Bonhoeffer and the stupidity factor

You know how I have made this resolution to finally start reading all the good books around the house that I have asked for over the years? I don’t know how many there are, because they’re all over the place and I haven’t done an inventory.

But there’s one I need to move up on the list: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas.

I say that because something about the martyred theologian has been brought to my attention a couple of times in recent days.

It’s the fact that he considered stupidity to be more dangerous than evil. And in my book, when a guy who stood up to the Nazis and was executed for trying to rid the world of Hitler says something like that, we should sit up and take notice. Because he knew a thing or two about evil.

Here’s a quote:

“Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we have no defense. Neither protests nor force can touch it. Reasoning is of no use. Facts that contradict personal prejudices can simply be disbelieved — indeed, the fool can counter by criticizing them, and if they are undeniable, they can just be pushed aside as trivial exceptions. So the fool, as distinct from the scoundrel, is completely self-satisfied. In fact, they can easily become dangerous, as it does not take much to make them aggressive. For that reason, greater caution is called for than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.”

This addresses a question I’ve been pondering a good bit over the past six years — since, you know, 2016. I haven’t written that much about it, because I don’t feel like I can answer my own question — and raising it just gets people so upset. So what’s the point?

Oh, I’ve referred to it in passing. Deep down in a post, you can find me saying things like, So which is it: Is Trump evil, or stupid? Or rather, since he’s obviously both, which is the main problem? What are we dealing with?

Then, of course, the next logical step is to ask the same question regarding his supporters. Because Trump isn’t the actual problem. Trump was an idiot, and a slimeball, for decades, and we all knew it. He was famous for these characteristics. But no one took him seriously. He was just some gross clown at the edges of our society. Sort of a Kardashian, or one of those people on Jersey Shore.

Then, in a complete reversal of American political history up to that point, people started voting for him. So the question becomes, what happened to them — these voters? Yeah, we’d had a long buildup of gross, mindless partisanship for two or three decades leading up to it, and a lot of it was ugly, but what caused it all to go off a cliff in 2016?

I’ve written a good bit about that. But I’ve generally avoided that one question that keeps occurring to me: Is it evil, or stupidity?

Whenever I’ve been about to tackle it with some determination, I dismiss the question as itself being stupid: Obviously, both things are at work. There’s a lot of foolishness out there, and a lot of plain, rotten meanness.

And does it matter what label we put on it? Well, yes, I think so, at least on a moral plane. Being stupid doesn’t make you a bad person, does it? And yet, people often get more offended at being called stupid than evil, don’t they?

So why go there? These folks seem angry all the time anyway; why make it worse? The thing to do is try to think of something to do or say that would make things better, not just increase the massive heap of ill feeling in the world.

In fact, that’s the last thing I want. I want to turn down the temperature, calm everything down, get people to stop being furious and start listening to each other and learn how to live together. To stop thinking in terms of ones and zeroes, and start seeing each other as fellow humans.

But the fact that Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote these things makes it worth trying to understand better what he was thinking. He wasn’t some idiot Twitter partisan sniping at the “other side” to elevate his own side (“You people are stupid!” “No, we’re not; you are!”). This was a thinking, spiritual man willing to wrestle with moral complexity, and to give everything in that cause.

And there he was, face-to-face with the greatest evil of the past century, if not of all history. And he sat there in his prison cell and wrote that as bad as evil was, stupidity was the greater danger.

Of course, some of why he did this is self-evident: Nazism was stupid. It was an ideology for brutish, ticked-off people, for brawlers battling in the streets, outraged at their lot in life between the wars and wanting something that would show the rest of the world how wrong it was.

But of course, it was also evil as all get-out. Which parts were mainly evil, and which parts mainly stupid? And what was the relationship between the two factors, as they worked together to make horrors happen?

Seems worth exploring. So I need to read that book…

55 thoughts on “Bonhoeffer and the stupidity factor

    1. bud

      I’ve never heard of Eric Metaxes so I read his Wiki article. The guy is a big lie Trump supporting anti-vaxer. Not sure why Brad is enthralled with his writing.

