You might think of this as an addendum to my Scialabba post the other day, where I quoted him as having said: “To put it non-metaphorically: if we want a durably decent society, we have to improve the quality of political discussion. Yes, we will always need to address people’s hearts and imaginations. But in the long run, their ability to think, to see through right-wing (and left-wing) bullshit, is even more important.”

So, apropos of that, there’s this post at CNN.com about the tea parties yesterday.

First, the title. I think it’s trying to be funny: “Tea Party: Will you be drinking or dunking?” But then again, how can we be sure? Am I a drinker or a dunker? If I drink, does that mean I support the bailouts? Is that akin to drinking the kool-aid? And whose kool-aid is it: the right’s or the left’s? If I dunk, am I expressing my dissatisfaction with the bailouts by (metaphorically) slam-dunking my cup into the pavement? Or is the dunk a gesture of anti-protest protest? I’m as mixed up as this metaphor.

Then there’s the text itself:

Activists are holding these events on tax day to voice their opposition to the current tax system and the federal government’s spending decisions, such as bailing out the banks and the auto industry.

So, what do you think? Have President Obama and Congress taken the right steps to help the ailing economy? Have Republicans been smart to oppose his fiscal policies? Does the tax code need an overhaul?

You can go to the post itself and read the comments to see the exact thing Scialabba’s addressing when he writes: “if we want a durably decent society, we have to improve the quality of political discussion.” Clearly, if those comments are any indication, it would be decent if people were better informed and a bit nicer.

But let’s not just blame “people.” After all, who invited them to share their opinions, however ill-mannered or -informed? The so-called “political editor” who abandoned his job altogether and opened up space on a major news site to free-wheeling opinion-mongering. The result isn’t even up to the standards of wikipedia, which presents a much-contested final product that can at least claim some Peircean-Habermasian legitimacy. Instead, there’s several hundred comments worth of unregulated, unproductive bitching. (It’s almost like reading Stanley Fish’s blog.) There’s a place for that, of course, but that place is ideally a place, somewhere you could have a beer or a coffee or a smoke during the more tedious parts of it. Having someone to flirt with goes a long way towards making idiots seem tolerable, no? And it’s nice, decent even, to participate in a richer emotive environment than you can get by combining semicolons and parentheses.

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