Monday, September 23, 2013

Vile, Vile, Miss 'American Bile'...

Robert Reich, in his post "American Bile," explores the raw anger, the ad hominem hostility, the obscene, profane and personally insulting language one encounters in today's American society, especially in the political context. He concludes:
I’m 67 and have lived through some angry times: Joseph R. McCarthy’s witch hunts of the 1950s, the struggle for civil rights and the Vietnam protests in the 1960s, Watergate and its aftermath in the 1970s. But I don’t recall the degree of generalized bile that seems to have gripped the nation in recent years.


... we increasingly live in hermetically sealed ideological zones that are almost immune to compromise or nuance. Internet algorithms and the proliferation of media have let us surround ourselves with opinions that confirm our biases. We’re also segregating geographically into red or blue territories: chances are that our neighbors share our views, and magnify them. So when we come across someone outside these zones, whose views have been summarily dismissed or vilified, our minds are closed.

No kidding. When someone on the radical Right makes shit up and throws it, sometimes every five minutes or so, who's going to be able to correct every instance of deliberate falsehood, let alone mitigate the effects of quickly spreading innocent misunderstandings? Lies and even nonmalicious errors simply can't be combated quickly enough. To try or not to try? That's a damned good question


  1. Mr. Reich apparently is not a Southerner. One reason why JFK got shot in Dallas was because his Secret Service protection was too busy trying to protect him from rioting rednecks to notice that someone was poking a gun out of a window. They *hated* him in Dallas, considered him the anti-Christ, the rhetoric they used against JFK was more violent and hateful than anything they've invented about Obama.

    The only thing new is that this legacy of hate has been exported from the South to wide swathes of the rest of America too over the past few decades. But it's nothing new, it's a rot that has been at the heart of America for a long, long time.

  2. 'tux, Mr. Reich was born in Scranton, PA, attended Dartmouth, then Oxford, and ultimately Yale Law School, served on the faculty of Brandeis and the Heller School, then, after considerable political service, joined the faculty of Berkeley's Goldman School. In other words, he's about as far from Southern as one can be.

    And yet I would dispute your assertion that JFK was shot in Dallas because Texans hated him. Until Tom DeLay started messing around with districting around 2000 or so, Texas was a politically divided state, about 60% R and 40% D at its worst. I remember the announcement of Kennedy's assassination; I was about 17 at the time... and I heard *far* more Texans express dismay that Johnson was now president than I had ever heard express hatred of Kennedy. Johnson was at home here; Texans either loved or hated him... plenty of them hated him, but not Kennedy. I can't speak for Dallas specifically; Houston has always been a more cosmopolitan city (ahem... did you know Houston votes consistently Democratic?), but the generalizations that have hounded Texas ever since are simply not merited. Texas elects Republicans now because its district map is a grotesque gerrymander (e.g., district boundaries extending out and in along a highway to include a particular Democratic region to consolidate the Democratic vote). A fair redistricting (unlikely while the current Lege and Guv are in power, and how would they ever be toppled) would yield a much more politically divided landscape.

  3. Steve, Dallas is most definitely *not* Houston. I was born 90 miles from Dallas. Dallas is full of right-wing bankers and redneck crackers. J.R. Ewing was a Hollywood caricature of Dallas's leadership class, but he was actually a good guy compared to the real thing from 1963. Let's just say that I never had any desire or intention to live in Dallas, and I did live in Houston for over a year.

    JFK received multiple death threats that he would be killed if he came to Dallas (here's an example of one),and a previous trip by Sec. of State Stevenson only a month prior had been a disaster because of riots that ended up with Stevenson being personally assaulted when the mob overwhelmed his security detail. Keeping mobs at bay was one reason why the Secret Service wasn't looking for snipers so much, there was a more immediate in-their-face threat to deal with.



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