skepticism vs. propagandism and the obama golf habit

BERNI AND I DON’T WATCH TV! That is, we have no cable access and never turn on the local channels. Our set is strictly for watching videos, all of which we pull from the King County Library System. This does not mean that we do not see television shows: if enough people recommend a given series, we get the first season and watch. (And what a way to begin an article on the Obama golf habit, heyna?)

This has allowed us to see many fine shows. Our recent faves include House, M.D. (with Hugh Laurie imitating Neal Umphred) and Bothers & Sisters (where Sally Field and Calista Flockhart are the main stars, but where Rachel Griffiths finally got the critical attention she has deserved for a long time).


Just taking this opportunity to plug a favorite actress, Rachel Griffiths—check out Brothers & Sisters.

A critical analyses of pop phenomenon

And then there is The Newsroom, of which we have only seen the first season. Jeff Daniels has been a favorite of mine since at least The Purple Rose Of Cairo, and he shines here as a Republican news anchor who becomes the target of the tea party types and fights back.

In a couple of episodes, he takes those true believers apart for their falling for the rightwing propaganda that Obama somehow managed to rack up billions—BILLIONS!—of dollars in travel expenses.

At taxpayers’ expense.

Of course.

Never happened.

Of course.

And so I segue on over to a recent website that I came across while researching an article. Authored by an admitted skeptic, the site  addresses a wide range of topics looking for the facts, just the facts. It’s called Skeptoid, which its host Brian Dunning describes as a “critical analyses of pop phenomenon.”

I subscribed to his email newsletter immediately!

Of course.

Some of the issues he tackles are political—or in the case below,  pseudo-political. Howzabout the one where all the righties rag on and on and on about Obama playing “too much” golf, more than any other president.


 Obama_golf

To find this image online, I typed “obama golf” into Google and the first entry on the first page was this: “Obama golf game leads to disrupted wedding.” Almost all of the photos that I could choose from were on right-of-center sites, the righties being obsessed with the Most Important Man in the World’s need for a little R&R.The second Google listing is a rightwing site called The Obama Golf Counter. Sorta proves the point, nyet?

The Obama golf habit means what?

In a novel approach to this topic, Skeptoid recently ran an article titled “Barack Obama and Golf” by contributor Mike Rothschild on the Obama golf game. In it, the author analyzed the golfing habits of various presidents, but NOT by total rounds played—which tells us little, unless we also know how many years he was in office—but by rounds played per month in office. Here are Mr. Rothschild’s findings (and all emphasis added and bracketed statements are by me):

“The president [any president] is expected to project an image of physical health and love of activity, meaning golf and the presidency are intertwined! Fourteen out of seventeen presidents played golf during their time in the White House. I took FDR out of the mix due to his physical limitations.

Enjoyment of the game is shared between both parties, taking place during peacetime and war, good economic times and bad. Of the two staunchest golfers, Wilson and Eisenhower, one was a Democrat and the other a Republican.

When we have data available for how many rounds they played, Obama’s golf habit is in the middle of the presidential spectrum, higher than Reagan and Bush 43 but lower than Wilson, Eisenhower, and Clinton. If we had data available for the other presidents, Obama would probably remain right in the middle.

Whether you agree or disagree with these criticisms is entirely up to you. But the math is clear: many presidents before Obama played golf, with some playing much more and some playing much less. As a hobby goes, this one is about as typical as you can get.”

As the author stated, your political preference and you’re your abhorrence for Obama has NOTHING to do with how much gold has been played by the chief of the executive branch. The above are jus facts and you can’t have an opinion about a fact. It just is.

Essentially, this is another non-issue issue that the vast rightwing media conspirators waste everyone’s time on when we could be discussing real issues, like why illegal aliens are desired by certain segments of US business because they expand the labor pool at the bottom and drag wages down for 90% of the workforce while increasing profits for the other 10%.

Oh bollocks, that’s a waste, too! Let’s discuss some meaty issues like creationism in textbooks, gay marriage, and Obama’s highly publicized vacations are actually camouflage for his secret investigation into MJ’s whitening process (at taxpayer’s expense, of course).


An essential component for truth

Many people think of skepticism as some variant on pessimism or even cynicism. The former is defined as “a tendency to stress the negative or unfavorable, or to take the gloomiest possible view” or, secondarily, “the doctrine or belief that this is the worst of all possible worlds and that all things ultimately tend toward evil.” (Oddly, that second definition is not too far from the attitude that seems so prevalent among modern ‘conservatives.’)

The latter is defined as “an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others:” (Ditto.)

Alas, neither is close to the meaning of skepticism—while both pessimism and cynicism are attitudes supposedly built upon belief and or experience, skepticism is best defined a s a process, a means of arriving at a truth through the observation of actual facts.

The same dictionary (the Free Dictionary) as above has three meaning for skepticism as a philosophy:

a. The ancient school of Pyrrho of Elis that stressed the uncertainty of our beliefs in order to oppose dogmatism.

b. The doctrine that absolute knowledge is impossible, either in a particular domain or in general.

c. A methodology based on an assumption of doubt with the aim of acquiring approximate or relative certainty.

But here in three paragraphs is a much better explanation of skepticism as a day-to-day process of dealing with the ‘facts’ and figures that present themselves to us in print, on the air, and on the internet:

“The true meaning of the word skepticism has nothing to do with doubt, disbelief, or negativity. Skepticism is the process of applying reason and critical thinking to determine validity. It’s the process of finding a supported conclusion, not the justification of a preconceived conclusion.

Skepticism is about redirecting attention, influence, and funding away from worthless superstitions and toward projects and ideas that are evidenced to be beneficial to humanity and to the world.

The scientific method is central to skepticism. The scientific method requires evidence, preferably derived from validated testing. Anecdotal evidence and personal testimonies generally don’t meet the qualifications for scientific evidence, and thus won’t often be accepted by a responsible skeptic; which often explains why skeptics get such a bad rap for being negative or disbelieving people. They’re simply following the scientific method.” 

The above paragraphs are adapted from Brian Dunning’s brief article, “What is skepticism?” on Skeptoid.


Despite Mike Love’s open flirtation with Reagan-era Rep*blicanism, the most “political” Beach Boy was he of the angelic voice, Carl Wilson. During the height of the Vietnam War, the younger Wilson brother declared himself a conscientious objector and refused to be drafted, causing years of legal and moral battles. He won.  Wilson eventually became an ordained minister in the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness.

Do not do no dumb here, okay?

Recently I joined a conversation on fellow record collector, Beach Boys fan, and otherwise like-minded (“do not dumb here”) raconteur Rob Norberg’s Facebook page, The thread concerned the ongoing “debate” about the President’s supposedly excess number of vacation days—yet another non-issue issue from the rightwing media and punditry that so easily captures the attention deficit disordered imagination (sic) of Republican voters.

This is the first of two essays regarding the thread, the discussion, and another person’s blog and book. The second part is “so what has president obama done for you lately? (besides play golf and pursue heroic whistle-blowers) and follows this post.



 
 

4 thoughts on “skepticism vs. propagandism and the obama golf habit

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  2. Thanks for finally talking about the “Obama golf
    habit is greater than the Bushes.” Liked it!

    1. You are welcome and glad you found it!

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