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Histrionic Noise is Self-Selecting

Y'know, I was just sitting here boggling about the extremity of reactions to President Obama. Judging by the reactions I see from people (or e-mails I get sent, or events in the news), he's got this serious love/hate thing going on. The people who love him just OMG LOVE HIM SO MUCH that they make up all sorts of great things he hasn't done to justify their love for him, which is amusing to watch; but actually of the two, the haters are more histrionic, because they also hate the fact that not everybody hates him. And everything the lovers do just makes the haters go into that much more of a paroxysm of rage. [1]

And I'm sitting here watching all this, thinking, "Well good grief, Esther, where are all the people who think he's 'okay but nothing special' or 'kind of meh but he'll do' or even 'he's good enough, certainly better than the last guy'? How come we never hear from, I dunno what to call them, the 'contenteds'?"

That's when it hit me, "Duh, they have nothing to rant about, so they don't." And it's true ... with no axe to grind on the subject, the people who neither LOVE LOVE LOVE the President nor HATE HATE HATE him are just happily going on their merry way. [2] But the side-effect of their contentment is that they are woefully under-represented in discussions. The haters are louder and more frothingly incoherent; the lovers generally have more actual pull on the stage of world affairs. The contenteds are a silent and invisible mass, sort of like political dark matter, all but undetectable but we know they must be there somewhere.

I actually found this to be a quite comforting thought. When I was young, I thought that being passionate about political/social affairs was a virtue to be cultivated, but as time has gone on I've come to the conclusion that like in so many other endeavors, all that emotion does nothing except make people stoopid — and demagogues will do their best to whip you into even more of a frenzy specifically in the hope of making you stoopider.

It's "politically/socially passionate" people who sweep tyrants into power, cause bloody revolutions, and generally make big problems that then have to be solved by getting the nation to come to its senses. Meaningful, sustained change has to be made on a cultural level, not a political one, and that doesn't happen in a white-hot moment of outrage, but gradually over time like a river carving a canyon.

I'd be more comforted if I could actually see the contenteds instead of having to take it on faith that they're out there, because my big hope is that they outnumber the lovers and the haters combined by a factor of ten to one. But I can't really know it, either way.

-The Gneech

[1] I had to go to the dictionary to make sure that not only had I spelled paroxysm correctly, but that I was using it correctly as well. Turns out I was right on both counts, first time! English degree FTW. ;)

[2] For the record, this also sends the haters into that much more of a paroxysm of rage.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 16th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)
I'm one of the "he's good enough, certainly better than the last guy" folk.

You won't see any "Moderates Endorsing Humility" (M. E. H.) rallies, simply because... we'd rather got on with our lives.
Oct. 16th, 2009 03:09 pm (UTC)
I've seen you at rallies! Or at least, pictures of you at rallies. In your own LJ, no less! You radical bisexual you.

-The Gneech
Oct. 16th, 2009 04:11 pm (UTC)
Can one be a due paying member of MEH or does that defeat the purpose?
Oct. 16th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty indifferent to Obama - then again, I suppose I'm more objective being Canadian. I certainly like him more than bush. I suppose ONE thing that might whip me into a frenzy of love for the man was if he killed Stephen Harper's hair. Have you SEEN that thing? It moves less than a ken doll's! My friend and I are convinced that it's a parasitic entity, bent on global domination that's infected the mind of some poor previously bald dude and controls his actions.

Of course this theory falls through when you consider it'd goal of global domination Vs. infecting the prime minister of Canada. Of course, no one said it had to be very bright...:)
Oct. 16th, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
Heh! I was primarily writing from the POV of a US citizen ... I always forget that we have such an inordinate amount of prominence in other countries.

I mean, I really have no idea who the PM of Canada, Australia, or the UK are right now ... but I suspect most people in those countries hear about Obama on a daily (or at least weekly) basis.

It's a strange world we live in, my friend!

-The Gneech
Oct. 16th, 2009 03:30 pm (UTC)
Hmm...well, truth be told, I just like international news. Mostly in the science sector but occasionally you'll get the "The research on how to stop babies dying was condemned as immoral by the prime minister of howagabumba" kinda deal...

