Thursday, August 13, 2009

What's The Other Guy Saying?

In an interview with Sean Hannity to promote his current book ‘God Is Not Great’, Christopher Hitchens was forced to observe, ‘You give me the awful impression, I hate to have to say it, of someone who hasn’t read the arguments against your own positions’.

And so it seems to be as well for a widening portion of our population. There are men and women who have made a living turning their ideological opponents into straw men, and then handing those straw men off to an enraged and unhappy herd for destruction ritual. This method of making a living has spread as larger and larger chunks of the American population seem to seek out confirmation of their own biases and suspicions, putting membership in some mythologized tribe above what is right (and even what is true).

Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot give you credit for hearing the arguments of your opponents as repeated by your favorite populist rage outlet. Liberals, Moveon.org is not a good place to read about what Rush Limbaugh is saying. Conservatives, Rush Limbaugh is not a good place to hear about the most recent piece of legislation being supported by the Obama administration. There are usually smart people on both sides of any issue (if indeed there are only two sides!) And Rush Limbaugh and Moveon.org are not among them. It’s not that they aren’t smart (they are), it’s just that they act in bad faith. They have a victory other than the spreading of raw truth in mind, and their particular success depends greatly on the degree of inflammation they can inspire in your heart.

There are thoughtful and honest people of all ideological stripes out there, but they’re often drowned out by the circus of louder and more entertaining voices. Whatever side you may hold on any number of issues may be the best position, but please, consider your sources before you take action, or open your mouth. The voice of Authority, be it that of a founding father or religious text, is not a sufficient buttress for an intelligent argument. The facts must be looked at. Contrary opinions must be examined in a fair way. There has to be discussion. We must understand in a larger sense, that we are human animals, and are subject to some very powerful reaction cues and genetic motivations. Above all, seek to understand yourself.

Whatever position you decide to take on any issue, remember to ask yourself what the other guy is saying, and to sincerely seek out the most reasonable iteration of that stance.

Your best mind does not lie in your gut, and there is no device as liable to affirm your own secret wishes and suspicions as prayer.



My friend Phil has more to say on the subject. See here.

8 comments:

Willie Y said...

How can the other side be right when I am!......... Just kidding, a great post.

powermadrecluse said...

Dear Sir,

I just read your blog, and I am so glad to have intelligent friends such as yourself. I appreciate our disagreements and our serious quest for deeper truths.

I should also mention that I had never really thought about what you said about the use of logic to explain what you think. I suppose I had erroneously thought that since logic couldn't woo someone, its point was in question. I too agree with you now that logic is not there to buttress one's position but to explain the modus operandi of one's thinking process rather than of one's position. All in all a very good blog post and good call to good faith and good reason.

I hope you and your family are doing quite well.

Sincerely,

Phil

Anonymous said...

So you're basically a communist.

Spencer Troxell said...

Thanks, y'all. And of course (as always) the anonymous commenter reads between the lines to discover the real message of my post.

Eric Beeny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lodo Grdzak said...

I'd argue the problem Spence is that the people who support Glenn Beck and Palin and Rush and perhaps Cheney...its not about the issues. Inglis could be completely against any form of abortion, any form of gun limitation, any form of immigration amnesty, any form of subsidized health care; but if he's going to express those positions in a calm, statesman-like,professorial-like manner he's never gonna attract the core of the present Republican/A-hole/Cowboy wanna-be/No Compromise Party. That party's not about the issues, its about injecting yourself into the issues. Its about looking and being tough. Its about killing caribou and polar bear and having a big dick and drill baby drill! and being the kind of 50 year old Frat boy that Rush demonstrates himself to be. Its a party not of issues but of symbols and mannerisms--how else can they justify giving the government the right to execute its own citizens but then pretend that they're scared of government gun control or universal health care? To say Hitler would be the perfect Republican at present goes way too far--but Mussolini would go over great! With his arms folded 'cross his chest and beating his chest like a monkey moron. For guys (perhaps)like Sic Semper, its about being the toughest guy on the playground--not about abortion or health care or any of that real stuff. That stuff's just their excuse to justify their anger and perhaps eventually give them an excuse to use their guns on some real people! No offense, but I'll never compromise with a-holes like that! I'll prove them to be the little boy men they really are under those fatigues.

Willie Y said...

I agree with your take Lodo. When you are screaming about the government trying to end your life in the health care bill, which is a lie, and not really listening to what is really being proposed, then you really don't care. There is another agenda here. What is really scary is that so many people can be outraged with lies and innuendos. Lets have a real conversation.

Spencer Troxell said...

I think there are certainly unsophisticated minds out there (more concerned with 'truthiness' than truth), and I think they exist among all parties and ideologies. In regard to politics, it seems like the crazy comes out in the true believer a bit more when they're not in power rather than when they are in power. I admit to being more uncomfortable with this current crop of political activists than I have been with recent activists on the left (who is really afraid 'Code Pink' is going to do some kind of violence?), but I have to hope voices like Inglis's will prevail, or at least that people will grow tired of riding Glenn Beck's emotional rollercoaster, realize that their life and country is not on the line, and go back to business as usual. I'm not offended by a conversation. Let's have a conversation. Let's just stop the slogans and the screaming, and actually try to know what we're talking about.