Saturday, September 09, 2006

Civility vs. Decency

Sadly, No explains why Mark A. Klienman is a jerk:
You can advocate something horrible, as did Volokh, or you can write a dunderheaded piece of analysis, as did the former Wonkette, and be in fine standing with Kleiman. But heaven help you if you personally attack anyone! To Kleiman, that is the crying sin which won’t be tolerated! Especially if you use naughty words! Mark A. Kleiman is restrained — he even says he’s just as angry (i.e. morally outraged at BushCo.) as Atrios, he just doesn’t let it get the “better” of him. Plainly, Kleiman sees himself as a cool customer who doesn’t let partisan anger, or any kind of moral revulsion for that matter, influence his tough political analyses, which are obviously so logically-tight that Brainiac or HAL-9000 would fry their circuits from sheer envy.
He goes on to provide an example:
Still skeptical? Let me show you. Let’s say you — well, you have a Randroid nutjob who says that people should whack anti-war protestors with 2×4s. The normal response is to condemn said Randroid as a morally-degenerate asshat. But no, that would be incivil, and we can’t have that. Rather, one must calmly engage the “really bad suggestion” — thus making it legitimate, as if it’s just another policy proposal to yay or nay. And for good measure, when the decent people reply in kind (the moral equivalent of turning the other fist to Galt’s argument) the Sensible Liberal decides then that “[d]ebate’s over. Time to go home. Your opponents can make you angry, but it takes people who are (at least in a given argument) on your side to make you ashamed.” How’s that for even-handedness? Galt advocated violence, the nasty Atriots cussed her in e-mails for it. And the Atriots are the bad guys. But then Galt’s suggestion was indecent, which Kleiman can find time for, while the Atriots were incivil, which he finds, of course, to be beyond the pale.

I used to read Klienman though his blog fell off my radar when I reorganized my bloglines. We do however have to be wary of confusing "moderate tone" with decency or thoughtfulness.


Aaron said...

Just because one is committed to a standard of reasonableness in discourse doesn't mean that one has to be limp-wristed about it. Conversely, in my view, fighting fire with fire tends to promote a perverse kind of acknowledgement that effectively justifies attention-seeking idiots who should otherwise just be ignored or dismissed.

Tommaso Sciortino said...

At my office we have something called "expectations management". The idea is that when you are provided a client with tech support you have to firmly communicate what is and is not your job.

Some techs treat every request no matter how unreasonable with a moderate toned explination and thus fail to commincate how far outside the bounds of the contract that request is. Others - like myself - have no problem expressing varying degrees of gentle disbelief which clearly communcates just how far outside the bounds of discourse that request is.

Being "rude" is another way of comminicating information. Sometimes its the best way of doing so.

Aaron said...

Sometimes. Though, for good reason, people tend to form opinions of people for whom "rude" is the standard mode of communication.

Tommaso Sciortino said...

Ture. Similarly many form opinions about those who who are never rude.

Aaron said...

True, they tend to think of them as civil. Insofar as "rude" is distinct from "passionate" or even "not pliant," I'll let you guess what I'm actually advocating for. ;)