And yeah, the prime minister of Canada's Stephen Harper. And for your consideration as to the hair parasite...
Oct. 16th, 2009 04:13 pm (UTC)
I thought I was the only one!!!! obviously the insidious hair beast should be taken out. For the freedom of Canada of course.
Oct. 17th, 2009 12:50 am (UTC)
Oct. 17th, 2009 01:58 am (UTC)
aye aye sir! oi! *ka-CLICK!*
Oct. 16th, 2009 03:10 pm (UTC)
I'm reminded of the original meaning of "silent majority"--and of Fred Grandy's "Apathy Now" quasi-movement.

Me? I'm trying to start a "Sang-Froid Now!" movement on for size.
Oct. 16th, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
Procratination NOW!

-The Gneech
Oct. 16th, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)
Death to all extremists!
Oct. 16th, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC)
Histrionic Noise is Self-Selecting
The hate can be extreme at times. One group on campus was tabling and had a photo of him with the Hitler mustache. A bit extreme, yes, but the group was one of the groups with out-of-this-world views. I think they mentioned a space ship or aliens of some sort...
Oct. 16th, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC)
Despite the fact that I enjoy talking about politics I pretty much agree with every point here. I like to think I am in the "he's okay but not the bee's knees" but perhaps I am fooling myself into thinking I am that way.

I do agree the fervent emotion on both sides of the coin are very off putting and I wish people would just say the obvious: he hasn't been in office that long but so far he's been middling neither the greatest or the worst.

He's neither a Teddy Roosevelt or a Warren G. Harding.
Oct. 16th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
Contented people don't get good ratings, either, so the news media is more likely to focus on the crazies.

It's still early in Obama's administration, but he seems to be headed in the right direction, and is refreshingly moderate. He does need to work on his relationship with Congress, however. He's trying to leave the legislating to the legislative branch, but hasn't given Congress enough direction when they ask for it.
Oct. 16th, 2009 04:48 pm (UTC)
Mm... count me as "annoyed, but he's not worth hating". He really isn't qualified, but then, he's hardly the first one of those we've had.

The part that scared me was that, when elected, he appeared to have Congress sewed up as well, so that pretty much anything he wanted to do looked like a foregone conclusion. Now, it's looking more and more like at least a fair number of Congresscritters have some practical smarts, so the worst excesses he can come up with are being stopped. With some degree of common sense in the loop, we've got a good chance of making it through his administration without too many disasters making it into law. (F'rex, does anyone else remember his campaign promise to bankrupt any business related to coal? Someone seems to have pointed out to the relevant people the consequences should that happen - consumer electricity would rise in price by about a factor of six - and those relevant people appear to have realized just how badly that would irritate the electors. The measure has been quietly sidetracked into committee oblivion for now.)
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 16th, 2009 06:06 pm (UTC)
How about the Hippies of the 60's rallying against the "Establishment!"

Well.. some now ARE the establishment. They're attitudes are old (like them) and outdated. Worse, they don't listen too their constituents (and I speak from personal experience in just trying to call their offices).

Imagine how much fun it is for me to call an elected official to inquire about a concern only to find they've turned off their phones, their email and their FAX, because they don't want to hear us?

I can't in sit back and wait. Not when they flaunt that kind of attitude toward the electorate.
Oct. 16th, 2009 05:20 pm (UTC)
] I haven't really cared for Obama from the start (well ok, the Kanye comment was good - but that's not exactly political in nature). I don't yell about it, though. No point in me worrying about what I can't control. All I control is myself, and most of the time, I don't care to make myself look like a total ass in a hat.

