December 10, 2004

Tin Foil Hats

I touched on this in an earlier post about atheism and the left, but I’ll repeat myself. I’m the only one who notices anyway, but still I have to mention it because I am a freak of thoroughness. If I think it, I’ve got to document it, which is why a blog is a perfect venue for a person with my kind of illness.

This is a response to a comment to the last post that I never got. I imagined (fantasized) a reader coming here and thinking the talk about UFOs was ludicrous. They’d say I needed a tinfoil hat because I believe in such things. On the Daily Kos, epicenter of liberal talk, they are extremely averse to any sort of far-out talk whatsoever. Some of this makes sense--if Kos starts talking about UFOs and the Knights Templar, he is going to lose all credibility.

But there’s something much deeper than that. The term "Tin foil hat" is becoming a new PC mantra, designed to shut someone up if they say something controversial. In fact, it’s the left-wing that is more of an enemy of weird thought than the right wing--because it is only in the left-wing where certain ideas could be allowed to grow. The right wing are busy being single-minded Christians and money-lovers. Meanwhile, the left-wing are busy being rational. The left-wing may be even more self-righteous than the right. I’ve found that Christian self-righteousness is on shaky ground--they are so defensive about their religion because deep down, where they can’t see, they’re unsure about it. I’ve seen this in my mother-in-law, a former pot-smoking delinquent who became born-again, and her religion just seems like clothes she wears. She prays in the morning and watches TV all day.

Liberals, on the other hand, know they’re right, and everybody else is just misguided and absurd. They are more condescending and more rigid. This is generalizing, but it’s the sense I get from the political left. I am not much of a protester, I could give a shit about local congressional races--I do however find presidential elections very interesting, which is why have been reading the political blogs lately. Political types seem to be more concerned with the law and facts than being truly open-minded. They are led by their conception of sobriety and reason, a kind of status quo--instead of entertaining radical new ideas. This is true also of a lot of "literary" writing, which has a sort of gentleness--it may be about dark subjects, but it wears its intelligence so conspicuously, a master of arts, that the darkness is in some way overshadowed, unreal. It satisfies the intellect, the fact-based part of the brain. Really those writers seem to be superficially showing off. It’s like the difference between fusion jazz, where everyone is a technical expert, and Coltrane jazz, where everyone is bleeding their soul.

Not that I have achieved what I want as a writer. I have a deep-seeded desire to please all people. I am a Kerry-like politician. I want the conspiracy nuts to agree with what I say, I want intellectuals to think I’m smart enough, I want the political left to think I am rational-minded. In short, I am full of shit. I want my writing to be eye-opening and controversial and I’m also worried about offending people. I wish I could lose that and stop being such a fucking apologizer.


Henry Baum said...

Someone wrote a tinfoil hat comment after I wrote this post. Glad to get what I wished for.

darling maggot said...

i find the left to be "intolerant of all the intolerance" sometimes. which is ironic but i don't think intolerance is one of those things that's easily tolerated. i don't's very circular. but that's more a response to an oft-used ad hominem attack from the right.

the extreme left is just as bad as the extreme right. extremism in any form, political or religious, gives me the hives.

ironically, i've heard the tin foil hat comments used against the right. usually against apologists for the bush administration, people who think fox news is accurate, and that the economy is on the right track thanks to 5.8% unemployment figure. but i don't know if it's being misused to mean the selective reasoning and denial that so many on the left accuse so many on the right of.

Whymrhymer said...

You appear to have lost any inhibitions about offending people -- you managed to offend both the left and right in this post by speaking the truth!

Your last commenter said it beautifully: extremism gives me the hives too!

I enjoy your writing and linked you up to my page (via. blogLinker); I only link people who seem to exhibit common sense and speak their own mind.

tequilita said...

it's a delicate balance...being open-minded. i don't find you to be an apologizer at all. you don't seem completely eaten up with yourself, and that's refreshing. besides, you do have an edge and you do offend sometimes, what you said up there about single-minded christians and money lovers hurt me a little if it makes you feel better ;)

Henry Baum said...

Whym, have to say it’s odd to be linked next to Bill O’Reilly and Ayn Rand. They both seem like extremists to me. I can’t agree with anyone who wrote a book (Rand) titled The Virtue of Selfishness. Actually, people on the left might think I’m an extremist for some of my more esoteric views. My problem isn’t with extremists so much as conservatives on both sides. On the whole, though, the left is more open-minded.

