Patterico's Pontifications

9/6/2010

Because That Last Post Was Kinda Long

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 2:20 pm



Here is the basic argument in a nutshell, for those who didn’t read the post below (which you should read, because it really fleshes out the arguments better).

Reynolds compares certain analogies to pro-Nazi arguments, speaks of “policing rhetoric,” and argues for deeming certain viewpoints “unacceptable.”

What Reynolds wants to do with the environmentalists’ claims that “humanity is a virus” is the same as what the left wants to do to our arguments in favor of waterboarding.

Don’t take on the arguments. Don’t debate.

Just slap a label on your opponent’s argument (it’s torture, for God’s sake!!!!) with as much self-righteousness as you can muster. Declare the entire topic beyond the bounds of civilized discussion, work in a Nazi reference if you can, and then — this part is important — stomp off in a huff.

That’s how the leftists “police rhetoric” and deem certain rhetoric “unacceptable.”

Is that how we want to conduct ourselves? Really?

P.S. See Dan Collins for a somewhat contrary perspective.

26 Responses to “Because That Last Post Was Kinda Long”

  1. I’ve never been politically correct, so I suppose people saying I can’t talk about something doesn’t terrorize me.

    You brought up Nazis.

    Although I strongly disapprove of him, I even find Adolf Hitler interesting. He became the worst mass-murderer in history, utterly deluded, brought ruin on his own people, and was responsible for so many atrocities on such a scale as to be mind-boggling. I don’t make light of that. I despise the man and what he did.

    And yet, in his younger years, he was less anti-Semitic than the German and Austrian population at large; he had to be converted to anti-Semitism (whereupon he surpassed his country’s leanings and lead it, willingly, down an extremely dark path). He was also a physically brave man (as are many tyrants, unfortunately) who won the Iron Cross 1st class and 2nd class as an enlisted man.

    None of this changes the fact he was just a really bad person. But unlike most people, I can separate physical courage and moral decency in my mind. There are many decent, good people who are afraid a lot, and there are some people who do many bad, violent things who are physically brave (it is often a helpful trait where violence is concerned).

    Dictators, gang members, etc.

    Anyway, back to Reynolds. It seems to me people are always trying to make certain things off limits to talk about. Just ignore them. You can’t stop people from wanting to close off big parts of their minds and the minds of others around them.

    All you can do is open your own and speak.

    That said, while he may take it further than I do in that I think discussing population growth is valid, I have no problem with Reynolds saying we should criticize those who call for extreme and bloody “solutions” against humans, including sterilization, etc.

    It seems to me a certain Austrian corporal tried those things once and it ended badly.

    Christoph (8ec277)

  2. I think the point has been made before, but i believe that Prof Reynolds is pointing out the absurdity of this kind of thinking. Reductio ad absurdum

    Eric K (92f59d)

  3. Eric K:

    So do you think he honestly believes that the environmentalist rhetoric he discusses in his column should be considered “unacceptable”?

    Patterico (c218bd)

  4. You brought up Nazis.

    No, Reynolds brought up Nazis.

    Subotai (a485bc)

  5. “No, Reynolds brought up Nazis.”

    Correct.

    Christoph (8ec277)

  6. What were the Nazis? Bad guys! And what did we do them? We stomped them out with extreme violence, exterminated them!

    So when you liken somebody to the Nazis, what are you saying? That they deserve to be killed!

    And so we see that people who make a casual habit of describing other people as Nazis are .. like the Nazis themselves! (I’m only half sarcastic here)

    Unless you’re discussing WWII, there is no discussion which cannot be greatly improved by “eliminating” all mention of Nazis.

    Subotai (a485bc)

  7. “Reynolds compares certain analogies to pro-Nazi arguments, speaks of “policing rhetoric,” and argues for deeming certain viewpoints “unacceptable.”

    Certain viewpoints can’t be deemed unacceptable?

    Are really going to try and claim that ALL viewpoints are acceptable?

    Weary G (2d39d9)

  8. Not sure what to post where as there is lots of traffic on the previous post, but this is the most recent.

    First, Bro. Bradley’s link to the Wired piece on Simon is required reading. You are inadequately educated if you don’t read it (unless you already know the information contained therein).

    Patterico, I’m going to give an illustration that will answer all things, and I mean all.

