Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cognitive Dissonance, revisited

Cognitive dissonance4 Well, that big brouhaha about President Obama's speech to schoolkids turned out to be a big ol' heap o' nothing, didn't it? Laura Bush thought it was a good speech to give to schoolkids; most teachers thought it was an appropriate message; heck, even most of the schoolkids who heard it thought it was a pretty cool speech, and said that it showed them that sometimes you have to try harder, it's okay to ask questions, and that not everyone is immediately successful at achieving their goals. When the President mentioned that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, I saw one young lady who showed a look of stunned surprise, then smiled to her friend. After the speech, it was neat to see the kids coming up to shake the President's hand, some of them turning to their friends with an "Oh my God!" look. All in all, I'd say it was successful in its targeting of schoolkids to try a little harder, and to realize that what they do today can make a difference years down the road. It was a good message.

Even Florida RNC chairman Jim Greer, who initially opposed this speech because he felt it was pushing Obama's "socialist agenda" onto kids, came out and said it was a good speech and he was going to let his kids hear it. Of course, then he had to go muck it up by saying later that it wasn't the speech that Obama had "intended to make," that he rewrote it. Really? I wonder how Mr. Greer knows this? Did he see a copy of the speech that Obama decided not to give? I have to say, I'm amazed at his ability to understand the unspoken intentions of our President. That is some parlor trick.

A pre-speech question and answer session with a handful of students wasn't part of the speech, and I found it even more interesting. If anyone wanted to accuse the President of pushing his agenda, that's where he did it. Except it was kids asking the questions, and they were some good ones. One kid even asked about universal health care. For anyone who thinks that they need to protect kids from hearing any of Obama's ideas, I...I...I just don't understand where you're coming from. These are ideas, and discussions, and kids should be interested in the workings of our government and want to be engaged in the process. The restriction of dialogue and information seems positively medieval to me. I honestly do not understand why anyone would have a problem with that. (And let me reiterate: I was not aware at the time of the controversy over GHW Bush speaking in schools. I would not have agreed with any protests. Let the President speak.)

Dogbert Now that I've learned what cognitive dissonance is, I seem to be seeing it everywhere. Whether it's Mr. Greer giving an actual compliment to the President, followed by backpedaling and justifying his initial protest because of his perceived "intentions" on behalf of the President, or the off-her-meds Orly Taitz who continues to file lawsuits stating that President Obama is a Kenyan citizen and filing not one but two birth certificates--both of which are obvious fakes--to prove it, it seems that our country is absolutely lousy with cognitive dissonance right now.

Oh, and Obama's "socialist agenda?"

Today I read an interview with Frank Llewellyn, the National Director of the Democratic Socialists of America, which is the largest socialist organization in the country. Here are excerpts:

Q. Where on the scale does Obama fall on socialism?

A. There are many ways we can say that Obama is not a socialist, and that he is in fact governing as a centrist, but that doesn't necessarily get people to listen. Clearly the Republicans are saying it since that's all they've got to say. I don't believe they're going to stop making this charge.

It's good for me, we have more media attention as a result of this stuff than anything else in the last 10 years. When I announce our membership numbers, I'm contemplating sending Michael Steele a letter thanking him.

Q. On the school controversy, what was your reaction to people saying that the president speaking to schools is socialist? What goes through your mind?

A. The same thing that's gone through my mind every time the Republicans talk about socialism. It's silly, surreal, uninformed, and it certainly doesn't reflect what modern socialists think, and it doesn't reflect what Obama thinks. Obama's a market guy! Obama believes in markets. He probably spoke more about the role of the markets in the primary than Clinton did. So, there's no question that the Republicans are doing the same thing they did when Roosevelt was president -- confusing somebody who is trying to save capitalism from itself with somebody who is trying to destroy it. He's not trying to destroy capitalism.

And this school thing is just ridiculous.

