In recent years both the right and the left have engaged in petty “gotcha” politics in which political operatives deliberately misrepresent themselves and goad their political opponents into making damaging statements that help these operatives score petty political victories.
While these tactics shed sunlight on the dark practices of bad people on both sides of the aisle, they are a disgusting and deceptive development in American democracy that threatens to divide the country further along political lines. They are unethical, misleading, and only lead to destruction.
Just ask NPR.
On the right, James O’Keefe struck again (he also posed as a pimp to expose ACORN) with his recent setup of Ronald Schiller. Mr. Schiller, a NPR fundraiser, made some questionable and politically charged comments during a conversation he had with O’Keefe’s undercover political operatives. These operatives deliberately misrepresented themselves as potential donors from a Muslim organization. The intent was to put NPR’s credibility in doubt by surfacing liberal bias at the publicly funded network. While they succeeded in this attempt, they did so by prodding Ronald Schiller to agree to their suggestive and anti-conservative statements. Now Vivian Schiller (no relation), NPR’s CEO, has resigned over the incident.
On the left, Ian Murphy, the editor of Buffalo Beast website, recently posed as billionaire David Koch in a call to Governor Walker. The call, which was an effort to discredit the governor, succeeded. In one particular moment of weakness, Murphy suggests that the governor plant “troublemakers” in the crowd of protestors, to which Governor Walker replied, “We thought about that. My only fear is that maybe the governor has to settle to solve all these problems.”
The problem with these tactics is that they start a destructive and unnecessary arms race between operatives on both the right and left, by encouraging both sides to outdo one another with further use of these underhanded tactics. In turn, this practice threatens to undermine the open and active debate that is part and parcel of our democratic system.
These tactics are crude, thuggish, and bad for our democracy and need to stop.
amen. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to stop, just as negative politicking is unlikely to stop. We’ve been in a cultural and political civil war for the last 40 years, and it may even turn bloody at some point.
However, I do not think it will turn bloody. Americans are too soft and comfortable to resort to the hardships and deprivations of war.
Too true, Sean. Debt’s a pretty good way to keep most of us docile – at least until peoples’ desperation kicks in!
The fact that any demonstrations will look tame right now compared to those in the Middle East are somewhat concerning.
People say things in private they wouldn’t in public, especially when prompted a little.
That is certainly true, but misrepresenting oneself to elicit these comments is fraud. I don’t know how one could correct such behavior, but it is unethical and only serves to divide the country. There has got to be a better way.
Also, it is important to note that people will do all sorts of crazy things when prompted, that they normally would not do in everyday life. For instance, some people will kill when prompted — see the Stanley Milgram experiments for instance.
You’ve got a typo I think; shouldn’t it be “No Representation With Misrepresentation”?
I think you have misread the results of the infamous Stanley Milgram experiment. His experiment showed that a significant portion of the lab rats, 65% approximately, and therefore extrapolating from this statistic, a corresponding portion of the general population would react in the same manner.
Why did these lab rats act so beastly? Milgram had 9 possible reasons, but they all seem to boil down to the unwillingness of the subjects to actually think for themselves. My theory is that these were authoritarian followers, (check out Adorno’s work on the authoritarian personality and Bob Altemeyer who refines Adorno’s basic premise).
The remaining 35% of the did not follow the orders to give electric shocks that were presumed by the lab rats to be dangerous due to ethical and moral reasons,
You state that “people will do all sorts of crazy things when prompted, that they normally would not do in everyday life.” This is a total abdication of personal responsibility and goes against what seems to be a highly publicized plank of the conservative movement. I would amend your statement to “people will do all sorts of crazy things when prompted, that they would not do in everyday life openly and publicly, if they have learned to think, analyze and understand, and if they rely on atavistic forms of group feel that dominates much of religion, sports, politics, in short, most communal activities.”
The common man and woman are all too easily transformed into an unthinking mob, chasing with pitchfork and lit torch whatever is ‘the monster’ their religious or political leaders have designated. There are a plethora of examples of bad behaviours that support Milgram’s findings and this is why I tell my child to avoid the masses both as individuals and as a mob.
Whoops! Thanks for catching this.
I think your point here is fair and I am assuming that you intended to include “NOT” between “they have” and “learned to think, analyze and understand”. I would amend my statement as you have said.