Loathing kills logic

Serious contributors to the political blogosphere genuinely feel they have a legitimate contribution to make to political discourse in this country, and occasionally they get the feeling that their offerings are making a difference, are changing thinking among the conventional commentators.  A combination of accurate factual evidence, thoughtful analysis relatively free of bias, logical reasoning, and carefully considered conclusions characterize much of what is posted on serious sites.  But it is what is posted by some blog-sites that detracts from sensible discourse, and devalues not just these sites, but the blogosphere in general.  The MSM is ever ready to discount the ‘amateur’ blog-sites which they seem to find competitive to their outlets and blog-sites.  Those of us, who conduct such sites, are seen as uninformed irritants who distort the high level discourse they believe they provide. [more]

This piece points to the corrosive effect on logical discussion of hatred or loathing, or just plain political point-scoring.  I am eternally grateful for the quality of the posts on The Political Sword, and the conspicuous lack of unthinking vitriol.

But there are some sites that attract vitriol almost universally; Piers Akerman’s is one.  To give just one example, on September 23 Piers Akerman wrote a blog in The Daily Telegraph Blowing the dust of wacky Wong stuntsThere were 381 comments.  He began "The dust-storm-that-ate-Sydney has nothing on the bulldust storm Kevin Rudd’s Labor Government has generated on climate change."  I won't insult your intelligence or test your patience by citing any more (you can read it if you have the stomach), but let's look at just a couple of the comments.  The first takes the cake and makes my point. John Jay says this: (this is rather long, so do scroll to the end of the quote if you feel nauseated):

“An excellent article Piers.  Rudd is not a normal human being.  He puts a lot of energy into making sure he comes across as a fairly normal person.  In fact he puts a huge amount of energy into this, 24/7.  Image is all.  Popularity is all.  How he looks in our minds is everything.  'Fair shake of the sauce bottle mate' is Rudd’s calculatedly attempting to break into our hearts.  A normal Aussie.  One of us.  As are so many other things he does. He is not.

"There lives in Rudd a horrifying, very well hidden sickness that dominates his whole personality.  Rudd cannot function as a normal person does.  This is something Australians just do not know.  It is incredibly important that this be known but it is not.  Rudd is inwardly a mess.  His inner life is very, very different to that of a normal person.  He is ruled by power.  Not by principle.  Not by compassion. Not by conscience.  By power.  In all situations there is, inside him, a very, very strong pull towards the choice that leads to greater power.  His heart is ruled by this.  His whole personality is dominated by this. He is in many respects a slave to this.

"He is not capable of seeing this as a person with a normal consciousness could for he does not have a normal consciousness. He cannot see himself. His sickness a long time ago deprived him of self awareness. He has no real insight into himself at all. As far as he is concerned there is nothing wrong with him.  He is a man driven to increase his power.  He is totally capable of bringing anyone or anything down - including a country - in order to achieve greater power.  His sickness has a firm grip on Australia now.  The grip akin to that of a large snake that slowly kills its prey through strangulation.  Rudd is slowly strangling Australia.  Rudd, the man governing us all, is a type of slave who craves for power and more power and more power.

"This is the focus. The guiding principle.  Australia is incidental. This is why he lies so easily.  If a lie will increase power then it is a good thing.  If spending an ocean of borrowed money increases popularity then it is a good thing.  Popularity is power.  A heart ruled by power is not able to truly care for others.  Power chokes love.  This is how Kevin Rudd’s heart truly is.  This is how Kevin Rudd truly is."

By all accounts John Jay believes Rudd is psychotic.  But on reading his tirade it makes you wonder about JJ.

See if you can find any facts.  See if any logic oozes from the slime.  This reads like unadulterated loathing.  How can this contribute to considered discourse?  Yet this is obviously a welcome comment on Akerman’s blog

Then CW replied to John Jay “Right on all counts.  But he will win the next election because the bulk of the media want him to and will ensure that he does.  None of what you have said will ever reach the masses.”  So we, the masses, ignorant of Rudd’s psychosis, will vote him in again.  How stupid we must be.

This was followed by Jamie replying to John Jay "It is an affront to decency that you find a post like this to be appropriate for this forum Mr. Akerman.  Kevin Rudd was elected by the majority of electors in 2007. I assume that the people who voted for him are slightly less than normal as well?  It’s also interesting Piers that John Jay didn’t comment about anything contained in your article. It’s funny the things that are allowed to pass through to the keeper when character assassination is clearly first and foremost the pre-requisite in this blog.  Hopefully, John Jay can have something apposite to comment about your article."  At least Jamie talks some commonsense, but will anyone take heed?

