Barney Frank nailed the problem we have with the GOP last week. On July 21, Barney was on Rachel’s show talking about the debt ceiling problem and said of the GOP:
We have this reality problem . . . . These are people who are–in the Medieval term– invincibly ignorant.
That was a satisfying turn of phrase indeed. Clearly, the GOP thinks it is invincible, otherwise why would it stick to positions that run counter to the desires of the majority of Americans? And the debt ceiling doesn’t matter to the well-being of the country and the markets crowd takes ignorance to a whole new level. So do a lot of other positions the GOP assumes. If, for example, you actually care about rising medical costs, wouldn’t you be in favor of any reforms that would improve the economic efficiency of medical care? If you really care about the deficit, wouldn’t you look at the most recent drivers – war and tax cuts come to mind – and address those before even trying to identify and remedy potential drivers 20 years hence? We’re not talking ignorance in the conventional sense; we’ve gone off the reservation and booked rooms at Fantasy Island.
I had to find out more about this concept of invincible ignorance. Congressman Frank may have beeny thinking of the term as used in Catholic theology, especially during the Middle Ages, referring to those who were ignorant of the Christian message because it had not been presented to them. A good enough shorthand for suggesting that if someone only bothered to look around and hear other things being said, they might just change their mind about something. Anything. Just prove that your ears and eyes are for something other than decoration.
But there was something more here. Except for those whose entire information stream comes from Fox News – truly the modern equivalents of the pagans and infants Catholic theologians had in mind – it’s not like there aren’t alternatives to the GOP thinking and positions being talked about.
It turns out that invincible ignorance denotes a specific fallacy of reasoning that sounds awfully familiar:
[T]he fallacy of insisting on the legitimacy of one's position in the face of contradictory facts. Statements like "I really don't care what the experts say; no one is going to convince me that I'm wrong"; "nothing you say is going to change my mind"; "yeah, okay, whatever!" are examples of this fallacy.
In a sense, invincible ignorance is a failure to engage in a debate at all, the logical equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears while shouting
La, la, la, la, la . . . I’m not listening to you . . . la, la, la, la, la
This perfectly describes what today’s GOP does.
Perhaps these folks were not properly educated in logic and reasoning, lacking understanding of key concepts of logic. This may mean that when we engage with them in a debate, they don’t understand our terminology.
For example, the GOP argues that the so-called “entitlement” programs - Medicare and Social Security – are the “drivers” of the deficit. Since the deficits from 2001 to the present have nothing to do with the “entitlements” we rightly label that argument as specious, because it is both false and deceptive.
This only seems to give them courage. The only reasonable explanation for the GOP reaction is that they must think that ‘specious’ is an adjective concerning gold coinage, as in “The pirates took the captain’s specie.” Therefore, when told their argument is specious, they respond that it’s the money that matters. In fact, that is all that matters.
So now Congress can’t reauthorize the FAA which, interestingly enough, prevents the FAA from collecting excise taxes on airplane tickets. The reasons for this particular standoff are murky – and mostly related to the particular fetishes of Congressman John Mica – but the effect is to allow most airlines to silently raise their fares by the amount of the missing taxes. It’s not just the specie, it’s whose pockets get lined with the coin. Only the invincibly ignorant could fail to grasp the GOP’s determination to reach into average people’s pockets and reward their best friends. As Nancy Pelosi said today:
The Speaker [John Boehner] has said that between him and the president they have a different vision of America and that's how come their budget proposals are different . . . Quite different . . . We get the sacrifice, they get the wealth.
I won’t even touch the GOP misconception about the logical term “fallacious.”
The GOP world is a world turned upside down. Only in the GOP World does reduction of Medicare or Social Security benefits constitute a win for the middle class. Only in the GOP World do the growing ranks of people who make too little money to be subject to income tax constitute unfairness to the others. Only in the GOP World are companies – who hide money off-shore and hire underpaid workers in Second and Third World countries to fatten their untaxed profits – praised as “job creators” and offered tax holidays. Only in the GOP World is an idea instantly abandoned as soon as it is embraced by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid or Barack Obama.
Invincible ignorance covers it, all right. But then, if the facts and logic were on their side they'd have no need to resort to fallacy. That's all they've got and they're sticking to it come hell or high water. Given the nature of the problem, we're stuck with this until we can throw these numbskulls out and find some conservatives to work with who are worthy of the name, and our time.