Dr. Theodore Dalrymple (aka Anthony Daniels) has a great piece that disconfirms certain political visions while confirming others. Read it and figure out which is which. Hint: The confirmed vision is not the vision that wants to massively increase U.S. foreign aid.
I’ll now vet the merits of the Todd Akin kerfuffle. The Akin affair is a prime example of our debased public discourse, or of what Susan Jacoby called the current “age of American unreason.” Within seconds of Akin’s comments, mouths frothed and nostrils flared. There was no time to think and respond rationally. Jacoby says that more and more we’re seeing “a new species of anti-rationalism . . . that leaves no room for contemplation or logic” (Jacoby, American Age of Unreason, p. 283 and xi-xii). The responses to the Akin “gaffe,” by both sides of the political aisle, have been more emotional than thoughtful. This is in line with what Ronald Dworkin said when he lamented “the lack of any decent argument in American political life.” This is right. There’s no real argument, there’s simply teeth gnashing and agitating. Because, as Dworkins notes, “most people have no interest in discussion or debate with those they regard as belonging to an entirely alien religious or political culture” (Dworkin, Is Democracy Possible, 22). Some involved in the “discussion” will no doubt reply incredulously: “Look around you, there are hundreds of people arguing vehemently!” That is to equivocate on what I mean by ‘argue.’ Sure, there’s noisy assertion-cymbals clanging with contentious sound and fury signifying non-argument. There’s squabbling. There’s disputing. There’s yelling of conclusions. But there is not genuine debate. There’s no argument in the sense of giving reasons for a conclusion that instance valid structures of arguments. And while I disagree with Jacoby and Dworkin on many issues in the above cited works, they’re certainly right to lament our public discourse. In what follows I’ll do the unpopular and offer a defense of Akin, even if disagreeing with certain infelicities of language as well as aspects of his follow-up “clarification,” and focus on the heart of the issue—where the real argument should take place.
Like Paul Ryan, I’m a Gen X-er. Like Paul Ryan, I like Rage Against the Machine. Mind you, I don’t like them as much as I used to, but I could still listen to an album. But it’s not because of their politics that I don’t listen to them as much these days. For I still listen fairly regularly to bands like Bad Religion, NOFX, and Lagwagon. In high school (and into early twenties) I was a huge Suicidal Tendencies fan, but I also listened to bands like Propaghandi, Pennywise, and Social D.. I still can sing many of these songs by heart. Two final remarks to secure the in vogue desiderata of “authenticity”: I have over ten tattoos, back in the day I ruled the mosh pit, and I didn’t go to the small clubs sporting an ‘x X x’ on my body or clothing (for those in the know).
Now that I’ve established my leftist punk rock (at least SoCal punk rock) bona fides I’ll get on with the point. Currently there’s been some buzz surrounding Paul Ryan’s admission that he likes the band Rage Against the Machine. Apparently, Rage is included with other bands like Metallica, and musicians ranging from Beethoven to Hank Williams Jr., on Ryan’s Facebook page. In response to this news, many liberals reacted with a fervor in-line with Sayre’s Law, which states: “In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake.” It’s just a band Ryan likes, guys. Relax, sit back, and enjoy the below argumentative polemic.