Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Virtuous Care of Ideas and Maintaining Good Will

"Two percent of the people think,
Three percent think they think,
and 95 percent would rather die than think."
--attributed widely

There appears to be an ongoing problem among patriots. It is a problem that eats away at the movement, fostering disunity and preventing us from enjoying our successes in the past and our union for the purpose of achieving the goal of the restoration of Constitutional governance among the United States. This problem is the propensity of factions among us to use smears and innuendo to destroy others among us. There may be many reasons for this, but the excuse that it is due to "independent thinking" is not supported by the tactics used.

There is hardly a day that goes by where I do not receive some e-mail or message that indulges in a smear against another patriot, or generalizes as a threat some group of people or another pose against us. There is hardly a day that goes by when I do not hear some general and mean-spirited statement made against someone based on a two-minute You Tube video clip, as if that was evidence of the sum of the target's thought.

For example, on Tuesday I received a Facebook message from a person I do not know and who has not "friended" me, making it impossible for me to form any judgement about her credibility. She titled the conversation "Your Friend, Adam Kokesh" and she wrote:

" It pays to know who your friends really are. His history is against the freedoms of Americans . . . and he is running for congress in the 2nd district of NM. Could there be 2 with the same name?"

Aside from the factual error present (Adam Kokesh is running in the 3rd Congressional District of New Mexico), I am expected to believe that Adam has a history "against the freedoms of Americans" based on what exactly? That this unknown commentor says so? There is no way to even know what prompted this woman to write this message, and there is certainly no persuasive argument present in the statement. I therefore responded:

"You made a pretty broad accusation against Adam Kokesh and provided no evidence. I don't know who you are and who your associates are. I do have that information for Adam. So you need to back up your accusations with hard evidence. Otherwise you will get no respect from me."

I had a hypothesis about the origins of her animosity towards Adam Kokesh, but there was no way to tell from her actual statement how accurate I was, although I did base my hypothesis on some previous encounters with Kokesh's attackers in the Republican Party. So I was conducting a fishing expedition in my reply for two reasons. The first is that it is possible that this woman has some evidence that might shape or alter my current support for Adam's campaign, and if so, it would good to have that evidence. The second is that it might be possible to educate this person, to demonstrate that it pays to gather some evidence before jumping to a conclusion based on the thoughtless assertions of others. In other words, it pays to actually think independently rather than mindlessly pass on nasty rumors and innuendo that could harm another person, and more, that can and will needlessly focus attention away from the basic goals we share.

The communication I received in response confirmed my hypothesis. She replied (in part):

"Listen to Adam's speeches on You Tube. His words are carefully worded, as a psychology major. He served under the Bush era. My husband served under the Carter and Nixon era.

"When Mr. Kokesh joined the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) in February 2007, at which time he was 25 years old, he joined what the group stands for. He talks about how he bought into their BS in his video's (sic) and so he volunteered. None the less (sic), the Oath was the same. His words are not in support of patriots. I would not support the founder of IVAW. Would you support it's (sic) founder, John Kerry's ideas?"

I want to first make a factual correction here: John Kerry is not the founder of IVAW, as this writer seems to be saying. John Kerry was one of the founders of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and entirely different organization founded in response to a different unconstitutional war.

But more to the point, although this commentor did supply the reason for sending this message to me (she dislike's Adam's stand against the war in Iraq) thus confirming my hypothesis, she provided no evidence nor did she make any persuasive argument. As she said herself later in the message, she has not thought her stand through, rather she based her ideas soley on "the words of others." This is not independent thinking.

Before I deal with the issue of independent thinking (or lack thereof), however, I want to point out the nature of what is passed off as an argument in this statement. The first sentence is an instruction, and is fine as far it goes. It is a general thesis statement that leads the reader to believe that evidence will be forthcoming--perhaps an analysis of some of Adam's speeches on YouTube. But rather than being the starting point of a point being made, it is follwed by a non-sequiter: "His words are carefully worded, as a psychology major." The statement left me scratching my head. Is this writer telling me that she is a psychology major? Or is she claiming that Kokesh is a psychology major? And what in heaven's name does being a psychology major have to do with what Adam Kokesh said on YouTube? Since this woman did not provide a link, at this point I was hoping she'd clarify in her next sentence. But she did not, leaving me to believe that she might think that being a psychology major makes one an enemy to patriots everywhere. Or is she saying that I should pay attention to Adam's words as a psychology major might? And if so, what kind of psychology?

The "paragraph" is finished off with another possible thesis about when Adam Kokesh served in the military (Bush era) and when this writer's husband served (Nixon-Carter eras). Again, I am left wondering what this has to do with the price of potatoes. The statements become generalities (they don't even glimmer, let alone glitter) because they are not related back to the overall thesis that Adam Kokesh is an enemy to freedom loving Americans.

Pressing onward, the next paragraph begins thusly:
"When Mr. Kokesh joined the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) in 2007, at which time he was 25 years old, he joined what the group stands for."

