Monday, June 05, 2006

Balloonjuice complains. Okay.

Over at Balloonjuice there is the complaint that conservatives who want to move on in discussing the GWOT, trying to find some common ground, are misusing words in describing the war skeptics.

I would have replied over there, but with 177 comments and counting, I’m not up for reading through it all, nor burying my brilliance that far down the page. That’s one of the advantages of having your own site, I suppose.

The key quotes are these: Tim F's
Any Iraq skeptic who who spent 2002 and 2003 online will remember hours spent trying and failing to explain how opposing Iraq does not necessarily make you a pacifist. Inevitably the logic comes down to this: lefties who oppose war are pacifists, opposing this war makes you a leftie who opposes war and therefore you are a pacifist. One needs a veritable grab bag of fallacies to float this bark, from accident (most lefties are pacifists, you are a lefty so you are a pacifist) to hasty generalization (I can name lefties who were pacifists, therefore lefties are pacifists) yet on and on it goes. If an argument holds no water without appealing to at least one fallacy then we can safely move on.

And by one Barbara O'Brien, who he quotes:
How many times do we have to say we are not against surveillance as long as it’s done lawfully before it sinks into a rightie brain? And are there numbers that go that high?

These are not unreasonable sentiments. Certainly conservatives experience the same thing arguing with (some) liberals, being accused of holding views we do not, or of bargaining in bad faith. It is indeed frustrating to keep insisting “Look, not everyone over here is like that – actually very few are” and be told “Yes you are too.” So, granting there is a solid point behind the complaint, let me nonetheless provide some refutation.

I did not have a site of my own in 2002 and 2003, but I did participate frequently – my wife might say obsessively – on the forums at Ship of Fools. SOF was/is a Christian site based in the UK, and thus had a strong, though not exclusively, C of E and liberal crew. There were commenters worldwide, but mostly from the Anglospheric nations. I thought the level of discussion fair to good. In retrospect, now that I have other sites for comparison, I would rate it good to excellent. Among the knee-jerk reactions from all sides, there were some yet more rational birds, and a few who were very sophisticated and deep in their arguments.

So I did have some discussions similar to what Balloonjuice describes, and categorizing all war skeptics as the same is unfair. But there is a piece that and Tim and Barbara leave out: not all who say “I am not a pacifist but…” or “I am not against surveillance but…” are telling the truth. They often deceive themselves rather than merely others, but it is often not true. I have visited Balloonjuice a few times, have even commented, and mildly like the site. Tim may indeed be one who has a legitimate gripe, and Barbara another, that they are being disregarded despite their desire to engage in honest debate. I offer no opinion on those two in particular.

But I find over time that if you press people, they reveal themselves. To claim “We are not against surveillance, we just want it to be done lawfully,” after the program has been explained, is more suspect. (Still possible, though.) But more often, the writer reveals that the heart of her opposition to the war or the surveillance is that she doesn’t trust George Bush. When that is the case, I research or probe to discover if the writer just plain always disbelieves George Bush; nine times out of ten, that’s the case. They believe Joe Wilson, they believe Dan Rather, they believe the Thanksgiving turkey was plastic, they believe it’s a war for oil, they believe any crazy thing that people claim, no matter how plausible the administration’s response. When I see that, I feel comfortable disregarding their objections.

You want to get my attention, earn some credibility with me? Announce in your criticism where you believed Bush when the press attacked him. If you can write – even better, verify – “I believed Al Qaeda was in Iraq in 2002, and I still believe that now, and Bush was right to not back down” or “The left has really rushed to judgement about Gitmo, but there’s no good evidence there’s anything wrong,” or some other such episode, then you have my attention on the other issues. Mention it. Announce it every time, maybe, because my memory is short.

There's an online commenter at Dr. Sanity's, O Bloody Hell. He's very suspicious of the NSA surveillance, I'm not too bothered. But I read every word of his on the subject, because I know he's not just reflexively anti-Bush. Everyone says they have good theoretical reasons for what they believe. He has some claim to that.

A caution: there are things that look like giving Bush credit for something, but really aren’t, and those don’t count. For example “I agree with Bush that Social Security needs to be reformed but he was unwilling to compromise and that’s why it failed” is an empty agreement. If you want to be attended to, show your cards. Show me the place where you sided with Bush (or Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, whatever) against his liberal critics.

Can’t find one? Gee, that’s tough. Since you’re kidding yourself, then, I won’t be waiting around for you to kid me.


OBloodyHell said...

(aka "OBloodyHell"):

> lefties who oppose war are pacifists, opposing this war makes you a leftie who opposes war and therefore you are a pacifist.

Well, I can't be privy to the original argument, but I would note that, fallacious though this may be in a specific instance, it may be entirely valid as a rule of thumb. If you hang out with hoodlums, you're probably a hoodlum, so I'm best, when approaching you in a semi-public situation, to keep my distance and hold onto my wallet.

If you're writing in the presence of BDS cranks, and you don't make any effort to distance yourself from them, it's simply unreasonable to whine that people assume you're a crank, too.

"If we don't speak out [against Senator McCarthy], we share responsibility for everything he does."
- Edward R. Murrow -

This, BTW, is one of the key problems people are having with the so-called "moderate" Muslims. They don't speak out against the fanatics, and so, by doing, they give a measure of tacit approval.

And this is quite fair. Most Christians don't support people who bomb abortion clinics and kill abortion doctors. Even if they are strongly against abortion, this is a line they will not cross, and will certainly act to stop someone who has crossed it. They may even sympathize with the desire, but exceedingly rarely will they stand by and do nothing, and most will actively call for the capture and punishment of the fanatic.

As far as Barbara's complaint:
> How many times do we have to say we are not against surveillance as long as it’s done lawfully before it sinks into a rightie brain? And are there numbers that go that high?

Well, I dunno. How many times do we have to explain what makes the specific instances in question legal, quote Constitutional Scholars to that very effect, Point out that the Clinton Admin MAINTAINED it had exactly the right to do what Bush's Admin has chosen to do?

Is this a number less than Aleph-One?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I don't think I realized that Nick B and OBH were the same person.