Monday, March 19, 2012

Driving the Point into the Ground

Recently I've been on a communication kick, and my best example has been the Westboro Baptist Church. I've pointed out that, for all their supposed 'anti-gay' rhetoric, their rhetoric usefulness is to those who disagree with their stated beliefs. They are used - and my suspicion is, willingly - as pawns for people who want to associate certain beliefs (rejecting gay marriage, etc) with assholes and idiots.

Here's some more evidence.

An atheist rally, and who do they make sure to invite explicitly? The WBC. While, incidentally, reacting with anger to the presence of actual Christians, who are (mistakenly, in my opinion) there to offer them dialogue and to reason with them.

Why are atheists inviting the WBC to their hatefest?

Because. WBC. Is. Useful. To. Them.


BenYachov said...

We Theists shouldn't fall into the same trap or vice.

We might invite the typical Dawkins, Krauss or Myers to debate because they are philosophical incompetents and thus easy prey.

The true test of our metal is to engage the serious Atheist philosopher.

Even Stephen Law (whose abilities I overestimated) made a descent showing when he bumped heads with Craig. But he is a philosopher so I was not surprised. Dawkins of course would have gotten his arse handed to him.

Crude said...


I agree about the 'true test of our metal'. Absolutely.

What I'm talking about here, however, is cultural perception. Presentation. These are admittedly not entirely rational factors, but they determine how the debate is had among the culture at large, which I consider ridiculously important. Soundbites, word choice, instinct, etc.

The reason I bring up the WBC is because there's been some doubt expressed to me that the WBC is a net asset to groups like LGBT, etc, because of associations. As in, people will associate being against gay marriage with being a crazy, lunatic prick, which is what the WBC members act like. Or how starting off a sentence calling homosexuals "god-damn faggots" or something will, even if what follows is a good logical argument, turn many people off to the reasoning and position entirely.

The fact that the Cultists of Gnu ( who are panicking over the legitimate Christian presence at their ho-down) saw fit to invite the WBC says it all. They aren't afraid of those guys. They *like* them. The image they convey is *positive for their cause*, because of how the WBC act and what associations they suspect will be built by their presence.

A good way to put it is this. Intellectually, I agree with you that the 'serious Atheist philosopher' (rare as they are) is the one most worthy of debate. Culturally, I think we have far, far more to be concerned with. The world isn't persuaded by rational argument, day to day.

Syllabus said...

As to the atheists of higher calibre:

Virtually the only one I ever heard that had good points and decent delivery was Austin Daley (or Dacey, I don't recall which) contra Craig. They treated each other with respect and a decent amount of dignity, and a good exchange was had by all. I think that, however, there are only a very few atheist philosophers that can make a good showing in a debate. Nielson could, Smith could, but that's pretty much it. Even guys like Synott-Armstrong and Grayling devolve into incompetent mouth-breathers when put into contact with anything or anyone vaguely religious. Heck, even Dennett would be a relief. I don't think we'll get a Flew again in this generation or the next.

Crude said...

One of my favorite debates was seeing Dennett go up against Dinesh D'Souza. Who I think is pretty good at times, but frankly - and especially back then - he was the Scrappy Doo of Christian Apologetics. Dennett was supposed to be one of the most badass philosophers from Tufts. And Dennett got his clock cleaned.

That was right around the time Dennett fell completely off the radar of the Cult of Gnu.

Anonymous said...

Dear Crude:

Although I definitely agree that we should be worried from a cultural perspective about the New Atheist/Militant Secularist movement, I must say that for any thinking person, the fact that the "Reason" Rally invited the WBC just demonstrates that their rally has little to do with reason.

It is much the same as when that atheist hack Bill Maher, for his film Religulous, interviewed a bunch of well-meaning but unschooled religious believers, but just happened to fail to interview someone like Dr. Craig or Dr. Feser. It simply shows him for the dishonest buffoon that he is. And the same goes for the Reason Rally.

Take care.


RD Miksa

Crude said...