So far, so muddled. I get that Kokesh joined IVAW in 2007, but I wonder what his age has to do with that decision? (At this point my Aspie-brain calculates that Adam is now 28 years and 38 days old given that he was born on February 2).That he joined what the group stands for makes sense, and the question that pops into my mind is what does this writer think the group stands for? It's pretty clear that the group is against the war in Iraq, but I am hoping the writer will clarify if the group is united in why they are all against the war, or if they have diverse reasons for being against it. Both are possible.

Alas, no such luck. The writer then informs me that Adam volunteered (for what? the war or IVAW?) because he believed "their BS" .(Whose BS? IVAW or the ubiquitous "they" that runs our lives while we are sleeping?) Clear as mud. I can guess that she means that Adam volunteered for the Marines and that he believed the B.S. put out by the military-industrial-educational complex, but I can't be sure. It's unspecified. So far, I have more questions than answers.

She goes on to say that nevertheless, ". . . the Oath was the same." I am guessing that she is talking about the Oath taken by all military members, and by all other public servants. The Oath to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic." I know the Oath hasn't changed, but at this point I am confused about why this woman is bringing it up. Is she saying that Adam has not kept the Oath? And if so, what exactly has he done to make her believe that? She doesn't say. From the next sentence, I get that whatever she thinks, she is relating the Oath to her assertion that Adam is an enemy of patriots. But--frustratingly--she does not say why I should believe her belief.

The woman then ends with another set of non-sequiters: "I would not support the founder of IVAW. Would you support it's (sic) founder, John Kerry's words?"

The first statement is clear as far as it goes. She doesn't support the founder of the group. I don't know who she thinks that person is, but fine. It's a free country. She then asks if I would support John Kerry's words, but in such a way that I cannot tell if she thinks he started IVAW. (He did not). Or does she think that the founder--whoever that might be--also supports John Kerry's words? And if so, which words? Or worse, is she implying that if I support Adam Kokesh's run for congress, I am also supporting John Kerry's unspecified words? Or worse still, is she implying that if one agrees with John Kerrry that the Vietnam War was NOT A GOOD WAR, does that mean that she believes one agrees with every word John Kerry ever said?
This last is a fatal error of logic.

At this point I gave up trying to figure out what this woman might be trying to say to me because there are too many possiblities. (Aspie-brain interpolation II: Why did that guy in the Glass Cathedral ever think possibility thinking was a good thing!)

The point of it all is that this reply that purports to provide me evidence for Adam Kokesh's hatred of American freedoms does nothing of the kind. It is, once again, a series of assertions that are as unclear as they are unsupported. And this brings me the long way 'round to my point. This is not independent thinking. In fact, it is not thinking at all. It is simply a mish-mash of the ideas this woman has been fed by others, and it was certainly not carefully considered by her, and the muddle probably started with baseless accusations by others. In fact, the woman admitted as much, saying: "If my information is incorrect, I apologize for believing the written word of others."

What she does not apologize for is the baseless smearing of Adam Kokesh which she argues from the muddled assertions of faceless "others." Who are they and do they have any credibility? What are their arguments?
Further, no information is given in this series of assertions and non-sequiters. There is no way to know from what she saying why she believes her assertions are true, and there is no way to judge their quality. Well, actually there is. The assertions as presented twice, are baseless and thoughtless and should not be accepted or passed on.

The larger point is that way too often such glib smears are accepted as if handed down from Sinai and passed on uncritically through many nodes of internet chatter. This damages our efforts to unite many diverse groups of patriots under the banner of the Constitution.

Therefore, I wrote this in my reply to this woman:

"IMHO it is this idea (that if one agrees with one statement by a person, it is both necessary and sufficient to say that one agrees with everything that person is or believes) that is responsible for much of the propaganda and smear campaigns indulged in by both major parties, and has contributed significantly to the polarization of political thought in the United States . . .

"Clear thinking is needed for the various groups in the patriot movement to cease from destroying one other, and focus on restoring our Constitution and our liberties. . .
[Your arguments as presented] are merely unfounded speculation and innuendo, taken from the baseless opinions of others, formed by the emotions of various kinds (jealousy comes to mind), which serve only to destroy and divide rather than to build up and create.

"Liberty can only be preserved among people who are virtuous in the care of ideas, and who maintain a basic good will towards those who labor in other parts of the vineyard . . ."

If we wish to succeed in our goal of the Restoration of the Republic, then it is to our benefit to argue ideas and not personalities, and to take care that the words and ideas (they are not necessarily the same), are carefully considered and well-founded upon hard evidence. Further, we need to practice the maintenance of a certain good-will toward one other in the absence of contradicting evidence, considering that different opinions are created from different experiences even if the underlying values are the same; and further, that they lead us to spend our energies in different parts of the battle at hand. No one person has the whole answer, but it takes the hands of many, laboring in different parts of the proverbial vineyard, in order to take us together to the place of living liberty.


Michael M said...

Nice to see good old New Mexican common sense. For a counter to those smearing a combat vet here is a statement from another New Mexican that has appeared on the Kokesh website

Keep up the great work. Together we will win!

Melora said...

Somehow I doubt that the woman will take your advice and change her ways, presenting only logical arguments to support her opinions from now on, but I enjoyed this post very much!