As I watch the current argument (see “I must have hit a nerve” posting from a few days ago) unfold between armyanimaldoc and John Grant, it’s becoming clearer to me that there’s just about no way to resolve the issues between the two. Here are some of the reasons why–
1. Both participants are very firmly lodged in their positions. That’s not a bad thing, in and of itself, but one of the first rules of persuasion is that at least one side has to be persuadable. Nothing, so far, indicates that either is willing to change his thinking.
2. The standards for evidence are incommensurate. Doc served in Iraq and saw who knows what. Some of it he refers to, not in any detail, and keeps playing his first-hand experience as a trump card. I’m certainly willing to acknowledge that he knows things we don’t. But I’m not satisfied simply with being told that, without knowing what any of those things actually are. If we were operating from a blank slate, that is, if we hadn’t heard before the argument that we didn’t need to see the evidence before we simply accepted claims on good faith, this might be different. But even the most strident supporter of the mission in Iraq has to understand why opponents are suspicious. John, on the other hand, has some eye-witness knowledge of conditions on the ground in Iraq (and more broadly as a soldier). Again, without a more detailed explication of his eye-witness experience, it’s hard to know what he’s seen that Doc hasn’t and vice versa. However, John also turns to historical evidence (other US imperial ventures) as a context for understanding what we’re doing in Iraq, and Doc doesn’t seem interested (at least for now) in responding to that. I won’t speculate as to why–I skipped my mindreader pill this morning.
3. As I started to think aloud about in a comment on the “Nerve” post last night, there’s no way anybody besides the two of them will know who said what to whom on the phone. And even they don’t seem to know since they can’t even begin to agree on it. What that suggests to me is that both of them heard what they expected to hear, even if it’s not what the other said. It’s natural (such as “natural” actually exists) to do this. Our brains fill in gaps, and often we turn to our assumptions and expectations to do so. Where else would we turn? In this case, however, because the assumptions are so flatly contradictory, there’s not even a way to tease them out, much less resolve them.
4. One requirement of persuasion, at least ethical persuasion, is trust. Not only does the audience have to trust the speaker–otherwise you won’t believe anything they say (duh?)–but also the speaker has to trust the audience. Speakers who don’t trust their audiences tend to do one of two things. Either they simply bludgeon the audience into submission in hopes that the audience will accept the message out of fear or frustration, or they attack the audience’s motives for disagreeing with them in the first place. Both of those strategies are troubling because they automatically rupture any possibility of reasonable exchange. In this case, neither CCVM nor CCPM trusts the other side for long lists of reasons. Obviously, from my point of view, CCPM is more trustworthy (gee, what I surprise!). For Skye and others to claim that CCVM hasn’t harassed us because we don’t have it on video is simply disingenuine. Wasn’t in Donald Rumsfeld who said, “Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence?” On the other hand, if the members of CCVM *really* believe that CCPM wants to overthrow the government, support terrorism, etc, then it’s no surprise they won’t trust us. And it doesn’t matter how much evidence we muster to demonstrate the absurdity of their claims because they’ve simply decided already.
By the way, I did cruise the Sheepdogs website the other day and saw the victory dance somebody was doing at the discovery that I claim Marxism as a field of study. Gee, ya got me! Of course, without asking me what my interest is in Marxism (which, in point of fact, is more to debunk it than to propagate it), you wouldn’t have any idea what I teach or study about it. Which is yet another example of my point–the assumption that studying Marxism is the same as subscribing to it is just wrong. But that didn’t stop people from saying it anyway. Hope this clarifies that issue!
Enough for today.