Sunday, June 23, 2013

More fun at What's Wrong With the World

I had another one of those long, fun conversations at What's Wrong With the World, once again over the topic of gays, gay marriage, and the general failure of social conservatives on that front. Not exactly productive on the surface - this time around I reacted to the catty and, frankly, fruity insults by the 'You've upset Lydia!' brigade responding with pretty direct mockery of my own - but as usual, there were some interesting anecdotes and lessons learned as a result of the entire exchange.

The real surprise - more anecdotes to add to the pile - was the tacit admission on the part of two regulars that, really, they actually have no idea how to present their case in a persuasive manner. Sure, intellectually they're in a superior position (and I personally agree with that broadly), but when it comes to actually communicating that to an on the fence or mostly neutral third party? One (Tony) pretty well said 'Yeah, I can't do that' and alluded to the issue being far too complicated and requiring years of understanding and nuance to get much progress on. Another, William Luse, stopped powdering his wig at the foot of his harpsichord long enough to lecture me on his experiences dealing with students on this subject. The fast summary was: 'I pretty much can't persuade any of them and have had practically zero success.'

More surprising was that neither of them really seemed to recognize that they just illustrated a major problem with not just their approaches to these subjects, but a problem for social conservatives generally. The very idea of persuading people who don't already agree with you comes across as some crazy, maybe even dangerous task - after all, don't you know those people out there are *impure* and *immoral*? They're corrupted, beyond educating! The best thing we can apparently do is... really, that's not explained. 'Bitch a lot' I suppose. 'Retreat into a compound' maybe for another alternative. The idea that maybe they individually, or social conservatives more generally, may have made some major mistakes in the past seems utterly alien to them.

That's not really specific to WWWtW, I've found. You tell conservatives that they've screwed up on issues in the past by doing anything but *not being conservative enough* and they freak out. I'm not around the more hardcore liberals long enough to know if this shows up on that end of the spectrum - generally they seem to have that attitude with policies rather than rhetoric - but it's discouraging. Of course, you have the added problem on a small forum like WWWtW where everyone knows each other and are friends who prioritize defending each other - so you end up with Lydia talking about how it should be acceptable for someone to be fired from their job (not just delicate roles like 'gym teacher in a locker room' but, apparently, even mundane white collar jobs) on account of being gay. And she's their friend, so the odds of someone saying 'Holy shit, that's crazy harpy talk. Be quiet!' are low.

A lot of the conversation on my end was stunted since, really, the last time I was there I was getting censored for using words like 'anal sex', and since a good part of my view is that speaking frankly is important - you know, actually pointing out that we're talking about ass-fucking and not hand-holding - that tied my hands. I'd say this is just church lady reluctance to speak frankly and graphically about sex, but oddly enough, I see exactly this sort of thing with liberals and gay marriage supporters. You start talking about anal sex or various other things instead of 'same-sex sexual behavior' or 'making love' and people freeze up and would rather talk about anything BUT that. On the liberal side, I think that's partially because it starts to get very difficult and certainly more awkward to justify such and such an act as 'an act of romantic union and love between two people who..' etc. Not to mention, once you start bringing in the hypothetical cases and talking about harm, proper function, etc - cue the Doug Thomas video - things get messy, fast. On the conservative side, it really does seem to be more of a Church Lady thing and the perpetual war against vulgarity, unto the point of self-destruction. I'm convinced that part of the reason porn is so prevalent is because of the taboo against discussing it, except for the most comedic of circumstances.

Either way, the conversation went out as expected - Lydia just dropped the 'comments closed' hammer and pouted immensely, but unlike last time, this time around I wasn't really concerned with civility. The hope is that some of what I said will sink in and maybe get them to start re-evaluating their stances and attitudes and those of the organizations they support, in order to gain actual traction on these issues. When the replies to 'How do you attempt to persuade people on this topic?' is either 'I don't' or 'I fail miserably', it's hard to keep going on thinking that everything is okay and no changes are in order.


Anonymous said...

