Now, as is well-known among those who have known me for at least the last few years, my views on matters of politics (especially geopolitics) has undergone some...um...alterations. Specifically, having gone to NYU for undergrad, and proceeded to get a doctorate in clinical psychology, and to mix with folks of analogous academic standing, as well as a motley crew from the the music biz, and other assorted Northeast, Blue-State Liberal types...well, let's just say my latte -drinking credentials were impeccable.
So, if nothing else, I thought I owed it to the many who are doubtless still scratching their heads over my metamorphosis to spend a bit of time giving a summary of what has brought me to where I am; it has been rather a bumpy ride.
During the Summer of 2004 I included a very good friend in a group email containing a link to a pretty standard Bush-bashing article from Salon.com (which was then one of my most frequent news and opinion haunts). From everyone else, I got the standard "GAH! What a dope/chimp/fascist/election-stealing vermicious knid!!" responses.
From my friend, however, I received a careful deconstruction of the linked article's sources (a couple of book reviews), and content (long-distance diagnosis of hypothesized mental and emotional malfunctions in President Bush which led to his atrocious behavior at home and abroad). He questioned the value of such analysis, the confidence with which we could treat any conclusions drawn from it, and the reliability of the source. Spoil-sport.
Then he told me that foreign policy was his pass/fail issue and that it was on this basis that Bush was getting his vote!!.
Here I was faced with an insoluble dilemma. There was simply no way in my Liberal framework for constructing the world that someone with a functioning brain, no ulterior motive/agenda, and an ounce of humanity could support the re-election of the Chimpster. No way at all.
Yet here was someone I'd known since the third grade, and whose intellectual and moral credentials I judged to be altogether above reproach, who I knew to have no financial stake in the usual suspects (military contractors, the petroleum sector, etc.), and who was absolutely devoid of any religious inclinations of any kind. And he was voting for Bush!!
Considering myself to be a reasonably decent judge of character, I was forced to conclude that there was something here which I could not simply dismiss (most likely, I thought at the time, some conservative echo-chamber of highly persuasive party operatives in complete ideological lock-step, who were playing on the post-9/11 climate of fear and vengeful bloodlust to advance their agendas, and for whose siren songs my friend had somehow fallen.....and yet, even this seemed dubious, given his tendency toward Very Extreme Skepticism). I needed to dig.
In the voluminous emails that followed, I came to see the extent to which I was drawing all of my news and information from a set of sites and sources which either shared a common ideological bias (i.e., Leftwards); had no clearly discernible ideological bias except toward the most lurid and advertisement-sales-generating headlines (or some combination of the two); and which presented information in a contextual vacuum (see "Nooz 2ME" post, to follow this one!).
For every level I dug, and every seemingly coherent argument I could bring to the table, I was directed to sources which called those arguments into question (and I'm not just talking about editorials and talking points; I mean primary sources). Then I went significantly beyond the sources to which I had been directed (my friend was a bit taken aback by how far afield I was going...and dismayed by how fracking long it took me to reply to any given message. Alas, Madame Noocyte was something of a Web Widow during that period!). It is no exaggeration to say that I was spending upwards of five hours a night, seven nights a week, for a good solid three months, reading articles, and reports, and speeches and fatwas (in translations. I haven't learned Arabic....yet...). And blogs. Oy, the blogs! Blogs on the Left. Blogs on the Right. Blogs in the Middle. Both the entries and, usually, the 'comments' sections as well.
Long about September '04, I actually started experiencing physical symptoms (nausea, headaches, dizziness) as I tried, increasingly in vain, to defend (to myself; the emails had stalled hopelessly around this time) my previous positions on a very wide variety of issues. The simple fact was that the lion's share of what I and everyone else I knew (apparently with one exception!) considered to be basic axioms about the world and the United States' place in it was coming apart in the face of information which I myself was gathering, information which was simply not available in any easily usable form from any of the sources which I had always considered to be ample for providing a fleshed-out picture of the world.
Then I got pissed.
How horrendously irresponsible it is that journalists, who, after all are engaged in writing the first draft of history, should so shirk their responsibility to comprehensively inform the electorate that I should have to do so much fracking leg-work simply to derive a reasonably fleshed-out picture of what is going on in these most momentous times!
So I have decided to create this page to rant and analyze and link and generally blather about some of the things that I encounter in my news trawling, for any eyes which might be disposed to scan it (some of these entries originally lived on my personal myspace...but it proved far too annoying for regular blogging). I can't promise to be anything like consistent in my output (what with life and all!). But I hope to use this chance to formulate my thoughts and to engage in civil discussions with any who might want to drop a comment or two. The gods know, I have no claim to Objective Truth (whateverthehell that might be!), but if I can plop the occasional sacred cow on a toasted sesame seed bun and inspire anyone else to take a bite, then this blog will be worth every penny I spend on it....
UPDATE: Regular denizens of the blogosphere may wonder why I include background which is ordinarily stipulated to (like a link to the difference between Sunni and Shia). Some of these entries are cross-posted to a MySpace which might be frequented by those who do not lean in nearly as wonky a direction as your friend and humble narrator. I ask for your forbearance if I appear to wax needlessly pedantic from time to time.