Ian Bicking: the old part of his blog

Anti-Intellectualism and Politics

(Looking for Iraq and Ulterior Motives?)

I read an article in Rolling Stone about an anarchist who posed as a Republican and volunteered with the Bush Campaign in Florida. One thing he noted about the people he encountered is that they were actively against "cool".

I can understand where they are coming from. At a certain point in your life you get over youthful ambitions and you recognize who you are and who you are able to be. For many people, "cool" is no longer an option, and they recognize that. Recognizing it, they might come to hate cool and hate everything it represents. Especially with something like cool, because it's something that is held over you, it's something that can divide a person from their children and their peers. Of course there will be resentment.

An analogous situation is when a person considers themself to be unattractive -- it's common to see people then deliberately make themself more unattractive, as if to prove a point. Like a woman who is overweight wearing a large sweatshirt, or a man with a deliberately monotonous wardrobe. By willfully ignoring and even sabotaging their appearance, they are trying to prove they are above appearance. I've done this myself.

I have a hard time understanding Bush supporters. I understand people have different values and priorities than myself, but that doesn't account for the fact that around 50% of the (voting) nation will vote for Bush. Bush is clearly horrible, but no amount of facts seem to matter. But it's not about facts, it's about identity.

Cool is probably part of it. Cool has always been to the left. Listening to the travesty that is Christian Rock shows that it will stay to the left. Actually, I've heard some Christian musicians that I like (e.g., Low), but they aren't Christian Rock, they aren't always "positive", and I don't think they are respected by Christian Rock People. These people don't just hate cool, they hate real art.

But it's not just cool, and it's not just art; Kerry isn't cool, and he isn't artistic. As has been pointed out before, Bush and Company are very anti-intellectual. Anti-intellectualism is powerful, because it doesn't just appeal to people with non-intellectual identities (of which there are many), but it also distracts from all criticism. Once you reject intellectualism, you've rejected intelligence.

This is not to say Bush and Company are not intelligent. Well, I honestly don't think Bush is intelligent (he's a post turtle), but I'm sure the rest are smart enough. It's not even to say that his supporters aren't intelligent. 50% of the nation isn't dumb. But that 50% rejects intelligence, rejects intelligent discussion, and rejects thoughtful reflection. And I think they do it based on identity. Just like a person decides they will never be cool, they decide they will never be "smart", where smart means holding a higher degree, or reading literature, or all of the other academic and artistic symbols that we associate with intelligence. Rather than resigning themselves to a more modest self-image, or rejecting the symbols which serve as barriers, they reject the idea entirely, even go out of their way to become the opposite of the entire idea of intellectualism and intelligence.

Bush and Limbaugh and Coulter all appeal to this anti-intellectual sense of identity. They remind me powerfully of a school bullies, not just their rhetoric but even their presentation, their snide laughs and dismissive tones. And just like then it is so very frustrating, because though I see their stupidity, I cannot explain it to them, for they are too stupid to understand. No, "Ian Peein'" is not a clever play on words, and "Flip-Flopper" is not a valid criticism of Kerry, but there's no real way to make that argument.

So, that's my theory. I don't really know anyone who supports Bush (or at least who admits to it). The people I surround myself with share my values, so it's no surprise there's not a lot of diversity of opinion on this matter. I wonder, are there even people who read this blog who support Bush? If so, comment! I have so few such interactions with people on that side of the fence, it would be nice to know if this blog is one of them (well, I guess there's Keith).

Stupid me, I should have linked to the Rolling Stone article I reference: Bush Like Me.

Created 29 Oct '04
Modified 25 Jan '05


I'm not US citizen, so my opinions seem totally irrelevant whatever they may be. However, I have two opinions about this elections.

First I think everybody on this world should get a vote on who's getting to be next american president, as the load of bullshit produced by the american goverment is something the whole world has to bear.

Secondly: A president is a decision maker, that means he's carrying responsibility and has to take the Blame when he screws up. That's what beeing president is all about. Never in his life Bush has had to take the blame for the things he screwed up. He's screwed up america real bad the last 4 years, and whoever gets next president has to cleanup the mess. Because that's near to impossible the next president will have to take a lot of blame for things the current president screwed up.
I'm not alright with that. I think Bush should be held responsible, and the only way to archieve this is by keeping him around the office to be there when the errors of the last 4 years come crushing down to the ones carring responsibility.
Then, and only then, most american people will realize how bad this president really was. And hopefully learn something.
# Florian

Much as I would like to see Bush brought to court-martial, I think there is a very slim chance of that ever happening, even if he loses the next elections.

The simple fact that this administration wasn't run from office (remember what a simple blow-job can do?) and that around half of its citizens still apparently consider voting for the incumbent means that this was a collective failure, and that America, its citizens, its media and its institutions should collectively be held accountable for the long-lasting consequences of this trainwreck.
# Olifante

The truth is that you cannot understand them anymore than they can understand you. If you are really interested you could read Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think by George Lakoff or Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives by the same author. The first book in particular will help a little in explaining why the facts are not good enough for most conservatives. The generally will tend to ignore them when they do not meet their version of the world.
I am not voting for Bush, mainly for the slew of lies and excues and the mess he is leaving my kid with social security and the debt. But I know many people that can look past all of that (or ignore it) and are voting for him anyway.
# Tonetheman

I believe if you keep him around for the next 4 years to screw some more chances rise he's beeing courtmartialled. It doesn't matter however, because at that time america will be on the brink of civil-war anyway.
# Florian

"""It doesn't matter however, because at that time america will be on the brink of civil-war anyway."""

