Politics 2012: “Code” and Hypocrisy

On Sunday, a CBS commentator ripped into several of the Republican candidates for president as well as a past Democratic President for extreme hypocrisy.  The only problem I had with what she said was that she didn’t go nearly far enough – on figures in either party, on the media, on Silicon Valley and Hollywood, just for starters.

When one of the leading Republican candidates running on a “family values” platform has had three marriages, with several affairs with other women while married to someone else, what exactly does this say?  What it says to me is that “family values” is really “code” for “I’m for the traditional, patriarchal, chauvinistic society of the 1950s, and let’s not have any serious talk about gender or sexual equality.”  Now… if that’s what you want… and that’s what the voters want, why not say it?  Because it would reveal too much about what too many people really want?  No… hypocrisy is so much more comfortable.

And when did “downsizing” and corporate deconstruction become “jobs creation” instead of unfettered pursuit of profit regardless of the human costs?

And how exactly does legislation that extends government into family planning [or prohibition of family planning methods] and declaring that felonious acts [rape and incest] require the victim to bear a child, an additional punishment… how does that square with the constant rhetoric against “big government”?  Why not just say that any man can get any woman pregnant by any means and she has to have the child?  But don’t justify it under family values or as part of a railing against big government.

But let’s not let those on the other side feel too self-righteous or comfortable, either.

When they talk about the rich paying their fair share of taxes [and, again, I agree with the premise that the top one percent shouldn’t have the right to a 15% tax rate on earned income because of a special definition, when those of us making far less are taxed at rates from 19% upward], they’re really talking about trying to find a way to get more revenue so that they don’t have to think about taxing the 53% of the population who pay no federal income taxes… and that’s hypocritical, too, especially for a nation whose government is supposed to be of all the people and for all the people, because it says that “we want the rich to pay more in taxes while lots of people pay nothing.”  Shouldn’t the majority of Americans pay something in federal income taxes, assuming we are going to remain even semi-democratic?

The “liberals” just mounted a huge campaign against two pieces of legislation designed to stop internet piracy and protect copyright.  I’d be the first to admit that the procedures used to bring the bills up… and some of the provisions… leave more than a little to be desired, but the hue and cry about intellectual freedom is as hypocritical as they come.  As the comedian and commentator Bill Maher noted, “People just want free shit.”  Google and Facebook want content as cheap as they can get it, and millions of Americans and others really like their pirated books – and I know about that, because every novel I’ve ever written is available somewhere free and pirated.  Hollywood, of course, wants to keep every dime it can, regardless of whether the methods tromp all over the first amendment.  For all the rhetoric, though, it’s not about censorship, but about “free media” in the worst sense of the word “free” on one side and big media profits on the other.

Politicians on both sides are against immigrants, especially illegal immigrants.  Of course, every single person on the North American continent is either an immigrant or the descendant of immigrants.  So what they really mean is something along the lines of, “I want immigrants here for cheap jobs no one else will take, but don’t give them real opportunity or education because they might actually work harder and their children might take jobs from mine.”  Just look at how hard the other candidates blasted Rick Perry for wanting to allow higher education to the children of immigrants.

And then there’s education, where both sides have proposed all sorts of “reforms,” ranging from “No Child Left Behind” to demanding more and more of teachers who have fewer and few real resources or throwing more and more funding at schools.  Yet none of these “popular” and politically easy fixes have worked — while both people and politicians have largely ignored the few schools that have actually made education work.  And why haven’t they taken the good examples?  Because they require firm standards and making parents and students responsible, not just teachers, and no politician ever wants to suggest that perhaps, just perhaps, a lot of the problem isn’t with the teachers, but with the students and their parents.

So… when making your choices, such as they are, in the weeks and months ahead, try, just try to think about what all those slogans and buzzwords really mean… and try not to get too ill over all the hypocrisy they embody.


