Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Is Jeremy N Choate REALLY a beacon of rationality and logic?

Here's a link to Jeremy Choate's blog, posted in July 2012. Apparently, it's been making the rounds more recently on Facebook, among those who consider themselves staunch conservatives.

Choate calls his blog Sufficient Reason: Politics, religion and life from an uncomfortably logical and rational perspective. This particular post, he titles Dear Liberal... Here's Why I'm So Hostile.

It's a missive apparently designed to blow apart claims that Tea Party/GOP hostility toward President Obama and all things Liberal have anything to do with racism. Let's see if he succeeds.

Our first clue about whether the post is based on logic and rational reasoning or rather on emotion is the image Choate uses to set the tone. Here's Gerard Butler from the 2006 movie 300:

Don't get me wrong, it was a fine movie. But is this the way to headline something that claims to be a strictly logical and rational perspective?

His opening paragraph:
Lately, I must admit that my hostility towards your political ilk has ramped up, pretty dramatically.  No, it’s not because we, at this point in my life, have a half-black president in the White House, and I’m some closet racist who is becoming increasingly frustrated at the prospects of the White Man’s power slipping through my fingers.  I know that thought keeps you warm at night, but I can assure you that it is a comfortable fiction of which you should probably divest yourself.
Translated into plain English, here's what it appears Mr. Choate really means:
I'm mad as hell, getting madder, and it's your fault. I deny it's because President Obama is black. I deny that I'm a closet racist and deny that my anger is because I see "White Man's power slipping through my fingers." I want you to believe that my anger is completely logical and rational. So, I will point you to some shiny objects hoping that you will not discover the real cause of my fear.
That's why I put a label on this can of tuna that says it's actually peanut butter. 
Who, in their right mind, understands hostility to be the result of logic or rational thought?

Choate's next paragraph is a doozy. Think Orwell, because it is THAT bizarre. You know, UP is DOWN kind of thing.
Now before I waste too much of your time, let’s establish who I’m talking to. If you believe that we live in an evil, imperialist nation from its founding, and you believe that it should be “fundamentally transformed”, lend me your ears.  If you believe that the free market is the source of the vast majority of society’s ills and wish to have more government intervention into it, I’m talking to you.  If you believe that health care is a basic human right and that government should provide it to everyone, you’re the guy I’m screaming at.  If you think minorities cannot possibly survive in this inherently racist country without handouts and government mandated diversity quotas, you’re my guy.  If you believe that rich people are that way because they've exploited their workers and acquired wealth on the backs of the poor, keep reading.  Pretty much, if you trust government more than your fellow American, this post is for you.
The cutesy Mr. Choate claims he's talking to Liberals, not those who worship at the feet of Ronald "Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem" Reagan.

Who was it circulating this blog post? No, this wasn't written to Liberals. Choate clearly wanted to fire up Tea Party types to make them less inclined to listen to actual logic and rational reasoning. It tells his real audience what he wants them to believe about Liberals.

I know Liberals. I hold some Liberal ideas. But I understand there was plenty of good and plenty of bad about the United States from the very beginning. I also understand that the historical record shows America's roots firmly planted in Socialism. Thomas Paine -- the firebrand without whom there would never have been an American Revolution against Great Britain and King George -- wrote the blueprint for Social Security. He also advocated abolition of slavery and was very emphatically against the concept of theocracy.

Next, Choate says:
First of all, let me say that we probably agree on more things than you think. Even between Tea Party Patriots and Occupy Wall-Streeters, I've observed a common hatred of the insidious alliance between big business and big government. As Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) so correctly noted, government should never be in the business of picking winners and losers in corporate America, and no person, organization, union, or corporation should have their own key to the back door of our government.
The first sentence is possibly true, but he still is characterizing his ostensible audience as clueless on that notion. Doing so is neither logical nor rational. Further, he states it dismissively. More likely than not, more liberals understand the common ground than do his so-called Tea Party Patriots.

