Friday, November 09, 2007

Nixon Derangement Syndrome?

Eugene Robinson's right about almost all of this...except it's time to retire the term 'Bush Derangement Syndrome.' See, it isn't derangement if you're right. Then it's just anger. (Actually, it' s more like righteous indignation, but no need to even go that far.) (And the term was, after all, originally 'Clinton Derangement Syndrome'...and that really was derangement.) But note that, say, intense anger about Nixon would not be "Nixon Derangement Syndrome."

So time to retire that little rhetorical smokescreen, I'd say.


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

You can have Eugene Robinson, I'll take Joe Lieberman, and we'll call it a day.

12:11 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Uh...this doesn't really make any sense...

If the point is just "the Dems suck in certain ways, too," then I'm baffled as to why anyone around these parts would feel the need to point this out. Pointing it out in response to this post makes it look a lot like a fallacious attempt to suggest that something Robinson has said is false. But from:

(1) The Dems suck

It follows neither that

(2) Bush does not suck


(3) Bush sucks less than he seems to suck

or even that

(4) the Dems suck worse than the GOP.

Not that (4) was in any way on the table here.

These oblique attempts to deny the obvious--that Bush is a godawful, terrible, shitty president--are rather tedious, Tom, as I'd think even you yourself would have to realize by now.

Seriously, man. By defending the indefensible, you just decrease your own credibility. Why not keep your powder dry for defending aspects of conservatism that are, ya know, defensible?

1:41 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

It's about me again. Sigh.

What Leiberman is describing corresponds with Bush Derangement Syndrome, that to hand him a political defeat is more important than what's good for the country.

BDS exists. CDS and NDS existed too, well before Monica and Watergate.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, it's not about you so much as it is about these odd comments that seem vaguely intended to deny that Bush sucks.

And you are exactly right when you say that CDS existed before Monica. That's what puts the 'D' in CDS. Re: Bush...well, it's a (rational, well-supported, almost unavoidable) conclusion, not a presupposition or disposition.

Not every hated American political figure is hated because his opponents are deranged. This kind of rhetorical move basically presupposes that anyone who becomes passionately opposed to the actions of an American politician is crazy. But (a) this is false, and (b) it's pernicious. It's a ploy that--if it works--would help to defuse criticisms of even the worst of the worst in Washington.

So, unless one denies that we ever elect bad politicians, one should be very careful with this "x Derangement Syndrome" BS.

The charges of BDS are laughable when one recognizes that it's the *whole world* that loathes the guy, not just American liberals. The higher the number of people who come to the conclusion that he's terrible, the less plausible the claim that they're all just deranged partisan hacks. It simply isn't very likely that half of all Americans and 75% or so of the rest of the world went suddenly and inexplicably insane.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

There's no engagement with your scorched-earth opinion of Bush, WS, the oft-repeated litany of lied about WMDs, let bin Laden escape, and the etc. I guess you didn't notice I gave up that errand awhile back and have only piped up on new indictments. I've let the litany pass when you've felt the need to profess your faith.

As for "the rest of the world," 3 of our biggest allies, Canada, Germany and particularly France, (the latter being the arbiter of all things politically moral and what we really mean by "the rest of the world") have elected center-right leaders. Iraq is Iraq---a misbegotten moment of idealism, it seems---and it's my view the rest of the world has gotten over it and doesn't really care as much as their elites and the American left, who are obsessed with it.

BDS in this country mostly and pressingly takes the form of demanding withdrawal from Iraq, which Leiberman alludes to: Nancy Pelosi's bland mouthing the 2006ism that there's no light at the end of the tunnel. In 2006, the facts were just where the BDSer wanted them, and there's no reason for one's views and rhetoric to depart that golden era.

But the center-right leaders of the Western democracies don't bring it up, there are no Vietnam-style marches in the streets of the world except for the anti-WTO-type loonies, and according to the Gallup poll that Robinson himself cites [but you have to actually go look for it], 51% of Democrats would prefer a nominee who "would determine plans after elected."

BDS is not synonymous with disdain for Bush.

As for Robinson's repetition of the tiresome BDS Apostle's Creed, I'll restate for the record that I see him as Truman, who was equally unpopular and left a vastly bigger mess for the next president in Korea. Or, if you insist on your argumentum ad populum, Jimmy Carter, whom you think was a good president. Polls when he left office---

CARTER 12/80
Approve 34%
Disapprove 55%
Don't Know/NA 11%

The sane person, whether left or right, is quite ready to leave Bush to history. Let's get on with it---we have a future to save.

Do you have BDS? [Not a red herring or dragging in the personal---it's the subject of your post above this one.] I dunno, but perhaps the gentleman protests too much. All I can offer about your own particular case, which to your credit doesn't include demands for withdrawal, is that if one spent as much time in 1999 on that sitting president with an election coming up, I'd see it as CDS.

