Politics as Fantasy, as Competing Stories

Three topics for today.

  • The Hunter Biden verdict this morning, and how conservatives explain it to fit their conspiracy theories;
  • Religious dimwittery about installing the Ten Commandments into schools; and Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito’s presumptuous allegiance to Christian godliness as the solution to all worldly ills;
  • How politics works, and how the derangement of one prominent candidate apparently doesn’t matter to his supporters;
  • And a note about the new Crowded House album, Gravity Stairs.

If whatever the data is, it fits your theory, then your theory is more likely a conspiracy theory, in which all evidence can be interpreted as supporting your premise, which in turn will remain secure despite all evidence.

The interesting illustration of this today was a jury finding Hunter Biden, the president’s son, guilty of misrepresenting his drug addiction status when purchasing a gun. He was quickly found guilty. Before hearing that, I thought, gosh, if he’s *not* found guilty, the MAGA conservatives will really howl about a rigged justice system — if Biden had been found not guilty after Trump being found guilty. (Not that two data points prove even a trend, but never mind.)

So, what are conservatives saying now? Well, Hunter’s conviction just proves something, but they’re not sure what. Something bad about the Democrats, surely.

Politico, 11 Jun 2024: Hunter Biden verdict throws ‘sand in the gears’ of GOP’s attacks on legal system, subtitled “Trump’s campaign called the verdict a ‘distraction,’ while other Republicans were all over the map.”

Samples from all over the map: Trump Campaign Mocks Hunter Verdict As “Distraction From The Real Crimes Of Crooked Biden Crime Family”. No, wait, Dems Sacrificed Hunter Biden As A “Useless Pawn”. No, wait, says Stephen Miller: President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice was somehow interfering in the 2024 election on Biden’s behalf by convicting his son of three felonies. Or, just maybe, it means that “Nobody is above the law, including the President’s son.” Nah.


Religious dimwittery.

Joe.My.God, 4 Jun 2024: FRC: Ten Commandments Belong In Schools Because All The “Other Religious Ethical Statements Are Myths” (from the Family Research Council’s website)

First, “ethical statements” can hardly be called myths, but it turns out the JMG headline is a tad unfair; the FRC’s website doesn’t say that. It even admits the key point I was about to make: “the moral principles found in the Ten Commandments are so wise that even people from other nations, religions, and cultures will recognize the wisdom they contain.”

Though this is a backwards way of looking at it. The ethical principles enshrined in the Ten Commandments, to the extent they are common with those from other cultures and religions, are precisely those that evolved and became part of human nature (see Steven Pinker) because otherwise our cooperative species could never have grown and taken over the world.

Lots of ethical standards have rules about not killing, not stealing, and so on. Those rules have nothing to do with Christianity; Christianity is not the secret source of wisdom that no one else has discovered. While the commandments that are peculiar to the Biblical ten (though, which version?) happen to not have been instantiated into civil law. I.e., there are (at least not anymore) laws against worshiping other gods, taking God’s name in vain, and so on. (Though if MAGA and Project 2025 have their way, such laws might reappear.)

Second, I am continually astounded by the presumption of Christians — and I suppose followers of other religions — who apparently think it *obvious* that their religion and principles are the only true ones, and all the others are, as the headline above says, myths. And privately condescend to followers of those other religions for not realizing how wrong they are. How my Tennessee relatives see me, perhaps.


It’s no surprise that the true believers are also deeply superstitious. (Another item about the FRC!) Belief in their religion divorces them from rationality, and understanding the real world.

Media Matters, 5 Jun 2024: Project 2025 partner claims Trump’s conviction was the result of witchcraft, subtitled “Senior reporter and editor at the Family Research Council’s blog cites ‘ancient Egypt’ and ‘Babylon’ to claim ‘dark arts’ are aligning against Trump”


Meanwhile this week there have been leaks of conversations by Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito.

Salon, Marin Scotten, 10 Jun 2024: Alito speaks out against compromise between left and right: “One side or the other is going to win”, subtitled “The judge agreed with a questioner that America must fight to return to a ‘place of Godliness'”

Here yet again, all or nothing thinking; my way or no way, anarchy. How do so many people apparently not realize that however certain they are about their religion, there are millions or billions of other people equally certain of their different religions? There can be no compromise?

My position: these are precisely the attitudes that must be overcome if humanity is to survive. The whole world is increasingly a big melting pot (to use a term once used to describe the United States, when immigration was regarded as a good thing), and we have to learn how to get along with one another. There’s no hope for humanity if all the religions feel this way. What’s the alternative? One religion to rule them all? Conquest? Well, it’s been tried before…

There *is* a compromise, of course, and it’s to stop living by stories, and live with reality. But that will never happen; humans live by stories. Where is the resolution…?


Also, Rolling Stone, 10 Jun 2024: Justice Alito Caught on Tape Discussing How Battle for America ‘Can’t Be Compromised’, subtitled “In a new, secret recording, the Supreme Court justice says he ‘agrees’ that the U.S. should return to a place of godliness”

Further thoughts: How would he explain all those European nations with better standards of living and higher levels of happiness than the US, who are far less religious than the us Americans are? Well — I’m trying to understand this — perhaps because those nations are more homogeneous than the US is. So then, religion is necessary to bind together a nation of people from diverse backgrounds? Yet why should Christianity be the default solution to impose upon everyone? Just trying to understand the reasoning here. I can sorta see their point… tradition and all that… but their position still strikes me as a colossal presumption, colossal arrogance and ignorance of the wider world of possibilities, to think that their solution is to tell other people how to live their lives.


One more:

AlterNet, 10 Jun 2024: ‘Unethical’ and ‘corrupt’: Secret Alito audio revealing ‘Christian nationalist’ stuns experts


How politics works.

Third general topic for today. How does politics work? I’m thinking specifically how the media, including TV and later the internet and social media, expose candidates to the people. What was it like 100 years ago? Maybe radio, in FDR’s time. Rehearsed speeches; how FDR’s paralysis was hidden from the public. To the Nixon/Kennedy televised debates, during which Nixon was uncomfortable and sweaty; Kennedy won.

Now we have lots of TV and cable channels, and coverage of presidential candidates 24/7. And, does it matter…?

Salon, Lucian K. Truscott IV, 11 Jun 2024: Trump’s shark tale: We have to come up with a new word for “unhinged”, subtitled “Joe Biden’s best debate prep is to watch Trump’s MAGA rally rants with a straight face”

Tempted to quote passages of Trump’s speech, but I won’t.


Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 11 Jun 2024: “False gospel”: The new GOP attack on Dolly Parton is a tactic borrowed from the Christian right, subtitled “Fundamentalists disparage mainstream culture as ‘demonic’ — Republicans just substitute the word ‘woke'”


TNR, New Republic, 10 Jun 2024: Cognitive Decline? Trump Short-Circuits During Bonkers Rant, subtitled “The former president glitched during a tirade about sharks and batteries.”

Apparently it doesn’t matter.


Listening to the new Crowded House album, just arrived today on CD. Gravity Stairs. No tracks on YouTube yet. I have theories about how simple catchy songs are the most popular yet quickly pale — most of them at least — while edgy, complex songs take longer to absorb yet eventually take deep root. And songs by Crowded House, and Neil Finn, are usually the latter.

Wikipedia: Gravity Stairs

Still, on second listening, I’m struck by the second track, “Life’s Imitation.”

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