Rules of public debate

Some of the ones that really irritate me:

  1. One is allowed to oppose gay “marriage”, but one is not allowed to give a reason for why one opposes it.  In particular, one must disavow any belief in normative gender roles.  Having conceded that the sexes are interchangeable, one is reduced to saying “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman” as a matter of arbitrary definition.  If pressed on this point, the speaker will stress his support for civil unions (because, after all, we are reasonable, and we believe sodomy should receive some encouragement from the State) and fall into embarrassed silence.  In other words, the rules of the debate is that only one side gets to argue, and that side gets to keep arguing until the public gives in.
  2. Any non-utilitarian reasoning is “religious” and therefore unreasonable, and therefore excluded.  I really cannot find anything religious, in the normal sense of the word, in arguments against abortion, embryo-destructive research, gay “marriage”, euthanasia, and immigration.  Opposition isn’t based on Benthamite pleasure vs. pain calculations. and that seems to be enough to make it “religious”.
  3. Non-liberals are categorized by their presumed feelings rather than their actual beliefs.  A “racist” isn’t someone who believes proposition X but a person who allegedly has negative feelings about group Y.  An argument is presumed invalid if the one presenting it does so with racist/anti-semitic/intolerant motives, and the onus is on the non-liberal to prove he doesn’t have such motives.
  4. Non-liberals are also presumed to have psychological problems.  One must prove that one doesn’t have an irrational fear of Muslims or the normalization of sodomy.  Arguing that fear of these things is rational will be taken as proof that one does, in fact, harbor such neuroses.
  5. To be respectable, one must “come to terms” with the shameful past of our people.  The only past there is to come to terms with consists exclusively of the Holocaust, slavery, mistreatment of Native Americans, and the Crusades (but not the centuries of provocation that caused them).  Coming to terms is not a one-time thing.  It requires a lifetime of groveling and impious denigration of one’s ancestors.  Disagreeing with Jewish or Negro-representing groups on any issue is a sign that one has not sufficiently “come to terms”.
  6. Contesting past liberal victories makes one a kook.  An issue is only settled when it’s settled to a liberal’s satisfaction.  So, for example, someone who wants to undo the New Deal is an extremist, but FDR was not an extremist to have introduced the New Deal, even though we’re talking about the same change, but in reverse.  Mainstream conservatives who reject gay marriage but accept easy divorce are lambasted as hypocrites, but traditional conservatives who reject both are monstrous radicals.  Restricting divorce would turn us into a “theocracy”, but the liberals never told us when they were introducing easy divorce that they were overthrowing and replacing the nation’s constitution.  Yet if divorce law is the difference between democracy and theocracy, this must have been what they did.

17 Responses

  1. Re: 4. Wasn’t it (the morally depraved) Adorno with The Authoritarian Personality that ingrained into our culture that the Right is deranged? It did smoothly reassure the liberals in their rebelliion to right authority.

  2. You highlight common problems for the Conservative, who is easily portrayed as the “Person of No” because he is always reacting to the proposals and rhetoric of liberals.

    We need for Reactionaries to go on the offensive, especially with a rhetoric of marginalization and humiliation for his enemies.

    The Reactionary debate method is simple: define the terms and shift the Overton Window. If he does not do those things, he is defeated from the start.

  3. You’re right. We always let the enemy set the subject and the terms of debate. It’s not surprising that we always lose.

  4. I’ve never hesitated to say “the lying and decptive methods of Cultural Marxists who are alienated from American culture and want to wreck it.” It has shut some liberals down cold.

  5. And that is in reference to some specific liberal word game tactic. For example, “tolerance.” I explain the esoteric Cultural Marxist meaning to the word / phrase, and attack it.

  6. Way to go on the offensive.

  7. Of course, in the UK and Europe it has gone beyond being ‘not allowed’ to argue such points: it is now formally illegal to argue.

    Indeed arguing (in the sense of having an argument with) with members of certain groups is de facto illegal.

    (In the US you will merely be driven from your job and vilified by the mass media until they get exhausted from beating you.)

