Friday, June 16, 2006

Demonization of adversaries is wrong, Matt Stoller

Ed Brayton's Dispatches from the Culture Wars has an excerpt from an article in Christianity Today by Yale Law School Professor Stephen Carter, a well-known black Christian conservative who authored the book Confessions of an Affirmative Action Baby. In the article, Carter is arguing against the common demonization of the ACLU by Christians, pointing out that while he disagrees with the ACLU on the establishment clause, they are also a big defender of the free exercise clause and have consistently supported Christians in free exercise court cases:
More to the point, the ACLU is often right about the First Amendment's free exercise clause, taking on fights that others refuse. It might surprise some critics that the ACLU defends the free speech and free exercise rights of, well, Christians.
The larger point of the article, however, is to condemn the mode of argument that characterizes those who disagree as irrational, dishonest, or evil simply in virtue of that disagreement:
I am more concerned about a habit of mind that seems to be growing among my fellow Christians, both political liberals and conservatives. That is, we seem to mimic the secular world's conflation of disagreement with wickedness, as if not sharing my worldview places my critic outside the realm of rational discourse...
I've seen similar habits expressed by people on both sides of the net neutrality debate. For example, in Matt Stoller's presentation at the YearlyKos convention, he admits that he doesn't understand the relevant technical issues (and proceeds to demonstrate it by suggesting that "non-neutrality" will cause dropped calls, when in fact it's non-neutral QoS that will prevent them). He asserts that it is fun to beat up on "these bad people" and that it is very important that Mike McCurry be personally vilified. That's explicit endorsement of irrationality, of emotional demogoguery over fact and reason, and should be condemned by everyone in this debate.

Ed Brayton concludes:
But rational people, people who care about truth and accuracy, must fight this tendency. We must try and evaluate every claim using the same criteria. Does the evidence support it? Are the conclusions drawn from the evidence logical? Any claim that fails to meet those criteria should be rejected, regardless of whether it supports our agenda or not. Likewise, any claim that withstands that scrutiny should be accepted as valid, regardless of whether it supports our agenda or not. None of us will ever be Mr. Spock, but we should strive to evaluate all arguments as though we have no stake in the outcome. Some, like the STACLU crowd, make no attempt at all to do so; we should not emulate them.
I agree.

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