BROKEN CLOCKS

Posted in Rants on March 18th, 2009 by Ed

As a broken clock is right every twelve hours, one of our friendly libertarian visitors to yesterday's post has raised an interesting point that I need to address periodically. Perhaps it was unintentional, an externality of the barrage of nonsense about how I don't devote my life to whining about taxes because I don't pay any. Regardless, let's accentuate the positive.

Why do I call Objectivists retards and make fun of them rather than engaging their philosophy in earnest, respectful debate? Kudos, Rand Fan. That is a fair question. Let me explain.

First of all, I teach political science for a living with a heavy emphasis on current American Politics. In the course of this work I am regularly exposed to many bright, dedicated students of all political persuasions. I am also exposed on a daily basis to all manner of sloth, proud ignorance, arrogance, and flat-out stupidity. As I have stated before (but perhaps not for newcomers) my profession prohibits me from responding to students with "What's the matter with you? Are you fucking retarded?" even when that is my first response and perhaps even the most appropriate one. As anyone in this profession should do, I treat my students respectfully and take great pains to emphasize that students are graded on the ability to retain, apply, and interpret facts. This site, which is a personal one, is a place where I don't have to listen respectfully to stupid shit. I get to make fun of it. This is an outlet.

Second, I go for jokes. Very little of what I post is "straight" with no element of sarcasm and comedy. Why? Because funny things are fun to read (and write). People like to read things that amuse them, especially while trying to kill a few minutes at work ("going Galt" if you will).

Third, I've gotten a little older and wiser. Granted, taunting and insult comedy are not usually taken as signs of maturity. But I used to argue with everyone and about everything. All the fucking time. Strangers, friends, classmates, teachers, idiots on the internet…it didn't matter. Gradually I realized that this was unproductive and therefore a tremendous waste of effort on my part. So I no longer argue with people who hold frivilous viewpoints. That is not an idle choice of adjective. I mean "frivolous" in the way that the legal system uses the term.

When an attorney files a motion, the judge's response generally falls into one of two categories. First, the judge can grant the motion, having decided that the attorney's legal argument was sound and persuasive. Alternatively, the judge can deny the motion if the attorney's argument is flawed or sound but unpersuasive. In short, the expected outcomes are "You convinced me" or "You didn't quite convince me."

When a judge rules that a motion is frivolous he is saying neither of those things. He's saying "This is complete gibberish and a waste of our time." He is not saying you have a bad argument, he is saying that you have not made an argument at all. For example, when "tax protestors" attempt to defend themselves with lunatic arguments such as that income taxation is voluntary or that they are not United States citizens, judges do not solemnly consider the merits of this nonsense. They call such arguments frivolous. It would waste the court's time to address them as serious points of law.

Here's a better example. Pretend that a conference on astrophysics has convened the top minds to discuss the latest in the field. You crash one of the panel discussions and raise an argument that the moon is made of cheese. What would they do? Well, they'd probably think it was a joke and laugh politely. After you pressed the point they would realize you are serious. Perhaps one of them would take a few seconds to kindly point you toward the mountains of evidence disproving your "theory." If you kept pressing, they'd stop being polite. They'd get pissed off and probably have you removed from the premises so you could no longer waste their time.

This is why I am not interested in having a point-by-point debate about Objectivism, whether or not the Holocaust happened, Young Earth Creationism, 9/11 Controlled Demolition hypotheses, the McVeigh/Hussein connection, or any other ridiculous viewpoint. The people who subscribe to such ideologies aren't worth arguing with because they aren't affected by evidence or rational critiques. Since they can't (or more likely just won't) understand that their viewpoint is without merit, it avails me of nothing to point it out.

Feel free, as is your kind's habit, to insist that our refusal to debate you is because we A) lack brainpower or B) are terrified because we know you're right about everything. Keep telling yourself that. In reality I have better things to do than be the 10000th person to explain to you that Ayn Rand's cult is intellectually bankrupt. Everyone else can see what you refuse to. Repetition isn't going to help.

So that's the long answer. The short answer is that I make fun of you because you make it so goddamn easy.

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