Oh, absolutely it has little to do with Reason. Really, the thing is shaping up to be kind of funny. From what I hear, Maher being a speaker there is causing some trouble, since Maher in his western medical skepticism isn't exactly a poster child for what most of the Cult of Gnu are about - and yet he's personal friends with Dawkins, who pleads ignorance and comments little about it all. Not to mention other atheist on atheists fights breaking out recently.

I'm kind of waiting for the event to take place, and a brawl to break out - between two groups of atheists. We'll see what happens.

My point about the WBC in this post had more to do with previous conversations on this blog about language and presentation.

The Deuce said...

I'm kind of waiting for the event to take place, and a brawl to break out - between two groups of atheists.

If that happens, it will definitely be time for Retardospierre (Dawkins) to start watching his back.

Syllabus said...

Oh, he's already got a brigade of feminists in his pursuit. And them bitches be trippin, I tell you what.

Ephram said...

Your point over these last couple of weeks is so obviously true that it shouldn't have needed to be driven into the ground. It takes a special kind of myopia to believe that not acting like an effusive, belligerent blowhard (e.g., the Phelps clan), and instead opting to act like a tactful chess player, are two socially calamitous things to do.

Even more ridiculous is that some claim you are not just mistaken, but dishonest, and that you continue to hold to your position not on the basis of reason and common sense, but because of a psychological reflex of stubbornness. As far as I'm concerned, you've always been a perspicacious, exceptionally candid interlocutor and hence a great contributor to understanding difficult ideas on blogs like Feser's and Reppert's, and you definitely don't merit such bizarre, dickish treatment.

Crude said...


Hey, perspicacious - I learned a new word. Thank you! And thanks again for the compliment - since communication is a major interest of mine, that's a high compliment in particular.

I'm glad someone understands what I'm getting at here. Really, I can understand the disagreement to a point, because however reasonable and obviously right I think the actual point is, explaining that point is tricky. Especially this one, because of what's involved with the topic. It's not black and white - it's annoyingly subtle.

Take the "Rush Limbaugh Slut" example. I say it was a bad idea for Rush to call Fluke a slut. Is it because calling a woman a slut is a terrible thing you should never do no matter what she did or what the circumstances are and Rush should be ashamed? No, that's crazy. I'm saying that in the situation Rush was in (where direct facts about her sex life weren't public, where all he had were indirectly extrapolated numbers related to a whiny policy plea, where she was playing the 'I'm just a poor, struggling woman' card and it was working at the time, and where words like 'slut' trigger a crazy defense mechanism in many women nowadays), it was a blunder to use those words. Clearly Rush thought it was a blunder too, since he ended up apologizing. I encouraged making a very similar move Rush was going for, but making it in a different way - she gave him plenty of ammo, it was a question of how to use it. He made a mistake. No big deal, he's built a media empire for himself - clearly he communicates better than I do 19 out of 20 times.

The problem is, what I said is easily distilled down to "Rush shouldn't have said that, because it just offends lots of people". And that sounds very similar to the PC idiot saying, "What Rush said was offensive and therefore wrong". There's a world of difference between the two views.

For the PCI, something being offensive - and that means, 'declared offensive by his political/academic cadre, even if most people aren't offended, even if they shouldn't be offended' - is both the measuring stick and the end of the conversation. Worse, for the PCI, this isn't just about language - it's about thought. It's not just wrong to call a woman, any woman (well, put Palin or conservative women aside for a moment), a slut. It's wrong to even think slutty behavior is wrong.

For me? What some cadre of academics think isn't the standard. Nor does the claim "that's offensive" translate into "therefore it's wrong to say or even think". My concern here is communication and persuasion. I think it's desperately important to reach people - not the diehard who for a variety of reasons is not going to be convinced no matter what you say, but the majority of people who may not have given a given topic thought, or may not be aware of (and who may be persuaded by) given arguments or lines of thought. And if calling someone a slut means you're going to alienate a tremendous share of those people with little to no gain, then you don't call someone a slut. Choose a different way to communicate.

There are other problems too: the idea that anyone who doesn't already agree with you is The Enemy. The idea that the best way to respond to PC antics is to be as obnoxious and offensive as possible at all times. The idea that having an argument that works or is powerful means you don't have to give any thought to how you communicate it.

I'll get into all this more eventually - I actually love this topic despite the trouble I've had over it.