21 November 2010

Signs Of The Apocalypse -- First In A Continuing Series

I've never watched an episode of Dancing With The Stars, and had never seen any part of it until I went looking for this clip.  Bristol Palin seems like a nice if somewhat vague and unformed young woman and certainly dances better than I ever have, would or could.  On the other hand, I'm perfectly willing to accept the view of those who actually know something about dancing, or Dancing, that she isn't nearly good enough to have made the finals on her own.  I could not care less is she wins or gets voted off.

But apparently lots of people do care and that strikes me as a sign of the apocalypse.

We seem to be treating politics now like just another team sport.  In Boston sports talk, you'll sometimes hear the phrase "they wear our laundry."  The point is that how a fan feels about some supposed scandal in sports (tape-gate, or Rodney Harrison taking HGH, or David Ortiz possibly having taken steroids, or Barry Bonds supposedly having taken steroids, or Manny being a lazy undisciplined player) depends entirely on whether they play for "your" team.  Caring whether Bristol Palin wins or loses a tv dance contest because her mother is Sarah Palin isn't politics, it isn't rational, it's just down to who's laundry she wears.  (Yeah, I know, but I didn't realize where this was going until it was too late to turn around.)

There's no rational basis on which to prefer the Red Sox to the Yankees, the Raiders to the 'Niners, or Manchester to ... some other soccer team.  I strongly believe that there is a rational basis to prefer conservative government to liberal government, and probably for preferring Republican government to Democratic government -- and I'll freely concede that if you start with another set of axioms, there are reasons to prefer Democrats to Republicans.  (Generally, the reason for the latter is "they'll give me stuff," but that's perfectly rational.)  But that doesn't mean that we are rational about these decisions and caring about Bristol Palin, one way or another (I mean, we're three weeks from an election in which we swept the Democrats from the House and people care whether Sarah Palin's daughter wins a dancing contest?) means that we've moved beyond rational argument.

For the people who would win a rational argument, that's bad news.


Bret said...

"For the people who would win a rational argument, that's bad news."

Who wins the rational argument?

As you point out, "that if you start with another set of axioms", you reach the exact opposite rational conclusion. This means that virtually everything of importance is based on subjective preferences - that is to say not rational.

David said...

Convervative ≠ Republican and Liberal ≠. Conservatives win the rational argument; Republican and Democrat are just teams. Axioms could make a difference for conservatives and liberals, but fortunately for Americans our axioms are given to us.

David said...

Liberal ≠ Democrat.

Bret said...

I think it's the same for conservatives versus liberals/progressives.

But I'm game. What rational argument do you think you'd win (apparently based on axioms that are given to us since we're Americans)?

Peter said...

I wonder whether there isn't a tongue-in-cheek component to this post. But maybe, as a Canadian, I'm just axiom-deficient.

Wasn't it you who once said one of the glories of democracy is that no one is accountable in any way for how they vote? I don't know whether you are using rational in a formal philosophical sense or the everyday sense of commonsensical, but I see nothing worrisome or even irrational in voting for Bristol based on factors other than her technical dancing expertise. We used to vote for homecoming queen at college and I don't recall we felt obliged to pretend we were judging the Miss Universe contest. Maybe for many she's the epitome of the girl next door. Maybe folks want to make amends for all the trash-talking she suffered and see her as incredibly courageous. Maybe the allure of exploding leftist heads is too irresistible.

Accepting that the irrational side of human nature is part and parcel of electoral democracy is not the same as openly advocationg philosophical irrationalism. But my real objection is your use of the word "now" as if we were witnessing a descent from some classical ideal of dispassionate, reasoned moderation. Sometimes that happens, and it can be very troublesome when it does, but why do you think American politics is any more tribal than in yesteryear?

David said...


The axioms are posted on the top right of the front page of the blog for your convenience, but they boil down to:

All people are equal in the eyes of the law;

Each individual has certain rights simply by virtue of having been created;

These rights include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness;
The point of government is to secure the enjoyment of rights by the individual; and

Government is legitimate only to the extent that (a) it uses the powers it is given to secures these rights and (b) the people consent to the government having those powers.

Both liberals and conservatives in the US believe that they're policies are the best way to follow these axioms. Conservatives are right and liberals are wrong, mostly because liberals only consider first order effects.

David said...


Ah, the sigh of the sophisticated European/Canadian: It was ever thus.

But I think this is something new under the sun, unless you can point me to a previous occasion of a national political movement mobilizing to deliver victory in a televised talent competition to the daughter of a failed vice presidential candidate.

My concern is not for the legitimacy of the DWTS vote. People should feel free to vote for or against Bristol for any reason they like. What bothers me is that the tea party has apparently mobilized to deliver victory for Bristol on the theory that a victory for Bristol would vindicate her mother's politics/standing/worth to be president -- and the left appear to agree, denouncing this perversion of the sacred DWTS voting system.

Politics as a holy crusade I can deal with; politics as jobs for the boys I can deal with. I can even deal with politics as cult of personality -- Ted Kennedy was my senator from six months old until well into my 48th year. But this strikes me as politics as total war, which is not how we tend to handle these things in America.

David said...

On cue, a nice example of what I'm talking about.

erp said...

