Sunday, March 11, 2007

Dense Much?

Reading Peggy Noonan's latest missive1 in the Wall Street Journal I was reminded of the episode of The Simpsons where Homer inadvertently attempts to jump Springfield Gorge on a skateboard:

Here is what has been said the past week or so that sparked argument: Bill Maher, on HBO, said a lot of lives would be saved if Vice President Cheny had died, and Ann Couler, at a conservative political meeting, suggested John Edwards is a "faggot."

She was trying to be funny and get a laugh. He was trying to startle and get applause.

Looking good so far. Can she make it?

What followed was the predictable kabuki in which politically active groups and individuals feigned dismay as opposed to what many of them really felt, which was grim delight.

She's going to make it...

The truth is many liberals were dismayed by Mr. Maher because he made them look bad, and many conservatives were made at Ms. Coulter for the same reason.

She's going to make it...

One of the clearest statements ever about the implied limits of legitimate political discourse was made by the imprisoned Socrates in his first dialogue with Crito, when he said, "That's not nice." Actually, it was your grandmother who said "That's not nice." She's the one who probably taught you the wince. It is her wisdom, encapsulated in those three simple words, that is missing from the current debate.

She's not going to make it... oh look at the mess... someone's going to have to clean that up.

"Be nice"? That's Peggy Noonan's sage advice, that if your grandmother wouldn't have thought it was nice you shouldn't say it? My god, the WSJ pays for this tripe?

Her grandmother probably also thought it wasn't nice to point out that husbands beat their wives, but that doesn't mean we should brush that conversation under the rug. Important political truths are often unpleasant; it's more or less a statement of fact that Dick Cheney is personally responsible for a war that's caused the deaths of so many people. What's so hard about this distinction? There's substantive discourse, dealing with things like the policy decisions of the Vice President, and then there's non-substantive discourse... say... calling John Edwards a faggot. Peggy Noonan and her ilk seem to be unable to tell the two apart. One of them is necessary for the proper operation of the state while the other is a totally unwarranted distraction from actual discourse. Deciding which is which is left as an exercise for the reader.


1 'That's Not Nice', WSJ, 2/10/2007. Apologies for the lack of link, but the WSJ bastard's keep all of their content behind a paywall, even for us poor stiffs who have a print subscription.

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