Getting the Point of Disagreement Right

Dart flying towards the bullseye on a dartboard

How many times have I heard one conservative pundit or another say that the Left doesn’t believe in freedom of speech.

It drives me mad.

A popular conservative speaker is invited to speak at a college campus (please see my agent for fees and availability – what do you mean, what for?) and every single Leftist advocate group and activist becomes apoplectic with rage. They contact the administration with a categorical demand that they disinvite them and apologise profusely for even having the temerity to think that a member of the RBSH community should be given a platform to spew their vile hatred. On the occasions when the administration does not cowardly back down, the Left will attempt to disrupt the lecture in all sorts of inventive ways – they can be creative when they want to be – from preventing people attending the lecture, invading the room and chanting their argument winning, super-intelligent mantras, to out-right rioting.

Where RBSH stands for Racist, Bigot, Sexist, Homophobe. I’m just trying to be helpful. They’re constantly screaming something like this at us (“YOU’RE A RACIST, BIGOT, SEXIST, HOMOPHOBE”) and it occurs to me that it must take a lot of energy to have to say the whole thing each time. I thought a nice acronym would allow them to save their energy and use it to maintain their high decibel level for the duration of their chanting. And it would be helpful for us too. Since such accusations constitute about 80% of the things they say to us, it is a mathematical certainty that if instead of using those four words they used this acronym, that the length of a conversation with a Leftist can be reduced by up to 60%!

Just a little idea I had.

Back to the point. A conservative speaker is invited to … well speak and the Left try and prevent it from happening.

Then the conservative media use such incidents to prove that the Left doesn’t believe in freedom of speech.

The same applies to all that name-calling coming from the Left when they condemn someone they disagree with as being an RBSH. You see how much time we’ve both saved by my not writing it out in full. I appreciate the irony behind my pointing this out, but if I put in the effort now the long-term effects could be massive. If this catches on and everyone starts using the RBSH acronym, it could save us millions if not billions of hours over the next ten to twenty years.

Conservative commentators will again conclude that the name-calling of the Left is an attempt to shut down the conversation because they do not believe in freedom of speech.

But this is wrong.

And the reason I think it’s important to point this out, is because it indicates a mistake in locating the precise point of disagreement, which in turn has repercussions on the effectiveness of any counter argument. It’s always difficult to disprove something someone says when the evidence you’re bringing proves an entirely different point.

Let’s explain all that a bit more.

Starting with why it’s wrong to say that the Left don’t believe in freedom of speech.

It does seem that legally freedom of speech protects hate speech and the right of a bigot to make bigoted comments. However, if a person believes differently and wants hate speech and bigotry to be exceptions to free speech, it doesn’t mean that they don’t believe in freedom of speech. It means they do believe in freedom of speech, but they have an exception that they would like to make. You may not agree with the exception but that doesn’t mean a person who wants it doesn’t believe in freedom of speech at all.

It’s not as if there are no exceptions to freedom of speech already. Freedom of speech does not allow the incitement of violence. A person who believes freedom of speech should protect speech that incites violence, can’t accuse a person who believes freedom of speech should not include speech that incites violence, of not believing in freedom of speech.

The same applies to hate speech and the like. It’s merely a debate about one more exception. And some people’s belief that hate and bigoted speech should be another exception to freedom of speech and not be protected speech, is not a lack of belief in freedom of speech.

In fact, the argument that hate and bigoted speech should not be protected under the right of freedom of speech is not unreasonable. There is merit to the assertion that we prevent the spreading of terrible and ultimately harmful ideas. It’s what we do with diseases.

It’s just not as powerful as the argument for protecting it under the right of freedom of speech, namely, that sunlight is the greatest disinfectant and all that.

While sometimes in a debate one side has zero rational or sense behind it, in this case both positions are reasonable, even if in the final analysis one argument is more powerful than the other.

In this case the argument may not even be about freedom of speech. It may just boil down to a difference of opinion in how to handle hate and bigoted speech. Do you ban it outright or allow bigots to expose themselves as being the immoral and evil people that they really are?

So what’s gone wrong in the minds of the conservative pundits accusing the Left of not believing in freedom of speech?

Well I can’t say for sure, but it does seem to me that they are looking at the behaviour of the Left through the lens of their own beliefs and opinions. They believe that hate and bigoted speech should be protected under the right of freedom of speech. They are not taking any other point of view into consideration, and may even be completely unaware of its existence in the first place. In their minds there is only one position on this point and therefore, any action or behaviour that indicates the contrary, namely the banning of speakers, will lead them to the conclusion that the Left don’t believe in freedom of speech.

This is completely understandable. It’s not as if the Left have a track record of talking sense and taking on positions based on reason and sanity. But that is no excuse for not checking each time whether perhaps this time there will be something to what the Left is saying.

So that’s what’s gone wrong. The conservative commentators have misunderstood the behaviour of the Left and accused them of not believing in freedom of speech, when they do. They have completely missed the point that the Left are making: They’re okay with freedom of speech, they just want hate and bigoted speech to be another exception.

And it’s vital to point this out because there are two significant ramifications.