Kimberly, nothing against Christians, just those Christians who are thoroughly un-Christlike. My born-again mother-in-law is deeply racist and homophobic, but somehow she’s going to Heaven. Glad to see you back here.

Drunken Wench Rambler said...

shit! I have a left wing and a right wing -- otherwise I can't fly!!

Jokes aside -- yes there needs to be a balance overall. Rules and regulations, I believe, are meant to be challenged, otherwise we will never evolve as a society. We will remain static, become drones, and that pisses me off to no avail.... As for fundamentalists (Christian, Islam, or Jew) -- I think they need to step back, look at their "faith" more rationally. Why do I believe? What do I believe?

I recently wrote (for a joke) a comment on a long list of comments on a post by a woman in NewZealand. Check her out:

too funny!!

Mr. M said...

Myself and another frequenter of Political Animal had sometime ago come up with a rudimentary model that shows the circular(or for the more advanced theorem, spherical) nature of modern political ideologies.

Ground down to its simplest form, the further left you go, the further you dip into socialism or communism, whereas the further right you go you dip into facism. If you continue to travel along either line, you eventually meet up again at a blanket dictatorship.

This rather simple hypothesis illustrates the dangerous nature of fanaticism in any fashion, though it doesn't mean to exclude the need for fanatic influences.

Returning to the model, note that there is a spectrum. Expanding it out to include libertarians, greens and all the other ideologies, and essentially, everyone has to exist somewhere on that scale. By not having fanatic influences, or at least strong influences, you through the equation out of balance wherein moderacy to one side or another becomes an extreme.

I kind of hint at this with my most recent post at Left of Center, but don't go into any kind of depth regarding theory because that wasn't the point.

As for the writing, well, I may be the worse person to give advice, but, you write what you can, what you want. The single largest problem with trying to write what everyone wants is that you preclude the other goal that you have regarding opening eyes. Essentially you either write to please, and in that you end up writing formula, or you write to open eyes and minds, which ends up being literature. Bad nor good not withstanding.

What I'm trying to say, is that in its purest form, you write a story because it needs to be written. I've noticed the underlying pretense of intelligence that you've spoken of, and I've always been reminded of the unproficient student's attempt at writing essays. The true greats, the authors who will be remembered long after they die, are those that are able to hone their voice to a point where there is no pretense, there is no implied subtext, instead, the story is to the casual reader raw and pure, illiciting emotion and thought without effort, and only through deep analysis can the underlying structure be discovered.

And for any prospective Left of Center readers out there, don't worry, I'm usually a lot less complex, and a lot more pithy.

Mr. M
Left of Center

Spiral Stairs said...

There's another Daily Kosism that is really getting on my nerves: "Getting it." As in: "Lieberman doesn't get it." Or: "Howard Dean gets it."

Gets what? In everyday conversation, that phrase is a real conversation killer. Oh, you disagree with me? You just don't get it. You don't think my joke was funny? I guess you don't get it.In political discussions on Kos, people seem to like to use this phrase as shorthand for "Joe Blow is wrong about this issue, and I am right, but I can't adequately or persuasively prove either of those statements, so I am going to short-circuit this discussion by making an intellectually empty statement to which there can be no response."

I guess, given that alternative, "Joe Blow doesn't get it" is a more efficient use of space.

P.S. -- I'm totally with you on the whole gotta-please-everyone thing. When I decide to skip my morning coffee place on the way to work, I worry about disappointing them. When I go there, I worry that I should have gone somewhere else.

P.P.S. -- Glad I finally made my way over to your site, so long after you visited our humble abode. It's very cool. Is there another Henry Baum on Amazon, or are you the author of the two responsive books I get after searching there?

Henry Baum said...

Glad you made it, Spiral. I've only published one novel. The other one's probably the U.K. edition with a different title. There's a link to the American edition on the right. Someone put up a new bad review. His main criticism is that it's not as good as The Catcher in the Rye. Uh, I accept that. People have actually told me, "You know, it's not a masterpiece," as if I thought it was. It's basically a pulp novel about a stalker with some social criticism thrown in. I'm being modest, it's the next Notes from Underground.

xo. war. said...

i apoligise too much. once, i had a terrible experince with a guy, that haunts me to this day. but i blamed myself & apologised to anyone who found out. why do we do that? i do it because people don't apologise to me enough. or, you say sorry, to get sorry back. that's just me though, i'm pathedic.

xo. war.

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