Tuesday, April 01, 2008

And 'Lo and Behold: A Point Proven

Wow. They just. Don't. Get. It.

Some readers of the Nexus may recall yesterday's response to online hatemonger Canadian Cynic's "day of civility".

In the face of such a slap in the face to political discourse, it was necessary to point out that individuals like Canadian Cynic, who claim to be progressives, are not progressives.

Which, of course, drove good old Marty Rayner into a sputtering, incoherent rage. The truth really hurts, it would seem.

Considering the rebuking of his rage here at the Nexus, it's unsurprising that it would bubble over at his own blog, as henceforth:

"Doughy pantload and professional freeloader, oops, sorry… “sociology student”… Patrick Ross launches into yet another one of his painfully tiresome, windy and wholly ill-informed attacks on his nemesis and unrequited love-object, Canadian Cynic. This time he builds his ridiculous argument on the feeble contention that Cynic is not a “Progressive”…

Oh dear, here we go again with semantic labels and ideological definitions. In this case, Patrick hangs his baseball cap on a short blurb from the obscure website of some undistinguished outfit called “The Progressive Living Foundation” that defines “progressivism” as follows:

"…a political movement that represents the interests of ordinary people in their roles as taxpayers, consumers, employees, citizens, and parents. To coin a phrase, progressivism champions government ‘of the people, by the people, for the people.’"
Gee, could that be a little more vacuous or fluffy? One hardly thinks so. Let’s see if we can come up with something more edifying. Wikipedia is often a good place to start:"
Oh, yes. Wikipedia. Sure, Marty. Let's start with a "source" that would net one a zero on any serious academic paper.

Let's start with a "source" renouned for the content tampering that is known to occur.

This being noted, let's indulge Mr Rayner:

"…A general branch of political thought which arose as a response to the vast changes brought by industrialization, and as an alternative both to the traditional conservative response to social and economic issues and to the various more or less radical streams of socialism and anarchism which opposed them. Progressivism historically advocates the advancement of workers’ rights and social justice. The progressives were early proponents of anti-trust laws, regulation of large corporations and monopolies, as well as government-funded environmentalism and the creation of National Parks and Wildlife Refuges."
Of course “Progressivism” is a colossally broad, nebulous sort of term and therefore difficult to define with any precision."
No duh, Marty, but let's not stop you from trying. After all, let's consider this further passage from the source originally cited:

"Economic elites emerge in every society and invariably seek to promote their own interests, all too often against those of taxpayers, consumers, employees, citizens, and parents. By definition, economic elites enjoy greater wealth, and therefore influence, than the ordinary citizen, and they typically attempt to exploit these advantages politically, using them as leverage to obtain still greater wealth and influence."
Hmmmm. So let's see, economic elites -- who also tend to be political and cultural elites -- impede progressive politics, which "represents the interests of ordinary people in their roles as taxpayers, consumers, employees, citizens, and parents."

In other words, progressivism is meant to advance the interests of those who fall in between the economic elites and the revolutionary socialists and anarchists who insist on a complete overthrow of the system.

Sounds an awful lot like... what was that term, again? Oh, yeah. "Ordinary people".

Seems an awful lot like the very definition that I used. But in his simmering rage poor ol' Marty just isn't capable of reading between the lines.

"It’s interesting to note the vast array of disparate individuals deemed to be “progressives” in the Wikipedia entry; from Upton Sinclair to Thorstein Veblen, and Dennis Kucinich to Woodrow Wilson. But to put a somewhat finer point on matters, John Halpin, senior advisor at the Center for American Progress offers up this insight:

“Progressivism is an orientation towards politics, It’s not a long-standing ideology like liberalism, but an historically-grounded concept... that accepts the world as dynamic.”
Unfortunately, this sort of delicate attitudinal nuance is apparently incapable of penetrating Patrick’s fantastically dense mullet, resulting in him just moronically squawking the dimestore mantra that “Progressivism represents the interests of ordinary people.” Well, duh. What political movement doesn’t make similar claims?"
Really, Marty? Do you really think so?

Let's consider the comments of Eric Alterman, author of Why We're Liberals, who insisted "liberalism is the ideology, progressivism is the strategy."

Let's put Marty on a time out here for a couple of minutes so we can define "dynamic" for him:

1. pertaining to or characterized by energy or effective action; vigorously active or forceful; energetic: the dynamic president of the firm.
2. Physics.
a. of or pertaining to force or power.
b. of or pertaining to force related to motion.
3. pertaining to the science of dynamics.
4. of or pertaining to the range of volume of musical sound.
5. Computers. (of data storage, processing, or programming) affected by the passage of time or the presence or absence of power: Dynamic memory must be constantly refreshed to avoid losing data.
6. Grammar. nonstative.
7. a basic or dynamic force, esp. one that motivates, affects development or stability, etc.
According to this definition, which Rayner seems to favour, progressive politics "pertains to effective action" and "affects development or stability".

