Summary: Truth has become a tribal thing in America. Scores of posts have documented this on the Right and Left. Today we have two fun examples by the Left, with sublime but blind confidence in their tribe’s truths. Our tribalism divides us, making us weak. Our blinders keep us ignorant. The combination probably makes reform impossible for America.
- Matthew Yglesias indicts Bush, defends Obama
- Tribal truths about climate vs George Will
- For More Information
(1) Yglesias indicts Bush, defends Obama (blindly)
An analysis by Matthew Yglesias VOX, 16 June 2014 — Excerpt:
The US military is the finest military in the world, the sharp spear of the mightiest empire in human history. But the considerable virtues of America’s fighting forces do not give it any particular expertise in micro-managing Afghanistan politics.
And the fundamentals in Afghanistan have simply never been very good for a peaceful and democratic settlement. The country is not only divided between sectarian groups, but sandwiched between two rival regional powers … and neither power having any particular interest in democracy and pluralism. Throw in the well-known phenomenon of the resource curse and the country’s lack of stable institutions, and you’ve got a recipe for problems, problems that a bunch of heavily armed young people — no matter how well-intentioned or well-led — are not capable of solving.
This is a searing indictment of Obama’s war policy. During the 2008 campaign he advocated boosting the war effort in Afghanistan, despite 7 years of futile but expensive effort. Which he did starting in early 2009. Now our failure is obvious to all who look (although many prefer to see with closed eyes).
Surprise! This was in fact a defense of Obama, and by implication an attack on Bush Jr, titled “The mess in Iraq proves Obama was right to leave“. In this excerpt Afghanistan was swapped for Iraq, and resources for oil. Yglesias writes it with no sign of awareness that his logic defending Obama’s Iraq withdrawal also condemns Obama’s Afghanistan surge.
This is a small example of the Bush is Hitler, Obama is fine for doing the same things syndrome. Imagine what the Left would have said if Bush had employed the almost-defunct Espionage Act of 1917 to suppress leaks and whistle-blowers — and boasted about his assassinations, even of US citizens.
Of course we see similar “thinking” on the Right. Their maniacal pursuit of Obama for things like the Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi scandal. Their indifference to the bloody toll of guns, while trumpeting the far fewer legitimate acts of self-defense (see here and here).
Here Yglesias gives us a fine demonstration of one aspect of the 21st century American partisan mind. Other posts here provide a fuller outline: confident in their beliefs; closed to opponents’ arguments; blinkered to avoid seeing inconvenient facts; amnesic to awkward history. Truth is tribal. Ideal pawns for the 1%, with little ability to form inconveniently broad political alliances against them.
Let’s do another example.
(2) Tribal truths about climate
“The sad, sorry decline of George F. Will“, Damon Linker, The Week, 11 June 2014 — “The longtime Washington Post columnist was once an intellectual force to be reckoned with. No more.”
It’s become a classic of political commentary: a center-left lament about the decline in the quality of conservative intellectual life. … In most cases, this shift has been generational: an older, more thoughtful group of conservative thinkers and writers has been replaced by a less deeply educated and more baldly partisan cohort of ideological foot soldiers. But there is a notable exception to this tendency: George F. Will.
Will has been an opinion columnist for four decades, writing highly literate commentary for The Washington Post, Newsweek, and many other outlets in syndication. Holding a Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University, Will has often brought a rich knowledge of political philosophy and history into his columns — erudition that was recognized by his fellow journalists when he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1977.
Will has also shown an admirable independence of mind over the years … one wonders what the author of that book would make of the George Will of today — peddler of Tea-Party-approved libertarian bromides, promoter of know-nothing climate-change denialism, serial spewer of bile against the all-purpose bogeyman of “progressivism.”
Linker purports to give a politically-neutral, even objective, take-down of Will. The first and last of the three critiques look like boilerplate partisan whining, as in I don’t like his politics, and he doesn’t like mine. The second is more interesting. The link goes to “George Will, Anti-Climate-Science Loon, Strikes Again“, Jonathan Chait, NY Magazine, 29 April 2013. Here is the centerpiece of Chait’s analysis:
George F. Will … uses the last occasion to share his favorite statistic: There has been no global warming for fifteen years! … would Will be correct in asserting there has been no global warming for fifteen years? No, of course not.
This is a core tribal truth of the Left, endlessly repeated. With lavish insults for any who dare disagree. Unfortunately, climate scientists disagree (broadly speaking, as the duration of the “pause” or “hiatus” varies from 14 – 18 years, depending on the surface atmosphere temperature data set used). Several years ago the pause was controversial. Now it’s a commonplace mention in the peer-reviewed literature, with several reports about it by major climate agencies (e.g., The recent pause in global warming: What do observations of the climate system tell us?, UK Met Office, July 2013). Climate scientists have moved on to determining the causes of the pause, and forecasting its duration.
For those who like their science straight up, these posts provide abstracts and links to a wealth of research.
- Still good news: global temperatures remain stable, at least for now., 14 October 2012
- Scientists explore causes of the pause in warming, perhaps the most important research of the decade, 17 January 2014
- One of the most important questions we face: when will the pause in global warming end?, 25 August 2013
Meanwhile the Left demonstrates there is no reality-based community. They cite each other as authorities (playing climate scientist has become a favorite Leftist cosplay). They firmly hold their tribal truths like the most fervent creationist.
(3) For More Information
(a) For more information on the FM sites:
- The important things to know about global warming
- Posts about gun rights
- About politics in America
- Information & disinformation
(b) Posts about George Will:
- The media doing what it does best these days, feeding us disinformation, 18 February 2009
- George Will: climate criminal or brave but sloppy iconoclast?, 23 February 2009
- Apologies are due George Will, vindicated from charges that he is a climate criminal, 22 April 2010
- 5 years later: checking up on the 2-minute hate at George Will about melting of the polar ice, 10 June 2014
(c) Posts about tribalism:
- At the Tampa Convention Right & Left display our great illness: Tribalism, 2 September 2012
- Swear allegiance to the truth as a step to reforming America, 24 November 2013
- Facts are the enemy of both Left and Right in our America, 12 May 2014
- The story of America: what’s wrong and how to fix it, 9 June 2014