Thursday, July 25, 2013

Stupid of the Week #12: Dialectic Argument

Diana “I prefer cows to people” Hsieh's husband, Paul, gets to be published in Forbes, and look at what he fucking does: 

In case it's not immediately obvious why I'm freaking out:
-Of course you should be in control of your emotions if you have a gun, but you should be in control of your emotions if you're driving a car, too. Or writing an article in Forbes.
-In a gated community, you DO NOT have the right to walk around if you don't live there or aren't a guest of a resident. And between houses? Gimme a break.
-Paul goes on to claim that Martin had an unequivocal right to walk those streets, but Zimmerman did not, despite being a resident, by virtue of being armed with a gun.
-Let's just read that third item again. 
-Apparently it’s also wrong to call the cops on a suspicious person, because the Hsiehs are so fucking Libertarian they can't see straight. 
-So at the end of the day, if I have a gun, I can do LESS than if I don't. If I might take a shortcut down an alley unarmed, I CANNOT do so armed. If someone else is being attacked, I'm obligated to *run away* BECAUSE I'm armed. It's just so fucking important that I not ever take a life, even if it's the life of a monster raping a grandmother, and I have a clear shot.

Let me just take a moment to breathe and acknowledge that Dr. and Dr. Hsieh aren’t bad people, not everything they do is terrible, and that it’s quite possible they do a lot of good to which I’m blind, because cultural change is an impenetrable black box to me. Girl-doctor in particular I know to be honest, intellectually and otherwise, and that’s just a huge fucking deal in the O’ist community, because it’s damn rare. She also swears, though not particularly well. Yay Hsieh.

Remain calm, and look at pictures of ducks.

But. BUT: I’m still freaking pissed over this, and I’m not going to be shy about it. So back to it, now:

To clarify, this is NOT Paul’s legal advice. If he were telling us the “most important lesson” is that if you use your gun to defend your life, even in the last extremity of need, you will be fucking crucified, the law will not be on your side, and you may end up wishing you’d let the kid beat you to death, I would be fine with that lesson. It’s absolutely true.

What Paul is doing is validating the Z hate and, by extension, gun hate and self-defense hate. Why is he doing this? My guess is the same reason why I’ve seen dozens of supposedly objective, rational people yield point after point on this and other cases: dialectic argument.

It’s the cool new-but-not-remotely-new thing amongst what I call the Libertarian-Objectivisits, or LO’ists. See, where old-school O’ists (OO’ists) were all about pissing people off by taking extreme stances unapologetically and saying what they fucking mean without fear and without hedge, LO’ists are all about tolerance. *Automatic* tolerance of whatever kind of sex you want to have or whatever gender you care to assume or whatever values you want to hold, objective or not, rational or not[1]. Of course they draw certain lines around things like religion where it would be blatantly obvious that AR would not approve, but for the most part the attitude is “Hey man, whatever,” as opposed to Francisco D’Anconia’s “What for?” They’re incredibly weak on national defense and so fucking terrified of the government that they deny it the tools it needs to do its job in the most laughably knee-jerk way, despite “not being anarchists” and being totally fine with ceding to government the power of retaliatory force. Basically they’re fine with giving the government all of the guns and the authority to use them but not the authority to set up traffic cameras. Because that makes sense.

Anyway, part and parcel of the new “all-inclusive” O’ism/LO’ism is a constant, obnoxious use of dialectic arguments. It goes like this: the masses believe something stupid, we (O’ists) bend over backwards to find something we agree with the masses on and talk about that, the underwear gnomes come in, and then the masses respect us and listen to us, yay! That’s how you win a culture war, apparently. Not by challenging bad ideas and calling out bad logic (or straight-up tribal barbarism, as in the Z case), but by playing nice on common ground. We’re not that different after all!

Doesn’t this remind you of something? Another group whose strategy is to show how you actually agreed with them all along? Who does that again?

Oh, right, the group with whom O’ists of all colors have “nothing in common” and can’t even remotely cooperate with lest our moral stature be diminished and the mountains crumble and the Leviathan rise from the sea, etc., etc.

I’m not going to claim that dialectic arguments have no place (although they certainly have no place on this blog), but constant reliance on this form of argument does have a corrupting effect on the intellect. You end up defaulting toward this common ground, like a rock climber searching blindly for a foothold. Like that rock climber, when you think you’ve found your spot, you go for it, without actually seeing where you’re going.

Also this guy was just reeeeally obnoxious.

The problem is that critical thinking doesn’t start with identifying common ground between yours and another’s opinion. It starts by gathering and analyzing relevant data in order to form your opinion. The habit of searching for common ground often leads people to skip the first step - to understand the facts - in their rush to agree with their opponents.

As I said, I’ve seen this time and again with people who are generally adequate thinkers. In this case in particular, so many people have, like Paul, accepted the popular narrative about the case to some degree. Almost every defense of Z I’ve seen has begun with “While it sounds like he made a poor decision here…” or “Although he could have easily avoided the situation…” or “No doubt he’s an idiot, however…” or “He’s most likely an irresponsible gun owner, but…” or worst of all “Any time someone dies it’s a tragedy.” That last one just really gets me, especially coming from a supposed O’ist. Really, any time? Hitler’s death was a tragedy? Stalin’s? Khomeini’s? Fuck you.