  1. Keith

    Brad, I am a huge fan of Bonhoeffer. Inspiring life. Not sure if you have the time to respond but I was thinking about the “old” State Newspaper a few days ago. Great paper! I really enjoyed reading it but that paper is long gone now. Great example of you don’t know what you will miss until its gone. If you can say, what exactly led to the downfall of the State. Yes, I know local papers are a thing of the past but other “local” papers like the Post and Courier seem to be doing well. I’ll readily admit that I know very little about the newspaper business in general but would love to get your insight. Many thanks

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      The difference is this: The State is owned by a distressed company that made the mistake of buying Knight Ridder — a company that was bigger than it was — at the worst time in the history of newspapers. Like, moments before the whole industry went off a cliff in 2006.

      (When I say they made a mistake, I’m not really being critical, because at the time I was optimistic about the move. KR was collapsing and going to be sold to SOMEBODY, and there were a lot of options worse than McClatchy. I appreciate the fact that they tried. It just turned out to be the worst possible time to do it.)

      Meanwhile, the P&C is owned by an old, secure family with diversified business interests. To their credit, they haven’t just sat and relaxed while the industry collapsed around them; they have stepped forward boldly to fill the void.

      They are fortunate, but they are to be congratulated with what they have done with their good fortune. It’s good for South Carolina.

      Here’s a post I wrote about all that when Cindi Scoppe spoke to Rotary, right after she joined their editorial board. It goes into a bit more detail…

  2. Bryan Caskey

    The quote on power exercised by stupid vs. evil reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis:

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

    -C.S. Lewis

    1. Ken

      The American right-wing reading of this quote goes something like this:

      Democratically elected government acting in the public interest = tyranny.

      This is part of the perverse ideological foundation to the radicalization I note below.

      1. Barry

        slight change –

        Democratically elected government- if members of the Democratic Party are elected – acting in the public interest = tyranny.

        Democratically elected government – if members of the Republican Party are elected – the blessings of God and Jesus are with them.

    2. Barry

      “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. ”

      Sounds like the moral busybody Republican Party.

    3. Barry

      yesterday we learned that Neil Gorsuch has refused the request of John Roberts to wear a face covering during oral arguments.

      Sotomayor, who is 67 and sits next to Gorsuch, has been relegated to joining the court virtually from her office for oral arguments.

      Sotomayor has diabetes and is an increased risk of COVID health issues.

      When I read this I was a bit stunned. I can’t imagine, no matter how I feel about an issue, not putting a coworker’s health concerns above my own comfort or opinion. In fact, I’d go out of my way to make my coworker feel comfortable. I think most people would. But Gorsuch doesn’t seem to be one of those people.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        1. Barry

          A few obvious problems here

          The reporting never said Sotomayor asked Gorsuch anything.

          So their response was odd- denying something that wasn’t reported in the first place. Odd….

          Then Robert’s released a statement that said he didn’t request Gorsuch wear a face covering.

          The reporting didn’t say he asked him to wear it. The reporting was that Robert’s “in some form” made the request.

          Then later in the day, Robert’s made a statement to Fox News (of course he did) saying he hadn’t requested it and he’d be making no more statements.

          This obviously upset the Apple cart on the court. Hmmm. Interesting.

          Nina Totenberg reported it and afterwards said she would stick by her reporting (which she said had multiple sources)

          Not even her harshest critic would suggest she doesn’t have great sources at the court. She’s proven that for decades.

          The NY Times pointed out that the justices didn’t explain why Gorsuch was the only justice that was not wearing a mask or why Sotomayor was staying away from the courtroom.

          Totenberg also reported, in the same story, that the personal animosity between some justices had never been higher per long time court watchers. This wasn’t refuted by any justice.

