August 30, 2005
How dare I agree with you?
The ACLU seems to be one of those hot button issues about which it's riskier and riskier to speak one's mind freely. The email sent to Glenn Reynolds, while civil in tone, reminded me of the far less civil criticism accorded Eugene Volokh, because they're both evidence of an inability to disagree in a thinking manner. Instead of explaining what they disagree with, people are resort to labels, insulting characterizations, and (as with the email to Glenn) the equivalent of a boycott. (I think that "you lost another reader. Just now disappeared from my Bookmarks" is the equivalent of delinking a blog, and the gratuitous use of "another" is as presumptuous as it is insulting.) It's as if both Reynolds and Volokh committed thought unpardonable thought crimes; the former for daring to speak a kind word about the ACLU, and the latter for even speculating that some homosexuals might quite naturally want to encourage sexual "conversion" of gay-curious bi or heterosexuals.
It makes no difference what I think of the ACLU or converting people to homosexuality. What bothers me is this intellectually stultifying idea that you have to be careful lest you offend someone's sense of ideological purity, and you have to expect that they will not merely disagree with you, but they will call you names, do the equivalent of hang up on you (and other unfriendlier things), without even bothering to seriously address your argument.
There's a lack of serious thinking displayed by people who get roped into positions based on considerations like who holds them, whether the holder can be labeled "liberal" or "conservative," and whether they're in alignment with ideological laundry lists.
Over the years, expressing simultaneous support for gays and guns has often proved ideologically challenging for me, because these issues are (irrationally, in my view) seen as coming from different "sides" of the political "spectrum." (If you think it's bad now, you should have seen what it was like in the early 1980s....) While there's no logical reason why it isn't perfectly consistent to be just as opposed to gun control as penis control, the emotion-driven "bases" of the two major political camps don't see it that way. Only recently has the label of "gay gun nut" emerged, but even that makes light of a more serious problem: the constantly increasing ideological rigidity which attempts to hound people into compliance by means of exclusionary threats. Typically, these threats take the form of conservatives calling people "liberal" if they don't toe the line, and liberals calling people "conservative." Ordinary people don't want to lose their "friends," and they defend themselves by (lamely and ineffectively, in my opinion) explaining "Hey, I'm no liberal! I support the war!" or "I'm no conservative! I support gay rights!"
Eventually, I hope, people will realize that there is no need to defend against these labels, because there is a right to think what you want to think on each and every issue. When someone refuses to address your argument and instead resorts to labeling, that ought to be a clue that he is threatened by it, or is unable to address it on the merits. The resort to labeling is nothing more than an attempt to intimidate, to bully, and it indicates either a small mind, or massive insecurity. In any event, the problem is in the minds of the bullies, and not in the minds of those attempting to think freely.
As an example of how easy it can be to agree with the "wrong side," Atrios (someone I agree with maybe 10% of the time) voiced a sentiment today I agreed with wholeheartedly: that FCC regulation of cable is terribly wrong:
Yes, this is an awful idea. And, yes, sadly, the Democrats will likely end up being on the wrong side of it.The Atrios link goes to Pandagon, with whom I agree that allowing the FCC to regulate cable is a terrible idea, but with whose ad hominem analysis I disagree:
this isn't just about not being offended. This is about using the power of the state to silence political views. "Good taste" is synonymous with Republicanism (which as we all know from watching how delegates dressed at the GOP convention is about as wrongheaded as you can get), and all other views must be excised from the public sphere lest they cause disagreement, which is tantamount to recrucifying Jesus just so you can stare at his peepee. Remember, folks - the most destructive and corrosive element in our republic are the people who think that the First Amendment applies to speech, rather than established facts like the Christian nature of the United States and abortion as the modern-day Holocaust.Pandagon forgets that many Republicans (including, I suspect, some of those who want to censor graphic sex) would vehemently oppose using the FCC to impose social views, religious views, and even standards of attire (not sure what attire that might be), on Americans. He also forgets (unlike Atrios) that this attempt at regulation will likely include both Republicans and Democrats. (And why wasn't there any discussion of the unconstitutionality of the powers the FCC seeks?) I don't think Pandagon's ad hominem style is persuasive (although it's nothing new for me).
Still, I agree with Atrios and Pandagon on their basic point about the FCC. (Not a new topic for this blog, either.) I've learned from experience that when you agree with someone who is in a definite ideological camp, such a point of agreement can serve as an entry point for ideological examination -- and by both sides!
Ideological leftists will naturally tend to see any agreement on any point as an invitation to agree with them on other points, while ideological rightists will see any agreement with the left as a sign of deviation, or weakness. ("Going wobbly" will do.) In this game of point scoring and laundry list checking, what tends to be forgotten is that there might be a person who thinks what he thinks independently, who isn't being herded or told to think by one side or another, and who might not want to be herded. Or graded.
Or excoriated as guilty.
It strikes me as a very rude way to express disagreement. But as someone who's never delinked anyone, I guess I wouldn't understand.
posted by Eric on 08.30.05 at 02:14 PM
Search the Site
Classics To Go
See more archives here
Old (Blogspot) archives
A knee sock jihad might be premature at this time
People Are Not Rational
No Biorobots For Japan
The Thorium Solution
Radiation Detector From A Digital Camera
This war of attrition is driving me bananas!
Attacking Christianity is one thing, but must they butcher geometry?
Are there trashy distinctions in freedom of expression?
Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood