Thursday, 23 September 2010

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Modern conservative debate strategies, such as they are “Comedian” Tim Slagle wrote a post slagging Morrissey for calling the Chinese a “subspecies” for “their” treatment of animals. I’m with Slagle on the condemnation, though I’m not as surprised as he seems to be that Morrissey would say or write something controversial. It’s not like he’s written a song from the perspective of a young man flirting with organized racism or another in which he imagined putting Thatcher to the guillotine or anything. In short, color me unsurprised that Morrissey’s courting controversy as a means of bringing attention to a cause—the unethical treatment of animals in China—he’s only supported since he was eleven. Is his remark vile? Of course it is. That’s not the point. The point is that Slagle, is a terrible writer, and also that, his particular form of cultural illiteracy is, a sign of things to come. I’m not bagging on the man because he clearly knows nothing about Morrissey, or because he thinks being a woman is an insult (“his current diet … is obviously too high in soy-estrogen”), or even because of his aforementioned problem with, the written word. His brand of cultural ignorance bothers me because Wikipedia exists. Claiming that a band that broke up in 1987 “put out several gloomy pop albums in the late eighties and early nineties” is not only factually incorrect, it suggests a mind as incurious as it is lazy and ignorant. Simply put, cultural critics should know something about the culture they criticize, as well as a little something about the ones they find it politically convenient to defend. For example: Buddhism did not originate in China and is not a “cult.” That Slagle defends the Chinese against Morrissey’s racist remarks with a demonstration of his ignorance about all things Chinese would be amusing were “the reverse tu quoque” a little less common. As you know, the classic tu quoque works like this: Person X: It should be illegal to put babies on spikes. Person Y: But I just saw you put a baby on a spike! In this example, Person Y tries to undermine the argument of Person X by calling him a hypocrite. This is, obviously, a fallacy. But in a world in which people stand by SASQUATCH ISRAEL, the only way to improve a fallacious argument is, it seems, to double down on it. The reverse tu quoque, then, goes something like this: Person X: It should be illegal to put babies on spikes. Person Y: (putting a baby on a spike) But I just saw you put a baby on a spike! In this example, Person Y tries to undermine the argument of Person X by calling him a hypocrite while doing the very thing he claims to want undermined. Because it requires a demonstrable act of self-refutation, the reverse tu quoque should only be attempted by the brave, and even then only when speaking to the stupid. Because the rest of us? We see through it. Not that that will stop people...

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