‘proud aussie of queensland’ certainly won’t.  He/she replies to John Jay “John Jay, I had a worrying conversation with an ‘ordinary’ Aussie bloke last night, who said ‘Why can’t Australians see what I see in this evil Kevin Rudd?” and so on the comment goes.

There are hundreds more comments; these few are offered in some detail to make the point that there is no value at all in this exchange of views.  This is what gives bloggers a bad name.  Akerman is clearly happy to post this detritus to fuel his own well-known loathing of Rudd.  Facts and logic are irrelevant.

But it’s not just Ackerman and his amateur bloggers who abandon logic.   Tony Abbott ran a blog in The Daily Telegraph on 24 September: Kevin, try solving Australia’s problems first.  The guts of his argument was that although Kevin Rudd was indeed achieving good things abroad, he “...should do whatever he can to nudge the world in the right direction but there are plenty of problems back home that he could try to fix all by himself.”  Even the title is illogical – that Rudd should try to solve Australia’s problems before he addresses overseas ones.  This would mean never addressing the latter as the former will always be present.  It also ignores the fact that many overseas problems are just as relevant to Australia as are internal problems.  Tony seems not to have grasped the nature of world dynamics and global economics.  He ignores the fact that Rudd can chew gum as well as walk.  And is he claiming that everything has stopped here in Australia while Rudd is overseas?  Abbott is a Rhodes Scholar – why does he abandon logic?  Is it just to push a political point?  It must be.

His blog got 28 comments.  ‘proud aussie of queensland’ was there again, first off the mark with “Tony, to many Australians, Kevin Rudd is simply a huge embarrassment to this once proud and highly respected Nation. It is obvious to most of us that Kevin Rudd is NOT highly regarded or listened to whilst parading on the world stag...”   He concluded “When will this Rudd nightmare end?  I heard Kevin Rudd say that it was time for ‘less talk, more action’ - What a hypocrite, what a charlatan - Kevin Rudd is the king of SPIN and LIES, and the man of ZERO action, a hollow man with nothing of substance to offer anyone.”  Abbott’s reply contains no rebuttal of this unsupported rant, just the comment: “Interesting that you think I’ve given the PM too much credit. I must be going soft!”  So Abbott too is allowing tirades on his blog without rebuttal.

Andrew Bolt runs a popular site that often attracts intense anti-Government invective, but thankfully he’s gone into hibernation until October.

It’s not just blog-sites that carry invective.  Yesterday on ABC’s Insiders Joe Hockey, in trying to make political capital out of the story of Rihanna Til, the widow of the soldier recently killed in Afghanistan being in poor financial circumstances on her pension, and trying simultaneously to accentuate the Government’s ‘reckless spending’, said “...who is more deserving of money from taxpayers, a recently widowed woman bringing up the children of a dead digger, or the non-means tested pink bats program?  Joe, it isn’t either/or.  Both can be attended to, as you well know.  Logic goes overboard to make an invalid and emotive political point.

On the same program, in responding to comments about Rudd’s success overseas, Tim Blair (sitting in the right seat) said “...here’s a guy that wants to change the weather and fix the global economy but can’t run a grocery website.”  What is the logical connection?  What is the implication – that Rudd, despite all he’s achieved overseas, is a dud because Grocery Watch was a failure?  This is not logical reasoning, it’s just a smart-aleck sideswipe at Rudd, for which Blair has a solid track record.

I could go on for another thousand words using hundreds of similar comments, but I hope these examples illustrate how that in the pursuit of an agenda of loathing and hatred of Rudd and his Government, logic is eroded or lost altogether – loathing kills logic.  This is dangerous but is it remediable?  If we serious bloggers wish to be taken seriously we need to separate ourselves from the unsubstantiated vitriol poured daily onto blogs that welcome it.

Fortunately there are quality blogs that counterbalance the poisonous ones. 

Quickly looking at the MSM websites, the ones that generally draw considered and thoughtful comment are The Australian’s political blogs: George Megalogenis’ Meganomics (to which George often replies); Michael Stutchbury and David Uren’s Current Account blog; and Jack the Insider blog - he is a diligent responder to comments.  Janet Albrechtsen’s blog attracts the usual conservative comments when she writes an anti-Government piece, some of which are well reasoned, Christian Kerr’s House Rules blog attracts a mixed bag of responses, but usually reasonable.  When Paul Kelly blogs as he did today in Shift to G20 was matter of time most of the comments are well-reasoned.

