Sunday, February 13, 2005


The Argument Clinic

For you younger viewers, this is the classic Monty Python skit in which a man pays a fee to sit across a desk and argue with another man. The argument soon degenerates into an argument over the nature of argument: “An argument is a series of statements intended to establish a proposition.” “No it isn’t.” “It’s not simply the automatic gainsaying of anything I say.” “Yes it is.” Or something like that…it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it. But hopefully you get the gist. If you’ve never seen it, you really should. It’s hilarious.

Unfortunately, it’s also an almost perfect parody of the state of political debate in the United States today.

Has political discussion become impossible in this country? The only consistency in most people’s political views these days seems to be a fierce, often ignorant, and sometimes downright stupid factional loyalty. If a Republican says, “the sky is blue”, Democrats must reply “No it isn’t.” If a Democrat says, “the sun rose this morning”, Republicans must reply “No it didn’t.”

The same people who complained that Clinton was using “the social security crisis” (and, yes, that is how he characterized it, and I agreed with him) to distract attention from the whole Lewinsky/lying under oath thing now embrace the need for social security reform. The same people who complain that Bush is a unilateralist cowboy criticize the insistence on including South Korea, Japan and China in multilateral talks with North Korea.

I know, I know, I can hear both ends of the political spectrum screaming: “But that’s different!” Yeah. Sure.

Partisans don’t disagree on issues any more. Partisans just disagree. The automatic gainsaying of whatever the other says.

A number of years ago I worked as a graduate assistant with Dr. John Green, a political science professor who had emigrated from the ivy-covered halls of the Northeast to the University of Akron in Ohio. He had identified what he referred to as the “decline in the level of civility in American society.” This trend has become so deeply rooted in the political discourse of the nation that it is difficult to find a civil discussion anywhere. No one who disagrees with me has a different point of view anymore, they are a LIAR! Nothing happens by coincidence anymore, it is a CONSPIRACY! And no one can support an agenda with which I do not agree unless they are a NAZI!

And the really sad part is that the people to whom this most applies, at both ends of the spectrum, will not see themselves in this post. They will instead recognize me as a lying Nazi engaged in a conspiracy to destroy (their vision of) the world.

Here's another interesting thing about today's politics. For some reason, if one side says that somehting is liberal, the other one always says its conservative, no matter what. Ex: If I say that this blog might be pro-nazi someone out there will probably say it is an extremist Jewish propaganda site. What a wonderful world.
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