By Rebekah Maxwell
Stupid. Gross. Ugly.
It seems that bullies never really grow up. They may put away their fists and baseball bats, but from board rooms to message boards, the classic tactics of the ideological bully are alive and well: abuse, insult, and intimidate what you cannot logically overcome.
Hate-monger. Fascist. Bigot.
The level of exchange in the public discourse is often no better than playground taunts. And the stakes are bigger than today’s lunch money. From the presidential podium to the local pulpits, we get feelings, not ideas. We get platitudes, not reasons. And when another equally-entitled human being disagrees with said feeling, we skip past the courtesy of fair debate, and pull out the nastiness.
Terrorist. Racist. Intolerant. Misogynist.
If you question the trend that law-abiding citizens should be stripped of a means of self-defense, then you, not the murderers, but YOU are a heartless-paranoid-freak who wants to see little children die.
Ironically, if you say that killing a child at his most helpless nascent stages is unlawful and immoral, you (again, not the murderers) YOU are a woman-hating-monster, practically a rapist yourself.
My favorite example of ideological bullying exposed (at least for this week) goes to Ben Shapiro and his bold interview with Piers Morgan on the gun-control controversy (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiU8dyEYyGg).
In an interview our show conducted with him afterward (http://stevedeace.com/headline/deace-show-podcast-01-14-13/), Shapiro credited his incredibly deft takedown of some popular gun-violence fallacies to two things: going on offense immediately, and, what I’ve come to call, 3-D Thinking (more on that in a moment).
People of principle must learn to go on offense for what they believe. For too long we’ve let the other side dictate the rules of the game. Is it any wonder then, that they’re the side that wins the moment, while we’re left sputtering about how we’re not really the evil heartless monsters we’ve been painted, and willing to compromise just to look like a “nice guy”? By understanding common arguments, tactics, and talking points, you can strike first. If you’re not sure how to begin, start asking the “why” questions. Why don’t you believe an unborn baby is worthy of defending? What does your plan for perfect gun-control look like? How do you make criminals obey your laws? Make the other side defend what they believe for once.
But in order to truly win the argument, and the culture as a whole, you have to become a master of 3-D Thinking:
1) Know what you believe (and why)
2) Know what others believe
3) Know what others believe about what you believe
This is, unfortunately, not what they teach you in most schools, because it means more than emotional reaction to the impetus of the moment: it means understanding the big picture, the foundation that leads you to different conclusions than someone like Piers Morgan or Hillary Clinton. This is critical thinking in three dimensions. And our world hates it.
Meanie. Sexist. Anti-intellectual. Communist. Jerk. No, YOU are…
The insults come fast and furious…from both sides. The height of irony (and the reason I tackled this subject) is that our side, busy flattering ourselves with how right we are, often sinks to the same lows of personal attack or ad hominem for which we deride the opposition.
We are a culture ill-equipped for a battle of wits, a nation of children. Why? Because we’ve let the bullies win. We’ve let them teach, preach, and pummel our good sense into submission to their emotion-driven argument. We’ve been systematically discouraged from growing up, so we’ll be dependent… psychologically, intellectually, and even physically, relying on outside sources. It’s a Never-Never Land, where might makes right, so bullies reign supreme.
Good old Aristotle taught that emotion, or “pathos” was an important part of an effective argument. You have to move your audience, to make them feel the impact of the subject. We were made in the Creator’s image, with emotions. They are vital to our existence and experience. But emotion cannot be the sole foundation of your thoughts and life. Emotions change rapidly (looking at the latest polls shift from day to day is evidence of that). Now pathos has taken over; we don’t use emotion to enhance the ethics and reason of our worldviews…we use emotion to replace logic and reason altogether.
However, there is no better time than now to break that chain. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, thought as a child, and reasoned as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things,” Paul once said. It won’t be easy, but America: we’ve got some growing up to do.