Monday, May 04, 2009

Persuasion is Unnecessary

In a recent comment debate, I've been chastised for alienating others, thus limiting my ability to persuade them to act for political common ground. That doesn't matter to me, and here's why: I do not write those comments or this blog primarily to persuade or convince others.

I do it for me.

It's not that I can't take criticism. For most of my life, I haven't been nearly as close to perfect as I am now, so I've had to eat my share of humble pie when people convince me (or I independently figure out) that I'm wrong. Most of my critics need no encouragement. So, if you have a substantive objection to something I write, don't hold back.

Just know that if you object on the grounds that I'm ruining the chance to make political converts, you're wasting your time. Whether I'm right or wrong has nothing to do with how many people agree with me. I outright reject using any measure of popularity to settle a matter of truth or moral probity, whether it's polls, votes, consensus ("sustainability NOW!"), or common wisdom. If I must be more genteel and diplomatic to convince you of the truth, if you would like me to be more moderate, and less "extreme," to avoid being marginalized, you might as well save yourself the trouble and close this window without delay. Nobody is forcing you to read this.

Before I get back to the debate over religion and torture, I'm going to relate a bit of background to my position. Anyone familiar with Billy Beck (cited above for his substantive exposition on the use of the word "extremist") will no doubt recognize a significant number of his arguments and phrases in what I write, including his attitude towards consensus, politeness, and persuasion. I could spend years cataloging the number of incidents in which someone attempted to disregard his argument, not for its merits, but because they regarded him as a foul-mouthed, arrogant jerk. Bearing in mind that he focuses his ire at selected targets (regardless of whether his critics understand why), he is unrepentant in eschewing such niceties. Read the comments for this article and search for his name. Here's a sample:

"I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen, but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch - and I will be heard. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.

It is pretended that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question my influence - humble as it is - is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years - not perniciously, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right."
(William Lloyd Garrison, "An Immediate End To Slavery", editorial in The Liberator, January 1, 1831, emphases original)


"This ain’t no disco."

I added quite a few comments there, too. Search for those, too. For example:

But what keeps a predator from just pretending not to be persuaded? What about an idiot who lacks the mental capacity to grasp the reasoning? What then?

Billy Beck and Radley Balko are goldmines to me, for different reasons. Balko is an invaluable source of frequent articles highlighting corruption and injustice. His efforts have influenced criminal trials and played no small part in Steven Hayne being fired. But Balko still balks at being smug or "extreme." Also, I felt that during the last campaign he too often focused his criticisms against Republicans, ignoring the horrible consequences to freedom inevitable under Democrats. He spiked a few of my comments and then posted this defense, which I took to be in no small part a reaction to my criticisms. I realize that during an election campaign, people cast a jaundiced eye at their critics, often assuming that the motivation is to influence the election outcome (which is pretty funny considering the fact that I don't vote). But to his credit, he has started to see the consequences of the election outcome. He generally focuses on civil liberties, but perhaps he'll find good reasons to object to a new class of government abuses once the filibuster-proof Democrats start passing laws and regulations. When they ram through carbon cap and trade systems, increased gun control, and universal health care, that will trigger waves of citations, shutdowns, and takings, along with the inevitable arrests and prison sentences for people who resist these additional restrictions on their freedom. (Dare I dream that he might even realize that a McCain administration would likely have made most of the same positive changes, with much fewer negative ones, considering The Maverick's voting record?) I know Beck will be on top of things, as he has been since the Clinton years, without apology for his brusque tone.

Back to the article on religion and torture, which triggered me to write this:

#27 ClubMedSux: ...if you want others to support your beliefs then alienating them is probably a poor strategy for winning their support.
#28 Dan: ...your rhetoric makes it much more difficult for us to work together for the things we do agree on, like the liberty movement. The libertarian and constitutional movements, energized by Ron Paul, will achieve little if we are not able to come together where we can.

Since I choose not to vote, I don't care about movements or political parties. (As much as I enjoyed watching Ron Paul make the other candidates look ridiculous by comparison, he isn't consistently on the side of freedom, either.) So if I have to give respect (in special cases) to anti-evidence, anti-logic, and anti-reason (i.e., faith), so that the people exhibiting such anti-thought don't switch sides against freedom, I have to question their commitment to principles. Democracy aside, why should I value having fair-weather allies? Such support seems arbitrary and capricious, not something on which to rely.

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