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Stuck In The Middle With You


My buddy Micah Sifry takes New York Times columnist David Brooks to task today – and does a fine job, too – for his latest column on partisan divides.
Brooks says politics has become more polarized because in an information-based economy, smart people make decisions and stick with them, using information they find to bolster the way they think. He has lots of studies and data to back this up but, in the end, it’s a silly conclusion. First of all, as Micah points out – I have company! Finally! – this can’t be a 50/50 partisan nation if half the country doesn’t vote. That’s more of a problem than any partisanship out there. But, in fine Big Media tradition, Brooks ends up bashing the Internet for encouraging people to read only those who agree with them. First porn. Now agit-prop. You can’t get a break on the web, can you?

Take a look at what Kevin Drum – a Liberal – is saying about Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911. Or, even better, check out the coalition that’s pounding on door down at San Francisco City Hall to get a housing bond passed. Or take a look at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comments about being less conservative. Or check out Gavin Newsom’ determination to run a more business-like city. Moderation. Compromise. It’s breaking out all over.
UPDATE:The Notes point, helpfully to this Robert Samuelson column in Wednesday’s Washington Post. Says Samuelson, in closing:
Politics should reflect and, at its best, conciliate the nation’s differences. Increasingly, it does the opposite. It distorts, amplifies and inflames conflicts. It’s a turnoff to vast numbers of centrist voters who do not see the world in such uncompromising absolutes. This may be the real polarization: between the true believers on both sides and everyone else.
Last week, I exchanged another message with my “more conservative reader.” He responded to what I had to say about suspicion with one of the best takes on the political scene that I’ve read, one that I’d urge guys like David Brooks to read. Here he is again:
Your response to my e-mail (which was very well thought out), made me think about suspicion in general.
You have a right to excoriate the administration for acting on imperfect data, but the problem is that I see a lot of critics of the administration doing the same thing — seeing suspicious behavior by the administration (or at least suspicious to them), and then concluding that the President was “lying” or Cheney “sent all contracts to Halliburton” and the Bush family “profiteered” from the bin Laden family.
The “proof” of this behavior is probably less solid than the information we had on Iraq, but it doesn’t seem to stop people from speaking out with conviction (and, as we know, just because someone said it doesn’t make it true, no matter how many times it’s repeated or how loud it was said).
Hey, people are making movies and lots of money from making an imperfect analysis on unrelated facts. While I have no problem with Michael Moore and his opinions, to pass his movie off as a documentary is appalling, frankly. It’s no better than those studies by tobacco companies saying that their studies show no connection between cancer and smoking. While their studies showed that in a narrow sense and could be shown to be factual, the overall conclusion was wrong and dangerous.
I guess what I’m really saying (and this isn’t pointed at you) is that people who are willing to make wide-sweeping generalizations and conclusions based on loose suspicions about this administration are simply the pot calling the kettle black.
As a moderate, I would rather find a path towards the middle ground, but with both the religious right and the radical left firing such large guns between each other, we in the middle are getting caught in the crossfire.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 10:55 AM | Permalink

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