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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2011 11:45 am 
This is Rome

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:48 pm
Posts: 5963
Location: Concrete Jungle by the Lagoon
Partisanship and polarization are not new issues, but they've certainly seemed particularly strong in recent years. Lately, I've noticed a specific worsening (or maybe I've just become more observant): a self-aggrandizing tendency to state the "other side's" beliefs in absentia, in the most ridiculous terms possible, attribute them to far more people than probably actually believe them, then mock them.

The obvious example this week is the Rapture, which we are all anxiously awaiting. Now, I don't know a single person who believes that today will bring Rapture. Nor do I know many people who believe in a Rapture at all - and most of those aren't keen to browbeat anyone else over the head with their beliefs. But what I have seen is an absolutely gleeful mocking of the Rapture throughout the left and center. Now, I laughed at the FB event "Post-rapture looting" - good times. But, the more Rapture jokes I've seen, the greater my sense of their ugly undertone: "Let's all of us smart people make fun of those morons and their hilarious views."

Now, I'm not defending the merits (such as they are) of the underlying belief. I just don't see that we're gaining much, as societies, from the ugliness of the mocking.

Another example that struck me recently: The Onion did a blistering, hilarious satirical piece with respect to the Planned Parenthood controversy, gleefully "reporting" that the organization would use continued federal funding to expand its abortion services via Abortionplex, a full-service facility that would make abortions so fun (from massages to floating rivers), that women would try to have abortions as often as they could! The piece itself was great, and responded to the most distorted Republican claims from the debate (like Kyl's). What I thought was less great were the hundreds of comments (direct to the Onion) and the many reposts I saw, essentially jumping ahead of any conservative/Republican response to the piece to predict that conservatives would take the piece literally, that it accurately reflected "their" view of abortion, etc. (Several pro-life conservatives actually later entered the comment section to say that they'd understood the satire and found it entertaining.)

Now, I know it's just The Onion, but I thought it showcased an important part: we are increasingly moving towards societies in which "we" (the enlightened, moral, values-based, individualist, educated, communitarian, religious, traditional, progressive, egalitarian - whatever attributes the group in question thinks are positive) are battling a caricatured, distorted version of "they" (the backwards, uneducated, amoral, valueless, delusional, superstitious, selfish, moronic, stuck-in-the-past or fighting-for-a-brave-new-world, etc.), whom "we" are unfortunate enough to share our respective countries* with. And as enlightened as "we" surely are, I fear that "we" aren't proving ourselves enlightened enough to work towards anything resembling understanding. But of course, that's not "our" fault in the least - we are quite reasonable and enlightened; thus the country's failure to move towards a tolerant and mutually-respectful society is fully attributable to them. Those idiots.

*I say "countries," because I've noticed the same tendency in both the US and UK, at least. The skewed descriptions I've been given of Lib Dems by Tories, and Tories by Lib Dems (for instance) are as blistering as Republicans' and Dems' depiction of each other in the States.

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