In The Demon Haunted World, scientist Carl Sagan described a “baloney detection kit” that he would have liked to see taught in school, with such tools as skepticism and logical fallacies to help people keep from being suckered. It’s a great idea, and I’ve employed something similar in my readings of current events in politics.
I won’t succumb to the pressure to declare myself “independent” or “moderate,” those new buzzwords that constitute the cool meme in the political mainstream; I’m a conservative through and through. That being said, though, that hardly means that all people or parties calling themselves that are always correct. As I employ my Political Baloney Detector, I can spot cheap shots and see many public statements and actions for the transparent pandering they are.
Here’s how it works: whenever a politician criticizes someone with a differing view, I ask myself how authentic the complaint would sound if the roles were reversed. By this method, I can almost always see the playacting, and the smoke and mirrors, and not get distracted from real issues by these silly tricks.
Don’t get me wrong–many things of substance get said in our public realm, by both sides of the aisle, but they also each spew enough manure that it’s useful to be able to discount it quickly. If a statement addresses a legitimate issue, then it needs to be analyzed and discussed on its merits, measured against principles (and that’s what our conversations should really be about–the political principles that we give priority; that’s where our disagreements come from), and I think that such a focus is important enough and demands enough energy that we owe it to our principles, if we’re serious about them, not to let ourselves be taken by the cheap tricks along the way.
In December, Democrats in Congress said they’d be willing to work on Christmas to finish their work. Continue reading