OK, since my last post has degenerated into a heap of gobbledy-gook, let me try making my argument a bit clearer:
“It’s cool for people on the left to disagree with one another and/or engage in intense debates. What we shouldn’t be doing is burning bridges.”
Is that better?
Gavin adds: I agree, and that makes this ceaseless whining about ‘civility’ (and I mean literal whining, not in the internet sense where the term is indiscriminately applied) even more malapropos.
It’s a passive-aggressive way of controlling the discussion while elevating oneself above it. It’s the last resort of a small person confronted by big events and ideas.
And also petty ideas. For instance, our own favorite humorless speech-scold, Ann “I Find That Offensive” B_rtow, was just in a fairly hilarious dust-up with Pinko Punko over the term, ‘cobag.’ ‘Cobag’ was invented as a non-gender-specific term of opprobrium to replace ‘douchebag’ — which one would think would be seen as a small step forward for gender equality, yet no retreat with regard to people who deserve to be called douchebags. But B_rtow, an academic liberal-feminist of the regrettable Where’s Waldo variety (is the offensiveness behind the tree? Is it in the pond stones?) asserts that the term should not be used because it might be seen as offensive by people with Crohn’s disease. B_rtow herself doesn’t have this condition, nor does she know anyone who does. But such a disease exists, and therefore we must not speak so, quod Ann.
I’m not linking to B_rtow right now because if I do she’ll come here in a huge tizzy, perhaps threatening reprisals and/or lawsuits, as she seems often to do when people criticize her or question her claims to be a victim-in-proxy for others. Using an ellipsis in her name will slow her down some, but there’ll eventually be a fresh explosion over at her blog, and we’ll be strewn with ash as usual. But I’m going to double-super stress this, because it’s a crucial point in this ongoing argument over ‘civility’: To avoid a circular firing squad, don’t let these people start one.
Bradrocket adds: Here’s a question- what constitutes healthy debate (something that should be encouraged on our side), and what constitutes a circular firing squad (which we all recognize is bad)?
Gavin adds: A sign of the dreaded ‘circular firing squad’ is when an argument has ceased to be about real things in the world, and has been reduced to semantics and word-games.
Simplicus: “We need to keep the nuclear option on the table with Iran.”
Socrates: “OMFG, are you on crack?”
Simplicus: “Now you’re cursing at me. Look, he’s cursing at me. This is inexcusable!”
Ann B_rtow: “It is insensitive to black people to refer to ‘crack’ in such an insulting way.”*
Socrates: “Wha? How does…? He’s talking about a fucking nuclear first-strike, what are you…?”
Simplicus: “See, he said ‘fuck’ again.”
Ann B_rtow: “Women are offended by such remarks”
Socrates: “I smell roses, no, ammonia — agh.” [Falls over dead from an aneurysm.]
[Montage of Iranian street scenes, children playing in schoolyards, nuclear explosions, etc.]
* actual argument