On blogging fair
To follow up on this debacle, I have a few points to share on blogging fair (get it? like fighting fair?):
1. Don’t attack people based on hearsay evidence. Unless you can find a direct quote from — and this is key — a reputable news source, do not mount an argument against someone’s supposed position. Someone else’s interpretation of what your target said does not count. Ever.
2. There are, of course, a few common sense exceptions to the direct quote requirement, but they are indeed few. For example, if you’re dealing with an elected official who voted for or signed a bill, then it’s probably fair to quote from the bill and attribute that position to that official. But most of us are not officials, and even in this case it would be wise to see if the official in question made any comments which qualify his or her support of the bill.
3. Don’t play gotcha with old information. If you’re about to write an article revealing some shocking new information on your political opponent, make sure it’s actually shocking new information. Sen. Rand Paul made comments in Iowa last week, and among them was the statement that he personally opposes gay marriage. A scandalized, collective gasp went up from many in the libertarian community…for no good reason. Sen. Paul has repeatedly said he disagrees with gay marriage but does not want the federal government taking sides. There was no gotcha here.
4. Don’t play gotcha with really old information. If it comes out that someone you disagree with did or wrote something stupid in college 20 years ago, cut them some slack. I’m sure there’s stuff I wrote in college which I wouldn’t agree with today, and I only graduated four years ago. Unless this collegiate foolishness involved something really serious like rape or murder, give it a rest and go after your target for problems of a later vintage.
5. Stay logical, and don’t reach. It can be tempting to stretch or exaggerate your argument just a little to make it more damning, but stick to the facts and keep your contentions logical. The easiest way to discredit a political attack is to point out an ad hominem attack or a straw man argument. And just about anyone can do this — no formal logic training needed. If you allow yourself to slip into an illogical attack, you’ve just done your opponents the favor of removing all need for them to do actual research to counter you; they can rather call the fallacy and move on.
6. Finally, stay courteous. Why is Ron Paul thought of as the grandfather everyone wants while even Ayn Rand’s own supporters have been known to call her an icy…witch? Both are known for being principled to a fault, but Ayn Rand called people she disagreed with things like “a cheap, awful, miserable, touchy, social-metaphysical mediocrity,” while Ron Paul offers sympathy for their hilariously awful gaffes. Being principled does not mean being rude.
5:07 pm |
May 13 2013
| 32 notes
Hearsay, Strawmen, and Skinsuits
I cropped out of this screenshot the article igiveup linked, which is this piece at the Washington Post.
I’ve seen this article going around, coupled with a lot of “Rand Paul sucks so much and he’s nothing like his father” comments. But here’s the thing: Holding politicians accountable is really important. But you know what else is really important? Doing so based on things they’ve actually said and done, rather then going after them because of hearsay evidence.
Let’s tale a closer look at what the WaPo piece quotes from Rand Paul himself saying, and what it quotes from other people who saw him speak. I’m going to focus on gay marriage and drugs, the two subjects which get the most attention in the article, and which have gotten the most attention from libertarians taking issue with Rand as a result of the article.
“To some, ‘libertarian’ scares people,” [Rand] said. “Some of them come up to me and they say, ‘I kind of like you, but I don’t like legalizing heroin.’ And I say, ‘Well, that’s not my position.’ ”
Paul said he believes in freedom and wants a “virtuous society” where people practice “self-restraint.”
“I’m not advocating everyone go out and run around with no clothes on and smoke pot,” he said. “I’m not a libertarian. I’m a libertarian Republican. I’m a constitutional conservative.”
On marriage, a matter in which many libertarians believe the government should have no role, Paul used the CBN interview to lay out a more careful position.
He said he’s not ready to “give up on” the traditional family unit. But he added that it is a mistake for conservatives to support a federal ban on same-sex marriage, saying, “We’re going to lose that battle because the country is going the other way right now.”
“If we’re to say each state can decide, I think a good 25 or 30 states still do believe in traditional marriage, and maybe we allow that debate to go on for another couple of decades and see if we can still win back the hearts and minds of people,” he said.
“Straight libertarianism has nothing Christian about it,” said pastor Brad Sherman of the Solid Rock Christian Church in Coralville, Iowa, a participant in the Israel trip. “I know a lot of people attribute him to be a libertarian. My impression so far is that he’s not as libertarian as possibly his father was, but I’d like to explore that more.”
“He made it very clear that he does not support legalization of drugs like marijuana and that he supports traditional marriage,” Sherman said.
“He’s closer to our philosophy than he is to what I would define as the hyper-libertarian position,” [David Lane, a longtime organizer of evangelical pastors and voters] said.
Now, this is why I really want to see Paul’s original comments, unedited, instead of this mix of very short quotes from him and comments from some of the people who heard him talk.
