Friday, May 30, 2003


I got a very intelligent comment from John B. disagreeing with some of my last note. He said some things I want to think about a bit. But for right now, the important point is how nice it is to be disagreed with by an intelligent person in an intelligent way.

At the university, discourse has deteriorated badly, so that by now the kinds of criticism folks on our side of the aisle get from liberals often have one or more of these three elements:

1) People tell us about their emotional reactions to what we have said, with a kind of hidden premise that anything that has made them feel bad must be wrong. "I was deeply offended...I can't tell you how offended I was...I can't imagine how offended I was..." And so on. Statements like these are frequently the way comments begin.

2) There is also name calling. "Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic" and the rest, or simply "ill-informed, insensitive, phalo-centric, Euro-centric", and so on. Often calling somebody a bad name is a central part of an argument, the logical core of the argument. (And it's dangerous. To be called a bad name, especially in cases of race, can easily mean one will be presumed guilty, and then the writers have to prove themselves innocent, which isn't easy. How do you prove that somewhere down in the dark depths of your soul you don't have ugly things lurking, and prove it to an audience that very much wants to find them there?)

3) There is also a strong tendency to presume writers are wrong not only because they are ill-informed or are using poor logic and reasoning, but simply because they are bad people; bad people think bad thoughts, and good people think politically-correct thoughts. Mistakes are not problems to be corrected but sins to be stamped out. The dominant university culture still believe that those with non-politically correct attitudes and opinions are simply bad and have to be stomped on, not reasoned against.

Anyway, John B. gave me things to think about, and he did it in a way that reminded me of how nice it is to be back in discourse with intelligent people and away from contemporary campus culture.