Does Rich have it? Of course. The facile---a highly useful word of late---gotcha on democracy in Pakistan [I thought we abandoned idealism for realism after Iraq] ignores that pitching Musharraf over at this moment leaves open the real possibility that it's a repeat of the shah and the ascension of the radicals, if not with the next government, the one after that. And Pakistan already has nukes.

Now, it's the price of doing business when a philosophy prof or the editor of the women's pages at a major daily [Robinson's real job] or a New York drama critic [Frank Rich] indulges himself in President Derangement Syndrome [as I'm sure it's cathartic if not downright fun], but when the Speaker of the House---who lives in the real world---does, it's a problem for the polity. [Closing the circle on Iraq, where the rubber really meets the road.]

So that I don't junk up every comments section, I'll note here that Rich, in his polemic on democracy in Pakistan, slips in Mukasey and waterboarding. At least Mark Kleiman is honest enough to note that Hillary is equally slippery on the matter. But as you note about even the estimable Immanuel Kant, applying principle in the real world becomes nettlesome, and we both know Kleiman [and Rich, and Robinson, who slips an allusion to waterboarding in, too] will vote for HRC anyway. And so will you.

So I'm just sittin' here watchin' the wheels go 'round and 'round...

3:57 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Egad, Tom, there just seems to be no reasoning with you on this point. You're all over the place, man!

You write as if you deserve credit for not posting a baseless defense of Bush after every post critical of Bush. Weird. Dunno how to respond to that, actually. "Congrats"?

And as for ad'd better look it up. There's been no commission of the fallacy on my part. One commits the ad populum fallacy when one overestimates the evidential value of popular opinion--the paradigm example is confusing 'most people believe that p' with 'p is true.' No one is less inclined to do this than I am. Each time I've carefully noted that the claim is a tenuous one: when one finds oneself opposed to everyone else, then, other things being equal, you'd better re-check your position. A weak claim, and a true one. My point stands.

Remember: falsely accusing someone of having committed a fallacy is itself a fallacy, sometimes called "false accusation of fallacy."

Other countries electing rightish leaders says virtually nothing about Bush. If we're going to scrape the bottom for evidence of this caliber we'll be here all week.

Do I have BDS? Dunno, but not likely. You, rather, have your own version of BDS--Bush Defense Syndrome...bordering on Bush Deification Syndrome.

So when pressed on your error (attributing "BDS" to me, and to Rich...and to all others who oppose the Dear Leader) revert to talking about those who push for if I had ever denied that SOME people are irrational or deranged. But, of course, my point is only that *those of us who have anger based on rational reasons are not deranged.* It's really important to stay focused on the actual claims, as this is a big waste of time otherwise.

I'd love to march through the other errors in your comment...but, again, we've done this once too often.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

You mean alleging error without substantiating it? Yeah, we sure have.

My only error is not acknowledging your opinion as fact.

Your approving link to Robinson is an endorsement, and his thesis' jumping off point is Bush's polls. Citing Carter and Truman's polls (and Korea) is entirely proper in rebuttal.

And yes, inordinate harping on the shortcomings of a lame-duck president when not applicable to the present could be seen as a derangement syndrome. You let that one pass.

Rich's screed is equally worthless, ignoring the immediacy of the Pakistan problem in favor of more Bush-bashing.

And of course we have my original objection, the Pelosi thing, BDS at its most grave. Even the majority of Democrats don't support immediate withdrawal, as I pointed out, bifurcating their likely disdain for Bush from genuine BDS.

You may formally abjure the ad populum, but can't resist pointing out that when [nearly] *everyone* feels a certain way, I should reexamine my positions.

Well I do, constantly. In fact, I don't need [nearly] *everyone* to make me do so---I've reexamined Carter's presidency in light of your [much in the minority] arguments and support and am much kinder to it as a result.

And even if I hadn't changed my mind, it would seem presumptuous to characterize your opinion of Carter as dishonest or invalid on a subject with so many variables.

I think (7) applies here, but as always, surely I'm wrong.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, I think I've defended my positions in this vicinity too many times already, so you can see past discussions if you're really interested.

But one point:
That IEP entry is a disaster. That's not what fallibilism is. You've confused fallibilism with skepticism--but so has the IEP entry you cite, explicitly stating the confusion in the first sentence of the entry. This entry is almost exactly wrong. Fallbilism is, in certain ways, the opposite of skepticism. Fallibilism is a view with a particularly large number of versions, but, roughly, it's the view that I must recognize the fallibility of my own beliefs. Skepticism, on the other hand, is the view that I cannot have any justified beliefs at all.

Jesus! Listing DesCartes as a fallibilist! Astounding!

In fact skepticism is relevant here, though, since, were we to adopt the kinds of standards of proof that folks like you want in the case of e.g. Bush's lies about Iraq, we *would*, actually, be forced into a kind of skepticism. In fact, I've had conservatives say to me that he didn't lie because you can't lie about x unless you *know with certainty* that x is false and say it's true. But Bush didn't know for *certain* that he was saying something false. I actually think such an argument is at the core of much of the thinking of the Dead-Enders. By this standard (plus fallibilism), nobody every lies. Voila!

