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"Bogus Arguments": Report on the Radio Show

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On the Ides of March, I went on the radio in Virginia to do the radio show about which I'd posted here a few weeks in advance. (See "Bogus Arguments Impede Iraq Discussion: My Next Topic on Virginia Radio." at

I had hopes that the framing of the show could foster a constructive conversation. I took no position on the war itself --in the past, I took plenty of heat here on NSB from some people for not being certain just what the right course on the war is, given that we're there and that the nation is in the mess that our invasion created of it-- but focused on the four bogus and propagandistic arguments that I see the Bushites using to prevent any rational and realistic discussion of the real choices America faces in Iraq.

I guess those hopes were naive. As has happened on other occasions when I've gone up against Bushite orthodoxy with that audience, my heresy brought out a set of defenders of the faith. As I wrote about a year ago, in a piece entitled "Fieldnotes from Bush Country: The Closing of the Bushite Mind," at

Over the years, I’ve noticed – in this rural Virginia culture—that certain kinds of issues tend to bring more of the closed-minded warriors out onto the battlefield, while the more moderate people remain silent. This seems to happen when matters of core allegiance –“You’re either with Us or with Them”—are at stake.

That previous show was intended to be about certain matters of the Constitution.

As on that earlier show, on this most recent one also how I framed the question seemed entirely irrelevant to the issue on which the callers charged forward to attack me. My call to get past slogans and propaganda to find out what America's real options are was pretty much ignored. Instead, the callers approached me as if my message was just "cut and run." Actual arguments --using logic and evidence-- were irrelevant. What I actually had to say was not really acknowledged.

My patriotism was impugned. I was accused of "aiding and abetting the enemy."

And indeed, not one of the callers, nor the host either, offered a single word of support for anything I said. If there were more sympathetic people in the audience, they did not make it onto the show. Maybe it was a matter of their being intimidated by the culture's way of protecting its dogmas. Maybe it is just because all the lines were lit up and they couldn't get through.

But whatever the reason, the listener to the show would think that I was the only one around who thought as I did. Which is a shame, in terms of the educational value of such a show, I think: it would do much to legitimate an idea if it gained affirmation from within the audience.

And I must add, there is room for question as to whether I handled the onslaught in an optimal way: besieged, and caffeinated with an unaccustomed cup of coffee, I may have been impolite in those heated encounters.

The whole experience makes me wonder all over again if there really is anything accomplished by attempting to communicate across the divide about these delusions operative in the world of the Bushites. Perhaps I should take heed of the fact that these people --that 30 percent in the polls who seem determined not to budge-- have managed to maintain their Bushite view of the world despite ALL THE MOUNTAINS OF NEWS AND ANALYSIS that should have revealed the huge gap between the Bushite rhetoric and the accumulated torrent of contrary facts.

Is it perhaps folly for me to believe that my efforts to use the rigors of argument and fact to undermine those false beliefs will succeed where years of news have failed?

Or should I not be so pessimistic, holding out the hope that the "silent majority" in the audience hears and learns, even if the callers see me only as the enemy?

I can't be certain.

But I do not like the experience. It is bruising. It is unpleasant. It feels thankless. I end up feeling not only battered but also in some way polluted. (Afterward I got an email from a Lt. Col. in the US Army who, among other things, said that hearing me on that show made him feel like throwing up.) And I'm not sure it does any good.

I am thinking maybe I should give up on that part of the mission.
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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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