Ambiguity Rushes In Where Candor Fears To Tread

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9 Responses

  1. Shane says:

    Ken – you do a fine job equivocating the mobs we see in front of El Coyote or rampaging in San Francisco as just good, clean fun – so I guess the questions you offer are simply rhetorical. I went to the prop 8 protest parade in San Diego, it was a few thousand people who made their point without assaulting the beliefs or bodies of those they hate. But when I went to El Coyote two weeks ago, it was a mad house. People screaming, spitting and pounding on the car windows of customers trying to drive by – all because one person working at the restaurant gave $100 to the campaign? Because she didn't drop to her knees and grovel in apology? Because she didn't pay off those threatening her? It's out of control, but it's just a joke to you. For Marjorie Christofferson, it's been devastating. This isn't dissent – it's mob intimidation and it's meant to scare people.

    You're big on dissent – fine. I love a free wheeling debate – but the day someone comes to my business and assaults customers of mine is the day the debate ends and the fistacuffs begin. Everyone ought to have the right to hold a political opinion no matter how much another hates them for it – and there's a lot of hate coming from your side. I guess that's another valuable result of this victory – many will no longer assume the rainbow stickers mean anything other than sexual variety – it certainly doesn't stand for tolerance…

  2. Ken says:

    ust good, clean fun

    Could you quote the part of the post where I did that? k thx.

    So I guess the questions you offer are simply rhetorical.

    Nope. They are actual questions. And you've done a fine job of evading them. Can you answer them? Will you?

    I went to the prop 8 protest parade in San Diego, it was a few thousand people who made their point without assaulting the beliefs or bodies of those they hate.

    And my point is that the NoMobVeto insinuates that even that protest is outside the bounds of legitimate discourse. And you've learned your lesson well, padawan, by the nonsensical use of the "assaulting the beliefs" language. Pray tell — exactly what kind of protest or speech is an "assault" on a "belief," and why, exactly, should we care in a free society?

    But when I went to El Coyote two weeks ago, it was a mad house. People screaming, spitting and pounding on the car windows of customers trying to drive by

    Spitting, under some circumstances, is assault. Banging on car windows is assault and, under some theories, battery. Arrest them. Sorry, screaming is usually kosher. Unless it violates neutral noise regulations. Now, I know that America was made great by people acting all decorous and stuff. It's really a shame your sensibilities were offended. Fortunately you can complain about it. (Well, maybe, unless that's somehow "intimidation" or "coercion." Booga booga booga!)

    all because one person working at the restaurant gave $100 to the campaign? Because she didn’t drop to her knees and grovel in apology? Because she didn’t pay off those threatening her?

    Yeah, from what I understand, because one person affiliated with ownership made a donation and stuck by it. Donating was her right, expressing outrage that dollars going to the restaurant wind up in the pockets of Yes on 8 was the right of the protesters. A perfectly plausible argument can be made that this was poor strategy, both short and long term, for same sex marriage supporters. But "intimidation and coercion"? Only if you water those terms down.

    For Marjorie Christofferson, it’s been devastating.

    She's facing the consequences of a political stance, as people have since there were political stances. She hasn't been jailed, sued, or otherwise suffered government-imposed consequences. Instead, people have exercised their individual choice not to patronize her restaurant, and have been noisy about their choice. Tell me, were you expressing outrage when the Yes on 8 campaign was sending letters to No on 8 donors threatening to expose them?

    This isn’t dissent – it’s mob intimidation and it’s meant to scare people.

    Saying it does not make it so. It is, in fact, dissent. To the extent it's protest and boycott, it's constitutionally protected. To the extent anyone committed assault, they should be arrested, and gotten out of the way so the rest of the protest can proceed apace.

    You’re big on dissent – fine.

    I love how you bring that up as if it is an oddity. How revealing.

    I love a free wheeling debate – but the day someone comes to my business and assaults customers of mine is the day the debate ends and the fistacuffs begin.

    It's not an internet disagreement until someone threatens imaginary violence. Hooray! I'm in favor of vigorous self-defense in the face of assaults, so if a protester gets violent and someone settles his shit for him, I'm perfectly satisfied. Somehow, however, I suspect you feel you've got the right to wade in with fists flying just because they're protesting.

    Everyone ought to have the right to hold a political opinion no matter how much another hates them for it

    Yes. But nobody has the right to be free of contempt, scorn, disagreement, dissent, condemnation, and ridicule by others.

    and there’s a lot of hate coming from your side.

