The bridge to Canada

The ability of rich people to convince ordinary people to go against their own interests to benefit the wealthy is quite extraordinary. It seems like all you have to do is appeal to dark conspiracies and xenophobia and significant numbers of people, even above the 27% crazification factor, will sign up for your cause. In this episode of the The Daily Show, Al Madrigal examines the strange case of the proposed new bridge to be built between Detroit and Windsor, Canada.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
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(This clip was aired on January 9, 2013. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post.)


  1. Cathy W says

    I live in the Detroit area, so I kind of lived that clip. I honestly thought that proposal would pass, on the “I’m spending enough of my tax money on those people in Detroit already” vote from outstate… but I guess the word got out about Matty.

  2. says

    I dislike theories that claim someone is voting against their interest.

    Suddenly the person making that argument is a mind reader, and the person voting against their interest is irrational, or has no agency.

    In the video and in news articles, the New Black Panther dude takes money from Maroun, so yeah, it is in his interest to work against the new bridge.

    The Tea Party dude does believe, mistakenly, that the bridge will take jobs and ruin the American steel market, such as it is, so it is in his interest to work against the new bridge.

    I think it’s reasonable to say that money can create some powerful ads, misleading and factually wrong ads, and can be very persuasive.

    I think it’s inaccurate to say people are working against their own interest., and perhaps more accurate to say people are working against their own interest *AS YOU PERCEIVE IT*.

    Feminists like to say that women that disagree with feminism have been brainwashed by patriarchy to work against their best interests. Liberals will say the same thing about minorities that identify as Republicans, or Tea Partiers.

    This assumes that Feminists and Liberals are infallible, hardly a skeptical position. And these groups use these claims to dismiss others, ignore their arguments and disenfranchise them.

    My guess is that feminists and liberals would do better to grant the people they disagree with rationality and agency and listen to what they have to say, listen and address their critiques.

    Still though, free bridge, people in Detroit should snap that up.

  3. intergalacticmedium says

    Seems like a trick the Republicans have been using successfully for a very long time

  4. intergalacticmedium says

    *AS I PERCEIVE IT* being the material well being of the people in question, do you actually know the situation? It is a very good example of manipulation by wealth, there is no rational reason why these people should oppose the bridge it is blatantly someone protecting their monopoly it is blindingly obvious to see. There is no critique from these except as Mano points out conspiracy, lies and xenophobia wrapped into one time honoured way of manipulating the masses. You act as if we don’t listen to what we perceive as our ideological opponents but it is the very fact that their positions are counter factual and wrong that we disagree with them, it is not an a priori conclusion.

  5. Carol Lynn says

    But you missed the weirdest part! The proposal, as it was on the ballot, legally defined an “international bridge” as “any bridge or tunnel which is not open to the public and serving traffic as of January 1, 2012.” They kinda forgot to add the part about it being a thing that connects two countries when they wrote it, which meant that ANY new road or bridge in Michigan would have had to have been voted on and approved *state wide before it could be built.

    It was stupidly sloppy legislation.

  6. Shawn Mann says

    Detroit has a long history of mistakes, corruption,
    Municipal Financial mistakes, school board corruption, unions and corporations included.
    Detroit has amazing pockets of character and history.
    Detroit has old money, Oakland County once one of the richest per capita. Canada negotiated to solve a problem at its busiest border crossing. Canada knows politically and contract wise, inviting Michigan and Wayne county would drive the project price sky high with graft and bribes. I graduated college in Michigan, lived and worked the very crossings, tunnel & bridge in gridlock. It does not surprise me Canada is flipping the bill and forcing the owner of the Ambassador Bridge to understand the lack of control citizens have when crossing rates skyrocket.
    The bridge is the only major border crossing in the country that’s privately owned, and the source of much of Moroun’s troubles. The Ambassador Bridge was built in 1929 by a New York financier and bought for $30 million by Moroun in 1979. Painted a striking blue, the four-lane, 7,490-foot-long steel span is suspended 152 feet above the Detroit River and connects the city to Windsor in Ontario, Canada. It’s the busiest commercial crossing in North America. Twenty-five percent of U.S.-Canada truck freight moves across the bridge, some $82 billion worth of goods every year. That’s more than the U.S. exports to Germany or Japan. The fact people thought Canada would not make good on paying the full price of the new bridge shouldn’t surprise me either.

  7. says

    I’ll try to create a bridge to my point, I am hopeful it won’t be rejected by irrationals.

