February 14, 2003

What He Said

InstaPundit on European and American intellectuals

And the commitment to "dissent" in America on the part of these European intellectuals is -- not to put too fine a point on it -- a huge lie. If twenty million Americans had marched to oppose Bill Clinton's proposed national health insurance, these same intellectuals wouldn't have been cheering them on as "dissenters" -- they'd have been denouncing them as "cowboy individualists." It's only admirable "dissent," you see, when it's in conformity with the views of European intellectuals.

As I was saying to a coworker today, I have no problem with disagreement, but I do have a problem with people who can't seem to come up with anything better than "it's all about oil", or "Bush is Hitler" -- the type of people who never let facts get in the way of a trite slogan.

Then there's those that still haven't gotten over the fact Gore isn't President. Those people, I think, would hate Bush even if he solved world hunger, brought an eternal peace to the planet, and gave everyone a puppy. Their hatred has blinded them to anything remotely resembling rational thought. How can you deal with such people? If anyone has that problem solved, let me know.

Posted by Ithildin at February 14, 2003 5:43 PM | PROCURE FINE OLD WORLD ABSINTHE

You're absolutely right. Rather than address the real issues, or even take the time to get to know the real issues, like children, they resort to schoolyard name calling and taunts. I think you've hit on a lot of what are the president's stumbling blocks. He doesn't have it easy. Add to it the stigma of being his father's son and the man has quite a bit of baggage. As I once told a guy I was dating, "Everyone has baggage, but I didn't expect you to show up with the whole Tourister set!" I think the same can be said for George W, heck that poor guy even carries that name and has to be distinquished by his middle initial! There's resentment by a lot of people, who get quite offended when others say "Well, you voted him in!" when in fact, they feel like their vote meant nothing. But, that's no excuse, deal with the present situation. If they're going to bitch, at least bitch about what's happening now instead of resorting to tired cliches.

Posted by: Annmarie at February 15, 2003 6:15 AM

And they talk about dissent like it's inherently valuable. It's not. There's no need for someone to dissagree. There's a need for everyone to critically examine the government's policies, and oppose them if they're somehow bad, but dissent for its own sake is pointless.

Posted by: Paul at February 15, 2003 6:57 AM

And the commitment to "dissent" in America on the part of these European intellectuals is -- not to put too fine a point on it -- a huge lie.

So can we commit to this? I just got back from breakfast and was driven nuts, once again, on exactly this point, my very liberal friends claiming the right to dissent when what they meant was "The other side should really agree with us." And I told them they should commit to real dissent, which means really listening to what right-wingers have to say.

But the same would also be true for the right - they should really, really listen to what the left has to say.

I'm not holding my breath. My whole life politics has been a shouting match between groups of people who refuse to listen to each other. If it ever were to change I'd be stunned.

Of course, both sides could try to practice "active listening." Stephen Covey, in his book "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" described this as listening to the other person and then repeating what they've said, in your own words, but accurately capturing the emotion (as well as ideas) the other person was trying to communicate. After you've restated what the other person was saying, you can explain what you feel. Habit number 5 is "Seek first to understand... And then to be understood."

But it is, apparently, so much more gratifying for so many people to simply call the other person an idiot. Again, I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: Sapere Aude at February 15, 2003 11:56 AM

And they talk about dissent like it's inherently valuable.

Dissent is inherently valuable. Madison explains why in Federalist Paper #10:

The other point of difference is, the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican than of democratic government; and it is this circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to be dreaded in the former than in the latter. The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other. Besides other impediments, it may be remarked that, where there is a consciousness of unjust or dishonorable purposes, communication is always checked by distrust in proportion to the number whose concurrence is necessary.

Diversity of opinions, then, is a protection against the dangers of faction. Reread all of #10 if you need to be reminded of why faction is so deadly to a democracy.

Posted by: Sapere Aude at February 15, 2003 12:02 PM

Maybe I was being too general. If you say "the sky is blue," there's no inherent value in my saying "no it isn't." Or, less silly, I don't think we really need dissent on the first amendment. We'll get along without anyone arguing that we don't have a right to free speech. Honest disagreement, and critical examination of issues, is something that profits democracy. But I still believe that dissent *for its own sake* is not needed. And when "dissent" is merely a mask for purely political opposition (as I believe much of the "dissent" on the War on Terrorism is), it disrupts the democratic process.

Posted by: Paul at February 15, 2003 8:35 PM