    Truly same-sex marriage opponents are the most heart-rending tragic figures of the modern age. None of them are ever mean!

  3. RegularJoe says:

    Ken >> Somehow, however, I suspect you feel you've got the right to wade in with fists flying just because they're protesting.

    Could you please apply the same standard to this statement of yours as you applied to Shane's "fun and games" comment? (don't worry, the question was rhetorical).

    As for this one:
    Ken >> Truly same-sex marriage opponents are the most heart-rending tragic figures of the modern age. None of them are ever mean!
    I'm not sure how to even respond, other than "huh?" The pro-traditional-marriage folks I know are mostly pretty quiet folks who keep to themselves, but have a profoundly held belief that you don't willingly allow the government that represents you to profane things you hold sacred. I had been somewhat ambivalent, but leaning pro-same-sex-marriage until the recent intimidation tactics brought to bear in California. I've swung totally back into line with the traditionalists.

    I know, and you know, and the Becket folks know, that what gets reported in the news is the most sensational happenings — the boycott-turned-intimidation, the protest-turned-assault, the peacable-assembly-turned-riot. I've no doubt that most of the anti-8 crowd, like yourself, regret such excesses. Yet when you look at all of the activism by both sides in this issue, it seems the only activists that ever turn to violence and intimidation are the anti-8 crowd, not the pro-8. The Becket group is responding to those reports of exceptions. You can make the counter-argument that they ARE exceptions; but it really doesn't change the fact that the events they describe HAVE occurred.

    Fine with me if you tell me to mind my own business, but if you're willing to listen, I can tell you that your side in this issue would be well-served by better understanding your opponents. Traditional people are, for the most part, compassionate people, and not the least bit hateful. But they're traditional in lots of ways; and one of those is the "don't tread on me" attitude of not giving in to bullies. You will NEVER be able to FORCE traditional Americans to change their minds. You will change their minds when you can make your case by logic and sympathy, not by threats and intimidation.

    Or keep on with the in-your-face tactics that are 0-for-30 in referenda of this sort. Your choice.

  4. Ken says:

    Could you please apply the same standard to this statement of yours as you applied to Shane’s “fun and games” comment? (don’t worry, the question was rhetorical).

    I'd be happy to. A reasonable interpretation of Shane's specific language is that he views a wide and ambiguous range of protests — at least those with which he disagrees — as illegitimate or unlawful assaults. Such language includes his use of the loaded and touchy-feely term "assaulting the beliefs", the bald statement that a protest was not dissent, and the treatment of a devotion to the concept of dissent as if it were cute.

    The pro-traditional-marriage folks I know are mostly pretty quiet folks who keep to themselves, but have a profoundly held belief that you don’t willingly allow the government that represents you to profane things you hold sacred.

    I, in turn, think the government has no business policing sacredness, and that the prospect of it doing so threatens both the civil and the sacred. I look to my church for helping me understand what is sacred and profane, not to the people who run the DMV.

    Also, the issue is not merely pro-Proposition-8 forces in general, but the forces behind Proposition 8 in particular, and the crowd that seeks to classify all anti-Prop-8 activism as equivalent. Pimping a statement ostensibly in favor of religious tolerance that is signed by Bill Donahue ("Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity") and Chuck Colson (one of the most forceful adherents of the proposition that it is offensive to call Mormons Christians) is ludicrous and deserves criticism and ridicule.

    With respect to run-of-the-mill pro-traditional-marriage folks (to accept your term), as the plural of anecdote is not data, my experience is no more valid than yours. I think most people on both sides of the issue are decent. Some are not. (I'm thinking of the person who sent an unsolicited letter to everyone in my neighborhood about how the gays were destroying traditional marriage.)

    Yet when you look at all of the activism by both sides in this issue, it seems the only activists that ever turn to violence and intimidation are the anti-8 crowd, not the pro-8. The Becket group is responding to those reports of exceptions. You can make the counter-argument that they ARE exceptions; but it really doesn’t change the fact that the events they describe HAVE occurred.

    This is a function, in part, of who won. It's also a function of how you define your terms. Becket strongly implies (as many other have) that boycotts are mob-like and illegitimate intimidation. I don't hear those same people saying anything about how the Yes on 8 campaign sent out letters to No-on-8 donors demanding a donation and threatening to publish their names.

    My point is that the Becket quote is insinuating that the incidents of actual violence fairly represent the whole, and insinuating — without openly defending — the proposition that protests and boycotts are inherently illegitimate forms of discourse under these circumstances.

    Traditional people are, for the most part, compassionate people, and not the least bit hateful. But they’re traditional in lots of ways; and one of those is the “don’t tread on me” attitude of not giving in to bullies. You will NEVER be able to FORCE traditional Americans to change their minds. You will change their minds when you can make your case by logic and sympathy, not by threats and intimidation.

    That's entirely arguable. But it's not what I'm arguing about. I'm not defending Proposition 8 protests and boycotts as effective tools. I'm refuting the hypocritical assertion, disingenuously made, that those tools are beyond acceptable social discourse. The cultural right — including some of the same figures now wringing their hands about Prop 8 boycotts — indulges in cultural-orthodoxy boycotts all the time, and to hear them now say that boycotts are beyond the scope of acceptable social discourse is obnoxious and worthy of ridicule. For Pete's sake, William Donahue is a signatory to this NoMobVeto advertisement, and he's practically the king of cultural purity boycotts.

    Or keep on with the in-your-face tactics that are 0-for-30 in referenda of this sort. Your choice.

    This post is not intended as a defense of the political savvy shown by these tactics. Regarding that, they may well be counterproductive. Time will tell. Though I have to say that to me, the proposition that gay marriage and gay equality advocates should protest more decorously and take pains not to offend has certain historical echoes.

  5. RegularJoe says:

    Ken >> I look to my church for helping me understand what is sacred and profane, not to the people who run the DMV.

    Ken, I appreciate and agree with this. I'd love for the government to get out of the marriage recognizing business, and have advocated that for several years.

    But as long as it DOES recognize marriage, it has to define it — which is tricky business. Words are loaded with meaning, both denotative and connotative. In the case of "marriage", you can legislate its denotative meaning; but that won't change its connotative meaning. To traditional people, many of whom — having long forsaken any actual practice of faith — understand the term according to standards of either Jewish law or the Christian Bible, the connotation is a man and a woman. So if we don't wish to have the DMV (I like the analogy, BTW) limit the definition, do we then wish it to EXPAND that definition?

    To me, the answer to that question is neither obvious nor simple. Thus my ambivalence.

    I hope we can agree on a few things:
    1. That peaceable protest and boycotts are appropriate means of political persuasion, though empirically there is little evidence of their effectiveness.
    2. That virtually ANY approach, physical or through phone or mail, upon an individual in an attempt to intimidate — whether by violence, verbal abuse, or embarrassment — is inappropriate, and in some cases is criminal (this includes the reported contacting of anti-8 folks — btw, can you direct me to any authoritative documentation of this?).
    3. That "boycotts" are voluntary, and that the definition of "boycott" does not include intimidation of those who don't choose to participate in the boycott.
    4. That raising money (or giving money) for political advocacy, and using that money for peaceable political advocacy, is both a moral and constitutional right.
    5. That the mass of people on either side deserve better than to be lumped in with the radicals — either by referring to the "other side", broadly, as "spreading hate" or "getting violent".

    FWIW, in these tough economic times I'll donate my hard-earned mammon to the local food bank, an "adopt-a-family" program, The Salvation Army, and maybe a little something for my kids (even my liberal daughter ;o) ) — and not to the prop-8 ruckus. Sounds like there's plenty of "sound and fury" to go around without my donation.

  6. Ken says:

    That peaceable protest and boycotts are appropriate means of political persuasion, though empirically there is little evidence of their effectiveness.

    I have not done the research to say confidently whether that statement is true or not. However, some of the cases establishing that boycotts are constitutionally protected activity came in the context of civil rights era bus and business boycotts, which seemed by at least some measures to be effective.

    That virtually ANY approach, physical or through phone or mail, upon an individual in an attempt to intimidate — whether by violence, verbal abuse, or embarrassment — is inappropriate, and in some cases is criminal (this includes the reported contacting of anti-8 folks — btw, can you direct me to any authoritative documentation of this?).

    See, I like that you've sharpened the terms more, but I'm not sure what you mean by "inappropriate," and I'm pretty sure for most meanings of the word I don't agree. I think approaches that make the target reasonably fear violence are inappropriate by all definitions. But as to approaches that make the target fear embarrassment, I disagree, at least for many definitions of "inappropriate."

