Friday, August 11, 2006

Crabby Friday: Hypocritical Critics

By Cassandra D

Have you heard about the anti-Al Gore editorial in Wednesday's USA Today? Here's the summation paragraph:

"The issue here is not simply Gore's hypocrisy; it's a question of credibility. If he genuinely believes the apocalyptic vision he has put forth and calls for radical changes in the way other people live, why hasn't he made any radical change in his life? Giving up the zinc mine or one of his homes is not asking much, given that he wants the rest of us to radically change our lives."

The author, Peter Schweizer, is a fellow of the conservative Hoover Institution, and author of "Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy." That should give you some clue as to where his politics lie.

I will not quibble with the idea that a person who is an advocate for a cause or belief has greater moral authority when he or she has made major life changes to support that cause or belief. What I do take issue with is Mr. Schweizer's not appearing to have asked Mr. Gore what he is, in fact, doing.

His arguments amount to this: "Gotcha! Nyah nyah nyah! You aren't perfect so I don't have to listen to anything you say!"

The problem with Mr. Schweizer's crusade against hypocrisy is that we are all hypocrites. It is part of the territory of being human. There are very rare people who truly live by their beliefs: Jesus (who may or may not have been human, and might therefore be excluded from the list), Gandhi, Mother Teresa. How many people on the "religious right" in our country have given up their worldly goods and dedicated their entire lives to serving others? None that I know of, and that certainly doesn't stop them from advocating a Christian life. Should we discount the contributions of Martin Luther King because of his infidelity? Or of Thomas Jefferson because of his slave ownership? Do people have to be perfect in order for us to take them seriously?

It is their imperfection that should give the rest of us hope and inspiration. We do not have to be perfect to make an impact. Who among us is good enough? God chooses imperfect people to be his instruments and his messengers. There aren't any other options.

Few things in life are all or nothing propositions. We can and should decrease our impact on our planet, and we need not throw up our hands in despair or denial if we can't go completely green. Every little bit helps, and it is a lot better to do something than to do nothing. Isn't that the message we need to preach?

Mr.Schweizer cites examples of what Gore is not doing, and then says, "Maybe our very existence isn't threatened." Do I understand him correctly? If Al Gore isn't an environmental saint then the science he quotes is false?

I am so very tired of these sorts of arguments from conservative circles. They can't debunk climate change based on the science, so they attack it by attacking its messenger.

Straw man arguments and sleight of hand attacks are hallmarks of the debate coming from the political right. It's all based on deception rather than substance, and I am sick and tired of it. I just hope that the American people have learned to smell the stench of that style of argument, whether it comes from the right, the left, or the middle, and will throw out the bastards who peddle it.


At 1:00 PM, Blogger Chase McInerney said...

Nicely put, Cass. What strikes me is how both the left and right love jumping on the hypocrite, whether it be this anti-Gore editorial or a gambling William Bennett. Nobody's perfect, and I didn't need to see the end of "Some Like It Hot" to learn that truth.

The fact is that Gore's books and film and lectures have probably done A HELL OF A LOT MORE to encourage responsible consumerism than selling off one of his homes.

Even in the end of "Inconvenient Truth," the movie notes that it only takes doing one or two things -- just SOMETHING -- to do your part toward being a good steward of the planet.

At 1:27 PM, Blogger BlueDreamer said...

You go grrrl! I completely agree with your analysis. Once again, in spite of the overwhelming evidence that global warming does indeed exist, we are crusading against the messenger. Typical of Bush apologists. Instead of making a rational, scientific argument for/or against global warming we're concerned with the car that the messenger drives.

This is yet another Republican talking point. Just like the election of 2004 when Republicans, using this same argument, neutered John Kerry for his support for environmental protections. They reasoned that because he is shuttled about by plane and SUV that he’s a hypocrite on environmental issues-as if all politicians aren't shuttled about in the same way. And we the American people have been buying into this Republican marketing fantasy for far too long. Are we going to continue to stand for these smoke and mirror tactics? No! We're going to vote the bums out in 2006 and then maybe a more rational approach to the global warming crisis and the myriad of other dangers that face our nation can begin to be addressed. I don't know if we can handle another two years of "opportunities," as Condi put the Iraqi meltdown/civil war last Sunday. We've got to hold this administration accountable for their incompetence and Election 2006 is our only hope.

