The day after the Florida shootings this may seem off topic and a tad tone deaf. But maybe not. If we can’t talk to each other all the framing in the world won’t shift the debate, change minds. The left and the right seem to share this Army boots framing when it comes to guns. When passion, and achieving agendas by any means politics, replace respectful debate then no more than spinning society’s wheels is almost always the long term result.
Let me tell you about an argument I had with an old friend at a party for homebrewers this past Christmas time. I used to tour, every year, through the panhandle of Florida and developed a friendship with a pro-brewer there. A devout listener to Rush Limbaugh I’d listen to his rants on politics and comment when I felt we had some agreement, and offer slight revisions at best otherwise. If he had asked me once, “Well, Ken, what do you think?” he may have gotten an earful, but he didn’t. To be honest, left or right, I find that respectful approach extinct these days. And, in addition, I don’t think I’ve heard, “Well what do YOU think?” phrased respectfully for at least 20 years. And the respectful listening and response to those thoughts maybe 30 or 40.
We talk at people, not to.
I believe talk radio and talking head programs are mostly responsible, and while not all right oriented; far more is due to the success and then cloning of the Limbaugh format, same for the Hannity/O’Reilly TV formats. Yet, I am willing to admit the left has played a part too, having followed a path pre-blazed. I must do some defending too: if pretty much all you have is framing-based name calling aimed at groups of people and individuals… doing what you must to cast them in the worst light… what’s the only real response available to those folks who wish not to be beaten down? To just be their opponent’s bitches? Or to counter bluster with bluster? Bluster that essentially amounts to…
”Your mother wears Army boots.”
If reasoning with bluster were an option… but it rarely is, it just encourages more bluster.
These kinds of arguments are quite predictable, use the usual tactics. If someone defends themselves by pushing back they must be “yelling,” or “talking over me.” Phrases often used by the very same people who talk over you, treat a discussion like a lecture, yell, act smugly superior; you know: all the things they accuse you of… all with the intent of bullying people into shutting up.
Example: “You’re race baiting” often means he who claims such gets to talk about race, you don’t.
Verbal assaults posing as ‘debate,’ doth not debate make and were not that much a part of the ‘new’ Conservativism in the 60s.
These kinds of verbal assaults; posing as ‘debate,’ were not that much a part of the ‘new’ Conservativism. Instead we tried to break with the McCarthy 50s model. In the 60s, as many of my readers know, I was a Conservative activist just outside of NYC, helping with several campaigns. I followed my father’s footsteps; and actually he also followed me too. I was the one who subscribed to National Review, advised against joining the John Birchers after I sent off for literature…
”These guys are NUTS! They think Ike was a Commie.”
Yeah, that’s an Army boots-like comment, but I would never say it to a Bircher’s face. I was talking to my father, and he agreed. Maybe that’s one of the biggest points here: we are dropping any sense of civility more than we should be, all for the sake of the ends justify the means, all for the sake of framing.
We both watched Firing Line religiously. Serious, intellectual, respectful debates like on Firing Line damn near never happen anymore. Instead non-conversations start with, “That’s because you Liberals/Conservatives…” They start with, “Your mother where’s Army boots!”
Back to the day before the Christmas party party. The comment that started the argument was made by me, “Well, I think it’s been a great party so far. Better than some where people try to argue politics while drinking. That usually doesn’t work.”
Response: “That’s because you liberals can’t take it.”
What eventually followed was the tired old claim that liberals can’t debate, instead they start yelling. But what should one expect when, instead of actually debating ala’, Firing Line, one starts a debate with, “Your mother wears Army boots!?”
Framing is neither debate nor discussion. It’s insult-based. While I claim no purity on the left, the most current insult-based framing was brought to an ‘art form’ by the likes of Lee Atwater.
Back to the comment started all this. Altering that insult-based claim would have been so easy, not so personal. The insult, arrogance, the bully nature of the statement resides in what is no more than accusation: as in “you.” Rephrased as, “Well, generally I find liberals can’t handle debate and discussion.” I would disagree politely, and maybe we could have had a sane discussion. Maybe. I still stick by my first statement: I really don’t recommend drinking then arguing about anything: especially politics. Especially with passions as high as they are these days, and insult-based interactions. Abortion is a good example: both sides frame the other as hating kids, not caring, wouldn’t mind if the fetus or the child was slaughtered.
Besides being untrue: the different sides just disagree on solutions and what should be permissible, where does this get us? Nowhere, except hunkered down in our own highly defended castles and claim all those outside our castle are hate-filled, mindless, blah, blah, BLAH!!!
And these framing-fests so often end with, “Oh, poor little me I’m such a victim of those disgusting people” at the end. I used to love debate and discussion, and that was during Nam in classrooms filled with people on both sides. Now it’s just a name calling, hate inspiring, blame game.
The odd thing is most of this framing is as out of date as “Your mother wears Army boots.” Not all of any group thinks one way, even though those paid to make you hate that group even more get richer by framing that way. No single issue is beyond at least a few agreements, even though there’s an army of paid talking heads getting rich off of making you think that way.
To be fair what we had eventually ended in discussion, but only long after we got past insult-based framing. I suspect a good portion of the revelers didn’t want to hear two old men going after each other during a Christmas time event. But no one should have to sit back and just take it.
But this is where “you mother wears army boots” brings us.
Real, respectful, discussion and debate involves at least as much listening as talking.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks, and into the unseen cracks and crevasses, that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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