    I'm not sure what you would consider an acceptable source about the letter, but it was widely reported, and some sites even had copies. Here is the one of the first blog references I found after ten seconds on Google. The AP and others reported that Yes on 8 admitted to it.

    That “boycotts” are voluntary, and that the definition of “boycott” does not include intimidation of those who don’t choose to participate in the boycott.

    I'm sorry, I'm not following you on that one. Are you talking about intimidation of people who want to eat at a restaurant being boycotted?

    That raising money (or giving money) for political advocacy, and using that money for peaceable political advocacy, is both a moral and constitutional right.

    Oh, no short answers to THAT one. I happen to think that political donations should be recognized as a constitutional right. McCain/Feingold thought otherwise, and SCOTUS has not recognized the right to the extent I would prefer. If by "moral" right you mean a natural right inherent in personhood of the sort recognized by the Founders, I would tend to agree, though the right is not unlimited. However, none of these rights include a right to be free of criticism based on their exercise. (Whether there should be a right to anonymous donation is a more complicated question, recently discussed at the Volokh Conspiracy, if memory serves).

  7. Ken says:

    So if we don’t wish to have the DMV (I like the analogy, BTW) limit the definition, do we then wish it to EXPAND that definition?

    Forgot this point. My response is this: it's an error to regard the government's definition of marriage as altering — or purporting to alter– my faith's definition of marriage. That's an excuse for government/religion entanglement.

  8. RegularJoe says:

    Ken, I wish you and I could sit for lunch and discuss these things; I suspect we would agree on 99% of things in general.

    I confess to a certain sloppiness, however unintentional, in my last post (time is not abundant today, so I'm rushing — including this post). To be more specific, violence or the threat of violence toward political goals is and should be illegal. "Abusive language" as a legal matter is often (though not always) covered by free speech rights; but is often, especially when directed at an individual who is a private citizen, a moral wrong. For example, if I see someone in a parking lot with a bumper sticker I disagree with, I would consider it wrong for me to loudly and publicly tell them how stupid they are. It MIGHT be legal (depends on who owns the parking lot, other technicalities), but it would be morally indefensible.

    As to my meaning on boycotts being voluntary, I was clear enough that you correctly guessed my meaning; but not so clear that you didn't have to guess. Yes, I mean that it is morally wrong, and in most cases I suspect illegal, to attempt to prevent someone from obtaining a legal product or service. The case histories of abortion protesters is clear enough on that one.

    My comments regarding donations toward political advocacy blithely disregarded limitations imposed by McCain/Feingold. I agree with you that it was a travesty, and one of several instances of Republicans betraying conservative principals during the 'W' years. And I further agree with what I THINK you're implying, that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and the key is not to limit AMOUNTS so much as to disclose SOURCES. But in my defense I'll argue that the context was "things I hope we can agree on" — which, to me, referred to moral right, not legal right, as the legalities aren't subject to our agreement or disagreement.

    On your last point, government has had a de facto definition of marriage, based on the (until very recently) universally accepted definition of the word. Webster has added verbiage to acknowledge that marriage in some locales can be same-gender; but ye olde definition specifically and explicitly defined it as a man and a woman (but inclusive of the potential for a man or woman to be married to more than one person, simultaneously or serially). So inclusion of gay unions under the auspices of "marriage" DOES, in my view, constitute a re-definition of the term. The question is whether government should do so.

    I am coming to realize that the question revolves primarily around the definition of the word. Language is a fundamentally democratic mechanism — words mean what we all agree they mean. Thus, the thing on my foot is a 'shoe', and not a 'glove'. The differentiation is not to demean gloves, but to define 'shoe'. It is beyond the power of mere government to control people's attitudes towards shoes and gloves, and redefining the terms is unlikely to accomplish anything other than piss a lot of people off.

    In summation (and then I'm going home!) I have ample respect for principled and civil advocates of both sides of the issue (a camp in which you seem to reside), and utter contempt for ANYONE who would attempt to bully those who disagree. Ultimately, the societal approval gay people seek will not be brought about by governmental edict, and it SURELY won't be brought about by intimidation.

  1. December 16, 2008

    [...] of moderation like Chuck Colson and Alveda King. [P.S.: Thanks to Ken in comments for pointing to this post exposing the dodginess of the actual content of the Becket [...]