Marc here,

What can I say, Crude? In all honesty I really do think they treat you unfairly at WWWtW - and I like it there, a lot even.

One thing about Lydia - With the caveat that I generally like her and have no quarrel with her, I distinctly remember a while back one of the official writers for the sight leaving because he thought Lydia's tone was too aggressive. So make of that what you will, and also look into it more for that matter. Maybe I'm remembering it wrong. But that's what I thought happened.

I thought they were Strawmanning you quite a bit too. Even Tony near the end got frustrated, throwing in a "What the Hell"? in response to your question about how he'd address a fence-sitter, as if the question was somehow inappropriate to ask. And the whole shebang about you hi-jacking the thread wasn't something that particularly impressed me.

I don't know. There seems to be, for example, two extremes on Murdoch and Akin. On one hand they're evil, stupid stupid villains and we should make law and order episodes based around their stupidity (Seriously!).

On the other hand, if you say, "Yeah, Akin and Murdoch made stupid comments" it's as if you've betrayed the entire conservative movement and thrown them to the wolves.

Frankly, I don't care that (or if, because I'm not 100% sure about his theology with that comment) Murdoch happened to be right. The way he worded it immediately sounded like, to ME of all people, he was saying that rape is an act of God meant to bring a child.

Did he say that? No, and when you hear it again that's pretty clear. But it was a comment that can so obviously be misconstrued that you'd expect a politician to know better. But if you say that, and it seems to me pretty self-apparent, you've just thrown Murdoch to the wolves and you're a coward and nobody likes you anyway.

This goes ditto with Akin, who's comment was actually even dumber. Not because of "legitimate rape". He was right about that (though once again the wording was stupid). It was dumb because he made some weird comment on how a woman's body shuts down or something during rape, and it made no sense.

Anyway, to me it comes to this: We're losing the culture war. Badly. And at an increasingly fast rate too. So it makes sense to me that we should re-evaluate how we're presenting ourselves. Not because we're wrong. Because hey, MAYBE there's a better way to do this. Maybe there isn't. But we might as well think it over instead of making the same mistakes, and going to war over guys like Murdoch who put their foot in their mouths. I'm not saying we dump him and say he's a horrible person, but can we at least bow to common sense here and admit that what he said was stupid?

I don't know. It's really kind of a mess, huh?

Crude said...

I think the problem with the Akin/Mourdoch stuff is precisely the false choice between two extremes - where we either deny that either of them did anything wrong whatsoever and at most it was the most minor of gaffes, or they're the most horrible people in the world and we can't ever nominate anyone who's socially conservative again. I think that latter one still hangs in peoples minds in particular, because both of them were used as examples of 'why it's a mistake to have pro-life or anti-gay-marriage candidates', which is just absurd. Neither of their views are the inextricably tied to pro-life or anti-gay-marriage positions.

In other words, there's a lot of bullshit on both sides, and I think the SoCon worry is that admitting Mourdock or Akin did something wrong is one more bullet in the 'this is why SoCons should be quiet altogether and the GOP should dump social issues!' chamber.

I actually am a bit more optimistic about the culture war. But yes, we have done poorly over the years on this subject (actually, on pro-life issues, we haven't done nearly as bad - polls show this, which again should TELL US SOMETHING), and we should really be asking ourselves why. Maybe part of the reason this really riles people like Lydia and company is that they've been at this for a long time now, so if mistakes were made, then they very well may be the ones who made those mistakes in part - and that's a hell of a thing to swallow. I certainly have made mistakes on this front. I'm sure I'm making mistakes now, too - I just can't identify them right away.

Either way, that conversation was destined to go south since I switched from trying to downplay direct insults to out and out telling people off, which is never going to make anything peaceful - so it's not exactly one-sided blame there. On the other hand, I really hope the conversation will make some of them consider what I said. Maybe Luse will say, 'I just admitted that I've been getting absolutely nowhere with my approach. Have I made mistakes?' Maybe Tony will say, 'I don't even know how to communicate what I need to communicate to the very people I want to persuade. Is this a problem?' If they do that, hey - mission accomplished.

