as applicable an economic system.

I don’t recall specific examples of socialist governments then, but we were taught that there was an extremist fringe that became communist but other places along the continuum where it was more practical.

Those of us who wanted to go farther picked up more background in college, which makes me laugh remembering how, when I decided to get a masters in teaching, I had to drive 100-some miles to Albany and meet with someone to get a waiver so that I could study to be a social studies teacher.

The problem was that I hadn’t taken political science courses as an undergraduate, so I went down there, sat across the table and unfurled my list of what I had been studying instead: Plato and Aristotle and Rousseau and Locke and Hobbes and the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists … you get the picture.

He just laughed and signed the paper.

I never completed that masters, but, in any case, I don’t think that every political commentator should have majored in political science, either, nor must they have read all the founders of Western Political Thought.

But maybe some of them.

Anybody who makes money lecturing on nature should be able to tell a frog from a lizard, a spruce tree from a corn plant and a robin redbreast from a brown-nosed bat.

Similarly, if you are going to write for “Car and Driver,” you should know the difference between a piston and a windshield wiper.

And so forth.

There’s so little excuse anymore for not understanding the difference between “climate” and “weather,” that we can’t dismiss that as innocent ignorance anymore.

However, the “socialism/communism” thing still offers the possibility that someone is spreading misinformation by accident.

So correct it when you see it and let’s try to get honest people on track.

The others shall be with us always, I’m afraid.


Speaking of hurtful ignorance

Dr. Jack and Curtis comment on a recent high court ruling in South Africa that declared the Dutch Reformed Church’s ban on gay marriage unlawful.

As they suggest, the message of Christ is for inclusion and one line in Leviticus does not negate everything else in that big fat book of guidance.

However, it should give Americans a little bit of the willies to see a governmental court dictating terms to a religious group, just as it should give Americans the willies to see church groups trying to dictate terms to the government, which is more common up here.


When I first saw that South African cartoon, I thought it was about the recent vote of the Methodist Church worldwide to ban gay clergy and same-sex marriage, which I had expected to get more play in our press.

As it was, the only cartoon I saw on that topic was this piece by Kevin Siers.

In the case of the Methodists, it was Third-World voters who carried the day, voting against the kind of inclusion and tolerance that is widely practiced by Methodists in this country and was largely supported by voters here.

As said, I’m not at all comfortable with a court dictating how a church should administer its sacraments, but it is also true that members of worldwide churches need to be aware of these social divisions and have a plan for dealing with them.

And they have to frame those decisions with the knowledge that some people are being deliberately dishonest and hateful while others are genuinely, sincerely, innocently ignorant.


In the meantime, it’s worth pondering Matt Wuerker’s cartoon, particularly since he’s a staunch defender of the free press and is not attempting to dictate what they cover, but simply commenting on how their decisions can create an atmosphere in which our worst instincts become artificially dominant.


The struggle against ignorance, hatred and lies may be metaphorical, but it is no less real and critical.


3 thoughts on “CSotD: Life Within The Idiocracy

  1. Media/the press focus on the hate, because honestly, hate sells. Look at two major cable news channels– MSNBC and Fox. They are on the opposite ends of the spectrum, but spend all day (and all night) with talking heads blathering about how evil their political opponents are acting/being. Positive news or cooperation don’t sell newspapers or pop-up ads. I don’t really have a solution– we (collectively) get what we deserve.

  2. Is it that they confuse socialism with communism, or that they confuse it with authoritarianism and totalitarianism?

    The USSR was less a communist state than a totalitarian state or at the very least both—but totalitarianism was their weak spot and what we all thought of as evil.

    I feel like that’s the confusion that most make calling out socialism as evil.

  3. Not sure you can have communism without totalitarianism, because of the lack of incentives that come with it. Not that it requires a whip — simply growing up in a society where information is filtered. I sat through a discussion of supply and demand in 1992 with a group of Soviet executives who were completely flummoxed by the concept and couldn’t grasp a system where (A) production goals were not set by the central government and (B) a business could be permitted to fail.

    These were 40- and 50-something top professionals, not kids. But they’d grown up on the Kool-Aid and genuinely didn’t understand the alternatives. Lovely people personally, but babes in the woods in terms of comprehending free markets.

    In a more open society, they’d have looked around and wondered why their system did not involve those aspects — rather than simply not knowing those aspects existed.

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