Making A Conversation Out of Talking Points

K. William Huitt

K. William Huitt is currently a Ph.D. student in Baylor's philosophy program. He graduated from Hillsdale College in 2019 with a B.A. in philosophy and a minor in history. He then attended Western Michigan University where he completed his M.A. in philosophy in 2021. He has spoken at various Christian apologetics events and writes occasionally about religious and political issues. His personal blog is

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75 Responses

  1. Philip H says:

    I don’t think everyone mashes up talking points – I do think modern political analysis fails however because once the results are announced (i.e. politician X is being driven by idea Y which deviates from orthodoxy Z), there’s no discussion or synthesis that follows. Jennifer Rubin at WaPo (as but one of many many examples) has a decent track record of diagnosis of the where Republicans failed in allowing the current President to rise (and she was hinting at that failure well before he did). yet she fails completely to put that rise in the context of her own intellectual body of work, or to at least acknowledge the diagnoses of more liberal commentators that her writing was part of the problem. Ditto most “liberal” commentators.

    Were she to carry the analysis out and offer actual conclusions and recommendations I think your word salad problem would be way closer to resolution, and substantive discussions would be had.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    The irony for Conservatives is that they are generally thought of as rugged individualists seeking personal freedom above all else.


    • Philip H in reply to Jaybird says:

      The irony for Conservatives is that they are generally thought of as rugged individualists seeking personal freedom above all else for white men .

      Fixed that for ya.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Philip H says:

        Is that not exactly what the OP is arguing against?Report

        • Philip H in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          What, my characterization? Is it? Because no matter what our conservative interlocutors here say, the policies advocated for since Reagan (and in his administration come to think of it) have been decidedly focused on this very topic. Sure, the pundits and the rank and file wrap it in other language, but its been the emphasis all along. No doubt our well written colleague Mike Dwyer would politely invite me to got off my high horse, but if that were actually the aim of conservatives they would support radically different policies and politicians.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Philip H says:

            I don’t find that criticism very useful, because frankly, just about any policy can be spun as a way to maintain, or gain, power over others, and since the bulk of those who hold and seek power are white men (or white women), it’s just a game in figuring out said policy cements entrenched power.

            The few exceptions are policies which attempt to dismantle structural racism, and even those are often so riddled with unintended consequences that power just entrenches in other ways (usually as a response to the unintended effects).Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Philip H says:

            Or perhaps I am just tired of the typical response of “white mans fault”. It’s not impressive, or clever, or funny, because frankly it offers up nothing useful.

            We all know legacy power structures are a problem. We all know that those power structures are largely controlled by old white men who haven’t had the decency to die off yet (an unintended consequence of medical advances).

            Talk to me about how you think we should dismantle those power structures and what we should replace them with. And being the libertarian I am, don’t talk to me about just putting women or people of color into those structures, because frankly old white DO NOT have a monopoly on corruption or corruptibility.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that.Report

            • Philip H in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              I feel like I have talked ad nauseum about how to deal with that structure. And It starts with acknowledging that no matter how responsible a person is, when they are structurally disadvantaged by skin pigment or gender then all the responsibility in the world won’t help them.

              Take Philando Castile. He was a responsible, educated, employed person. He complied with the law in obtaining his hand gun, and complied with the law in obtaining a concealed carry permit for it. And he was murdered by the state while complying with a lawful request by the state to prove he could legally carry his legal handgun in a concealed fashion. He was personally a responsible man, and his skin color got him stripped of the assumptions of that responsibility and it got him killed. Because the system decided back in the late 1960’s that black men with guns – no matter how responsible they were – did not deserve the same assumptions and deference as white men with guns.

              How do we dis mantle that? We prosecute cops for killing responsible law abiding citizens regardless of the color of said citizens skin. We fire cops who express racist sentiments. We train cops in deescalation techniques. But we start by saying the system disadvantages people like Mr. Castile. We own what we’ve built and why we built it.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to Philip H says:

                Why is a cop afraid of a black guy with a gun?