Been reading that John Titor site again, eh? ;-)
# Hans

Oops, that link should have been http://www.johntitor.com/ ^_^;
# Hans

As your token righty I'll take this one (actually libertarian, but close enough).

I think the post that said misunderstanding is a two way street was spot on. The anarchist undoubtedly sees Bush supporters as "not cool" because he's a friggin anarchist. Working for the Democratic campaign he would also find people more serious than those he meets at protests marches (because everyone shy of a revolutionary is more serious and less "cool" than him).

Likewise "Intellectual" is usually shorthand for "disagrees with me." People weight the facts differently (your 1.0 is my 0.0). Everyone has a set of issues where their position is "simple" (zero out most of the facts) where the other side considers it "complex" (lots of weighted facts). If you think "simple" only applies to the right then you haven't seen the dozens of different causes represented at protest marches whos supporters are frothing at the mouth
about Palestine, outsourcing, or corporations (saintly, evil, evil respectively).

Second - as any good ping pong player will tell you - you move to the place based on maximizing "can I play the ball there?" and "will the ball go there?"
You have limited possibilities of action so you pick the best one available. (okay, that was a long analogy). People and nations do this too, but since it
isn't ping pong people feel the need to defend their choice. Much of the anti-Americanism in my opinion comes from the fact that the US has a wider variety of choices than other countries. Friction happens when another country defends their position on moral grounds when really they made a choice on practical grounds (here is my list of possibilities, pick the best one). This causes friction because to be consistent you then have to bash the other guy as unmoral. This works for individuals too, there are only some possibile positions you can take that are consistent with your beliefs. The other guy has a different set of possibilities and when they don't overlap you get friction.

NB, I tried hard to say little inflamatory. If you think this was flamebait you don't read the internet much ;)
# Jack Diederich

I'll add that frequently calling someone else moral/unmoral is just posturing (especially when politicians are involved). This is a debating tactic, get the other guy to agree on some constraint that cuts down the stances he can take without hurting your own. The UN is a good example, the US doesn't like it because going to the UN means constraining the actions the US can take. Countries that have an outsized say in the UN like France want everything resolved in the UN because it greatly expands their possibilities. Third world dictators love the UN because it is one nation, one vote. They are irrelevant everywhere but the UN.
# Jack Diederich

Jack, first thanks for stepping up ;) I also got one pro-Bush email, where the author basically supported Bush on the basis of needing to win in Iraq.

Re: cool: anarchists aren't very cool, and I don't think he meant it as a way to insult the people he interacted with. Where he talks about this in the article (which I hadn't linked to, but I should have) he's actually defending the Repulicans as being more egalitarian than the Democrats. I'll quote:

If you've ever hung out with the Tricia Enrights and Joe Trippis of the world, you know that the operative vibe of the Democratic insider is wisecracking cool. It is not a reach to say that the ideological vision that mainstream Democratic politics has offered America since Clinton has been the supercool high school, the party of the popular kids. For all the talk about the Democrats being the party of inclusion, it really doesn't feel that way from the inside.

That's not true of all Democrats, of course. I thought it was very different, for instance, in the campaign of Dennis Kucinich. For the most part, these people were motivated by something other than ambition, and just being part of that campaign meant you were in a besieged minority, with the whole world out there laughing at you. Kucinich supporters stuck up for one another, because they had to.

You get that same besieged fraternal feeling in a Republican campaign office. There is no M*A*S*H ensemble-cast repartee. Nobody wears T-shirts that mean something, and nobody looks cool. As I would later find out, most Republicans hate "cool" ("They all think they're so cool and artistic," griped one woman as she watched Fox coverage of Democratic delegates arriving in Boston). Many of the parent volunteers I met were especially bitter because they think that cool is what liberals use to lure their children away. Which they might very well be right about, of course.

As far as the people in protests, they are actually on the whole very smart informed people. The news likes to find the most inarticulate person they can, and then take a 5 second clip that makes them seem even less articulate and informed, but that's not representative. It is unfortunate that protesters are widely misunderstood by the general public. The confrontational manner of protests doesn't really help either, but you have to give them credit for getting off their butts and doing something. I know lots of activists -- and there's many possible criticisms. Old schoolers are dry and overwhelming in their intellectualism. Anarchists are flaky. There's still some crazy communists who think they are the vanguard of the revolution. But being uninformed and simplistic isn't generally a valid criticism, it's just one the globalists and neoliberals have chosen to glom onto.
# Ian Bicking

{One thing he noted about the people he encountered is that they were actively against "cool".
For many people, "cool" is no longer an option, and they recognize that. Recognizing it, they might come to hate cool and hate everything it represents. Especially with something like cool, because it's something that is held over you, it's something that can divide a person from their children and their peers. Of course there will be resentment.

What is the definition of "cool", though? Isn't this different for everyone? What you consider to be cool could be totally un-cool to me, and vice versa. I think Python, CCGs and lava lamps are cool, and thugs, cell phones and piercings are uncool, but my daughter probably thinks the opposite. :-)

But maybe you are saying that Republicans think that *nothing* is cool. Hmm.
# Hans

Re: "what's cool": I mean "hip" cool. Cool like you see on TV, cool as defined by the mainstream cultural institutions. Cool as a personality trait, not an attribute of ideas or things.
# Ian Bicking

I will support Bush in the election. I would not have made the choice to go into Iraq, but now that we're in the country, we have to finish what we started and stabilize the country (and the Mid East, for that matter). I seriously do not believe Kerry has a plan (or the cajones) to do it.

I also believe in most of the Republican ideals (except for their insane disregard for the environment), so I am really voting for ideals in this election, not a particular man.
# Brandon Corfman

# Rick Monroe