The Difference Between Us And Them

Culture, Politics & Current Events

I've been reading political sites and blogs and twitter feeds and such for years now. Thanks to all of that reading, and some deep thought, I think I finally understand the key distinction in American politics.

I understand the difference between Us and Them.

You know who I mean. You're one of Us, right? And that guy — and those people — they're part of Them.

So.  What have I learned about the difference between Us and Them?

  • They nauseate me.  They hate what's good about America and its people.  They can't be trusted.  They are mean-spirited, frankly stupid, gullible, and generally deluded.  They are evil, and They just suck.  That's why we're at war with Them.   We have to go to war, because They are coarsening the dialogue in America, demonizing Us, and dehumanizing Us, and making it impossible to participate in civil debate.
  • They are constantly saying vile, racist and sexist, and threatening things about Us.  That's unacceptable.   To make things worse, because They don't understand humor, satire, parody, or context, and because They are willing to misconstrue things for political profit, They are constantly and unreasonably whining about Us of saying allegedly vile, racist, sexist, and threatening things about them.
  • They are associated with bad people.  Terrible people, with terrible, evil ideas.  You can tell They are associated with those bad people because They have accepted donations from the bad people, or have appeared at events with the bad people, or have hosted the bad people, or have said complimentary things on some occasions about the bad people, or have otherwise embraced the bad people.   From that, you can conclude that They embrace and agree with everything the bad people have ever said or done.  To make things worse, they are constantly playing disingenuous guilt-by-association games with Us, dishonestly trying to tar Us with everything Our supporters or associates ever did, even though no rational person would mistake association for endorsement.
  • They inspire people to do terrible things, things like murder, assault, and vandalism against Us, all committed by their die-hard supporters as a direct result of their ideas and as a reflection of Their values.  To make matters worse, when an isolated disturbed person commits some terrible act and, out of delusion, does it in Our name, they cynically use that tragedy against Us.
  • They are utterly hypocritical:  They are quick to point out every speck in Our eye despite the plank in Their own.  Plus, whenever We point out their terrible behavior, they descend to tu quoque and false equivalency.
  • They have no sense of humor.  Nor do they have any sense of decorum.
  • They are big-government types who want the state to control many aspects of Our lives.  Plus, their un-American values lead them to oppose Our sensible and popular legislation, which is necessary for the greater good.
  • They disdain the places that We live.  Sitting there, in their festering shitholes, they disdain them.
  • They are always trying to divert attention from flaws in their policies with distracting references to irrelevancies and appeals to emotion.  Also, one of Their campaign managers ran over a kitten and didn't stop.
  • Their values are contemptible, unpatriotic, harmful to America, and generally low.  Also, They have no respect for Our values.
  • They flip-flop, because They have no real values and will just say whatever the moment requires.  Meanwhile, They falsely accuse Us of flip-flopping:  they don't understand that Our changes of position reflect changed circumstances, or developing understanding, or political necessities endured for the greater good.
  • They pretend that They support women and minorities, but actually hold them in contempt, unlike Us.
  • They have no respect for the dead, and indulge Themselves in sick gloating whenever one of Us dies.  They further defame the dead by suggesting that Their dead are as good as Our dead, and that Their dead — terrible people who have done black deeds — are entitled to some sort of free pass when they die.
  • They are obsessed with sex, peccadilloes, and private matters of all sorts, attacking us for things that are none of the public's affair.  Also, they are perverts and cheats, which is crucial to understanding Them.
  • They are obsessed with things that happened decades ago, dredging up muck about Us that has nothing do with today's issues, but is offered just as a mindless attack.  That's what you'd expect from people with such awful morals.  You can see those morals in a lot of the things they did in the 1970s and 1980s; those things are essential to understanding how They act now.
  • They send people undercover to nitpick about Our plans and policies and actions.  That's called "Concern Trolling."  Meanwhile, They are inflexible, dogmatic, and unwilling to consider they may be wrong.

I almost forgot.  They think that They are the "Us" on this list, and that We are the "Them" on this list.

I just hate Them.

Don't you?

 

I may have forgotten some entries on this list.  I'll add them as I remember them.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

33 Comments

31 Comments

  1. TJIC  •  Mar 12, 2012 @3:25 pm

    That was masterful.

    Damn you for that.

