Friday, February 18, 2011

Motes and beams

There was a wicked messenger
From Eli he did come
With a mind that multiplied
The smallest matter.

-Bob Dylan-


To distort the importance of a matter, to exaggerate little things, perhaps to draw attention away from big things, to belabor the significance of a problem long past: making a mountain out of a molehill. If you need to elevate this common human tendency to the level of psychology, call it magnification. Call it hyperbole. Call it catastrophization. Otherwise call it politics. It's how governments handle problems both real and invented. High purpose, Liberal or Conservative; it usually ends in hyperbole and fraudulent accounting.

Dismayed at how may people are dying in automobiles? One might expect a focus on the areas where most of them occur, but once the problem is taken up by zealots, hyperbolized and dressed up as catastrophic, we have unbearable pressure to apply oppressive speed limits to the safest areas while doing essentially nothing about those areas where the bulk of fatalities occur. As crime declines, we make every next one a bigger problem, focus on the most spectacular and base our estimations of the whole on a freak occurrence. It's human nature and it's also a human weakness to be exploited.

But there are more sinister applications. Take the constant carping about how trade unions are harming our economy, now that their membership and power are at low tide. One might infer that eliminating them entirely is a better description of the hidden intent.

Take the heavy emphasis on medical liability claims as a way to reduce the accelerating cost of health care. They account for a tiny fraction of the whole and seem to be the whole and sole solution offered by one particular political party. Never mind the mountain, look here instead. A cynic might suggest a motive having to do with benefiting from high medical costs.

Spending cuts. We need spending cuts and you're crazy if you don't think we need spending cuts so lets propose spending cuts and lets keep cackling and gobbling and chanting about cutting the little things so that no one notices where the money is going and why the income can't keep up with it. Never mind that mountain LOOK AT THAT MOLEHILL!

So what are we told we have to cut? In general we're told about programs that aren't as much financially significant as doctrinally anathematic. NPR has to go, particularly now that it's credibility exceeds that of Fox. It may cost the average American pennys a year, but never mind, it has to go. The EPA of course since it retards the wanton rape and pillage of corporate vikings. Gingrich wants it dead. Planned Parenthood: it's offensive to religious tyrants -- it has to go.

Hyperbole and fraudulent accounting, Let's cut the debt by .001% and make things that are cheap seem prohibitively expensive and those trillions and trillions we didn't make from cutting taxes and those trillions we blew on unnecessary wars obsolete weapons and fraudulent procurement? Don't look at that, look at school lunches!


kelly of siam said...

Sometimes I wish I had a brain & was able to write like you. Damn it all, I agree with you. Make something out of nothing, distract the undereducated folks and let them that got it get more.


Capt. Fogg said...

I think writing takes more practice than brains, but thank you.

It's all about distracting, dividing and conquering.

The Edge Columns said...

Well, the great thing about molehills is they're simple and easy to isolate. Blowing them up isn't too difficult or dangerous. But them damned mountains...

...those mountains get confused with ideologies, and that, the Vikings know, is truly dangerous. Once ordinary folks start learning how to blow up mountains, why, all hell will break loose.

Can't argue with your logic here, Capt.

Capt. Fogg said...

I've heard the technique of isolating small fragments and concentrating on minutia as "logic chopping"

You want to ignore the Great Wall of China? Let's talk about brick number 142987 which seems to have a crack in it and argue that the wall is crumbling or worse, that it actually isn't there at all.

You don't have to blow up the mountain, just a pebble or two.