    It has happened; we are already living under totalitarian rule; we just haven’t noticed/ admitted the fact.

  8. That’s not entirely true. The theory of the authoritarian personality (which has been refined considerably since Adorno’s time – a lot more research has been done since then) is independent of the left/right divide. Contemporary political circumstances mean that an authoritarian personality in the US will probably be a right-winger, but his counterpart in the Soviet Union would have been a diehard Marxist. For that matter, millions of people with the authoritarian personality type have no interest in politics at all.

    Researchers often use the term “Right Wing Authoritarian” (RWA), but this is misleading. Authoritarian personality traits are by no means always associated with the right – they just happen to be so in Europe and North America.

  9. I read some recent research from Belgium recently that seemed to indicate that LWA was more common than its right-wing counter-part and authoritarianism (as defined by the authors of the study) was extremely common among communists and anarchists.

  10. I can well believe that. I suspect it’s quite common among some trade unionists too.

  11. I’m still suspicious that this is just throwing around psychologizing insults at people with different political beliefs than the researcher. They’re authoritarian; we’re organized. They’re motivated by fear; we’re motivated by concern. They’re fanatical; we’re passionate. I doubt there is such a thing as an authoritarian personality at all, on the Right or the Left. The most offensive thing about it is the way it pathologizes healthy character traits like in-group loyalty and affection for parents and ancestors. It sets up as normative the alienation of mid-century immigrant Marxist Jews.

  12. I can see why you’d find it offensive to be labelled as psychologically dysfunctional, but there are two separate issues here. The first is whether the personality type exists (the empirical research appears to testify that it does). The second is whether it is a good or a bad thing – you would see it as an admirable set of traits, while Adorno clearly didn’t.

    Oddly enough, I have some doubts as to whether a royalist conservative in the US would even have the authoritarian personality type. One of its principal traits is conventionalism, and royalist conservatism is about as unconventional as you can get in the US context. You’re far more likely to find a US authoritarian venerating the American Republic, the constitution and the founding fathers.

  13. Hi Reggie,

    It’s not just the value judgment I disagree with. I disagree with the claims that illiberals act without rational motives, that the only emotions that motivate them are hatred and fear, and that filial piety is really fear of one’s parents. It’s not that Adorno and I disagree about whether craven servility and mindless group-think are good things; I absolutely deny that that’s what drives conservatism, or even what drives Marxism for that matter.

  14. Ah, I think I get your point now. For the avoidance of doubt (as we lawyers say), I wouldn’t want it to be thought that I was suggesting that illiberals have any kind of monopoly on irrationality or personality flaws. That clearly isn’t the case at all, though I can see how the theory of the authoritarian personality can be framed in polemical terms to serve that sort of agenda. I think I now see what you mean by the “they’re fanatical; we’re passionate” double standard. Unfortunately, a lot of us play that game, whether we’re on the left, the right or the centre. Emotion, temperament and personality type do play a part in forming political opinions, mine as much as yours.

  15. Of course, liberals are right – not in their opinions, but in the way they treat the Right. There can be no free speech on fundamental matters, and there can be no discussion when both sides disagree on fundamental principles. The opponents must be silenced, and if possible – destroyed. If you know you speak the Truth, you must be insane to allow others to spread lies – or you know that your Truth is not true after all.

    This was always the ruling principle of the progressives, and it is the only rational possibility. Spinoza, who introduced the idea of free speech, explained quite clearly that only rational intellectuals can be allowed to speak freely. The emotional and irrational religious and priests must be muzzled by the Prince.

    Since the Right agrees that only the Left has the right to free speech, it can be easily seen that there is no Right at all, only different varieties of the Left.

  16. […] correctly) that both sides operate on consequentialist premises. As Bonald of Throne and Altar has pointed out, any non-utilitarian argument is dismissed as “religious” and thus not worthy of consideration, […]

  17. […] (and, dispiritingly often, assumed correctly) that both sides operate on consequentialist premises. Any non-utilitarian argument is dismissed as “religious” and consigned to the domain of private, subjective opinion, even if it does not appeal to religious […]

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