      2. Doug Ross

        Oops. Once again, the media has turned anonymous sources into weapons of mass delusion. It was interesting watching liberals backpedal throughout the day yesterday. First Gorsuch and Sotomayer debunked the story. So liberals switched to “Yeah but Roberts asked him to wear the mask”. The Roberts said “No I didn’t” So they reverted to “Well, he should have worn one anyway because he is a bad, bad, bad conservative”.

        The reporter should be fired unless she reveals her “source”. Didn’t journalism once require corroborating sources?

        1. Barry

          Nah, They obviously didn’t debunk the story. Neither did Roberts. Not even close.

          As Michael Smerconish said this morning on his Sirius radio show, and as a few other court watchers mentioned yesterday, they released a statement pushing back on something that wasn’t reported. No one reported Sotomator requested Gorsuch do anything. Yet that is what their denial denied. Their statement also didn’t mention Robert’s at all- which again, was what was reported. That’s odd.

          As CNBC reported “ That statement did not address the key question of whether Roberts had asked the justices to wear masks. It denied that Sotomayor herself had asked Gorsuch to wear a mask, which is not what NPR reported.”

          They also didn’t explain why Gorsuch is the only one that doesn’t wear a mask or why sotomayor hasn’t rejoined them.

          Robert’s only denied asking. He didn’t deny that he made a request for consideration or that everyone adhere to health guidelines, or that everyone remain aware of health considerations of fellow members.

          Given the justices intimate knowledge of the importance of phrasing and verb tenses, the statement yesterday had holes big enough to drive Jonathan Turley’s ego through.

          Totenberg’s reporting was that he made the request “in some form.” She didn’t report he went around asking justices or demanded anything.

          I like what Michael said this morning.

          gorsuch is the only one not wearing a mask. Sotomayor sits next to him. She has refused to return to court in person or meet with the other justices in their weekly private meeting.

          NPR, citing court sources, stands by their reporting.

          As Michael said, “I have no doubt the reporting is true” and one of the main bits of evidence is the numerous statements the court put out yesterday. People report odd things about the court all the time and the court never responds. The NPR report touched a sore spot.

          The NPR report also mentioned that personal animosity on the court was as bad as anytime since the 1930s. No one denied that either.

          It’s clear the NPR report was accurate. Those denying it or just projecting their own bias.

          1. DOUGLAS ROSS

            Accurate in it’s attempt to present something that didn’t happen. And more legalistic spinning of language by NPR than a seasoned justice could ever fashion. NPR’s intent with this non-story was clear It is a bastion of liberal scolds pretending that they aren’t. It takes a special form of liberal brainwashing to ignore all the denials from the participants to fall back to “well, we know what Roberts meant”. The whole “in some form” excuse is classic spin. Totenburg got caught up in the clickbait. Sure she has multiple sources… Sure.. she got caught.

            1. Barry

              Oh it clearly happened. That’s clearly obvious.

              It was a good, insightful report.

              It was good to see the public editor back her up, especially after knowing who her sources actually were.

              I’m sorry that it made one of your Conservative justices look like a jerk. Reality is a tough deal sometimes.

          2. Barry

            Update Thursday evening posted at 5:31pm from NPR

            NPR’s public editor is quoted as saying “Totenberg’s story merits a clarification, but not a correction…. I believe her reporting was solid, but her word choice was misleading.”

            The story goes on to say that Roberts “asked” for a face covering to be worn but should have said he “suggested” that a face covering be worn.

            Totenberg is quoted in an updated story saying she had 2 sources who confirmed to her the story.

            The story states NPR Editors were aware of who those sources are and they stand by the story.

            The story also states that Totenberg’s reporting about the justices not getting along was not challenged.

            From the story….

            Totenberg and other Supreme Court Watchers know that executive messages are conveyed with subtlety and diplomacy, not be clear edict. Adding that small detail, along with more information about her sourcing and a more accurate verb, would have provided a fuller picture.

            The public editor stated that “her editors should have chosen a work other than “asked” and she could have been clear about how she knew there was subtle pressure to wear masks (the nature or even exact number of her anonymous sources) and what she didn’t know (exactly how Roberts was communicating).

