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July 21, 2004

Both Sides?

Goshohmy! That's what one of our clients this summer says when he's surprised by something: Goshohmy! It's really quite a good exclamation, and expresses my surprise that this little post from Monica has generated so many responses, include this latest from Nicole. It started with an offhand comment about Slate, I mentioned Salon, and away we went. So here's a long response to Nicole's excellent long response (you'll have to read what she wrote for this to make sense):

UPDATE: I had the link to Nicole's post wrong. I think it's fixed now.

Like I said, I really don't read Slate. If you say it covers both sides, I'll take your word for it.

But where is "the center" in our country? Is it anywhere near where you'd like to be? If so, you're certainly doing the right thing supporting it. I think (and lots of data supports this) the so-called "center" in our country has shifted dramatically and horribly to the right in the last 30-40 years, so yeah, I'm extremely opposed to that. I think many "politicians who work close to the center" are not so much working as coasting along on the tides of the status quo. Sure they get shit done, but perhaps that's because they only try to do the easy stuff, the stuff nobody cares too much about because, hey, it's close to the center already, no extreme opinions involved, no worries.

And sure conservative issue positions are valid; it would be nice to see some politicians stand up and be conservatives. How about conserving our tax dollars? How about conserving the environment? How about conserving the health of Americans by providing health care for everyone? (By the way, you think 97% of Americans don't want that? Think again. Of course, it all depends on how you phrase your polling question.) What passes for conservatism today is a farce and is in fact among the most profligate agendas ever to hold sway in America. The only thing they want to conserve is their own fat bank accounts, and everyone else can pay the price.

We're living in extremely screwed up times. I'm extremely angry and dismayed about that, and I'm extremely determined to do something about it. I agree that lefties shouldn't insulate themselves from more than half America, but when 99% of the news sources available to me on a daily basis (radio news, newspapers, tv, web) are claiming to give me both sides, I'm not to worried about getting out of touch by reading one or two websites that don't make any such pretense.

Which reminds me: Lots of news outlets claim to give us "both sides" of issues, as if that's all there was. What about side 3, 4, 5 and so on? Very few stories have only two sides; you suggest Salon is extreme, I suggest it's just a 3rd side, and sometimes a 4th or more. What's so bad about that?

And since you asked what purposes so-called "extremism" serves, let me ask you: Whose interests does your dismissal of so-called extremism serve? The interests of the status quo, it seems to me. And like I said, if that's cool with you, then by all means, carry on— digest a steady diet of Slate and other mainstream news sources, support "centrist" politicians, etc. But if you'd like anything about our society and our world to change very much at all, you might want to think again about how you define "extreme" and where you draw the line about what you'll listen to, read, watch, etc.

Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it's from Neptune. Noam Chomsky

But, and so, ok. We're on the same side, really, I think, and I do understand your point that if the only things you say sound so whacky people think you're a freak or a lunatic then you'll never get anything done. That's true. But what if we think of it this way: There's a limited range of acceptable debate in our society. Right now, that range is about an inch wide, and everything outside of that little inch-wide band of acceptability sounds like it's from Neptune. In order for us to have a healthy, happy, productive and prosperous society, that range of debate needs to be much wider. For now, let's aim for doubling it to two inches. How do we do that? I'm not sure, but I bet if more of us are constantly making noises that sound like they're from Neptune, that range of acceptable debate will start to expand. So do you want to spend your life working w/in an inch of acceptability, or would you like to hope for more?

Posted July 21, 2004 09:17 PM | general politics

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