David, am I correct then you believe it to be true that the Tea Party manipulators have mobilized their mind-numbed robots to cast votes for Palin's daughter to win a dance competition so their support of her can be validated?

This is classic projection. It's the left who want Bristol to lose so as to discredit her mother.

Irrational? Oh yes.

Go Bristol!


BTW - I like your choice of axioms and agree that conservatives are right.

Bret said...

David wrote: "But this strikes me as politics as total war, which is not how we tend to handle these things in America."

I'll put aside the possibly (according to Peter) sarcastic portion of this thread that conservatives would win the rational policy arguments based on American axioms.

Just as diplomacy is war by other means, so is politics. Instead of taking up guns and shooting at each other every few years to see who gets to rule who, we instead pick up ballots and the winners of the election get to rule the losers with few constraints, the concept being that there's more of the winners so they'd win a shooting war anyway. If the winners are too oppressive in their rule, then the losers will actually pick up their guns and start shooting. Short of that, the winners get to loot the losers. That's the game.

The fact that our founders were able to set up some rules that had us only seriously shooting at each other once in more than 200 years is pretty good, but it doesn't change the underlying premise (fundamental axiom): might makes right.

I believe that if you look at progressives versus conservatives, the progressive's approach to the fundamental axiom is much more rational. They are willing to go to far more extremes to get power, maintain power, and use power to further their own agenda than conservatives are.

Peter said...

OK, I see where you are coming from better now. But are you sure it is the politics that is changing as opposed to social changes driven by high-tech? It may be true we didn't have dance contests hijacked by political movements in the past, but we didn't have blogs, politicians on Twitter, Youtube, and unerasable texts and e-mails either. If someone had discovered a sheaf of letters written by FDR trashing the Yankees, mightn't the GOP not have opened thier campaign with a huge "rational" rally at Yankee Stadium? Sigh Remember when they promised computers and the Net would make us all so much smarter and better informed?

I do agree that all this excitable populism carries dangers and that conservatives are going to have to say enough is enough at some point, but it's just so much fun right now that I can only think of St Augustine's famous prayer; "Lord make me chaste...but not yet". My bad.

David said...


Excellent parody of the mind-set I'm talking about, if a little OTO.

Bret said...

What's OTO stand for?

Barry Meislin said...

Only in Toronto, I should think....

By the way, shouldn't this post be titled, "Signs of the Apocalips"? (Personally, I couldn't watch beyond those first three or four seconds.... Yuck. What is it about Vampire chic, these days?)

Nor am I certain that Bristol was dancing to Palin's base. Now if it had been square dancing.... That would have been far more rational

Harry Eagar said...

Do ya really want to know? I got the straight skinny in my email this morning:


Rocker and fellow Wasilla, Alaskan resident Jared Navarre of the emerging band Static Cycle elaborates as to why Bristol Palin was voted to stay on ABC TV’s Dancing With The Stars over the R&B recording star Brandy, recently casted Bristol for a cameo role in Static Cycle’s music video for their hit song “Inside This World of Mine,” from the band’s EP Part 1:Hydrate.

“I think the reason that Bristol was voted to stay over a seasoned performer like Brandy, and the rest of the contestants voted off, is her raw desire and her fans’ love and support to see her succeed plus, to show the ‘haters’ that she can handle the pressure of being Sara Palin’s daughter and a young single mom. Viewers seem to relate to her and the pressures she faces more and more each week. On the set of our video for “Inside This World of Mine,” Bristol was professional, poised and a beautiful person inside and out. Regardless of some’s opinions and politics, Bristol is someone with a bright future,” explains Navarre.

The single has received national attention on outlets such as Entertainment Tonight, AOL, E! Entertainment Television, NY Daily News, Huffington Post, Bad Taste Music TV and many Hollywood gossip sites. Plus, the rockers recently grasped the title of Clear Channel Artist of the Month and voted Rock Artist To Watch for Clear Channel Radio. The “Inside This World Of Mine” single is receiving a great amount of air play on major Active and Rock radio stations as; Dallas' KEGL, WKLS in Atlanta, San Diego's KIOZ, Tampa's 98 Rock FM, Denver's KBPI, Edge Little Rock FM, Fox Rocks out of Louisville, Ky, Providence, R.I's WHJY, Tulsa, Okla.'s KMOD, 94 Rock out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, 104.7 The Edge in Fairbanks, Alaska.

You can purchase the band’s EP on iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, eMusic, certain Best Buy locations or visit www.staticycle.com to see what all the hype is about.

* * *

I don't see the success of Bristol Palin as any more inexplicable than the success of (INSERT NAME HERE, but I would use Michael Bolton) any other heavily hyped performer of no discernible ability. No need to invoke politics. Money suffices.

erp said...

Harry for such an obviously well read person, your naïveté is baffling. Money after a certain level is far less persuasive than political power.

Brit said...

I can't believe her first name is 'Bristol'. Bizarre...Is it after my hometown?

erp said...

It's probably a family name. Perhaps a Palin ancestor came from your hometown.

Harry Eagar said...

After the bay, where her mother got pregnant or something. I bloghgd about it 2 years ago but have forgotten the details, but all her children are named after events in Mom's life.

Trig was not because she passed trigonometry.