In the mainstream media and across the Progressive blogosphere, pundits and ideologues on the left shake their heads at the tea-party goers, accusing us of being used for poltical purposes and of racism, all without the slightest evidence garnered from the actual gatherings; after all, progressives need no evidence. In their own minds they are right, and that rightness, far from being only a matter of fact (which would require evidence), transubstantiates into righteousness, a quality of being on a higher moral plane than the benighted tea-partiers. They have what Thomas Sowell calls The Vision of the Annointed.
On the comments to one of my Tea Party blogs, a comment by Mark sums up the progressive attitude toward the tea parties quite well:
"The simple reason is that the "tea party" movement is not about opposition to government policy. It's about opposition to Barack Obama, plain and simple . . . . it's not a real grassroots movement. It's what political junkies call "astroturfing" - fake grassroots activism. In this case, it was instigated and coordinated by right-wing lobbyists, the Republican Party and Fox News as well as the rest of the conservative media as a means of bashing Obama and rallying support to an otherwise floundering GOP."
This engendered quite a bit of discussion by others, most of whom are surprised at such conclusions made without any good evidence. Although Mark does offer some evidence, it is negative* and backward-looking.** Essentially Mark seems to be saying, "Since you did not protest Bush's spending (though he offers no evidence that we didn't), you cannot be serious about protesting now."
Definition of Terms:
*In science, negative evidence is the absence of some indicator. This term is not perjorative, however negative evidence alone is weak, and is best interpreted in the light of positive evidence of a different sort. Thus in a pregnancy test, a negative result--the titer does not indicate the presence of the hormone HCG--may indicate that the woman is not pregnant, but there may be many other reasons for the result. Definitive presence of HCG, however, is a much more reliable indicator of pregnancy (though not foolproof).
**There is a better term for backwards looking, and for the life of me, I cannot think of it. (Lupus brain!) What I mean here is that Mark is using the lack of a specified previous behavior to interpret current behavior. Again, there may be many reasons why people did not do something in the past, but now are doing it. In the absence of any other evidence for his claims, this is another extremely weak argument. I have my own hypotheses about it, but that's another blog entry.
Sorry, Mark, all "astroturfing" aside, the absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. (I really wish the public schools taught the rules of rational discourse better, as well as logic and the emprical principles of science! Drat that NCLB).
Although events are coming fast and furious, and so I have blogged about a great many other things, I have been thinking about this, puzzled that progressives, so ready to take up a cause and organize a protest at the drop of a hat, are unable to see those of us they consider to be their enemies as equally passionate about our ideas.
Today, as I was reading through the posts of the Objectivist Roundup over at Rational Jenn, I came across a speech by Dr. John Lewis that clarified my thinking about this wonderfully. At one point in his talk he said:
"This ruling elite, looking down on us right now, cannot understand gatherings such as these, in which free people gather to defend liberty. They think that this must be orchestrated by a vast conspiracy, because they cannot understand how autonomous human beings might gather by their own choice, to affirm their commitment to liberty.
Our so-called leaders think this because they don’t see autonomous moral beings at all. They see only serfs, sniveling and whining, begging their masters for the scraps needed to survive, acting as a collective mob rather than as thinking individuals."