    Claiming other people act against their interest is to say they are irrational. It helps me feel superior, but it is misleading, and provides no help, or misdirected help.

    Those detroiters are sure stupid to vote against that bridge! Yep, we are so much smarter.

    Trying to determine why they voted how they voted based on their being rational and making rational decisions, forces us to see with their perspectives. It might be more helpful in persuading them, or it might be more helpful in forming real arguments to counter them.

    That bigoted tea partier — he is worried about jobs and steel. Okay, now I know how to persuade him. He may or may not be bigoted, it probably doesn’t matter, but I might be able to show him the jobs the bridge will create and how the steel market will be unaffected.

    That New Black Panther guy? According to the article, he takes money from Maroun and he is corrupt. Okay, well, maybe I can change his mind, or maybe I can make his corruption plain to others.

    I mean, I know it’s difficult. I know that feminists and liberals have taught us that women that disagree with feminism and Blacks that identify as Republicans and gays that identify as Republicans as well are irrational, traitors, chill girls, gender traitors, stupid and working against their interests. And similarly, I know that feminists and liberals have taught us that we know what’s better for these people than they do, even if we are not women, or minority or gay.

    But just think back to when you used to have an open mind, and celebrate diversity and what it can bring us, and not just mouth the words ceremonially.

  8. Nathair says

    Claiming other people act against their interest is to say they are irrational.

    Perhaps. Perhaps they are merely ignorant or misinformed. So? People are often irrational, ignorant, misinformed and/or unintelligent. If you have evidence to the contrary in this case then produce it.

    The suggestion that we should all just assume that people are intelligent, rational and well informed, unfortunately, flies in the face of history.

    I know that feminists and liberals have taught us that we know what’s better for these people than they do, even if we are not women, or minority or gay.

    Obvious troll is obvious.

  9. says

    Potshots at feminists and liberals aside, I think the point about being wary of calling other people’s behaviour irrational and against their own interests is a good one. My immediate family is well educated and not poor, but we generally vote for left-wing parties. Various right wingers have described me as being against my own interests politically. According to them, because I belong to a model minority, I shouldn’t identify with poor people, “bad migrants” and “dysfunctional ethnic groups”. They insist I should vote for the party that promises the lowest taxes. Their assumption is that my financial wellbeing is the best measure of my welfare.

    Because of my values, I would like to live in a just and equal society where people who come from less fortunate backgrounds are given the same opportunities as me. If that means I have to pay higher taxes then so be it. Taking my values into account, voting left-wing is in my interests.

    It may well be that this bridge is a good thing for most people by the most common measures of welfare. Generally though we should be careful to take people’s values into account when considering whether their behaviour is rational and in their own interests or not.

  10. intergalacticmedium says

    That people are irrational sometimes is a demonstrable fact, the evidence shows that these people are not making a rational decision if you think I am wrong then please tell me why rather than vague calls for me to engage with what they think when to me it looks like delusions and propaganda not anything valid I don’t see how I missed your point.

  11. slc1 says

    With respect to the Black Panther, I think that calling him irrational is mistaken. What he really has is a conflict of interest and it is perfectly justified to point it out. From his personal point of view, he is being entirely rational, namely that he’s getting paid to be a shill for Maroun, just as many of the global warming deniers are being paid to shill for the Koch brothers. Some of the other opponents seem to be merely misinformed, again because of the false propaganda put out by Maroun. We would only call them irrational if, when they are apprised of the falseness of the information they have received, they persist in believing the same propaganda.

  12. says

    Wow, you are an interesting case!

    “It helps me feel superior.” Yeah, I was suspecting that was why you said, “I am hopeful it won’t be rejected by irrationals.” Good job on being self-aware!

    Snark aside, I found this comment a bit puzzling: “Claiming other people act against their interest is to say they are irrational.” Well, sure! The next question you should be asking is, “Do we have reason to believe they are irrational.” If the answer is “No,” then you would have a point. If the answer is “Yes,” then I find you to be tilting at windmills. You say, “That bigoted* tea partier — he is worried about jobs and steel.” Is it rational for him to be worried about this? Now, with the New Black Panther guy, you have a case as you provided an understandable (though it may be hard for people to be sympathetic toward him) reason for his opposition.

    * Interesting, too, that you seem to be critical of us implying that people are irrational, yet you yourself didn’t hold back on throwing out the word “bigot.” Again, excellent self-awareness!

  13. sailor1031 says

    Shit – not another bridge!! Just one more thing for us to have to blow up the next time you bastards invade!!


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