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My daughter has become the subject of a fair amount of hate mail because she presents her animal rights beliefs boldly and often critically. Recently she commented, on a feminist blog, that the blog owner, who was spending many pages gushing on her new dog, should not have purchased the dog from a breeder.

There are a couple of reasons it is better to find an animal at the pound or another shelter than to purchase an animal from a breeder. Among them: breeders add to the pet overpopulation problem and when you pay money for an animal you are considering that animal your property - and many people feel they can just trade them in for a newer or different type model when the animal is somehow inconvenient. There are other reasons but these are not the subject of this post.

Elaine was attacked on all fronts for espousing her animal rights views in a feminist forum. In fact, oddly, many people said "this is not the place for this discussion" and proceeded to attack her arguments. (One wonders - if it is not the place then why continue the discussion?) The incident even made it to the pages of salon.com (Elaine's comments on the article here and here), where the blog owner is represented as a hapless victim of Elaine's strident animal rights attacks. And again, one wonders - if she didn't want that in there why not just delete it? It's her blog.

Finally, my point: many of the attackers attacked how Elaine presented her views rather than the views themselves. "I might listen to you if you said it nicely", is the jist of those comments.

It's a variation of the ad hominen fallacy. Attack the messenger. Obviously, it's easier to do that because you don't have to do any research or actual thinking yourself. Just respond to the tone of the post.

The same thing is happening with the leadership of the Democratic party. Over and over I hear fellow Dems groan and say "They aren't presenting it right". Much as I love Lakoff and the concept of framing, and much as I agree that to win an election these days you have to frame things right, I believe it's a sad, sorry state of affairs. It means the public is a vast uneducated blob that must be fed baby food. It isn't ready for the solid stuff. We aren't ready to think for ourselves, much less do the work, actually study the subjects and consider the arguments critically.

Democracy ultimately will not succeed if the electorate is ignorant. I hate that this is what we have become, and that we want entertaining ways to be taught, we don't want to do the work. We are all responsible for our own knowledge or lack of knowledge. If we can't get the facts we must demand them, loudly. Interestingly, we usually can get them if we take the time to look.

Elaine's post on the firing of a teacher, because he had the audacity to challenge school materials that promoted milk, points out the failings of our school systems in teaching critical thinking. A public whose members cannot think critically is going down. The writing, damn it, is on the wall. 


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 12th, 2007 04:52 pm (UTC)
"Democracy ultimately will not succeed if the electorate is ignorant."
So true.

This was a great article. Thanks for writing it.
You should consider sending a modified version, one without references to me, as a letter to the editor or something...

Sep. 12th, 2007 05:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Perhaps I will. I think of Salon.com as one of the better online mags but even the better ones slip and don't think things through all the time.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


Judith Lautner
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