If you believe in using reason and debate to arrive at sound conclusions, congrats, you are now basically Hitler.
That’s the the logic being applied by a series of recent spate of op-eds over at The Washington Post. The line of thinking goes something like this. Hitler loved dogs. You love your dog. Therefore, you are obviously Hitler. Makes sense, right?
My colleague streiff covered one of these articles a few days ago, which sought to connect those who argue with logic and facts to the slave owners of the Antebellum South.
if your comparison sounds absurd, it may be because it is pic.twitter.com/s5h4y5ifhB
— Grant Addison (@jgrantaddison) August 29, 2019
Here’s another excerpt from the article itself to give you an idea of how specious the reasoning is. Dang it, there I go citing reason again, which obviously makes me a fascist.
These are figures who typically dislike President Trump but often say they’re being pushed rightward — sometimes away from what they claim is their natural leftward bent — by intolerance and extremism on the left. The reasonable right includes people like Shapiro and the radio commentator Dave Rubin; legal scholar Amy Wax and Jordan Peterson, the Canadian academic who warns about identity politics; the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt; the New York Times columnist Bari Weiss and the American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers, self-described feminists who decry excesses in the feminist movement; the novelist Bret Easton Ellis and the podcaster Sam Harris, who believe that important subjects have needlessly been excluded from political discussions. They present their concerns as, principally, freedom of speech and diversity of thought. Weiss has called them “renegade” ideological explorers who venture into “dangerous” territory despite the “outrage and derision” directed their way by haughty social gatekeepers.
The reasonable right’s rhetoric is exactly the same as the antebellum rhetoric I’d read so much of. The same exact words. The same exact arguments. Rhetoric, to be precise, in support of the slave-owning South.
The Washington Post wasn’t done though. Less than a day later, they pushed out another piece, this time asserting that those who seek honest debate are actually just doing what Nazi Germany did.
Excerpts via the Washington Examiner.
“A call to debate may seem intellectual, even civilized,” she continued. “In theory, well-structured and respectful debates are an ideal opportunity to reach an audience that isn’t fixed in its views. In reality, however, most ‘debate me’ types seem to view them mainly as a chance to attack their opponent’s credibility,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Their model is not Lincoln and Douglas, but rather Socrates: By needling their interlocutors with rapid-fire questions, they aim to reveal, as they see it, their opponents’ ignorance and stupidity, and their own superior intelligence and logic.”
Oh crap, Socrates is cancelled.
RIP Socratic method https://t.co/g3sX3U9fvc
— Charlie Camosy (@CCamosy) August 29, 2019
Keep in mind that the Socratic method forms a major cornerstone of Western civilization’s ability to think critically. Dang, I did again. Citing Western civilization also makes you a Nazi according to these people. Anyway, check out this passage.
“Platonic texts show Socrates pulling any number of Athenians into debates, and although some are eager to argue with him, others can hardly wait to escape him by the end of the dialogue. Plato’s ‘Euthyphro’ concludes with Euthyphro insisting that he has to leave, while Socrates calls after him, complaining that they haven’t yet figured out the nature of piety. Many of the dialogues end when the interlocutor has been bludgeoned into submission and seems to find it easier to agree with Socrates than continue further — every ‘debate me’ man’s dream.”
Wait, are you telling me that when facts, reason, and logic are on your side, you tend to win arguments? Shocking stuff. This author finds that reprehensible though and decides that those who use such methods are really just Nazis or something.
Zuckerberg later distilled her opinion, writing, “My actual, nuanced argument is that the long enmeshment of the classics and white supremacy, both in Nazi Germany and in the pre-Civil War American South, continues to inform how we understand the ancient Mediterranean, and that progressive classical scholars should discuss that legacy and confront it.”
I don’t find much nuance in that argument. I find it to be overly broad and connective of two things that aren’t actually connected at all.
As I stated at the beginning of the article, it’s the “Hitler did this, you do this, so you are Hitler” argument. Just because bad people sometimes do the same things good people do, it doesn’t make said things inherently negative or evil. Hitler also rode in cars and peed in a toilet. Yet, those things aren’t connected to white supremacy. Neither are the classics and the open debate model we’ve learned from them, which themselves have nothing to do with pushing racial superiority.
In fact, such means of reasoning have led mankind to a much more humane, healthy place than previous centuries. It’s through reason (and religious principles) that we were able to move toward equality and away from discrimination in the first place. The ancient world, which was rife with brutality and slavery lacked the very things this author now decries. Socrates was not an evil bully. He was someone who valued critical thinking and mental stimulation, things that have undoubtedly made the world a better place. As we’ve learned through various failings throughout history, relying on emotion to set policy and dictate social norms has created disastrous results. It’s how you ended up with people arguing that other human beings weren’t actually human beings. Logic and reason is what destroys such arguments. It doesn’t propagate them.
But you can see the wider goal of this author’s ideology. It’s essentially to buttress her illiberal notions, painting the very things that allow us to debate logically as evil, thereby asserting that any disagreement at all with her worldview is itself evil.
This is ridiculous stuff, but it’s also dangerous stuff that’s gaining a following. It leads to a place where facts no longer matter and there’s no foundational consensus undergirding our society. When that’s gone, we are simply at the whim of whoever can convince enough people their way is the “right” way. Appeals to logic and reason are simply ignored.
I would think mainstream press outlets like the Post would choose not to push nonsense like this given it contradicts with their stated respect for facts. I guess not.
In the end, one would hope people like this author will simply alienate enough people so as to have no power to implement what they seek. Sometimes I wonder if we are really winning this battle though.
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