            1. DOUGLAS ROSS

              Anonymous sources are as reliable as anonymous blog commenters. They can make up anything without any accountability. They’re usually people who lack the character to stand up for anything.

              1. Bryan Caskey

                I mean, who are you going to believe: Nina’s anonymous source or three Supreme Court Justices who went on the record?

                1. bud

                  I believe my own eyes. Gorsuch does not wear a mask. There are plenty of photos showing him as the only justice not to do so. Sotomayer has Type 1 diabetes. That is a well documented fact. That makes her a high risk person if exposed to COVID. She feels compelled to work remotely. This makes Gorsuch a jerk. Supreme court justices aren’t infallible and should not be accepted at their word. That is what they want people to believe. This cloak of virtue is unraveling. Doug and Bryan fell for it. Sorry guys. I find the NPR reporting compelling, if not perfect. Clearly the justices are having issues with each other.

                  1. Barry

                    Michael Smerconish didn’t call Gorsuch any names but he discussed this in-depth on his radio show and made a similar point.

                    He thought the denials from the Justices were amusing.

                    Michael is the best thing on radio these days. His legal background is impressive. (He’s friends with some of the attorneys that defended Trump in his 2nd impeachment trial).

                    He thought their denials of a claim that was never made against them was the most revealing part of the entire episode and showed that the reporting was indeed true.

                    He also was perplexed they released statements at all because they are accused of all sorts of things all the time.

                    That just didn’t make any sense and the report had to hit very close to home for him to do that.

                  2. Barry

                    Hey Bud

                    Did you see that Clarence Thomas was the only Justice that would have sided with Trump to keep some of his records private from the House Committee?

                    You probably saw the latest where his wife signed a letter to the House Minority Leader saying the January 6th rioters “did nothing wrong.”

                    . On Jan. 6, she was supporting the violence as it unfolded on her social media. When she discovered that screen captures were being circulated of her support for the rioters, she promptly deleted her Facebook account”

                    As some of us know, she has a long history of some pretty incendiary comments on social media.

                    Justice Thomas refused to recuse himself from deliberations in this case- a case his wife has been public about in her support of those that were committing the violence- Thomas predictably sided with Trump.

                    As he has in other decisions, he’s indicated support for virtually everything Trump has claimed or supported.

                    His most goofy comment came in a dissent when he wrote “”The decision to leave election law hidden beneath a shroud of doubt is baffling,”

                    As virtually everyone understands, many election outcomes can leave a shroud of doubt. Does he think the 2000 election didn’t have a shroud of doubt?

                    His pandering and lack of consistency is pathetic.

                2. Barry

                  Do you spend much time defending your clients against things they were never accused of?

                  Who am I going to believe? Well, it’s common sense.

                  I’m going to believe the reporter who has a near 5 decades history of reporting on the court and breaking stories that, at times, haven’t made things look wonderful.

                  Especially when her editors actually know her sources and, as a result, stand behind her story.

                  I think even Brad Warthen would say that’s really strong evidence indicating the reporter’s work is credible.

                  I’m especially going to believe the reporter over 2 Justices that defended themselves against a claim that wasn’t made in the first place.

                  and a Justice that tripped over himself to release a statement, then later had to release another one to further clarify himself – and even after all of that failed to say if he had encouraged anyone else to consider their colleagues health concerns

                  and even after all that, none of them uttered a word about a huge part of her story- that the Justices were not getting along and that it was as bad as it has been in 90 years.

                  But yeah- you of course can believe the 2 Justices that denied something they weren’t accused of. But that’s not remotely credible.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “and even after all that, none of them uttered a word about a huge part of her story- that the Justices were not getting along and that it was as bad as it has been in 90 years.”

