Shining city on a hill

by Chris Bertram on November 4, 2004

Since 9/11 American nationalists have not been shy to tell us about the marvellous things that the United States have brought to the world. And I agree with them. The US Constitution, the struggle against slavery, the struggle for civil rights, the greatest city in the world (New York), the blues, jazz, soul. I could go on and on. I might even, on a generous day, include Hollywood. I love those Americas, and I always will. I’d like to thank them for standing against the strident nationalists and George W. Bush.
—The thirteen original states that brought us the Constitution voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry. [1]—The states that didn’t secede and which fought against slavery voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry.—Black America which brought us in Martin Luther King, one of the greatest moral exemplars of modern times as well as the blues, jazz and soul voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry.—California, home of the modern motion picture industry, voted for Kerry.

These are the great American achievements: the United States’ lasting contribution to freedom, culture and progress. Sadly, that America, the America of which Americans have the most reason to be proud and foreigners have the most reason to admire, just lost. Again.

fn1. UPDATE This is ambiguous and, on one resolution of the ambiguity, false. Since some commenters are incapable of doing charitable disambiguation themselves, let me do it for them: an electoral college based on the original 13 states would have voted in Kerry by an landslide.

{ 103 comments }

1

Rich 11.04.04 at 11:52 am

What, you don’t rate prime Texas beef as a lasting contribution?

I found the continued references like “we saved you in WWII, don’t tell us what to do” immensely depressing. No, you didn’t. Your fathers or grandfathers did.

2

asg 11.04.04 at 11:52 am

The thirteen original states that brought us the Constitution voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry.

Nine of them, anyway.

3

Dan Hardie 11.04.04 at 11:54 am

I note that the wealth of the British cities of Bristol and Liverpool was largely founded upon the slave trade, and that the populations of those cities largely opposed the abolition of slavery. By God, if I ever meet anyone who comes from or lives in one of those cities, I shall remind him that he does not belong to ‘the Britain of which Britons have the most reason to be proud’…

4

Chris Bertram 11.04.04 at 12:00 pm

Would have been 107 to 51 in the an electoral college based on the original 13 (or 107 to 56 if you reunite Virginia). A Kerry landslide.

5

Digger 11.04.04 at 12:00 pm

What, no helping out in WWI and WII?

No contribution by great American inventors, artists nd philanthropists?

Nothing about our cold war stance?

You totally discount all the others states that were founded between the original thirteen and California?

You discount all the rock and roll voters? Even with people like Springsteen supporting Kerry.

How about the Cuban vote that is majority Republican? They don’t deserve the respect you give the black vote?

What a strange post. To discount so much that America has done in order to pick just four that support your argument.

Look around you, America still has some good things about it, I know it’s hard to believe.

6

Chris Bertram 11.04.04 at 12:04 pm

Very good Dan! I was born in Nottingham as it happens, despite working in Bristol and supporting Liverpool FC.

7

dsquared 11.04.04 at 12:14 pm

I wrote about this is somewhat more vulgar terms a while ago …

8

Matt McGrattan 11.04.04 at 12:15 pm

“The US Constitution, the struggle against slavery, the struggle for civil rights, the greatest city in the world (New York), the blues, jazz, soul.”

OK, I’ll give you the last 3 of these, and not argue about New York — the best city in the world is clearly Glasgow :-) but I’m not about to argue about it.

However, the others?

Is the US Constitution really an inspiration to us? By us I mean Europeans in general and the British in particular? I’d be surprised. The Constitution of the US is just a statement of the particular arrangements of the US political system.

Bits of the Declaration of Independence are pretty inspiring. The whole “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” stuff. It might not be the first statement of these claims but it’s an inspirationally phrased one.

The Constitution on the other hand, I just don’t get how that’s the US’s gift to the world.

Opposition to slavery… how is that the US’s gift to the world? The British had abolished slavery completely by 1833 and had already passed legislation impeding the slave trade by 1807. It’d make much more sense to talk of opposition to slavery as, for example, a Quaker gift to the world.

[Not trying to be anti-American here, there are lots of wonderful contributions to world culture. Just seems like a wierd list.]

