Sam Harris Responds to Criticism on his Sarah Palin Piece

Sam Harris, author of Letter to a Christian Nation, published an opinion piece on Sarah Palin in the Los Angeles Times today:

McCain has so little respect for the presidency of the United States that he is willing to put the girl next door (soon, too, to be a grandma) into office beside him. He has so little respect for the average American voter that he thinks this reckless and cynical ploy will work.

And it might. Palin’s nomination has clearly excited Christian conservatives, and it may entice a few million gender-obsessed fans of Hillary Clinton to vote entirely on the basis of chromosomes. Throw in a few million more average Americans who will just love how the nice lady smiles, and 2009 could be a very interesting year.

In less than a day, he’s been inundated with criticism for his piece.

So he put up a response on his own site, which I found to be much more entertaining than the original piece itself:

… Needless to say, I find Obama’s religious pandering repulsive. The suspicion that he is pandering, out of obvious necessity, and not quite as religious as he makes out, is somewhat comforting, however. But even if Obama were precisely as religious as he appears, he is not a Creationist, Rapture-Ready blockhead. Palin, by all appearances, seems to be one. This is a difference worth noting. Whatever you may think of his politics, Obama is very intelligent and reasonably well educated. Palin thinks the universe is 6000 years old. Unfortunately, I wrote my article before some of the most disturbing signs of her religious extremism came to my attention.

So, let me simply declare that I would be overjoyed to have a qualified woman in the White House. I would, likewise, be overjoyed to have a qualified African American in the White House. In fact, I would be overjoyed to have a qualified WASP man in the White House. I will be guardedly optimistic to have a very smart (and somewhat qualified) Barack Obama in the White House. And I would be frankly terrified to have a religious bumpkin like Sarah Palin in the White House. I think you should share this last conviction. Hence my latest opinion piece.

I know there’s been a lot of talk about her on this site and others, but atheists should be very concerned about this. A Sarah Palin presidency (which is not unlikely) means we would have a conservative Christian — much more “fundamental” in her thinking than even George W. Bush — in power.

If that doesn’t worry you, nothing will.

  • http://spgreenlaw.wordpress.com/ spgreenlaw

    The piece was sexist, and he essentially admits to knowing it in his follow up. Demeaning a woman by declaring her one is to demean all women and her awful politics and her awful religion do not make that sort of thing permissible. Nor does the approval of four women. The “my black friend says I totally can use it” defense does not fly. Sam is smarter than this.

  • alinvain

    I am an Obama supporter from day one (DNC 2004), but if Sam Harris ran, I’d vote for him.

  • http://micketymoc.bluechronicles.net/ micketymoc

    spgreenlaw: How do you define “sexist”? Sam Harris argues that Palin is unqualified in the same way George W. Bush was unqualified – that “x next door” is not and should never be enough to put you a heart attack away from the Oval Office.

    Sure, Harris uses sex-specific language to describe Palin, but they’re peripheral to the main argument I’ve described above. “Girl next door” and “nice lady”, in the context of Harris’ article, aren’t arguments against women, they’re arguments against mediocrity.

  • http://spgreenlaw.wordpress.com/ spgreenlaw

    micketymoc: I would define an action or comment as sexist if it, consciously or otherwise, belittles a person because of their genitalia.

    But Palin isn’t “girl next door”, is she? She is an adult. The frequent dismissal of women to the status of children has a long history and carries much baggage. To use the phrase is to call upon all of that, whether Harris meant to or not. It is not comparable to saying someone is a boy next door because men have not traditionally been considered irrational, weak, and incapable of making their own choices.

  • Bartlettman

    Way to completely miss the point spgreenlaw. Who gives a shit if his article was slightly sexist? His article was right on every count. She is mediocre. She does resemble a “girl next door” character. So fucking what if that phrase has a history of use by people who are actually sexist? His description was accurate and that’s all that should matter.

  • http://spgreenlaw.wordpress.com/ spgreenlaw

    Bartlettman:

    I care if the article was sexist, because I have a problem with sexism, as all thinking people should. I have a problem with the constant misogynist attacks on Senator Clinton and I am not a Clinton supporter. I have a problem with the frequent racist attacks on Obama and I am not an Obama supporter. I am damn sure not a McCain/Palin supporter, but I have a problem with anything that dismisses Governor Palin because of her sex.

    The phrase itself is sexist because of the historical context. Words cannot be plucked clean of their baggage. There is no appropriate time for a man to refer to a woman as the girl next door, no matter what perceived similarities there might be.

    There are plenty of rational reasons to oppose her as a VP candidate; lets focus on those, shall we? There is no need malign her for her ovaries.

  • http://micketymoc.bluechronicles.net/ micketymoc

    “Dismissal of women to the status of children”? Really? I didn’t read that at all in Harris’ article.

    Harris’ “regular guy” setup puts the “girl next door” quote in its proper context – not as a sexist infantilization of Palin, but as a sign of cynical Republican pandering, the kind that won Dubya the Presidency:

    when it comes time to vest a man or woman with more power and responsibility than any person has held in human history, Americans say they want a regular guy, someone just like themselves.

    In view of a) Dubya’s old example, b) Palin’s apparent selection based on her Christian right credentials, and c) Republican spinning of Palin’s “hockey mom” image – calling Palin a “girl next door” is less a sexist attack and more a criticism of pandering to the lowest common denominator that resulted in eight years of Bush at the helm.

    Any other reading, in my opinion, is a stretch.

  • Bartlettman

    He didn’t malign her for her ovaries. He said she is a person of mediocre merit and thus unsuitable for the position. He did not say “She is a woman, therefore she is unsuitable”. This is VERY clear from the context. You’re ignoring everything he clearly meant and instead interpreting the entire article on the basis of a single twinge of your hyper-sensitive sexism nerves.

    The central argument was unconcerned with her gender though I would grant that it was incautious of Harris to use language that could be percieved to be sexist by morons with a callous disregard for open discussion.

  • http://spgreenlaw.wordpress.com/ spgreenlaw

    It is possible (I’m not sure it is likely) that Harris did not mean for the phrase to be demeaning, but that doesn’t mean it is not. You can’t use a slur and then wish the negative history away by swearing wholeheartedly that it wasn’t used negatively in that particular case.

    I would be more inclined to accept it was just an error on his part in using that and one or two other questionable terms (Can someone tell me why the hell he mentioned the grandmother thing, if not as a dig? I’ve read the piece five or six times now, and I cannot figure it out.) in the article if he brought up one reason why Palin was unqualified for the role of Vice President.

    All I see are comments that relate back to her sex. Comments that have a sordid past that the author has got to be painfully aware of.

  • http://spgreenlaw.wordpress.com/ spgreenlaw

    Barttleman:

    Actually, I’m not ignoring what Harris meant. I know what he meant (and largely agree with him) and now I am saying that he could have done a much better job arguing it. I think the use of the phrase was sexist because of its past, just like calling upon any of racially charged caricatures that our nation has developed would be racist. Harris’ particular use of the word does not erase, and cannot be separated from, its much more vast historical context. Are the Obama-as-monkey dolls acceptable, even if the maker honestly did not mean to evoke any derogatory reference?

    I hardly have a callous disregard for open discussion. I’m glad we can have discussions like these; I think they’re important. I’m certainly not trying to censor Harris or anyone else. But I reserve my right to point out when I think someone did something that is wrong. By all means, disagree, we all learn something from the conversation.

  • SarahH

    spgreenlaw: I hear what you’re saying, and I agree that some words and phrases cannot be severed from their history in our language. I agree that Harris (admittedly) used sexist language in his article, although I do believe his claim that he would have used sexist language about a male candidate with similar interests/beliefs (i.e. “lumberjack” and “frat-boy”).

    He did it because evocative language keeps people reading instead of skimming. Controversial topics tend to lend themselves to a different flavor of journalism than run-of-the-mill issues. It sucks, but it’s not restricted to sexism or racism or classism – it’s simply about what captures modern readers’ attention.

    I still think the main story here is SP’s history, beliefs, character, etc. and the very real possibility that she could end up serving as the US President, and Harris drove that point home quite well, IMO.

  • Bartlettman

    The grandmother thing was probably meant as a humourous juxtaposition to “girl next door”.

  • http://spgreenlaw.wordpress.com/ spgreenlaw

    SarahH:

    Perhaps that sort of language is what it takes to get people to read. Dog knows that I hated writing AP style, inverted pyramid drivel in my journalism courses. I still think its important that we point out when derogatory language is used.

    But yes, the bigger story is definitely about how absolutely terrifying it is that Palin could be in the White House and it’s important we don’t lose track of that possibility. I didn’t mean to distract from that with my critique. This is a looming danger that should worry all of us secular types. *shudders*

  • Aj

    spgreenlaw ,

    In context Harris’s use of the phrases in question is not sexist. I doubt he would have even had to explain himself to reasonable people, they would have understood first time. Throughout the piece Harris uses clichés and the “girl next door” archtype to describe McCain’s motivation to pick her. To criticize the words he uses, not the meaning, in terms of meaning, is completely illogical.

    It’s this postmodern bullshit that gives feminism a bad name. It’s ignorant and simplistic. Words are meaning carriers. Meanings of words are not: a) static, b) innate, and c) dependent on who uses the words. If you have problems understanding this, then you also have big problems with metaphor and sarcasm to name but a few concepts.

    That someone who is part of a group can use terms denigrating that group isn’t because the meaning necessarily changes because of it. It’s because of the in-group, out-group paranoia that is inevitable. It is due to a generalisations, predictions of the probability the intent in terms of positive and negative. As a convention it has little to do with meaning, it’s purely about diplomacy.

  • llewelly

    Sam Harris fails to justify his credulous acceptance of the myth that McCain’s pick of Palin will win over Hillary Clinton fans. Palin’s politics are the opposite of Clinton’s in so many ways, and say what you will about Clinton’s fans, but most of them are savvy on abortion-related policies, and the prospect of VP Palin will only make them more loyal to Clinton’s ‘McCain, no way, no how.’ declaration.
    Further, Sam Harris distracts from his own most important arguments against Palin, like Palin’s anti-science stance, by referring to her as the ‘girl next door’. His claim that it can’t be sexist because it was vetted by four women, not only does not follow, but fails to address the fact that whether Palin is a ‘girl next door’ is irrelevant to any sane consideration of whether she is fit for the office of VP. He claims he intended to draw attention to the fact that Palin is inexperienced, but instead his use of ‘gender-slanted language’ distracted, and weakened his numerous valid arguments against Palin.
    If the sexist language in his piece is an isolated occurrence, I don’t think Sam Harris’ piece makes him a ‘sexist pig’ by any means, but he clearly erred here; he used sexist language (presumably) by mistake, and he made sexist assumptions about how women think.
    I don’t see any evidence of ‘Obamamania’ in either piece. On this his response is cogent and on target.

  • Bartlettman

    I don’t agree that the Obama monkey dolls and Harris’s characterisation of Palin as a “girl next door” are equivalent. For one, Obama is not campaigning on the platform that he has the social and physical charactistics of an actual monkey.

    Sarah Palin and the republicans actually appear to be attempting to construct the image that Harris is, I think humourously, lampooning.

  • Almond

    Spgreenlaw is right. The first impression I got from the article was that Sam Harris is dismissing Palin because she’s a woman, not because of her lack of qualifications. He also seemed to imply that women voters will indiscriminately vote for a woman.

    I thought his response to the criticism clarified his position, but the first statement would have been much stronger if it had focused on competence rather than on gender.

    I also wonder why someone who has such a high regard for “open discussion” has to resort to calling those who disagree with him “morons.”

  • llewelly

    He didn’t malign her for her ovaries.

    The real indicator of sexism in Harris’ piece is not his comments about Palin, but how he maligned Hillary Clinton supporters by his credulous acceptance of the debunked myth that they would flip to McCain because they are ‘gender-obsessed’ and ‘vote entirely on the basis of chromosomes’. Those two remarks are clearly sexist. They are not debatable in the sense that the ‘girl next door’ and ‘grandmother’ remarks might be.

  • http://spgreenlaw.wordpress.com/ spgreenlaw

    Aj:

    I really don’t mean to wear out my welcome at this blog so this will probably be my last comment on the subject, unless someone can bring something new to the table. There is a lot to be said on this subject, but others can say it.

    As I said before, Harris’ use of the word is not ahistorical. Yes, words are meaning carriers, and they are in flux. Words have such rich meaning and subtext because of their historical use and their development, and whatever intention Sam’s use has, his context does not override everything that came before him. To claim that sort of special snowflake status is intellectually lazy and/or dishonest.

    Oh, and I’m definitely not a fan of post-modernist silliness, I really fail to see what that has to do with anything.

  • Karen

    I read that this morning and I knew he was going to get slammed on the sexist thing.

    Frankly I think it would have been more effective if he hadn’t used that kind of language. It only takes away from the very valid points he was making, and gives his critics something to focus on and invalidate his main point.

    That said, he’s one of the first people I’ve seen to specifically bring up the fact that SP is poorly educated. That’s a big problem for me and I’m glad its being raised.

  • Aj

    llewelly,

    His claim that it can’t be sexist because it was vetted by four women, not only does not follow…

    He did not claim that. He did seek opinions from personally interested parties on the matter though. I think he was trying to show his intentions, which were not to express sexism, thus no sexism occured.

    …but fails to address the fact that whether Palin is a ‘girl next door’ is irrelevant to any sane consideration of whether she is fit for the office of VP…

    The archtype does have attributes that could be considered disadvantages to being a VP. This is irrelevant because that’s not what Harris meant in the first place.

    …but instead his use of ‘gender-slanted language’ distracted, and weakened his numerous valid arguments against Palin.

    His use of language may have weakened his rhetoric because it offends some people. The arguments are fine.

    The case might be made that language is slanted, but it’s a cultural phenomenon. Seems a bit pedantic to criticize the article for that.

  • Bartlettman

    Almond,
    You’re right, I shouldn’t have called spgreenlaw a moron on so little basis.
    Sorry sp.

    llewelly,
    On PUMA’s you may be right, they might not actually exist. To say however, that there is no significant proportion of people willing to vote on the basis of silly reasons like novelty or politeness or “the way the nice lady smiles” without much regard to policy is to give the entirety of the voting public too much credit, which I think was his point.

  • Aj

    spgreenlaw,

    As I said before, Harris’ use of the word is not ahistorical. Yes, words are meaning carriers, and they are in flux. Words have such rich meaning and subtext because of their historical use and their development, and whatever intention Sam’s use has, his context does not override everything that came before him. To claim that sort of special snowflake status is intellectually lazy and/or dishonest.

    That said, he’s one of the first people I’ve seen to specifically bring up the fact that SP is poorly educated. That’s a big problem for me and I’m glad its being raised.

    I’ve only heard this type of craziness from postmodernism. If you’re going to accuse him of sexism then it better well be because of his meaning and intention. Not because of historical meanings or intentions. Not because of the meanings and intentions of someone else. That is the height of dishonesty. It’s completely bat shit.

  • http://spgreenlaw.wordpress.com/ spgreenlaw

    Bartlettman:

    Not a problem. It happens. :)

  • http://spgreenlaw.wordpress.com/ spgreenlaw

    Aj:

    I said the phrase was sexist. If the words are to have any meaning, it must be derived from previous usage. Harris may or may not be sexist, I never claimed to know. In fact, I stated that I was not sure of his motivation for using the phrase. That does not change the fact that the term has sexist implications.

    And now, I’m going to go to sleep.

  • http://micketymoc.bluechronicles.net/ micketymoc

    “whatever intention Sam’s use has, his context does not override everything that came before him. To claim that sort of special snowflake status is intellectually lazy and/or dishonest.”

    It’s just as “intellectually lazy and/or dishonest” to critique Harris’ use of words without taking his intended context into account first.

    Freud once said “a cigar is just a cigar”. A “girl next door” can be just that, a stock character that can be read within the writer’s intended context (“Americans have an unhealthy desire to see average people promoted to positions of great authority”, as per Harris).

    You’re perfectly within bounds to decry Harris’ use of historically loaded words while ignoring the context in which they are used… just as I’m perfectly within bounds to believe that such politically-correct wowserism is humorless, detrimental to open discussion, and exactly what the Republicans are counting on: that legitimate criticism will be rubbed out by the “angry left’s” own friendly fire against thoughtcrime no matter how improbable.

  • Samuel SKinner

    Wow… that was a really stupid argument. Here is a hint you guys- this is the US. Holding the average voter to be dumber than imaginable isn’t an unreasonable tack. Probably wrong, but the past couple years have given no ground for optomism.

    Any way, for a list of continuing screw ups, this gives a good number
    http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewforum.php?f=22

    My personal favorite? This:
    http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?t=126225
    Her husband was in a party dedicated to having Alaska secede from the union and with links to a theocratic party. Oh, she did some adds for them.


    No, I am NOT making this up.

  • J Myers

    Is anyone watching her speech right now? What a vapid, irritating twit… seems to be doing her best to justify all criticism heretofore levied against her.

  • Aj

    spgreenlaw,

    I said the phrase was sexist.

    A phrase is only sexist if its meaning is sexist. That is refering to the person expressing sexism, not the phrase itself. A phrase carries meaning, it does not have meaning beyond that. It does not have meaning outside the context of communicator.

    If the words are to have any meaning, it must be derived from previous usage.

    What universe do you live in? I’m wondering how you’re going to explain the existance of new words, new meaning, or how language started. Intellectually lazy you say?

    You weren’t basing your criticism of the phrase on previous usage anyway. You criticized him for using the word “girl” instead of woman, refering to past discrimation unrelated to any previous meaning of the phrase. Slanted terminology against women, loaded terms, I understand. Your charges however, I don’t understand at all.

    Furthermore the previous usage still doesn’t make a phrase sexist. It’s the previous usage that was sexist, that is sexist. I am fully aware that much of the time we base our understanding of words on previous usage. That is not how meaning is derived, it is derived from the intension of the communicator. Any other meaning is a mistaken, and it’s the true meaning that determines whether it’s sexist or not.

    That does not change the fact that the term has sexist implications.

    I don’t think you quite understand the common meaning of the word “implication”, or perhaps you’re using a new meaning I am unaware of.

  • lynn

    This argument over sexism has completely ignored the fact that she was chosen primarily because of her gender. McCain HAS to make up the female vote in order to win, and he had to choose a female VP candidate to do it. Sam Harris made the point much better without saying it explicitly: she was chosen because she is a woman. No man, no matter how handsome, friendly, or charismatic, can put that kind of face on a campaign.

    But because he said it implicitly, without stating the damned obvious fact that she was chosen for her gender, he’s being sexist? Give me a break.

    As for past history of words, “gay” never meant anything remotely resembling “homosexual” 50 years ago. Meanings change.

    That said, my opinion on the matter is this: the most important things right now are international politics and the separation of church and state, because those are the places where the balance is unsteady. (The economy will right itself if we fix our debt; Obama’s the one who might actually realize that we have to pay down our debt or the dollar will crash. It also might be too late anyway, in which case international politics are the most important thing.) A creationist is a deal-breaker for me — I wasn’t going to vote for McCain regardless, but I’ll vote against him and his anti-abortionist, pro-abstinence-only-education, religion-is-the-backbone-of-our-country VP rather than try and help the Libertarian Party to 6% of the vote.

    Not that it matters; I’m in Illinois.

  • http://odgie.wordpress.com Odgie

    So let me get this straight:

    Harris takes issue with McCain’s pandering to female voters, but Obama’s pandering (if in fact it is, which we don’t know for certain)is perfectly understandable?

    Pandering is pandering kids, and it is repulsive no matter who does it.

  • Aj

    Odgie,

    Harris takes issue with McCain’s pandering to female voters, but Obama’s pandering (if in fact it is, which we don’t know for certain)is perfectly understandable?

    Pandering is pandering kids, and it is repulsive no matter who does it.

    Devils in the details. Obama is giving the wrong impression, minor dishonesty. McCain chose that as his VP, who would have to step in if he were to croak.

    He literally says its pandering is repulsive to him, he didn’t take that back. However, that it implies he is less religious is a good thing for us. What does it imply about McCain?

  • http://odgie.wordpress.com Odgie

    Aj,

    Harris said that Obama’s pandering is repulsive but “understandable.”

    And I don’t excuse Obama’s dishonesty as minor, if it is dishonesty. (Side note: where did this idea come from that Obama is faking belief, anyway?) And atheists shouldn’t excuse it either. Do you want a non-believing president who is afraid to identify himself as such? That’s not going to do much for non-believers in this country.

    I’m a believer myself; but I have never cared much about the supposed faith of our leaders. Elections are not about selecting the “pastor-in-chief”.

    I am voting for Obama this time because I agree with most of his policies, and I think that McCain has given up everything that once made him a compelling figure in order to get the support of the GOP.

    I don’t need a president to endorse my faith. But I am going to be very dissapointed if it comes out that Obama is faking his belief. Not because that indicates that he is an atheist or agnostic, but because he pandered to get votes. And pandering is pandering whether it’s “your guy” or “their guy” who does it.

  • http://www.mindblink.org Linda

    He literally says its pandering is repulsive to him, he didn’t take that back. However, that it implies he is less religious is a good thing for us. What does it imply about McCain?

    Aj, I don’t mean to be picking on you, but yours just happens to be the last comment that got me thinking…

    Is religion the only issue that will affect your votes?

    That’s just how these discussions always sound to me… We all seem to want to vote for who will most benefit our particular interest (in this case, atheism) rather than who will best lead our country. I see this over at the Christian camp as well. And the women’s camp, the Mexican camp, the Asian camp, the African-American camp, the blue-collar camp, the corporate camp, etc. etc. etc…

    Isn’t there a bigger picture? Does it always have to be only about WIFM (what’s in it for me)?

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ hoverFrog

    It worries me and I’m halfway round the world.

  • Sherilyn

    This comment section is a perfect example of why the Democrats struggle as much as they do. The liberals are too busy arguing about inane politically correct contexts to stay on message, a talent the conservatives have honed to a sharp talent.

    Call her anything you want…any way you want. Even the remote possibility of her becoming President scares the SHIT out of me.

  • ash

    frankly, if Palin was the girl next door to me…i’d move.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    Not that dissing the Fundy isn’t fun but shouldn’t Democratic supporters concentrate on Joe Biden. I mean all this talk about Palin and her daughter and mad ideas about God making the world distracts from the good choice that Obama made with Biden. Slagging Palin off advertises her and makes Obama supporters look like a bunch of argumentative tossers.

    I was on a blog last night and the conservative blogger was laughing about how much fuss was being made about Palin. She rightly said that talking about her fixes the Republicans in people’s minds. They might vote for her side in-spite of her flaws because they are familiar with her plus points. That’s worrying because I don’t want my nation having a “special relationship” with someone who thinks we once walked with dinosaurs.

    Biden has many good points, not least of which are experience and strong foreign policy skills. The fact that he’s a white man is irrelevant as much as the fact that Palin is a white woman. I’d like to hear more about him and let the crazy Fundy disappear into quiet obscurity.

  • mikespeir

    I understand Sarah Palin is Assemblies of God. I grew up in that fellowship. There are some awfully nice folks in it–none of whom I’d want as my president.

    I’ve stated before on this site, and got some criticism for it, that I intended to vote for McCain. I think that’s changed now. Sarah Palin is somebody I wouldn’t mind knowing personally, but I don’t want her within a stone’s throw of the Presidency.

  • Aj

    Linda,

    Is religion the only issue that will affect your votes?

    No. Why would you think that when I speak on an issue it’s the only issue?

    Odgie,

    There won’t be a nonbelieving president that identifies themselves. A little dishonesty in this case is understandable. I don’t agree that Obama is a nonbeliever. He doesn’t seem to know what his pastor preaches, while playing up his friendship and membership.

    hoverFrog,

    She is a blank slate, no one knew anything about her. The Democrats have the opportunity to frame her before the Republicans do. Once this is done, it’s not easily undone. There is plenty of time to talk about Biden.

  • http://www.mindblink.org Linda

    No. Why would you think that when I speak on an issue it’s the only issue?

    AJ,

    I said “your comment got me thinking…”

    Why would you assume that I was referring to you (AJ) when I said “your?” Also, I said “votes,” which indicates more than one person.

    And is that not the issue most often addressed when you’re (again, the general you here) talking politics?

    What gets voiced is what gets assumed by the perceiver. In my opinion, that is why every time we see something reported on the news, we think it’s much bigger than it is. We think we’re seeing the majority, when it’s only the vocal minority. (Didn’t we talk about this somewhere before?)

    Therefore, when I send people to this blog to see how smart and “just like us” the atheists are; and they see two girls wrestling in a bikini to promote a book, they assume that I’m a lunatic.

    All of us are very quick to make judgments and assumptions without seeing what else could be underneath. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, Blink, refers to this as “thin-slicing.”

  • Aj

    Linda,

    Why would you assume that I was referring to you (AJ) when I said “your?” Also, I said “votes,” which indicates more than one person.

    I’ve voted more than once, I have “votes”.

    What gets voiced is what gets assumed by the perceiver. In my opinion, that is why every time we see something reported on the news, we think it’s much bigger than it is. We think we’re seeing the majority, when it’s only the vocal minority. (Didn’t we talk about this somewhere before?)

    Your point is correct, looking at a tiny slice of what we express on one blog is not going to represent a fair picture. This blog is a political blog, and its theme is atheism. A feminist blog, or a socialist blog, would have different discussions.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    AJ said:

    The Democrats have the opportunity to frame her before the Republicans do. Once this is done, it’s not easily undone. There is plenty of time to talk about Biden.

    I disagree. The Republicans are framing her at the same time as the Democrats. Both sides are making a fuss about Palin and reacting to one another’s comments and assertions. while you do this Joe Biden might be saying something interesting that get’s ignored or forgotten.

    I know that smearing your opponent is all part of politics but I really, really hate it, The idea that you can best explain your point of view by pointing out the weaknesses in some one else’s point of view is just wrong. All you end up doing is pointing out that the other person is wrong without ever getting to say where you are better. That makes voters lose respect for politics and treat it like a popularity contest. We’re going in the direction of voting for leaders by Big Brother or X Factor, not debate and discussion. That’s what you get for living in a media obsessed world.

  • Kate

    http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/09/03/gergen-palin-delivers/

    CNN called her the “girl next door” and that was in a positive review of her speech…

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    I really don’t want to live in America any more. Sigh. I mean that seriously, although right not it does not seem possible for me to move away unless I get divorced (not happening) because Mr. Writerdd is not ready to leave.

  • Jason

    Can anyone comment on Harris’ statement that Palin believes the earth is 6000 years old? I have only found articles quote her ignorance about teaching the ‘controversy’ but nothing that outed her as a full blown creationist or a full blown denier of evolution. Granted this may seem trivial but I’m curious if she’s just ignorant of science and trying to play to the conservative christians while she actually thinks the earth might be a few billion years old? Or is she really a nutjob young earth creationist who knows she can’t say that she denies evolution so let’s give equal time to creationism.

  • Karen

    I disagree. The Republicans are framing her at the same time as the Democrats. Both sides are making a fuss about Palin and reacting to one another’s comments and assertions. while you do this Joe Biden might be saying something interesting that get’s ignored or forgotten.

    I’m all for taking the high road and I completely commend Barack & his team for doing so over the past few days. They have set a terrific example that I’m sure people are noticing, even though it’s in the background.

    The big problem with American politics is that the decisions tend to get made by a narrow slice of uninformed, basically uninterested voters. You’ve got a heavily entrenched conservative group of strongly religious people who will vote for whomever their pastor tells them to.

