Monday, April 29, 2013

Week of 04/29/2013

Argue From Reason, Not Arrogance
– by David Matthews 2

“Who cares what the majority wants?”

That was the question posed by columnist David Harsanyi for Reason Magazine when it came to gun control legislation.  Who cares about the majority, he argues?  The majority doesn’t matter!  It’s about the Constitution, you stupid ignorant twits! (Okay, the last part was added for emphasis.)

Having read the whole article, I couldn’t find fault with the premise.  And yet I didn’t want to agree with it.  I found myself wanting to dismiss both it and the author just out of spite.  And I didn’t know why!

I’m a practical libertarian.  Not only would I otherwise be agreeing with the author on the premise, I’d be writing articles just like it.  And yet I have this urge to want to disagree with him.

Then it hit me.  It wasn’t about the premise of the article.  It was about the tone given in the article.

Pompous, arrogant, self-righteous… and it’s right there in the title: “Who Cares What the Majority Wants on Guns?”

Who cares what the majority wants?

Bear in mind that every member of Congress is there today because of the majority of the voters.  Every Supreme Court justice is seated today because they were each confirmed by a majority of Senators.  The President and Vice-President of the United States are where they are today because of a majority of Electoral College delegates that were selected from a majority of voters in their respective states.

And if that’s not bad enough, we just got done with a very abrasive Presidential Election season where two dominant political parties not only claimed to represent “the majority”, but also to this day claim to be acting in accordance to that same “majority”.

The so-called “Tea Party” crowd, conservatives and neo-conservatives one and all, claim that they represent that fictional “silent majority” first originated by Richard Nixon.  They demand that the GOP carry out their bidding because of that fictional status.  They demand the dismantling and sabotage of the federal government because of that fictional status.  And they aren’t the only ones playing the “silent majority” hoax either!  The AARP, the NRA, the Christian Coalition, the Parents Television Council, they all claim to represent “the majority”!

And now here comes Mister Harsanyi, who then dismisses the “majority” and says that what they think doesn’t matter when it comes to gun laws!

He may be right, but he doesn’t do his stance any favors with the arrogance.

This is neither the first nor the last time that “the will of the majority” is used to take away the rights of others.  Remember California’s Prop. 8?  The “will of the majority” supposedly dictated that same-sex marriages should be illegal in that state.  Does that make it right?  No.  But it was passed nonetheless, and now it’s up to the Supreme Court to decide if it is right, and even they’ve indicated that they don’t want to be the ones to make that decision.

Speech is censored, supposedly because “the majority” demands it in the name of little children.  Is it right?  No.  But it’s done nonetheless and our courts rationalize it by saying that “family values” trump the First Amendment.

Funny how the First Amendment can be traipsed on continually by “the will of the people” with hardly a word in protest, but when the Second Amendment is targeted we suddenly have these “freedom-loving defenders of the Constitution” who argue that “the will of the people” is tyranny!  And unlike the Second Amendment, the First Amendment uses some pretty no-nonsense words!  You can’t beat “Congress shall make no law”, and yet they do on a continual basis, and all supposedly because of “the will of the people”.

Now we can fight a million-billion-trillion battles one after another after another with the majority on these causes, arguing the same position, the same stance over and over and over again.  We can fight this battle in the editorial sections and on the Internet and on the cable news channels all we want.

And you know what?  We’re probably going to lose a good percentage of those battles. 

Politicians want to stay in office, which means they have to pander to the groups that can get them that majority edge come Election Day.  Lower court judges want to become high court judges, and they know they can’t do that if they can’t get support from the politicians.  The media doesn’t want to take on a cause that doesn’t bring in the majority of viewers.  It’s not about what is right with these groups; it’s about appeasing the majority.  So they will use that to subvert our rights on a continual basis.

Or we can try to cut down on those million-billion-trillion battles by convincing the masses that not everything is about “the will of the people”.  So the politicians won’t feel obligated to subvert our rights on a continual basis.  So the judges won’t feel that they have to choose between their careers and doing what is right.  So the media can talk about freedom instead of trying to nudge down Orwellian nightmares.

Well guess what?  We can’t do that when you have people like Mr. Harsanyi sitting on his high horse and telling the masses “It doesn’t matter what you want!”  That kind of attitude not only turns people off, but it makes them want to do the exact opposite just out of spite!

Sadly, this isn’t the only instance concerning Reason Magazine of arguing from a position of arrogance.

A recent Reason article whines about how the NFL Draft is somehow “unfair” and needs to be abolished.  Keep in mind that the National Football League is still a private organization… a fact that they remind us of at every televised game when it comes to their copyright disclaimer.  So where’s the issue?  Doesn’t this fall under “freedom of association?”  Nobody is forcing you to play football.

Reason’s YouTube channel is rife with mocking and condescending “exclusives” of any protest group or rally that either they or the Koch Brothers have a beef with.  Borrowing a page from Fox News, they look for the zaniest of people, the ones with the weird signs or the outlandish statements, and put them center-stage to be the standard-bearer for that group.  It’s like going to a science fiction convention and then focusing on the protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church and then passing that off as being the whole convention.

Let’s get brutally honest here… if Reason wants to be taken seriously by more people, they need to argue more from a position of reason instead one of pompous arrogance!

It’s one thing to argue from a position of arrogance when you’re preaching to the choir.  You can afford to be arrogant when your audience already agrees with what you have to say.

But when it comes to the Internet, this is not the same Internet audience of fifteen years ago, when most users were intellectual and mostly libertarian and voted for the Libertarian Party candidates in online polls in staggering numbers.  Today the Internet is as diverse as the rest of the world, with liberals and conservatives passing around links based on what appeals to them.  People that have been brought up thinking that might makes right and the majority will have their way no matter what.  They don’t take to arrogant positions like someone from the libertarian choir would.  In fact, they will probably resent what you have to say simply because of how you presented it.

One of the complaints made about libertarians is that they are seen as being stuffy elitists.  It’s hard to get past that kind of negative stereotype when you have groups like those from Reason Magazine perpetuating the image with messages that say “Who cares what the majority wants?”  If the folks at Reason want more people agreeing with them, or at least respecting their stances, and hopefully cutting down on those million-billion-trillion battles against “the will of the people”, then they need to use more reason and less arrogance.

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