Sunday, March 11, 2012

Today I Beat Up Your Mom

There's apparently nothing in the world better for one's self-righteous pride than verbally threatening and mentally beating up on an older white lady who's enabling your sense of privilege, at least if you're of the mindset of the author of this Daily Kos "Diary."
"If you say one more fucking thing I'll go find your manager and all three of us can discuss this."

At that, she suddenly deflated. Now the look in her eyes was fear. She looked down and meekly mumbled "Ok. Sorry sir."

I left then, proud of myself and still full of anger.
The Diary of DuzT, cleverly titled "Today I told off a cashier who was trashing the president," is a poster-child example of Dr. Michael Huemer's essay that we recently discussed in Why People Are Irrational About Politics. Thanks, DuzT.

Mr. Privileged Progressive stopped by a big box store for beer and cat food, for which he is abjectly sorry. This is made apparent by his detailed apologia for shopping at such an evil place, justifying it by pointing out that they are Michigan-owned, unionized, and sell organic and local products. He also explains that he really tries not to let outside opinions (labeled "Obama-bashing") get to him, but he let his guard down, apparently because he was tired and beerless. He's thereby pre-established his street cred for those reading his little diatribe.

After clearing his conscience by justifying his presence in the bowels of hell, he then explains he's a very political person, stressing that he spends a lot of time at Daily Kos, reads appropriately progressive literature, and listens to appropriately progressive talk radio all day in his truck. You have to give DuzT credit. He's working really hard to live up to Dr. Huemer's fourth point of irrational politics before he ever walks into the lion's den that is Meijer Supermarket.
4. If you only seek information from sources that you know you're going to agree with, you might be trying to reinforce your existing beliefs rather than learn new things. The people you're most likely to learn something new from are people who disagree with you.
Next DuzT establishes his love of the "little people" by emoting on the plight of the "older white woman with a hard life" who's earning her pay by checking and bagging his groceries at 8:30 on a Friday night. (Notice how he cleverly preemptively "others" his opponent by labeling her as someone belonging to groups highly unlikely to represent his readership.) But storm clouds are gathering on the horizon.

He's eavesdropping on the conversation this "older white woman" is having with the customer ahead of him, when out of the blue she says "Of course Obama says there's no inflation. I don't think the man has ever had to buy groceries in his life. He probably gets his employees to do it for him. You know, buy his arugula?"

Those who are regular readers of The Tireless Agorist may be aware that the government's claims regarding inflation are probably woefully understated. Even relatively neutral information sources can confirm that. But by practicing Dr. Huemer's point four he's also reinforcing point two.
2. If you have strong opinions about a subject before acquiring relevant empirical evidence about it, take note. If you haven't reviewed the academic literature, studies and statistics, but you have formed an opinion absent that evidence, then your opinion is probably irrational.
Now I'll freely admit that this is purely conjecture, but given DuzT's strict adherence to Dr. Huemer's other points I'll guess knowledge of conflicting data regarding inflation wouldn't make a dint in DuzT's stance.
3. If your opinions don't change as you gather evidence, particularly evidence that challenges your original position, then you're probably being irrational about your position.
Naturally, we only hear one side of this conversation, but apparently while checking out Mr. Privileged Progressive, this uppity cashier had the audacity to lament that "that elitist" in the white house has no idea what it's like for regular people.

We all know that's a real smear, right? Even I've heard that Michelle made a shopping trip to Target. In October. Last year.

Does DuzT make any attempt to engate the "older white woman," in a discussion of her opinions, or divert the conversation to another topic, perhaps by commenting on how the "older white woman" must be tired, or that it's probably been a long day, or ask about the "hard life" he assumes she's had? No, he'd rather just stew in his own boiling anger and enjoy his own internal dialog.
My anger was building up to a boil; I mean, I just wanted to get home to that beer and who knows how many people before me had to hear this crap?
Good job, DuzT. You've done a great job of adopting Dr. Huemer's points one and five.
1. If you find you're becoming angry during a political discussion, you may be acting irrationally. If another person is advancing a political position and that makes you angry, that's a sign you have certain biases that might be preventing you from thinking objectively about a subject.

5. If you think that people who disagree with you must be evil, the most likely explanation is that you're suffering from dogmatism and are unable to see the arguments for another position.
Does Mr. Privileged Progressive make his point by inconveniencing himself in any way, perhaps by leaving the groceries on the belt in protest and finding a different vendor who will assure he's not exposed to alternate opinions? But I digress: of course not. The denoument is woefully predictable, and returns us to the quote that started this essay.
So after I was all paid up and everything was in my cart I said to her,

"I suggest you keep your political opinions to yourself when you're standing there because you never know who's standing here. I don't appreciate hearing my president trashed like that. That's all I'm going to say."

Her eyes flashed with anger and realization that I must be one of "those people". She drew in a breath, about to say something and I said,

"If you say one more fucking thing I'll go find your manager and all three of us can discuss this."

At that, she suddenly deflated. Now the look in her eyes was fear. She looked down and meekly mumbled "Ok. Sorry sir."

I left then, proud of myself and still full of anger.
DuzT is certainly clever. After he's made sure he won't be inconvenienced in any way, he finally informs the "older white woman" that he vehemently disagrees with her, using pointlessly vile language that probably shocks her older sensibilities. Then he immediately shuts down any possibility of discussion by threatening her with the loss of her job. Apparently he's got to protect his adherence to Dr. Huemer's points two and three at all costs. It would have been much nicer of him to simply stick his fingers in his ears and shout "La la la la la, I can't hear you."

To be fair to DuzT, he actually feels a twinge of remorse by the time he gets to his car. He points out that she obviously didn't know any better than to spout something she heard from Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. Not once does it cross his mind that she just might have been more widely informed about the political landscape than he.

I wonder if his mom would be proud of him for treating an "older white woman" like that?

So, yeah, DuzT, you went too far. You should take the lessons Dr. Huemer offers in Why People Are Irrrational About Politics to heart. Maybe the next time you decide to engage someone with views that disagree with yours, you can come away feeling like you've made a difference instead of having vanquished an evil enemy.

...and that's all I have to say about that.
1 Hat tip to Glenn Greewald, who posted this link on Twitter.

Note to Readers: It's worth noting that Daily Kos is a hard-core, left-wing echo chamber, as you can discover yourself by perusing a few of the comments left on DuzT's diary. Unlike here at The Tireless Agorist, you're not allowed to comment unless you sign into their system, so it's a good place to go for support if you like beating up on old ladies.

Polite political discourse is always welcome here. However, if you show up spouting invective and violate the common sense recommendations of Dr. Huemer, I'll happily delete your comment. And that includes you, DuzT.

...and if you ever talk to my mom like that, you better go hide under your bed.


  1. Just make sure you don't fall into the echo chamber too :)

  2. Fair enough, Zoombie. I'm definitely guilty of #5 in this post, but since it's primarily an opinion piece and he beat up on somebody's mom, I don't feel the least bit guilty about it. ;)

  3. The second sentence of Dr. Huemer's second point suffers from reliance upon several logical fallacies.

    Failure to "review the academic literature, studies and statistics", in and of itself, does not mean that the evidentiary / real basis of one's opinion / position is irrational. In fact, any such asseveration is, itself, irrational. The premise undergirding Dr. Huemer's assertion is (1) argument to selective authority and (2) academic credentialism.

    One does not have to be conversant with econometrics or the President's Council of Economic Advisors or Keynesianism or the Austrian School or Krugnuts or a survey published by the Wharton School to know whether or not the prices of the goods and services for which one routinely purchases are rising.

    Is one to trust one's empirical, everyday evidence or should one discount such evidence in light of the "academic literature, studies and statistics"? Should one just accept, without question, the truth and reliability of that which is set forth in such "academic literature, studies and statistics"?

    Dr. Huemer's second sentence in point two implicitly vouches for the bona fides of such "studies and statistics". This kind of deference is misplaced - particularly for one who warns us of being irrational.

    The more rational person must question the reliability of any such "literature, studies and statistics" and demand that all underlying assumptions and premises be proved. He should ask questions, like, (1) who benefits; (2) who paid for the "study"; (3) how were the numbers crunched, etc.

    A rational inference of Dr. Huemer's second sentence in point 2 is that there is some kind of unquestioned, universal truth to be discerned from the academic literature, studies and statistics and that's all there is to it. A more benign inference is that there is some kind of consensus which has been established by the academic literature, studies and statistics against which one can not rationally dispute.

  4. Obviously, not all academics are in accord on a given subject. There is apt to be some disagreement in the literature and there is apt to be conflict in the studies and statistics. Thus, notwithstanding the fact that Dr. Huemer does hedge and qualify his assertion in the second sentence of point 2, one can not be faulted for inferring that Dr. Huemer believes that there is some kind of monolith of veracity to found on a given topic in "academic literature, studies and statistics".

  5. Libertymike: I figure, considering the huge wealth of information available to us as internet users, an important skill isn't just in finding academic papers, but finding LOTS of academic papers and discerning from them repeating patterns. Where a single viewpoint fails, many can find consensus.

  6. Notice that DuzT also believes himself to be psychic, as he claims to know what the cashier was thinking, and what she was about to say, before she could say it.

    The only thing he accomplished was to earn himself a spot in the "Most Obnoxious Customers" hall of fame.