The slow death of meaningful debate in the culture war
By Matthew Fraser, Opinions Editor
Whether we like it or not, humans are social creatures. We want to fit in. We want to know that the group thinks as we do, and that in turn, our group is well established in relation to wider human culture. We want to keep outsiders out, but more importantly, we are willing to punish the “other” for being the other.
At our worst, we work to exclude that other from all positions of power. For the maintenance of social cohesion, continued respect of nation states, and the propagation of intellectual dynasties, ideologies engage in a constant bloodless war. Hence, the drill sergeants in this war condition us not to see the other as a human of differing opinion, but instead, as an enemy of nefarious intention and never-ending lies. At times we rejoice in the description of the enemy as evil; from the “transphobic fascist” to the “lazy leftist out for a free lunch,” we have a garrison of discredits and attacks for the other in this war. It’s clear then that we are in fact trained to be lazy.
Inside every argument there resides two men: a straw man and a steel man. For those who don’t know, a straw-man argument is the act of reducing your opponent’s argument to its weakest core position. The steel-man argument is to face your opponent’s greatest points.
To say that every leftist is too lazy to work and wants welfare to take care of them is clearly the straw man. On the other side, there lies an equally weak straw man: saying that every conservative wants borders to stop the rampaging colored caravan from entering their white nation. And here we arrive at the scourge of intellectual laziness; like a monster in the shadows, it’s easier to win arguments if we don’t engage things on fair grounds.
It’s been done by hardliners of every ideology. Blinding people from the truth and potential providence of their opponent’s minds is a useful tactic. It is better to keep your followers tussling with straw men than to lose them wrestling with the steel man behind. Institutions which previously claimed to stand aside in the indoctrination wars now throw their weights behind champions and bend what was once free thought into recognizable tribal shapes.
It is no coincidence then that the unschooled frequently flock to the church for their biblically-pushed conservatism, and that the educated rush to college classrooms for scholastic educations on proper liberal etiquette. Yet in neither place is there a steel man to be found. Many a churchgoer will never be exposed to the real and truthful theory behind the welfare system or the equality dreams of progressivism. Far too many social justice activists will hurt themselves, their cause, and those they aim to protect in their headlong sprint to reshape everything; here, the prudence and risk weighing of conservatism is thoroughly missed.
The problem with intellectual laziness is the slovenly results it produces day in and day out. Lobbing “libtard” and volleying “cuckservative” degrades and drags down all. It forces many to give up one set of freedoms in favour of a battle cry to bring against their foes, regardless of whether or not they see the value in the other’s dreams. You can’t deviate from the dress code thought lines of your army. It only makes sense in this battle to cajole the masses into frenzied hatred for a little red hat.
The comparison of any and every right-wing entity to “literal Hitler” has driven the meaning and atrocity out of the word Nazi. It’s been so trodden to death that people no longer blink and wonder incredulously when someone has been called Hitler online. By way of laziness, we have devalued an entire war and the deaths of millions. In doing so, we have given the real racists better cover than they could have dreamed for: when everyone’s being called a racist, the real ones can hide in plain sight. On the other hand, the once potent grenade of calling someone a “commie” has been cheapened to less than the worth of a soviet coin. Conservatives managed to call Barack Obama a black supremacist AND a communist in the same breath, why should we believe them about Bernie Sanders?
This leads us to the final evil of intellectual laziness—that one would not know their enemies or the methods of their movements. It has been said ad infinitum that knowledge is power. This is why warfare is tied to espionage; you must know what it is you aim to conquer. Yet, fewer and fewer people can accurately describe the ideas they oppose.
They can at best wave a straw man—and at worst, they point to a man long dead as their resurrected opponent. It seems that this is a war that is meant to be lost. The fighting will be long and brutal, ground will be lost and gained—but at the end no one will know for what it was they fought for. I am convinced that we are sucked into this battle because we want to be part of something bigger than our short lives; maybe it is part of the human predicament to strive for something significant to vanquish until one dies peacefully (or is themselves crushed). Whether or not this is true doesn’t matter.
We have normalized mental knuckle-dragging and reduced the art of debate
to slack-jawed yelping. Finally, we have removed ourselves from the spreading
of knowledge that collectively brought us past our worst days. Maybe it’s necessary to slide into
some worse times in order to get better.