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  • Making Noise, Not Arguments

    by Jennifer Roback Morse

    In my work as a social conservative, I have been puzzled by some of the rhetorical strategies of my opponents. Sometimes I feel my head spinning, as if I have been going around in circles, with no obvious conclusion in sight. I have been seeking the key to understanding them, a Rosetta Stone that will allow me to translate what otherwise appears to be mere hieroglyphics.

    I think I am finally getting a handle on it. The lifestyle left doesn’t actually make arguments. They just make noise.

    Over at Think Progress, there is a case in point, involving Yours Truly.

    The occasion for this particular episode is my response to being included in the GLAAD “Commentator Accountability Project.” Evidently, the folks at GLAAD feel a need to inform the media that I am not worthy of being interviewed. In response, I wrote an article entitled, “Why Opposing the Gay Lobby is Not Anti-Gay.” The folks over at Think Progress came up with this headline “NOM: Opposing Gay Rights Doesn’t Make Someone Anti-Gay.”

    Do you see what they have done? They have slipped in an unstated assumption that the “gay lobby” = “gay rights.” Anyone who disagrees with the gay lobby automatically, always and everywhere, opposes gay rights. Put it another way: they have turned an important and debatable question into an unquestioned assumption.

    Actually, they have papered over a whole series of questions: what is marriage? What is the social purpose and meaning of marriage? What is equality? What is the context of equality in this particular situation: who is being made equal to whom, for what purpose and in what context? Will there be any down-side to redefining marriage?

    They do not answer these questions. They assume them away by asserting that “marriage equality” is a slam-dunk, open and shut civil rights issue. They change to subject to me and my character. As long as the topic is me and whether I am a big meanie, they don’t have to refute my arguments, or even make any arguments of their own.

    The subject of my original article in The Blaze was my claim that removing the gender requirement from marriage would result in the state insisting that mothers and fathers are interchangeable. I believe that this will impact men and women differently, and that the net result will be the further marginalization of fathers from the family.

    I still believe that to be true. I still believe it will be a very bad thing for society. I am not ashamed of this belief, in spite of GLAAD’s rather ham-handed attempt to shame me about it.

    The most telling point though is that Think Progress did not even bring up the question of whether redefining marriage will marginalize fathers from the family. They just changed the subject.

    “The war against women” is another example. The so-called “feminists” presume to speak for the entire female sex. Anyone who disagrees with their preferred policies is making war against women. The HHS mandate requiring every employer to provide contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs is, in their fantasy world, part of the “war against women”.

    Do you see the assumptions they have slipped in? Every woman values zero-cost contraception more than anything else. No woman anywhere in America has the slightest moral qualms about abortion-inducing drugs. No woman in America has any loyalty to any religious body. There are no social conservative women.

    Ahem. Most women are surviving just fine paying for their own contraception or using natural methods that don’t cost anything. Many women are deeply troubled by abortion-inducing drugs. Evidently the self-proclaimed champions of the female sex have not seen the inside of a church in a long time, since many, many congregations are dominated by women. And, by the way, the social conservative movement is filled with women, including the pro-life movement, the abstinence education movement, and the movement to popularize natural family planning.

    Once again, the lifestyle left has turned a whole series of important questions into assumptions: pregnancy is an illness that ought to be prevented; women want sex to be a sterile recreational activity, and religion is unimportant to women.

    This is the Rosetta Stone: the point of the racket from the lifestyle left is to distract the reader or listener from the substance of the discussion. Keep changing the subject so no one has a clear picture of what is at stake in the argument. Keep making nasty-sounding attacks on people, so that a) no one wants to get involved in an argument with the lifestyle left, be they feminists or gays, b) people become willing to concede whatever the lifestyle left is asking for, just to make the annoying clamor go away, and c) people will start to shun the victims of the attack, thinking that they must be at fault somehow for bringing this on themselves.

    So think of this tactic as a noise-bomb. Once the noise starts, you are deafened and can’t think straight. You’ve got to be prepared with ear protectors. Or think of it as a smoke bomb. Once your eyes are burning, it is too late: you can’t see and you are stumbling around in the dark. The only defense is to put on your goggles as fast as possible.

