Monday, June 27, 2005


If there is one mantra that leftists love to repeat, it is that their ideas are more "nuanced" than those of conservatives. Consequently, so goes the refrain, they face more daunting communication challenges than folks whose thoughts are so simplistic they can be placed on a bumper sticker--with room to spare.

This communication gap--call it the White Left’s Burden--explains why smarter-than-thous find it so hard to garner a majority of votes in this unsophisticated country. Most folks, it appears, lack the gray matter required to grasp their finely tuned arguments. This gap also explains why the national Democrat Party can only enact its legislative agenda via the least democratic branch of the government--the federal judiciary.

Take as an example that famous declaration, "I actually did vote for the 87 billion before I voted against it." It takes a New England preppy who graduated in the bottom third of his college class to fathom the complexity of that assertion. Dimwitted NASCAR-types would simply chalk up an about-face of this sort to the common political desire to have your cake and eat it too.

It also takes more acumen than middle America can muster to understand Howard Dean’s recent comments about "evil" Republicans--"white Christian(s)" who don’t care if children go to bed hungry and who’ve "never worked an honest day in their lives." A professional deconstructionist might be needed to explain to the hoi polloi whether the two senators from Massachusetts fall inside or outside the last of those artfully articulated demographic categories. This tutor might also explain how it is really the Republicans who are poisoning political discourse. (I suspect the words "dialectical," "post-modern," and "grinch" would be employed frequently during this pedagogical session.)

More recently the party of nuance has taken to employing terms like "theocracy" to describe the efforts of religiously-motivated Americans to resist aggressive secularization of the public square. Typical of such "crusades" (or are they "jihads"?) are unsuccessful campaigns to allow public high schools to engage in traditions of minimal piety that have been in place for a century or more.

One can sympathize with cognitive hair-splitters who are now burdened with the job of explaining to simpletons why a minuscule cross on the seal of Los Angeles County constitutes an "establishment of religion"--a task further complicated by the "living document" judicial philosophy that makes all appeals to the Constitution’s text either superfluous or mendacious. Fortunately for these brainiacs, most Americans already believe that the phrase "separation of church and state" is actually in the Constitution-- probably in the section where, simultaneously, senate filibusters are made inviolate and the Constitution infinitely elastic.

The piece de resistance of nuanced discourse has to be Senator Dick Durbin’s recent use of the terms "Nazis," "Soviet gulags," and "Pol Pot" in conjunction with his condemnation of abuses at the Guantanamo detention facility. Only a mind working at warp speed can appreciate the refinement reflected in this three-pronged allusion. An untrained ear might think Senator Durbin was comparing the penal practices of Hitler, Stalin, and the Cambodian tyrant to those employed at GTMO.

Au contraire! The senior senator from Illinois was in no way linking the actions of American military personnel at Guantanamo with the aforementioned regimes. Unfortunately, I’m unequipped to explain this faux comparison that juxtaposes genocidal regimes with the alleged discomforts endured by terrorists at Guantanamo. (Curiously, the word "alleged" seems to be missing from Senator Durbin’s vocabulary.) All I can say is that hinterland Neanderthals tend to hear his statement as an imprudent assertion that will give aid and comfort to linguistically-challenged enemies.

Maybe Ted Turner can explain Durbin’s comparison--or that guy whose definition of the word "is" varies to suit the exigencies of his legal situation. In the meantime we simple- minded, uncaring, luxury-sated, theocratic fascists will have to do the best we can, thesaurus in hand, to master the complexities of sophisticated political discourse.


Anonymous said...

You're just bitter that you never got your doctorate. Have fun continuing to brain wash rich white kids.

RKirk said...

Well now, that's an intelligent ad hominem response--intelligent because the poster had the good sense to remain anonymous. For the record, "brainwash" is a single word, I don't teach at the prep school any more, and the prep school always had a significant contingent of blacks, Asians, and "Hispanics" (the latter is a hodge-podge PC category that is derided by the author Richard Rodriguez, an American of Mexican ancestry).

Dear Anonymous,
Do you have any "nuanced" thoughts or did you just want to illustrate my point?

G.Rap said...

The brain of anonymous could use some washing. It is filthy with inferiority complex, racism, cowardice, and its own bitterness at being so much dumber than that of the man it envies. Too bad it wasn't lucky (or smart) enough to have learned from Mr. Kirk.

G. Rap

Anonymous said...

Examples of the right wing's naunced thought?