    Tax policy and politics is something that many here have a better handle on than facts on the environment, population growth, etc. The common claim of the Left and the MSM is that we have such a huge national budget deficit because of the Bush tax cuts. It is not explicitly discussed, but the suggestion is that if you cut taxes there will be a reduction in tax revenue, if you have less tax revenue (= income for the government) then you will go into debt or your debt will increase. On the surface this makes perfect sense, it is math that a 5th grader can explain. The only problem is, it isn’t true. It isn’t true because there are some assumptions in the theory that are not true when reality is examined. In this case, the assumption is that the economy and total income will be constant with regard to tax policy, so a decreased tax rate will lead to decreased tax revenues. In practice, in “real life” however, this is not true. Decreased tax rates mean individuals retain more of their money. They do not burn this money or hide it under the mattress, but they spend it or invest it (even if the investment is only putting it into a savings account which then increases the assets of the bank). This extra money circulating in the economy grows the economy, there is an increase in total goods and services, and the tax revenue actually increases even though the tax rate is less.

    In a more honest and thoughtful world, everyone would know this. In reality, not everyone does know this. many don’t know this because they’ve never heard it. Have they never heard it because politicians don’t know and understand it? Because reporters and newscastors don’t know it? Because they know it but want to keep it a secret for their own purposes? Some combination?

    So we then have a disparity between what is true and what the public thinks is true. This is because the public debate/discussion has been framed and presented in such a way as to obscure the truth, by those who have significant control over the dispersement of knowledge into the culture.

    The issue of human population growth and the earth’s resources is analagous to the tax and deficit example. There is an assertion that seems to make perfect sense, the more people there are on earth the more resources will be used up and we will start experiencing shortages of all kinds of things. The problem with this theory is that it is not validated by experience, it is not reality, and it isn’t because it too makes assumptions (like in the tax and deficit example) that are not valid. The main assumption is that resources are fixed and that humans merely consume resources like any other animal. Well, resources are fixed in the sense that there is only a certain amount of iron ore in the earth, but that supply is huge compared to what is really the issue, the amount of iron currently available for human use. This latter amount, which is true perhaps for everything else as well, is dependent on the number of people available to obtain the resources and the creativity of people on how to obtain and conserve those resources more efficiently.

    The bigger question is why is such truth known and understood by so few people? Are scientists like Ehrlich really making mistakes in their thinking, or do they promote something they know to be untrue? Why do journalists and other scientists continue to hold them in such high regard when their theories are shown to be invalid?

    In both situations it appears that more discussion, not less, would be helpful. I suggest that too is a false assumption. More discussion does not necessarily mean better and more thorough discussion. What is needed is improved presentation of all relevant sides of an issue.

    So, getting back to the idea of whether it is appropriate to limit speech or not, I suggest complete freedom to say anything is not required. What is required is freedom to say what is true and helpful. Now, it is not the role of government to set up standards to regulate speech, for it is impossible for men and women to fairly limit what other men and women can say. That does not mean, however, that all speech is to be encouraged and given the same weight. The readers here do not need me to go on a rant about all of the supposed good things to be gained by wide access to child-porn in order for others to show how I am wrong and hence protect us all from child porn by having to show it top us first.

    It is one thing to raise a question as to how the standard of living will change as the number of people living on earth increases, it is another thing to compare humans to locusts in danger of bringing widespread destruction by necessity simple because the number of people are increasing.

    It is a good question to ask how do we take care of people who have a terminal illness. That is a different question than asking, “When is it appropriate to perform euthanasia?”

    Now, if you conduct a poll as to whether I was serious when I said I would answer “all things, and I mean all“, the correct answer would be not really all things, but I think a pretty good job considering all things we have been discussing on these last 3 threads.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  9. Good point, #7. The thing is, certain viewpoints are unacceptable but we can’t really stop people from talking about them. There does come a point when a civilized person retreats from a horrific viewpoint in revulsion, but that has to be a personal decision, not a decision made by the state or a self-appointed referee.

    It becomes a question of what we want our mutually-agreed public discourse to be. I think the problem is a species of rhetorical rent-seeking; various grievance groups have noticed that the boundaries of certain topics (notably the Holocaust and slavery) have been successfully policed by the moral “owners” of those topics; and that this brings certain benefits to those early-adopter groups; and so, they want some of that action.

