Thursday, June 29, 2006

The race card and political discourse

Alan Nathan criticizes the tendency to apply group norms to individual political disagreements. He focuses on the tendency to use charges of racism when two debaters of differing races disagree on a political argument. Nathan writes that trying to kill an opponents arguments with charges of racism and other great sins detours the conversation away from the merits of the original argument:

Somebody says something that another dislikes and too easily the listener can falsely claim a perceived offense regardless of the speaker’s content. Perceptions are illegitimate without corresponding foundation. You can’t say, “I perceive, therefore it is.” This very often allows those with weaker arguments to get the upper hand by fallaciously attaching to the speaker ulterior agendas having not the least infinitesimal relevance to the alleged slight.

And this disease is not restricted to matters of race. Those on the far-Right and Left are guilty of it when protecting their favorite passions. From the Right’s perspective, if you’re against the Ten Commandments on the walls of school, it’s because you’re more anti-religion than for the separation of church and state. From the Left’s view, if you oppose partial birth abortion (dilation and extraction), it’s because you’re more against women than pro saving a life that’s already 85 percent out of the mother when the termination is performed.


I agree with Nathan's approach. Two reasonable people can disagree sharply. While they believe in the principles of their arguments strongly, in the end they are discussing ideas not their feelings.

6 Comments:

Blogger Joe Guarino said...

Very timely, Glenn.

6/30/2006  
Blogger Glenn said...

It was all timing. I didn't see the Willie Best thing coming.

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