At 2:12 PM, Blogger RedDirt said...

I'm so glad I was able to be the source of sparking such an interesting conversation! As someone continually trying to lead a greener lifestyle, however, I would certainly be interested in what specific personal steps Gore has taken in his own life. The article doesn't tell us -- perhaps Gore will now be compelled to weigh in?

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Chase McInerney said...

Reddirt - YOU didn't write that editorial. You can't take credit for this one!

At 4:26 PM, Blogger Cassandra D said...

And flamewhore beat you to the punch in telling me about it!

At 10:06 PM, Blogger RedDirt said...

Well, shucks. And here I thought I was ahead of the curve.

Anyway, I have to say I am a little disappointed at the progressive defensiveness over this -- Instead of being reflexively defensive about Gore, why not just reject the logic of the column and at the same time call for Gore to disclose what specific steps he has personally taken to lead a greener lifestyle? If he can't provide that information, then yes, he's being a hypocrite.

Good grief, Bluedreamer, polly wanna cracker for that mindless recitation of progressive rhetoric? "Man the barricades! Hrummpph, hrummpph, Bushitler sucks, Chimpy McHitler and Christianists love drinking pesticides, and we won't stand for it! Quit digging around in my flower bed for oil! Repuglotheocrats must die, and Obi Wan is our only hope!"

I mean, spare me the drama.

Just questioning Gore's hypocrisy does nothing to dilute the reality of his message about global warming -- and a little honest examination would not hurt anyone.

I think a few timeless cliches about actions speaking louder than words, and doing as I say and not as I do, in fact tend to apply here. As I said, I would like to hear more about personal green lifestyle steps Al Gore has taken before calling this another "I invented the Internet" gaffe.

But I think anyone being intellectually honest would admit this has the makings of an Elmer Gantry moment for the eco preacher. If he's able to counter this with some tangible information, that's fine. Nevertheless, those who can't admit that Gore might be striking a pose for his own personal gain may have some rather leafy blinders on that they need to discard.

At the same time, I completely agree with Cassandra taking on the logical leap the column makes over whether global warming exists just because Gore himself may not be able to find it in himself to live up the green philosophy he touts.

If it is true that Gore has once again shown his own personal shallowness, that doesn't mean we should laugh off concerns about what's happening to our planet.

Questioning Gore's personal commitment and understanding the reality of environmental degradation, in my view, are not mutually exclusive positions for those who can step back and look at this logically.

At 2:34 AM, Anonymous flamewhore said...

I thought the article was making a few points in the Anti-Gore column but the author just didn't have enough meat. The rest was just more of, "Al Gore is so uncool, so protecting the environment is too."

Maybe CTTC could do a VH1 style side-by-side and compare Bush and Gore's homes. Whoever has the more ecologically friendly abode could be declared the winner of CTTC's first solar home face off.

At 8:55 AM, Blogger RedDirt said...

Yikes, I'm not sure CTTC wants to do that because it would challenge a lot of notions around here -- the Bush Crawford home would clearly win that battle. It's known for its passive solar cooling/heating design, rainwater collection, gray water reclamation, geothermal system, and more.

At 9:52 AM, Blogger LiteraryTech said...

Once again following what has become a pattern of rhetoric, not only for himself but for the conservative demagogues for whom he works, RedDirt has exemplified the logical fallacy of an ad hominem attack. He continues the sneering disregard for the opinions of others exemplified in his earlier comments. In doing so, he fails to address, or perhaps clouds his address of the primary issue under consideration. The problem with attacks such as that of RedDirt and Mr. Schweizer is more than the bankrupt logic presented. This is more than a topic for philosophical debate. Attacking your opponent rather than his arguments puts the debate outside the realm of evidence and therefore subject to the loudest voice proclaiming the fantasy we most want to hear. Attacking your opponent reduces the argument to the level of personality rather than policy. Attacking your opponent makes people viscerally angry or intellectually complacent, depending on who your friends are.