] Most of my friends/family seem to feel about the same as I do about Obama... and he doesn't come up in conversation often. I could probably count the post-election occasions he was brought up on one hand. I brought up the Kanye comment - which though positive, again isn't really political. I also brought up Guantanamo Bay, which I was torn on. I completely agree with him that we shouldn't be torturing prisoners - because it goes against the American spirit, and is something we should find morally reprehensible. In fact, The Soldier's Guide, which is an amalgamation of various Army related government manuals, clearly outlines that mistreatment of prisoners is unacceptable (and I believe torture is specifically mentioned, including for interrogation). It's already on the books - so any soldier violating that should be a) ashamed of themselves, b) discharged (after spending some time in the stockade). On the other hand, I'm not happy with closing the base. After we invested how much money in it? Do we suddenly not need a detention facility? Have we suddenly got too many military bases? Surely there's something we can do with it instead of just closing it?

] ...I digress though. My point was actually that I tend to keep my yap shut because a) I acknowledge that I may well be completely wrong, b) apathy.


Edited at 2009-10-16 05:20 pm (UTC)
Oct. 16th, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC)
As far as the president is concerned, I am contented.

But goddamm do I love watching the right wing squeal like pigs every time a flea farts in the White House. I think Alan Grayson (D, FL) said it best last week: "If President Obama was to have a BLT in the morning, buy that night the GOP would try to outlaw bacon."

That's why I wear Obama shirts, too. It makes the wingnuts curdle their milk. Why yes, I am an asshole. =};-3
Oct. 16th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)
How about GM Sarli's comment, "if Obama cured cancer, Limbaugh would complain that he's putting hard-working oncologists out of a job"?

-The Gneech
Oct. 16th, 2009 05:32 pm (UTC)
Yep, that's a good one, too. Limbaugh and his ilk are
especially hilarious to watch. And the effort they all try to make about it "not being racial." Yeah, and monkeys fly out of my ass and I piss rainbows...
Oct. 16th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
You've hit upon the preverbal nature of politics Gneech. Now I've had love/hate relationships with my elected officials too. To communicate my personal criteria for this love/hate flip-flop I look at the following prior to an election:

1. Has this person served in government, and in what prior capacity?

2. Is this person qualified by their performance on that last job, personality and accomplishments?

3. Will they adhere to the State or Federal constitution?

Then when they're elected I evaluate them by:

1a) Are they meeting the requirements of the job appointed to?

2a) Are they supporting the people they represent (i.e. are they avoiding looking like an ass or a jerk and are they avoiding making the public that elected them look & feel foolish)?

3a) (AND the Big One) Are they adhering to the State Constitution & our U.S. Constitution?

For a variety of our politicians the latter (3a) has not been met. In some cases some elected officials have true open contempt of the public. More than anything that's an automatic disqualification for any public trust in my opinion.

I'm willing to give many people the benefit of the doubt, BUT when clear violations of our Constitution occur (State/Fed) that's where I draw the line. At that point I feel I have not just a right, but an obligation to speak out.

It's like that line that Michael J. Fox gave in "The American President" and to paraphrase, he said, "He's my President. And it's my right to question..."

Thomas Jefferson made the same point. It's every citizen's obligation to make a critical evaluation of our elected officials. They are supposed to represent us, BUT do so by adhering to the U.S. Constitution. As Franklin said in response to a question of what kind of country do we have, he said, "A Republic, if you can keep it."

Okay.. I know this was long winded... But, I can actually trace my ancestry back to a relative who signed the Declaration of Independence (the War of 1812, and all other conflicts up to Korea). I take this concern over our current president very honorably. If he does a good job.. Fine.

If not, then it's up to the House of Representatives & the Senate to remove him by legal means.

No more, no less.
Oct. 17th, 2009 08:28 am (UTC)
What you're seeing is what the various media think interesting enough to show. Gallup or Rasmussen would give a more realistic picture: the 'somewhat approve', and I wish they'd show a 'somewhat disapprove' to balance it.

The US is not divided among lovers, haters, and quietly contented; there are also quietly discontented. Some of the latter are calm conservatives, but there's an increasing number of disappointed liberals, former lovers -- some breaking silence but others keeping quiet from embarrassment or wishful thinking.
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 17th, 2009 08:42 am (UTC)
Gneech, why do people keep on coming up to me and saying "Br'er Horse, Tar Baby been talk'n smack about yo mama again"?
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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