Postscript on Civility

March 21, 2011

Two months ago, someone shot a lot of people at an event in Tucson, Arizona, including Congressman Gabrielle Giffords.  Six of those people died; many others were injured.  Liberals argued that conservatives (e.g., radio-talk-show hosts) participate in the great national debate a little bit too boisterously, and that eruptions of such violence are a natural result of that debate (i.e., a natural result of what I think Mark Steyn has called the rough and tumble of a free society).  Liberals talked about the need for “civility” in the national discourse, ambiguously attempting to deligitimize debate.

Then it turned out that the shooter wasn’t a fan of talk radio; to the contrary, he was a fan of the Communist Manifesto and a “9-11 Truther” who hated President Bush.  He was also a lunatic—and thus maybe he’s not best understood as having been political at all—but if and to the extent that we want to ask what his political orientation was, the evidence indicates that he was certainly more liberal than conservative.  Liberals did not respond to this new development by asking in turn whether there was something dark and rotten at the core of liberalism.

For a summary of that embarrassing episode in liberal thought, I recommend National Review‘s editorial at the time.

Michelle Malkin also compiled some useful (and long!) lists of examples of liberals’ incivility, in case there was any doubt about liberals’ implication that conservatives are more likely to be discourteous (or violent) than liberals.  “The progressive ‘climate of hate:’ An illustrated primer, 2000-2010” is long (and uncivil—be forewarned that some of the liberals in there got pretty vulgar); “Blame Righty: A condensed history” is a shorter chronicle of times that liberals and others have killed people, and the leftist press defaulted to the narrative that conservatism was to blame until proven innocent.  Malkin also noted two of the more striking ironies of that narrative in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

This week, National Review Online’s Deroy Murdock collects and comments on a number of death threats against Republican elected officials in Wisconsin for their recent efforts to balance the budget and reform the state government.  So I’ve entitled this entry a “postscript” to the whole “civility” conversation, but I don’t suppose we’ve seen the last of angry liberals’ lashing out with violence and intimidation, nor of liberals’ telling us that conservatism is what generates such evils.

13 Responses to “Postscript on Civility”

  1. Snoodickle Says:

    Conservatives (1) pro-war (2) pro-guns (3) pro-death penalty. Liberals, against all of the foregoing.

    You are delusional.

  2. delusional Says:

    So the flip side of that? The implications of that? What are liberals FOR if they are against those things?

    (1) Why have wars? Liberals must be pro-slavery-in-the-south? pro-genocide? pro-oppressive-totalitarian-regimes?
    (2) Why have guns? Liberals must be pro-personal-violence, pro-eliminating-disincentives-to-commit-crimes?
    (3) Why have the death penalty? Liberals must be pro-murder.

    I assume you don’t really intend to be taken seriously, but here’s an answer anyway. For my money, conservatives are “for” war, guns, and the death penalty partly because those things have been proven to LESSEN violence in the world.

    I’m glad you called Chillingworth “delusional” because that hits the nail on the head. The liberal nail, that is. Excellent choice of words. It’s exactly what I want to talk about next.

    Your logic here, and that of liberal thought generally, is weak in that it has only one step. Liberals, I think, really do wish there were less violence in the world. I think really most people wish that. But so often it seems to me that the liberal strategy is simply to enact the world they wish existed. “Wage peace not war” “Be the change you hope to see in the world.” There is certainly a place for inspiring people to act on their convictions. But note that the sentiment of these bumper-sticker slogans completely ignores the possibility that there is any kind of process in between the way things are and getting to how we wish they were.

    Pacifism, for example, is the living out of the goal, as though simply pretending the world were peaceful will make it peaceful. So a pocket of people live as though there were no violence in the world, while bad people continue to harm and murder others. That’s living in a false picture of reality. That’s delusional.

    The liberal thinking on guns is less logical still. We want less violence. Guns have been demonstrated to lessen violence. But we think of guns as violent (they are indeed used to shoot people), so let the truth be damned. We’ve irrationally (and, I’ve been convinced, incorrectly) associated guns with increased aggregate violence because of our visceral aversion to them, so no guns! Even if it makes us all worse off! That’s delusional. That’s acting contrary to reality. That’s delusional.

    We call liberals idealists. Liberals like to be called idealists. But idealism, by definition, acknowledges that it is something apart from reality. There is a place for idealism. But it isn’t a strategy. That’s delusional.

  3. Snoodickle Says:

    Delusional, indeed. I will attempt to address your rambling incoherence as concisely as possible.