                If the system ‘decided’ that this was to happen, show some objective truth that proves it.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to JoeSal says:

                Why is a cop afraid of a black guy with a gun?

                You’ve got to be carefully taught. And who can argue with Rodgers and Hammerstein?Report

              • CJColucci in reply to JoeSal says:

                South Pacific.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to CJColucci says:

                You do realize that that has about as much relevance as:

                “Cop is afraid of a black guy with a gun because a green wing duck flew north.”

                I mean if you want to get into a battle of abstractions, I’m your huckleberry.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to JoeSal says:

                Maybe you should get out to Broadway shows more often.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to CJColucci says:

                You don’t want me anywhere near the east coast, especially with a box of matches.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to JoeSal says:

                Actually, we East Coasters are a welcoming bunch. I encourage a visit.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to CJColucci says:

                If ya ever hear someone ask “Freedom or Order?” you’ll probably know I’m around.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to JoeSal says:

                You want fries with that?Report

              • Pinky in reply to CJColucci says:

                “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” is probably R & H’s worst work. First of all, the music doesn’t match the mood of the lyrics. But more significantly, it’s just not true. Children instinctively distrust people who look different from their immediate family. It takes year after year to get them to behave otherwise. The lyrics tar parents and misdiagnose human instinct.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to Pinky says:

                Geebus Pinky, when did you have to suffer through hearing that mess?Report

              • Pinky in reply to JoeSal says:

                Mess? I hope you mean in comparison to other R & H classics like “The Sound of Music” or “The King and I”.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to Pinky says:

                So what your saying is there was something other than western movies made in the 1940s and 1950s.

                Was any of it good?Report

              • Pinky in reply to JoeSal says:

                War movies and Gene Kelly. Both just as manly as westerns.Report

              • Andrew Donaldson in reply to Pinky says:

                Gene Kelly was a badassReport

              • JoeSal in reply to Pinky says:

                Audie Murphy.Report

              • George Turner in reply to JoeSal says:

                Why is a cop named Jeronimo Yanez a bit paranoid in Minnesota? I’m pretty sure people up there are still pretty sore about General Custer, so he probably goes through his day on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

                You see, there’s always been enmity and suspicion between Native Americans or Hispanics and Buffalo soldiers, things white people were never privy too. It all started a long time ago in a little town called…

                *crickets chirping around the crackling campire*

                … and that’s why Officer Yanez freaked out that night.

                Around here it’s the Appalachian meth-heads who make everybody nervous. In times past it was Italian mobsters and Irish cops getting in gun fights at the drop of a hat.

                Among these egregiously bad shoot/don’t shoot decisions you often see signs that the policeman was both frightened and paranoid. I will bet that such cops weren’t temperamentally suited to the job, were plagued with nightmares, and were very jumpy in any questionable situation. In combat, they would be like the frightened cherry who shoots at anything, even returning squad mates, as their first response.

                They misread what’s going on and let their imaginations run away with them, letting their fears dictate their actions. Those are people who should never be in law enforcement because they’re the most dangerous people on the streets, not because they think like a predator, but because they think like frightened prey, and lash out like a rattlesnake if they get triggered.

                That’s a very different set of problem cops from the “tag’em and bag’em and laugh about ’em in the locker room” club.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner says:

                …which is why today, football players kneel during the national anthem.

                And now you know…The Rest Of The Story.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Because they are asserting their claim to the field the same way their mounted and armed ancestors claimed land from and oppressed Hispanics and Native Americans, who are still underrepresented in the NFL?Report

              • JoeSal in reply to George Turner says:

                ” they would be like the frightened cherry who shoots at anything”

                That’s a long ways from:

                “Because the system decided back in the late 1960’s that black men with guns – no matter how responsible they were – did not deserve the same assumptions and deference as white men with guns.”Report

              • George Turner in reply to JoeSal says:

                “The system” would be Chicago, New York, DC, and California. Up until the moment the Black Panthers posed with rifles on the steps of the California state capitol, the place was as pro-gun as Dodge City.