The observation about the insidious alliance between Big Business and Big Government is true as is noting it as common ground. But then he cites Paul Ryan who is not nearly the first person to have reflected on the notion that government should abstain from the business of picking winners and losers in corporate America. If Choate was genuinely interested in rational perspective on Ryan, he would have to acknowledge that Ryan has his hands deep in the pockets of Big Business just like 99 percent of the members of Congress.
Second, contrary to popular belief, conservatives really are concerned with the plight of the poor in this nation.  You accuse us of being uncompassionate, hateful, racist, and greedy, but studies have shown that when it comes to charitable giving, conservatives are at least (if not more, depending on the study you read) as generous as liberals in caring for the poor.  The difference between us is not in our attitude towards the problem — it’s our attitude towards the solution.  We believe that the government does practically nothing well (since without competition or a profit motive there is no incentive to do well) and has made the plight of the poor far worse than it would have ever been had government never gotten involved. [...]
There is no basis for this claim that conservatives are really concerned with the plight of the poor in this nation. Even more importantly, Choate provides NO basis for making this claim. How can he say it's logical or rational if he presents no basis for the claim?

He can claim that he -- himself -- is compassionate. But the proof is in the pudding. Rationally speaking, can his diatribe against Liberals be viewed as anything more than projecting?

By the way, I see NO links in Mr. Choate's blog post. Again, is it logical or rational to take, at face value, what he claims to be logical and rational without him providing support for his claims?

Next, Choate invokes Reagan's famous incantation against government and cites what he believes to be evidence that government is the problem, by reference to the "War on Poverty."

Wikipedia defines the War on Poverty as
... the unofficial name for legislation first introduced by United States President Lyndon B. Johnson during his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964. This legislation was proposed by Johnson in response to a national poverty rate of around nineteen percent. The speech led the United States Congress to pass the Economic Opportunity Act, which established the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to administer the local application of federal funds targeted against poverty.
As a part of the Great Society, Johnson believed in expanding the government's role in education and health care as poverty reduction strategies. These policies can also be seen as a continuation of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, which ran from 1933 to 1935, and the Four Freedoms of 1941.
There have been a number of programs passed by Congress and implemented by executive agencies of the federal government aimed at addressing conditions in and around those living in poverty. Choate fails to address any of those programs specifically. One of Lyndon Johnson's hallmark accomplishments was the inception of Medicare. I'd challenge Mr. Choate to take a scientific survey of those "Tea Party Patriots" and see how many of them are willing to give up Medicare or Social Security.

Anyone who wants to genuinely understand poverty in America then and now must become familiar with the writings and talks of former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich. His movie, Inequality for All, does a lot more to set forth a logical and rational perspective than Mr. Choate ever dreamed of being able.

Choate's next several paragraphs attack FDR's Second Bill of Rights. Why does he think it's necessary to attack them at all? Is FDR's thinking making a comeback?

During the 2008 presidential campaign, didn't John McCain say that he thought FDR was one of our great presidents? Anyway, Choate goes on:
You may be getting anxious, now, wondering what FDR’s Second Bill of Rights has to do with my antipathy towards your political philosophy.  It’s quite simple — your political beliefs are a threat to liberty — not just for me, but for my three boys and their children as well.  I care much less about the America that I’m living in at this very moment than I do about the one that I’m leaving Nathaniel, Charlie, and Jackson.
Now we're getting to the nitty gritty of the reason for Choate's post.

He says, "you may be getting anxious..." Did I miss it? When did Choate cite any survey or other research into how his ostensible audience was thinking? So, what could he have really meant by that declaration? Could it have been anything other than projecting his anxiety onto Liberals?

Choate then clearly sets forth that he holds "antipathy toward your political philosophy." Then we learn what could be the bottom line to that whole post, "It's quite simple -- your political beliefs are a threat to liberty." This is a statement of belief, not of fact.

What else could it be other than a very blatant declaration of Choate's own emotional state? Is he not freaking out about what he believes FDR's Second Bill of Rights means to him and his children?
How does your political bent threaten my and my sons personal liberty, you ask?  In your irrational attempt to classify things such as clothing, shelter, health care, employment, and income as basic human rights, you are placing a demand upon my time, my treasure, and my talents.  If you believe that you have a right to health care, and you are successful in persuading enough shallow thinkers to think as you do, then it will place a demand upon me to provide it to you.  If you believe that you have a right to a job, and more than half of America agrees with you, as a business owner, I am obligated to provide one to you, even if it means making my business less profitable.
Another clue to suggest Choate is pretty much projecting throughout this whole blog post is found in his expression, "In your irrational attempt..."

Do you know what fear is? Fear can be a good thing, in some situations. It can prevent a person from taking unreasonable and unnecessary risks. Gut level fear can tell us, in a nanosecond, to get out of the way of a falling piano or an oncoming bus. BUT, sometimes it's False Evidence Appearing Real.