    Let me start with guns. Your blanket statement that “guns have been demonstrated to lessen violence” is arguable at best, and at worst dead wrong.

    Since Chillingworth always yells at me for not citing enough sources, here goes nothing.

    “A law abiding citizen at the Tucson massacre was carrying a gun and was no more than 100 feet from the site of the massacre when it began. Nevertheless, he didn’t get off a single shot before the gunman unloaded all 31 bullets from his clip. Worse yet, he almost shot an innocent bystander. Only the most highly trained should carry guns in public (police, military, private security). The average citizen is invariably going to panic if a violent encounter occurs, and nothing good can come out of a person trying to fire a gun while in a state of panic. We have all heard stories of police officers emptying entire clips at bad guys and hitting nothing but air, and police are trained to kill. Indeed, studies prove that those that carry guns are MORE likely to be the victims of violent crime than those that don’t. The reason for this result is obvious, if a person panics when they pull a gun, they are as good as dead.” Source, Patrick L. Brown, legal scholar, citing from Harvard study on the effectiveness of carry and conceal policies in preventing crime.

    Let’s talk about the death penalty. As Chillingworth and I have discussed, even proponents of the death penalty concede that our government has and does execute innocent people. In Illinois alone, close to 20 capital cases have been overturned by DNA evidence.

    Even assuming that a comparison of the quantifiable deterrent effects of the death penalty v. life in prison reveals that the death penalty’s deterrent effect is greater than that of life in prison in a way that is more than negligible, you have to balance that finding against the grave risk of executing innocent people. Not an open and shut case by any means.(fyi – even in states without the death penalty murderers go to prison).

    Finally, war. Even anti-war liberals agree that war is necessary in certain cases (prevent secession, take down hitler, abolish slavery, etc.). It is the unnecessary wars that are concerning.

    P.S. Your exposition on “logic” is fascinating, and quite humorous as well, but it is easy to spot the arguments of a second year grad student toiling in mediocrity from a mile away. If you want to be a meaningful part of our debate, write something meaningful.

  4. Leroy, I think it’s pretty rude for you to insult someone you don’t know on my blog. I take it “Delusional”’s exposition on logic hit a little too close to home? I’m told Benjamin Franklin remarked that the sting in any rebuke is the truth of it.

    Like Delusional, I can never tell whether you intend to be taken seriously. You act as if you were interested in a serious, intellectual argument, but then you do things like this: In this comment, you not only

    (1) attempted childish, emotionally needy, unkind ad hominem attacks in your “P.S.”, but also

    (2) instead of linking to (i.e., providing the URL for), or providing the citation (i.e., journal title, volume, and page number) for, say, a Harvard study (which you claim to cite but don’t), you quote at length from an e-mail exchange among you, me, and some other classmates. As you know, Pat Brown is not a legal scholar; he is, last I checked, unemployed, which may be why he has so much time to play these games and have these arguments.

    On the subject of gun control, a writer in The American Spectator reviewed the (apparently extensive) academic debate since More Guns, Less Crime and concluded that the evidence is inconclusive (though it sounds to me more pro-gun than anti-gun, on balance). (As that writer adds in a slightly different context, “Of course, this does not mean that gun control is harmless or irrelevant. Rather, it means that gun control restricts liberty without having any discernible effect on security. Anyone who thinks that’s a good deal truly deserves neither.”)

    It’s the same as with the death penalty, and the same with any particular war, maybe, in that reasonable minds can differ—or, in your words, it’s “Not an open and shut case”. That’s great—now that you’ve agreed that reasonable minds can differ, I’m happy for you and others to have a reasonable, respectful debate about the wisdom of this or that particular policy (concealed carry, the death penalty, the Iraq war, whatever) on my blog. But you realize that in that case you’ve already conceded a lot to Delusional since your first comment above, don’t you? You dismissed conservatism as pro-war and me as delusional, and felt morally superior because you were liberal and anti-war. Now you admit that some wars are necessary, which means we’ll have to have the debate, as a country, about each particular war, and reasonable minds can differ. Delusional has brought you down from your unreflective, caricaturish comment to more realistically debating particulars.

    And yet, even as you attempt to enter into actual debate, you retain the same condescending, insulting tone. What is your problem? I understand that you don’t believe in Christ and Christianity and all that nonsense; you’re not going to be the kindest person in the world. But would it kill you to be merely polite?

