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October 16th, 2009

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.

Il Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo

Speaking of Lee Van Cleef...



The greatest epic of the American west ever filmed entirely on location in Italy.

Or something like that.

-The Gneech

PS: Actually, it's a damn good film. But loooooooooooooong. And the weird thing is, it's a prequel to the other two.

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