Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Argument by Character Assassination.

Conservative Donald Douglas is much too funny. He's got this idea that he's some intellectual master-debater who resides above the right-left fray, as an impartial judge of the combatants; yet beneath the very thin veneer of faux elitism resides a third-grader who never got over the verbal drubbing that the other kids gave him on the playground each day. And that's too bad, as I've always wanted to debate the guy that Donald imagines he is, yet the more I try to pull that Donald out, the more I get the third-grader.

And so Donald has a post in reply to John Hawkins' suggestion that conservatives have been too virtuous and Christian when dealing with liberals, and finally need to take the gloves off and fight as dirty as we do. And it's Donald's opinion that Conservatives Can Finish First. And this post showcases the typical lack of self-awareness seen by conservatives, in which liberals are attacked for the negative behavior that Donald thinks conservatives should engage in.

And you know what? That's fine. If you think insults are acceptable, then they're acceptable. But don't try to pretend that throwing insults is a serious character flaw, while throwing insults. I myself have great fun in insulting conservatives, and you'll never hear me suggest that insults are inherently inappropriate. But with Donald, you get a hypocrite who insists that liberals are dastardly name-callers, yet has very rarely used my name without including absurd attacks (or perhaps he really thinks my name is Dr. Biowackadoodle and Dr. Biohoplesslylamemaster).

And so we get whining about a silly Photoshop job from a guy who dismisses every liberal as America-hating rejectionist, denialist, nihilist leftists. But beyond the pointless insults, he has no trouble smearing our positions too, like when he refers to our stance on abortion and writes:
"Leftists don't care about freedom. Or, if they do, it's freedom to kill, including killing human infants irrespective of stages of gestational development."
Because yes, that's the only possible way to refer to our position: The only freedom we believe in is the freedom to kill human infants. Way to avoid those character assassinations, Don. And hey, he didn't jokingly name a perverted moose after us, so it's obvious that he's keeping things on the intellectual tip.

Argument v. Insult

But all this misses the truly funny part of this discussion: Who in god's name thinks that Democrats took the Whitehouse and gained seats in both houses of Congress due to Photoshop? Is it that we're winning because we insult them better? Who could really think that?

A man-child still living in the third-grade, that's who. But it's not just Donald. Most conservatives really get their feelings hurt over this stuff and think that more insults are the way to go. But what they don't get is that the insults aren't our arguments. When I refer to Donald as a "nutjob" (as is my wont), it's to give context to my readers, so they understand that they're reading something about a guy I think is a nutjob. And the reason I think he's a nutjob will be explained afterwards. The arguments are the meat of our material, and the insults are just the dessert.

But for conservatives, the insult is all you really get. You're told that the person is a "leftist" and that's pretty much the end of it. You're told that the person's idea of freedom is killing babies. And that's it. That's the whole argument. And you're supposed to end up thinking "Yeah, they do like killing babies." It's argument by assertion and they're not even particularly good at it. And if you even attempt to refute the assertion, for example, explaining that you think human life is more than just a blob of fertilized cells, then you're a slimy polecat denialist who wants to kill babies. That's all there is to it. Ask for an explanation and you just get more insults.

And the irony is that that's the reason they're losing debates! That's why the president is a liberalish Democrat and Democrats control Congress. Partly, it's because their positions are intolerant and out of whack with the general population, but partly, it's because they can't even explain what their positions are. Because all of their "arguments" are little more than dressed-up attacks on liberals. That's all they've got. And that's all they really care about.

But of course, that leads back to the first point: These people are intolerant and out of whack. People want the government to help them, and all they can do is scream about socialist leftists making people dependent on the government. And call me crazy, but I don't think that's the sort of help people had in mind.

Babies v. Eggs

And who knows, maybe when Donald sees a fertilized egg, it looks just as human to him as a real baby. Perhaps he can't tell which of the pictures in this post is the egg and which is the baby (Donald, the one up top is your precious fertilized egg). But by insisting on labeling his opponents as baby killers, the only people who will listen to him are the ones who already call us baby killers. To everyone else, it just makes him look like a nutjob.

And so they smear Obama as a socialist fascist baby killer, and can't understand why nobody takes them seriously. And their only solution is to throw more insults, not understanding how that only makes things worse. Obama didn't win because he pulled out a funny photo of McCain and call him "gramps" on the campaign trail. He won because he sounded like he knew what the hell he was talking about and had real answers to real problems. And all McCain could do was to try to scare everyone into thinking that Obama was a socialist with scary friends.

And for people like Donald, this worked. Because he likes insults. For as much as he imagines himself the intellectual, insults are really all he does. Nobody reading his blog will be convinced of anything. That's just not the point of his blog. Nor are any conservative blogs meant to convince anyone. They're all about one-upping each other into how scary Obama is and how evil liberals are, so they grow more and more upset with each passing day.

And so Donald imagines he's writing some intellectual post on liberals and abortion, but all he's really doing is taking Ross Douthat's almost interesting column on Obama's plans on abortion and squeezing out an attack on liberals that Douthat didn't make. And so we get this long piece that merely asserts that Dems are wrong on when life begins, which makes them all baby killers. And this might be news to Donald, but I've been reading that garbage on the internet for over fifteen years now. His big conclusion was written for him before he even started blogging and it didn't gain anything from his umpteenth recitation of it.