It seems to me that if you look at what Rand himself said (as much as can be determined from this article), his position on gay marriage is personal disagreement coupled with opposition to a federal gay marriage ban and the realization that the country is increasingly in favor of allowing people to decide this issue for themselves. On the issue of drugs, we see only that he doesn’t want people to do drugs and does not think heroin should be legal.
The marriage position is exactly what he’s said before — that the tax code should be marriage-neutral and he doesn’t “think the federal government should tell anybody or any state government how they should decide this” — as is the stuff about drugs. Rand has never said he wants to make all drugs legal, though he is leading the charge to decriminalize drug use, particularly for marijuana. As for the larger drug war, on this issue, too, he wishes to leave the question to the states.
And you know what? His father, Ron Paul, has taken an identical constitutional, states’ rights position on the drug war and gay marriage both. (Though he has also said that the less achievable ideal would be to totally remove the government from both questions at all levels, which I support.)
Contrast that with the quotes from Sherman and Lane, who seem to have been far more influential in the minds of many who have responded to this article with criticism for Paul. I’d venture so far as to suggest that Sherman and Lane heard what they wanted to hear — and Rand’s opponents read what they wanted to read.
In other words, Rand Paul telling a group of evangelicals “I’m for traditional marriage” does not mean he wants the federal government to ban gay marriage. It means he’s identifying with them culturally and religiously to gain their support, and his political position on gay marriage is well-documented elsewhere — and it’s not a federal definition of marriage to the exclusion of the gay community.
Now, Rand’s position on these questions might not be good enough for you. I get that. Many libertarians may disagree with this kind of position on social issues because they aren’t into federalism and/or our Constitution and/or incrementalism.
But here’s the key point: That’s another issue entirely.
If you want to say Rand is wrong because you disagree with him about states’ rights/the Constitution/incrementalism and you can’t support him at all as a result, say that. But unless we get his full comments and they’re far more damning than what he is quoted as saying in this WaPo article, the suggestion that he has embraced the drug war and wants to keep all gay people from getting married is a straw man argument based on hearsay evidence.
So, does anyone have a source for what Rand actually said, or are we just going to continue acting like he’s Rick Santorum in a skinsuit based on what these two guys in Iowa think they heard?
If you’ve got a link, message me with it and let’s set this record straight. The speech in question appears to have occurred in Ceder Rapids, Iowa on Friday, May 10, 2013, at a luncheon in a hotel.
P.S. Here’s where I stand on Rand Paul in general these days.
3:11 pm |
May 13 2013
| 28 notes
“The upshot for all this for teens is simple: your lives suck a little more thanks to increased police presence and surveillance. If you’re in one of those poor schools dominated by cops, you could be prosecuted as a criminal just by acting out, so it’s probably safest not to engage with anything—just keep your head down and your mouth shut and try to get through it. […]
So until the adults can figure out a way to get the prison-industrial complex in check, try not to do anything whatsoever, OK?”
Harry Cheadle, “We need to stop arresting so many children”
You’ve likely heard the story of Kiera Wilmot, a high school student who was charged with a felony for doing a science experiment which caused a loud noise, some smoke, and no damage to anyone’s person or property. It took a petition with nearly 200,000 signatures to bring sanity to Kiera’s case, but she’s off the hook and will be going back to school.
Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. Cheadle’s article lists a number of cases of teenagers pulling pretty harmless — albeit stupid — pranks or just generally being dumb kids on the internet and receiving serious charges as a result, e.g. being charged with a felony for making threats on Instagram. Instagram.
Yes, wrong or stupid behavior shouldn’t be ignored because the prankster is a kid — but handing out felony charges for science experiments and online threats is beyond overreaction. (Not to mention, it’s highly impractical. Are we going to arrest half the internet?)
There’s a difference between being tough on crime and being stupid. I’ll let you figure out which category Kiera’s case and others like it fall into.
Definitely read Cheadle’s whole article here.
2:05 pm |
May 13 2013
| 53 notes
The IRS made things extra difficult for groups seeking non-profit status if they "criticize[d] how the country is run."
Other things the IRS apparently finds objectionable:
- talking about federal spending
- talking about the national debt
- seeking to educate people on how to “make America a better place to live” (horrors!)
- using the word “patriot” or the phrase “tea party” in the name of your organization
The specific IRS office responsible claims, bizarrely, that tagging organizations with these specifications for special scrutiny was just a time-saving device. Yeah, and Joe McCarthy was just keeping everyone on schedule when he targeted all those “known communists.”
This is truly ridiculous, and should be concerning to those of all political stripes.
11:09 am |
May 13 2013
| 71 notes