Dumb And Dumber: A Snap Shot Of Our Dysfunctional Civic Discourse

Two dumb tweets

If there is any value to Twitter at all, it may be its ability to reveal the intellectual deficits of those who use it.

The above tweet and response is a fine example. Hannah Cox is a libertarian-conservative writer, commentator, and activist, a Newsmax “Insider” and a frequent contributor to The Washington Examiner. Her tweet above is signature significance: any one who could state for public consumption that the United States “is one of the biggest and most intrusive governments known to man” without their brain leaping out through their nose and slapping them in the face cannot be trusted. It is a really ignorant exaggeration, the kind of hyperbole Donald Trump made daily. Overstating a point for the delectation of idiots doesn’t help. It hurts because such statements make an entire philosophy of government seem stupid by misrepresenting it.

The tweet it is responding to, by “proud progressive” Texas State Representative John Talerico, is, impressively, even worse. It is stupid AND scary. He describes himself on Twitter as “youngest legislator, former middle school teacher, and eighth generation Texan.” Then he virtue-signals by adding “1 John 4:8”: that’s the “Good is love” quote. How young is this idiot, 10? Was he frozen cryogenically in 1967 and warmed up to run for the Texas legislature against a slug? What are they teaching in Texas schools? Surely not logic, political science or world history. They clearly aren’t teaching Ben Franklin’s critical observation, “Those who give up liberty for security deserve neither.” Talerico’s tweet is an open-ended appeal to totalitarian government, if he means what he wrote—Texas schools may not be teaching English, either. The opposite of limited government is unlimited government, and unlimited government is “a boot stamping on a human face— forever,” in George Orwell’s chilling metaphor from “1984.” The Texas schools don’t teach that either, I bet.

Sadly, this is the usual level of dialogue between the Left and the Right that now frames our democracy. It’s incompetent; it’s irresponsible, and as we have seen for at least 20 years, it nurtures dysfunctional politics, government and democracy like moisture nurtures mildew.

12 thoughts on “Dumb And Dumber: A Snap Shot Of Our Dysfunctional Civic Discourse

  1. There’s one thing that’s been missing in the whole discussion of the Texas electrical grid: the Northeast Blackout of 2003. I lived through it. We, and millions of others from New York to Detroit and into Canada, went without power for three days – not because of historic and abnormal weather conditions, but on an ordinary summer’s day because somebody in Akron screwed up. Back then, it was Texas’ turn to pat themselves on the back for their independent energy grid.

    Taken together, that incident and the recent Texas blackout offer vivid illustrations of both the advantages and disadvantages of two different approaches to energy infrastructure. It’s a tradeoff, as was always clear to those who study such systems. But today we don’t talk about tradeoffs in public discourse. Instead, we wait for an opportunity, and then we dunk.

    • Plus is pure false dichotomy territory.

      OH TEXAS! YOUR SYSTEM struggled severely in an unusually extreme weather situation! Therefore you should join our entire worldview and adopt our nanny state methods! This is proof that your system is an abject failure!


      Yeah, no, the storm revealed some weaknesses and we’ll adapt accordingly by making necessary adjustments considering all the tradeoffs and continue on our merry small government way.

      • It was reported that the power companies asked the EPA for an emissions waiver to increase power generation from some of their ‘dirtier’ sources for a few days during the emergency. The EPA said no. Now, the fact checkers are currently saying that is false, but those declarations and reports are coming after the initial reports. Who do you trust?

        • I wouldn’t be surprised if they said No and I wouldn’t be surprised if that No had nothing to do with “sticking it to Texas” and everything to do with why bureaucracy sucks.

          As George Friedman likes to mention – we no longer have a government that can be petitioned as described in the 1st Amendment because the lowest level people anyone interacts with in the way a petition may reasonably work do not have any decision making authority or power to react to the petition.

          Sometime in June the EPA may approve the power companies’ requests.

  2. The latest idea on the left seems to be that the right thinks ANY government action is socialism. I saw memes during the recent snowstorm here in the NE saying “Now make sure you don’t accept help from those socialist snowplows!” (never mind that even the big cities here contract out half of snowplowing to private entities) That’s going a step beyond Obama’s glib description of government as “the things we decide to do together,” and saying any time you see government in action, that’s socialism.

    Definition of socialism (Meriam-Webster, at least until they change it)

    1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
    2a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
    b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
    3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

    Even Reagan, certainly the least socialist president in recent memory, said “government’s job is to protect people, not run their lives.” Policing, fire and rescue services, sanitation, public health, these are all legitimate government protective functions that are nowhere near socialism. Again, a false dichotomy.

  3. Limited government sounds great because people who can actually respond to crises can do so without immense amounts of bureaucracy slowing down decisions. But I suppose the original point was to suggest that limited government led to lack of regulations that led to a great deal of power generation tripping offline.

    People keep reminding each other not to feed the trolls, and yet they can’t help but feed them. And, as one of our managers here is fond of saying, “Don’t argue with idiots. They drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” Yet those arguments keep happening. Part of it is that we do seem to still have some amount of outrage when someone says something that we feel is wrong. So part of the problem is how do address what we feel is wrong?