    Then you’ve got a larger, but far messier group of Democrats who have for the past couple of decades been largely derailed by internal bickering and lack of “message discipline” that the Republicans have mastered so well.

    So those two sides face off rather unyieldingly and things get decided by this amorphous group of so-called “independents” – read: Not well-informed and not paying much attention.

    I mean, come on. If you’re still truly undecided in this incredibly long slog that has gotten unprecedented attention and where the issues couldn’t be more stark, you can’t be very serious about politics.

    So the unfortunate fact is that those who want to win have to snag the attention of this group that’s not paying attention, isn’t well-versed on the issues and tends to react to personality and “story.” That’s why McCain chose Palin – he thinks she’s got a great story (Hey – she knows how to kill a moose!) and figures that the dunderheads won’t worry about the fact that she has no national or international experience. Hey – she was a beauty queen! She was a basketball star!

    His decision was incredibly dangerous and cynical. I hope it backfires on him, but like I said given that the whole thing depends on people who aren’t well-informed and who react emotionally rather than intellectually, it’s a crap shoot.

  • Richard Wade

    writerdd, where would you go? There’s no safe haven anywhere. I’d prefer fighting it out right here rather than being chased around the globe by superstitious fanatics and end up huddling in a yurt in Iceland. We need your intelligent and articulate voice here and now, where the decisions that are made affect the whole planet. You influence several people and they influence others in turn. All that would be lost if you sent yourself out to pasture in some illusory Shangri-La. If we all moved to the mythical island of Athea this country would be a nightmarish theocracy practically overnight and soon the world would be burned to a crisp in an all-out war with Islam.

    The older I get the more tired of struggling I get, but I also have less to lose by standing up and resisting. Less life expectancy gives me more freedom to take risk. So I’ll just be be more grim and more determined. Fight the good fight with us. You have nothing better to do.

  • Julie Marie

    I’ve voted republican in every election since the 80s. Now I find myself donating to a democrat in a state I don’t live in, and seriously contemplating voting for a democrat for Pres. One thing is for sure: McCain lost my vote by his VP choice. There are plenty of women he could have chosen if he wanted a female running mate. What he was looking for is a pacifier for the religious right. It appears that he found one.

  • Finn

    Why is the response to “that was sexist/racist/whatever” always “No it wasn’t!!”? He admitted it was, and deliberately. (We can argue about whether it’s okay to make sexist remarks about sexist remarks – “It’s fine to be sexist about Palin because the Republicans are! In fact, that she was nominated at all was a sexist act based on their assumption that people love Hilary because she’s female and Barack because he’s black, so they needed a ‘special interests’ candidate to balance it out!” – some other time.) Let’s move on with our lives and all agree the idea of Palin being elected is terrifying.

    It’s this postmodern bullshit that gives feminism a bad name.

    Wow, Aj, really? “You, an individual I presume to be a feminist (or acting like one, LOL!), took issue with this statement, therefore your actions are indicative of why the entire group has a bad name.” Why don’t you just say what you mean – “Every time a woman bitches about sexism, it reinforces my belief that all women are too sensitive about sexism.” Replace women and sexism with minorities and racism or any other group at your leisure. Hey, here’s one – “Every time one of you atheists points out religious privilege, I’m going to sigh wearily and point out that bullshit like this gives atheism a bad name.” Except, wait, atheists are all individuals with their own opinions on things, yeah? And feminists are a hive mind so it’s okay to apply stereotypes to them and chide one for giving the entire group “a bad name.” I forgot.

    Anyway, spgreenlaw, you’re not the only one who flinches every time something sexist comes up in this blog (and it seems to happen with regularity).

    This comment section is a perfect example of why the Democrats struggle as much as they do. The liberals are too busy arguing about inane politically correct contexts to stay on message, a talent the conservatives have honed to a sharp talent.

    You have this backwards. Please read PZ’s latest comments on this exact topic. It’s the liberals taking the conversation off the issues and into a sexist wonderland at fault here, not the people who point out their bigotry – I mean, “political incorrectness.” As others have said, even in this thread, it’s extremely easy to criticize Palin without stooping to sexist tactics, and it’s also quite possible to point out the sexist attitude inherent in her nomination without being sexist yourself.

  • Aj

    Finn,

    He admitted it was, and deliberately.

    Where did you find it? Maybe you pulled it out your… behind.

    “You, an individual I presume to be a feminist (or acting like one, LOL!), took issue with this statement, therefore your actions are indicative of why the entire group has a bad name.”

    a) You assume that I didn’t read their blog and gain such information?

    b) I did not say their conduct revealed anything about feminism.

    I am beginning to see a pattern. Stop making shit up.

  • Gullwatcher

    Was this a little sexist? Yes. Is it okay anyway? Yes, in my book. The difference is that there is sexist to make a point and sexist from the heart – and this was the former, not the latter.

    Likewise, the difference between Obama’s pandering and McCain’s pandering is that Obama’s won’t put a scary idiot next in line to the presidency. Again, it’s a matter of degree, and those do exist, it’s not always black and white.

    For a great take on the Republicans, sexism, hypocrisy, and Sarah Palin, don’t miss this from the Daily Show.

  • llewelly

    Can anyone comment on Harris’ statement that Palin believes the earth is 6000 years old?

    Palin supports ‘teaching both’ . That doesn’t really answer your question. Perhaps she should be bombarded with letters asking her the age of the Earth.

  • Roland B

    Uhh… why is it sexist?

    So, let me simply declare that I would be overjoyed to have a qualified woman in the White House. I would, likewise, be overjoyed to have a qualified African American in the White House. In fact, I would be overjoyed to have a qualified WASP man…

    The part he expresses concern about voting by chromosome I think applies to man as well. The problem right now as I see it, is that people are finding it a need to vote for a woman just because she is a woman. I think its because Hillary promoted herself more as a woman than Obama as a black male and this left a sour aftertaste to those who wanted to vote for her because she was a woman.
    Don’t vote for Obama because he is black, nor for McKinney (Green Party) because she is a woman, nor for McCain for his age… vote for whoever you want to because they make sense to you.
    From as far as I see it, it seems that Obama seems to be an atheist in the closet.

    Cheers to the rational,

  • Sherilyn

    You have this backwards.

    I don’t think I do.

    There are umpteen posts here about whether or not someone somewhere was sexist in regards to Palin. An argument that really has no bearing on anything that has to do with her nomination and eventual possible election to high office. The liberals can’t even agree with each other long enough to condemn her because they are so concerned about condemning the possibility that someone somewhere said something sexist. The rest of his points have been largely ignored..the sexism brought out the beast.

    Harris isn’t the problem. Palin is. McCain definitely is. Harris who?

  • lynn

    For the love of little green apples, people!

    MEN AND WOMEN ARE DIFFERENT.

    If somebody talked about “the boy next door” and said a man was “a gentleman” we would not be having this discussion. (Yes, “boy” has a different history than “girl”, and as I pointed out earlier, meanings of words change.)

    Sarah Palin is a woman and she herself has harped on her gender, calling herself a “hockey mom” and very obviously speaking from a mom’s point of view. She does this deliberately, it is very obvious if you listened to even half her speech (I had to stop when she laughed at Obama daring to care about getting the wrong guy for terrorism) that this is what she’s there for. She made it blatantly obvious when McCain introduced her as his VP pick and she gave lip service to Hilary Clinton who, let me see if I remember this right, “put [some huge number of] cracks in the glass ceiling, but we’re going to shatter that glass ceiling once! and for! all!” This is the role she’s embraced, quite strongly, because she knows how important it is to the McCain campaign to get women’s votes (and to get back the votes of social conservatives, which is the other major reason she was chosen).

    People talk all over about Obama’s race. This is because he is — wait for it — the first even half-black person to win a presidential nomination. Of course people are going to talk about her gender. IT’S IMPORTANT! And of course people are going to use gender-specific references and figures of speech when they talk about her, positively or negatively. They do it with men all the damn time, but nobody notices because we’re used to it.

    And she and all the other Republicans can harp on her gender all they want and it’s not sexist, but the moment somebody includes gender-specific references in their criticism of her, suddenly people are screaming about sexism? Why am I the only goddamn (sorry, habit) person who actually has a problem with the fact that she was chosen primarily because she’s a woman? That’s sexism!

  • lynn

    Oh, and the Daily Show has been absolutely awesome for both conventions. I can’t wait to see tonight’s show.

  • http://micketymoc.bluechronicles.net/ micketymoc

    O new politically correct overlords… I’m still allowed to think that this cartoon is hysterically funny, right? No? OK then.

  • lynn

    Wow….micketymoc. That was absolutely hilarious!

    Course I might be more inclined to laugh seeing as that was one of my first thoughts when I saw who McCain had picked. “What, is he planning a sitcom?”

  • http://micketymoc.bluechronicles.net/ micketymoc

    “Next on Everybody Loves President Grandpa… just as the Vice President and her husband’s former business partner enjoy some ‘executive privilege’ in a West Wing closet, the President conducts a peace treaty signing with Georgia… in the same room! How’s the Veep gonna get out of this sticky wicket?”

  • http://micketymoc.bluechronicles.net/ micketymoc

    I just realized… I said “hysterically”, which is another historically sexist term! Using spgreenlaw’s logic, references to “hysteria” are sexist because hysteria was historically ascribed to women with disturbed uteruses!

    Damn it, being politically correct is so much more difficult than I thought!