The End of Debate


“…In all my years I ain’t never heard, seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn’t be talked about. Hell yeah! I’m for debating anything…” 

– (Stephen Hopkins, ‘1776‘) 

Once upon a time, the art of debate was viewed as one of the most laudable aspects of American Society. It’s part of our national fabric, and our country was conceived almost solely as a result of prolonged and heated debate. Debate teams have been a constant in schools for ages, and the ability to winningly articulate one’s ideas is as central to our national identity as freedom itself. We even created our Congress as two parts with debate expressly in mind, with the Senate being the chamber where differing points of view could be thoroughly discussed by each state’s most esteemed intellects.

But today, the accepted virtue of Free Debate now seems hopelessly anachronistic.

(via Mark Hemingway at The Weekly Standard) – “…On his blog this morning, Roger Pielke Jr. at the University of Colorado, a respected climate scientist, reveals that he was one of seven academics being investigated by Rep. Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources.

And the good professor’s supposed crime, which is suddenly in need of Congressional inquiry? Take a wild guess:

“…Prof. Roger Pielke, Jr., at CU’s Center for Science and Technology Policy Research has testified numerous times before the U.S. Congress on climate change and its economic impacts. His 2013 Senate testimony featured the claim, often repeated, that it is “incorrect to associate the increasing costs of disasters with the emission of greenhouse gases…”.

Professor Pielke knows what’s going on here, as should we all:

Pielke: “…Before continuing, let me make one point abundantly clear: I have no funding, declared or undeclared, with any fossil fuel company or interest. I never have. Representative Grijalva knows this too, because when I have testified before the US Congress, I have disclosed my funding and possible conflicts of interest.

So I know with complete certainty that this investigation is a politically-motivated “witch hunt” designed to intimidate me (and others) and to smear my name…”

intimidation_2And now this same event is being played out against 100 other free-market think tanks and energy companies, as they are also being “asked” by the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works to turn over funding records related to ALL research conducted on climate change.

If this all sounds vaguely familiar, it should: it’s in vogue across the landscape, and (worse) it’s become alarmingly effective.

From college campus “Speech Codes”, where merely expressing the “incorrect” point-of-view can land a student (or professor) in all sorts of trouble, …to the despicable “John Doe” investigations against Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, …to the IRS’ illegal targeting scheme of Conservative/Tea Party groups, …to “climatologist” Michael Mann’s ongoing lawsuit against Mark Steyn for the latter’s criticizing Mann’s global warming research, …to President Obama’s constant invocation of “The Debate is Over” for any discussion which isn’t going his way, …each example is designed to make continued debate of the subject impossible and/or inflict maximum pain on the heretics.

Hey, you don’t exactly require a compelling argument if your opponent can’t say anything, right?

This strategy of anti-discourse is pernicious:

  • Don’t agree with Liberal thought on such-&-such topic? You’ll be sued into submission for your heresy.
  • Have an issue with a particular canon of Leftist belief? You’ll be “investigated” until you are no longer a threat.
  • Feel that your viewpoint has merit, even though it runs afoul of Statist dogma? Prepare to be bullied, intimidated, and harangued until you realize the error of your ways.

All of which makes Andrew Klavan’s brilliant “Shut Up” video from several years ago now seem more prescient with each passing day:

An oft used quote by Mark Steyn is from the historian Arnold Toynbee:

“Civilizations die from suicide, not murder”.

That’s undeniably true, and it’s hard to argue that our nation hasn’t already swallowed a fatal cocktail of stultifying, silent acceptance.

14 responses to “The End of Debate

  1. Father Paul Lemmen

    Reblogged this on A Conservative Christian Man.

  2. livinrightinpgh

    You will NOT question anything the Left has to say! How dare you confront their emotions with facts? Now, if you’re on the Right, you have NO right to facts. Get it?