What happened to O’ists saying things like “Just because a savage squats on a piece of land doesn’t make it his?” [2]. Seriously, some people absolutely should be dead. And you know what? I include the kind of piece of shit who would jump and beat a man just for following him in that category. At best Martin was a thug. He had pictures on his phone of: stolen goods, a handgun probably in his own hand (illegal since he’s under 21), and a marijuana grow room. And, you know, he bashed a man’s head in. But by all means, let’s talk about the fucking Skittles.

What is this Jersey Shore logic that somehow Zimmerman started it? “Dude was following me. What was I supposed to do?” Um, you were supposed to not beat the crap out of him. What the hell is the principle that allows one to simultaneously believe that Martin’s attack was reasonable, but Zimmerman’s response to it was not? Everyone’s been all, “Well, duh, of course M attacked Z. He was being followed! He’s 17! He’s black!” Wait, what? We’re supposed to assume that blacks will respond violently to being looked at? What’s the word for that, again? For making assumptions about a person based on their race?


There are two minutes for which there are no (living) witnesses aside from Zimmerman, and those two minutes are crucial. While it’s entirely correct to be suspicious of Z’s word, trying to make your argument more palatable by saying “It’s quite possible Z got away with murder” every chance you get is irresponsible speculation. We’re trying to teach people to care about the facts; teaching them to speculate reasonably is something to worry about waaaaay down the line.

Anyway, back to stupid things O’ists of all stripes believe about guns and self-defense.

According to Paul, if I hear someone breaking into the shed in my backyard, my options are:
1. Leave my gun in the safe and try to stop the Bad Guy while unarmed.
2. Take my gun, hide in a corner so as to be certain I won't have to use it, and call the cops.

By the way, I got clarification from other O'ists that this is EXACTLY what they are saying. My strategy (get my phone, get the gun, call cops, yell out door or window that I've called the cops and get out of here, escalate from there) is IMMORAL. I have to just let the fucker take whatever he wants from my shed OR eliminate my ability to actually defend my self/property.

No. No, no, no, no. What you carry on your person does NOT change your rights. You can’t initiate force without a gun, and with a gun, you still can’t. It should really take only a few seconds of thought to see through the absurdity here. Say that, instead of a gun, you have Black Ops Krav Maga training and can kill a man with the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique in under 10 seconds. By Paul’s logic, this person pretty much had to be a shut-in. What about a dude who’s just really strong and knows some basic hand-to-hand? That guy can’t swear at the driver who cut him off lest it lead to a fight that he would win. He can’t even enter a “rough” neighborhood since a conflict might ensue. Dude probably can’t even argue over a bill in case it “escalates,” and he ends up with blood on his hands! And forget about walking your female friends home in order to protect them. What kind of monster are you? That’s what the police state is for!

Just another day at the office. Nothing to see here. Move along.


Other reasons why I'm mad:
-He perpetuates the same misrepresentations of the Zimmerman case yet again (claiming the cops told Z not to follow M) only with a twist: he actually quotes the exchange right before he misinterprets it. Here’s a tip from someone who has spent a lot of time with police: when they “order you” to do something, it doesn’t sound like a polite response to bringing wine to a dinner party. An order is less “We don’t need you to do that,” and more “Stay in the car, sir, NOW.” [3]
-The whole thing is essentially an appeal to authority: CCW training will tell you X; Z didn't do X. Who cares? Elementary school taught me to “bring enough for the rest of the class,” but I don’t hand out cigarettes to every person in the restaurant after dinner. A good chunk of what any authority figure tells you is 1. bullshit, 2. immoral for an O’ist, and 3. designed to cover his ass from lawsuits above all else.
-He deems this the "single most important lesson." Well, maybe Forbes did that. Headlines, meh. Regardless, that’s nuts. Try learning that people are insane and our civilization doomed.
-Most importantly, it is FUCKED UP to use your ability to get published with respect to this case to help out the overwhelming anti-Z side when there are about 8 billion more objectionable things about this case, including, but not limited to: prosecutorial misconduct, the closest thing to a kangaroo trial we can have in the US, the libel case against ABC, unrelenting death threats against Z and his family (and even people unrelated to him who happen to have the same last name), and these violent mob "protests" after the verdict. He even references another article that made the exact same point, so it's not like this perspective was missing from the debate! Ugh, way to be part of the problem.

Fucking O'ists.

Yours in rage,

S. Misanthrope

[1] I tried to come up with an example that doesn’t carry the risk of making me sound like a homophobe, but alas, these really are the best instances of what I consider excessive tolerance. Not that it isn’t a welcome counterpoint to the really awful “Objectivists” here and there who promote all kinds of horrible anti-gay views (particularly recently), but I do not think acceptance/tolerance should be the default mode when you come across bizarre behavior. You should *question* rationally in these cases. I find it particularly weird since I’ve observed a number of instances where the same people who accept at face value a person’s claim to be a bisexual, polyamorous, gender-less sex worker are total prudes about things like pickup lines, cat calls, strippers, porn, and one night stands. No comprendo.

[2] Richard Salsman, both a physical and an intellectual giant.

[3] Or possibly “Stay in the car, sir, MEOW!"

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