Friday, August 13, 2010

A Masterpiece of Fatuous Indignation

Matthew Rozsa

Here is a choice quote from Sharron Angle, the Tea Partier chosen by Republicans to oppose Harry Reid in the Nevada Senate race:

"The nation is arming. What are they arming for if it isn't that they are so distrustful of their government? They're afraid they'll have to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment kinds of ways? ... If we don't win at the ballot box, what will be the next step?"

Matthew Rozsa

I await the masterpieces of fatuous indignation that invariably come from right-wingers as they object to my characterization of Angle and her ideological kin.

Lydia Keaney

She scares me. Didn't she make some statement which (directly or indirectly) advocatec shooting elected officials who aren't Second Amendment zealots??

Cliff Smith
What characterization is that? You don't seem to be characterizing her at all. You just quoted her.

Again, your problem is assuming most Americans disagree with her. I don't think anybody, including Angle, thinks you start shooting when you lose at the ballot box. But the Second Amendment was a direct response to the British trying to keep the colonels from having guns so they couldn't fight back against a tyrannical government. Merely saying that Americans recognize this fact and aren't willing to give that up doesn't seem particularly alarming to me and I doubt, frankly, most people outside of a few big cities.

Is it an inartful characterization that Timothy McVey types could use to justify wrong deeds? Maybe. But I tend to think those kinds of people don't need much encouragement. If you're suggesting Angle is one of them, you're just wrong and any attempt to say otherwise will ultimately help elect her because it'll just make her opponents look like idiots.

Angle wasn't my choice for the nomination, but her position on this issue isn't outside mainstream America.

Matthew Rozsa
I find it amusing that you open by claiming that I "don't seem to be characterizing her at all" because all I do is "quote her", only to follow that up by arguing against the position you assumed I was making by posting that quote. You can't have it both ways, Cliff; either you recognize that I put that quote up there as an implicit means of exposing what I believed to be the heinous views therein articulated (which is precisely what you did in every following sentence in your post) or you stick by your guns in that I was wrong for putting up a quote without adding clarification as to why I was doing so (in which case your ability to immediately discern certainly inherent moral and ideological flaws in its content, without any guidance from me, ought to be pretty revealing). Which logical trap do you wish to fall into? I don't even need to construct one for you; you have given yourself such a luxury of options.


1) It's remarkable to me that you can be so confident in asserting "your problem is assuming most Americans disagree with her" and that "her position on this issue isn't outside mainstream America." First, I never claimed that most Americans disagree with her; I don't feel the need to represent a majority view in my positions, since as William Penn succinctly put it, "Right is right, even if everyone is against it; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it." That said, I do happen to believe that most people feel she is wrong on this point, and I challenge you to back up your assertion to the contrary with some evidence. Can you prove that most people hold Angle's radical opinions on this subject (and the ones she actually states in that quote, not the ones that you read into it)?

2) You blatantly mischaracterize what Angle wrote in order to justify it (and before you try to accuse me of doing the same thing, remember that you boxed yourself in by saying that I hadn't characterized her at all but only quoted her; by your own early admission, I am the objective one here). Now let's dissect what she said, shall we?

"The nation is arming. What are they arming for if it isn't that they are so distrustful of their government?"

OK, she hasn't mentioned the Second Amendment yet. Instead she opened by pointing out that more people than usual are buying weapons (I don't know even if that's true, but for the sake of making this reasonably brief, I won't contest her on that). Then she asserts through a rhetorical question that they are doing this because they don't trust the government (implicitly due to the leadership of the current administration).

"They're afraid they'll have to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment kinds of ways?"

She does cite the Second Amendment here, but more as an artful way of illustrating another point, rather than because she's actually discussing issues relevant to it. That statement doesn't say "This is why we love the Second Amendment" or "I support the Second Amendment" or "We need more flexible gun regulations because of the importance of the Second Amendment" - no, what she says there is that "they" (the state) is afraid of people "fighting for their liberty" in "Second Amendment ways". It doesn't take a rocket scientist to read that as an artful way of claiming that people will use their guns to protect their freedoms from the state... and it takes deliberate refusal to see the truth for what it is in order to deny that.

"If we don't win at the ballot box, what will be the next step?"

Yes, that statement is harmless if taken out of context, but in light of the bellicose rhetoric which preceded it, it's pretty hard to not interpret that as advocating that Tea Partier start an armed revolution if they don't win their desired elections (such as Harry Reid vs. Sharron Angle).

3) I'm actually going to be nice in my last point and just say that I owe you a debt of gratitude. I was actually worried that Angle's bloodthirsty pandering to the most vile element of America's right-wing was so overt that no conservative friend of mine would dare defend it; you, however, were kind enough to provide me with exactly the kind of "masterpiece of fatuous indignation" for which I was hoping. Thank you.

Addendum: August 30, 2010

Much to my surprise, Cliff did not provide a response to my last statement. After waiting for more than two weeks, I think it's fair to say that this exchange ended with the post you just saw.

I'd like to end with an interesting piece about Harry Reid, the man I hope will defeat Sharron Angle (in part due to his own underappreciated but substantive legislative record as Senate Majority Leader). This was written shortly after his selection to replace Tom Daschle as leader of the Senate Democrats:

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