  3. It’s kind of like debating this guy:

  4. I definitely agree that many on the Left are guilty of the “shut up” non-argument. One form of “shut up” is what Ayn Rand called the “Argument from Intimidation”:

    There is a certain type of argument which, in fact, is not an argument, but a means of forestalling debate and extorting an opponent’s agreement with one’s undiscussed notions. It is a method of bypassing logic by means of psychological pressure . . . [It] consists of threatening to impeach an opponent’s character by means of his argument, thus impeaching the argument without debate. Example: “Only the immoral can fail to see that Candidate X’s argument is false.” . . . The falsehood of his argument is asserted arbitrarily and offered as proof of his immorality.

    In today’s epistemological jungle, that second method is used more frequently than any other type of irrational argument. It should be classified as a logical fallacy and may be designated as “The Argument from Intimidation.”

    The essential characteristic of the Argument from Intimidation is its appeal to moral self-doubt and its reliance on the fear, guilt or ignorance of the victim. It is used in the form of an ultimatum demanding that the victim renounce a given idea without discussion, under threat of being considered morally unworthy. The pattern is always: “Only those who are evil (dishonest, heartless, insensitive, ignorant, etc.) can hold such an idea.”

    –Ayn Rand, “The Argument from Intimidation,” in The Virtue of Selfishness

    Unfortunately, there are also many on the Right that want to legislate certain things (i.e. force other people) based on their emotions, and they tend to dismiss opposing arguments with the above tactic, or invalid appeals to the self-evident.

    Here I’m thinking specifically of the issue of abortion. Many conservatives seem not to have a reasoned view of what rights are, yet they insist that zygotes, embryos and fetuses have them, based on emotional attachments. If someone disagrees, it seems to come down to, “You’re obviously a horrible person, shut up!”

    This link is my essay on what rights are (and are not) and why I don’t think that the unborn have them: Ayn Rand’s Philosophy vs. Abortion Bans: Why a Fetus Doesn’t Have Rights.

    • Hi, Apollo!
      Thanks for sharing your essay, and Yes, I’m rather familiar with Rand’s philosophy, having had the discussion many times with my buddies over the years. I’ve always enjoyed Rand on several issues, but this is where she and I part company.
      To your initial point, though, I certainly wouldn’t say that it’s the Pro-Life side which is guilty of saying “shut up” on this, especially since the law of the land currently says otherwise.

      Keep in mind, this wasn’t passed legislatively, but by the SC with their dependence upon “penumbras”, etc.,.. To me, and especially since we’re talking about the interpretation of Life itself, it would seem logical to have left this highly contentious issue to each state’s legislature. Vote it in or vote it out: either way, you’d have the voters deciding. To this day, the pro-life community feels that this decision was illegitimately foisted upon all 50 states, leaving them with little recourse.

      Whether the unborn have a right to life isn’t actually germane in this context, but rather who was told to “shut up” without having a vote. In this case, that would be the pro-life community.
      If we’re being anecdotal, I’ve known and know plenty of pro-abortion folks (many of them friends) who go a little crazy when this subject arises, and I’m equally sure there are examples of this on both sides.

      As always, glad to have all opinions shared here, regardless if I happen to agree with them or not.
      Thanks, partner, and hope to see you again soon….

  5. Wow, isn;t that just dandy? They want all the research and information from critics of climate change. It’s so ironic it isn’t funny considering climategate and the recent discovery of record manipulation.

    • Yeah, Bull: but “when you can’t pound the facts, pound the table”, etc.,. etc.,..
      You don’t try to intimidate or shut up your opponent when you have the truth on your side, as we both know. Quite the contrary.

      By the way, I know that you’ve blogged on this topic before, but if you take a peek at Cosmo’s blog (look for “Cosmoscon” in our Blog Roll), he hits AGW record manipulation pretty hard.
      Donna over at “Quixotes Last Stand” deals with it on occasion, as well.
      Just a suggestion…

      Great to see you, buddy.

  6. In my own debates with progs, at some point they always begin to call me names or in some way throw dirt on my character. This always happens when I am winning the discussion.

    We can’t let them shut us up!
    These poor scientists have had their jobs, their ability to support themselves with their profession effected. I hope they bring suit and never shut up!

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