Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Going Off

This space may be a bit fallow for a while. I'm off on an extended trip, first to see my wife's family, then mine, then to the World Science Fiction Convention, which is being held early this year, in Denver, immediately prior to the Democratic National Convention.

So, in honor of that last bit, I'm going to rep0st something I put up on my Newsgroup a couple of years ago, following the 2006 World Science Fiction Convention:

[originally posted Sept. 5, 2006]

I was watching the News Hour on PBS last Friday, the Shields and Brooks segment, and Jim Lehrer asked a question about Bush’s latest PR offensive, equating the War on Terror and War in Iraq (two phrases Bush always uses interchangeably) to the Cold War and WWII. And Mark Shields. Just. Went. Off. He was nearly ranting, forcefully demanding to know why, if it was all so important, why the country hadn’t been put on a war footing, why there weren’t enough troops in Iraq, why taxes hadn’t been raised, etc. etc. etc.

Brooks was obviously taken aback, and tried his best to shift the argument, talk about how the country would never stand for such measures, and so forth. But mostly he looked nervous and, well, dare I say it, wimpy, irresolute, even lost. After all, Shields is the liberal; he’s not supposed to be the one spitting fire.

The World Science Fiction Convention isn’t anywhere close to the political mainstream, actually. Most convention going fans are college-educated, intellectual-leaning, and more respectful of science rather than, say, religion. Certainly there are plenty of right-leaning fans, but they tend toward the libertarian or Social Darwinian right, rather than the religious right that forms the core of the current Movement Conservatism.

Still, I’ve heard plenty of support in the past from various SF types for various portions of the Conservative Movement agenda, especially the anti-tax, liberal bashing part of it.

Not this last convention, however. In fact, several times, some from panelists, but just as often from ordinary convention goers, the subject would flash over to current politics and the Bush Administration and someone would. Just. Go. Off. On a tirade, a screed, a rant, a whatever-you-want-to-call-it.

And there would be no response. Not even afterwards, in the men’s room, where all the important political thoughts are voiced. No one is willing to say in public, or even semi-private, that they support the Bush Administration.

The secret ballot covers a lot. It especially covers a lot of bigotry. David Duke the white supremacist always polled about 10% higher in the actual race than he did in preliminary opinion polls. So it’s always hard to predict elections beforehand, especially when fevers run high on issues like immigration, where race matters even more than it does otherwise.

But authoritarians are bullies, and the truism is true: bullies are cowards. At a certain point, pulling in your horns becomes reflexive, especially when you’re not sure what you’re voting for in the first place. Moreover, bullies really, really, hate to lose. Better to not fight, then tell yourself that you’re the victim here.

So while I’m not exactly predicting a surprising shift in voter turnout this fall, with the authoritarian right sitting on their hands, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.


Arnaud said...

Hope you have a good time during your vacation! To my shame, I must admit I have never been to a science fiction convention (let alone a world one)!

It's quite weird but it's only recently that I became aware of the existence of a real right-leaning sci-fi undercurrent in the US. And only after reading an anthology of space-opera writings.

Here in the UK, and in France, SF is, when it bothers having a political opinion, overwhelmingly on the left. But the right in Europe is, as far as I can tell, usually more conservative, adverse to risk taking and also to popular culture than in the US.

black dog barking said...

When your whole political philosophy is based on carving out an exception to the very reason your nation exists, to the plainly stated self-evident truths laid down in the lede sentence of your nation's Declaration of Independence, you're bound to have some uncomfortable moments. "All men are created equal" didn't make the cut when they finalized American Exceptionalism doctrine. Only faith will guide the believer when some rabble rouser peers under the cloak of that denial.

Bon voyage!!

Anonymous said...

You neva told us when you were "Coming Back"...and some readers of Economisty are hoping that is soon.
Ok B good

allison said...

Come back soon! I just discovered your blog and I really appreciate your perspective. It's liberal like me, yes, but it's coming from a different background. I'm kind of used to the echo chamber of liberal women's sites, so it's nice to hear your voice, too!


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to say that Jim passed away last year.


TStockmann said...

Et in Arcadia, Ego

it was fun

Anonymous said...

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AdULThOOD said...

Знакомься на секс в контакте и найди свою любовь!

Chico said...

rest in peace, jim.

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