Monday, November 1, 2010

Debate on the Rally to Restore Sanity

I decided to use the following Facebook status update to advertise my new anti-Christie editorial to my friends:

Governor Chris Christie is one of the most vile politicians currently holding power in this country.

Here is where I back up that statement:

Much to my surprise, that phrasing upset one of my liberal friends. A debate regarding the value of disparaging terminology in political discourse soon followed, one that is included below, complete and unabridged.

John Hagan
In the spirit of sanity, maybe we should dial back the rhetoric about Governor Christie. I agree with the substance of your editorial. However, while I think it is important to point out people's inconsistencies and hypocrisies, I t...hink the accuser should still maintain a respectful posture. Vile is a pretty powerful word.

Christina Cruz
Lol, in the spirit of sanity I think there is a difference between calling someone vile and calling someone a socialist Nazi.

John Hagan
That is very true. However, I still think calling an elected official vile is an overreaction. Chris Christie might be wrong about taxes and spending, cold-hearted in his decision making, and working against the interests of ordinary people. However, I see no reason to assume he doesn't think what he's doing is the right thing to do.

Christina Cruz
Yes but whether or not he thinks what he is doing is the right thing to do has nothing to do with your main argument. Which, apparently, is that you object to the word vile. Now, if you have a problem with some apparent assumption that Christie knows he's wrong, then you need to say that initially. Personally, I dont think it matters whether or not he believes his actions are right, its about the implications of his action. Which are, indeed, vile.

John Hagan
I believe the word vile, when used in reference to a person, is making a statement about their intent and/or their values. Which is different than if Matt had said Governor Christie's policies are vile, which they certainly are, to me at least.

Christina Cruz
Lol, I see your point, however, I think actions are indicative of the person. If a person takes a vile action, then what does that say about who they are? It takes intent to act.

Matthew Rozsa

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "vile" as "morally despicable or abhorrent." Christie, by your own description, is "cold-hearted in his decision making" and "working against the interests of ordinary people", actions that I consider to be "morally despicable and abhorrent." As such, even by the parameters which you have established, my use of the term "vile" is valid.

Your subsequent attempt to divorce a depiction of Christie's actions from who he is as a person is so blatant in its sophistry that it didn't deserve the excellent logical rebuttal Christina provided for it.

Anyway, while we're microanalyzing verbiage, I couldn't help but notice that you appealed to "sanity" when urging me to restrain my anti-Christie rhetoric; this, I will assume, was influenced by the recent Jon Stewart rally held in Washington. Allow me to thus respond to what I feel motivates your statements with two points:

1) I have respect for what Jon Stewart was trying to accomplish with his rally last Saturday, much as I have a very high regard for the gist of Barack Obama's 2004 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address.

2) At the same time, there is a great danger in elevating the value of bi-partisanship to the level of a moral imperative. This hazard was further broached by me in the editorial cited below, which - though only delving into Obama's 2004 speech (as it was written before the Stewart rally) - nevertheless can easily be applied to the ideas behind "The Rally to Restore Sanity."

John Hagan

I was not in any way advocating some form of misbegotten bipartisanship when I responded to your post. I merely would like to suggest we stop the petty and over-heated name calling of our political adversaries. Tone and decorum are important in a democracy.There will always be people we disagree with. We should fight against these people and what they believe with all of the tools at our disposable. But those tools do not have to include name calling and vilification.

Chris Christie, like it or not, is the governor of New Jersey. People like us will have to work with him on some level, holding our noses or not. And, to paraphrase Jon Stewart's excellent closing remarks, why would we want to work with someone who we say is vile? It puts the brakes on cooperation and problem solving.

My broader point is that it is easy to applaud a message like Stewart's when it applies to people we don't like. It is much harder but even more important to hold ourselves to those standards. So, by all means, write editorials, argue, and organize against Republicans like Christie. i know I do. But, don't make them out to be monsters.

Chris Christie is not vile. He is just wrong on many issues. He represents a failed philosophy with flawed concepts. But let's not make him a bogeyman.

And, for the record, accusing me of sophistry was particularly harsh. It is below you as a thinker. I am, for the record, quite offended. We need not belittle people that disagree with us.


Matthew Rozsa
‎1) Despite your repeated assertions to the contrary, at no point did I actually "name call" Chris Christie. That statement is simply false.

2) I also don't think that any of my attacks against him were petty, as each and every one was based not on superficial characteristics he happens to possess, but on substantive policies he has implemented. That is a valid sphere for critique.

3) I did in fact vilify Chris Christie - but that is only problematic if the vilifying statements were inaccurate. If I am wrong in what I said about him, then saying it was not only counterproductive, but morally unacceptable; if, however, I am right in my criticisms, then NOT articulating them would be not only morally unacceptable (for obvious reasons) but counterproductive (since problems can't be effectively addressed unless we fully understand their moral as well as practical dimensions).

4) The only advantage in "working with someone" is if that individual has objectives which are in some way reconcilable with one's own personal goals. For example, it is possible for people who disagree on methods of creating economic recovery to find common ground if they both genuinely share the desire to achieve a given result, such as increasing employment rates or lowering inflation. At the same time, if two groups possess economic goals that are utterly incompatible with one another - such as with Chris Christie, whose agenda is solely to help the rich, and liberals, who want to help everybody - the notion of the two groups working together is absurd. As such, the best tactic for liberals is to use all of the resources at our disposal to thwart the agenda of the executive whose policies are so inimical to what we believe to be right.

5) Chris Christie is vile, for the reasons that I outlined in my editorial. If you disagree with my characterization, then explain how it is in error by contradicting the facts as I listed them there. If, on the other hand, you agree that those facts are accurate, I don't see how you can continue objecting to the natural conclusions that spring forth from them.

6) My position on Jon Stewart's message last Saturday is the same as my position on Barack Obama's message in his famous 2004 speech - their ideas, like those of pacifism, are noble and thus worthy of applause on a moral level, but extraordinarily dangerous whenever they are implemented practically.

Why do I say this? Because, as I pointed out before, there are key differences between what conservatives want for this country and what liberals want, on issues ranging from the rights of women, homosexuals, and racial and religious minorities to the imperialism of our foreign policy and the degree to which we should spend money to help the economically less fortunate. While we should agree to work with those who disagree with us when they ultimately share these common objectives, trying to "reach across the aisle" to them when they DON'T share them is - and has always been - damaging to our cause. At best, we wind up passing policies that are so watered down as to be rendered ineffective, in the vain hope that we will receive some nod of gratitude or support as payment for our good faith effort (which we inevitably fail to get); for examples, see the economic stimulus package or health care reform. At worst, this movement causes conservatives to entirely defeat liberals on issues of great importance (see the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act).

All of that said, I should not have accused you of sophistry. For that, I sincerely apologize.

John Hagan
Thanks for your apology. I will have a response to many of your points soon. But not is bedtime. Goodnight.

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