But I'm done with this, man. No sense our wasting time here. I can tell when people are exchanging actual ideas and when that has ceased. The latter is true here, so why deny it?

8:12 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

One last point, a technical one:
Your complain about my comments on ad populum arguments shows that you don't quite understand the concept. Again: one does not commit an AP by noting that the fact that many people believe that p has some evidential value. One commits an AP when one overestimates the evidential value that such things have.

One SHOULD re-check ones position when one finds that the vast majority of others disagree. Humans are fairly good truth-detectors. If it's you vs. everybody else, bet on everybody else most of the time.

If conservatism has any leg to stand on, it's something like this one, incidentally: conservatism itself attributes a great deal of evidential value to the beliefs of others--though, peculiarly, only to those of our own culture who lived before us--not necessarily to those who live now, nor to those of other cultures.

At any rate: the fact that most people disagree with one is some small bit of evidence that one is wrong. I threw that out to you because you obviously aren't going to be swayed by the evidence in re Bush. I thought that might help you. I in no way indicated that the evidence should be blown out of proportion in the way you suggest.

But, again: I'm out.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I must recognize the fallibility of my own beliefs.

Cool. The article might be lousy, but I got out of it what you said it got wrong. The inquiry must always remain open.

As for your edict Bush is bad [or for the edict Carter was bad], that's an evaluation, and values aren't facts.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Skepticism, on the other hand, is the view that I cannot have any justified beliefs at all.

I wasn't confused, WS. Perhaps you're confused, thinking I'm confused. I have never delegitimized your opinion of Bush, I argue simply that an opposing view can be justified as well when we're in the realm of values, not facts.

And as illustration, I gave you the courtesy about Carter instead of hammering you. Neither would I argue that since *everybody*, both then and now, considers him a bad president, that that fact should move you one iota.

We assume, for the sake of discussion, that you are a philosophically-minded and therefore honest man who does not need spurring from the crowd, which is often wrong on the important things.

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.

As for values, I think that WS and I both value competence, which hasn't been a trademark of the current Administration by any objective measure.

6:10 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

A completely valid barometer and criticism, and much better than ascribing evil motives.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Uh, many confusions here.

First, opposing views are, of course, often both justified (in a weak sense of 'justified.') That is, there is often SOME evidence for both views. There is SOME evidence for the claim that Bush is a good president, but it's pathetically weak evidence, far outweighed by the overwhelming evidence that he's a terrible president. In a case in which there is overwhelming evidence against p, but a smidge of evidence for it, you can't say that both p and not-p are justified beliefs.

But that's pretty much what you do all the time in these contexts.

Of course it's true that, if we ignore the majority of the evidence, give the benefit of the doubt, squint, spin, nip and tuck, we can cobble together a case for the proposition that Bush doesn't suck. But it would not be rational to accept such a case.


TVD: "Values aren't facts."

Well, this may be part of the source of our disagreement. I'm inclined to think that values are objective. If facts are construed broadly enough, you could count values as facts.

Anyway, it doesn't matter whether values are facts, so long as questions about value are questions about objective matters. Which, of course, they are if, e.g., natural law theory is true. So it's odd to me that, given how many times you've asserted that view here, that you'd then deny that values are facts.

But, anyway, questions of value are the same as questions of fact in the relevant respect: that is, evidence has to be assembled, arguments have to be made, and the golden rule is: no cheating.

But, again, I'm out of here. It's a waste of my time and yours. You are committed to defending Bush, regardless of the facts and arguments. I get that. I'm not even going to say anything mean about that position. I'm just telling you that I'm not going keep arguing about it. Again: it is a waste of time. Let us both go forth and do other things.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

One last point:
The evil motives red herring is YOUR red herring.

The original point, long ago, was: the administration lied (more technically: deceived us.) The point wasn't so much about motives, though they do figure in.

Seriously, man, haven't we been over this all about a hundred times before?

Oh, the humanity...

7:51 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, we have, WS, and the sticking point is always that we cannot agree to disagree and still treat each other like gentlemen of good will.

That and you're fond of arguing that a difference in degree eventually amounts to a difference in kind, of essence. However, the line tends to get drawn at exactly the point that proves Bush sucks.

Well, this may be part of the source of our disagreement. I'm inclined to think that values are objective. If facts are construed broadly enough, you could count values as facts.

Yes, that would be the source. However, values can and do conflict, which is why there can be such a thing as principled disagreement. I value x over y, you the converse.

I'm not a big one for parsing, but that I can use "value" as a verb there indicates that not all values are absolute (even if some are).

This isn't a waste of time at all, especially for you. Because it's not really about Bush, or my confusion.

7:51 PM  

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