Anonymous said...

I had a longer comment written and it somehow got deleted, so the short version: A similar thing occurred when Fr. Groeschel made his comments on pedophile Priests. If you criticized the comments, you criticized HIM, and I'm going to block your comments from appearing on Fr. McCrae's blog "These Stone Walls" (these happened to me, and check that blog out, BTW).

We need to get over the idea that if you're not on the extreme conservative end on EVERYTHING you somehow don't really "count" as an ally or something. It's a weird attitude.

Crude said...

I checked out the blog, but what happened there? I never heard of this.

I don't think 'I should be able to fire a guy just because he's gay!' is "conservative", nor particularly Christian. I think it's just weird. I'm not aware of any conservative principle which backs up that view, other than perhaps the libertarian "I should be able to do whatever I want" view, which doesn't justify that specific decision anyway.

I agree, though, that social conservatives in particular seem pretty punch drunk about this sort of thing. Then again, they get betrayed more than anyone else. Look at the Exodus International situation. I thought that organization had problems, and I always thought their rhetoric seemed to way outstrip their likely results. But for it to shut down and put out an apologetic statement which sounds as if it was a complete capitulation to LGBT groups? And that was supposed to be the 'uber conservative' organization. It's no wonder these guys see any sign of dissent as a prelude to some kind of liberal assault, in a way.

Anonymous said...

Right, that became kind of muddles. I'll explain a little better:

A Priest named Fr. Benedict Groeschel some while back made comments where he basically said something like, "Occasionally the victims lie or the Priest isn't in his right mind, and that Priest should still be given a fair shake." But he worded it badly, and some it I disagreed with (can't think of what). Something also got mixed up in there where referred to Jerry Sandusky as a "poor guy".

Well, the poor guy was harpooned. Keep in mind that this was an 80+ year old retired Priest in failing health, who had a stellar reputation. I know somebody personally who knew him as a Priest, and he said he was the holiest man he ever met. But he was crucified for the comments.

So I gave him a pass because obviously what he said and what he meant were at a disconnect. But he still said them.

So Fr. Gordon McCrae of the blog "These Stone Walls" has a post about the incident. Fr. McCrae is a Priest who was falsely accused of sexual abuse and jailed. I responded to that article by pointing out that, while Fr. Groeschel should get a pass due to mitigating factors, his comments were not, and were both inappropriate and offensive.

The comment was never posted.

I could understand why. Naturally as a Priest falsely accused of sexual abuse you're going to feel jumpy about these sorts of things. But the fact is, he made comments he shouldn't have, but if you didn't defend him to the death, well, you just weren't REALLY on his side then, were you? It's that sort of attitude that annoys me.

The Exodus International thing makes me suspicious. Something else HAS to be going on there. Maybe the guy's son came out of the closet or something. Or maybe, yeah, there were even threats. Who really knows as of now I'm just not convinced this is the full story.

Crude said...

The Exodus International thing makes me suspicious. Something else HAS to be going on there. Maybe the guy's son came out of the closet or something. Or maybe, yeah, there were even threats. Who really knows as of now I'm just not convinced this is the full story.

Who knows. It was supposedly a unanimous decision on the part of whatever their little council is, and that was one hell of a capitulation. Plus the guy himself is some kind of quasi-ex-gay and who knows what effect that has on anything. There probably is something going on there that we aren't privy to, or so I'd suspect.

I understand now what you mean about the priest. Really, any time you're about to say something along the lines of 'Sometimes people lie about having a crime committed against them', you'd better be damn good with communicating because people will blow up at you regardless. At that point, it's a matter of keeping the explosion small. I can understand that sometimes you may not want to kick someone when they're down (sometimes it may not be appropriate to point out an obvious wrong), but really, we shouldn't go in the exact opposite direction and say 'Oh hey, what he said was totally okay and not even a misstep.'

And yet people do, for a range of reasons.