    It’s ironic, maybe, that this discussion has come back around to civility. You’re the liberal among the three of us, and you’ve been by far the most uncivil in this conversation. As with what we said in my original post and your first comment, in theory liberals are by definition the picture of civility, but in observed reality there’s an awful lot of incivility from the actual liberals. By the way, did you want to say anything more responsive to what I actually said in the original entry? Or is it enough that you provided immediate confirmation of the prediction I made at the end of the entry, and we should just move on?

    In the future, if it helps, try this: I have something like a little liberal or skeptic in the back of my head when I write my blog entries, criticizing what I write and saying, Can you prove that? Try to imagine how what you say sounds from the other person’s point of view. Imagine that you didn’t already agree with your conclusions; how much evidence, and what kind of reasonable argument, would it take to convince you? I think the skeptic in the back of my head helps keep me from going off half-cocked or saying mindlessly conservative things and just expecting everyone to agree with me.

  5. Snoodickle Says:

    Chillingworth, you are more cruel than I could even imagine. I like it! Btw, now who’s making the unkind personal attacks? I thought Christianity taught understanding and forgiveness, but kicking a man while he’s down? Tsk. Tsk.

    I thought it clear that my P.S. paragraph was mostly intended in jest (how could I possibly know he was a second year grad student? – unless I truly am a genius – which according to the Ohio Board of Bar Examiners is a legitimate possibility [523.4]) and it perplexes me how you, not even its intended recipient, could possibly take that personally.

    P.S. I just had lunch with Patrick L. Brown yesterday and he is not exactly unemployed. He is a sole practitioner with a growing client base and owner of an international importing business who is currently learning Mandarin Chinese. Ni zuijin zenmeyang?

    Where again do you work? Nice try though. ;)

  6. liberal Says:


    I use to be a frequent poster on this site but lately I have found your arguments to be one-sided and dare I say delusional. For starters, I did not find Snoodickles comments to be offensive. If anything the comments posted by delusional were offensive. I always enjoy how you cite to the most conservative sources you can find. If The American Spectator decided the evidence was inconclusive what does that say? The American Spectator is a conservative publication that is not neutral. As such, it finding the evidence to be inconclusive is nothing more than it bullshitting evidence that went against conservative beliefs.
    Now the only reason I am bothering to post on this site (which I rarely do because of your offensive and uneducated tone) is because I finally agree with something you said: “I understand that you don’t believe in Christ and Christianity and all that nonsense”. Finally you are coming around and recognizing that Christianity is nothing more than nonsense.
    This week I was invited to a cult meeting where individuals kill pigs and drink pig blood. I rejected the invitation because it sounded crazy. But think about Christianity. Christians are one big cult. The only reason Christianity is not called a cult is because so many people belong. I find it much less offensive to drink the blood of a pig then to drink the blood of a man (I am also hoping that the blood of a pig tastes like bacon, the most delicious food). What exactly does human blood taste like you indoctrinated cult member?
    Delusional started this argument. As normal you took his side and did not allow for a meaningful discussion as put forth by Snoodickle. Typical. I do hope you have found employment and that god is not real, because if he is, he might just strip you of your job for your rude and insulting comments (I do not share the same concern regarding my comments because as sure as you are that god does exist I am sure that god does not exist).
    By the way, abortion is a constitutional right and gays can be legally married. Want me to site a source (outside of case law which I know you won’t accept)? How about I cite to CNN or some other liberal news source. I love how you only use sources that are already members of your sick, perverse, human blood drinking cult. Good luck to you weirdo.

  7. delusional Says:

    To Snoodickle:

    You wrote: “If you want to be a meaningful part of our debate, write something meaningful.” That’s ironic. The whole first half of my post is dedicated to illustrating that you hadn’t made a meaningful argument in your one-line joke about conservatives and violence. There was no debate to join.

    I appreciate that you have offered thoughtful, if not entirely responsive, responses to my argument about what I perceive as a flaw in much liberal reasoning. But so long as you continue to resort to insults and self-satisfied hyperbole, I think I’d rather not participate in a debate with you. It isn’t real debate.

  8. jon from sandiego Says:

    This blog is priceless; I promise to follow you daily.

    – Jon

  9. Snoodickle Says:

    I apologize if I offended anyone.

  10. liberal Says:

    Its clear that delusional and Chillingworth are drinking the same blood and it has made you both a bit tipsy…

  11. […] talked plenty before about incivility from liberals (who, ironically, often seem to think that conservatives have […]

  12. […] Giffords, which we were told was the fault of conservative rhetoric (and the shooter there wasn’t even a conservative!)—see, […]

  13. […] “Postscript on Civility” […]

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