Thanks for the Afterthought, Stanley

Wednesday 29 September 2010 - Filed under Dumbassery + Journalism + Tea Party

Prominent academic and literary theorist Stanley Fish offers his insight on the “Tea Party Problem”, yet from a different angle than the rest of the national chatocracy: that the ways in which the terminally libertarded attack the Tea Party, that it’s little more than a movement of the stupid, is unproductive, making the Tea Party stronger and engendering it with even more resolve. In his opinion piece, Fish writes,

Liberal pundits and the politicians whose agendas they favor continue to misunderstand the Tea Party movement and, what is worse, fail to realize how much the disdainful tone of their criticism fuels it.

Of course he’s right that liberal modes of critique show them for the intellectual snobs they are (as if a college degree in Art History or Philosophy or Classics or some other equally unproductive avenue of study somehow makes one fit to make decisions for others),1 and it’s amazing, though not wholly unexpected given the intellectual muscle it takes to to play the race card as a primary form of argument, that it has taken this long for our so-called intellectual superiors to realize that it isn’t helpful for public debate when you automatically presuppose and loudly proclaim that those with whom you are in dialogue are ignorant, racist, and uneducated, and that it’s those very traits which form the substance of their argument. Liberals talk incessantly about their intellectual superiority (or, conversely, about the intellectual inferiority of those in the Tea Party), yet refuse to engage intellectually with anyone other than like-minded liberals; anyone else simply isn’t worth their time or the intellectual effort. Yet somehow, despite all of this intellectual capital, it takes someone of Stanley Fish fame to illustrate to the litterati something as simple as “ad hominem is not a good starting point for public debate”?

But what’s worse is that Fish’s plea is intellectually dishonest, and doesn’t lend itself any better to facilitating dialogue because rather than openly admit that those in the Tea Party, and those, like myself, who have some sympathies with its positions, have legitimate concerns about the role of government in our daily lives, he advocates that the terminally libertarded not

sling mud down in the dust where your opponents thrive. Instead, engage them as if you thought that the concerns they express (if not their forms of expression) are worthy of serious consideration, as indeed they are.2 Lift them up to the level of reasons and evidence and see how they fare in the rarified air of rational debate where they just might [wink wink] suffer the fate of Antaeus. (Emphasis added)

Fish is no more interested in engaging the Tea Party position than your average cable news talking head except with the subjunctive “as if”, and indeed exposes his own intellectual superiority complex by automatically assuming that the liberal mode of gathering and processing information is inherently superior which, when it comes to making decisions about how other people ought to live their lives (or how much of the product of their own labor they should be able to keep), is asinine. If it were inherently superior one would think that it would have prevailed in the public sphere by now. To the contrary, the libertarded mode of reasoning hasn’t even tried to engage in an honest intellectual debate with Tea Party postions because they’ve been too busy proclaiming their intrinsic intellectual superiority, poking “gleeful fun at the lesser mortals who say and believe strange things and betray an ignorance of history” (generally a sure sign that there is not much solid ground from which to argue rationally).3 Ultimately, Fish’s plea for liberals to stop treating Tea Party positions as nothing but foolish dribble from the uneducated masses is little more than code for “though we understand that the Tea Party position is little more than racist rants from ignorant rednecks, we should pretend that we have some interest in their ideas and concerns, and engage in some form of academic theater where we can then proclaim ourselves winners because our mode of understanding the world is, afterall, inherently better.” Were he interested in an honest public debate about the role of government in the lives of Americans, he would engage in said debate himself rather than simply tell other liberals to pretend to care about the Tea Party position, all while continuing to denigrate it. To Fish, the anti-Obama position is not worth real intellectual debate. His only concern is trying to pacify our passions by pretending to give a shit about what we think. I mean, I understand that, to you, I’m no more than a dust-dweller, but would it kill you, if you’re so convinced that you’re my intellectual better, to actually engage in real intellectual discourse rather than hide behind couched rhetoric and just-barely-hidden insults?

1. I say this as a once aspiring academic with an MA in Early Medieval English Literature (think Beowulf).
2. I see what you did there, attaching as an afterthought the idea that the Tea Party position may have some legitimacy. I bet you didn’t think that anyone outside of your intended audience could, you know, read closely and make syntactic sense of haphazardly attached dependent clauses.
3. As an example, when Rand Paul appeared on the Rachel Maddow show the day after his primary victory in the KY Senate race, Maddow started her interview from the position that Rand Paul is a racist and proceeded to engage in nothing but “gotcha” journalism designed specifically to illicit a particular set of responses which will “prove” her thesis. Her presupposition was that if one believes that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is, in any way, a flawed piece of legislation, you’re automatically a racist.

2010-09-29  »  madlibertarianguy