Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Amidst minimal fanfare, and a spirited discussion, the Great Media Swap has dribbled to an end.

About four weeks ago I switched news sources with a conservative coworker of mine. I stopped reading the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times, CNN, and Salon. I also stopped listening to NPR. Instead, I got my news from his sources, which were Yahoo News and KSFO, a local talk radio station that features Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

The goal of the Swap was to see if a month-long immersion in news from the "other" side would help us gain a less partisan view. Today, for no good reason, we unceremoniously ended the experiment.

So, what did I learn? I learned this:

1) My coworker, Bubba, needs more news sources. Talk radio, of any political persuasion, is a crappy source of news

2) It's really hard to get unbiased news. I got conservative perspective on the Valerie Plame issue that I would not have received from my usual sources. It was interesting hearing how KSFO folks talked about the prosecutor, Fitzgerald. They painted the same rabid-dog picture that my liberal sources used to paint about Ken Starr. A person would have to be very vigilant and dedicate a lot of time to try and get a full view of political issues.

3) Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are asses. For every good point they make, they spend an hour launching mean-spirited attacks against "those liberals". Any perceived confirmation of their viewpoint is accompanied by pompous chest-beating and endless self-congratulations. Nice work, boys.

4) Despite myself, I seem to have come out of this with a greater distaste for Clinton. Hearing these guys hammer on him day after day (and I'd be very surprised if an hour of their shows went by without a mention of Clinton) seems to have made an impact on me. We should be able to do better than Clinton. (We haven't with Bush, mind you, but we should be able to.)

Bubba urged me to express any insights I had gained into the conservative mind. That was a more challenging task. I don't know that my week with Rush, Hannity, and Dr. Laura really taught me anything about conservatism at large, but I did my best to express my opinion of it.

I said that on the majority of issues (e.g. fiscal, gun control, welfare, immigration, etc), the unifying theme seemed to be one of self-responsibility. It's an I'll-take-care-of-myself viewpoint taken to it's logical (or absurd) conclusion which means that I surely won't be responsible for you. On the rest of the issues (e.g. abortion, gay marriage, etc), the conservative viewpoint seems to be based on religion.

Bubba liked the first part of my theory, but objected to the latter. This brought us to his new theory on liberalism vs conservatism.

Let me preface this by saying that Bubba is one of the smarter and more-grounded people that I know. Aside from his flirtations with conspiracy theories, he makes a lot of sense. Now then, sit down.

Bubba is working on the theory, thanks in part to our media swap, that the battle between liberalism and conservatism is directly related to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Yeah, that's where he lost me too.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics mostly speaks to the tendency of the universe to move towards randomness (entropy). Without us expending energy to organize something, it will tend to become disordered. That's not a very technical description, but it will do.

Bubba argues that conservatism is an effort to fight entropy and create order. Liberalism, however, is apparently an oh-molecules-will-be-molecules approach and moves us towards disorder. We got into a pretty heated debate about whether gay marriage increases or decreases randomness in the universe before we shelved the discussion to do actual work.

I'm going to need to do some drugs before I can comment coherently on this, but I'm inclined to think that you can't fight Mother Nature.

On a final note, where did all the funny go? Who the hell came here for simplistic and incomprehensible political discussion? Not you.

Here's where the funny went. And here.


Tmoyawee Jackson said...

Just about any attempt to describe complex human behavior with rules resembling basic laws of physics is not going to be very accurate, though it may appeal to one's desire for simple, rational explanations.

The liberals = chaosphiles / conservatives = orderphiles dichotomy in particular raises some obvious and immediate objections. For example, if this were true, why would the conservatives be the free market hawks? Why would the liberals be more amenable to government regulation? And what about libertarians and communists?

George Lakoff's "parenting" analogy, while also flawed, seems like a better theory than the Newtonian explanation.

And hey, you don't have to be funny all the time. Do you think your readers are so crass as to read your stuff solely for the physical, ephemeral pleasure of a laugh or chuckle?

(Don't answer that.)

Mike said...

TJ, I can't accurately speak for Bubba (and I don't believe he reads this), so any defense I make of his theories would be laughable.

So, let's try.

I believe Bubba would argue that free market hawks ARE contributing to order because our fairly-free market in the U.S. has continued to exist (thus perpetuating it's "order") whereas the biggest example of communism (good ol' USSR) didn't do such a good job of maintaining it's economic model.

So, although on the surface it looks like government regulation is "order" it ultimately contributes to the demise of the economy thus decreasing order and increasing entropy.