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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?