    Problem is, the field is getting awfully crowded, making rational discussion difficult. And so, even though there are plenty of repugnant views out there, space must be made lest we asphyxiate on our own tender consciences.

    I recall a story someone told of overhearing a college student ask, “Is such-and-such a remark free speech, or hate speech?”. We’ve raised a generation which no longer understands that it’s ALL free speech. And that puts our future in peril.

    d. in c. (4a0e60)

  10. The ‘accuse your opponents of being nazis’ playbook is being used very effectively by the extreme right, who got it from the extreme left.

    JEA (35ffc5)

  11. There is an appropriate place to make reference to the Nazi’s, the problem is knowing where, when, and how. It is easy to “write-off” the Nazi reality because it can be pulled out to easily, but also because people want to look at it as an exception, a degree of evil that is out of the realm of possibility in any other setting. The problem is, that is not true; Hitler, Tojo, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and others have shown again and again that monstrous evil is possible, and that civilized societies must be on guard to oppose such.

    And there was another aside I was going to mention- but I can’t remember what it was at this moment.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  12. JEA is going to go into its “above the fray” mode after pulling out his previously debunked lies again.

    JD (8ded14)

  13. Are really going to try and claim that ALL viewpoints are acceptable?

    I would think that people on the right, many of whose views are deemed “unacceptable” in polite society, would be a little more skeptical of this eagerness to extend the practice further.

    The cure for Political Correctness is not more of the hair of the dog that bit you. It’s more unfettered speech.

    Subotai (a485bc)

  14. It is easy to “write-off” the Nazi reality because it can be pulled out to easily

    As I say, 99.9999% of the time the Nazi card is played, it’s a bad joke. I ought not to have to point this out to people on the right, since we get the Nazi card played on us every day.

    For the record, I think the claims that Obama is Nazi-like are equally ludicrous.

    monstrous evil is possible, and that civilized societies must be on guard to oppose such.

    Wonderful, but pretending to see Hitler under every bed does nothing to achieve that goal. On the contrary, it can and has been used to empower some very unsavory people.

    Subotai (a485bc)

  15. I would think that people on the right, many of whose views are deemed “unacceptable” in polite society, would be a little more skeptical of this eagerness to extend the practice further.

    This is precisely my point.

    However, as is so often the case, we’re seeing that people who disparage a particular tactic are only too happy to use it themselves when it benefits them.

    The smarter person always keeps the hypocrisy card in his back pocket, though. That way, you can have the satisfaction of using the same crappy and dishonest technique your opponent uses, and using it in all seriousness. But if someone calls you on it, you can always fall back on the “he did it first and I am just demonstrating hypocrisy” argument.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  16. BS. Pointing out their hypocrisy is not some carte blanche to use their own dishonest tactics.

    JD (8ded14)

  17. So, getting back to the idea of whether it is appropriate to limit speech or not, I suggest complete freedom to say anything is not required. What is required is freedom to say what is true and helpful.

    Man, I know you mean well, but that sounds so identical to what I hear coming from the left about how what is said in public needs to be monitored and policed. All in the interests of getting rid of “hate” and ensuring that what is “true and helpful” wins out, of course.

    The trouble is, that requires the existence of a “gate-keeper media” which decides what is true and what is hateful lies. And as we know from experience, such a body sooner rather than later gets taken over by people with a loose attachment to the truth. At which point it becomes “hateful” to oppose Obamacare.

    In some Platonic ideal republic, perhaps, we can assume the existence of people who only speak the truth. Here in our world, truth has to survive as best it can like everything else.

    And on a philosophical note, what is true and what is helpful are frequently different things.

    Subotai (a485bc)

  18. how what is said in public needs to be monitored and policed

    I thought I made it clear that there is no governmental (or other group of humans) that can be given the task of monitoring and policing speech. The question seems to be whether we demand “anything is fair game” in what we say and how we say it, or we acknowledge that there are ways of discussing things that are irresponsible, they add to conflict, promote dissension, and your mother would be ashamed of you (not you, personally).

    I don’t think looking for Hitler under every bed is a good idea either. I was just commenting on the lesson that does need to be remembered in the midst of all the forgettable banter.

