Christopher Orlet, over at the American Spectator, has a few things to say about what gets him riled up these days. There aren't many, but two that stand out are:
About the only thing that gets me heated these days is my Bubblespa footbath. (I recommend the model with toe touch control.) That and being told by politicians, professors and anchorwomen how to behave.
No, this is not an ad for footbaths. At least, I don't think it is. Instead, Orlet is using his footbath as a way of showing that he's normally calm — footbath-excitement is usually tepid. But being told how to argue breaks that calm. Even the calm that can be achieved by a footbath. You see, it's a rhetorical device. You cast yourself as the minding-your-own-business everyman who loves footbaths, and then you portray yourself as just not being able to stand some imposition on what kind of rhetoric you can use. How disruptive of our calm lives to be reminded of the importance of civility.
Again, I'm no great champion of civility. It is possible to argue well and be mean. In fact, some matters require that we are mean, especially when the issue is significant and our interlocutors are vicious and in need of shaming. But there are moral reasons why we must have our defaults set on civility first. The most important reason is to avoid making the exchange of ideas toxic to the point where even those with good ideas don't want to enter the fray. In discourse theory we call the outcome of those circumstances "error amplifications" and "hidden profiles" — increased group confidence in erroneous commitments and social pressures against correcting them. Since we want truth, we've got to make the discussion welcoming. That's just how it goes, and so the duties of civility must be exercised.
Would Orlet be moved by these sorts of reasons for civiity? Well, if you sweetened the pot a little:
But men are stubborn animals. We may pretend to be more sensitive … , if it means we might get lucky more often
Well, what does Orlet think would happen were he to enforce this rule on liberals, too?
Just this morning, I heard someone on NPR say, "We need to really tackle these issues." I was immediately overwhelmed with the desire to sprint down the aisle and clothesline the director of marketing. Unfortunately, she stiff-armed me and rolled on to paydirt, by which I mean the ladies room.
Hm. This is just weird, now. Golly. Editors, anyone?
Let's ignore that, for the moment, and see where Orlet sees the requirements of civility leading us:
Since Tucson, editors have been having a "conversation" about banning more words from their newspapers, which pretty soon are going to read like The Poky Little Puppy, containing all 26 politically correct words and no more. . . . [N]ow they have to adopt the language of a tea party. And not The Tea Party either, but a real, doily and lace tea party.
So civil dialogue is like children's literature and tea-party frou-frou. False analogy, leading to false dilemma. But given the way that Orlet argues, the alternative might be an improvement. The Poky Little Puppy isn't on the make with the people he's arguing with, and I don't think you call going to the bathroom 'rolling to paydirt' at a tea party (or in most any company). Maybe some, just a little, civility (that is, civilizing) would be good for Orlet. But don't tell that to him just yet. Let him enjoy the footbath.