[internetworkers] Triumph of the Stultocracy

James Dasher jdasher at ibiblio.org
Mon Sep 27 23:36:16 EDT 2004

On Sep 27, 2004, at 10:43 PM, Michael Czeiszperger wrote:

> On Sep 27, 2004, at 9:49 PM, James Dasher wrote:
>> People aren't dumb just because they disagree with us.  Many people 
>> have jobs where they have to work all day, and don't have time to 
>> browse the Web during the work-day.
> Of course people aren't dumb just because they disagree with "us".  
> The editorial was decrying people who don't have a basic understanding 
> of either their government or current events that have a direct 
> bearing on the election, which has nothing to do with having time to 
> browse the web.

The op-ed was written by a cartoonist.  Next time I want an opinion 
about how to draw a cartoon, I'll ask Ted Rall.  But if I want an 
opinion about the state of the American electorate, I'll count his 
opinions based on their merit.

Meritorious they certainly are not.  His argument is, as is usual for 
his op-eds, full of elisions and logical fallacies, let alone a failure 
to understand the point made by the subjects of his ire.

Those of us - sorry, "us" - who have more than a passing knowledge of 
military history, or political philosophy, or rhetoric easily spot the 
flaws in his arguments.

The problem with any exercise of power - and voting is an exercise of 
power - is in determining "who decides".  Who decides what opinions 
count?  Who decides what people mean when they say things?  Who decides 
which questions go on a political litmus test?

Ted Rall wants a world where people "know" the things he knows.  He 
wants a world where people prefer CNN to ESPN.  He wants a world where 
people are only allowed to vote if they know the names of Supreme Court 
Justices, whom they are Constitutionally barred from electing anyway.

How does an opinion about George Bush's or John Kerry's values 
translate into ignorance of the American political process?  Surely we 
- excuse me, "we" - know or can imagine people who value their leisure 
and their time spent on recreational pursuits but who don't have any 
money.  Just as we - darn, did it again; "we" - know or can imagine 
wealthy people who work hard, or who value hard work.

Americans tend to make a transition from what Michael Barone calls 
"Soft America" to "Hard America" - from the fuzzy relativism of youth, 
high school and college to the competitive and unforgiving dynamics of 
the work place.  "We" grow up in one world, shielded from competition, 
and must thrive in an altogether different world - and "we" do, 

Ted Rall relies on that old kindergarten tactic: he calls his opponents 
"dumb".  One can imagine him sticking out his tongue, too.  But 
playground taunts written in a college-educated prose don't make his 
claims true:

"At this writing, the world's greatest nation flails under the rule of 
buffoons and madmen, bogged down in two optional wars we're actually 
losing. The world's richest economy is shedding jobs, running up debts 
and building nothing for the future. Voters, offered an election year 
alternative to the subliterate idiot who single-handedly created this 
mess, spurn him for a leader even dumber than they are. America has 
become a stultocracy: government by morons, for morons."

Those sentences that are not outright erroneous are matters of opinion. 
  But this can be said: Not a single one of those sentences is true.  
And they're the heart of his outlook - on politics, on economics, on 
human nature and the future.

Talk about stultifying.

James Dasher
misterdasher dot com

"Sometimes I think the reason America is so despised in some quarters 
is that we fail to live up to other peoples’ worst expectations."
- James Lileks, "The Bleat" 

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