For example, we see people disregarding any evidence related to the discussion of global warming. When evidence is the victim of the ad hominem attack, depending on your preferences, you might believe it is all a hoax or an exaggeration/natural pattern, or a serious issue that needs to be addressed. In any of these cases, if you are working outside the evidence, you might as well be contending for a resolution to the Kennedy Assasination. When the argument is reduced to personality rather than policy, we find people choosing sides for no other reason than their affinity for the personalities involved. This is the path of destruction, regardless of your political positions. It is the way one sets up a dictatorship of any variety. Finally, when civility is the victim of the ad hominem attack, it reduces the dialog to a childish level of name calling that completely obscures the possibility that the person engaged in the ad hominem attack has anything of value to add to the debate. When you attack someone I love enough that I would weld my life with his, my emotional state moves instantly beyond the consideration of the topic and to the defense of my loved one. This is the seed of war. This is the death of law. This is unnecessary.

At 10:23 AM, Blogger RedDirt said...

And once again, Literary Tech mildly implies that because I took a step back and looked at this entire thing in a "on this hand and the other hand" way that I am a fascist... " It is the way one sets up a dictatorship of any variety..." When is THAT ad hominem attack going to lose its power through having become a cliche?

At 10:36 AM, Anonymous flamewhore said...

I know about the Crawford Ranch. And wouldn't it be wonderful if the President applied the same principles to his country that he does his home?

Back to the face-off: you would have to compare all their (Bush and Gore)homes, which would also include the White House. I think it might be a wash.

At 10:47 AM, Blogger RedDirt said...

"...wouldn't it be wonderful if the President applied the same principles to his country that he does his home?"

Yes, flamewhore, it would be wonderful -- the hypocrisy goes both ways, as you note. Of course, we could encourage such steps nationally with incentives instead of regulatory requirements. And good point on the White House thingy.

Also, many thanks for not calling me a fascist. Very refreshing!

At 12:45 PM, Blogger Chase McInerney said...

There really needs to be some civility on this blog. There doesn't have to be on other blogs, but on this one - where I have a semblance of control - I require civility among the posters.

Reddirt, you could've made your point without the "polly wanna cracker" bullshit.

At 3:27 AM, Blogger Cassandra D said...

This all just goes to point out the potential damage blogging can do. We all KNOW each other and would not, I hope, get in such nasty arguments when we are in person and using our "real" names (though I must admit that I now think of all of you people, and myself, as our blogger names and use them interchangeably with the real ones).

Blogs combine the passion of politics (or sex tapes) with the dangerous speed and ease of email. Do you think somehow that makes the blog content escape censorship by our frontal lobes? Perhaps this is evidence of some weird computer-generated disinhibition circuit?

I love you all. I like your witty insights and enjoy some sparring, but no bludgeoning, please. I would like to have you people all get together for a BBQ and not kill each other. (But Chase's baby will probably put a damper on group BBQs anyway.)

Kum ba ya, my friends. Kum ba ya.

At 3:32 AM, Blogger Cassandra D said...

Oh, and Blue Dreamer, I really liked your comment. And not just because you liked my post!

At 9:53 AM, Anonymous flamewhore said...

At this phantom BBQ I think we should have a manual reel mower race to see who is the King of the Environmental Hill.

At 1:35 PM, Blogger RedDirt said...

Agreed. I wish I had Stephen Colbert standing over my shoulder sometimes before I hit the "submit" button on posts, saying "Hey, little buddy, maybe not such a good idea. How about this as a good joke instead?"

Anyway, since Stephen Colbert is in New York and hasn't decided to become my personal comic mentor as of yet, and as much as I'd like to blame this on some flame-war inclined id part of my psyche, I'll just say... "I'm sorry."

Flamewhore, after a summer of pushing my push-reel around, my triceps are ripped -- well, let's just say more ripped than they were in their pre-push-reel anemic state.

I think I would win that race hands down, so bring it!


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