  2. David  •  Mar 12, 2012 @3:39 pm

    There's objective evidence that they're bankrolling you so you'll provide them cover by shutting down analysis and preventing the truth from getting out. How can you be such a sell-out?

  3. VPJ  •  Mar 12, 2012 @3:55 pm

    Very well-written. I sure am glad you're on Our side.

  4. Dan  •  Mar 12, 2012 @3:58 pm

    They control the media

  5. Landru  •  Mar 12, 2012 @4:04 pm

    I'd take this post a lot more seriously if you weren't one of Them, Ken.

  6. C. S. P. Schofield  •  Mar 12, 2012 @4:10 pm

    Now, a question for the student; How is this different from politics as practiced throughout 90% of human history?

    When I hear somebody talking about how politics used to be more civil, I know I'm dealing with an historical illiterate. There have been periods when one faction or another had so much influence that they, briefly, effectively controlled the terms of debate. At all other times all involved factions have slanged each-other without reserve, often going to lengths that make the current ;level of 'incivility' look like a tiff at a sunday-school picnic.

  7. Marc J. Randazza  •  Mar 12, 2012 @4:19 pm

    Oh fer chrissakes… you're right.

    Now I gotta go think about how to be a better person and stop doing this shit… now that you make it seem so silly in so few words.

  8. Marc J. Randazza  •  Mar 12, 2012 @4:31 pm

    @ Landru – True, Ken may be guilty too (although I tend to see him as seeing the humanity of the other side better than many) but the first step in redemption is identifying the problem.

  9. John  •  Mar 12, 2012 @5:37 pm

    Thanks, Ken.

    With your permission, I'd like to recycle your wisdom — with attribution, of course.

  10. EH  •  Mar 12, 2012 @5:55 pm

    CSP: Sturgeon's Law

  11. Gail  •  Mar 12, 2012 @7:21 pm

    Also, when They are not living in festering shitholes, They live in gold-plated mansions built by slaves and powered by the tears of children. And They won't let Us live there!

  12. DL  •  Mar 12, 2012 @8:04 pm

    Great post and it really captures how tiresome it's all become.

    To @Dan's comment – For a while now, I have told friends I feel like we're living the movie "Wag the Dog" and it's getting old.

  13. mendel  •  Mar 12, 2012 @9:19 pm

    Reminds me of the Fitgerald quote about a first rate intelligence being able to hold two opposing ideas in mind and retaining the ability to function.

  14. John David Galt  •  Mar 12, 2012 @9:31 pm

    This amounts to a denial of any difference between right and wrong. I am very disappointed that you are so shallow.

  15. G Thompson  •  Mar 12, 2012 @9:46 pm

    Brilliant post Ken nearly as good as "FUNKSHUNEL ILLITERIT by the Dark Horde ;)

    Though for me, Us and Them can do their own thing… as long as no one calls me normal!

  16. gclason  •  Mar 12, 2012 @11:42 pm

    to C. S. P. Schofield: Well said. Some of the greatest statesmen in history have been thoroughly condemned by political opponents.

  17. Landru  •  Mar 13, 2012 @2:40 am

    @Marc Randazza: I was just flinging poo, actually. Ken's inherent Themness is really quite limited, in my humble but no doubt vital opinion.

  18. GDad  •  Mar 13, 2012 @5:30 am

    You didn't call out Their grooming, although that might be part of "decorum."

  19. Mark  •  Mar 13, 2012 @5:42 am

    *Hug*

  20. C. S. P. Schofield  •  Mar 13, 2012 @6:15 am

    gclason,

    Indeed, it might be said of politicians in general that if you aren't inspiring SOMEBODY to slang you in public, you aren't doing your job.

  21. Ken  •  Mar 13, 2012 @6:40 am

    Oh, JDG. I can always count on you.

  22. Slow Learner  •  Mar 13, 2012 @7:14 am

    It was quite blatant in I believe 17th and 18th Century Great Britain – the gradually forming Tory and Whig parties each referred to themselves as "the Party", and the other as "the Faction".
    Because of course the Party was based upon the sober consideration of the common weal, whereas the Faction was purely self-aggrandisement.

  23. mojo  •  Mar 13, 2012 @8:23 am

    "They. You know, them…"
    "Giant nine-foot ants? Seriously?"