Glen Milne’s blogs are a curious mixture.  Some attract the usual anti-Government, anti-Rudd rants; others bring out a cohort of detractors who tear him down relentlessly.  Today’s Liberals can’t lose Dutton is an example of the latter – perhaps because he went so far to as to say “...if the preselectors of McPherson can't see that Dutton is part of any future the party might have, then why should ordinary voters believe in that future either?”  As Milne has what Bushfire Bill describes as ‘the reverse-Midas touch’, Dutton may not be impressed by Milne’s advocacy.

The Fairfax media has resurrected The National Times as an online outlet and has introduced a series of blogs, most of which are not yet attracting many comments.  However, Econogirl (Jessica Irvine), Blunt Instrument (John Birmingham), and The Religious Write (Barney Zwartz) have attracted a lot of comments, which are mostly rational.   Crikey has several excellent blogs: Pollytics, the best psephological site, which attracts informed comments, The Poll Bludger is the most popular chat room that attracts as many as thousands of comments, usually sensible, often humorous, and always good to read to keep up to date with the latest politics.  Andrew Bartlett’s blog addresses serious matters, but attracts few comments.  Mumble has a revised website but as yet has attracted few comments.  The Piping Shrike runs a thoughtful website that attracts sensible comments.  One of the most entertaining economics website is that of Peter Martin but it attracts few comments.

A recent addition is News Limited’s new online service The Punch.  It carries a variety of items, often political.  When it publishes laughable material, such as The G20 leaders walk into a bar. Who smiles the most? the response is predictable.  Sample the comments if you wish, but be careful not to overdose on the noxious and the silly.

All of these are listed and updated daily on Blog Watch on The Political Sword.

In summary, there is a stark contrast between the rational, sensible and well-informed comments on the quality blog-sites and the raving, illogical and often incoherent comments that some sites attract.  On the latter, the loathing, the hatred that resides in the breast of many respondents evokes illogical statements devoid of facts and reasoning, but heavily laced with venom.  Presumably the authors gain satisfaction in venting their spleens, but this has all the hallmarks of pathological behaviour.  While this may be irremediable, the crux of the matter is that some sites habitually attract these types of comments and seem to make no attempt to moderate them, or if they do, goodness knows what awful venom is edited out.  They are a pox on quality sites.  Why do their papers/sponsors allow such unbecoming and poisonous abuse?  Is there anything rational bloggers can do about it?

Loathing kills logic. 

What do you think?

 

Rate This Post

Current rating: NaN / 5 | Rated 0 times

monica

28/09/2009You are noticing something very important that people who have worked in the territory of psychological therapy know. That is, if you are thinking too much, you are not in touch with what you're feeling, corollary being if you are feeling too much, you are not thinking. It's an interesting thing that when one is 'dancing' between thinking and feeling in relation to understanding and interaction with 'the other', you usually get a better outcome for all involved. It's a process entirely foreign to the operation of a good deal of the fourth estate. The interests of much of the fourth estate are clearly not necessarily congruent with the interests of informing the electorate.

Jovial Monk

28/09/2009I have read that diatribe since before the last election. Funnily enough, I think it describes JW Howard better than it does K. Rudd.

Grog

28/09/2009So much hate... but if you really want to take a dive into the political cess pool, check out some of the twitter pages run by anti-Obama types. Scary, scary stuff.

charles

28/09/2009I think blogs attract like minded readers. If you run a blog that runs reasoned arguments there is a risk you will get reasoned comments, if you run a blog that runs articles full of vitriol then there is a fair chance the comments aren't going to be kind. When it come to vitriol Piers Akerman is up there with the best.

monica

28/09/2009There you go, Charles, you seem to be on about the same stuff. Some of us are very fond of actually thinking about the problems we encounter and having a go at engaging our fellow humans at solving them without necessarily going the blame route. Radical.

David Jackmanson

29/09/2009Interesting list of good sites. Some of them I know and respect so I'll subscribe to the others (except The Punch, probably). Can I also suggest <a href="http://andrewelder.blogspot.com/">Andrew Elder's Politically Homeless</a> blog. I don't think he'd like to be labelled too much but he's coming roughly from a moderate centre-right position I suppose. Interesting because he focusses on Liberal Party renewal from a moderate position, but he's not a member so he's free to criticise decisions he doesn't like - which he does a lot.

David Jackmanson

29/09/2009Sorry, the URL is just http://andrewelder.blogspot.com/ - didn't work the markup properly.

Bushfire Bill

29/09/2009Wow! That John Jay has Rudd all figgered out doesn't he? Next he'll he reminding us that even Hitler was elected, once. How long until Rudd starts to build his very own Auschwitz? Creepy.