PAT ROBERTSON: "He has destroyed the Venezuelan economy, and he’s going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent. You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war, and I don't think any oil shipments will stop, but this man is a terrific danger, and the United States -- this is in our sphere of influence. We can't let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine. We have other doctrines that we have announced, and without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

or maybe it was this-

Christian conservative Jerry Falwell's comment that the 11 September 2001 attacks were punishment for America's preponderance of "pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays, lesbians" and liberal organisations.

Yup, pretty subtle. Way to go right wing...

RKirk said...

Two points for Anonymous to consider:

1) My article does not assert that "right-wing" discourse is nuanced--it illustrates the absurdity of the popular left-wing assertion that their ideas are unpopular because they are so nuanced.

2) My examples of unnuanced left-wing discourse focus on the Democrat party's Presidential candidate, its party leader, and the senior Democrat senator from Illinois. Your examples, by contrast, came from two marginal figures who are not in equivalent positions of power. That's a nuanced but important distinction--
alongside the point made in #1 above.

Anonymous said...

Point well taken and thank you for the speedy reply. Perhaps it is worth discussing the lack of naunce on right wing of politics. Statements such as "Bring it on" and "I need to go over those numbers with my budget man" by the the President of the most powerful nation in the world are a classic examples of how a great deal of right wing thought lacks naunce via its short sighted, aggressive reactions to very important issues. John Kerry is a very smart man. He is capable of not only seeing both sides of an issue, he sees 5 or 6 sides to an issue. I think it is a shame that our choice for popular leadership seems to be based on the candiates testosterone level. No matter how wrong he may be, we know where he stands.

Again I thank you for your prompt reply and hope to continue this dialogue with you who I believe are an intelligent,articulate man.

RKirk said...

Thanks for your civil comments. There is no doubt in my mind that a lack of subtlety is characteristic of political discourse generally. I would argue, however, that the two specific examples you provide in your last post aren't helpful-- since one can peruse anyone's discourse for examples of random comments that are designed for rhetorical purposes "Bring it on" or that represent little more than "ask me later after I get more details on the issue you raise." I don't think those examples rise to the level of the examples I gave in which Mr. Kerry said he voted for and against the war, Mr. Dean called Republicans evil theocrats, and Mr. Durbin all but equated the minor abuses at GITMO with Nazi concentration camps and the Soviet gulag.

As to Mr. Kerry's intelligence, I suppose you are aware that his college scores at Yale were slightly LOWER than those of Mr. Bush. Also, people seem astonishingly unaware of the fact that the President has an M.B.A. from Harvard.

All that aside, you won't convince anyone of Mr. Kerry's intelligence by simply saying (based on what?) that he is a "very smart man." In my view Mr. Kerry is an unprincipled opportunist who has a remarkably undistinguished record in the Senate.

I have no illusions about George W. Bush, but he seems to me to be an honest man with the capacity to surround himself with solid advisors--Rice, Powell, Rumsfield, Cheney, etc. By contrast, the person who was advising Mr. Kerry on foreign policy during the last election was Sandy Berger--the man who was CONVICTED of stealing national security documents. (I realize that you may be unaware of this fact since the mainstream media are not interested in stories that diminish their political friends.)

Finally, I find it hard to understand how someone who follows politics with even a degree of objectivity could say that people know where Mr. Kerry stands. He was hot to take out Saddam in 1998 when the Senate was backing "regime change" rumblings in the Clinton administration. Then he votes for the war in Iraq in 2003(when public opinion is at his back) but then tries to back off his support when he sees Mr. Dean winning in the Iowa primary in 2004.

I don't think that seeing five different sides of the issue was what prompted Kerry's about-face? (By the way, Kerry didn't seem to have a nuanced view of the Vietnam War or of the soldiers in that war--until it served his political interest to distance himself from his unsubstantiated and contradictory "Genghis Khan" accusations.)

I frankly think there is a lot more evidence that Mr. Kerry is a man of scant character who lied about his resume (Swift Boat Vets)and trims his sails for political advantage than there is evidence for the charge that Bush is a liar and a moron.

For an example of a very intelligent man I would suggest
the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. You might read his 1993 piece in The Public Interest, "Defining Deviancy Down." As UN Ambassador (under Richard Nixon, I believe)he exhibited the kind of posture that John Bolton, if his PR is at all credible, will exhibit as President Bush's representative to that very flawed institution.

If you wish to continue this discussion, I will explain why, in general, "conservative" (as opposed to "right wing") political thought is actually more nuanced than liberal or "left wing" thought.