WEDNESDAY, JUNE 7, 2023
In search of the raucous board meeting: We may not post for the rest of the week. It will be Friday at the earliest before we post again!
In our absence, we'll leave you with a warning from Thomas Edsall. But also, with a chance to stage an eight-hour hunt in The Case of the (Allegedly) Raucous School Board Meeting.
First, the warning from Edsall:
The warning appeared on May 31, in Edsall's weekly guest essay for the New York Times. In a nutshell, Edsall's warning dealt with the impulse to tribal otherization and its subsequent misconceptions.
Headline included, the essay started as shown:l
The Politics of Delusion Have Taken Hold
There are very real—and substantial—policy differences separating the Democratic and Republican Parties. At the same time, what scholars variously describe as misperception and even delusion is driving up the intensity of contemporary partisan hostility.
According to scholars, a type of misperception, perhaps even reaching the state of delusion, is driving partisan hostility. As he continued, Edsall started to flesh out that clain:
Matthew Levendusky, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, described some of these distorted views in his recently published book, “Our Common Bonds: Using What Americans Share to Help Bridge the Partisan Divide:”
Seventy-five percent of Democrats said Republicans were closed-minded, and 55 percent of Republicans said that Democrats were immoral (Pew Research Center, 2019). Nearly eight in 10 say that the two parties “fundamentally disagree” about core American values. More than 70 percent of all voters think those in the other party are “a clear and present danger to the American way of life.”
Where's "the politics of delusion?" you might ask at this point. In fact, some people "in the other party" really are a potential threat to the American way of life. It isn't crazy, and it isn't delusional, to say that some such people actually do exist.
As Edsall continues, he quotes an array of scholars offering variants of his claim. These scholars describe some of the ways in which partisan feeling leads blue and red tribe members alike to misperceive their degree of difference with the other tribe—with the perceived tribal enemy.
Indeed, as Edsall continues from the passage above, he instantly offers this:
At an extreme level, James L. Martherus, Andres G. Martinez, Paul K. Piff and Alexander G. Theodoridis wrote in the July 2019 article “Party Animals? Extreme Partisan Polarization and Dehumanization,” “a substantial proportion of partisans are willing to directly say that they view members of the opposing party as less evolved than supporters of their own party.”
How about it, friend? Are members of the other party "less evolved?" than members of yours?
On the one hand, everything is possible—and the statement by those scholars is imprecise in various ways. On the other hand, it's hard for a major nation to function when members of its two major parties view each other that way.
Edsall quotes a gaggle of scholars describing this otherization. As a general matter, our question for today will be this:
Does our own, largely infallible blue tribe ever "otherize" the reds? Do we ever succumb to the temptation to see red tribe members as fundamentally Other—as subhuman all the way down?
To some extent, we may sometimes be so inclined! Consider this Washington Post opinion piece about a recent school board meeting in Hernando County, Florida.
Hernando County has been involved in an ongoing dispute about so-called "book bans" in its public schools. On June 1, an Opinion piece by Sargent and Waldman started off like this:
In a deep red Florida county, a student-teacher revolt shames the right
By now, it’s obvious that the reactionary culture warriors who want to reshape American education are inspiring a serious liberal counter-mobilization in response. Remarkably, this backlash to the backlash is gaining momentum in some of the reddest parts of the country.
A raucous school board meeting in Hernando County, Fla., on Tuesday night captured what’s striking about this new phenomenon. The scene featured teachers pointedly declaring that right-wing attacks are driving them to quit, even as parents and students forcefully stood up on their behalf, demanding a halt to the hysteria.
“I have never seen such fear from my colleagues as I have seen in the last two months,” social studies teacher Victoria Hunt told the board.
The whole affair really put the culture-war-mongers to shame. Not that they’ll see it that way; as the meeting also showed, scenes like this—with maximum rage, fear, tension and suspicion surging between parents and educators — are precisely the outcome they want.
The writers describe a "raucous" school board meeting attended by reactionary culture warriors.
Right-wing attacks by the culture-war-mongers had created hysteria in the county. It was obvious at the raucous meeting that maximum rage and fear were precisely the outcome the warmongers want!
Were Sargent and Waldman overstating? Were the others really that bad?
Meanwhile, just how raucous was that raucous school board meeting? According to Sargent and Waldman, the raucous school board meeting was as raucous as this:
At the meeting, right-wing parents and a minority of the school board amplified the usual attacks: Pornography in classrooms, indoctrination, wokeness. Watching them, it was impossible to avoid the sense that they were relishing every second of the tumult they’ve unleashed.
Right-wing parents were relishing the tumult they had unleashed. It was impossible to avoid that sense if you watched them at the meeting.
Reading that passage, that question came to mind:
Just how raucous was it? How raucous was the raucous school board meeting? We decided to click the link the writers provided and make an attempt to find out.
In fact, the writers had linked to a videotape of the entire meeting—and the raucous school board meeting had lasted more than eight hours!
The videotape to which they linked was a full eight hours long! But as we clicked around the eight hours of tape, watching bits and pieces of the meeting, we saw no sign that the raucous school board meeting had been raucous at all.
Based upon that videotape, you could practically hear a pin drop in the room as citizens with differing views made statements to the board. Attendees had even agreed to refrain from applauding or cheering. Instead, they waved their hands in the air to signal agreement with whatever was being said.
As such, we leave you today with an eight-hour assignment. Your assignment, if you choose to take it, will of course be this:
See if you can find someone being raucous at the raucous school board meeting! We clicked around, then clicked and clicked, and we weren't able to find the rage.
Sargent and Waldman were trashing the warmongers hard. In the process, were they possibly creating the Other?
Can a very large nation function this way? Is this sort of thing actually good for the soul?
For the record, this isn't about which side you're on regarding the question of "book bans." This is about the claim that a bunch of Others, true to their warmonger nature, had staged an extremely raucous school board meeting, one marked by maximum rage.
As we clicked and clicked through eight hours of tape, it's always possible that we missed the raucous parts of the meeting! Your assignment, should you accept it:
See if you can find them.