                As people have long said, all US attempts at gun control were just attempts to disarm blacks.

                One of the funniest things I’ve seen recently is the reaction of the cast of CBS This Morning to a heartwarming story about the overwhelming popularity of the National African American Gun Association, whose members are 60% women. The hosts smiled and furtively said “good for them”, yet you could tell the story might as well been a hunk of radioactive plutonium, crossing some streams that are never supposed to be crossed, so everyone was desperately playing it safe with their comments.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to George Turner says:

                Yeah and I suppose that Houston AK47 owner in the Huey P Newton gun club was yelling “Come and take it Muther Fisher!!” at Beto on TV the other night.

                These guys started the Culture War long ago, but I have my doubts as to whether they really thought about winning it.Report

              • Philip H in reply to JoeSal says:

                That’s because they started it as a distraction while they consolidated power. Ever notice how Culture Warriors scream till they are horse about personal responsibility and then legislate against it when ever it threatens their power base and their profit margin?Report

              • JoeSal in reply to Philip H says:

                Legislation is a human institution.Report

              • Philip H in reply to George Turner says:

                That’s the reaction to armed liberal s in general. We tend to get treated as mythical beasts and when we raise our hands in class to be called on we are overlooked because EVERYONE is convinced we can’t exist.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to Philip H says:

                Did you mean liberal or classical liberal?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to JoeSal says:

                Contemporary liberals are actually classical conservatives, seeking to preserve the traditional Bismarkian and New Deal welfare states.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I don’t know about all that, but when i look into the modern liberals spot where there should be individual liberties it’s typically just a hollow section.

                Usually liberal gun owners who don’t store their guns in a communal collective have at least a little something there, and i typically parse that to classical liberalism.

                Of course taking the two freedoms problem out ten decimal places also will parse whether or not there is a acknoledgement in individual ownership of a firearm, so there are two parameters vectoring to individualism in classical liberalism.

                Someone like that Chip fellow wouldn’t own a gun because ownership would require recognition of private property, plus since there are no barriers to your living communal space, it would be really dangerous for you to have a gun around that is easily accessed by the collective.Report

              • InMD in reply to George Turner says:

                Wait did that actually happen?Report

              • George Turner in reply to InMD says:

                The Black Panthers holding rifles on the capitol steps, or something else? If so, then yes, it’s very famous and was widely photographed. They were using open carry to challenge the government.Report

              • InMD in reply to George Turner says:

                No I’m very aware of that and the history around it, I meant the CBS story you mentioned.Report

              • George Turner in reply to InMD says:

                CBS NAAGA story

                My take on the host’s reactions will be colored by my perceptions, so you take a look.Report

  3. Saul Degraw says:

    In general, I think most people (by which I mean an overwhelming majority) do not think about their beliefs deeply or consistently. People who read political blogs, no matter their ideology, are already on the extreme ends of intensity even among loyal and regular political junkies/voters. So yeah, if you spend ten or minutes, possibly less, talking with the average voter, you can probably find serious inconsistincies.

    To me the profession of a pundit is a very odd one. The existence of 24 hour news channels is also odd. The value in 24 hours news channels could theoretically be the ability to do documentary filmmaking/deep investigative journalism. Our long exposes instead of three or four minute segments. But that is expensive to produce, doubtful that anyone would watch, and advertisers would run away. Talk on the other hand is very cheap to produce and people can have it on as background noise.*

    *I’m apparently one of the last people who likes listening to music while driving. Talk and podcasts seem to rule supreme.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Do you think that people who follow politics have fewer inconsistencies in their thinking or a better understanding of all sides of an issue?Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Pinky says:

        Not necessarily. I suppose it depends on what it means to be inconsistent and it always easier to spot the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of people that you disagree with then your own. To be human is to make a hash out of everything for a variety of complicated and probably often inchoate/not full realized reasons.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          I’m beginning to suspect that consistency isn’t possible in politics. A couple of weeks ago in a Facebook discussion a young woman who grew up in a conservative Muslim family but since because a secular person remarked that she finds it odd that the people who mock Evangelical purity balls also say things like how strong a woman in hijab could look when to her they come from the same impulse to control female sexuality. Yet, for many on the liberal side of politics you can be a traditionally dressed Muslim woman and still be a radical in good standing if you say the right words. Think Ilhan Omar and Linda Sansour. I doubt that an Orthodox Jewish woman could rise to such prominence even with the same rhetoric. To many liberals, Orthodox Jewish modesty requires reek of the patriarchy in the way that Islam doesn’t because Islam is seen as a non-white religion.

