There’s one person among the wretched, wriggling masses of the political blogosphere whom I clearly do not read often enough, and that’s Matt Taibbi. (Hat tip to Rick at Right Wing Nuthouse.) The linked article is actually a long, scathing set of sharp elbows thrown in the direction of Sarah Palin and done so with lethal accuracy, but that’s not the part which caught my attention. (But if you share my lack of enthusiasm for the Wasilla Wildcat as viable presidential material, you should probably read it. I’m sure you’ll have a good time.)
No, what Matt talks about near the beginning of the article is something which has once again been on my mind of late… specifically the way that the hyperpartisan, biased nature of political discussion today can really grind you down to the point where you begin to lose interest.
At the end of this decade what we call “politics” has devolved into a kind of ongoing, brainless soap opera about dueling cultural resentments and the really cool thing about it, if you’re a TV news producer or a talk radio host, is that you can build the next day’s news cycle meme around pretty much anything at all, no matter how irrelevant — like who’s wearing a flag lapel pin and who isn’t, who spent $150K worth of campaign funds on clothes and who didn’t, who wore a t-shirt calling someone a cunt and who didn’t, and who put a picture of a former Vice Presidential candidate in jogging shorts on his magazine cover (and who didn’t).
It doesn’t matter what the argument is about. What’s important is that once the argument starts, the two sides will automatically coalesce around the various instant-cocoa talking points and scream at each other until they’re blue in the face, or until the next argument starts.
It sure can feel that way sometimes, can’t it? And every once in a while it gets to be too much. When this has happened in the past I sometimes went into a funk and simply didn’t write anything for days, or even weeks at a time. These days I tend to run a bit more disciplined schedule and choose instead to simply slow down to one piece a day. I’ll also change up topics from the usual beltway catnip of the day and focus on other things such as Supreme Court cases, cultural oddities or sports. It may not draw as much interest from the hard core water cooler crowd, but it eases the throbbing in my brain for a while.
I suppose what bothers me the most is dealing with the consistent hive mentality which permeates so many political web sites on both sides of the divide. It feels like you spend all of your time talking to drones, one after another, who are all marching in lockstep to the tune of some higher power of opinion generation. The problem is, you never really get to debate with the Queen.
And, as I said, it doesn’t matter which side you’re talking to. Right here at home on TMV I can be in an on line discussion with someone who was, moments earlier, happily agreeing with me when I said that Obama had handled the situation in Honduras pretty well. The next moment, when I criticize certain aspects of the proposed health care bill currently before the Senate, I am informed that I am a hopeless conservative hack who is clearly in the pocket of the health insurance industry and who cares nothing for the needs of the working poor.
(This is rather ironic, because when I recently asked my lovely wife about the possibility of going to Atlantic City with a couple of my friends to play some poker, I was informed in no uncertain terms that I actually am part of the working poor and the idea was out of the question.)
But things don’t get any better on the starboard side of the ship. I moderate a chat most weekdays which is inhabited pretty much entirely by people who consider themselves hard-core movement conservatives. Again, some of these people will be nodding their heads in agreement with me and singing my praises as I criticize the health bill. But then, mere moments later, when I mention that I don’t care for Sarah Palin as a presidential candidate or that Obama should be given credit for taking his time on the Afghanistan decision, I am informed that I probably voted for him.
(This may not sound like much of an insult in other social circles, but there it is delivered with the same wild eyed vigor as saying that I probably burn American flags in my back yard while dining on the flesh of aborted babies with a nice Chianti.)
At any rate, I was happy to read Matt’s article and see that I’m not alone in feeling that way some days. Arguing about politics on the internet anymore is pretty much like…. well, I don’t have a good analogy. The two sides not only have nothing in common… they have devolved into warring camps where simply being perceived as belonging to the other side relegates you to sub-human status far too often.
So… who’s up for some football predictions?