Let me say publicly that DonBoy’s answer exudes a combination of intuitive genius and confidence that make me think DonBoy is going to do big things in his life. -- Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics blog)
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Keeping Track

More people probably read these words of mine at Mark Evanier's blog than have read anything else of mine, put together, so I guess I should link to it here. On the afternoon of the Virginia tech massacre, Mark -- after watching God knows what kind of morons on cable TV and/or reading blogs -- wrote this:

I think we can best honor the memory of the victims by using the tragedy to lobby hard for our particular views on Gun Control. Whatever you believe, just insist that this proves you're right. Hey, if you can use it to swing a little public sentiment in your direction, you may even be glad all those people were shot.

That last part really pissed me off, so here's what I sent him, which he posted:

On your 2:21 pm posting: you're painting with a terribly broad brush, and it follows jarringly on the heels of the Colbert posting, in particular this of Colbert's: "Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don't learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us."

I think you're expressing a cynicism (that isn't typical of you, from what else I've read) that all political debate is just opportunism, and that it is inappropriate to take the bloodiest school shooting in history and use it to talk about those elements of gun policy that someone sincerely believes contributed to it. I disagree, presuming that we're talking about people arguing in good faith. I can certainly understand you not wanting to invite a swarm of gun control emails, and perhaps your sarcastic both-sides-be-damned approach seemed like a way of avoiding that. Nevertheless, "referring" to both sides at once, by abstracting away any actual position and turning to phrases like "whatever you believe," comes across as spitting on the concept of having a position, or believing that it matters. You also seem to show contempt for the idea that one side might actually be right, even though both sides continue to behave in the "same" manner by persisting in arguing for their side.

The point of the discussion that I'm sure is playing out on blogs and on TV is not to "honor the memory" of those who died. Their survivors will not be spending the next several days hitting refresh on their RSS readers to follow the discussion, or watching cable news. If I strongly believe that implementing my position would save 32 more lives in another event, the time to argue for it is now, not later, and I think that can be done without disrespecting the dead.

Finally, that bit about "you may even be glad all those people were shot": that's another thing that's worse, not better, from naming no names, or sides of the issue. Maybe you've been watching cable news all day, and someone you've seen deserves it, but from out here, it's just a terrible accusation looking for a target.

His answer follows at the link.

If I were writing it again, I'd be more careful about unwinding his sarcasm, but, relevant to my statement
Their survivors will not be spending the next several days hitting refresh on their RSS readers to follow the discussion, or watching cable news.
I should admit to finding this comment at The Volokh Conspiracy, from 7:32 that evening:
My name is Bob Rogers. I am a math professor at Virginia Tech. I work in McBryde Hall, a few doors down from Norris. I was on the fifth floor watching as the swat teams moved in. And as the bodies were carried out.

You callous, unfeeling assholes on both sides can have your precious intellectual discussions before the blood has dried. I'll just sit hear and wait to hear which of my friends has been killed. If you pass a jagged 5mm kidney stone some time tonight, please let me know.
(It's in a thread whose title is Tragedies as Occasions for Discussing Ways To Prevent Repeat Tragedies; the exchange above between Mark and me has been mirrored by a number of people on various blogs.) So I am factually wrong about who's going to be hitting refresh on their RSS feeds.

Powered by Blogger Weblog Commenting by
free website counter