9

Dan Hardie 11.04.04 at 12:18 pm

Okay, I’ll dig something out about Nottingham, but Bristol stands. I have to say the Nottingham’s treatment of Cloughie after his resignation was pretty shabby.

10

Carolos Obscuros 11.04.04 at 12:19 pm

“Martin Luther King, one of the greatest moral exemplars of modern times…”

Oh yeah?

MLK was one of the greatest plagiarists of the 20th century. And much of what he didn’t plagiarize, he got ghost-written.

For more, read Theodore Pappas’ book on the subject, which needless to say
got treated with dynamic silence by the politically correct establishment ( ‘Plagiarism and the Culture War: The Writings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Other Prominent Americans’).

For a review of Pappas’ book, see here.

11

dsquared 11.04.04 at 12:26 pm

More of a Malcolm X man, eh Carolos?

(by the way, here’s an “inside blogsball” snippet for you; Carolos is a regular commentator on the “Gene Expression” website. What an amazing coincidence that someone’s academic interests should run not only to sociobiology and IQ studies, but also to revisionist history about Martin Luther King! Truly a renaissance man! Do you have any opinions on criminology, Carolos?)

12

Ron 11.04.04 at 12:33 pm

The fact is, our democracy was an inspiration to the world in the time of Benjamin Franklin (who died a rabid abolitionist).
I think this election, even though the outcome is disappointing. Was a great success for progressive American. We got the democratic party to unify around some important issues and managed to get 55 million votes among the part of America that looks to the future. Let’s keep it up!

13

Scott Martens 11.04.04 at 12:35 pm

One of the great frustrations of American politics is that they are still fighting the Civil War. A century and a half later, the North-South division has shifted a bit – Florida is a lot less southern, the Ohio valley a lot more southern, and the west and the plains have gone from radical progressive states to head-up-their-butts reactionary – but it’s still the south versus the north, and the south still aims to win.

Look at the issues on the agenda: Civil rights, states’ rights, “traditional” values. And, they vote for the rule of a land owning gentry, which the serfs like to believe makes them earthy and closer to their own concerns than those fat cats on the coast.

They never get over it. Never. Every time you you hear the words “Nascar dad”, think “buckrah” and every time you hear “liberal” from some right-wing yahoo, think “Yankee.” Then things start to make sense.

14

Dan Hardie 11.04.04 at 12:46 pm

To be honest, I’m as sick as anyone of the ‘we won World War two for you Eurowimps’ stuff, but it is just a little peculiar that Chris can’t see, for example, little things like the liberation of Western Europe from a genocidal lunatic, or the rebuilding of said continent via the Marshall Plan, as being, perhaps, almost worthy of praise. And no doubt the majority of the US troops in Europe in ’44 voted Democrat, but I’m grateful to all of them, Texans, Mississipians and Alabamans included. But then I’ve visited Pointe Du Hoc.

In the meantime, I hope all you Alaskans, Idahoians, Hawaiians etc are putting on sackcloth and ashes to repent for the rather, um, limited role your states played in fighting the British and the Confederates…

15

jet 11.04.04 at 12:47 pm

This is the most depressing post I’ve read since the defeat. And as someone who voted for Bush, I almost feel bad for voting that way….Almost ;)

But you need to get a grip. Just how would Kerry have been different? What IN THE FUTURE would Kerry have changed? Would he have stopped the exporting of suspects for torture? Too late, that’s already done. Would he have pulled up stakes in Iraq? Gotten the world (France and Germany) into Iraq? Would he have made patty-cake with Faluja? Or perhaps, he would have ordered the air force to cease bombing targets for the Army (prompting a major retirement at the Pentagon and impeachment of himself)? Of did you think Kerry would stop US jobs from moving overseas? Perhaps you liked Kerry’s idea of subsidizing dieing industries? Or perhaps you thought that Kerry’s reversal of some of Bush’s tax cuts would give remove the yearly deficit? Or maybe you worry that Rov V Wade is in danger, or that Kerry would have shoved gay marriage down America’s throat whether 65-70% didn’t want it or not.

