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March 04, 2005


Sounds like cognitive dissonance reduction. I believe my side is better than yours. You catch someone on my side being bad, I have two ways to preserve my belief: defend the badness, or find equal (or worse) badness on your side. Either works.

The goal is not to choose the better side given the evidence, the goal is to point to evidence that makes your chosen side look better.

The big question is if we can eliminate the idea of opposing sides. On the ground, things are much more complex and interesting.

Brendan is right about this, of course. The charges of hypocrisy are not a convincing defense. Brent explains it well.

That having been said, I'm not convinced Brendan has excercised good judgement in condemning Byrd in this case. My concern stems mostly from the fact that 1) I usually agree with Brendan, and 2) As an avid history buff and political observer, there have probably been thousands of times that I myself have compared a particular action by someone in our government to some parallel action by Nazis/Communists/Fascists/Dictators. If any among you has not sinned in this manner, feel free to toss the first stone.

Here's the bottom line:
I think there exists a difference between invoking Nazis to villify an opponent, and invoking Nazis to illustrate a point. The former is reproachable of course. In this case, it appears to me that Byrd (barely, perhaps) was doing the latter.

Actually Cognitive Dissonance Theory doesn't have as much evidence backing as Bem's Social Perception Theory. Either way rhetoric is rhetoric. Results, actions, and behavior is what should be focused on primarily, followed by attitudes. If you want to look at evidence let's begin by looking at the wealth of evidence that suggests there is some kind of polarity between the two-headed business party hydra we call democrats and republicans.

I agree with LaurenceB.

Here's the thing. Many of us out here in post-911 America keep telling ourselves things will get better - that this is a temporary blip, the tide will turn pretty soon, and we'll have a recognizable country back. But then we sometimes have to wonder what it must have been like to live in Germany during the rise of Hitler. What were Germans telling themselves as they watched the rise of Nazism and contrary to their expectation things just kept getting worse? A friend's father and his half-Jewish family got out of Germany just before it became impossible to - almost didn't get out - fled to Equador. He describes how everyone refused to believe what was happening was really happening - many until it was too late to do anything about it. If someone really does see scary parallels, is it necessarily totally out of line to invoke the memory?

I agree that people throw Hitler and Nazi comparisons around too freely. And I must say Byrd's comments made me uncomfortable but then I realized that I was reacting to so many other previous misuses of such comparisons by others. I do see them as illustrating an important point.

No, Brendan, I wasn't calling you a hypocrite. The fact that Spinsanity posted numerous articles about the frequent use of Nazi comparisons is immaterial. Perhaps I should have considered that people reading your article would have, like myself, found your blog as a result of reading Spinsanity on a regular basis, and therefore considered they are more informed and reasonable than, say, people reading and responding to articles published in my local paper's editorial section.

Simple fact is, I abhor hypocrisy on both sides of the debate. As for cognitive dissonance reduction, if my side was better than your side, my guys wouldn't make such stupid comments. My ancestors deserve more respect from both sides.

My point, and, I apologize for not explaining more clearly, was simply that if you are going to suggest someone be put out to pasture for making an untoward remark, then others who have made similar remarks should be treated in kind. Comments such as Byrd’s are becoming far more common place in politics and I find it disheartening.

This isn't a right or left issue, it is a state-of-our-politics issue. I am as tired of the Republican machine vilifying anyone who dares question their politics as I am tired of the Democrats comparative hyperbole.

Lastly, claiming hypocrisy is not a knee jerk reaction if the hypocrisy is blatantly real... Unless I was hallucinating while watching CNN broadcast the immediate conservative counter attack in response to Byrd's remarks.

For the record, I wasn't defending Byrd. I was pointing out that the kettle is black... Whether or not Festinger and Bern would have found my argument simple-minded makes no difference to me.

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