Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Political Psychoanalysis

I mostly try to ignore articles and blog posts dedicated to the proposition that "my opponents may or may not know it, but their real motivation is ____." Mostly it's ugly, mostly it's unconvincing, mostly it presupposes that the writer has only one kind of opponent. So I mostly skipped Rich's The Rage Is Not About Health Care saying that health-care opposition is really all about racism, sexism, and evilism in general:

the laughs evaporated soon enough. There’s nothing entertaining about watching goons hurl venomous slurs at congressmen like the civil rights hero John Lewis and the openly gay Barney Frank. ...the health care bill is not the main source of this anger and never has been. It’s merely a handy excuse. The real source of the over-the-top rage of 2010 is the same kind of national existential reordering that roiled America in 1964. ... The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play.

Well, I assumed that Rich had in fact watched "goons hurl venomous slurs at ... John Lewis", and I thought that was sad but unsurprising; there are nasty people in the world, and I expect some of them to use protests as excuses for being nasty; I also expect that other people in the protest will try to prevent or at least disassociate themselves from bad behavior, and it's hard to get an overall sense of any given group because any given group contains lots of different kinds of people.

So my reaction to Rich's "facts" was a sigh, and my reaction to his "analysis" was...well..... Meh. Skip it, no comment; I don't think I finished scanning it, and didn't click his links.

But then I got a link to Rich's op-ed from someone I care about. Hmm...should I take Rich seriously? Better look for news reports, see if there were protest organizers who commented, look for The Other Side.

I clicked on one of Rich's links, to the Washington Post's 'Tea party' protesters accused of spitting on lawmaker, using slurs:

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus said that racial epithets were hurled at them Saturday by angry protesters who had gathered at the Capitol to protest health-care legislation, and one congressman said he was spit upon.
Apparently that's what Rich thought it wasn't entertaining to watch. Okay, I'd agree. And is The Other Side making excuses? No, it seems the Other Side is in denial.

The key claim -- and cash offer -- seems to be at Big Journalism:

the Congressional Black Caucus claimed the N-word was hurled 15 times. YouTube video shows that at least two of the men in the procession were carrying video cameras and holding them above the crowd. They have not come forth with evidence to show that even one person hurled the vile racist epithet. ... Is it really possible that in 2010, in a crowd of 30 or 40 thousand people — at the center of a once-in-a-lifetime media circus — not one person’s flipphone, Blackberry, video recorder or a network feed caught a single incident? ... the Democrats need a racist Tea Party moment. To stop it in its tracks. That’s why on Saturday they used the Congressional Black Caucus to try to manufacture the false appearance of one. And when they didn’t get it, they did what they always do: they lied..... It’s time for the allegedly pristine character of Rep. John Lewis to put up or shut up. Therefore, I am offering $10,000 of my own money to provide hard evidence that the N- word was hurled at him not 15 times, as his colleague reported, but just once. Surely one of those two cameras wielded by members of his entourage will prove his point.

Breitbart later said he was UPPING THE STAKES

$100K to UnitedNegroCollegeFund if Rep Lewis shows evidence N-Word yelled at CBC at last weeks Capitol #HCR protest.

Well, he has a point. There were of course a whole lot of video gadgets at the scene. If one of them caught the supposedly shouted slurs, then why isn't somebody claiming Breitbart's money? If none of them did...well, this is a problem. I don't think Breitbart's psychoanalysis is any better than Rich's (nor is it obviously any worse), but I am right now not expecting that video to be produced.

Slightly more interesting psychoanalysis at Gay Patriot

While I agree with the general thrust of [Will Collier's] argument, I do have a slight quibble with his recreation of what went on in the Democrats’ strategy meeting. ... They thought that by staging this bit of political theater, it was certain to elicit racist reaction because they really, truly believe that Republicans, especially their most zealous supporters, hate people of color (and sexual minorities). Hence the cameras. If a group of black people walked through a crowd of Tea Party protesters, they were bound to hear a racial epithet. (And when they didn’t find what they expected, they still rushed to the media with the accusations they were prepared to have leveled when they encountered the racism they were certain to find–but didn’t encounter.)
Well, maybe. Or maybe not. I'll add my own psychoanalysis: I think that we all, you and me included, have a strong tendency to adjust our perceptions of the world to fit our preconceptions: it's all about Reconstructive memory: Confabulating the past, simulating the future
The term ‘Rashomon effect’ is often used by psychologists in situations where observers give different accounts of the same event,and describes the effect of subjective perceptions on recollection.
I think it's entirely likely that the people saying they heard the N-word "15 times" are not lying: that's what they remember hearing. We live in worlds of our own creation, to a considerable extent. I'm simply not expecting to see the video.

Update: Perhaps I should note that my original views are not too far from David Kuhn, whoever that is:

Recently, in an ugly scene near the Capitol, some Tea Party protesters reportedly hurled racist epithets at members of the Congressional Black Caucus (including civil rights hero John Lewis). But it's the generalizations that are absurd and self-defeating....
But now I'm not even going that far.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home