                    “While we may sometimes disagree about the law, we are warm colleagues and friends”
                    -Justice Sotomayor and Justice Gorsuch

                    1. bud

                      I have to smile reading Bryan Doug defending a total jerk like Gorsuch. Clearly SCOTUS has a powerful incentive to protect this mantel of being a group of non partisan pals with zero rancor. But there is too much smoke to ignore the obvious. Even in their court writings the personal anger is on display.

                    2. Bryan Caskey

                      So you’re saying that Justice Sotomayor is lying in her statement of “we are warm colleagues and friends”, then? If so, what are her motives for this lie? What benefits does she obtain by this lie?

                    3. Barry

                      That part of the report didn’t single out Sotomayor and Gorsuch with regards to personal animosity.

                      So is their statement covering everyone on the court? Because it didn’t mention everyone.

                      Sorry Bryan, but your defense makes no sense.

                    4. Barry

                      Both of them are lying – or this was written by the public relations/communication staff.

                      There is no love lost between these two- and several others.

                      Sorry Bryan, not everyone is sticking their heads in the sand.

                      “What benefits does she obtain by this lie?”

                      Are you serious? Were you able to type this out without laughing?

                    5. Bryan Caskey

                      Ok, always good to know where folks stand with you.

                      Supreme Court Justices: Lying their pants off.
                      Nina’s Source: Totally Truthful

                      I have a different opinion, but hey, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.

                    6. Barry

                      Bud wrote

                      “Clearly SCOTUS has a powerful incentive to protect this mantel of being a group of non partisan pals with zero rancor. But there is too much smoke to ignore the obvious. Even in their court writings the personal anger is on display.”

                      I have to wonder if some people just don’t pay any attention.

                      Every justice there knows the worst thing in their entire world would be for the public to think they hate each other. They have an incredibly strong incentive to lie about anything personal.

                      The cutting comments from this court against each other are on display regularly.

                      Numerous court reporters and watchers have described this reality.

                      I’m not sure why Bryan has a hard time with this reality.

                      Do folks like Bryan think that employees at the court don’t talk to reporters, especially ones that have covered the court for decades?

                    7. Barry

                      “I have to smile reading Bryan Doug defending a total jerk like Gorsuch. ”

                      Notice how Bryan doesn’t explain- and has just ignored- why they denied something in their statement that wasn’t reported in the first place.

                    8. Barry

                      “Supreme Court Justices: Lying their pants off.
                      Nina’s Source: Totally Truthful”

                      Why can’t Justices lie?

                      Why do you accept their version over other people?

                      Do Justices have any incentive at all to lie about such a thing? Can you think of any reasons they would want to deny something like that at all costs?

                      Would they have any incentive to deny a story that accused one of the Justices of ignoring the health concerns of another Justice?

                      Have you seen, in the current pandemic, other examples of people – maybe people that surprised you – ignoring the health concerns of others?

                      Or, are you the only person that hasn’t seen people ignoring the health concerns of others with regards to face coverings?

                      Why did Gorsuch and Sotomayor’s statement deny something that wasn’t alleged?

              2. Barry

                Nonsense Doug.

                They aren’t anonymous sources. The reporter knows them- and as the public editor stated in the story- the reporter’s editors knows the sources.

                Oh, they stand up for a lot- they just stand up for things you hate and aren’t willing to see things your way.

                1. DOUGLAS ROSS

                  They are anonymous sources. Gutless, unaccountable sources. The story imploded on itself and now liberals have to create a completely different narrative.

    4. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, Bryan, thank you for that classic conservative take on do-gooderism.

      Lewis is sounding there very much like a man with his nose out of joint after a particularly irritating encounter with bureaucracy. We’ve all been there.

      And here’s what I think of his point: I think there is an inherent danger with doing good on the grand scale, because of the degree to which the human, personal factor is eliminated. When Jesus taught us to do good, it was generally in very up-close-and-personal examples — say, the Samaritan who stopped and interrupted his trip and opened his purse to provide direct, personal aid to the unfortunate victim.

