Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"Bias Or Persuasion"

“Conservatives hate everybody but themselves.  Liberals love everybody but conservatives.”

Earl Raymond Pomerantz

Flipping past the cable public service channel C-SPANlast weekend, I came across a debate recently held in Toronto concerning the issue of “political correctness.”  (Placed in quotes notto be snarky but because I’m am not sure how it’s defined.)  (And was no more sure when the debate was over.)

Loosely articulated, oneside saw “political correctness” as an egregious impediment to free speech while the othersaw its opposition as a petulant reaction by the majority to (various) newly empowered minorities’ adamant demands. 

Something like that.

What deliciously elevated the discussion for me was the participation of actor/writer/and a lot of other creative stuff Stephen Fry, who… well, it’s tipping my “message” to characterize his contribution, except to reveal that Fry quotes C.K. Chesterton, saying, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”

In the context of desirably brokering the differences between the ideological extremes, Fry, arguing against the limiting constrictions of “political correctness” asking the utilitarian question, “How well has that worked?”  His jabbing implication being, “Not well.”

The debate was provocative, smart, and, on one occasion uncomfortably “low-blowy”, when, speaking for the pro “political correctness” contingent professor of Sociology (and writer, preacher and radio host) Michael Eric Dyson called one of his opposing adversaries “… a mean man.” 

Defending his debate partner, Fry, clearly alluding to Dyson, referred to the evening’s example of “… classic, if I can call it, huckstering, snake-oil ‘Pulpit Talk’”, instantly softening the blow by adding, “… a rhetorical style I find endlessly refreshing and vivifying…” (although afterthe skewering stiletto had been masterfully inserted.) 

Branding himself a “’‘contrarian’… and I can’t help myself…”, Fry’s final remarks included, in part, this eloquent summation (delivered so skillfully it was hard to believe he had not delivered it before):

“The liberals are illiberal in their demands for liberality. They are exclusive in their demands for inclusivity.  They are homogenous in their demands for heterogeneity. They are somehow undiverse in their demands for diversity.  You can be diverse.  But not in your opinions, and in your language and in your behavio(u)r. ”

My reaction to Fry’s well-argued position got me thinking.

Did I like it because it was right?

Did I like it because it was artfully articulated?

Or did I like it because I agreed with it?

I really appreciated how Fry called out the “free thinking” proponents of “political correctness.” But why wouldn’t I?

See: Italicized “opening” to this post.

In the end, Fry exhorts allideological combatants against being too earnest or pompous or serious, and especially against being too certain, it being a time for engaging instead, he suggests, in “… emotionally fulfilling, passionate and positive doubt.” 

Is it any surprise that I love this guy?

Of course, 

I could be wrong about everything.
I don't seem to be getting comments anymore.  Did I accidentally turn off my "Comments" button?  Or are my post so complete there is nothing to ask?


Mike T. said...

“Conservatives hate everybody but themselves. Liberals love everybody but conservatives.”

Assuming there are only two kinds of people, conservatives and liberals, you've essentially said the same thing about both, with the kinder spin on the side with which you identify more. (There are, of course, libertarians--of which I am one--and fascists and socialists and communists and podiatrists.)

I would say that in political matters, you're right: Both sides pretty much despise each other. That's because politics is a zero-sum game; the winning side gets to force its preferences on the losing side.

But I don't think it's fair to say that conservatives "hate" non-conservatives outside of politics. Many conservatives (and liberals) are engaged in charitable activities that help those who do not exactly fit the profile of the white, middle-to-upper-class Republican (or, for liberals, the disadvantaged-minority Democrat). Many people also have friends with whom they disagree politically.

You have a comment now. Do you feel better?

JED said...

I have noticed that the number of comments to your blog has dropped off but I know of at least one comment you got to days ago because I left it. But it wasn't very good. I think your recent blog posts have been very good but very deep (in most cases) and it is harder to make a meaningful comment on a piece we (the readers) may not fully understand. For myself, I haven't commented much recently (except for that forgettable one two days ago) because I have been very busy.

On today's post, my feeling is that what others call Politically Correct is what I call Socially Correct. Things like referring to all people in a socioeconomic group by a name that they don't like. Or lumping every person in a group into the same behavioral pattern - as Mr. Fry did when he said, "They are homogenous [sic] in their demands for heterogeneity. They are somehow undiverse in their demands for diversity." Here he is being Socially Incorrect and just plain incorrect because all liberals do not feel or act the same in those areas. Maybe the majority do but not all. All tall people don't play basketball and not all short people play miniature golf. To me being Politically Correct means a politician cannot say, "We need to raise taxes." Just ask Walter Mondale.

Gary Glasscott said...

Hi Earl,

I read every post, but usually via the mechanism of RSS feed, and I rarely comment, even if I agree/disagree strongly.

I will this time though, simply to say, firstly, thank you for the posts.

Secondly, to address the point, I agree with Fry's (Chesterton's) angels quote, inasmuch as I believe that any argument in which both sides head for the poles is an argument lost by both. We as a species seem to like deconstructing anything until we can pin a label on it: right/wrong, yes/no, liberal/conservative. It may be fun to do, but it's rarely an enabler for discussion.

There are mechanisms to poke fun at this absolutism, though. A modern equivalent of Chesterton's angels quote could well be Godwin's Law.