Lies, Damn Lies, and Politics

I read Alex Epstein‘s blog for months because it was about screenwriting, specifically screenwriting as a profession. Lately there had been more entries about politics than screenwriting. As politeness is part of professionalism, the blog experienced a noticeable decrease in value for me.

My mother taught me that three things ought not be brought up in polite company: religion, finances, and politics. The reason is because all three are personal, inflammatory, and essentially unalterable. Most people consider their beliefs and actions on those topics to reflect on who they are. Most people also believe strongly that their views are the (only) correct ones and defend them vociferously. Most importantly, though, almost no one can be argued into changing their views on any of those three topics.

Epstein defends the recent shift to discussing politics by saying, “The ancient Greeks, who invented democracy, would have been appalled if someone had said he ‘wasn’t interested in politics.'” The ancient Greeks also espoused the inappropriate touching of young boys. So perhaps imitation of the ancient Greeks is not the universal answer. Since Grecian democracy differed from American democracy, I doubt that their views can be accurately projected onto the modern landscape.

Epstein goes on to say, “Only an excruciatingly selfish man would separate himself from politics.” I counter that only an excruciatingly selfish person would insist on discussing their politics in an inappropriate forum. In my experience the zealots (from both the left and the right) so strongly believe in their rightness that they fail to see their self-righteousness. Giving the impression that one deigns to instruct one’s lessers in the errors of their ways is an ineffective method of persuasion. Since the soapbox orators are unwilling to change their opinions, why do they think anyone else would be any more willing?

Like many, Epstein discusses his politics in public. I, however, do not and no longer read his blog. I prefer polite company.

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2 Responses

  1. Election season is generally painful for me. I have my own personal views that seem to be a bit more moderated then a lot of the people around me. It’s funny seeing how passionate people are and as you said, convinced they are right. I certainly have had this problem myself in other elections. I’m trying to keep an open mind this time, but its really a silly season. The professional political strategists are brilliant people in a really twisted way. They have figured out the language to stoke anger in the majority of people and divide us every couple of years into neat little groups that they can count on voting a certain way. Then they just have to fight over the remaining voters. Its fascinating and sad all at once. \

  2. Hey, I’m the atheist, pro-life, sex-positive, bagpipe enthusiasts and I vote! 😉 My rough assessment is that at least 80% of voters vote along party lines no matter what and all the hubbub is over the remaining minority. The pros certainly are brilliant in a twisted way, a way that can only be appreciated once partisanship has been left behind.

    I’ve found that the “I’m RIGHT!” folks also tend to think of their candidate as ultimately virtuous and the opposition candidate as evil incarnate. I find that position naive in the extreme. Everyone’s candidate is a politician and since when have politicians been virtuous? It’s no coincidence that a lot of politicians are lawyers: with both you only need one because everyone else has one but no one really likes having one.

    In the end, very little will change no matter who takes office, whether at the local, state, or federal level. It’s just the math. The more power a given position nominally has, the more favors you need to get elected to it. Regardless of which party’s candidate wins, they will owe the people who put them in office. Those people are almost always wealthy people who have a very vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

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