Q. Is Obama a socialist?

A. No.

Q. Is he a secret socialist?

A. He's not a secret socialist. He's not any kind of socialist at all. He's not challenging the power of the corporations. The banking reforms that have been suggested are not particularly far reaching. He says we must have room for innovation. But we had innovation -- look where it got us. So I just...I can't...I mean laugh out loud, really.

I was on Glenn Beck recently and he said Canada is a socialist country. Well, there is a party in Canada that's called "socialist" within the Democratic party, that's won some provincial elections, never won a federal election. It would be news to them that Canada is socialist. So it's just unserious.

They always use socialism to try to defeat moderate reforms...just because something is government run doesn't mean it's socialist. I've never heard anybody say we have a socialist army.

Read the full article here.

So let me get this straight: the right wingers are saying that Obama is a socialist, or that he has a socialist agenda. (I've read a few people who have called it "socialistical." Watch the extraneous suffixes, folks.) Yet the Grand Poobah of the largest socialist organization in the country says that Obama is in no way, shape, or form--or in policy--a socialist. He finds the suggestion "silly, surreal, and uninformed." Do you think that will get people to stop calling Obama a socialist? Not a chance. "Uninformed" is the key word there. As Llewellyn states, government run is not the equivalent of socialist. But the cognitive dissonance will continue, with people ignoring facts, logic, and reality.

Tonight, I'll be settling in with my hubby and we'll watch our President's speech to a joint session of Congress concerning health care reform. I'm looking forward to it, and I think he'll be bringing his A-game.

Cognitive dissonance3


  1. I also got a kick out of all those "The sky is falling" Repugs who listened to the speech and saw it for what it was: encouraging kids to do good, work hard, and don't give up.
    Of course, they're all silent today.
    I kinda like that, too!

  2. So much todo about nothing. Glad its over.

  3. I agree with Bob, the silence is nice, but eerie. What happens to conservatives when their mouths are shut? Where does all the hot air go? Beth, great post. Especially liked the Q&A with Frank Llewellyn. Enjoy the speech!

  4. I know that there are others that love my job :o)

  5. I agree with Kyle: all good, but the Llewellyn Q&A was especially worth the read.


  6. This was an interesting read, Beth. But I do think that there was a point to the controversy regarding the speech.

    While both Bush and Reagan took the opportunity to sneak in a little policy with their back to school speeches, the proposed lesson plan that went along with it, bothered the hell out of me.

    The idea of writing on 'how I can help the President' is pretty scary. Most imaginings of how tolitarian regimes occur, start with 'how I can help the country' themes.

    It was not, 'how I can help my neighborhood', or 'what can I do to be a better person', but 'how can I help the President'. That is the kind of language that is used by despots throught history. That is what I thought the 'cognitive dissonance' was doing, and I still think that point has been missed.

    One of the ways to prepare someone to contribute to their own downfall, is by surreption. I think that the essence of power is one where it is a means to its own end. Power isn't about ideaology. It is just about power. It sets its own table, and creeps and encroaches upon the weak until they are consumed.

    I don't know when it will happen, just as I don't know when it began. But I fear there will come a time in the country, if not the world, where there will be no other emotion than the love of the country at the expense of all other judgements.

  7. Good post Beth, well written and with many good points. I can understand someone in denial about a disease or other personal tragedy by looking for evidence which doesn't exist and trying to believe in it. It's a defense that maybe helps to deal with it. But why does someone become so enraged about someone else they don't even know to the point of inventing and then believing in facts that don't exist.

    I once knew a woman who was an ardent racist. She poured over nespapers and magazines to find any scrap of information that she thought told her black people were inferior. She kept a scrapbook.

    I had a different take on helping the President. I don't think it came from a dictatorial urging, even an unconscious one. I heard it more in the same spirit as Kennedy's "what you can do for your country."

    The befogged Obama deniers are on a fast train to nowhere.


  8. I love this post and the Dilberts!

    I hope the Repugs do themselves in and lose many more seats during the next election!


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