that which by any other name

I've started /dev/nulling any argument that refers to NeoConservatives or TransNational Progressives.

Not out of some righteous attempt at being holier-than-thou, but simply to keep my head from spinning and being totally distracted from the issues. I'm just not interested in vague generalizations about the Other. Most of what I have seen in the political debates raging throughout the blogsphere are variations of "Us vs Them" with Us and Them being defined in increasingly creative ways. Old stereotypes are resurrected, animated, made to do the bidding of mad political scientists, to wreak terror on the blogsphere. Content is inversely proportional to length when it comes to these "concepts" (I use the term with some irony).

Steven said it best on his blog:

I distrust labels and categories; too often it's a substitute for thinking. Once something has been placed into its designated box it isn't necessary to think about it any longer because you've decided what it is. So I try to stay away from that sort of thing.

(and took some heat for it on his now-closed forum, which is still a useful resource). It's somewhat ironic also that he has embraced TP because it's the same kind of labeling (just like "European" or "French"). And the LeftSphere has on occassion exhorted us to rise above labels as well, but "neocon" is just the same bowl of cracked rice.

Should we invade Iraq? I say no, not because NeoCons say Yes and I'm politically bound to oppose their every utterance (and in fact, some neocons also say No). Nor because I'm a TP who has his head up his socialist commie ass. I say No for lots of reasons and I'm willing to discuss them and I'm even willing to change my mind if you address the main issues that I have and convince me. [1]

This is not a challenge like Steven Den Beste's of a few weeks ago, which was taken up by Hesiod and Demosthenes, went back and forth (Hesiod, Demos) once, but then devolved into ad-hominem attack [2]

In contrast, I'm calling for diffuse debatable talking points, not for lengthy essays, which bifurcate endlessly into minutaie. I am looking for people stating what they think as axioms, not in response to someone's response - to identify the main points, present them, analyse them, without stuffing everyone who disagrees with your bottom line into the Other (ie, Wrong).

UPDATE 082002

Michael Pine introduces some USEFUL labels. I'm a Neo-Wilsonian.

Chris Newman writes:

I agree with you in general about labels, but I think there is a distinction to be made with regard to TP as opposed to many other labels. Fonte's essay defines TP explicitly in terms of enumerated principles. This makes it a useful concept. Whereas most of those labels, "right wing" or "left wing" etc, do not refer to articulable positions but rather to loose constellations of attitudes and associations. They are thus more useful for smearing than for analysis. What do you say?

I still consider the enumerated principles to be caricatures. Its still just a broadly defined category more for the benefit of people who *dont* adhere to the enumerated principles, with which they can tar people who might agree with some. The "neocon" label is as much a caricature as "TP".


[1] Or don't, leave me to rot in my misconception. I'm no one, what I think doesn't affect actual policy.
[2] Steven's entire characterization of Demosthenes was derived from Demos' choice of pseudonym. Setting aside the fact that Steven completely confused the concept of pseudonymity with anonymity (which invalidates his entire rant), he had divined all sorts of motivations and assumptions from Demos' choice of 'nym in exactly the same labeling manner that he subsequently complained about being applied to him.

Steven portrays Demos' choice as indicating that he subconciously wants to emulate the book and sway world opinion and have his arguments change the course of human history. Demosthenes gives his own reason for his nickname in his very first post when he launched his blog on May 14th :

"My name, at least for the purposes of this site, is Demosthenes. It comes from two different people: a fictional character, and a real historical figure. The real one is a Greek orator by the same name, who is considered by some to be the best orator who ever lived. Although I haven't read that many of his speeches yet, what I've read I liked. The second and more important "Demosthenes", however, is from Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game". Demosthenes is the demogogic network pseudonym of one of the main characters, Valentine Wiggin. Together with her brother Peter's more reasonable "Locke" pseudonym, they manage to have a decisive effect on world events and world politics. "

Demosthenes was the foil, with arguments full of holes, used as a pawn. The real "pseudonym-towards-world-domination" was Locke. Demosthenes' choice of pseudonym (as well as Orson Scott Card's choice for his character's name) is more influenced by the *real* (historic, Greek) Demosthenes. I always thought of Demosthenes (blogger)'s choice of name as both historically respectful, with a humorous self-deprecating sense (derived from the book) as well.

Steven admitted later in an email that he his memory of the book was hazy, and that he didn't remember it that well (tut tut. Ender's Game has Cult Status akin to BladeRunner or Akira). I think on that basis his entire argument dissecting Demosthenes' posts by virtue of "anonymity" (actually, pseudonimity) is therefore reflexive ad-hominem, because it effectively silenced the Iraq debate they had at the time by portraying Demos. as unreliable due to his refusal to reveal his real name.

Ironically, Steven has numerous and recent references to ad-hominem attack on his own blog.

No comments: