Using Reasoning, Facts, Cash, and ShowBiz, to Answer Questions like: Is Barack Obama a LIAR?

Using cold, hard cash and entertainment to smarten up otherwise dumbed down, American voters

The following diary is a quote from a long response of mine to a diary by Nathan Aschbacher at FireDogLake, “Define President Barack Obama in One Word”.

It stands on it’s own OK. For context, see Nathan’s FDL diary  

Using cold, hard cash and entertainment to smarten up otherwise dumbed down, American voters

The following diary is a quote from a long response of mine to a diary by Nathan Aschbacher at FireDogLake, Define President Barack Obama in One Word

It stands on it’s own OK. For context, see the FDL diary

LIAR is the first thing that I think of when I think of Obama. A polished, smooth-talking LIAR.

You know, while not of great interest in an of itself, here at FDL, this exercize might make for a good exercize on a website that can stimulate productive bridge-building between citizens of very different ideological stripes. Unfortunately, I see lots of reinforcement of tribalism in the political media, but not much reinforcement of civic-minded cooperation. Cooperation should always be pursued, when and where such is possible. And it’s just fine for citizens to cooperate on issues of mutual interest and ‘solution predisposition’, while simultaneously opposing each other where their ‘solution predispositions’ have no overlap – or are even mutually contradictory. People who are caught up, often subconsciously, in tribalism can’t see this, but that is more their problem than ours.

So, how could this question help to break down stupid tribalism? Well, by posing it to a wide audience, and giving pride of place in publicizing answers to thoughtful and knowledgeable individuals. You can see something partially like this in rags like the NY Post, where they ask ‘the man in the street’ questions to which, while the man on the street may have an opinion, it’s typically not worth very much.

No, what you want to do is pose this question to people who are high information voters, bloggers, ‘gurus’, etc. that low information ‘men on the street’ can actually look up to, if they’re not too full of themselves. This could be a starting point for the low information sorts to say “Gee, whiz, I didn’t know that, and I can see that not all progressives fall in line, lemming like, behind Obama” or “Gee, whiz, I didn’t know that, and I can see that not all conservative fall in line, lemming like, behind Glen Beck”.

A format for this, which can encourage serious stimulation of critical thinking in the populace as well as high-information sorts, is to demand , say, that each talking point be backed up with a full page (or 2 or 3 pages) of argumentation, which must be fact based.

Furthermore, in a more complicated version of such a program – I am thinking of a ‘high information’ but ‘low dodginess’ debate – there must be a few cycles of challenge and response, as people tend to both consciously and unconsciously fit their ‘reasoning’ to their predispositions, and we need a way to ferret out bad arguments and mistaken facts. Thus, even if tribalistic disputants don’t tell a direct lie, they will only give 1 side of the story. (Think of Michael Moore’s “Sicko” compared to PBS Frontline’s “Sick Around the World”, and you will see that, while both were very favorable to foreign healthcare systems, it was “Sick Around the World” that did a much better job pointing to real problems with some of the foreign systems. Michael Moore didnt’ seem to notice….)

A dispassionate intermediary should issue ‘red flags’ for deceptive comments and replies. In no way should sophistry be rewarded. If a high information participant is too dodgy, they should be banned.

Note that this is sort of the opposite of the political TV squabbles, where people struggle to get a word in edgewise. On the other hand, I’m not against ‘spicing’ up the debates a bit, in order to maintain high public interest.

How to accomplish that – making the fact and logic component very high, while the entertainment component is also reasonably high – is definitely a problem.

One thing that comes to mind, to drive the entertainment side of things, is cold, hard cash. E.g., you could have, say, Ralph Nader debate Grover Norquist on the question “Is Barack Obama a LIAR, and if so, how?”

The winner of the debate will be determined by low-information voters, who are forced to take – and pass – a short, 15 minute quizz on factual points made by both Ralph Nader and Grover Norquist. Actors could be employed to say and act the words of Nader and Norquist. In general, if somebody has a good mind and a respect for facts, but is not quick on their feet, they can still appear as a genius in the dramatized version of their debate – something that should flatter anybody’s ego. 🙂

The winner of the debate – as determined by the quizzed, relatively low information voters (but much higher information, as a result of the debate) wins $100,000. Furthermore, the quizzed voters who participated in the vote also get entered in a drawing that has a top prize of $100,000. You don’t have to be on the winning side of the Nader/Norquist debate to have a chance at $100,000, but you do HAVE TO PASS THE QUIZZ.


If you can throw another $100,000 into each debate, you can bring a panel of low information contestants who passed the quizz into the TV studio where the dramatized debates are taking place, and they can be interviewed as to what they learned about the particular topic of debate (“Is Obama a LIAR”, in this particular example), how the debate will change how they talk to their friends about the issue, what they think of the effect of having dumbed down, one sided discussion of such topics on American democracy, etc.

Oh, yeah – they also get a shot at that $100,000. So, you get 10 or 15 such non-experts who passed the quizz onto the show, they become part of the show (as discussed above), but one of them also goes home with a check for $100,000.

I think such a show would be a commercial success, if done in a fair manner. The real winner, though, would be American democracy. Dumbed down citizens are killing us, just as surely as are the lobbyists.


    • dkmich on April 9, 2010 at 12:43 pm

     I think it is much easier to get away with lies when one’s physical appearance is also appealing.  It enables much.  

    • metamars on April 9, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    But all the more reason to delve into such fundamental questions as the integrity of the POTUS, in a credible way. Just as, I believe, there are deep-seated biological and evolutionary reasons for tribalism, I also believe that there are also deep-seated reasons for people’s response to physically attractive individuals.

    Research shows, e.g., that women are more or less attracted to physical types (presumably, both attractive, though I don’t recall this detail), depending on what part of their menstrual cycle they are in. More rugged looking men during one part of their menstrual cycle, more sensitive looking men during another part of their menstrual cycle.

    Also, it’s well known that taller candidates usually prevail in US presidential elections.

    Far from denying biology and irrationality, we should face up to it, and look to minimize its effects. Democracy, such as it is, does not exist in an evolutionary vacuum.

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