    I think Twitter is the worst place to have a dialogue, because it is never dialogue, just substance-less snippets of randomly firing neurons. Facebook is hardly any better. The problem is, that’s where the audience is. So are we supposed to take the fight to Twitter and Facebook (where the idiots beat us with their experience), or do we let these statements pass unchallenged to be swallowed by the social media consumers? I don’t have a good answer to that.

    Of course, I wish people would follow certain guidelines before taking to Twitter. Wait. Before attacking any entity (limited government, windmills, aliens), people should (but don’t) have the patience to wait for the investigation to conclude. For those who were so quick to blame the renewables for the Texas power outage, it should be noted that renewables were only generating at 10% of capacity before the cold hit. There were also natural gas plants offline for turnarounds. There were also lots of water pipes that was not sufficiently insulated for the extreme cold. There are reports that operators were slow to start rolling blackouts to preserve the grid. There were many different problems that all converged at once, and if anyone of those “holes in the cheese” had not been present, Texas might not have blacked out at all. But who has the time or patience to consider all that when you can lash out at your favorite punching bag?

    Then, when looking at someone’s argument, address it logically. Identify the premises. See if the conclusion follows from the premises. If the premises are not obvious, ask for clarification. If someone wants to blame limited government for the black outs, perhaps before responding with an attack, ask a question, namely, “How do you see that limited government has led to this problem?” What should government have done differently? When it comes to managing the grid, is it the government or the utilities that are directly responsible? Would you have wanted to wake up a bunch of bureaucrats at 2:00 AM to have them convene, debate about the problem, come to a resolution, and then broadcast the issue? Or would you have wanted the government to issue some mandate to the state that declared power rationing ahead of the encroaching cold front? Once those questions have been asked, then you actually have a good idea of where that person is coming from, and you personally save yourself from looking stupid by spouting out what amount to non-sequiturs to what was orignally tweeted.

    Finally, be courteous. Don’t attack, don’t insult, just make reasonable conclusions about the validity of the argument applied. Don’t respond to ad hominem attacks, and just keep focused on the argument. But more, find areas where you can agree with the person you’re dialoguing with.

    I know that asking people to follow such guidelines is asking for the moon. As long as I’m wishing, I’ll also ask that we reintroduce logic and rhetoric in our middle schools as required courses. We’re definitely suffering from not teaching people how to properly form and parse arguments.

    • Then, when looking at someone’s argument, address it logically. Identify the premises. See if the conclusion follows from the premises. If the premises are not obvious, ask for clarification.

      This sentiment also applies to in-person discussions. One thing I notice, when asking follow-up questions, is how many people will have no factual basis for their assertions, and instead of just admitting it, begin to attack you for asking. Or will double down on not knowing what their talking about.

      An acquaintance and I recently discussed the semi-decriminalization of small amounts of hard drugs in our state of Oregon. She claimed she read the voter pamphlet info on the topic and voted to pass the law for “the greater good.”I asked how she felt about the part of the bill where it said those caught can either go to treatment assessment, or pay a $100 fine, that doesn’t actually have to be paid, and will have no consequence for not paying it.

      She said that wasn’t in the pamphlet. Seriously. So basically because she didn’t actually read the whole thing, this part of the new law didn’t exist. What do you even say to that?

      It’s even worse on social media where we don’t have good opportunities for nuance and truly open-minded discussion. Part of it is reading typed statements will always be prone to misinterpretation. The other part is that much of social media is a narcissism factory of self-righteous virtue signals combined with sheer stupidity.

      Being courteous is indeed important and challenging at times. And when we can’t do that, it’s best to take a break from the noise and invest in our sanity.

      • “She said that wasn’t in the pamphlet. Seriously. So basically because she didn’t actually read the whole thing, this part of the new law didn’t exist. What do you even say to that?”

        You can’t say anything. There is no cure for the stupidity people are willing to put on themselves to avoid being accountable. I worked in customer service for many years. I wish I could say it has changed, but it’s probably gotten worse. If you tell a customer something he or she doesn’t like, you’ll get the response, “Where’s the sign?”. Show them the sign. It won’t matter.

        When I worked for the mail-order company years ago, there were actually customers who claimed that, if they didn’t read the agreement on the application, it wasn’t there. They claimed that, if they didn’t get a bill, they didn’t owe anything. They claimed that, if they sent a check and it hadn’t been cashed yet (after months), that we’d been paid.

        Never underestimate the willful obstinence of an American citizen (especially an American consumer) trying to get around being responsible for anything, whether it’s honoring agreements, paying bills or giving informed opinions.

      • I’m not sure I have a “right” answer to any of the problems out there. But I have finally taken up the challenge to watch the series “Columbo”, starring Peter Falk, who plays a bumbling police lieutenant who asks questions about little details that don’t add up until he finally nails the crook. I’m wondering if there’s a lot more traction we could get there, by playing the confused, not-so-bright pedant who just needs a few items cleared up. It gives people a chance to assert themselves, feel good about being able to explain the details to the poor, confused questioner, until they manage to hang themselves on the details. And if I could just figure out how to do that effectively…

        • I love Columbo. The episodes are better than the made-for-tv films he did later in the 90s, but his character is low-key enough that he fools a lot of his targets…and sometimes doesn’t fool them.

          • I enjoy Columbo and admit I’ve played the dizzy but curious role. It’s better than coming off as a know-it-all, but is still me technically pretending, which seems a bit unethical.

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