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23.5.04

More "Beyond The Pale"

The latest issue of the Commonweal Institute newsletter recommends the Media Matters for America site as a source for "the sort of 'I-can't-believe-they-said-that' quotes that every progressive should have at his or her disposal." They give some examples of the kind of quotes they mean (and yes, they're unbelievable), but they don't elaborate on the important question -- why I would want to have "'I-can't-believe-they-said-that' quotes ... at [my] disposal." Perhaps they would be useful if I needed to discredit Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh as individuals to an audience not familiar with the crazy things they say. Maybe they'd be useful as well if I wanted to do some guilt-by-association to take down some more reasonable conservatives (before I do that, I'll need to come up with a good defense of A.N.S.W.E.R. and Stalin, seeing as both my own opinions and theirs happen to fall to the left of center).

But outrageous quotes don't do anything to help construct an argument against actual conservative beliefs -- indeed, they do just the opposite. The whole idea of such quotes is that they're self-evidently wrong and thus in need of no arguments. But if Michael Savage and his fans believe that Arabs are "non-humans," then simply restating their belief is unlikely to make them reconsider. (I'm imagining someone saying to me, in a shocked voice, "you want to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions? and failing to be terribly convinced by my outraged interlocutor.)

The real effect of having "'I-can't-believe-they-said-that' quotes ... at [my] disposal" would be to taint my view of conservatism. The quotes would seem more representative of what conservatives think, and hence I'd start to feel like conservatism was self-evidently wrong and that therefore anyone who holds such views must be willfully refusing to think rationally. And I'm not interested in winding up like that.

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