      What the Samaritan did was extraordinary, and a very high mark to shoot for. Whenever I hear or read the story, I don’t really condemn the priest or the Levite who failed to stop, because the tendency to mind one’s own business and keep moving is so powerful in us weak humans. The Samaritan was not only good and kind and generous, but brave to do what he did. (Especially in the eyes of an introvert like me.) And yet Jesus didn’t so much hold him up as a hero; he was just saying, “This is what a neighbor does.” It’s what we all owe to our neighbors.

      That’s doing good at its purest. That’s the best way to help. And a lot of conservative folks will hold it up as the only way. Let’s do good at the local soup kitchen, or through our churches, and leave it at that.

      The problem is that you end up inadequately addressing broader problems in society, if you limit yourself to some version of the Samaritan story. There are thousands and millions around you that you can’t see. Helping the victim by the side of the road is great for him and good for your soul, but it’s a drop in the bucket.

      So — since we get to vote on the leaders and government that we have, rather than just suffer under Caesar as in Jesus’ day — we use our votes to try to construct a different world, in which human suffering and other problems are addressed systemically. We have cops to go after the ones who attacked the traveler, and ambulance services to come pick him up, and laws that say an emergency room can’t turn him away.

      But at some point in all that, things get impersonal, and cold, and mechanical, and rigid. There’s no soul in the system. There’s no inspiring story about the Samaritan.

      And it can be a real pain to deal with such a system.

      This is a problem that’s surging in our society today, only I associate it with the private sector as much as government. It’s all about gigantic systems in which, if you don’t click the right button on the right web page, you don’t get the simple thing you’re trying to accomplish done.

      It’s about bigness. It’s about trying to get things done without the human factor.

      Think of all the times you’ve struggled or waited for hours to get a human being on the line — a Samaritan, so someone can relate to your problem and help you with it. Whether you’re dealing with Verizon or the power company or the VA or whatever big organization.

      It’s nice to get that Samaritan on the line, even if he has a different sort of accent…

    5. Ken

      The so-called “free market” rules over a vastly larger majority of lives with a far heavier hand than any alleged “do gooder” government agency or program. It tells us what’s good for us. Even when we’re perfectly satisfied with what we have, we’re forced to change to what the market has decided for us. Anybody who’s wanted to keep using a piece of equipment or service knows this. The service will be discontinued or the equipment will be rendered “obsolete” by updates or something that’s supposedly “better” for us. And while the theory is that the market offers us a choice, many know that this theory often has no application in reality. The market has decided and we have no choice.

      1. bud

        Unfettered, unregulated capitalism is very dangerous to social Justice, the environment and individual welfare. Somehow socialism has been demonized as pure evil while capitalism is treated as this noble system that brings prosperity to all who possess good character and a strong work ethic. This is the fiction long peddled by Ayn Rand acolytes which is to say the Republican Party. The truth is much more complicated. We need government regulation to keep us safe and our environment clean. We need to stop regarding free enterprise as all good and government all bad.

        1. DOUGLAS ROSS

          Yes, we need government regulation of public employees using their work time to post on blogs all day. Right?

          1. bud

            Yep. Anyone doing personal business during working hours should be held accountable. Not sure why ONLY government employees should be held to this standard.

            1. DOUGLAS ROSS

              Because public employees are paid by taxes. Those who waste hours a day on blogs.. or the ones I’ve seen at USPS sleeping, playing solitaire, and watching YouTube are stealing money

              1. bud

                Same things occur at Verizon, Dominion and virtually any private sector business. That is stealing also. But the worst theft in the private sector is the crazy profit margins that accrue to monopolistic entities. This is just so obvious but I’ll say no more.

        2. Barry

          Speaking of needed regulation

          Good story in The State today. Just shows you the games and underhanded lies a company can use to manipulate people (and they still might get away with it.)

          Of McMaster and marshes: Inside the $500K proposal to bleed protected SC horseshoe crabs

          I don’t have a link. But it’s in today’s paper.

      2. Barry

        “Yes, Bryan, thank you for that classic conservative take on do-gooderism.”