    Recognizing this tactic quickly is the equivalent of putting on your ear protectors or your goggles. Once you are on the look-out, you will see beyond any shadow of a doubt that this change-the-subject strategy is very common. The entire lifestyle left uses it, not only the gay left, but radical feminists, the pro-abortion crowd, the whole lot of them.

    Forewarned is forearmed: once you can identify the diversionary tactic, you will not be victimized by it anymore.

    This article was originally published on MercatorNet.com under a Creative Commons Licence.

    The views expressed by the authors and editorial staff are not necessarily the views of
    Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.

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    • Pargontwin

      A few months ago when we answered a CraigsList ad, the seller(s) turned out to be a gay couple.  They mistakenly assumed my sister and me to be gay, as well; though we disabused them of that notion, we still had a very pleasant visit, during which they told us they had joined a local gay group, but quit after only two meetings, because they were simply too militant.  They felt it was a personal choice and not something that had any business being bandied about in public, while the group was into making a very public issue of it.  Yet when you try to make that distinction to most people, they automatically assume you are anti-gay.  I recently ended up being banned from a Facebook group for  having tried to expalin that distinction and inciting a very ugly exchange.   It was, for me, the perfect illustration of your point:  The more I tried to quiet things down, the more “noise” everybody else made, until the moderator felt she had to expel me from the group as the “focal point” of the mess.  It reminded me of a children’s argument: one side trying to shout down the other rather than making any points, and eventually just ignoring the one they don’t agree with.

    • MarkRuteledge

      Brava, Dr. Morse!  My experiences match yours.  Perhaps this is the expected end of a group who tend to reason emotively rather than logically.  But that is an aside.   It is important for those on our side of the debate to understand the issues and be able to answer the diversionary statements clearly.  I have found that in friendly face-to-face discussions with progressives they are dumfounded whenever someone ignores the diversion and presses on with the tangible argument.  Without a working understanding of the issue it is all too easy to follow them down the bunny hole.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      Thank you for an excellent article.

      The Lifestyle Left has obviously learned its lessons from the Far Right.

      It was Carl Schmitt, after all, who argued that every realm of human endeavour is
      structured by an irreducible duality.  Morality is concerned with good and evil, aesthetics with the beautiful and the ugly, and economics with the profitable and the unprofitable.  In politics, the core distinction is between friend and enemy.  That is what makes politics different from everything else.

      Accordingly, the political comes into being when groups are placed in a relation of enmity,
      where each sees the other as an irreconcilable adversary to be fought and, if possible, defeated.  “Every religious, moral, economic, ethical, or other antithesis transforms itself into a political one, if it is sufficiently strong to group human beings effectively according to friend and enemy.”

      Liberals believe in the possibility of neutral rules that can mediate between conflicting positions, but to Schmitt there is no such neutrality, since any rule – even an ostensibly fair one – merely represents the victory of one political faction over another and laws and constitutions are simply the stabilised result of past conflicts   Liberals insist that there exists something called civil society, independent of the state, but Schmitt believed that pluralism is an illusion because no real state would ever allow other forces, like the family or the church, to contest its power.

      This gives new meaning to the claim that “the personal is the political.”

      • MarkRutledge

        That is contradictory, Michael.  If liberals truly believe there exists something called civil society, then why adopt the political philosophy of a fascist and yield the civil high ground to the political right?  Perhaps because the premise isn’t true.  I think the evidence shows that to contemporary liberals, society is the state.  Why else would liberals argue that government hand-outs are the only worthy vehicle for charitable action?

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          The separation of the public sphere of state activity and the private sphere of
          civil society was the fundamental principle of the liberal state that replaced the absolutist state of the Ancien Régime.  The state provided a legally codified order within which social customs, economic competition, religious beliefs, and so on, could be pursued without interference by government.  This could only work whilst politics was dominated by a narrow bourgeois stratum, insulated from popular demands.  Mass political movements, especially organized labour, broke down the social consensus on which the distinction rested.  Everything was potentially political and liberalism was almost everywhere discarded in favour of Social Democracy.  The only exceptions occurred where there was a stalemate in the class struggle, the bourgeoisie was prepared to sacrifice political freedom for economic freedom and established a authoritarian government of the Right (Napoléon III, Mussolini, Franco, Pinochet are obvious examples)