Monday, October 16, 2006

Troublemakers always defend themselves

For over a month the blogosphere has been disturbed by criticism of how the young woman is standing in front of Bill Clinton in the above picture. Have you felt it? I didn't. Then I came across a parody of this substituting George Bush and some young men. I didn't get it. Then I followed the links and oh, now I get it. Still the original story is much more interesting. A Wisconsin law professor, Ann Althouse, saw the above picture. She first decided the choice of who decided to stand where must not have been random, and then went on to speculate about exactly what was wrong with those involved to produce this picture. Where would a real feminist stand, if one even would be in the same room as Mr. Clinton? A summary appeared recently in The Huffington Post.

One commentator concluded that Bill Clinton's pink face must be a sign of sexual arousal related to the young woman in question. I can think of other possible explanations. This comes up so often on the internet, so often in political and religious propaganda anywhere that whatever possibility the speaker thinks of must be true. No, there are many possibilities to be considered if one is to make sense of anything.

Also familiar was that Ann Althouse took no heed of those who commented on her blog to warn her that she was making a fool of herself. I didn't read through that many comments like this, but the ones I saw were expertly turned aside by Althouse. She attacked the person making the comment. She attacked the substance of the comment. I'm sure she is well trained to do that. Unfortunately that's not the same sort of training that insures that someone can look at a picture such as the one above and give a good answer to, "Is anything wrong here?" Only troublemakers would answer "Yes" in this case.

I used to feel discouraged that I didn't have the right words to defeat people who said silly things on the internet about science being wrong, mostly regarding evolution but on other issues as well. Then I came to realize that it didn't matter what words I used. Just disagreeing with people triggers personal attacks against me and my reasoning ability. No matter how much substance there is to something I say, someone who doesn't like it will deny it. If I throw in a lot of substantive comments, those in denial will just pick out whichever one they can deny the best. Troublemakers are often skilled at making themselves sound reasonable, be they fundamentalists attacking science, atheists attacking God, or political partisans attacking everything their opponents stand for. Ann Althouse is my latest example of someone who defends herself in this very well, yet is dead wrong in doing so.

Look at the picture again. Then read Althouse's attacks. Apart from a few fellow travelers, it's easy to see that Althouse has made a fool of herself. If her beliefs lead her to say this picture is an outrage, then her beliefs are worthless. They led her astray. Of course maybe her words are all a way to indirectly express some anger. Fine. Let her apologize and give an improved understanding of where her words came from. I won't hold my breath for anything so insightful. Such insight is so rare.

In the meantime this is what public discourse is like. So many people are so angry about so many things, and defend everything they say about that, no matter how silly, especially if there's any kind of group to support them in their attacks on certain people or aspects of society. I'm glad that reality goes on despite how people speak about it. I'm convinced that God is more in the reality of life than in any words. Maybe someday it will be common knowledge that the people and things that troublemakers attack are rarely the complete story of what's wrong.

What's wrong with that picture? Nothing, the disturbance was really all about something else.

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