Yes, that is much more descriptive than a politics that rejects elitism and acts in the interests of ordinary people. But the greatest hilarity is only yet to come:

"Following on from this stupendously dim revelation is a lot of cheap, utterly meaningless blather (over 800 words, all signifying nothing whatsoever) about “Cynic and his coterie of vicious hooligans” that don’t bear repeating or even skimming really, but behold this brilliant gem:

"What either fail to recognize, or fail to admit, is that the freedom for those who disagree with them to express their views without fear of attack or harassment is part and parcel of a progressive social contract in which people -- each presumably as equal as the next -- are permitted to hold to hold their own opinions, recognize their own interests, organize in order to pursue their interests, and express their opinions in that regard."
Yeah, well I’ll certainly keep that in mind when Frank Hilliard launches into his next spirited defense of the individual rights of people who choose to “pursue their interests” by driving whilst intoxicated or when he starts hysterically shrieking that Halal certification on certain lamb products is a sure sign that the imposition of Sharia Law by the treacherous Islamofascists in our midst is close at hand. Likewise, I’ll try to remind myself to be a little more sensitive to Kate McMillan the next time she endorses the “free speech” of a self-confessed “full time Nazi” who advocates the wholesale murder of homosexuals based on a commandment from Scripture."
The larger point that Marty seems to be missing is that no one is suggesting that he and his compatriots shouldn't be allowed to criticize individuals like Hilliard, McMillan, myself, or anyone else with whom they disagree.

But if Rayner wants to criticize people, then the onus is on him to be clear about what it is that he's actually criticizing. What he fails to understand is the greatest failures to this end vis a vis an ad hominem attack. Notably, that an "ad hominem attack is a fallacy:

"The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made)."
If Martin Rayner and Canadian Cynic really find the ideas of Hilliard, MacMillan or myself so atrocious, then perhaps they could find it in themselves to dispute the ideas.

In fact, in choosing to attack character instead of ideas, Rayner and Cynic actually offer a tacit admission that they can't. Ironically, the ideas they find so abhorrent come away from their criticisms stronger than before because of this, except in the minds of like-minded hatemongers.

So instead of debating ideas they settle for attacking character -- Rayner himself proves that in the course of his post. (One is also reminded about numerous challenges to debate the ideas instead of merely attacking the messenger, all of which went unanswered). In the process they clearly intend to exact such a personal toll on people whose ideas they abhor that these people will feel discouraged from expressing them.

"Perhaps others can back me up on this, but the last time I glanced at my “Progressive” membership card, I don’t recall there being any requirement that I check my brains at the door and automatically subscribe to the ludicrous notion that all ideas and opinions are of equal merit."
Certainly not. But one has to start with Martin Rayner and his "progressive membership card" -- he doesn't have one. He isn't a progressive.

"I forget the exact wording, but it may in fact even have suggested something to the contrary — that some ideas are catastrophically dumb and therefore quite deserving of being figuratively pilloried and mocked to death. Like say… much of the flatulent nonsense of Patrick Ross."
Unsurprisingly, Rayner just doesn't get it. This shoudn't surprise anyone by now.

In the end, Rayner just simply fails to comprehend the meaning of progress:

1. Movement, as toward a goal; advance.
2. Development or growth: students who show progress.
3. Steady improvement, as of a society or civilization: a believer in human progress. See synonyms at development.
4. A ceremonial journey made by a sovereign through his or her realm.
It raises a number of questions vis a vis Martin Rayner:
1. Whose goals should progressivism advance? Those of the largest number of people possible? Or merely his?

2. What kind of development or growth is fostered by a political discourse built upon the foundation of ad hominem attacks?

3. What kind of steady improvement of our society should we expect if entire groups of people are harassed out of participating in political discourse?

Well, there are some simple answers to be offered.

Certainly, progressivism could work toward only the goals of people like himself. Perhaps the development or growth would be something that he would be satisfied, but one has to consider the resentment that would bubble amongst the masses of people driven to the fringes and thus banished to permanent dissatisfaction with such development or growth. Could it really be considered a steady improvement if the society that Rayner envisions is built upon such a powderkeg?

One has to remember the thing about powderkegs: sparks tend to make them explode.

But then again, one also has to remember that the vicious and toxic discourse favoured by Marty and his compatriots would only lead our society to a place where only certain people -- the people with the so-called right ideas -- are allowed to participate in political debate.

This would not lead us toward a dynamic politics in which change is possible, but rather toward a stale politics in which change has been rendered impossible because the so-called wrong ideas have been forced out at the expense of intellectual pluralism.

This isn't progress. This is regression. Sadly, it's clearly the kind of politics that Martin Rayner envisions -- a world wherein political debate begins and ends with the word "retard" and there's little to no room for actual ideas.

But if Rayner wants to prove differently, the ball's in his court: start accepting the challenge to divest himself of ad hominem attacks and debate the ideas.

Unfortuantely, we know he won't. The ball may be in his court, but he's too scared to dribble it out.

He won't debate honestly. It's yet another reason why he isn't a progressive.

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