          Or look how many people get dewey eyed over the Native American tribes in the Amazon and their pre-modern life style while wanting to drag the Amish and the Hasidic Jews into the 21st century kicking and screaming. Something just clicks in their mind that says that these Native American tribes living a traditional lifestyle fits in with their politics while the Amish and the Hasidic Jews do not. For all we know, these Native American tribes can have beliefs and practices that are as patriarchal and illiberal as hell but it ain’t going to register to people.Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Good observation, maybe because human behavior is not at all consistent.

            Like the way we’ve discussed before of the conflicting impulses between the comforting embrace of community versus individuality, or how difficult it is to support freedom of choice when people make choices that seem awful.Report

    • CJColucci in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      On the whole, I find general-purpose pundits worse than useless. What do they know that makes me want their advice on anything? Some of the more specialized pundits occasionally provide me with useful information or analysis, but this is rare. One of my persistent fantasies — for whatever it says about my fantasy life — is to host a cable news talk show in which I sit at a barstool, identify some burning issue of the day, say that because I don’t have the relevant information, I don’t have an opinion on it — and it’s likely that you don’t, and therefore shouldn’t, either. Let’s wait and see.
      Probably wouldn’t last long. Maybe I’d invite useless general-purpose pundits on and when they bloviate, I’d ask them if they have any actual information. That might make it more fun.Report

      • greginak in reply to CJColucci says:

        Yeah i’m sick of the general purpose pundit. They are a scourge and useless. There is to much to know for one person to comment on all it with anything useful. I don’t know how many times i’ve seen the same talking heads yack about the military/policy situation in some other country without any evidence they actually know anything about the actual country. If, for example, you want to help me understand what South Korea thinks about NK, get some South Koreans on the show and make the old white suits go bowling or something.Report

      • Philip H in reply to CJColucci says:

        Podcasts are just books on tape that you listen to as they are being written.Report

    • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I cannot stand podcasts. It’s music all the way for me during any activity.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      We live in something of an aspirational age, where everything is about earnest self-improvement all the time among certain groups. One of the local dance organizers runs an occasional intensive lesson with a Southern California dancer. The last part before the social dance is a fire side chat where earnest young millennials soak up words of wisdom from the dancer. Its all very sincere and it makes me sick for some reason. I think podcasts fit the earnestness that many people are striving for while music seems indulgent and wasteful.Report

  4. Chip Daniels says:

    The old saying “all things in moderation, including moderation”, comes to mind.

    I remember reading a young readers book about the Civil War when I was 12. The opening sentence was “How did the Civil War start? Like most wars, it was misunderstandings that multiplied.”

    I was so struck by how sophisticated this sounded, filled with nuance and adult complexity.

    Except years later as an adult, I realized that this was itself a talking point, the Lost Cause narrative which sought to obscure the bitter truth that no, there were no misunderstanding, there was no noble cause. Even after taking account of the myriad of voices and complexities of motivation, the bare truth was that one group of people wanted to enslave other people and were willing to go to war to protect that practice.Report

    • CJColucci in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      This Birth of a Nation/Gone With the Wind version of the Civil War era is what I got in K-12 in the 60’s and 70’s, even though I was living in what had been a hotbed of abolitionist activity — perhaps the last progressive impulse in central New York.Report

    • Jesse in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      As the old joke goes, people who know nothing about the Civil War think it was about slavery. People who know a moderate amount about it think it’s complicated. People who know a lot think it was about slavery.Report

  5. veronica d says:

    That’s a lot of words to say, “I wanna sound smart, but I don’t have a spine.”

