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News of Otsego County

freedom of speech

CONWAY: Editor’s should write editorials

LETTER from PAUL CONWAY

Editor’s should write editorials

To the Editor:

To the question of whether All-Otsego’s new Editor-in-Chief should (continue to) use the editorial page to express positions on a variety of topics: Of course he should. He must!

It would be an abrogation of his responsibility not to provide editorial guidance to area citizens.

Editorials are widely anticipated to inform, educate, and — maybe least of all — persuade citizens on issues they might otherwise ignore or take for granted. The paper would be far less interesting and less useful without them. As to whether the editor might be too liberal or conservative for many readers, the question is irrelevant unless the editor is politically timorous. Many
issues such as infrastructure, reparations, or correcting misinformation deliberately spread in other media, are not necessarily ideological nor are they “yes or no” issues.

As a Political Science professor in past years I urged my students to realize that citizens need to see and hear thoughtful views to the left and right of positions that they might view as moderate.

There may be many more than two reasonable arguments they should consider. The old cliche, “the devil is in the details”, is often apt on many presumably ideological issues. Editorials
can help readers like me get beyond generalities and my preconceived positions. As a long time reader of newspapers, I turn to the editorial page for enlightenment and look for clarity, conviction, and sometimes even courage on the part of the Editor-in-Chief.

Paul Conway
Oneonta

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Disagree? You Must Be Crazy

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Disagree? You Must Be Crazy

There are millions of Americans, almost all white, almost all Republicans, who somehow need to be deprogrammed. It’s as if they are members of a cult,” Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson said of Trump supporters on Jan. 12.

Former CBS news anchor Katie Couric agreed.

“How are we going to really, almost, deprogram these people who have signed up for the cult of Trump?” she asked Bill Maher.

And both CNN and Vanity Fair ran interviews with Steven Hassan, former Moonie and author of “The Cult of Trump,” discussing the best way to help Trump cultists escape the supposed abusive authoritarian who supposedly rules their minds.

…Defining political dissent as a psychological problem is a Soviet trick. They invented a new disease, “sluggish schizophrenia,” and explained that even though the subject might not display any symptoms of ordinary schizophrenia, his unfounded allegations against the government showed it was gradually coming on.

Only a madman could possibly dislike the Soviet idyll. American Marxists think the same: only a brainwashed cult-member could possibly support Trump.

JANE STANNUS
The Spectator, Feb. 2, 2021

KUZMINSKI: Demagogues Happen – And Can Happen Here

Column by Adrian Kuzminski June 15, 2018

Demagogues Happen –

And Can Happen Here

Adrian Kuzminski

The Wikipedia – it may be the closest thing we have to a common standard of what things mean in our culture – tells us that a demagogue is “a leader in a democracy who gains popularity by exploiting prejudice and ignorance among the common people, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation. Demagogues overturn established customs of political conduct, or promise or threaten to do so.”
Notice that it’s “the common people” in this definition who are confused by prejudice and ignorance, and guided by the passions instead of “reasoned deliberation.” This reflects the classical ideal of ancient Greece and Rome – also held by most of the American Founding Fathers. The right kind of politician in this view is someone able to control his or her passions, as well as the passions of others, through the practical application of reason. The Stoics called this the cultivation of virtue, of self-control and clear headedness, of wisdom, and it lay at the heart of ancient politics.
But then, as now, not everyone was virtuous, or had the same idea of virtue. In ancient Athens and elsewhere demagogues (literally “popular leaders”) arose who appealed not to virtue but to prejudice and ignorance in order to rile up people’s passions, featuring fear-mongering, tribalism, and what we now call fake news. Demagogues are one of the hazards of democratic society.
A demagogue divides rather than unites us. This is done by taking the fluid and accidental differences among people and transforming them into fixed, absolute concepts, such as race and gender, rich and poor, smart and dumb.
To drive home the differences, the demagogue goes on the attack. He or she will mock and otherwise denigrate the enemies they’ve created, and invite others to join in what becomes a movement. Its victims find themselves insulted and redefined in hostile terms as political targets. The art of the demagogue is to inspire even more followers than enemies. It’s a vicious game.
This is suddenly an issue because we have, for the first time, a demagogue, Donald Trump, elected president of the United States.

Mark Wilson/empirewire.com

There have been other American demagogues – Huey Long and Joe McCarthy come to mind – but never before one elected president. Before Trump’s appearance on the scene, a level of public decorum consistent with the politics of virtue was standard in this country, at least among mainstream politicians. It’s not that they didn’t lie to us (they did when they thought they had to), but in spite of that they maintained a level of public courtesy and mutual respect that sustained a sense of the American community. Truth and reason were respected, if not always followed.
Trump, by contrast, has openly disparaged truth and reason and focused on the personal humiliation of his opponents. He has made this tactic mainstream, particularly at his rallies during the campaign and since. He has made fun of a reporter’s physical disability, encouraged his supporters to beat up hecklers, disparaged the looks of male and female competitors, used ethnic slurs to denigrate his critics, and given a pass to racist demonstrators. It’s as if the locker-room talk of Tony Soprano and his henchmen at the Badda Bing migrated from HBO to the White House.
This is a sea-change in American politics. The politicians of virtue – establishment Democrats and Republicans – are freaked out by their defeat at the hands of a demagogue, as they should be. The polite discourse to which they at least gave lip service – the rhetoric of reason, science, progress, and mutual respect – now looks stilted and fake to more people. Tony Soprano’s in the White House and his uninhibited talk is releasing emotions and taboos once locked up by the limits of virtuous politics.
We’re at a dangerous moment. Civilization is based on restraint and mutual courtesy. However we choose to respond to any demagogue, if we lose our own virtue in the process by adopting his or her tactics, then he or she will have won.

Adrian Kuzminski, retired Hartwick College philosophy professor and moderator of Sustainable Otsego, resides in Fly Creek.

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