Sunday, October 13, 2013

Block That Metaphor

Oh, I think the Fascist Octopus has sung its Swan Song, don't you?

First you call the President everything under the sun up to and including traitor, closet homosexual, drug addict, communist, Al Quaeda mole, occult muslim, lazy, stupid, and malovelent and then you bleat this:

But the 58-year-old Graham wasn’t through venting yet. “You can blame us [Republicans], we’ve overplayed our hand, that’s for damn sure,” Graham said. “But their response, where the president and [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid] basically shutting everybody out, and when you try to negotiate, they keep changing the terms of the deal … it’s very frustrating.”
What we have here is a failure to communicate--a Lakoffian confusion of types of negotiation and types of games.  Lakoff's Metaphors We Live By argued, among other things, that the metaphors we use to explain things to ourselves and others come to rule us. What may start as a soft form, merely a way of speaking, can end up bounding our imagination and creating hard paths down which we are forced to walk.  The entire Republican strategy--a combination of Mutually Assured Destruction, poker, hostage taking, assault and battery, basketball with fouls and sharp elbows, Nullification, Secession, White Power, and sheer dripping, spiteful, End Times hysteria is a set of mixed metaphors that is driving its proponents to political suicide. And they will go down pointing the gun at their own head and wailing that its murder.

Apparently Senator Aunt Pitty Pat  thought that they were just engaged in a friendly game of poker and they merely "overplayed their hand."  Of course in poker when you bluff and overplay your hand your opponent is not obliged to negotiate back the pot and let you off of the money you just ante'd up, nor is he obligated to courteously fold just to help you save face with your backers.  But it takes some special brand of chutzpah amounting to stupidity to think that you can simultaneously run a kidnapping/hostage scenario, complete with sending back fingers and toes and letting the family hear the hostage's screams, and then complain of the rude behavior of the hostage negotiators when they don't complement you on your humanity and just hand over the money.

The whole thing is reminding me of the Dunning-Kruger experiment which, coincidentally, I was reading about yesterday. Up until now I had Dunning-Kruger confused with something fictional having to do with the The Office.  I also thought, dimly, it might be that experiment on Blade Runner about empathy.  Much to my surprise the psychological syndrome is real and it had its origins in this fascinating, real life event:

At 5 feet 6 inches and about 270 pounds, bank robbery suspect McArthur Wheeler isn’t the type of person who fades into the woodwork.  So it was no surprise that he was recognized by informants, who tipped detectives to his whereabouts after his picture was telecast Wednesday night during the Pittsburgh Crime Stoppers Inc. segment of the 11 o’clock news.
At 12:10 a.m. yesterday, less than an hour after the broadcast, he was arrested at 202 S. Fairmont St., Lincoln-Lemington...
Wheeler had walked into two Pittsburgh banks and attempted to rob them in broad daylight.  What made the case peculiar is that he made no visible attempt at disguise.  The surveillance tapes were key to his arrest.  There he is with a gun, standing in front of a teller demanding money.  Yet, when arrested, Wheeler was completely disbelieving.  “But I wore the juice,” he said.  Apparently, he was under the deeply misguided impression that rubbing one’s face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to video cameras.

This case spurred Dunning-Kruger to begin doing their famous experiments showing that sometimes people are too stupid, or too ill informed about the process or technique they are using, to know that they are bound to screw it up.  The experiments resulted in the following set of proposals:

 for a given skill, incompetent people will:
1) tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
2) fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
3) fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;

This is the only thing that makes sense of the current situation and the kinds of things the Republicans are saying both publicly and privately.  The entire party, so called centrists and far right extremists, are simply too stupid to grasp the nature of the political enterprise.  Rocketing between metaphors they thought they were going to play both poker and commit a terroristic act of hostage taking and they are truly shocked to discover you don't always win either game when you come up against a better player. Not only that--their conviction that it is a game in the first place prevents them from grasping that their actions have long term consequences and harms that don't get reset with the start of the next round or the next game cycle.  What kind of game they think they are playing is equally confused--if you lose at poker and get cleaned out you can't go back to the table. While if you lose at Basketball, until the end of the series at any rate, you can go back and play the next game. If you lose at hostage taking you end up with a dead hostage and with any luck the police bust down the door and shoot you, in turn. There isn't a reset button on that kind of scenario, either.

  To complete the round up of mixed metahpors: they brought a knife to a gun fight and now are dropping it and backing away sobbing for Daddy to come and rescue them.  Unfortunately for them Daddy Obama left the building after the second election made it clear to him that he couldn't coddle the children anymore. 

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