Sunday, December 5, 2010

Something frantic in the air.

There's something I notice about typical blog-comments advocates of "Gay Rights", Global Warming legislation and PETA members: They typically all so fucking frantic and emotional.

In the Gay Rights case, merely saying you're against gay marriage or that you think homosexual acts are immoral too often quickly turns into screams about phobia and how you're the reason homosexually inclined teens commit suicide and how you're personally responsible for some "good ol' boy" (it's always the southerners) tying someone to the back of his truck.

In the Global Warming case it's this frantic declaration that the world is doomed unless we take action *this year* and the only reason people don't is because they're greedy and they know the world is doomed and don't care and... etc. Incidentally, this frantic insistence that we have to act *right now or we're doomed* has been going on for years. You'd think at this point anyone who really believed in the direst AGW forecasts would say "Too late for preventive measures. We should be preparing for the warming itself." Oddly, never comes up.

And of course the PETA case is simply one melodramatic, emotional display after another. People whose imaginations are askew and now they're very convinced that their housecat "really hopes they pass their biology test" because clearly the cat can tell this is important to them and so on.

I think the common thread winding up all three is this: Frantic emotional investment. There is no stepping back and evaluating the questions reasonably, because a reasonable evaluation is the exact opposite of the point. It's all about the drama, the story-book nature of the evils being committed, the good guys and the bad guys and the unsung heroes and so on. To actually pull back and discuss the topic rationally is almost seen as insulting - why, that would sap the emotional high of CARING so damn much. People love their drama, after all - and if they need melodrama to get it, that's just the price to pay.

There's a place for emotion, of course. But when it's the driving force of thought, when too much of your argument comes down to "I just feel so STRONGLY about this!", it's time for either a reality check.


The Phantom Blogger said...

I see this tactic used often, but a part of me thinks the use of emotion as a tool against the person they are debating, is deliberate on there behalf.

I'll give you an example, liberals often say when it comes to sex, it's ok as long as it is between consenting adults, and they use this as a defense of homosexuality. If you point out that this line of reasoning would mean that incest would be ok as long as the participants are adults, then they claim that you are saying incest and homosexuality are the same thing and this is proof that your somehow amoral (they will usually get angry at this point and call you disgusting for compairing homosexuals in a loving relationship with people who have sex with there family members, even though you've not really compared these things in truth). But obviously your not, your just saying the argument that they've made to justify there belief would also give way to the moral acceptance of incest. But with there over emotional reaction they end up making you look as if you can't differentiate between homosexuality and incest and hence you look both amoral and illogical.

Crude said...

Oh, I absolutely agree that sometimes it's a tactic. I think for some people there's just plain an emotional angle to it and nothing else, for others it's a maudlin routine for onlookers.

On the other hand, I also think it's a difficult topic to discuss nowadays and takes some finesse. As I've said in the past, people play the 'loving relationship' card, but really, it's not like the problem anyone has with homosexual acts is "You'll take a trip to Spain with some guy". It's the sexual acts in question in vastly large part.

Ilíon said...

You get much the same anti-rational, and ultimately dishonest, effect from "nice" people seeking to be "even-handed" with those who hate them and/or all they value (as illustrated here).

Crude said...

I actually saw that exchange earlier, Ilion.

See, I'm torn. I do think there is something important - especially on this subject - about being understanding, measured, and thoughtful. On the other hand, I also think there's such a thing as doing this to a fault, and VJTorley (whose writings I often enjoy) often falls into the trap of being unflinchingly civil and graceful, even when people are - as you say - pretty dishonest and duplicitous. I mean, the mere fact that he's making Taliban comparisons should set off red flags.

I'm pretty goddamn blunt at times (hell, I'm a troll at times), but I also am huge on communication. So I'd probably handle myself differently from both you and VJ Torley - I'm not afraid of flat out calling someone duplicitous when they are so, but in that case I focus on what they said, expose them, and move on. (I'm not that interested in getting into insult-fights with the dishonest.) I also value civility, but not that unflinching civility where even when someone is obvious being dishonest I smile and thank them for being thoughtful and talk about how nice they are because I really want to appear to be even-handed. Vic Reppert is the master of this, and while I like Vic, he's willing to deal with some obvious shits. (Debunking Christianity, for example. I think Triablogue, for all their anti-Catholic raving, at least has the appropriate tone when confronting that gaggle.)

I guess the short of it is, "I'm dissatisfied with how most people discuss things, myself included." Actually my bigger problem with VJTorley is I'm annoyed at how UD is giving less and less attention to, uh... Intelligent Design. Even as a critic of it in part, I think the site functioned best with that focus rather than a general area to criticize atheists and naturalists. Hell, I think atheists get too much attention - the New Atheists are more or less gone as a major presence, and are now more of an internet cult. May as well focus on important things.

Ilíon said...

"I'm not afraid of flat out calling someone duplicitous when they are so, but in that case I focus on what they said, expose them, and move on."

That would be what I did, now wouldn't it? I referenced MarkF's specific post, echoed some of his verbiage (the non-effensive part), characterized the offensive part, and closed with a "So there!" which ought to explain to anyone paying attention just what my point was.

Ilíon said...

While Mr Reppert is willing to tolerate intolerable (and irrational) insults and behavior from some of his God-hating readers, he never tried to force me to bow and scrape to them. While I have no doubt he’d have preferred me to be willing to eat the shit-sandwiches they wanted to dish out, he didn’t try to force me to act as though their behavior was acceptable. I respect him for that.

Crude said...

I think you should have expressed more detail about what you were objecting to and what made markf a dishonest fool. But yeah, markf called everyone - VJ included - self-righteous bigots. And VJ's response is to swoop in and "disocciate" himself from your remarks and say markf is honest and not a fool.

There's a lot more wrong with what markf says. (I love how he says 'how do we answer the taliban? by saying our religion is right and theirs is wrong?' But.. that's exactly what markf is doing. That he considers it 'just obvious and not religious' is of no use. See Stanley Fish's "secular reasons" bit.) But oh well.

That said, I think VJTorley often makes good points, but there is a certain naivete to him. He seems to want desperately to find arguments that will persuade, by reason, various people who have rejected reason. (And I'm not limiting this to the homosexual acts issue.) So he's tempted to always and forever continue 'dialogue' with people who aren't interested in what he's offering. Sometimes he hits some good notes, but frankly I'll pass on his approach. Pearls before swine and all that.

Ilíon said...

"... and VJTorley (whose writings I often enjoy) often falls into the trap of being unflinchingly civil and graceful, even when people are - as you say - pretty dishonest and duplicitous."

As, for instance.

Ilíon said...

... well, except that that was not Mr Torley (as my clumsy phrasing implied).

But, my point is that when a person values "niceness" or "civility" above truth, then he does not really value truth, and ultimately must compromise truth for the sake of "niceness" or "civility."