  1. The Left will have no idea what your problem is

They believe in freedom of speech. They just want an additional exception. Any accusation that they do not believe in freedom of speech, will be seen by them as a patently absurd allegation that has no basis in reality. They will be genuinely and justifiably baffled as to where you got the whole notion from in the first place and will see any such accusation as purposely misrepresenting the situation to make them look bad.

This is not a good basis for having a sensible or productive conversation.

  1. You can’t argue back properly

Your mistake has meant that you’ve completely missed the point at which the Left have gone off the rails and are therefore unable to produce an effective and winning argument that points out their ridiculous behaviour, as all your efforts will have been focused on a similar but entirely different point.

So, let’s analyse where the Left do go wrong here?

Simple. They have a reasonable argument: Hatred and bigotry should not be protected under the right of freedom of speech. It just so happens, by spectacular coincidence, that anyone who disagrees with them or believes something they don’t like, is exactly the kind of person whose speech needs to be restricted under the above eminently reasonable exclusion clause.

That’s right. The Left are claiming that conservative speakers, Donald Trump, people who disagree with them, Donald Trump, people who’s opinion they don’t like, Donald Trump, Republicans, Donald, Trump, that bloke off Fox news, Donald Trump, everyone who supports or voted for Donald Trump even if they only considered it but changed their mind at the last moment, and of course Donald Trump, are raving Nazis and the most evil people on the planet. Or in Trump’s case, the most evil person on the planet.

Where Nazi is another example of verbal shorthand for Racist, Bigot, Sexist, Homophobe.

So of course it’s appropriate to stop them all from speaking.

The question we have to ask is, why is it that all those people who even mildly disagree with the Left, invariably turn out to be RBSH and Nazis?

Two possible answers immediately spring to mind.

  1. The beliefs and opinions of the Left are morally good and virtuous. All other beliefs and opinions are immoral. Good people will believe good things and bad people will believe bad things. If you accept anything that differs from the ideology of the Left, it must be because the bad and immoral in you likes the bad and immoral in those beliefs and opinions.

    The conclusion made on the basis of this premise is watertight. So there is something to this argument.

    There is however, a teeny tiny problem with the premise.

    It’s false.

  1. The Left are accusing people of being RSBH because it’s the trump (!) card in winning an argument and proving their point without having to go through all the problems and difficulties that come with trying to prove your point rationally and logically. It’s the only route to debating victory when your point makes no sense, and the quickest and easiest method for getting you own way and feeling morally superior, as you righteously destroy somebody else’s life using a premise that has no basis at all.

I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb here when I say that the first possibility is completely absurd. That leaves us with having to conclude that the Left do in fact believe in freedom of speech, it’s just that they are a little too liberal in applying their desired and reasonable – if not wrong, exception clause of RBSH and Nazis, expanding it from actual RBSH and Nazis to include anybody who has been mean to them by disagreeing with them and having a different point of view.

What we need to do in these situations is to work with their belief that RBSH and Nazis should be banned from speaking, but to ask for proof that the person really is a RBSH and Nazi, and not just someone who said something that could be reinterpreted as something that if you looked at it upside down and sideways, was something similar to something a RBSH might actually say.

And it has to be solid proof. Freedom of speech is such a fundamental tenet of Western society that any exception clause should only be used when the proof is beyond reasonable doubt.

Not the CNN catered opinion beyond reasonable doubt, or the Bill Maher smarty pants making fun of you beyond reasonable doubt, or even the ravings of the once great (possibly) Jim Carey beyond reasonable doubt, or in fact any mob-type beyond reasonable doubt. Because the thing about mob induced beyond reasonable doubt, is that it tends to be … well unreasonable. Mobs do cater to the lowest intellect after all, so the average IQ of a mob will be lower than the average IQ of say .. decent human beings.

No, it needs to be actual beyond reasonable doubt.

So the following would not meet that standard:

  1. Donald Trump said something mean about a Muslim woman not speaking in front of her husband, so he hates all Muslims.
  1. Donald Trump wants to temporarily halt people coming to the USA from countries where there are concerns about terrorist activities, but because those countries are majority Muslim, it proves he hates all Muslims.
  1. Donald Trump said something about certain women letting him grab them. Of course that’s sexual abuse, because we’ll just emphasise certain words and ignore those that indicate it was consensual, and assume he actually did what he was bragging about.
  1. Trump called certain illegal immigrants animals, but we’ll just drop the word illegal and pretend he was referring to all immigrants simply because I don’t see how putting a limiting adjective before a noun should in any way change its meaning, especially when I have my searching for RBSH magnifying glass set at maximum strength, due to the fact that he says things I don’t like.
  1. Yes, all these incidents by themselves may not prove anything, but taken as a pattern of behaviour, we can irrefutably conclude that Donald Trump is evil!

We have to get the point of disagreement right. And here it’s not whether the Left believe in freedom of speech or not, but whether there is actual proof that the accused is indeed a RBSH, or you’ve just decided that they are because they say something you don’t like.

