Thursday, October 19, 2006

Government Busters

I occasionally watch the Mythbusters show and find it fairly interesting. But the one aspect of the show that I don’t like is that they have the emphasis all wrong. On the show, they take urban legends and other oddities and try to show whether or not they could be possible. And they do so by trying to reenact the “myth” and see if they can make it happen. And if they can’t recreate what was supposed to happen, they pronounce the myth to be “busted”.

But that’s just stupid. Sure, these are smart guys and can clearly do more than myself. But just because these two guys can’t do something doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. For example, I saw one episode where they tried to see if you could make a bullet out of ice, so as to kill someone without leaving a bullet; as the CIA has supposedly done. And because these two guys with fairly limited means and capability couldn’t make a successful ice bullet, they insisted that the myth was “busted”.

But that’s just stupid. Because the CIA would certainly have more resources, talent, time, and incentive to work on such things, and just because these two guys couldn’t do it doesn’t mean jack dooky. If I needed a secret assassination, I’d still turn to the CIA over the Mythbusters. Or at least I always have so far…

And it only works the other way around. If these guys successfully recreate the myth, then they can announce that it’s valid. But a failure on their part doesn’t mean anything. Because maybe they screwed up. Or were unlucky. Or whatever. Only success is meaningful, but you can’t prove a negative. Failure only means that they failed, not that the myth is “busted”.

And the big problem I have with all this is that they clearly want to show that the myths are busted. That’s the name of the show and seems to be what they’re trying to prove. And so they have some incentive for failure, and I think that’s stupid. Because I don’t want to see them fail. I want to see them succeed. And I want them to be upset when they fail, and they’re not. Particularly the one weasely guy who I’ve always found so annoying. You know which one I’m talking about. The guy who takes so much delight in announcing that the myth was “busted”. It’s like he totally wants to fail. But they both really do, and that seems to be the whole point of the show. And that’s stupid.

Republican Failure

And no, this wasn’t just a rant against a TV show, I actually had a point. And it’s that the conservatives have the exact same attitude about government. They don’t want it to work. They want it to fail. They want the poor people to get screwed. They want government corruption. They want power abused. And they want everyone to hate the government and demand their tax dollars back. Overall, they want to bust the myth that government is for the people; and so far, they’ve done a damn good job of that.

And so that’s what we get during a Republican reign. People die needlessly. The poor get poorer. Here’s a story I just read about their attempt at stopping Medicare fraud by depriving people of wheelchairs. Here’s another one about a Republican politician in Colorado abusing a law enforcement database to give his commercials more oomph. And the hits keep coming.

And this is exactly what they want. They hate government. And even when they abuse government to hand tax dollars to their political investors, it serves this same purpose. They just don’t want government to work and they want to show how ripe for abuse it all is. Sure, they don’t actually want to get caught doing this stuff, but it really does fit into their overall message. They don’t like government. And that’s why they can’t be trusted with government, and is one big reason for why things are now going against them. Because people really do need government, even if they like to pretend that they don’t.

That’s not to say that they shouldn’t be vocal loons helping keep Democratic politicians in line, because that’s precisely what we need. Dems can be corrupt too, and fiscal sanity can often come from people who are themselves fiscally insane. But they shouldn’t be given actual control over things. We can’t do things their way and most Americans don’t want that at all. And unless Fate is screwing with us or Diebold gets too bold, it looks like we won’t be doing it their way for much longer. But it’s not a fluke. It’s because people really do expect their government to work. This is one myth that people do not want busted.


harmfulguy said...

Conservative humorist P.J. O'Rourke explained this nearly a decade before the Bush Administration took power: "Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then they get elected and prove it." I'm just sorry it took this bunch of cretins to offer such definitive proof.

As a net acquaintance of mine has been saying recently:

If a politician says that government is incompent, he means that if he is elected, he will govern incompetently.

If a politician says that government can not be trusted, he means that he can not be trusted to govern.

If a politician says that government will steal all your money, he means that if he is allowed to govern, he will steal all your money.

Not Cliff Geertz said...

I think you are right about the Republicans here.

And the related problem is that if you want government to work, if you believe it can do better, the argument is almost impossible to make to abused citizens. Yes, it could work if these jackholes weren't in power, but even if they aren't, governance is no easy matter, and even politicians who try hard to do it right make mistakes, operate in a world they don't control, face natural disasters, and are endlessly hounded by media workers who seems not to care whether elected politicians succeed or if they are really trying.

People who really try end up being called failures by the opposition anyway, and the charges get reported just as often as real failures, for the sake of fairness and balance. And a cynical citizen is ready to believe it. When it gets bad enough, like now, a few more votes swing Democratic, but nothing is scarier to my people than the politician who says he wants to help you.