Political musings from the game store

I had an interesting conversation at my local game store.  I’d been talking about having an Illuminati© tournament next year, sometime before the November elections; somehow, given the tragic/comic elements of our politics this year, playing a game that celebrates conspiracy theories, paranoia and shadowy power struggles seems appropriate (http://sjgames.com/illuminati/ ).   I said something about this to the owner of the store, and he replied with a comment about how despite all the drama around the presidential election, nothing had changed since the last presidency:  we still have the same policies, the TARP bailout, wars, etc. all continue.

This was particularly interesting to me in juxtaposition to a piece of video I’d tripped over a few days earlier.  I was looking for old Christmas programming and found instead a Daily Show story from 2008, before Obama had even been inaugurated.  http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-november-13-2008/baracknophobia—post-election-edition. It was story about the sudden rush to stock up on guns, because of fears that Obama was going to throw out the Second Amendment and try to take away everyone’s guns.  About two years later, Republicans in Oklahoma sought to form a militia to resist Federal law.  (http://www.newsmax.com/US/US-Tea-Party-Militia/2010/04/12/id/355517)  We can pause, briefly, to imagine what would have happened if Democrats in California had planned to form a militia to resist Bush’s interference with their legal marijuana dispensaries.  That was a clear case of Federal force being used to thwart the will of voters in the state, simply to impose one group’s morals on another.  Throwing Californians in federal prison can hardly be said to be comparable to forcing Oklahomans to have decent health care at an affordable price. Even Hobbes would admit you have an inalienable right to resist imprisonment.  Advocating treason and insurrection to resist living under the same laws Massachusetts lives under now?  That seems more questionable.

But let us leave that aside.  What I find most interesting is the truly remarkable divide.  A large portion of the electorate is dissatisfied with Obama.  Some are dissatisfied because of his socialist, anti-American, radical agenda; others are dissatisfied because of his total lack of a radical agenda.  Some want to throw Obama out and return to the fiscal and foreign policies of the Bush administration; others want to dump Obama because he has continued the fiscal and foreign policies of the Bush administration.  Some people draw pictures of Obama with a Hitler moustache; others draw him with Ronald Reagan’s hair.  (example:  http://fruelund.deviantart.com/art/Obama-Reagan-150706764), How can two people look at the same reality, and come to completely opposite conclusions?

The most likely explanation is that they are not looking at the same reality.  One group listens to talk radio and FOX News; the other listens to NPR and network news.  During the polarized era known as the 1960’s, there were three television networks and no PBS (for most or all of that decade, depending on which source you ask and what broadcasting you had in your town).  There were newspapers, LIFE Magazine and other print sources as well.  For the most part, though, we all relied on the same sources for our information.  You might interpret the information differently, you might even distrust it, but the news you believed or rejected was the same news your neighbors believed or rejected.  It is possible today to isolate yourself from information you don’t like, while still giving yourself and others the impression that you are superlatively well informed.  You can watch news, listen to radio and above all cruise the internet for hours and avoid any voices that might challenge your preconceptions.   If you don’t like what some Ph.D. with a Nobel prize is saying, you can always find some pundit who dropped out of college to become a radio disk jockey and now is a more trusted voice than a dozen Ph.D.s.  This election will be decided by people who are simultaneously the most informed ever, and as superstitious and ignorant as any Bronze-Age villager—-and just as convinced that the people in the next village over are crazy, immoral, and maybe not even really human like we are.

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