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October 09, 2003

Does Not Compute

With only a very few exceptions, the Americans I know are intelligent, literate, knowledgable, and sensible. Fine examples of the human race, in fact. Probably better, on average, than the Brits. So how come they're sharing their country with millions of people who are as thick as pigshit?

Posted by Alison at October 9, 2003 01:00 AM


Silly question. Because they won't leave, of course.

Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden at October 9, 2003 02:23 AM

Thats not fair! California has been suffering with a governor nobody likes, who would not of won the election if he had told the trueth before he got the job.

Davis has been doing things which most people believe are not in the best interest of California. As Arnold sayes Special Interests. Davis has been pandering to many poliical groups for either election money or votes.

No good democrat would run, Arnold has the name of a republican but is near a democrat on many issues. McClintock is pure republican but democrats could not be moved to support him. And Bustamante is just a waste of time (clearly not better than Davis)

Davis runs dirty politics so the dirt on Arnold needs to be looked at in context. The voters wanted anybody but Davis, leaving Arnold as the next best choice on the list.

Posted by: Wayne from California at October 9, 2003 03:28 AM

PS about the artical and Arnold's goals. Nearly impossible for most of it to happen. But Arnold is a fighter, so he will try. Partisanship is currently more important in the capital than the people of. Democrats can pass almost anything they want with Davis, that will soon change with Arnold. Arnold will be loud about who is not doing the right thing for California (who knows maybe you will be posting about it on your blog, the noise from California has just begun).

Posted by: Wayne from California at October 9, 2003 03:51 AM

Patrick; of course, of course. Wayne: I doubt I'll be writing about California here, because this is not normally a political blog; but I was particularly moved to mention this, and as it's not a matter of national political controversy (in the UK), I can.

I think I understand the sequence of events that got California to where it is today. We've clearly just witnessed an Emperor's New Clothes type incident of mass hysteria, where a lot of honest people have come to believe that Schwarzenegger is the most likely person to be able to help California get out of the mess it's in, despite very strong evidence to the contrary.

In general, I'm a supporter of a system where a proportion of politicans were successful in other careers and become politicians later in life; it brings a wealth of experience that career politicians sometimes miss out on. But Schwarzenegger has demonstrated neither interest in, nor aptitude for, the detailed political management that will be needed in his new job. But I could be wrong.

Posted by: Alison Scott at October 9, 2003 09:59 AM

I blame the media for the Arnold situation. They just couldn't stand covering an election with more than a hundred candidates, so they conducted what wouldhave been called a marketing campaign if someone had paid for it to turn the election into a one-candidate contest.

But in answer to your initial question, I sometime wonder myself. If you find our the answer, let me know.

Posted by: Kathryn Cramer at October 9, 2003 12:40 PM

Yesterday's Guardian had an interesting article about "Narrative Politics" (http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1059021,00.html)

Personally, I blame Arnold's victory on reality TV shows. What we're seeing is the rise of Big Brother politics, and not the Orwellian kind. When politicians look and (have to) act like reality show contestants, is it any wonder that the public votes for them as if the outcome of election didn't matter any more than who wins "Fame Academy"?

I just wish I could figure out the direction of cause and effect here. Has soundbite politics spawned a culture where people feel they need to pay no attention to the underlying policies; or has a disinterested public forced politicians to adapt to the new conditions by condensing their strategies into juicy headlines?

Or is it all the fault of the media? They are the ones who moderate the interactions between opinion producers and opinions consumers. Do they have any interests beyond stirring up emotion to increase audiences, and thus maximize their own profits?

More importantly, though: faced with this situation, what can we do about it?

Posted by: Martin Sutherland at October 10, 2003 10:06 AM

It is odd, isn't it? Almost all the Americans I know say what terrible things SUVs are, and yet the roads are full of them. Of course, as you can't see through the tinted windows, they could all be driven by space aliens.

Posted by: David Elworthy at October 10, 2003 11:28 PM

Well, you know a really skewed sample of Americans. I suspect my large family keeps me better in touch with the average American than sf fandom does you. I have very little faith in the 'average American' but even so, I was surprised by Arnie getting elected. It really is mind boggling. Sigh.


Posted by: Mary Kay at October 11, 2003 11:40 PM

This periodically threatens to become a divisive and unpleasant argument between me and Mary Kay, of whom I have a high opinion.

But I can't help but be persistently offended by her assertion, not for the first time, that "my large family keeps me better in touch with the average American than sf fandom does you."

At most points in its history, the boobs and bigots can be superficially seen to be in charge of America's destiny; and yet the "old, weird America" (as Greil Marcus puts it) manages to somehow survive. No thanks to the Mary Kays who blithely announce that boobs and bigots are authentic epitomes of America and, for instance, my parents aren't.

I'm sorry Mary Kay has a family full of reactionaries. I'm related to a few myself. I also note that among my countrymen are Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day, and that they didn't spend a lot of time whining about how stoopid "the average American" supposedly is.

Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden at October 13, 2003 05:42 AM

What he said. I think we already know where Wayne gets his news. The terrible things Davis supposedly did...were actually done by Pete Wilson, who, interestingly, was part of the Arnie campaign team.

Posted by: Avedon at October 13, 2003 01:31 PM

I'm always wary of celebrities who are elected but that's not to say they always do a bad job. Glenda Jackson seems to be doing a good job as an MP and I have to admit that Dana Rosemary Scallan (who won the Eurovision for Ireland in 1970) is a very effective MEP for Connacht/Ulster even though I disagree vehemently with her politics.

Perhaps Arnie will do a good job, perhaps not. The only good thing is that he might find that recall elections can be a two edged sword. Now that the people of California have a taste for political blood, they may not be reluctant to use their power of recall again if he fails to deliver.

Posted by: David Stewart at October 13, 2003 11:12 PM

Not the best example of your thesis. Gray Davis was universally despised, with not a single living soul to be found who personally supported him. The only reason anyone voted for him was the argument that he was less worse than the other candidates, and that he was a (corrupt, principleless) Democrat.

And that became insufficient.

And do you really want to argue the case that Bustamante or McClintock are superior alternatives?

I've written basically nothing about the recall because plenty of other people have being doing a fine job. But the situation has ten tons more nuance to it than "stupid Americans are fooled by celebrity into electing fascist boob," or any variant of that.

Posted by: Gary Farber at October 14, 2003 04:36 PM

Man, why do do people always give me the last word?

It must because I'm such a genius. What other explanation could there be?

My words, they confound and confabulate people. And I'm incontrovertible!

Not to mention, you know, polysylabic.

So, to put it another way: hasta la vista, baybee.

(And check my post of the guy on the Arnold Bus.)

Posted by: Gary Farber at October 19, 2003 08:27 PM

I've posted an update on this. Cheers!

Posted by: Gary Farber at March 7, 2004 01:36 AM

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