Possible Explanation for the Nasty Discourse?

Ace from Ace of Spades thinks political dishonesty may play a part:

Many in the GOP establishment do this for slightly different reasons. See, they’re supposed to be in agreement with the Tea Party’s core principles of reduced spending, reduced government, and greater individual freedom.

But, of course, they’re not so committed to those things. Oh, as a general rule, they favor them– but they’re very quick to sell them out in favor of some other priority, which they won’t admit is a greater priority, because they’re pretending their highest priority is reducing spending, reducing government, and increasing individual freedom.

Thus, John McCain, rather than honestly objecting to the parts of the Tea Party movement he disagrees with, or honestly expressing his opinion that we need a bigger government than Tea Partiers think we need, resorts to personal attacks: They’re Wacko-Birds. They’re Hobbits.

Read the whole thing. For a lot of readers here, I suspect you will relate to what he says. I know I do. But my experience writing on the gun topic for the past ten years has shown me that a lot of people really don’t appreciate honesty. That’s probably why sites that regurgitate what The Base wants to hear are more popular and draw a wider audience.

One reason I believe that online threads tend to go south so quickly is because the people arguing in them feel strongly about an issue, but don’t understand the issue well, and either can’t make a good argument, or have never given much thought to how complicated the topic actually is. After that, it’s pretty much guaranteed to descend into madness.

Years ago I thought the pro-2A side was a lot better at this, but in the past several years, our side has gotten a lot worse and the pro-gun control side is getting better at making their arguments. Not that their arguments are entirely rooted in sound facts, but they are getting better at spinning bullshit and making it look compelling to the uninitiated. They’re demanding we up our game, and based on what I’m seeing out there, we’re not up to it. I attribute this to two things. One is we’ve brought a lot of new people into the issue who have a lot of passion, but not much in the way of experience with or knowledge of how to argue the issue. The second thing I blame is the rise of conservative media that is better at telling people what they want to hear, and isn’t much interesting in grooming effective activists.

I think people who follow an issue closely do appreciate honesty in political struggles. I know I do. But I’ve never gotten more shit as a writer than I’ve gotten by telling people things they don’t want to hear, and most of that time what they don’t seem to want to hear is, “This issue is a lot more complicated than you think it is, what you want to do isn’t actually so easy, and there are going to be unpleasant consequences you’ll need to be prepared for and have a plan for dealing with.”

10 thoughts on “Possible Explanation for the Nasty Discourse?”

  1. I think you’re right. One example could be the possibility of the Peruta case in the 9th CA getting cert. No case should be submitted to the SCOTUS until after the election and appointment of a replacement to Scalia. If that means Peruta dies due to missing a deadline, so be it. We must be very careful not to present our adversary with an opportunity to set limiting precedent.

  2. I think we on “the right” are waking up from a delusion we’ve had since at least the 50s, (probably since the turn of the last century) that people are moved by rational, well thought out, fact based arguments. That “The Truth Will Out” and that we can bring people to our side just by the strength of are arguments.

    Humans are simply clever apes that are driven not by high intellectual ideals like we want to think we are, but we’re emotion driven social creatures driven mostly by “in-grouping vs out-grouping” and “social proof”.

    As such, hyperbolic, emotional and mean arguments are the ones that actually sway people. For the last couple of generations we’ve been believing this lie that we can “William F Buckley” our way into political victory.

    Politics is a dirty street fight and our “Marquess of Queensberry rules” are ultimately no better than tying a hand or two behind our backs.

    Read “The Evolutionary Psychology behind Politics” by Anonymous Conservative

    Or at least go read his blog
    (read the first three posts under “Interesting Posts” on the right side of the page).

    Then come back and tell me the proper role for civility in political debate.

    1. Read “The Evolutionary Psychology behind Politics” by Anonymous Conservative


  3. Yeah, Yeah, I’m right there with ya.

    Oh wait you want to know what I honestly think about this subject…..

    I have opinions on a lot of issues. But I either can’t defend them well enough in a debate; or I don’t want others to know my opinions on other subjects that relate to defending an issue. so I don’t want to debate the issues. I want to read about them from authors, bloggers & posters, who articulate their points clearly. Then i can decide if they have merit.

    but this won’t help sway the general public. Because unless someone really wants to get to the core basis of both sides of an issue, then they will just Yeah, yeah you; and move on.

    I’m on twitter a lot. (And yet I long ago deleted my Facebook account.) This past year I experienced true anxiety for the first time in my life. Where I found I had to force myself to breath. and it happened after reading twitter post after post that caused me to realize that this country will blindly vote in someone like Hillary Clinton. And I also believe they will vote in someone even worse in the following election cycle. The moral compass of the majority of Americans is something like “what’s in it for me” and “it’s okay as long as I come out ahead of other groups”. there’s no concern for the long term. there’s no consideration that we can’t continue to get everything for free.

