Search This Blog

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

When All Else Fails, Attack the Individual

     When All Else Fails, Attack the Individual
         It’s hard to debate ideas of substance when the lack of intellectual honesty is replaced by open rudeness. In fact, as an observer of, or a participant in such a debate, it’s downright frustrating. Occasionally I turn to a cable news channel and watch one of these "shouting match" debates on a current and often important topic. Unfortunately, instead of honest disagreements on issues where everyone’s opinion is treated with respect, we too often witness vicious interruptions and hear personal attacks. 

         Admittedly, I’ve been guilty of the same thing too often. I need to stop doing that, and our politicians and pundits need to stop too. Our nation’s problems are too important to be political footballs. You and I deserve an honest and open debate on the issues. 

         The forum that came the closest to this high ideal was the long-running television show, Firing Line, hosted by William F. Buckley, Jr. It was one of those all-too-rare debate shows where the participants not only did not interrupt the other participants, but actually listened to their various points of view. Great, outside-the-box ideas were presented with clarity and with the confidence that the presenter would not be personally attacked. What a unique concept.

         Unfortunately today, when someone talks about addressing the very serious problem of failing primary and secondary education in the poor areas of our nation through the use of vouchers, he is attacked as being biased against poor people. When someone brings up the idea of giving individuals the right to invest a portion their Social Security payments for their retirement, they are accused of trying to destroy Social Security. When someone points out the devastating effect of some social program on the people it is designed to help, he is often called a racist. The list goes on and on and all of the blame for this deplorable practice certainly does not fall on one side of the aisle.

         The theory seems to be that when all else fails, attack the individual, don’t debate the issue. The next time you and I are tempted to do this, perhaps we should ask ourselves a question. Are we resorting to attacking the other individual because we really lack confidence in our own position or our own argument? Are our views so weak that they cannot stand up to scrutiny? Rather, is the truth simply that we are really unsure of ourselves and our conclusions? When we interrupt and don’t want to let someone else speak or when a speaker is shouted down, there is only one conclusion: The people doing the shouting are unsure of their own position and are afraid to have their own point of view questioned. That’s not free speech, it’s controlled speech and nothing good comes out of such a situation.

         Don’t you think it’s time to quit shouting and calling names and instead engage in civil discussions about important issues whose positive outcome can make this a better society?

No comments:

Post a Comment