15 thoughts on “Politics 2012: “Code” and Hypocrisy”

  1. Christoph says:

    Thank you, Mr. Modesitt, for outlining a small portion of the many reasons I’ve never voted Democrat or Republican in any presidential election. When Antonin Scalia is guarding civil liberties the Obama administration would deny us (see yesterday’s ruling on GPS tracking), we all need to look way more at what’s actually happening around us instead of getting caught up in rhetoric that is emotionally satisfying to our preconceptions.

  2. Jason says:

    When reading your blogs, I am often confused as to whether I should be laughing or crying.

    Thanks for your writing, both blogs and books.

  3. R. Hamilton says:

    If we have a law that describes how people may legally come here, either we need to change the law or we need to enforce the law. Having a law that we choose to let people ignore makes no sense.

    As far as I’m concerned, we should do what any sensible nation should do: understand when it is, and when it is not, in our national interest to let immigrants in, and legislate _and_ enforce accordingly. People have no inherent right to come here; if they’re unhappy where they come from, they need to either overthrow their tyrants or deal with their own domestic corruption…or learn to feed themselves notwithstanding flood and drought. Some regions have floods and droughts, we have hurricanes and tornados. Nobody is all that privileged based on geography alone, and few are utterly deprived based on geography alone.

    It’s in our interest to have orderly temporary cheap migrant farm labor…maybe. But otherwise, we only need what _skilled_ labor is in short supply at home, and that, _if_ they stay, allows them to become a useful part of the economy and makes it easier for them to integrate, get the stew of the melting pot a bit less chunky. We don’t need more people that will end up on the dole, we don’t need people that are readily agitated in favor of nonsense like taking back the entire southwest for Mexico, which can’t even control their own corruption and criminals. And we don’t need people that aren’t willing to learn enough English to take an order in a restaurant with some slightly non-standard request, like “I’ll wait for the drink ’til the meal arrives”.

    It’s unfortunate that cultural differences (has nothing to do with genetics as far as I’m concerned, but I wouldn’t put it past sometimes having to do with really poor diet when young as well as with cultural differences) mean that on average, immigrants from some regions are more likely to be of value than those from others. But if that’s truly the case, it’s more wrong to pretend otherwise for the sake of…what, exactly? than to learn to deal with reality without using it as an excuse for dealing with groups rather than individuals.

  4. Wine Guy says:

    Mr. Modesitt, if I didn’t like you so much, I’d write your name in on ballots.

    Well said, sir. Well said.

    1. Shannon says:

      I’m with wine guy. Plus I need a ‘like’ button for quite a few of your blog posts.

  5. Wayne Kernochan says:

    Sorry, Christoph, your example is inaccurate. The Supreme Court unanimously held in the GPS tracking case that it violated an implicit right of privacy in the Constitution. Scalia (who somehow managed to get Sotomayor to join his usual allies) used his majority opinion to narrow the right of privacy by saying it applies only to personal property (in this case, a person in his car). He justified this argument by saying that the Founders intended privacy to apply only to property-owners — a questionable claim.

    In other words, Scalia did not protect civil liberties as the law presently understands them; he decreased them.

  6. Christoph says:

    Was aware of that Wayne. Fact remains he upheld a specific civil liberty the Obama administration wanted to deny us. Your emotional confirmation bias is showing.

    1. Wayne Kernochan says:

      @Christoph: Only if you think I view things as a simple morality play in which Obama/liberals are always right and so-called “conservatives” are always wrong. My father was a law professor, and the Legislative Drafting Fund he headed at one point did seminal work in drafting laws regarding wiretapping and privacy rights. This doesn’t give me expertise; it does mean that, based on my knowledge of his work, I expect the Supreme Court as a matter of course, liberals and conservatives, to use “precedent” as an excuse to curb to some extent government and other excesses with regard to “civil liberties” — and also to follow the election returns, within those boundaries.

