I am always amazed how highly intelligent people can lose all of their common sense once they start to think about politics, religion, or something along these lines.
A trivial non-event happened and three T-shirts are the main heroes in this non-event. Three anti-Bush female teachers were able to acquire the tickets for a Bush rally in Southern Oregon - which was otherwise a rally for Bush supporters.
They obviously did not just want to watch; they wanted to influence the rally (as they later admitted). So all of them were wearing almost identical T-shirts saying "Protect Our Civil Liberties". If these T-shirts were ever printed in large amounts, my guess is that they were anti-Patriot-Act T-shirts. One of the T-shirts also had a picture of the Statue of Liberty above this sentence.
OK, now imagine that you're an organizer of the Bush rally (well, I am sure that many readers won't be even able to imagine this thing, and I encourage these readers to finish at this point because the rest of the article will be too complex for them).
You have a plenty of people who have come to have a pleasant afternoon, and your responsibility is to protect the rally against disruptive elements. Suddenly you see three women with nearly identical T-shirts saying "Protect Our Civil Liberties". The very pattern - three similar T-shirts - is the first thing you notice. The second question you ask yourself is whether these women have something to say - and whether they really belong to the rally. It's your job to ask such questions.
It requires nothing more than elementary knowledge of the political situation in the USA to realize that this is not a slogan meant to support the GOP. You would choose "Protect Our Safety" or something else. Everyone who knows the sort of spin that the Democratic Party is using to criticize the GOP simply knows that these T-shirts, in the current situation, are simply not pro-Bush T-shirts. It has absolutely nothing to do with the real question whether Bush et al. are protecting civil liberties. No doubt, they are even trying to protect them outside the US borders. ;-) The reasoning that tells an informed person whether the women were left-wing or right-wing is based on the language that the two sides now like to use.
The organizers were not stupid, and they obviously got the correct answer. Moreover, even if they did not identify the women themselves, there were certainly other guests at the Bush rally who were able to say what the women were like - and who would lead to a clear expectation that a controversy could start. The women were not supposed to be among the guests at the rally. And perhaps, other guests did not like them. OK, the organizers had several options how to deal with this situation. Either you can "protect the civil liberties" of the three provocateurs - which is nice, is not it - but in this case you run the risk that the women will change your rally into mess, and you will be remembered as the failed organizer. Clearly, most organizers choose this option. The Oregon people however decided that they want to feel safe, and they tried to get rid of the three provocateurs. It's definitely their right.
This is such a non-event that I feel painful to add another article about this non-event. If you're a provocateur attending a closed rally of the other party, you should expect that they will try to get rid of you. This is true regardless of the political orientation of the rally and of the provocateurs. And the organizers just did their homework right, and they identified the women properly.
No doubt, some propaganda machines in the Democratic Party (and not only in the Democratic Party) try to use anything for their goals, and this non-event is material that some of them may choose. On the other hand, obviously, every article in the newspapers that reveals this "shocking intolerance" of the GOP will damage GOP a little bit, and therefore you will find people in the GOP who will try to claim that the "real GOP" would never expel the provocateurs (unless there were a very serious reason), and so on. I think it's nothing more than crystal clear hypocritical responses.
This whole thing is just about spin. There is absolutely no interesting, non-trivial, surprising event backing these exchanges. There's absolutely nothing strange about people trying to disrupt the meeting of the other party - I am sure that millions of Americans would like to do something like that. There is nothing shocking if someone succeeds and gets to the other meeting. There is nothing surprising if the organizers try to get rid of the potential sources of problems, and only completely hypocritical people could disagree. And there is nothing shocking about the ability to identify the political orientation of three women according to the T-shirts that use a very well-known propagandistic cliché.
I understand that thousands of killed US soldiers or Iraqi citizens may influence the result of the elections, but what I can't imagine is that this trivial non-event could influence the political opinion of a reasonable person. And I also don't understand why exactly this non-event became the content of Sean Carroll's (and my) article.
But what I find most disturbing is that some people - including the intelligent ones mentioned at the beginning - seem totally incapable to distinguish propaganda and spin from reality. More precisely, they are unable to distinguish the following two things:
- T-shirts with a text involving civil liberties
- Civil liberties
Come on, guys. These are two very different things! After the Czech president Václav Klaus watched Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11", he said:
"Those of us who have lived through the film propaganda of the Communist era are a bit overly sensitive to the tricks of the director."
Václav Klaus is obviously not the only one who is surprised how Moore's movie could be so popular. You know, the propaganda in the Nazi and communist regimes was a whole industry. Sometimes it was primitive, sometimes it had to be sophisticated. In the latter case, it was probably much more sophisticated than the work of Michael Moore, but certainly more sophisticated than the T-shirts.
Some people (not only) in the States - especially on the academic left wing - just seem to be totally incapable to subtract the spin from the partisan descriptions of various events and non-events, and reach a realistic understanding. If someone has a T-shirt with "Civil Liberties", they immediately think that the person is a big ally of civil liberties. And I guess, if they knew that Saddam Hussein declared the last elections (in which he got 100 percent of votes) to be a "unique manifestation of democracy in Iraq", they would probably conclude that there was unique democracy in Iraq.
All these things are just dumb. No event worth noticing has happened in South Oregon. Even if the organizers mis-identified the women (and they did not - the analysis of the organizers was right), but just imagine the more interesting case in which the women actually were conservative, it would remain a non-story about the decision of some irrelevant local organizers in an obviously complicated situation.
To use this non-story about three obviously provoking T-shirts as an argument to choose the president, it would seem a little bit over the edge to me.