Wednesday, May 03, 2006

# Posted 6:48 PM by Patrick Porter  

ENOUGH OF THE NAMECALLING: There is a certain, tiresome double standard in public debate.

Various activists of the antiwar movement object to being labelled as unpatriotic or treacherous. Fair enough. It would be maddening to hear people glibly question your character.

They don't like it when people ascribe unspeakable motives to them. Again, fair enough.

But lets be consistent. If you object when people who disagree with you question your integrity, don't call people who were in favour of the war in Afghanistan or Iraq extremist, warmongering, unAmerican, Hitlerian, crazy Zionist, chickenhawks.

Amongst many examples, antiwar spokespersons Cindy Sheehan, Juan Cole, and Scott Ritter have indulged in this breathtaking double-standard, slurring the integrity of those who disagree with them, yet protesting when it is inflicted on them.

Don't like it? Then don't dish it out. As well as being consistent, maintaining civility also serves the calibre of public debate.

UPDATE: Speaking of incivility. More. And also.
(44) opinions -- Add your opinion

Just the sort of thing I would expect from a neo-con:)
Actually the motives of the Left are rarely impugned. They just like to pretend that it happens all the time so they don't have to defend what they are saying.
Oh really Patrick - I hadn't picked you for a defender of the Neo-Cons. But then again, I felt very loyal before the Iraq catastrophe - I would never have picked myself for a leftie.

Frankly, I always think the people in power can defend themselves. People like Cindy Shehan, as melodramatic as she may be, are more vulnerable to slurring than Bush/Cheney/Blair/Howard because they don't have all the power and resources these people have. So equating the magnitude of their respective silliness/slurring is not really fair.

Also, Bush DOES in fact have unspeakable motives. It isn't hypocritical if you're telling the truth. :)
Maybe you are speaking in tongues which is why I do not understanding your reasoning.
If Bush has unspeakable motives how do we know he has them?

For An Easy Way to Expose Anti-Americanism go to the following:
Maybe I am speaking in tongues - Understanding should read understand.
I agree that bombastic rhetoric does little service to anyone, in this context. That said, I think "chicken hawk" is rather more intelligible than some generic slur. It captures well one of the most morally troublesome aspects of a country like the US going to war, namely that it will be the children of the relatively unprivileged who overwhelmingly bear the personal costs of fighting.
namely that it will be the children of the relatively unprivileged who overwhelmingly bear the personal costs of fighting.

Except that, by the numbers, it isn't. The parts of the country over-represented when it comes to combat troops are Southerners and country folks.

There is also the visceral objection I have to referring to your average 25-yo Marine as a child.

The third point is that at least among blogs I frequent, many of those who would fall on the pro-Iraq war side (and generally some of the most vehement supporters) either used to be in the armed forces or are currently serving.

It is clear you know nothing about the recruiting statistics.

Additionally, the chicken hawk is the most ferocious of its group of hawks.
Hey Milan,

on the chickenhawk issue, a few brief points:
On the issue of the demographics of recruitment, it seems that the recruiting pattern does not suggest that the poor and disadvantaged are being disproportionately hurled into the cannon's mouth.

A recent study concluded that
'The household income of recruits generally matches the income distribution of the American population. There are slightly higher proportions of recruits from the middle class and slightly lower proportions from low-income brackets. However, the proportion of high-income recruits rose to a disproportionately high level after the war on ter­rorism began, as did the proportion of highly edu­cated enlistees.'

Some other difficulties with the chickenhawk slur:
- it implies that only those who fight in wars are entitled to support wars. this would exclude the physically or mentally incapacitated, those too young and too old to fight, from having opinions. This is undemocratic and illiberal;
-we have all been declared targets of terrorist violence, which entitles anyone to form a view, this is not just a conventional war 'out there';
-if you actually apply that argument consistently, it would disqualify many antiwar people from holding their opinion too. To oppose a war in Afghanistan or Iraq would be to preserve in power monstrous regimes, bringing consequences to the people in those countries. Does this mean that only those who have to suffer the reality of those regimes be entitled to advocate that status quo?
So a specific slur is better then a generic slur...