      From my viewpoint, the Supreme Court’s Miranda ruling and acceptance of civil rights legislation in the Johnson years was an enormous increase in civil liberties, in the middle of the Cold War. In the 1970s, it came to be regarded as a “bridge too far”, and law and order concerns halted the expansion of civil liberties. However, “precedent” put a brake on diminution of those liberties. To take one example, international law as espoused by the late Prof. Henkin is now accepted as a factor in Supreme Court decisions, and has extended some of our civil liberties to non-citizens, as in the Bush years it extended to verifying that prisoners in Guantanamo really were the kind of terrorists to whom we should give no rights at all.

      Expansions of government law and order power continue through Republican and Democratic administrations, and in many cases I disagree with the efforts — I simply feel that leaning more toward the liberal viewpoint right now is more likely to achieve the proper balance between law and order concerns and civil liberties concerns. I am also aware of the problem that this becomes harder over time, as expanding populations and economies make the power of the government, business, and other large entities to gather information about the individual grow, inevitably. Protection, e.g., via “precedent”, is ultimately too static to work by itself; countervailing power of the individual to see into these bodies and cause problems in return (“mutually assured damage”)is probably needed in the long term as an adjunct.

      And this is why I view Scalia as essentially bad. His guiding principle — which he seems to violate when and only when a particular brand of conservatism has a modicum of power — is that the view of the Founding Fathers of the Constitution at the time, and not their view of how it should evolve to accommodate new needs, should rule. The result, when he gets others on the Court to agree with him, is a shrinkage of civil liberties back towards those of the early 1800s, when they applied, among other things, essentially only to white male property-holders.

      You may see that as “upholding a civil liberty the Obama administration wanted to deny us,” and therefore overturning my pet theory. I am afraid that I have different stereotypes than you think. To me, the only realistic variable in the whole situation was whether the Supreme Court would keep civil liberties intact, or whether it would shrink them. And so, saying that the important thing is that Scalia upheld a specific civil liberty, while at the same time he opened the door to ending another civil liberty, is to me like saying the government imposes a new tax on you, the Supreme Court rules 1/2 of it invalid, and you thank the Court for keeping your taxes the way they were.

  7. Derek says:

    In the first paragraph I saw mention of Hollywood and Silicon Valley hypocrisy, but I was sad to see Mr. Modesitt didn’t provide examples or his take on those particular hypocrites. I can think of a few examples off the top of my head, such as how the military is treated in a historical setting in comparison to a fantastical setting… But that’s a fairly broad and debatable topic. As for Silicon Valley, I’m grossly under educated on the topic.

    Anyone have any interesting examples?

  8. The copyright bill is the example. There are doubtless many others.

  9. Derek says:

    I can’t believe I didn’t catch that, it was right there.

  10. Max says:

    It is sad to see authors and producers of content, to misguidedly support SOPA type legislation. As a software writer that sold his work, I had suffered from the piracy myself.

    But there is zero chance that SOPA or similar legislation will stop piracy. People who do not have resources to buy books or movies, will find a way to pirate them.

    Only real way to combat piracy is to make buying content convenient, so that its easier to buy things that pirate them. A person can spend an hour on the Internet, and get any book ever published for free. Or one can Google “Amazon book title” and 1-click “buy Kindle version”, and start reading it in 10 seconds. Most people who can afford to buy books, or music will certainly go the Kindle or online store route. A person who can not afford to buy books, will pirate it regardless of the laws like SOPA, there is no technological way to stop it.

    But SOPA would be a great way to shutdown a discussion site like this one, on a pretense that something illegal was posted on it.

    Do we really want to live in the world like described in this excellent short story: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

    1. I don’t know, offhand, of any authors supporting this legislation, possibly because restriction of the internet would adversely impact a great many authors, both self-published and professionally published. The supporters were largely media conglomerates.

  11. JasonBal says:

    Republican politicians all over the country have repeated the Great Replacement theory
    A century-old racist theory reentered the political discourse around immigration and has become commonplace on the campaign trail as Republicans hope to retake control of Congress in November.

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