Sunday, October 19, 2014

Going To Lengths

The indefatigable Robert Stacy McCain has posted an important piece detailing an exchange with a typical feminist, in which McCain meticulously dissects the feminist methodology for advancing its inherently anti-male, anti-heterosexual, anti-freedom agenda. The stimulus for the exchange was McCain's assertion of those three characteristics of feminism, all of which have been obvious to any thinking person since the movement morphed from a quest for legal equality for women to a declared war on men, society, and normality itself.

McCain's analysis of the feminist rhetorical approach makes several references to feminist polemicists with whom few men are likely to be familiar. Even those of us familiar with them are unlikely to have read much of their crap, for a simple reason: to "support" their thesis, the writers McCain cites obfuscate to an extent anyone not obsessed with obtaining power would find terminally irritating. They treat clarity and simplicity as their mortal enemies.

Though the "issue" beneath the exchange is the seemingly trivial contretemps called "GamerGate," it provides a handy microcosm of Leftist advocates' polemic strategy:

  • Assert the existence of a pervasive injustice to which others are blind.
  • Claim "deep reasons" or "deep mechanisms" to be the genesis of the injustice.
  • Direct attention away from facts that contradict the polemicist's core assertions.
  • Conflate utterly unrelated phenomena; vehemently deny fundamental facts and truths.
  • Keep your "argument" obscure by employing as much quasi-academic jargon as possible.
  • Immediately and unqualifiedly categorize those who disagree as oppressors and malefactors.

Anyone who could tell you how many cans there are in a six-pack should be able to laugh such arguments aside -- and many do. But not everyone.

Clarity and simplicity are truth's best friends. Its worst enemy is the unjustified concession of authority.

I was once sent a cassette tape -- say, remember cassette tapes? -- of an anti-capitalist "lecture" by Noam Chomsky, in which the celebrated linguist and notorious Marxist unwittingly created a case study of the Left's rhetorical strategy. To condense the thing to its minimum size: he talked fast; he used a plethora of obscure terms, and he carefully averted attention from evidence that contradicted his contentions. But he who is undaunted by Chomsky's reputation in linguistics, who is willing to tease Chomsky's contentions apart one by one, and who assesses each of Chomsky's claims against objective facts would find the whole "lecture" to be utterly risible.

Much of the Left's success is founded on a widespread unwillingness to do those things. That unwillingness is partly reasonable; after all, how many of us have the time? Besides, we tend to grant persons with high reputations in one field credit for high general intelligence, and therefore with a better-than-average degree of penetration into other subjects as well. In other words, we tend to grant them an authority they haven't earned and seldom deserve.

Quoth Arthur Herzog:

The thirst for answers in a difficult world has brought the rise of Anything (or Everything) Authorities. The Anything Authority is one whose credentials in one field are taken as valid for others -- sometimes many others. Examples are Dr. George Wald, the biologist; Dr. Benjamin Spock, the pediatrician; Jane Fonda, the actress -- all of whom are Anything Authorities on war, peace, and politics -- and Dr. Linus Pauling, who said of President Nixon, "For fifteen years I have studied insanity. I saw the eyes on television, and there is madness, paranoia."

That last should clank against the mind, for Dr. Pauling himself is known to have suffered sharply decreased mental capacity in his latter years, possibly from undiagnosed Alzheimer's Syndrome. But even were that not the case, no one is qualified to diagnose insanity on the basis of a televised image.

But Dr. Pauling's insane claim is exceptional in its boldness and baldness. Chomskyish obscurantism is far more popular with Leftist "thinkers." They prefer what the late, great Cyril Northcote Parkinson called "froth and gas," the sort of rhetoric that intimidates with its pseudo-intellectual veneer of erudition and deep study.

Viewed from that angle, the problem reduces to persuading people not to be intimidated.

Great volumes of verbiage prove nothing. But they can wear down one's resistance. Anyone who's unwisely accepted a promotional "free three night / two day resort vacation" in exchange for agreeing to sit through a harangue about the absolute imperative to buy a timeshare right now can testify to that effect.

This, of course, is not germane to the problem of the willing dupe, nor that of the evilly motivated adopter. However, the majority -- perhaps the overwhelming majority -- of persons who subscribe to Leftist convictions are of neither sort. Some of them are victims of rhetorical bludgeoning of the sort delineated here. It's possible to recommend a set of palliatives to such a person:

  • Be mindful of the facts.
  • Demand evidence for the polemicist's contentions.
  • When the polemicist attempts to evade a question or an objection, mark it against him.
  • Uphold a standard of clarity and simplicity: If a social, economic, or political argument can't be completely framed in a thousand words of common English, it cannot possibly be valid.

And there's this, from Siddhartha Gautama, whom history has styled the Buddha:

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it -- no matter if I have said it! -- except it agree with your own reason and your own common sense.

Words to live by, Gentle Reader. Words to live by.

1 comment:

pdxr13 said...

If Pres. Ebola gets his way, how will these oppressed MarxFem's get enough calories to keep their pants up?