Tuesday, September 27, 2005

This Is Why I Don't Argue With Liberals

WARNING: This is a rather long rant…

Jon Carroll is an op-ed columnist for the SF Chronicle. He has a wry sense of humor and a warped outlook on life that normally I enjoy. Except for yesterday. This column has a promising blurb: “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, and here I am, stuck in the middle with, as it turns out, most of America. Solidarity!”

His column starts out:
“Some of us have been in despair…And we have been confirmed in our despair by the electronic media, which effectively parrot Bush administration talking points, no matter how contradictory, and by the other media, which seem to believe it would be unwise to tangle with such a popular leader as Bush.” (emphasis mine)

Then Mr. Carroll repeats this tired canard: “This even though George Bush barely won both presidential elections—and in a more perfect world, he probably would have lost the first one and maybe even the second—and large numbers of people, not just sushi-eating tree kissers, have been dubious about the Iraq war from the start, and many of these expressing doubt were, like, actually in the military.”

The rest of the article continues on in a similar vein.

I was puzzled about Mr. Carroll’s assertion about President Bush barely winning both elections. So I logged into Wikipedia and refreshed my memory. In the final accepted count, Bush received 286 electoral votes, and Kerry received 251. The same article claims that Bush received 50.7% of the popular vote while Kerry received 48.3%. Okay, so that isn’t a tremendous margin.

Out of curiosity, I went back to Wikipedia and looked up Clinton’s percentages of the popular vote.

Verrrrry interesting….

In 1992, Clinton had 42.9% of the popular vote, GHW Bush had 37.4%, and Ross Perot had 18.9%. In 1996, Clinton had 49.2%, Bob Dole had 40.7%, and Perot received 8.4%.

Funny… no one has said that Clinton barely won, although he did not have a majority of the popular vote in either election! But Clinton was popular! He had his finger on the pulse of the populace!

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

And, by the way, Mr. Carroll, the MSM is supposed to report on what the current President and/or his spokesmen say. It’s part of their job. The MSM accepted Clinton’s explanation of the Lewinsky affair, even to his definition of is. As for “other media” being afraid to tangle with the popular President Bush, I suggest you read Salon or Daily Kos or even The New York Times. They don’t seem to be afraid of the President and don’t seem to be afraid to challenge everything he—or his administration—say.

It didn’t help that I received this via e-mail from a liberal friend of mine:

“This post is actually by my brother. He's comparing the government reaction this past week to the government reaction the last time an American city was destroyed - San Francisco, April 18, 1906.

The earthquake struck at 5:13 AM.

By 7 AM federal troops had reported to the mayor.

By 8 AM they were patrolling the entire downtown area and searching for survivors.

The second quake struck at 8:14 AM.

By 10:05 AM the USS Chicago was on its way from San Diego to San Francisco; by 10:30 the USS Preble had landed a medical team and set up an emergency hospital.

By 11 AM large parts of the city were on fire; troops continued to arrive throughout the day, evacuating people from the areas threatened by fire to emergency shelters and Golden Gate Park.

St. Mary's hospital was destroyed by the fire at 1 PM, with no loss of life, the staff and patients having already been evacuated across the bay to Oakland.

By 3 PM troops had shot several looters, and dynamited buildings to make a firebreak; by five they had buried dozens of corpses, the morgue and the police pistol range being unable to hold any more.

At 8:40 PM General Funston requested emergency housing - tents and shelters - from the War Department in Washington; all of the tents in the U.S. Army were on their way to San Francisco by 4:55 AM the next morning.

Prisoners were evacuated to Alcatraz, and by April 20 (two days after the earthquake) the USS Chicago had reached San Francisco, where it evacuated 20,000 refugees.

Of course, the technology of the day was fairly primitive, and the U.S. was a much poorer country. No doubt we could move more quickly today.”

Ignoring the differences between an earthquake and a hurricane in terms of logistics and the fact that San Diego and San Francisco are on the same coast, this e-mail did not pass the smell test. The 1906 Earthquake and Fire is part of my family history (and is responsible for my being here). So I have read a great deal about it and about turn-of-the-last-century San Francisco. But I was not content to rely on just my memory. Instead, I turned to Wikipedia and found this gem:

“The mayor Eugene Schmitz and General Frederick Funston declared martial law, even though they did not have the authority to do so. They tried to bring the fire under control by detonating blocks of buildings around the fire to create fire breaks, but the black powder they used set the building remains on fire.” (emphasis mine)

To which I added the comment: “Hmmm... I can just imagine what would have happened had Pres. Bush declared martial law in New Orleans and ordered the National Guard to blow up buildings…”

My friend replied with the rather snarky comment: “Not to worry. He can't spell "martial".”

(He did admit it was rather good research on my part, though.)

My point is, however, how do you argue with people like this? I think this is one of the reasons I did not major in English in college, even though reading and writing are major passions and major talents. There is too much “fuzzy thinking” and not enough facts. Just because you feel something is true DOESN’T make it true. The best of scientists know this. They have to prove their hunches in a laboratory and their peers have to be able to duplicate the results. The best of journalists also know this; although they don’t have a laboratory to test their results, they compensate by interviewing a wide range of people and digging for facts that can be substantiated. Poets (except those who by training or inclination are scientists or engineers) are hopeless—they operate solely on feelings. Facts seem to have a very minor place in their consciousness.

Pointing out the objective facts doesn’t seem to be enough to convince them. It’s like arguing with a teenager who knows what he knows and that’s all there is to it.

If I want to argue with teens, I’ll stay home!