Talk about rationalization...
Patrick, I'm not sure why you're calling this a "double standard in public debate." The tendency I've noticed is that various people on the right make personal attacks on people on the left, various people on the left make personal attacks on people on the right, various people on the left object to personal attacks made by people on the right, and various people on the right object to personal attacks made by people on the left. Don't you agree? Chop it up some other way if you'd like (e.g. prowar vs. antiwar instead of left vs. right), and it's still rather symmetrical, at least in the broad outlines. We could argue about which side has been more incivil, but I expect that would not be very productive.

There are some individuals, on the left and on the right, who do have a double standard, as they both make and object to personal attacks. It's not always that simple, though, since not all "personal attacks" are equal. They vary along many dimensions: how mean, how personal, how well supported by the evidence, how narrowly targeted at particular individuals, how specific, how distracting from the issues, and how relevant to political debate. Sometimes a person's objection to a personal attack is narrower than opposition to all negative comments about a person's motives (you make some rather specific points about the chickenhawk argument, for instance). It's hard to get away from all comments about people's motives and character, so I'd guess that most objections are at least somewhat narrower. The Euston manifesto, which a few posts ago you were describing as a bland statement of the obvious, is full of accusations against people who have supposedly abandoned core liberal values.

Acccusations of incivility can also function as versions of personal attacks. You'll notice that such accusations, much like the incivility itself, are often directed at one side of the political aisle by people on the other side. This post of yours could be interpreted in this way, as impugning the character of Sheehan, Cole, and Ritter. A less ambiguous example is the efforts to protect the President and his policies from opposition by characterizing a broad range of criticisms as incivil, or as personal attacks on the President (or on our soldiers), which blends into the more overt namecalling of accusing antiwar liberals of being angry, unpatriotic Bush-haters.
"how mean, how personal, how well supported by the evidence, how narrowly targeted at particular individuals, how specific, how distracting from the issues, and how relevant to political debate."

Lets take Juan Cole as example - mean - check. Personal - check. not supported by evidence - check. Narrowly targeted - uneven there. How specific "can we get anything on this guy" check. How distracting - double check. How relevant - double check.

But who thought Cole had any integrity?
I think a large part of the problem is that many people like to argue against strawmen. So they take the easiest to refute, and usually most inflammatory thing said by someone on the other side and argue against that rather than trying to address the more valid points.

Also, I'm not sure if it's just the internet, because I see a lot of this around my campus as well, but it seems like people don't really go into arguments with open minds anymore, but instead argue whatever they were planning to argue and quickly get frustrated and dismiss the other side as 'just not getting it.' Of course, being that I'm young and all, the art of constructive arguments might just be one of those "golden age of the past" things that never really existed.

To give a recent example using two bloggers who I frequent (in between posts at OxBlog of course) and think are well-regarded on opposite sides of the blogosphere. Using the Max Boot editorial linked here as a base -

Glenn Reynolds then starts off with a hypothetical question - http://instapundit.com/archives/030050.php and Kevin Drum comes back with http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2006_05/008730.php

Aside from Drum completely misreading what Reynolds is referring too, its the commenters who really prove the point. You can just feel the contempt and derision coming through the computer. There is no attempt there to bridge the gap and actually engage in a debate, but instead all focused on one side going "look at us, we're so much smarter" (sorry, I ran out of nifty vocab words.)

Some people say that its just Bush who is such a polarizing figure, and Iraq the polarizing issue (that was back at the 2004 election, when both were polling about 50/50) but I really think with the proliferation of news channels and blogs that its just getting that much easier to surround yourself with people and opinions that agree with your preconceived notions, which helps avoid the tough thinking most people really don't want to have to do.
Oops, forgot the Boot link - http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-boot3may03,1,1222567.column?coll=la-util-op-ed&ctrack=1&cset=true

You can also get it out of either of the two other posts listed, not linked, I guess. Is (url) with <> the way to insert hyperlinks here?
I’ve pondered as to when the political discourse began to land in the cutter, not just landing in the cutter, but making its way all the way to the sewer. Looking back, you can almost draw a correlation as to when this extra ordinary venomous environment began to show up and to when comedians started running with the liberal message in a much more pronounced way. After a cursory review of Franken and Moore’s (and others like them) comedy routines, it doesn’t take a big leap to see who primed the ad hominem pump on the left. While these comedians have always had the satirical curtain to run to when their material became a bit dicey, those at places such as the Dailykos have no need, nor desire to, tone it down; thus what you get is an ad hominem snowballing effect that turns into its logical conclusion: hatred. Mixing ad hominems and demagoguery is powerful stuff; there is a reason why the Roosevelt administration did not want the public to know he was in a wheelchair.

