Saturday, July 20, 2013

Offense - Defense

I asked my sons if the explosion of chowderheaded tweets after the Zimmerman verdict came out were equally stupid and/or disquieting in both directions, as I expected would be the case.  Jonathan simply noted that yes, there seemed to be equal-opportunity malignity here.  Ben, however, saw a pattern in his.  The first wave were angry, misinformed, even violence-threatening tweets upset that GZ was not found guilty.  This was followed by a wave of replies that were similarly ill-informed taking the opposite stance.

This fits a pattern I have noted many times before, of the political left going on offense, making accusations and targeting individuals while the right is essentially defensive, responding to what it perceives is dangerousness and unfairness coming as an intrusion.  Exceptions abound, but I will treat it as if it is essentially true for the sake of this discussion.  If someone has a theory that cuts the apple at a different angle, I am all ears. 

I give the nod to the right as having the more responsible position in that, but not by much.  Here's why it's not a clean victory for the nonaggressors in this case: First, some accusations are true.  Some wrongs need to be righted, and someone has to attempt to kick the door in. I think the things that liberals legitimately give themselves credit for fall into this category. Accusations of injustice were made, conservatives denied them and spent time poking holes in the arguments, but the overriding truth was the general accuracy of the complaint.* Second, some people are claiming to play defense, but are on a hair-trigger.  We've all run across guys who say "I'm not looking for a fight.  But if someone messes with me, I'm going to defend myself."  Yeah, that's a guy who's looking for a fight.

This is related to my observation that Democratic politicians say they will fight for you, while Republicans say they will work for you. (Yes, I know. Wouldn't either one actually doing that be creditable?  Well, some do, both sides.  I don't mean to be merely cynical.)

This shows even in the extremity of unbalanced people and their politics.  Conservatives tend to glower and say they'll hole up with weapons, hin ting darkly that decent people just aren't going to take it any more.  Come and take it, Make my day, cold dead fingers and all that.  Liberals tend more to intrusive violence, shooting up prayer groups, strapping bombs on themselves, setting stuff on fire, assassinating people.  I'm not sure how much you can count the actions of the mentally ill against either group.  Those are by definition folks who are not operating along the lines of the mainstream thought even of their allies.

I see this in myself. I have well over 4000 posts here, and one could make the case that I have made accusations and gone on offense many times.  But I think that is not so.  Many of the persistent themes have run along lines of "The liberals claim that conservatives are x, but this is not so.  Conservatives are not x, but y, and liberals are x." I can legitimately maintain that I have not gone gunning for people on the left, but have just sat here minding my own business until some affronting comment is made, at which point I rouse into action. Except, maybe I'm one of those hair-trigger guys who only claims to not be looking for a fight.

*Civil rights and state's right are an excellent example of this.  The idea that individual states should be able to govern themselves is very sound, and we have lost some important federalist ground by having the federal government overrule states in racial matters. It opened the door to other federal interventions we aren't very happy about. But ultimately, the whole issue was trumped by the unmistakeable truth that state's rights didn't work in racial matters, even after a century. You had your chance, Alabama, and you couldn't make it good.  Theory is gone, you couldn't deliver.


William Newman said...

You wrote "We've all run across guys who say 'I'm not looking for a fight. But if someone messes with me, I'm going to defend myself.' Yeah, that's a guy who's looking for a fight."

Well, all too often that's true. But David Friedman is fond of pointing out animal behavior which is like this --- committing to fight over a fixed territory, for example. Fighting is expensive, so it's hard to see how such behavior would be evolutionarily successful if it weren't sincere about not wanting to fight, and if animals can be sincere about it I don't think it's insane to guess that some humans are sincere about it too. Also Switzerland's military policy is supposed to have been somewhat like this, and I've never seen a serious argument either that they didn't put serious resources into it or that they were just looking for trouble. So I would categorize this kind of behavior as something like self-defense or revenge or other members of tit-for-tat's extended family: it can all too easily be a cover for troublemaking, but it isn't necessarily.

Assistant Village Idiot said...


james said...

"unmistakeable truth that state's rights didn't work in racial matters, even after a century. You had your chance, Alabama, and you couldn't make it good. Theory is gone, you couldn't deliver. "

Of course that doesn't mean that a federal approach is going to work either.

Maybe the best approach is to switch back and forth between emphases in government models, so we can clean out the cruft and have the fun of fresh problems. We give the Feds 40 years to try to fix problem A, and then chuck it all and have the states try for 40 years.

The fatal meta-problem is figuring a way of disposing of chunks of government when you make their functions irrelevant. If you increase an agency's budget you need to hire managers to handle the increase, and if you decrease it you must hire managers to manage the decrease.

Sam L. said...

Re: Alabama. I note that Alabama and other southern/ex-Confederate states were governed by Democrats when "state's rights didn't work in racial matters". And that these Dems have become liberals/progressives.