Brothers in Arms

Didn’t get the chance to link this in real time, but terrific post from DougJ at Balloon Juice:

Last night I spoke with a cousin of mine I hadn’t talked to in a while. When it comes down to specifics, he’s about where I am on most issues—higher marginal rates for the wealthy, universal health care etc.—but he doesn’t read much about politics and gets most of his news from CNN or NPR. He started telling me how he thinks what the United States needs is a third, centrist party, one that isn’t hostile to wealth but which stands up for workers, how it’s bad that we just have a left party and a right party.

I told him that the Democratic party was pretty close to the party he wanted except that it doesn’t stand up much for workers, so that he was in a weird way correct that there was no center party (by, say, the standards of the rest of the western world or in terms of what he was describing as centrist) because even the Democratic party (at the national level) is too corporatist to be considered anything other than right-center (again, by the “center” standards I mentioned earlier). We argued a bit and then he told me he agreed with me on further reflection.

Then we argued a bit about the rule of the very wealthy, with him believing that most are wonderfully altruistic because they give money to charity sometimes. I couldn’t get him to budge on this, mainly, I think, because I overused the word “Galtian”. I can’t stop myself from using blogspeak sometimes.

When I step out into political conversations with people outside of this blog, even with my own family, I feel more and more that they have been wholly and completely propagandized by Tom Friedman/Cokie Roberts/David Brooks both-sides-do-it, both-parties-are-extreme idiocy.

For all the supposed openness, market-place-of-ideas stuff we supposedly have here, we’re not that different than North Korea in some ways.

I get this all the time when I talk to people who have the same political leanings as I do. They’re liberal in their outlook, have very little respect for Republicans and the conservative media, too, and yet there’s still this gap in how we assess the political situation. For me, a big reason is that these people don’t have the same contempt for the mainstream media on the whole and the “centrists” in that media specifically. I have a polysci major friend who agrees with me on just about everything, but I struggle whenever we talk to convince him that Tom Friedman, David Brooks, etc, etc, are truly awful human beings. I do’t think that he particularly likes them, but he doesn’t give them the same weight/hatred that I do.

Tom Levenson, in the first comment, also nails how I feel and throws in a few good adverbs to boot:

This is so deeply and frustratingly true I don’t know where to begin. One of my good friends is a major player in all kinds of good causes—really a stalwart. And he thinks Brooks is an honest broker (or did, until I started shooting him more stuff).

The great skill that Brooks and the other have is sounding reasonable; if you’re someone who trusts the brand, don’t have knowledge of whatever research the pundit invokes (if they’re into that particular gimmick) and you’re reading outside of your specific area of knowledge—hell, they sound right.

The blogosphere was supposed to act as a corrective to the received wisdom. It is failing.

Yah. And it’s so hard to persuade people of these things, even if they agree with you on most other stuff, because you can’t just implant your mental template into their brains. That sort of stuff takes time, effort and a consistent supply of reading material (from you) and a desire to consume and consider that material (from them). And most of us, on one side or the other, don’t have that kind of time, effort and commitment.

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