Bushfire Bill

29/09/2009What we are seeing is The Final Struggle... Liberal [i]Götterdämmerung.[/i] As more and more indications arrive fortelling doom for the Coalition, the theories and analyses get wackier. They'd want to. Actual reality is to horrible to contemplate. Today in The Australian we have an article saying that, far from being evidence of Howard being up himself on the connection between low interest rates and the Liberal Party (and high interest rates and the Labor Party), the high interest rates in late 2007 and early 2008 were actually a Godsend... as they allowed the Reserve Bank to lower them during the GFC as much as they liked without crossing zero. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26138980-5013871,00.html Next we have the latest Newspoll analysis. A nation-wide wipeout for the Liberals has been turned into a "plunge" in support for Labor, giving the opposition a "glimmer of hope" of winning the next election. Apparently Labor has lost ground since the last election. Ah, no... Labor has lost ground [i]since the first Newspoll after the last election[/i], leaving them actually [i]ahead[/i] of their election figures in all states. We haven't seen wacky-ism in poll analysis like this since Shanahan's famous (and much mocked) departures from sanity and logic in the lead-up to the 2007 election. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26133462-5006786,00.html Labor's soon-to-be drubbing in Queensland is no doubt why Peter Dutton wants to bail out of his +2% margin seat for a safer one (as loyally reported by the Libs' journalist of choice). http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26132865-7583,00.html Next, we have Ian MacFarlane believing that being honest and up front about his Climate Change denialism (and, apparently that of all but 12 of his party room) will somehow cause the public to fall in love with the Coalition all over again, and flock to the voting booths drunk with Liberal Love. [i]"It is obvious to everyone on our side of politics that this is an emissions trading scheme, in its current form, that will cost jobs and will see industry close and move overseas," Mr Macfarlane told ABC Radio. "On that basis, I'm not surprised to see such strong opposition from the backbench." But while everyone in the coalition would prefer the legislation not to come before parliament until after Copenhagen, the prime minister was vowing to rush "headlong into this" so the coalition had to negotiate. "I'm being pragmatic and I'm being open with everybody," Mr Macfarlane said."[/i] Keep up that pragmatism, Ian. The People love a conviction politician. You're on a winner there. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/liberal-backbench-against-negotiating-with-labor-on-emissions-trading-scheme/story-e6frf7l6-1225780706557 The redoubtable Gerard Henderson chimes in today with his much-flogged mantra that the media (the ABC comes in for a special mention) are comprised of Labor stooges and crawling Ruddster sycophants. The latest illustration of this is the gushing way in which Rudd's diplomatic triumph regarding the G20 has been reported. What youse out there don't realise is that - despite his critics saying a mere few months ago that Rudd's G20 initiative was the doomed, Quixotic quest of a serial megalomaniac, obsessed with his own importance as he strutted the world stage, junketing it up shamelessly on the taxpayer's dollar (when everyone knew he was really a laughing stock among world leaders, a pathetic embarrassment to all real Australians, who should have been back here fixing grocery prices and doing as little damage as possible until the Coalition could reverse the electoral rort of 2007) - suddenly the whole G20 thing was inevitable, the result of careful foresight by Howard and Costello, no big deal at all. If anything it's lucky Rudd didn't muck it up at the last minute with his nerdy, toxically boring speeches that single-handedly emptied the United Nations General Assembly. http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/rudd-changed-the-world-order-says-rudd--and-compliant-media-20090928-g95c.html Helen Coonan breathlessly tells us that Glen Stevens actually supports winding back the stimulus. Even though he said he thought no such thing, Helen is able to read between the lines to give us the true meaning of the oracle's words: [i]"Opposition finance spokeswoman Senator Helen Coonan says there still a case to wind back stimulus, with the economy now in recovery. "[Mr Stevens] clearly enunciated that the peak of the stimulus - the efficacy of the stimulus has passed," she told ABC 2 News Breakfast. "It's passed, because the emergency is no longer with us."[/i] http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/09/29/2699206.htm Any single one of these recent efforts at spinning the train wreck that is the Liberal Party's aspiration to office into an Orient Express of opulence for all, good sense and even better economic management could be read as the writer taking temporary leave of his or her senses. But put together, and over such a short period of time, a more disturbing pattern emerges. The message? [i]"Wenck is coming! We have secret weapons that will turn the tide! The Russians are falling right into our trap! The Reich is saved! Rudd is on the ropes! He's outsmarted himself this time! We've got him just where we want him! Queensland is in revolt! Howard never had a dust storm! It's a sign! A portent! That's no simple dust storm! [b]It's a feeling in the air![/b]"[/i] Relegated to the Contrarian Option - they haven't done any work since 2007, so they're just naysaying everything, hoping to attract the voters' attention by being "courageous" in their utterings - there is no time now to mend their negligence. So they just make stuff up, hoping that out there somewhere a mug or two will swallow the nonsense they, and their urgers, are spruiking. There is virtually no chance of this tactic succeeding, but when you're up to your arms in alligators you may as well bite back. To paraphrase Bill Bryson (pondering fighting back against a grizzly bear attack): [i]"If nothing else, it'll give them something to do with the last seven seconds of their lives."[/i]