When you ask them for proof that the accused is a RBSH, they won’t be able to provide any, because the way they came to that conclusion was via the ‘they must be a RBSH if they say something I don’t like’ approach. They will therefore not be able to provide any actual evidence and all they will succeed in proving, by making baseless accusations of a serious nature, is that they are a low-life scumbag, who desperately wants to see the person disagreeing with them as evil so they don’t have to face their fear of being wrong, or worse … not being morally superior than all of you.

Proving that they are the immoral ones for accusing someone of being a RBSH without any evidence, is a far more effective and powerful argument than saying that the Left don’t believe in freedom of speech, because it’s what’s actually going on. It won’t leave them confused as to why you think what you do, in the way that saying they don’t believe in freedom of speech would, and you will have disproven their actual point and not a similar but entirely different point that they were not really making.

Only when you get the point of disagreement right, will you be able to see precisely where the Left have gone wrong. It will then be child’s play from such a position, to find an effective argument to counter their predictably stupid ideas.

There are two examples of conservative speakers not getting the point of disagreement right, which had a negative impact on the effectiveness of their subsequent arguments.

In the first example, a speaker and questioner were having a discussion about whether the concept of gender was fixed or not. The speaker asked as a comparison, whether a person could choose to identify as a different age, to which the questioner said that age was not the same as gender. The speaker replied, “you’re right, age is significantly less important than gender.”

The speaker here misses the questioner’s point entirely. That doesn’t make the speaker wrong overall, but it does make his responses far less effective. Because the questioner was saying that gender is a concept that could be non-binary whereas the same could not be said of age. And that’s true, especially considering all the non-biological differences between men and women. If a person is biologically male but has a ‘female brain’ then perhaps you could argue that their gender is not precisely male or female.

But the speaker didn’t get this (I have to admit it’s much easier to spot with hindsight) and instead gave a flippant answer to a serious question. The questioner was clearly puzzled as to why her question was essentially ignored and presumably went home telling herself that the speaker had not dealt with her question at all. And perhaps because he couldn’t!

Now imagine that the speaker had said something along the lines of: you’re right, my comparison was wrong. Age is certainly fixed, whereas there are reasons that might lead someone to believe that gender is not. But while it’s true that there are all sorts of things that go into the makeup of a man or woman, the most important is their biology. A biological man with any female characteristics has always been considered a man with female characteristics and never part man and part woman, because the only way to identify something as male or female has always been via their biology.

This is a much more effective response, as it deals with the point that the questioner made and now puts the onus on them to explain why things are suddenly different and non-biological, feelings based characteristics of being male or female are now considered equally important when deciding on gender identity.

Another conservative speaker was accused of being a white supremacist for supporting Donald Trump who it went without saying, was assumed to be a white supremacist.

The speaker demanded that the accuser present proof that he was a white supremacist and the person calling him out could only reiterate his support for Trump as proof.

The speaker did not accept this and continued to demand proof that he himself was a white supremacist.

This was a mistake compounded by the fact that there was the additional issue that the accuser probably didn’t mean what he said.

Yes, sometimes when people speak, they don’t say what they actually mean.

Now you’re wondering how one could expect the speaker to have dealt with it any better given the circumstances. After all, if the questioner himself didn’t know what he meant, how can you expect the speaker to know and then reply with an effective response?

Easy. The lecturer has a brain, the accuser did not. It’s the responsibility of the adults to help the children … I mean it’s the responsibility of those with brains to help those who have some deficiency in that area – that means idiots – to articulate their points properly.

What the accuser probably meant was that you’re a bad person for supporting a white supremacist. Not that the speaker himself was a white supremacist, even if those were the words he was actually using.

And that’s a valid point. You’re a bad person if you support a bad person. Maybe not as bad as the bad person themself, but they’re still not people you’d want as friends, marriage partners, work colleagues etc. Unless of course you’re a bad person yourself. Although, perhaps it’s somewhat presumptuous to assume that bad people want or have bad friends. In fact being a bad person may well provide a greater impetus for finding good friends, as they know all too well, how bad it is to have bad friends such as themselves. But the point is, we can all agree that supporting bad people makes you a bad person too, however you want to precisely define this level and type of badness.

If that was what the accuser meant, then trying to pin him down and make him prove the precise accusation he articulated, was a waste of time and the wrong approach. He probably went home thinking that his point was not dealt with at all. The speaker supports a white supremacist and as all reasonable people would agree, that makes him a bad person too. Demanding that the accuser prove the exact words he stated, does not deal with his underlying accusation.

Now imagine that the speaker had understood the precise point of the accuser and agreed with it, but then asked for solid evidence that Donald Trump was a white supremacist. lt would have been a much more effective way of dealing with the accusation.

I’m not saying that the speakers dealt with these questions in a bad way. I’m saying it wasn’t the most precise way, and as a consequence, it can never provide that all important verbal knockout blow that we all so desire to see delivered to one of those brain-dead wazzoks.

Where wazzock is the best expression I can find so far, to try and convey a miniscule fraction of the contempt I have for these mindless halfwits.

Sam Taylor

I'm Sam Taylor. I don't really like pointing out stupidity when I see it, but I'm going to. It's my way of reaching out to those who can actually think.

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