There wasn’t world shaking differences between the two, so buck up and try again in 4 more years. Holy shit I feel like I’m back at the homeless shelter trying to talk drunks into restarting their lives.

16

Jimmy Doyle 11.04.04 at 12:48 pm

Hey dsquared,

Do I have your permission to use your last comment as an illustration for my students of the ‘ad hominem fallacy’?

In other news, the review ‘Carolus’ links to talks of “shamelss intellectuals… spin(ing) tales of Thomas Jefferson begetting slave offspring.” DNA analysis has recently established these “tales” as indubitably true.

17

Matt 11.04.04 at 12:51 pm

On the US Constitution, Robert Dahl has made a pretty good case, in his book _How Democratic is the US Constitution_ that the actual structure of the US constitution has been minimally influential. But, it seems at least prima facie plausible that the idea of a written constitution, and that this could be a real limit on government power- all starting w/ the US, I believe- has been important and influential.

18

Reinder Dijkhuis 11.04.04 at 12:53 pm

Oops.. I posted a followup, then thought about it and deleted it again. Ignore the trackback, folks.

19

Russell Arben Fox 11.04.04 at 12:57 pm

“Black America which brought us in Martin Luther King, one of the greatest moral exemplars of modern times as well as the blues, jazz and soul voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry.”

I don’t disagree. Though this might not be a good path to go down, since there is no way of knowing if MLK would have been the moral leader he was if it hadn’t been for white oppression, and since to the extent that blues, jazz and soul music has its roots in the black church and call-and-response rhythm of gospel, praising it kind of obliges one to retro-actively appreciate the “contributions” of those who enslaved them. History’s complicated, what can you say.

20

Reinder Dijkhuis 11.04.04 at 12:57 pm

By the way, I do think the US constitution is inspirational. Not the core document which just sets out the structure of government, but the amendments definitely are.
What’s best about it is the fact that you can read the whole thing including the Bill of Rights in an hour and have the condensed wisdom of the best thinkers of the late 18th century, plus wisdom gained later from actually running a democratic republic, all in a concise, clear document. It’s good stuff.

21

Jonathan Edelstein 11.04.04 at 12:58 pm

The Constitution on the other hand, I just don’t get how that’s the US’s gift to the world.

Not the Constitution itself so much as the idea of constitutional supremacy.

22

Matt McGrattan 11.04.04 at 1:02 pm

“But, it seems at least prima facie plausible that the idea of a written constitution, and that this could be a real limit on government power- all starting w/ the US, I believe- has been important and influential.”

Both the idea of a written constitutional settlement and the idea of a real limit on government power predate the US constitution by quite a bit.

The constitutional settlement of 1688/89 after the ‘glorious revolution’ in England, for example, which substantially prefigures much of what ends up in the US constitution.

23

Matt McGrattan 11.04.04 at 1:06 pm

reinder dijkhus:

Yeah,I was thinking of the Constitution itself rather than the Bill of Rights — which I think has served much more as an inspiration.

24

Russell Arben Fox 11.04.04 at 1:08 pm

“One of the great frustrations of American politics is that they are still fighting the Civil War….They never get over it. Never.”

America’s an imagined political community, to quote Benedict Anderson’s definition: we’re like any other nation. Which means our identity can’t ever easily overcome the historical and material legacy of those who have done the imagining. The legacy and resentments of Quebec loom over the Canadian federation, and probably always will; the defeat of the South, and everything that was lost with it (90% of which was bad and worth intervening against), continues to lurk in American religion, politics, economics, and society. You can wish Sherman had done a better job in his march to the sea, or you can accept the facts on the ground–not all of them, by any means, but perhaps at least a few of them–and build a better politics from that point forward. A little bit of Charles Taylor’s “deep diversity” would go a long way in America today.

25

JA 11.04.04 at 1:41 pm

‘The states that didn’t secede and which fought against slavery voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry’

Just to point out what should be obvious here, although apparently isn’t: The people who lived in the seceding states in the 1860s *are not* the same people who just voted to re-elect George Bush. So the implication of your post that people living in the Southern United States today are somehow the moral and political heirs of slaveholders and secessionists is bizarre and insulting.

