Thursday, April 10, 2008

How not to argue

Step 1; Begin your response to legitimate criticism with a personal attack.

I certainly hope for the same forbearance when I argue that Glenn Greenwald is a self-serving media hound with a size-twelve ego squeezed into a size-four soul, and that the root of his rage is less a profound moral grievance than a narcissistic belief that his ideas are of such transcendant clarity, his concerns of such monumental importance, that any failure to obey his dicta can only stem from the most base of motives.

I mean, I'm not saying that or anything. I'm just saying that I'm glad to know that if I did utter the above, Greenwald wouldn't take it the wrong way.
Megan, stop trying to be Ann Althouse. The way to respond to being taken down in public is not to demand an apology. You should slink away, then hours later post about how awesome you are for what you eat. A post titled "I just don't understand" doesn't come off as a snarky rejoinder, but rather as pathos via painful honesty.

Step 2; Prove the basis of your opponents' criticism of you to be correct.
As regards the war, I think his charge of American exceptionalism is actually pretty fair; I think the US has done a better job of occupying Iraq than, say, Iraq did of occupying Kuwait; and my belief in the basic goodness of America, a belief I still hold, made me think the war would be a way to get rid of a dictator and make the Iraqi people better off. My error was in not recognizing that our strength is not the strength of ten merely because our heart is pure. My conviction that we had the wisdom and power to take the fate of another country into our own hands was overweening arrogance, and it's too bad that other people, mostly Iraqi civilians, have paid the price.
Too bad so sad, Iraqis. If only you were good people, like us.
Reread the above. She actually wrote that as part of trying to show why Glenn Greenwald is wrong.

Step 3; Use extraordinary stupidity to distract your opponent by making his brain explode.
But this has absolutely nothing to do with the John Yoo memos, which as I understand matters are more about the war on terror than Iraq; it's not clear to me that our government policy in Guantanamo and elsewhere would be any different if we had not gone to war. (Indeed, it might have been more brutal).
.... She's trolling for more GG link loving, and to keep his commentariat around, hammering her in comments, that's the only explanation for this post. I know I'm heavy with the Althouse comparisons lately, but it's just scary. A post about the misogyny of not being a Megan sycophant is probably in the works.

Step 4; Remind people you are not in favor of impaling babies on spikes, and thus moral, and declare victory.
I hope I haven't suggested anywhere that the media ought to report less of things that make my decision to support the war look bad. If I have inadvertently said such a thing, let me disavow it now. But mostly, as I've said elsewhere at tedious length, my arguments are not normative; they're positive. I disagree with Greenwald's assessment of why coverage is structured the way it is, which is simplistic and overreliant on nasty motives. Greenwald has repeatedly tried to obscure the difference. I find it hard to believe that he actually can't recognize a distinction between "is" and "ought"; either way, it does not reflect well on him.
Whereas Megan's assessment is incoherent, inconsistent, and confirms the criticisms leveled against her.
You're right, Megan, you don't understand. To win an argument you disprove the claims you disagree with.

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