Ad astra reply

29/09/2009monica An astute comment. Emotion crowds out cognitive activity. You would be aware of a study many years ago that established that the immediate memory span can accommodate only seven plus or minus two bits of information, and that emotion reduces that cognitive capacity, something we’ve all experienced at the beginning of an important examination. JJ is likely to have such a large volume of emotion in his IMS that his capacity for rational thought would be close to negligible. There is no evidence in his response to the Akerman blog that he is engaged in logical reasoning at all. Jovial Monk Welcome to [i]The Political Sword[/i]. Maybe JJ has a generic rant that he can apply, with modification, to any politician. Some elements of this one though, like ‘fair shake of the sauce bottle’ were pointedly Rudd-specific. Grog The hate is what I find disturbing. We all have our preferences, our likes and dislikes, but when they descend into sheer loathing, dangerous irrationality takes hold, and that can lead to destructive behaviour. I haven’t seen the anti-Obama material, but I believe it is vicious in the extreme. charles I believe your observation is correct. The most vitriolic rants almost always are restricted to the blogs that themselves project vitriol. Rabble-rousing has a long history. Now blogs, such as Akerman’s, have taken up this ancient role. Rational posts on thoughtful blogs usually attract similar responses. David Jackmanson Welcome too to [i]The Political Sword[/i]. Andrew Elder’s [i]Politically Homeless[/i] blog is listed on [i]Blog Watch[/i], just below [i]Lavartus Prodeo[/i]. I agree it is a good site. BB JJ is not the only one, as you would have observed, to write such invective. I can’t believe it is therapeutic for people to write like this; it must worsen their condition. Akerman and like bloggers are culpable when they provoke such responses with their pieces, and even more so in publishing them.

Ad astra reply

29/09/2009BB What a magnificent post - thank you. It arrived while I was preparing my reply; I should have refreshed before posting it. My thoughts are following on just the same lines; you contribution encourages me to get together something under the title 'Flogging a moribund horse'. Your post today deserves more exposure. I'd be happy to post such comprehensive pieces as initial posts under your [i]nom de plume[/i] instead of a response to an existing post.

Ad astra reply

29/09/2009BB I've just posted [i]Flogging a moribund horse[/i], I hope you enjoy it. It is a parallel to your post today.

monica

29/09/2009I'm saving Flogging a moribund horse till tomorrow. Things get a lot boring mid week otherwise. I'm not sure if that's tragic or what, AA.

Ad astra reply

30/09/2009monica I hope the wait was worthwhile.

Michael

30/09/2009It is almost impossible to comment on your article, because, in following up the links in it to check on the "loathing", there is clearly nothing logical that might be written, said, or perhaps even texted in granite from on high, that might alter the opinion of the loathers. Impossible to comment except to observe that you seem to have said it all, and I wish it didn't need to have been said. I can't recall this level of almost Biblical-damnation vitriol towards Howard. I'm not forgetting the 'Howard-haters', far from denying that many a hyperbolic case was prosecuted against him throughout his Prime Ministership, but I don't remember this meant literally 'in league with the devil' vocabulary and mindset. Howard was lambasted for his actions, his choice of political soulmates here and overseas, his pleonexiac embracing of the perks of office (continuing into his 'gold pass' retirement), but I don't recall his being identified with active intention to destroy the nation as Kevin Rudd and Labor are accused of. Do the loathers seriously believe that an Australian politician could have no plan for his career except to destroy the country? Clearly, some must, with phrases like Rudd's "sickness has a firm grip on Australia now". I suppose the scary possibility is that Malcolm Turnbull, with a 'cleared of the Howard-era hangers-in-there' Liberal Party behind him, would probably attract the same sort of commentary. He is manifestly of a different political mind to Howard's. Not scary for him, as such, scary because of what such anti-moderate loathing says about some elements in Australian society.
How many oranges do I have if I have 3 oranges and take ONE away?