I’m not surprised at those who subscribe to the mantra of the Dailykos (and other blogs like them,) I’m surprised at how powerful they have become in the Democratic party and how Democrats, and the media too, have let them bring their new political discourse luggage with them.

Those who take this new discourse lightly, either don’t appreciate or understand hatred, or the steps that lead to it.
Thanks Davod for the link to the futurist fellow. Of course, I have a personal and profesional rule against trusting anything I find on the internet, even less so blogs. And this one was a classic case of sophistry if ever there was one.

It had a (slightly) valid point however - and I'm glad to report I am not anti-American. In fact I love America as I love any nation, especially California, and look forward to the day when it is rescued from its present state by Hillary Clinton. :)

Oh - and as for the tongues. Unspeakable does not mean unknowable, unless you think that knowledge is dependent on the spoken word! But seriously, 'unspeakable' is not only literal in meaning, but in this context is meant to evoke a sense of shame, shamefulness etc - something neo-cons seem to have abandonned when they took up spin-doctoring. They have no shame for the ruin they have caused in Iraq and New Orleans - the two cases where their foriegn and domestic policies have been tested and found innadequate. Hence, their evil is as unspeakable as it is detestable. Eg. 'unutterable evil' does not mean we cannot talk about it - though literally, this is what it says! Enjoy.
In the cutter? I think you meant to say "in the Qatar"...
Certainly shameful to hear a liberal (caucasian males no less) calling a black female an 'aunt jemimia'. Then again, just the sort of identity politics I'd expect from today's liberal.

Cindy Sheehan has enormous power and resources, she has MSM and Hollywood to protect her.
When Christopher Hitchens stops referring to women as "fat fucking slags" and apologizes for having done so, he may have some right to complain.

Meanwhile, it's just a case of pot kettle black.
Not impugning somebody's motives must mean pretending to take their word for their motivation.

If they lie, and if it's clear they lie, then what? Discussing issues with them if fruitless. I guess we can stop discussing issues with them without saying we're doing it because we don't want to waste time with liars.

I suppose a gross example might be called for:
You drive up to your home, which turns out to be a smoking wreck. A neighbor says he saw some smoke coming out of the basement window and so he threw in a gallon of kerosene.
"What!! You moron! You burned down my house. Everybody knows not to throw kerosene on a fire."

Neighbor sticks out lower lip and says, "I was only trying to help."

Either you decide he's dumb enough to believe that, or you don't. If you don't, then he's lying and burning down your house was probably, certainly, his goal.

What use would it be to discuss the flammable properties of kerosene as if he didn't know them?
I hate the Crossfire type yelling on TV.
I hate the "Evilbushychimphitler" tirades on Blogs.

Comedy is different. It is not political discourse. However, The WAPO had it right that ridicule in the name of satire did not belong at the WHC dinner...it was a dinner whose aim was to increase ties, not a "roast".
And there is a type of ridicule (e.g. painting Jews as evil beasts) that should be shunned by people if they wish a civil society.
"If Bush has unspeakable motives how do we know he has them?"

Haven't you read your Lovecraft? Motive the Unspeakable
Motive That Must Not Be Named
UnAussprechlichen Motifen

If you can't describe them, that's how you know they're there...
Aron -- So you're saying the neocon domestic policies worked in Florida and Missouri, for example, but failed in Louisiana?

Hmmmm... wonder what elements were different there....?
Patrick, are you drunk?

Aron, Iraq is a well-covered topic, but perhaps you could enlighten me as to how exactly the neocons are at fault in Hurricane Katrina/NO/Gulf Coast... ?
People like Cindy Shehan, as melodramatic as she may be, are more vulnerable to slurring than Bush/Cheney/Blair/Howard because they don't have all the power and resources these people have. So equating the magnitude of their respective silliness/slurring is not really fair.