    The Apostle Paul puts it as, “Speaking the truth in love”. Truth is what it is, but just because something is true I don’t need to bring it up now in this context.

    "Painted Jaguar" (3d3f72)

  19. I thought I made it clear that there is no governmental (or other group of humans) that can be given the task of monitoring and policing speech. The question seems to be whether we demand “anything is fair game” in what we say

    Then you seem to assuming the existence of a group of humans (“we”) who will decide on the answer to your question (“anything fair game?”) and do something or other about it. Yes?

    I agree, in principle, it all depends on how “we” are defined.

    or we acknowledge that there are ways of discussing things that are irresponsible, they add to conflict, promote dissension, and your mother would be ashamed of you (not you, personally).

    Very frequently in human history the spread of truth has been accompanied by conflict, dissension, and things my mother would not approve of, like war.

    Subotai (a485bc)

  20. It’s always interesting to see which subject or current piece Patterico is going to latch onto like a schnauzer and shake relentlessly.

    The only thing missing is the Jumping To Conclusions mat from Office Space.

    harkin (d03327)

  21. Subotai-

    Not sure where this is going. Let me try to be clear. I’m speaking about an individual’s moral responsibility to do good, and encourage others to do good as well (I’ll assume there are some things “good” compared to others).

    As I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere, from the perspective of a Christian I believe I will be held accountable for everything I say. Hence, whether or not I have “freedom of speech” in a legal sense does not mean I am free to say whatever I please. I think a moral society would agree that “freedom of speech”, like all freedoms, is accompanied by responsibility. Even if that responsibility cannot be held to account by the law, a “virtuous people” (John Adams) would exercise self-restraint for the good of others. It seems to me Patterico is trying to camp out on the position that since the perpetrator of an actual crime is the only one that can be held accountable for that crime, I’m free to say whatever I want to. I’m simply saying that from a moral perspective I don’t see that clear connection and legitimization.

    harkin- without any disrespect intended to our host, I agree with your sentiment. mof course, perhaps it’s just me that finds the ongoing discussion making the “bottom line” seem more obscure.

    "Painted Jaguar" (3d3f72)

  22. I’m speaking about an individual’s moral responsibility to do good, and encourage others to do good as well

    I’m pretty sure even the people who want humanity to die out see themselves as doing good.

    Even if that responsibility cannot be held to account by the law, a “virtuous people” (John Adams) would exercise self-restraint for the good of others.

    That’s true. But “a people” is by definition an entity with a mutually agreed on definition of “the good”. America no longer has that and the world, of course, never did. So which people are going to hold which other people responsible for what?

    It seems to me Patterico is trying to camp out on the position that since the perpetrator of an actual crime is the only one that can be held accountable for that crime, I’m free to say whatever I want to.

    I think real life is a lot more complicated than that.

    John Brown, the abolitionist, killed men. In fact he killed a freed black slave as well, before being hung himself.

    So, did all the abolitionists have some moral obligation to watch the things they said, lest they incite somebody (like Brown) to violent action?

    Subotai (a485bc)

  23. “Painted Jaguar”, are you MD in Philly?

    Subotai (a485bc)

  24. Yes to #23. I made the mistake of leaving the alias on too many posts. It is not intended to be a “sock puppet”, it is a complimentary reference to a Kipling story on Armadillos that I have used on occasion.

    Subotai, I’m not sure what your point is other than to nip at my heals and forego the main points.

    “I’m pretty sure even the people who want humanity to die out see themselves as doing good.”
    They may see themselves as doing good, but what does that mean? Do you mean that “good” and “bad” are arbitrary terms that we give to what we approve of? That’s obviously a whole other discussion and seems to be a side-track on anything else.

    So which people are going to hold which other people responsible for what?
    So, what is your point, that no one can be held responsible for anything? That one can only be held responsible for what is legal? That would mean the law would need to expand to deal with every facet of life.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  25. Subotai, I’m not sure what your point is other than to nip at my heals and forego the main points.

    While we are admittedly on a side road to the topic of the post, we got there via my following you. If you want to double back now, go ahead.

    But I thought one of the main points was “Who decides?”.

    Subotai (d53cfc)

  26. Another Leftist tactic is whining and bitching and turing the entire debate into how big a victim you are.

    Poor baby (34f23c)


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