Wednesday, April 07, 2010

“Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood”

Back in the Neolithic Age, when I was an undergraduate in college, I took a class in linguistic philosophy.  I learned one thing only:  that all statements can be classified as either factual or moral statements.

A factual statement is one that asserts that something is the case.  A moral statement is one that asserts that an action or thought is more preferable than another.  If I say that Barack Obama believed in the health care reform bill, that is a factual statement.  The statement is about what Barack Obama factually believes.  If I say that the health care reform bill was a good thing, then that is a moral statement. A moral statement is a factual statement of the attitude of the speaker about an issue.

Moral statements only indicate the mode of the statement; they do not necessarily imply that the subject is what is conventionally considered morality or ethics, although they often are.   Factual statements make claims about the nature of reality.  Moral statements express an attitude towards reality. Factual statements are about what is and moral statements are about what should be.

For a statement to have the form of a factual statement does not necessarily mean that the purported fact is true but only that the speaker is asserting that it is. Likewise when a speaker makes a moral statement, it does not necessarily mean that what the speaker says is morally correct, only that the speaker is asserting that it is.

I discuss politics with many people, and I find it very, very frustrating that so many people are incapable of differentiating between factual and moral statements.  

I happen to find the Tea Party to be an interesting movement in American politics.  I've been observing them for the purpose of being able to arrive at an informed judgment about them.  I have been getting my information from the print media, not T.V., or God forbid, radio. I have been making factual statements about the nature of the Tea Party and what I think they believe and advocate.  People have been criticizing and attacking me for what I have been saying, as if I was advocating the Tea Party’s positions, which I am not.

I am trying to be objective and use reason, and people are reacting to me with wildly subjective attitudes, emotions, generalizations, and things not based on fact.  When I say something, they twist my words into something I never meant and read things in that aren’t there.  It is as though by making a factual observation, I stand accused of believing the thing that I observe.  It's like being a citizen in North Korea or something.

People are watching reports of the lunatic fringe on cable T.V.  I’ll say something sober and reasonable about the Tea Party, and then I will get hit with an angry stream of left-wing bigotry based on what that person saw on cable T.V.  One person accused me of supporting the existence of white supremacy organizations.  I was particularly offended by that one because that person knows me.


Blogger AngryGirl said...

People have a hard enough time realizing what is an opinion and what is a factual observation.

Do you honestly think people have that much self control over their emotions? How peaceful the world would be, haha!

"It is as though by making a factual observation, I stand accused of believing the thing that I observe. "

Welcome to the land of not being in the majority. Every group that is not considered the majority is ALWAYS ridiculed whether they deserve it or not. When people react to catch phrases or their heavcy emotions, they are more likely to confuse what you are saying and just rant about Tea people. It's hard not too.

I will continue to ridicule the Tea Party movement as I would ridicule anyone who had no problem with the Patriot Act, or cutting taxes on top of two wars and neglecting our infrastructure...

If someone is incapable of admitting THOSE facts, why should I give them the benefit of the doubt? Cause they clearly don't give it to anyone who disagrees with them.

I tried to understand that movement but there's no cohesive threads except the anger. Some want to eliminate the Fed, Social Security and are running on that. Others think that's too extreme. But I have to seriously doubt the sincerity of a fiscal conservative that seems to think that 2 wars on top of a tax cut and the largest expansion of the federal government was ok. Yet making health insurance companies actually cover the people they insure is somehow the worst thing ever.

Wherever the Tea Party is loudest, coincidentally has the most support from Freedom Works (google it and Ari Fleicher and Dick Armey). When you subtract the Freedom Works element, there seems to be little Tea Party activity.

Don't get me wrong, I think there are actual Ron Paulites and Honestly, I feel so bad for them.

Tea parties where their thing. I can't tell you how many old school libertarians I know online that are disgusted by how their movement got hijacked.

I have tea party people talking smack to me, not knowing I'm a former Libertarian. I read all that literature and used to be able to quote Ayn Rand verbatim. I just realized I wasn't seeing the whole picture. Libertarianism and communism are so similar it cracks me up. They both require all the citizens to ALL be about it otherwise it just won't work.

It's the same movement but before they figure things out. The worker is being screwed. Always has been. I empathize with that.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

This is very thoughtful and interesting, Stephen. What fascinates me is WHY the tea party movement incites so much emotion. AngryGirl helps me to understand a little better...I think that the insight that Libertarianism and communism are alike (and her reason why) is very interesting and compelling.

It strikes me that anyone trying to understand the tea party movement (myself included) has to approach it as an expression of misplaced religiosity. That is, I think that the animus with which tea partiers embrace their cause is religious in nature. To the tea partiers, their reasons for supporting the measures they support are first of all religious ones.

For this reason, the Church needs to pay attention to it. Particularly because many of the people in the tea party movement are Catholic (at least around these parts they are). In the end, I think that it would be impossible for Catholics to dive so drastically into the tea party movement if they were to find and be immersed in true koinonia.

Where is St. Augustine when we need him?

As for the title of your post, stop whining, Stephen! Did you read what Sandro Magister wrote about the Pope's detractors?
It is part of speaking the truth that one should be misunderstood, both sincerely and also by people who pretend to misunderstand because they hate the truth. You should rejoice if you're making anyone mad because you're probably onto something important!!

10:18 AM  
Blogger AngryGirl said...

"It is part of speaking the truth that one should be misunderstood, both sincerely and also by people who pretend to misunderstand because they hate the truth."

Brilliant. I am convinced the Glenn Becks of the world do not believe the crap they say and feign ignorance all the time while arguing with logical fallacies.

10:38 AM  
Blogger kabloona said...

I just read that the is/ought dichotomy in thinking that I showed here is from the philosopher Hume and that many traditional Catholic thinkers are sick and tired of it. What is not addresses by me or this way of thinking is why I am talking about the subject. It does not necessarily mean that I advocate but that I find it interesting, useful, or rewarding to do so.

6:27 AM  

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