FEAR based on false evidence is the very definition of irrational. One online self-help guru says this about it:
Healthy fear gets you out of the path of a speeding car, and checks in with the doctor about a strange lump. Unhealthy fear is F.E.A.R, false evidence that appears real but is mostly a fabrication of the reptilian brain and the ego that wants to keep you imprisoned in your own mind, unwilling to be fully alive because it’s too risky to venture out. Overcome this unhealthy fear, and you will wake up to an inner security that will put external threats in a new perspective.
In Choate's case, he very eloquently spelled out his fear. By the way, I know what irrational fear is. I haven't been on an airliner since 2000. Fortunately, I haven't needed to travel by air in the last 13 years. When the time comes, I'll try to confront that fear and overcome it.

Anyway, Choate did not fairly or accurately describe the reality of what Liberal public policy, when implemented, means to him. He described a scenario developed in his own mind, maybe with the help of some of his friends and advisors. Wink, wink.

However, this takes me back a couple of decades. Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was first published in 1989. I chose to let Covey (a Mormon, by the way) be one of my advisors, figuratively speaking.

First, let me say that Choate's blog post reflects a very strong scarcity mindset.
This scarcity mindset can also be debilitating. It shortens a person’s horizons and narrows his perspective, creating a dangerous tunnel vision. Anxiety also saps brainpower and willpower, reducing mental “bandwidth”, as the authors call it.
Covey, on the other hand, said highly effective people maintain an abundance mindset.
Covey coined the idea of abundance mentality or abundance mindset, a concept in which a person believes there are enough resources and successes to share with others. He contrasts it with the scarcity mindset (i.e., destructive and unnecessary competition), which is founded on the idea that, if someone else wins or is successful in a situation, that means you lose; not considering the possibility of all parties winning (in some way or another) in a given situation (see zero-sum game). Individuals with an abundance mentality reject the notion of zero-sum games and are able to celebrate the success of others rather than feel threatened by it.
Since this book's publishing, a number of books appearing in the business press have discussed the idea. Covey contends that the abundance mentality arises from having a high self-worth and security (see Habits 1, 2, and 3), and leads to the sharing of profits, recognition and responsibility. Organizations may also apply an abundance mentality when doing business.
So, Choate failed to accomplish, with that blog post, his stated goal of setting forth a logical, rational perspective that would be uncomfortable for Liberals. He succeeded in revealing his irrational fear and scarcity mindset. He also showed that his fear has nothing to do with the color of President Obama's skin.

It's not up to me to treat Mr. Choate's anxiety. But I most assuredly do not have to let him get away with imposing his fear on everyone else. And neither do you. So, if you know someone who has bought into Choate's zero-sum mindset and believes that egalitarian society means he or she loses, send them here. Maybe, if they are open to it, they will see the light.

Oh, and since Mr. Choate challenges his Liberal readers to "bring it," at the end of his post, everyone is welcome to point him to this blog and even more importantly to people who can help him deal with the mental prison he has put himself in. Stephen Covey's book would be a very good first step in that direction.


  1. If your motive for writing this essay was to "Call the kettle black" then a mirror maybe in your future's best interest. When you voice your opinion there is always someone that disagrees with what you have said. That is what makes this country great. You can voice a disagreement or an opinion and we make a decision on the moral fibers of our body. The day you start saying that an opinion is "closed minded", view your own opinion. It is evident that both you and Mr. Chaote have brilliant minds and an extraordinary talent of expressing your opinions in words. Don't shadow your talent Mr. Muratore by deliberately blasting an opinion by calling it "closed minded" when it seems by your words that you yourself are CLOSE MINDED!

    1. That's nice. I respect that you disagree and I thank you for reading the Arizona Eagletarian. However, I'm pretty sure "closed minded" was neither what I said nor what I meant in the essay to which you commented. Whether Mr. Choate ever considers an opinion which disagrees with his or not was not the subject, nor the point.

      On the other hand, I did intend to rebut his claim that he based his argument on logic and rationality.

    2. I have to say, your logic is than perfect 100% Arizona. Reflect on your own thinking often. We must all question our own thinking. It's called metacognition, and very few individuals ever adequately do it.

    3. I should note that I do not have the ability to change any aspect of comments like this. Therefore, I am not sure what the first sentence is intended to mean. However, in terms of reflecting on my thoughts and intentions, I certainly do. To a large degree, I live my life between my ears and cherish the ability to ruminate and challenge the viewpoints I hold at any given time. So, thank you. :)