Monday, August 29, 2005


The Middle Monkeys

As the subtitle of this blog indicates, I'm a "writer from another field." My other field--well, my only field, since politics normally isn't my thing (I'm only trying to do my duty as an American citizen here)--is photography. I've been involved in photography in one way or another for most of my adult life, if you can call it that. (Ba-dum.)

Curiously, every now and again, I get a message from somebody who reads my photography writings and then somehow stumbles on my political views, who then ostentatiously declares that he will no longer read anything I have to say about photography. Here's a typical one, from an anonymous poster called "Shutterbuggy" on the Canon forum:

"I'm not a ranter and don't engage in ad hominem. I've read your column on Luminous Landscape. I want to say thanks for alerting me to the presence of you blog. After reading the statements regarding President Bush, I won't need to find the time to read your column in the future."

Well, it's nice that he's not a ranter. What he is, unfortunately, is a monkey. The middle one, I think. I refer, of course, to the three monkeys Saul Bellow talks about in his fine picaresque novel The Adventures of Augie March:

"Monkey was the basis of much thought with us. On the sideboard, on the Turkestan runner, with their eyes, ears, and mouth covered, we had see-no-evil, speak-no-evil, hear-no-evil, a lower trinity of the house. The advantage of lesser gods is that you can take their names any way you like. "Silence in the courthouse, monkey wants to speak; speak, monkey, speak." "The monkey and the bamboo were playing in the grass..." Still the monkeys could be potent, and awesome besides, and deep social critics when the old woman, like a great lama--for she is Eastern to me, in the end--would point to the squatting brown three, whose mouths and nostrils were drawn in sharp blood-red, and with profound wit, her unkindness finally touching greatness, say, "Nobody asks you to love the whole world, only to be honest, ehrlich."

(Just as an aside, now that's what I call a sentence.) The hear-no-evil monkey seems to be a hallmark, or at least a leitmotif, of some conservatives. They will not hear dissenting opinions, will not countenance inconvenient facts. They are resolute about shielding themselves from any information that diverges from what they want to hear.

But not only that, it seems. As Shuttermonkey says, he's not going to read my photography column in the future. This seems a harsh standard to hold the world to! What, is he going to ignore the advice of his plumber if the man voted for Gore? Find a new dentist if the dentist donates to the ACLU? What if he's selling his house and the buyer's real-estate agent tells a Bush joke--would he walk away from the table? "Not gonna do it"?

This may surprise some readers of this blog, but I regularly read conservative viewpoints. I read William F. Buckley and David Brooks (recently hilariously described as "the affirmative-action hire at the Times"), and I'll even read Ann Coulter, if only to learn what my own individual hell would be like if I believed in that sort of thing.

It's true that I don't ordinarily subject myself to Rush Limbaugh, but that's not because he's a big fat idiot, only because he's such a goddamned liar...that guy will say anything. But I'm not afraid of hearing him, either. It's not like I've never heard him. Heck, I've even read Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson, a book that is beautiful as well as being mostly wrong. I don't cover my ears, in other words.

I wonder if "Shutterbuggy" has ever read Marx's criticisms of capitalism? Does he ever take in a Paul Krugman column, or click over to Has he read Mark Crispin Miller's Cruel and Unusual to see what the other side is up to?

Doesn't seem very likely, does it.

Unfortunately, that's very typical of a certain breed of conservative. They're simply, purposefully unaware. I have a bumper sticker on my car that says, "If you like Bush, you're not paying attention." I truly believe that. I truly believe that the main run of traditional Republicans who [allegedly] re-elected W are simply not aware of what he and his cronies are doing. They're just talking amongst themselves; their "news" regularly gets twisted into propaganda and then subjected to endless repetition in what former Republican strategist David Brock dubbed "The Republican Noise Machine" until they simply can't believe it's not true. They haven't even heard of how the voter rolls in Florida were cooked before the 2000 election. They think that Paul Wellstone's funeral was full of campaigning, based on an endlessly repeated five-second clip from the event. They think the media is still liberal, for heaven's sake--in the face of nearly overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I even had one conservative friend say to me recently that he was unaware of a single documented instance of George W. Bush actually lying. I suggested, in my usual gentle way, that he might want to avail himself of one of the many books documenting just those instances, starting with, oh, say, David Corn's helpfully-titled book The Lies of George W. Bush....

The evidence is out there. The information exists. But when you refuse to listen to anyone's opinion on any subject because you're afraid you'll come within earshot of an opinion that doesn't agree with your own preconceived notions, well, you've made yourself pretty safe. Your mind doesn't even have to be closed, because very little even makes it that far.

The Quotidian Meander

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