  24. BCP  •  Mar 13, 2012 @12:50 pm

    Ken? . . . No, Ken, sit down for a minute. I know it’s strange seeing your friends and supporters gathered here in the comments section, seemingly poised to attack, but we are here because we want to help you.

    It’s like this, Ken: we think you are spending too much time reading anonymous comments on the Internet. I know it can be addictive, Ken. We have all been there. We all stop to gawk at a train wreck and we all rubberneck in traffic. There is no shame in that. But these Internet discussions are different, Ken. They change you. Most people who intake the volume of Internet discussions you do end up conforming, eventually, and becoming a part of the sounding board. You may think that because you are still able to separate the specious arguments from the rest, it’s not hurting you. You’re wrong.

    We all see it, Ken. Why can’t you? Does it make you happy, consuming this drivel? Do you think participating in anonymous discussions with the type of people who choose to argue over the Internet is going to benefit you? Do you think it benefits reason? Look at the facts, Ken. Internet commenters learn, adapt, and conform to the style of rhetoric already in play when they join a social networking site. The monster grows. It must.

    We all started the same way, Ken. The allure of the Internet political discussion is strong, and the unintentional comedy is, at first, irresistible. But the comedy gives way to tragedy as soon as you begin to contemplate the sheer numbers that make up the beast, and realize they cannot all be trolling; when you start to develop the ability to discern between those having fun and the true believers; when you do some back-of-the-envelope extrapolation; when you realize the true believers are numerous; when you determine reason holds no sway in this land. Here be dragons.

    Ken, you might think you are immune to the beast, and it is true you probably will never conform to its particular style of illogic, but the beast is still hurting you. It’s destroying your psyche. We care about you, Ken and we want you to be healthy. You don’t have to stop cold turkey. Spend a few bucks to get behind a paywall of a reputable journal or social network and interact for a time with people who have paid for the privilege (but remember the economic incentive makes them only very slightly better), look at pictures of cats with adorable misspelled captions, hang out and relax at zombo.com. Leave the lifestyle slowly if you must.

    But you must, Ken. Don’t do it for us. Do it for yourself.

  25. Ken  •  Mar 13, 2012 @12:52 pm

    That intervention would be terribly effective, BCP, except for the fact that you can find every one of these rhetorical techniques used by non-anonymous prominent political commentators.

  26. Smock Puppet, Lawyer Without Pants  •  Mar 14, 2012 @2:24 am

    >>> For a while now, I have told friends I feel like we're living the movie "Wag the Dog" and it's getting old.

    Sirrah, you have ALWAYS lived in the movie "Wag the Dog".

    You're just removing the scales from your eyes.

    In the immortal (ironic, yes) words of Socrates,
    "I drank what?"

    Real Genius.

  27. Smock Puppet, Lawyer Without Pants  •  Mar 19, 2012 @6:01 pm

    THIS would be the distinction between "US" (The Right) and "THEM" (The Left):

    Two Cheers for Double Standards

    While The Right is sometimes guilty of being hypocritical, they have the sense and the moral compass that leads them to be ashamed of it.

    Not to exclaim, openly, "It's OK because we're Better Than You."

    Stanley Fish is the epitome of postmodern liberals, by virtue of being a scum-sucking, hypocritical POS thug without the slightest sense of morality or decency.

    If the above seems harsh, it's appropriately so. Fish made it unquestionably true with this statement:

    It implies finally that might makes right. I can live with that.

  28. Eric Wilner  •  Mar 27, 2012 @2:42 pm

    And (impudent heathen!) They look upon We
    As a quite impossible They!

    – Kipling, "We and They"

    OK, so Kipling was writing of cultures foreign and domestic, rather than domestic factions. Sounds remarkably similar, though.
    Looking at specimens of the political left and the religious right serves to remind me that the early-20th-century "left" and "right" were just different factions of the same mass movement, and to a large extent they still are.
    Never been much of an Us or Them, myself. I always seem to end up being one of Those.

  29. Xenocles  •  Apr 4, 2012 @4:06 pm

    Thank you belatedly for this, Ken. It's the perfect response to a "TEAM X GOOD, TEAM Y BAD" post anywhere online. I just post the URL by itself.

  30. Ken  •  Apr 4, 2012 @4:07 pm

    Do I have you to thank for posting it at Volokh?

  31. Xenocles  •  Apr 4, 2012 @4:20 pm

    That was me, yes.

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