And that's just par for the course. Donald isn't making an argument, he's just looking for another way to smear liberals. And what's sad is that if Donald reads this, he won't see the points I made and attempt to rebut them. And he definitely won't take my advice and write posts with real substance. Instead, he'll insist upon defending his characterization of us as leftist baby killers by pretending that these are objective terms which properly describe who we are. And he'll see all the times I called him a "nutjob" and use the famous Rubber v. Glue maneuver. For him, this is a winning argument.

Because that's all he'll really see: Name-calling and insults. And while he might refer to me as "Arlon" for the hundredth time (due to a simple misspelling I made on more than one occasion), he's not going to see any of the substance I wrote. Sure, my point was to explain what a silly hypocrite he is, as well as pointing out how wrong he is for imagining that Photoshop lost them the Whitehouse; but all he'll understand are the insults.

And that's the real reason conservatives are losing: Not because they don't insult enough, but because they don't do anything else.

6 comments:

Deranged Leftwing Baker said...

I hate to attribute my own feelings to all Democrats, but I don't feel abortion should be used indiscriminately as a form of contraception. That seemed to be what the Clinton admin was striving for, was to keep it available, but reduce the instance. I would think most on the left, except those who get joy from killing babies, would go along with that.

Once again, can't speak for all Dems, but I think most don't want the terrorists (trademark-GOP) to come here and behead all of us liberals. Or conservatives either, if there are any real ones left.

Isn't that what guys like Douglas do, is build up this strawman Democratic party that supports babykilling and terrorist appeasing, thus making it OK to hurl any insults? Admittedly, the moose is pretty juvenile, but it's really no more bereft of substance than the charges of socialism, nihilism or whatever.

John Fulton said...

I've been watching some film of George Wallace campaigning in 1968 for a project, and it is amazing to see all of the ideas of modern conservatism on display in this man. Sure they don't now call for segregation, but all of the namecalling about 'elites' on campuses and in Washington coming to take things away from you and make you feel stupid is there. It just weird to see the rhetoric of the dixiecrats being repeated verbatim today.

Deranged Leftwing Baker said...

And, it's not just the wingnut bloggers. Apparently, the virus has spread like a pachyderm flu.

Doctor Biobrain said...

I don't feel abortion should be used indiscriminately as a form of contraception.Deranged - What else would it be used for? Party tricks?

While I don't think abortion should be seen as a substitute for contraception, I think that once it's too late for rubbers or pills that abortion is an acceptable way to go. And while I've been fortunate enough to not have been involved in that sort of decision, I can guarantee you that I wouldn't think twice about aborting a fetus that I wasn't prepared to raise. For myself, adoption is a far more horrible thing than abortion.

Do you really consider a fetus to be a baby? I don't. I have too much respect for human life to consider a blob of cells to be an equal to one of us. I suspect that most pro-lifers think the same thing, which is why they so rarely suggest that women be charged with murder for having an abortion. The "baby killer" thing is just empty rhetoric that even they don't truly ascribe to.

And the point is that nobody ENJOYS having an abortion. But if it's the right thing to do, it's the right thing to do; and that decision should be left up to the mother. I mean, if a woman believes that she's not in a position to raise a child and would prefer that it not be born, I suspect that she knows what she's talking about. And nobody makes that decision lightly.

And without a doubt, nobody considers an expensive and obtrusive abortion to be a straight substitute for rubbers or pills. It'll always be seen as a last resort, but I think it's completely wrong to pressure women into thinking that it's a horrible thing that they should feel guilty about. While I'd prefer that more people used birth control and reduced the need for abortions, I don't consider abortions to be wrong.

And I can guarantee you that if my teenage daughter (god forbid) wanted to have one, I'd be the first to drive her to the hospital. And she definitely knows that, though, I'm hoping (praying) the issue never comes up. Raising a child is a difficult thing even for a grown-up; I fail to see why we should ever pressure obviously immature teenagers to try to do so.

Deranged Leftwing Baker said...

Doctor Bio, I didn't think I was disagreeing with you. This is why I seldom wade into the issue. Apparently, I made a poor choice of words. My understanding is that during the Clinton years the emphasis was on education and providing the means of contraception that would prevent the need for abortions to occur. I certainly would not support any moves toward making abortion illegal. It would not prevent pregnancies from being terminated less safely than they are now and I have no desire to see unwanted children come into the world (believe me).

It seems to me an issue where the votes of women should actually carry more weight anyway. Something seems wrong with men deciding the fate of anything relating to women's bodies. Is paternalistic the word? And yes, I think I'm still speaking badly.

Green Eagle said...

Doctor,
A good post as usual.
I have been carrying on "discussions" for forty years or so with right wingers, and here's what I have learned: Conservatives basically operate on an entirely emotional level. No kind of factual evidence can persuade them, because all of their beliefs stem from their emotional needs. This is what Rush Limbaugh understands so well, and it is the basis for his long term success.

Not being very introspective, conservatives assume that everyone operates the same way as they do. Thus, they do not even try to engage you on a factual basis, but always attempt to batter you emotionally with outbursts of rage and ridicule.

Incidentally, that is why I believe that the fact-based ridicule which you deliver so well is the best weapon against right wingers. They are immune to facts in their pure form, but it is just possible to crack their emotional dependence on conservatism, by making them ashamed of their positions. It's really the only strategy that I have ever seen work.