Often dialogical public argument consists in the search for closers, Archimedean points from which to eject others and their views from consideration. As a pragmatic and rhetorical matter, this doesn’t usually work (or at least it doesn’t work on the target). The accusation of “racism” is quickly countered, for instance, with “the real racist,” and so on for the others (sexist, etc.).
There does, however seem to be one (for today, at least) that you cannot counter: advocate of pedophilia.
Enter infamous troll and white nationalist Milo Yiannopoulos, who was recently discovered to have advocated relationships between older men and boys as young as 13:
“In the homosexual world, particularly, some of those relationships between younger boys and older men — the sort of ‘coming of age’ relationship — those relationships in which those older men help those young boys discover who they are and give them security and safety and provide them with love and a reliable, sort of rock, where they can’t speak to their parents,” he added.
This cost him his book contract and got him disinvited from CPAC (some of whose stars advocated genocide).
It’s nice, perhaps, to know there is a line somewhere with people.
I don’t mean to be flip here, with all of the other lines this guy crossed, why was it this one that finally made him unacceptable? Is it because we’re talking about children?
On Philosophy 15 (briefly discussed here yesterday), Rob and Scott discussed the dialectical move from object language to meta-language (and then from meta-language to meta-meta-language, and so forth). They call this “weaponized metalanguage.” It’s a nice metaphor, despite its violence, because it captures the idea that the metalanguage of argument gets turned into a tool of argument itself. On a somewhat strained analogy, it’s a bit like using the rules of a game as part of the game (using the referee as a blocker in football, maybe).
Scott and Rob are correct in their observation that a sizable part of political debate nowadays is almost entirely second-order–the subject is not the best policy option but rather what constitutes reasonable talk about what the best policy option is. For some people, the election of Donald Trump is a fundamentally second order affair–“I voted for Trump because I’m tired of hearing people tell me what to think….”)
The trouble with this strategy, however, is that there always seems to be a flanking maneuver available; there’s always one-level up. What constitutes reasonable basis for rules about talk about what the best policy option is.
When that fails–as in the example above (here’s an article on point)–there’s always the tu quoque. My informal guess is that the “leveling up” is done mainly to allege the other person has violated some sort of norm. Naturally, accusers can’t be abusers, so the tu quoque is always an exit strategy.