html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Uncle.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I've reached my fill. The length of the presidential election has unleashed a wave of such relentless, picky, position-justifying critical thought that I can't bear to read any more of it. I don’t care who it argues for or the ornate reasoning behind it. It is all so much thinking, so convoluted and abstract. I’ve started dreading it.

Here’s the thing. The people who love to talk about how complicated maneuverings will influence other, less sophisticated voters, are people who want to live in a world of thought and information. Political bloggers and commenters live for this stuff. A dense hit of information! That they can process by their made-up rules! About something that is important, so they can feel like they are participating! But they don’t have to really talk to anyone! Or experience anything that challenges their intricate rules! This is a particular trap for symbolic analysts like us, who get addicted to constant information and seek out thought like junkies. It is so easy for us to get trapped in our minds. As long as the information keeps coming, we never have to experience our lives and feelings!

And then! The critical thought spills over on to everything. Every position that a blogger offers has to be picked apart. Is it true in every extreme? Is there a counter example that dodges the blogger’s careful qualification that could nullify everything she said!!!! Does the post secretly prove your point, if you look at it through the double-reverse periscope of this one thing that happened one time!!! (Odd how much of blogworld supports your original positions once you know how to look at it.) Did the blogger ever once say something that could be read to contradict her current position? She has no more credibility, ever, because the real world cannot possibly be nuanced and people cannot hold two contradictory thoughts, the which they acknowledge and balance to match changing circumstances. It is relentless. It feels like a barrage of this one type of communication, which is useful for some stuff, but is really a very limited mode of dealing with the world outside your computer screen.

I’m interested in the presidential election, but I can barely stand to read analysis anymore. I certainly can’t stand to read counter-analysis. If it is very good, I can handle a personal reaction presented through a very strong lens (like, here’s how studying paleobotany informs my interpretation of the presidential campaign!). That’s still interesting. But otherwise, I’ve mostly given up. All that thought, spinning and tangling with other thought, to no productive end. It doesn’t make anyone feel good, except the person who got the little hit of serotonin when he clicked on ‘Post’. Even that doesn’t last, so you have to do it again and again to compensate for sitting alone in a dark room, bathed in the light of your computer screen.

I’ve noticed that it is bugging other people too, this analysis and cleverness:
This election has turned into some kind of bizarre series of rituals, like an season of Greek theater where everybody knows the plot and the audience is left to judge the work on the presentation. The parade of comment, counter-comment, conference call about comment, distancing from comment, and major speech incorporating remarks about comment is the real distraction in this campaign, diverting from a looming economic recession (a recession at BEST) and a tragic stalemate in Iraq. Rarely does anything good for the country come out of this exchange.
It is repetitive and not productive. It isn’t the only way to carefully hone thought. It is an addiction. It is going to be a long eight months until the presidential election.


Anonymous YK said...

Sounds like you need to take a break. Have you ever seen Jason Shiga's comic strips? Meanwhile is pretty entertaining (and geeky!)

2:34 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

I don't consume news anymore.
I don't consume partisan analysis of politics anymore.
I don't consume ideological analysis of politics or policy anymore.

I think I'm quite happier as a result.

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I of course got here after having two simultaneous ichat conversations about obama's speech yesterday. I admit to being a bit of a political junkie, but this microscope is gettin' crazy.

If the pundits spent half the time comparing notes on the candidates policy plans, rather than the demographic breakdown of their supporters, this would be a different race. Have we all accepted that you can't believe the plans anyway, so bring on the bullshit?

It's like all I hate about reality TV: the soundbiting and editing of people and events into caricatures for entertainment value. And that's what it is, right? Entertainment? News isn't news anymore.

I can see recoiling into real life to get away from it all. Diving into the tangible world around you, the people you actually know, and not your current favorite contestants and celebrities you think you know.

Actually living your life seems the best way to combat this.

So sayeth the girl reading and commenting on the blog of a stranger... Oy.

- A

4:00 PM  
Blogger Scheherazade said...

I don't comment because I read for your voice and a glimpse of your thoughts, not to get all caught up into a conversation with people who don't show themselves. Also, because I read through an aggregator, so I never even realize there ARE comments.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

t_n, hon, your comment can't come through without an experience to escort it. Tell me another great band to listen to... I LOVED the Soul Stirrers and owe you a gospel mix, for which I have the track list.

7:23 AM  
Blogger Scott Calvert said...

I have a very old friend and we've been through a lot together. He's always been way into analysis, but in the last two years he's been way over the top about it. Enough so that he's driven nearly everybody away. Hurts to watch a friend do that to themselves and their social network.

Your post describes how his insanity makes me FEEL :-p And I'm a huge "in my head person" myself. He gets really far out there, it's scary. I'm tempted to send him a link to this, but he'd respond by picking it apart. Makes me FEEL conflicted :-p I'd hate to sic him on you, but he could use the message.

2:50 PM  

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