Ace of Spades has a good article on something I’ve been thinking about lately:
There is a difference between rational argument and the coordinated attacks of a mob.
Mobs do not “argue.” They intimidate or humiliate (or both). Mobs do not engage in an enlightened, reasonable dialogue. They shout ritualized chants. Mobs are not interested in persuading someone of their wrongness of their claims; they only care about shutting the speaker up, whether he’s changed his mind or not.
So much of what passes for social discourse these days is really nothing more than bullying and ad hominem argument. We’ve all been guilty of it at one time or another, but for some people it really seems to be the dominant form of debate.
Why do people argue this way? Ace has his theory:
Now, the PC Mob types will reject this distinction because — and listen closely here– most of them are Stupid and Inarticulate; most of them are in fact incapable, on a mental or emotional level, of making an academic or at least essay-like case.
They are in fact low-thinkers. It is no accident that they favor the brutish, the primate-like, the animal-level sorts of “persuasions” of group hooting and feces-throwing. They favor this because this is what they are capable of, and no other.
Thus, in a very real sense, to insist on the standards of rational discourse with such people does in fact predjudice them; it is the same as insisting a horse walk on two legs to enter a race. It is the same as disqualifying them outright.
Ouch. But isn’t that more ad hominem? Maybe it is not so much a problem of people being innately incapable, but that our entire educational system, in fact our whole intellectual culture has long since lost faith in the powers of rational argument.