People like Linda Tripp, as melodramatic as she may be, are more vulnerable to slurring than Clinton/Gore/Reno because they don't have all the power and resources these people have. So equating the magnitude of their respective silliness/slurring is not really fair.
There it is for all of youse

Do-It-Yourself Eye Surgery where fluorescent juices run dry. But not the smelly fish raspberry serbs who would BUY fluorescent orange mesh ballet flats?

Yeah, phosphorescent this benassis beholdest both the ex-showman and the earth, ... Be pleased to estote fish-net, The oberseah was a huge digamosla, with two of its legs phosphorescent, twisting that within four Months after I left . this is called the chasin prot'asis of Sherlock and Doyle.

Hole is tranfobique
What a bunch of liberal pussies.
Errr, funny you didn't mention Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, you know, the people that regularly, like, every day, refer to libeerals as traitors and terror sympathizers.

Funny you didn't mention the GOP convention or the Swift Boat Liars.

Just funny.
Richard, do I really need to explain how the neocons are at fault? Read the Report!

And as for the smaller hurricanes, WOW - amazing how the local authorities can cope with the usual hurricanes!! It's when something extraordinary happens that a system is really put to the test - local authorities were overwhelmed, and the Federal one was thus responsible.

Happy reading.
The current spate of incivility started in the 90s with right wing talk radio, followed by books by right wing talk show hosts & other right wing pundits & reached its apotheosis with the Drudge Report, all filled with ever-increasingly lurid accusations & diatribes against liberals.

Now that the rise of the blogs has finally given the left a voice, we've decided that civility in the face of incivility will only end up with us on the losing end of the battle for the press & public's highly fickle attention. If the only way to get views heard is to give as good as we get with the insults, hyperbole & put-downs, that's what we'll do. The fact that it's starting to bother you is just a sign to me that our strategy's working & we shouldn't give up on it.

If you really want to change the tone of public discourse, focus on your own side's worst abusers. When Rush, Hannity, O'Reilly, Coulter & all the rest start to show they understand the value of politeness I think you'd quickly see Al Franken, Atrios & Colbert follow suit.

Take the log out of your own eye, brother.
"The current spate of incivility started in the 90s with right wing talk radio..."

Ah. "He started it." Well that certainly justifies your position. If you're eight.
Ah. "He started it." Well that certainly justifies your position. If you're eight.

That plus it seems to be the only thing that works, unfortunately. We tried just complaining & pointing out their incivility without following them into it, but it proved to be a losing strategy so we've abandoned it for a stronger approach of pushback & parity of tone.

Am I happy that this is what it takes to win? No, of course not. But it is so we will until you get the point & stop.
Thats funny Aron.

Those smaller Hurricanes actually flattened many cities in Florida. Homestead was once basically wiped off the map in the 90's. How long before federal help arrived to help? 5 days.

During Katrina there was a medical ship already off the coast of LA. The day after the Coast Guard and the Navy were rescuing people off their roofs. Not even 24 hours after it hit, but this is a federal problem?

Bush offered Federal help before, and Blanco turned him down flat. It is illegal for the Feds to just take over without permission, you know that right? Heck Blanco never even called in the NG until after the damn thing hit, but Bush is at fault.

Man there are some people out there who do not even know how the government works. Local/State/Federal those are the chain of command. Did the Local do the job they were supposed to do? No. Did the State? No.
"The current spate of incivility started in the 90s with right wing talk radio, followed by books by right wing talk show hosts & other right wing pundits & reached its apotheosis with the Drudge Report, all filled with ever-increasingly lurid accusations & diatribes against liberals.

Somehow, I suspect that Ronald Reagan, Dan Quayle, Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas might disagree with you.
Oh, and as for it being "uncivil" to describe liberals as traitors?

Well, as Mark Steyn recently noted, the favorite liberal trope that Thomas Jefferson said "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism" was in fact falsely attributed, and was in fact a phrase coined by one Howard Zinn.

But that did not stop liberals everywhere, including John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, from repeating it in front of vast audiences ad nauseaum.

Now, with a hat-tip to National Review's The Corner, consider this syllogism if one takes this liberal talking point to it's logical conclusion:

"Dissent is the highest form or patriotism. Treason is the highest form of dissent. Therefore, treason is the highest form of patriotism".

I challenge you to find a hole in that.

Let's face it: the Left has been actively advocating and defending treason for the last 40 years, and their motives for doing so are in fact what is truly "unspeakable".
Bill Clinton took the Smear right up to the highest office in the land. He had entire teams working to smear political opponents. He himself attacked Rush Limbaugh as a racist. He blamed right-wing talk radio for th e Oklahoma City bombing.

This smearbund in the Oval Office was a new phenomenom in our history. The Lefties now project this Smear Team onto George Bush. "He outed CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame to smear truth-teller Ambassador Joe Wilson" and "Bush lied".

Lefty/Liberals always attack others for what they themselves do. Hillary Clinton justified her Whitewater scam, which included evicting buyers, who missed a payment, with the excuse that that's how everyone was getting rich in the 80's.

Smears have always been with us, but until the modern Democrat Party, they never took over a major political party or took over the major media before. That's the difference.
And now we come full circle to having you right wingers actually attacking us with slurs & epithets in the same breath you you use to whine about being slurred. I can't help you there, sorry. If you're gonna be an asshole we're just going to have to agree to fucking disagree.
Whenever I hear people talk about how the poitical discourse has gone downhill, I recall this campaign song:

Who never did a noble deed?
Who of the people took no heed?
Who is the worst of tyrants' breed? - VAN BUREN!
Who rules us with an iron rod?
Who moves at Satan's beck and nod?
Who heeds not man; who heeds not God? - VAN BUREN!
Who would his friends his country sell?
Do other deeds too base to tell;
Deserves the lowest place in hell? - VAN BUREN!
And when November comes around,
Who then shall hear the fateful sound;
Magician, thou art wanting found? - VAN BUREN!
[Whig campaign song, election of 1836]

This comment takes the total comments to 40, a personal record.

I need to get out more.
Woops, I certainly did not mean “cutter,” but rather gutter :> . I agree with those that say Rush and company possibly started the slide –and Rush is certainly not immune to using ad hominems. However, if you look at the type of four letter personal insults, along with the other rather creative insults on the Dailykos, not to mention the sheer number of them, there really is no comparison to that of the rush-hannity-savage-drudge types. I figure if you can not walk into a six grade class and read a transcript of the given dialog, then it’s probably not worth the paper it’s on. Yes, I know someone will be able to point out where someone from the right indulged in Koslog (you heard it here first :> ,) but it would be the acception –big acception-- rather then the rule.

I was also under the impression that when an individual falls to using these explicit terms and phrases, they have: lost their composure; are struggling to reply in a rational logical manner; or have become over emotional. All of these are attributes of someone (in the political debate realm) who is having a hard time expressing themselves due to a week argument, or their inability to sufficiently defend a strong one.

"All dissent is opposition. All opposition is counterrevolutionary."

- Fidel Castro

What lovely common ground you two have found.
Response to Qwinn's reductionary syllogism:

It's convenient to ignore that within the context of "dissent" being an act of patriotism, the assumption is inherent that the "dissent" is of a legal nature. Otherwise, it immediately steps outside of the bounds of patriotism, and nullifies the initial statement.

Treason does not and cannot enter that equation, despite whatever simian logic arguments one might choose to deploy.

I imagine there was a note of humor in your post. Regardless, anything that comes out of the National Review can go bugger itself.
I remember when I first heard Limbaugh in 1988 thinking "I wonder how they're going to like having the tables turned? Same humorous but critical style as SNL, Doonesbury, etc, but now going from right to left." I had no impression that he started anything new, just reversed the field.

And I was liberal then, voting for Al Gore in the '88 NH primary. Whatever one might say about the civility of conservatives now, we cannot be having a reasonable discussion with people who think it started with Limbaugh. I used to write for an underground socialist rag in the 70's, man, and loved how mainstream journalism was stickin' it to the man. We went out of business because we no longer offered anything that wasn't available in the daily fishwrap.

People respond to Rush's emotional content, plus getting juiced by his hot-button terms. But when you read the sentences in context and for content, he backs 'em up pretty well. When he brings out quotes from Kennedy and Osama that are nearly identical, it's not hate speech to play on that theme to drive the point home.

The blogosphere, including the right, has many unsavory places with unfair criticism and deceptive quoting. I try to condemn that when I encounter it. But no one at the NYTRB counters what is said there. There is still nothing like equivalence.
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