Friday, September 7, 2012

Chris Rock's lesser evilism

How many mistakes can you pack into 26 words? Not as many as Chris Rock.
If you vote against Obama because he can't get stuff done, it's kind of like saying, "this guy can't cure cancer. I'm gonna vote for cancer." 
The my hero fallacy: Rock assumes that Obama is trying to do good things (like fix America!) but gosh darn it, it's hard. I explained here the common, almost universal mistake of seeing politicians as one's own protagonist. In short, the salesman isn't trying to give you a good deal, he's trying to give himself a good deal so he's not failing when he rips you off. The advertiser isn't trying to help you lead a fulfilling life, so he's not failing when you buy something it's not in your interests to buy. The cheetah isn't failing to do a good job of letting all the gazelles run free and so on.

Strawman: No principled Obama critic (the ones Rock is going after here) is concerned about Obama's imperfection. The charge is that he regularly does terrible things like murdering by drone and torturing whistleblowers. The charge is that he is actively evil. The strawman relies on the my hero fallacy.

Obama's passivity: Every bad thing Obama seems to have done was actually done by Republicans. They're cancer. He's fighting them, sometimes unsuccessfully. If you start with the assumption that Obama is the protagonist, this hero-with-his-hands-tied theory may be the best way to make sense of Obama's actions. So work back and re-examine that premise because Obama went out of his way to become the most powerful man in the world and once in office, has gone out of his way to punish whistleblowers, Gitmo detainees, first responders to his own drone attacks, etc. And not just because Republicans will call him a pussy if he doesn't, which would be far beyond bad enough. No, the Obama administration has been the leading edge of the sword more often than not. Did Republicans push him to declare the right to kill anyone on the planet at any time for any reason whatsoever? I could browse Glenn Greenwald's archives and post dozens more examples but you shouldn't need more than that one.


So that was my first take to this quote, which I think captures lesser evilism as well as it can be captured and, so, deserves scrutiny. I left it unposted for a few days because it was only 95% done and I was busy. Second take:

A lot of expats in Japan will go out of their way, in trying to show how racist and regressive the Japanese government is, to compare it to the U.S. government, with the latter as the example of how things should be. Readers of this blog (hey, you three!) don't  need me to explain the problem with making the U.S. your ideal on anti-racism issues. But it's just easier, or for whatever reason more appealing, to think dichotomously. Forget Obama's 11 dimensional chess, how about some 2+ dimensional chess? How about starting with principles and then seeing whose actions match up with them? Japan is racist as hell. The U.S. is racist as hell. Fuck both of them. Hitler's evil in no way mitigated Stalin's evil.

OK, here's this, my pithiest and best response. The Republicans are cancer. Got it. Agreed. This does not mean the Democrats are anti-cancer. The Democrats are not even 99% cancer, as last stage lesser evilism contends (before dying). The Democrats are AIDS.

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