    It’s boring, and I’m too tired to quote Letters from a Birmingham Jail again.

    Oh hell, order over justice, order over justice, won’t those weirdos shut up, it’s time for a comfortable middle. Oh and look how much smarter than those people I am!Report

  6. greginak says:

    I like this in general. My one criticism is sort of a tangent. You use the Liberal vs Conservative frame which is common but i don’t think it’s correct. I’ve listened to people who proudly announce how they aren’t on one side or belong to a fringe belief. Let me tell you, they ain’t any better. Shallow bumper sticker level dialogue is the American norm. There are certainly people who do far better and have insight and who we can have good conversations with. Some are liberal, conservative, unaligned, libertarian, Green, etc. But the badge of honor people adorn themselves with for not being one one side does not signify any higher quality of thought.Report

    • Pinky in reply to greginak says:

      I understand your desire to remove as many qualifiers as possible on the accusation of shallowness. But why leave “American”? Isn’t it true to say that people in general tend to have more opinions than facts?

      I’m having the same problem with this article’s diagnosis of the problem as being unique to today. It *may* be the case that we’re more oriented toward talking points these days than usual, but is that new? Is it cyclical? Did the 1850’s Northerner and Southerner get the same data and analysis? I do think it’s odd that we’ve created insulated islands across space, where our neighbor gets different news than we do. A hundred years ago, my neighbor was a bear. I don’t know. It seems like it would be valuable to cite examples of eras/locations of healthy political conversation, then identify the traits that made them so.Report

      • greginak in reply to Pinky says:

        It may be that most people have always been shallow. But i don’t’ really know enough about the political dillouge in other countries to really opine on it. Britain seems to be not exactly covering themselves in glory over Brexit.

        The glorious predictions of the knowledge the Information Super Highway will bring us have raised expectations. But it’s likely people have always confused information, data and wisdom.Report

        • George Turner in reply to greginak says:

          “We used to think that stupidity was caused by a lack of access to information. The internet proves that this was not at all true.” – some meme I saw.Report

    • Greginak, your original comment is pretty fair in its tangential criticism. There are plenty of ways to parse out American politics factions, but for the sake of simplicity I just went with one of the more common ones that tends to include just about everybody. From what I’ve seen, “Republicans and Democrats” leave a lot of people in the middle uncomfy with identifying with either one. “Liberal and Conservative” tend to pick out most people even if they don’t self identify with one or the other explicitly. That’s at least my impression.Report

  7. JoeSal says:

    From what I have seen, there is the two freedoms problem that needs to be resolved. Not just resolved, but in a manner that everyone agrees with in the social objective context. The problem is that social objectivity is not resolved because social truth is not resolved.

    To even start to resolve social truth components, a hell of a lot of bases that were stolen decades ago have got to be unstolen.

    Also O’Sullivan’s Law is about as certain as gravity.

    Almost every social constructs has a propaganda machine that is sketchy at best with objective truth.Report

    • CJColucci in reply to JoeSal says:

      O’Sullivan’s law, for those who don’t recognize the name, is that any organization that does not start out explicitly right-wing gradually becomes left wing. That’s true because, as a different cliche has it, reality has a liberal bias.Report

      • JoeSal in reply to CJColucci says:

        More like people interested in social organization tend to be more (social-istic, socialists, social leaning, ah hell….plug in a social+term of your choice) than people not interested in social oganization.

        Actually when speaking of reality, the conservativism that is based on resolved objective truth always will define a better objective reality than the bias that liberals derive from social objectivity based on unresolved social truths.

        This stuff isn’t complicated.Report

  8. Swami says:

    “The answer is twofold. The first is to sketch out the phenomenon to understand its general form. The second is to decode the word vomit to parse out the underlying values which can form a meaningful conversation.”

    My take on the issue is that politics is a mind and soul killer and that the best way forward is to minimize the scope of politics.Report