Saturday, March 17

Attack of the resume padders

Hullaballoo's Poputonian excerpts a Vermont wingnut's defense of the Bush administration. The wingnut, a lawyer, opines in an op-ed piece:

I spent more than 15 hours researching the specific allegations outlined to support the impeachment resolutions in order to determine their accuracy, because I concluded that if Democrats and Progressives are seeking such a profound change without an election, the facts which are the basis for the proposals must be serious and well documented.
I can picture her, grimly "concluding" that … er … what exactly did she "conclude?" It's hilarious to picture this lawyer marshaling facts to "conclude" whether or not, as the Declaration of Independence says, "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

Way to go, counselor! Good research there! And it gets better as she jumps to more and more "conclusions":
The conclusion of my research: Every single one of the "facts" upon which the resolutions are based is false and misleading.
First, the impeachment documents claim that the president or vice president "lied" in six specific instances about the magnitude of the threat from Iraq. Each one of those six claims is false.
That's the extent of the documentation of her "research" into Bush's and Cheney's lies about the supposed threat of Iraq.

But what I really want to talk about is what she does later in the op-ed. She does something dishonest in a way that many Americans don't even recognize anymore as dishonesty. I call it resume padding. Perhaps there's a better term for this phenomenon, because resume padding almost never involves resumes. "Bullshitting" doesn't quite cover the concept, although bullshitting is an important part of resume padding.

The Vermont lawyer is guilty of two counts of resume padding in the following assertions:

A second claim that senior military officials condoned the abuses at Abu Ghraib has no factual support whatsoever. Indeed, the abuses were discovered and prosecuted by the military, and strongly condemned by the president.
The claim that the president engaged in illegal wiretapping in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court's requirements is unsupported by any factual evidence. … Moreover, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act law provides for both criminal and civil remedies for illegal wiretapping. There has not been one civil case filed on behalf of any specific victim of alleged illegal wiretapping, and there have been no criminal prosecutions of violations by the Bush administration of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act law.
First, she says that you can't blame the torture at Abu Ghraib on senior officers (or, she neglects to say, on the president and senior civilian Pentagon officials such as Donald Rumsfeld) because low-level enlisted people were prosecuted, and the torture was "strongly condemned by the president."
Call the first one the Inspector Renault defense: The president, secretary of defense and top generals were shocked, shocked by the torture at Abu Ghraib. Then she says that the president couldn't have engaged in illegal wiretapping because no one has sued the government or prosecuted anyone within the government.

Pay close attention, because this is what resume padders do. It's how they justify the evil that they do.

They elevate words far above actions when defending themselves. But when attacking you, actions suddenly are more important than words, as they should always be.

She says the president didn't condone torture because after it was discovered, he condemned it. The victims of illegal wiretapping haven't sued, so it's not illegal and no one minded.

You've been on the receiving end of resume padding. It happened when you were a recipient of poor service at a store. When you objected, the manager told you, "No one has ever complained about this before."

The word -- lack of complaints in the past -- takes precedence over action -- the poor customer service in the present.

The Rude Pundit correctly recognizes resume padding as evil. He writes about a pseudonymous friend, Jasper, who, back in the Big Eighties, worked at a nursing home.
Jasper pointed out a few of the nurses and attendants on visits there. One or two of them sometimes slapped patients, Jasper said, although nothing was done when they were reported because there was no evidence and the old lady with dementia wasn't going to talk. The rest, they were fuck-ups, who wouldn't do their jobs right, leaving patients unwiped, unturned, unmedicated, only kicking into high gear when supervisors were there or when an inspection was imminent. Jasper could excuse them, saying they were untrained, they weren't trying to hurt anyone, they just wanted to keep their jobs.
There was no evidence. The old lady with dementia wouldn't talk. Without the words, the actions just disappeared. This is an insidious way of looking at the world, and it is spreading.
The Rude Pundit didn't buy it. Sure, maybe if they were working the fryer at Buger King. But not here. See, he told Jasper, if you can't do the work that you're supposed to do where lives are at stake and you keep fucking it up, then at some point you cross a line from being a functioning idiot to simply being cruel. Whether you like it or not. And if you're the one doing it, you don't get to fucking judge it. In other words, Nurse X might say she didn't mean to let someone's bedsores get infected with bacteria from shit, but if her neglect, both passive and active, allows it to happen again and again, then she isn't just stupid, but mean, working only to maintain whatever power and money the job gives her.
The Rude Pundit is getting at something vitally important. To Nurse X, the most important thing was her intention -- her words. Her actions were secondary. A person like Nurse X will defend herself vehemently and self-righteously, telling you to judge her by her words, her intentions, not by her actions or the harm she causes.

Fred Clark's blog, Slacktivist, dwells a lot on the resume-padding phenomenon, although he has never used that phrase as far as I know. Witness his recent post about people who believe that disagreements are all about attitude (words), and not about facts (actions). Or his post before that, in which he points out that, for evangelical Christians, the crucial thing is to identify oneself as Christian, and it's not important to do anything Christian, such as helping the oppressed. Or the post before that, one of his deconstructions of the anti-Christian Left Behind books, in which he points out that conservative evangelicals preach "justification by faith, rather than by works."

Too many of us stress faith over works. We would rather tell people that we are good, rather than do good.