    I actually had to get away from Twitter for a while. now I think I’m just holding out hope that trump gets elected. not because he’s that good for our country. but because he won’t be able to screw it nearly as bad as Clinton.

    (There now, that wasn’t too bad. take a breath….)

  4. Sorry I have to contradict one point. The anti-gunners are upping their game? Improving their rhetoric?

    Like this classic NYT editorial which appeared on the freaking front page in December 2015?

    …It is not necessary to debate the peculiar wording of the Second Amendment. No right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation.

    Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition, must be outlawed for civilian ownership. It is possible to define those guns in a clear and effective way and, yes, it would require Americans who own those kinds of weapons to give them up for the good of their fellow citizens.

    What better time than during a presidential election to show, at long last, that our nation has retained its sense of decency?

    Yeah, that’s some improvement! In reality that seems very much to me that the anti-gunners are in their ‘Battle of the Bulge’ phase, one last desperate and doomed offensive before their inevitable defeat.

    I’d say the only time the anti-gunners rhetoric got the best of us was back in the 1980’s, when they discovered the power of the big-lie and such fake issues as ‘cop killer bullets’, ‘undetectable plastic handguns’, and ‘easily converted assault weapons’.

    1. Their ability to monopolize the debate isn’t what it used to be. But in terms of gun control threads on the Internet, I’ve noticed they, on the whole, are doing better, and we, on the whole are doing worse compared to when I started paying attention. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still idiots on their side, or that everyone on our side has gone neanderthal, but for the most part, I think we’ve dumbed down our game.

  5. I think a large part of that has been the massive influx of new gun owners in the last decade.

    A lot of them are enthusiastic, highly motivated, and hugely inexperienced with the political history of gun control.

    You and I and the others posting here remember what it was like to live under the cloud of the federal ban on so-called “assault weapons”, or what it was like when concealed carry was only available in a couple of states.

    These new gun owners have never experienced that, and their knowledge of such things is hazy at best.

    On top of that, the way gun rights is discussed and debated has changed massively due to social media.

    Ten years ago, gun discussions were largely held on specialist Internet forums where, at a glance, everyone was more or less on the same level, and you had to really pay attention to figure out who the actual experts were.

    Now these discussions are held on social media venues, with the debates memeified, cut down and massaged to fit inside of a tweet, and everything held to an accelerated timetable because there’s no room for the ebb and flow of a multi-page forum discussion.

    Additionally, the rise of gun culture 2.0 has stratified the participants, with outsized personalities like Colion Noir, Nutnfancy, Rob Pincus, and others dictating positions, talking points, and the general cultural shape via YouTube, which is much less participatory than the old forums.

    This isn’t bad, on the whole, it’s a hugely positive thing, but something that has resulted in a sea change in how these things are discussed.

    Suffice it to say, sometimes a dank meme is the best thing to use in a debate, even if it isn’t part of the Socratic method.

    1. This causes me to think that we need to create a collection of books that will help Gun Culture 2.0 refine their argumentation.

      This might not be a good list, but a few books that immediately come to mind (which also represents my own journey on this issue, to some extent):

      More Guns, Less Crime by John Lott Jr provided me a statistical foundation.

      Nation of Cowards by Jeff Snyder provided me a philosophical foundation.

      Armed America by Clayton Cramer both illustrates how gun grabbers will lie and cheat to establish their case, and illustrates America’s history with guns.

      Target Switzerland by Stephen Halbrook demonstrates how a militia can defend countries from outside tyranny.

      Perhaps better books could be suggested (More Guns, Less Crime in particular is a bit dry), but this would be a good starting point, I think…

  6. I’ve read the article, and am (probably foolishly) trying to read all the comments, but between this, and a little video that my daughter was watching last night about the problems with “First past the post” voting systems, I think a major problem with our current voting system is that we simply can’t get people who represent our viewpoints, largely because of the “spoiler effect”.

    If you can only have two candidates, and each candidate has to pander to a wide coalition of people (first in their primaries, and then in the general election), it makes it very difficult to say “Yeah, I’m generally pro-life, but only for certain circumstances” without both pro-life and pro-choice people jumping down your throat.

    Thus, there are heavy disincentives to be honest with your constituency, regardless of party.

    I think we are well overdue for voting systems that allow us to order our candidates by preference, so that our voting for any particular candidate we might prefer won’t result in the absolutely worst candidate winning instead!

    Having said that, there’s a danger in setting up a system of government that is more likely representative of the people: if the people themselves are spoiled, a better representation will only result in our demise faster, than if we had a screwy system that allowed good ideas (that aren’t favored by the electorate) to get through part of the time…

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