Monday, May 17, 2010

Word Vomit Redux

Lori Ziganto recently singled me out for ridiculing her personal motto, "Walk softly, but carry a big lipstick."  I wouldn't say that I ridiculed it; rather, I tried to express my inability to grasp its meaning.  And I did so in a rather abusive post in which I ridiculed Ziganto's absurd interpretation of a statement recently made by President Obama.

The perceptive reader would have noticed a similarity between the abusive language I used in that post and the language Ziganto uses when attacking liberals.  In my post, I talked about Ziganto's "hysterical, dimwitted screeds," and bemoaned her "predictable conservative shrieking about Obama."  I called her an "hysterical conservative blogger" and openly wondered how her "overworked, sputtering brain" could square her "hysterical little essay" about Obama with the facts. 

This similarity was intended not only to parody Ziganto's writing but also to show that Ziganto herself is guilty of the hysteria she imagines in the liberal opposition.  In a post about abortion, Ziganto calls the blog Feministing a "hot bed of predictable feminist shrieking."  And in the more recent post in which she singles me out, Ziganto complains about what she calls the "irksome hysterical screeching" of feminists.  In fact, a search of Ziganto's blog for the word "hysterical" yields ten entries, a seach for "shrieking" yields ten entries, and a search for "screeching" yields a dozen.  However, as my post about Ziganto's criticism of Obama's statement shows, if anyone is guilty of hysterical shrieking, it is Ziganto herself.  "Only in the mind of an hysterical conservative blogger is acknowledging the costs of war a condemnation of military strength," I wrote.

This hysteria seems typical of Ziganto's writing.  Take the post about abortion that I mentioned.  According to Ziganto, pro-choice feminists who believe that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare" actually want to "make sure that as many children are aborted as humanly possible."  To Ziganto, pro-choice feminists "don’t care about the dead babies" and believe that "an unborn baby is . . . just a clump of cells."  She ridicules pro-choicers who in her mind "[love] encouraging abortion because a baby, a human life, doesn’t fit in with your super fun college plans."

I myself recently wrote that abortion ought to be safe, legal, and rare.  But I don't believe anything Ziganto claims I believe.  And I took some offense to being caricatured in such a crude manner.  (But Ziganto has money to raise, and to hell with getting the stupid facts right.  More on that later.)  Ziganto's post is what they call a strawman in the rudimentary critical thinking textbooks.  She caricatures the pro-choice position as being a lot more radical and therefore a lot less plausible than in actually is, so that it is easier to "knock down."  If you want to know why conservatives are often thought of as being dim-witted and uninterested in subtleties, Ziganto's post is Exhibit A.  To be pro-choice is not to be pro-abortion.  To be pro-choice is not to think that the fetus deserves no moral consideration.  To be pro-choice is not to think that abortion is justified in all circumstances.  And that is why it is plausible to characterize Ziganto's criticism of pro-choice feminists as . . . hysterical

I understand why Ziganto's writing tends toward the hysterical.  She is trying to raise money, not only for herself, but for RedState, and one way a blogger can raise money is to fire up the base, and one way a blogger can fire up the base is by making all kinds of hysterical non-factual assertions the blogger might not even accept.  Here is one difference between Ziganto and me: I am not in the business of raising money.  There are no ads on my blog.  And if I ever encourage you to donate money to anything, it will be for reasons that I actually accept, and I will explain those reasons to you. 

But there is another reason why I wrote such an abusive post.  As my profile states,
I believe that it is time that we stop demonizing those with whom we disagree and discuss our disagreements in a rational and respectful manner, though I also believe that those who willingly employ irrational means of persuasion in such discussions deserve no respect.
I believe that I have just shown that Ziganto indeed employs irrational means of persuasion and is therefore deserving of the abuse I have heaped on her.  She may be a perfectly pleasant and decent human being, but as a blogger she has not earned my respect. 

Let us return to Ziganto's personal motto.  The phrase, "Walk softly, but carry a big lipstick" recalls a statement popularized by President Theodore Roosevelt: "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."  At least, that's what it reminded me of.  And the similarity between the two suggests that further similarities are intended.  And this is where I become confused.  If wikipedia is to be trusted, Roosevelt is to be interpreted as advocating "negotiating peacefully, [while] simultaneously threatening with the 'big stick,' or the military."  So, the stick is to be thought of as a weapon of some sort.  But in what sense is a lipstick a weapon?  A lipstick cannot be usefully employed as a projectile or a club or a sword.  Does Ziganto intend the lipstick to symbolize the use of sexuality as a weapon?  And in what alternate universe would that be considered feminist?  The point is this: once you try to understand just what the phrase means, you realize that it's not clear at all what it means.

Perhaps Ziganto will do us all a favor and explain what her personal motto means.  I've given it some thought and I really don't know.

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson