Quite a bit of our political discourse is, to put it non-discoursively, nothing but shouting. The participants, whether consciously or otherwise, simply reject the use of facts and reasoning. They shout by preference.
Time was, this was not considered acceptable conduct in a discussion intended to establish which of two policy directions was the preferable one. Today it appears to be the default route. Moreover, Left-inclined persons typically adopt it from the outset of any exchange, under the pretense of having been “triggered.”
This video, supplied by commenter Brinster, provides an example. Though it’s unpleasant to watch, the illustration it provides is valuable:
The young black woman who leaps into the fray screeching about how she’ll owe a substantial amount of money for her college education while her white contemporaries won’t – a dubious assertion, to say the least – is practicing the Anger Gambit. It’s a tough thrust to parry, because for some decades now whites have been conditioned to respond to an angry outburst with conciliation, especially when the angry person is black. This overlooks the tactical nature of the outburst. It is essentially tactical rather than sincere even if the speaker is sincerely angry.
There is no calm-yet-profitable way to reply to such an outburst. Conciliation is the least desirable route, as it tends to ratify the speaker’s complaint as legitimate and relevant. That is seldom the case in political discourse.
Yet consider the roots of the speaker’s complaint, assuming it’s factual:
- She attends a college that charges tuition and fees, as most such do.
- Her earnings and savings aren’t adequate to meet those charges.
- Her parents, assuming they’re alive, can’t or won’t defray the balance.
Look at the assumptions behind those assertions:
- She assumes she has a right to attend that college.
- She assumes that other people have an obligation to pay for it.
- She assumes that being black will protect her from counterfire.
The appalling thing is that such assumptions go unquestioned far more often than not. But would it be effective to respond as follows:
- “What makes you think you have a right to go to college?”
- “Why didn’t you work and save for a few years, so you could afford it?”
- “Why are white people responsible for giving you what you want at no cost to you?”
Scorn and laughter will occasionally carry the day against the Anger Gambit – but seldom. They must issue from someone of impervious confidence and bearing. White men with such qualifications are rare in our time.
Central to all this is our reluctance to meet anger with anger.
I am a racist, a sexist, an ableist, a homophobe, and an Islamophobe. I admit it freely. Able-bodied white Christian heterosexual males built Western Civilization. Non-whites, non-Christians, homosexuals, the handicapped, and women have made only minor contributions, though they enjoy the benefits. If they can’t afford or partake of some of the benefits, it’s no fault of ours.
That attitude equips me to meet the Anger Gambit with heavy counterfire of a sort that’s rare in such exchanges. It’s also why I rarely involve myself in such exchanges. They have a nasty habit of descending to violence. I dislike the consequences of interpersonal violence, even when all the bleeding and broken limbs accrue to the other party.
But counterfire, even when the consequences are successfully weathered, doesn’t change anyone’s mind. If third parties, unpersuaded prior to the exchange, are listening, they’re likely to walk away thinking “A pox on both their houses.” So from the perspective of one who seeks improvement rather than the mere visceral satisfaction of meeting provocation with a good vent, there’s no point.
I’m increasingly pissed off by what I’m seeing and I resent the people behind it. Guys like Juan Williams should be on TV demanding the cops round up every last Charlotte rioter and pack them off to Africa. The rich black guys on TV talking sportsball should be mortified that their co-ethnics are embarrassing their race with these antics. If the roles were reversed and it was whites making asses of themselves, you can be sure the honkies on TV would be furious and embarrassed, demanding a halt to it.
That’s not how it works and that’s what is getting tiresome. Those two black girls get the idea in their heads to make a nuisance of themselves in the street and I’m supposed to feel guilty about it. Frankly, Glenn Reynolds was right. Let’s have a few motorists drive over these people and then we can talk about feeling guilty. Let’s have the cops unleash the dogs and water cannon on these rioters and then talk to me about feeling guilty. I’ll be happy to feel guilty as long as the streets are clear.
I’ve simply had enough.
Open-if-insincere anger versus repressed-but-justified anger. Who wins?
Mind you, this is not an argument against getting angry. It’s about what anger-in-discourse means and how it can be used.
The Left’s adoption of a politics of division compels them to brandish anger as their principal weapon. And to the extent that it gains its objectives, it will be emulated and intensified.
To prevent Leftist anger-in-discourse from gaining its objectives, we must meet anger with anger – and our anger must be of incomparably greater magnitude.
There’s already a perceptible movement in that direction. Whites are sick and tired for being blamed for the myriad failures of American blacks. Christians are sick and tired of being persecuted de facto for their beliefs. Men have pretty much had it with feminists and their endless shrill denunciations. And so on.
It’s a start, but only a start. It must grow, and become vocal, and to the extent required by circumstances – girls, hold onto your boyfriends -- it must meet violence with superior force.
That will be a sticking point for many, who prefer to leave “that sort of thing” to the politicians, organizers, and commentators (and the superior force part, of course, to “the authorities”). However, dealing ourselves out because we’re private persons who “just want to be left alone” is no longer viable...especially as “the authorities” are tacitly complicit in the Left’s tactics. Consider the “official” reactions to the rioting in Ferguson, Baltimore, Charlotte, and Milwaukee.
Paddy Chayevsky’s Howard Beale had the right idea:
I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be.
We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!'
So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"
But yelling out the window mustn’t be the end of it. The Anger Gambit is too resilient to be defeated that way.
Give it some thought.