        Oh, we’ve all heard some version of it 1000 times.

  3. Ken

    “Nazism was stupid. It was an ideology for brutish, ticked-off people, for brawlers battling in the streets, outraged at their lot in life between the wars and wanting something that would show the rest of the world how wrong it was.”

    This view of Nazism ignores the fact that the ideology included very many people who were not “brutish,” who were not “brawlers battling it out in the streets” or “outraged by their lot in life.” Its adherents included many professionals, many with higher educations and advanced degrees, as well as many in the business sector and the middle-class. That, in fact, is what makes January 6, 2021, so deeply disturbing: because those who participated included many who come from the same walks of life, the same parts of society. They were not generally brawlers, they were not simply members of right-wing militias, they were average members of our society who had become radicalized.

    It’s also what makes calls for “civility” so pitiful and delusive. Because it is not incivility that is the underlying problem. The problem is the radicalization of broad swaths of the former American middle.

    1. bud

      Ken, I had the same thoughts. But you said it better than I could. It is now standard practice for ANY losing Republican for elective office to challenge the results no matter how decisive the count. In a recent special election in FL for Congress Republican Jason Mariner has refused to concede even though the vote tally had him losing 79-20 in a very blue district. Gov Deathsantis delayed calling this election for as long as he could get away with it. So to Ken’s point this notion of civility seems to only apply to Democrats. I’m a Democrat because I believe in decency an honor, virtues long gone from the GOP. But at some point we will have no choice but to fight fire with fire. That may include Gerrymandering in blue states.

      1. Barry

        Good point.

        It’s odd how the new VA Governor didn’t challenge the results of his own election.

        I wonder why? Neither did the AG or the Lt. Gov. Odd.

  4. Doug Ross

    Nearly all the same people who voted for Trump voted for Lindsey Graham before Trump ran and after. Did they suddenly become stupid with Trump’s appearance or were they (and you) always dumb enough to be duped by Lindsey’s weathervane behavior? Dumb people exist in the same numbers as they always have. I’m pretty sure Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and AOC wouldn’t fare much above average on an IQ test.
    There are plenty of people with advanced degrees (looking at you Elizabeth Warren) whose inability to comprehend basic economics is staggering. They may be book-smart but they lack any real world practical application of intelligence.

    Nothing new in 2022 – just more outlets for dumb people to get their message out.

    1. Barry

      “There are plenty of people with advanced degrees (looking at you Elizabeth Warren) whose inability to comprehend basic economics is staggering.”

      Not sure why you’d single Warren out. Have you never heard of Senate Committee hearing before? A press conference of Senate Republicans?

      Ever hear Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley try to talk finance? I think a high schooler might sound more credible after a week of a personal finance class.

      Richard Burr? He fancies himself an expert – likely an unethical one.

      Here he is dodging some questions about some investments.


        I singled her out because she is the dumbest senator I’ve heard in recent years. Her wealth tax idiocy is so stupid that I would question whether she could balance a checkbook.

  5. Ken

    Seems you have a seriously tendentious book here. From a review by a Bonhoeffer scholar entitled “Hijacking Bonhoeffer”:

    “… polarization is a structural motif of the whole narrative, because his [Metaxas’s] mission is to reclaim the true Bonhoeffer from ‘liberals’ who have ‘hijacked’ the theologian.”
    “… they function as straw men in his polarizing narrative about ‘orthodox Christians’ and ‘liberals.’ His real target is liberals, and not just theological liberals, but political liberals too.”

    And a simple-minded take on a man with a deep understanding of the complexities of ethics and theology:

    “Metaxas, then, has presented us with a sanitized Bonhoeffer fit for evangelical audiences. Evangelicals can continue to believe comfortingly that Bonhoeffer is one of them, and that his heroic stance against Hitler was the product of evangelical-style theology. This view is naive, but many wish it to be so.”

    Bonhoeffer is not easy reading. I read his Ethics and it can be tough going.


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