Difficult though you may find it to accept this, George Bush was re-elected because a majority of Americans (many of whom are not prejudiced rednecks yearning for the re-introduction of slavery)wanted him to be their president.

26

dsquared 11.04.04 at 1:41 pm

Do I have your permission to use your last comment as an illustration for my students of the ‘ad hominem fallacy’

You have my permission to make an ass of yourself if you like, but all you’d be doing is showing that you don’t know what the term means.

Saying “Carolos is a racist, so you should not believe what he says” would be an ad hominem fallacy.

Saying “Have you heard the news? Carolos is a racist!” would not be; it might be factually incorrect, but it’s not an argument so it can’t be a fallacy.

Saying “Carolos appears to be obsessed with gathering facts which show black people in an unfavourable light, therefore I think he’s a racist” is the argument I actually made.

You might disagree with the premis (you might think that there’s nothing unusual about that combination of interests), or you might disagree that the premises support the conclusion (you might think that there is no connection between wanting to know lots of things about black people being inferior and being a racist), but neither of these arguments would turn on the argumentum ad hominem, because my statement about Carolos’ character and personality is the conclusion of my argument, not its premis.

On second thoughts, I don’t want young Americans to be taught to be ignorant, so no, you do not have permission to reproduce my statement. That post is my copyright and I hereby notify you that I intend to enforce it.

27

Slithy Tove 11.04.04 at 1:42 pm

In other news, the review ‘Carolus’ links to talks of “shamelss intellectuals… spin(ing) tales of Thomas Jefferson begetting slave offspring.” DNA analysis has recently established these “tales” as indubitably true.

No. DNA analysis has established that one of Sally Hemings’ sons was fathered by one of about 25 males in the Jefferson family who were in the area at the time. There is no way to know whether the father was Thomas Jefferson.

28

Tom T. 11.04.04 at 1:49 pm

This reminds me of Michael Moore’s Sept. 12, 2001 message, wondering why al-Qaeda didn’t attack targets that were more heavily Republican.

29

Chris 11.04.04 at 1:54 pm

So the folks whose forebears gave us soul music are Americans you are willing to share with, but the ones who grow the food that feeds you are not?

There is an astonishing fact for you – the states which voted Kerry have six or eight times the murderers per head of population as the ones you despise.

I really think you need to go do some laps and grow up.

30

Matt 11.04.04 at 2:07 pm

Matt M said, “Both the idea of a written constitutional settlement and the idea of a real limit on government power predate the US constitution by quite a bit.”

Right- I didn’t mean to imply they’d sprung from the head of Madison fully formed. What’d I’d meant, but said unclearly, was that these were, to my knowledge, the first actually existing examples of a 1)written constitution that 2) put real limits on government and 3) actually had the effect of putting limits, not just talked about them, 4) existed for more than a generation or two, and 5) was at least roughly democratic, though of course imperfectly. Are there earlier examples that fit these standards? I’d be pleased to see examples, if there are. To my mind it’s the (mixed, of course) sucess of the US constitution, not the idea per se, as I implied before, that’s the real example.

31

yabonn 11.04.04 at 2:07 pm

I have difficulties too thinking of the u.s. right now in other terms than “the country that reelected bush”.

It certainly is bad intellectual hygiene, and unfair to all the people that didn’t vote for it, and to the country in general.

Then again, each time i try to think along these lines, i remember it’s joe redneck that won the popular vote for bush, thus comforting the bush administration in his magical thinking. More whackery ahead, very probably.

Bleh.

32

Matt 11.04.04 at 2:09 pm

Matt M said, “Both the idea of a written constitutional settlement and the idea of a real limit on government power predate the US constitution by quite a bit.”

Right- I didn’t mean to imply they’d sprung from the head of Madison fully formed. What’d I’d meant, but said unclearly, was that these were, to my knowledge, the first actually existing examples of a 1)written constitution that 2) put real limits on government and 3) actually had the effect of putting limits, not just talked about them, 4) existed for more than a generation or two, and 5) was at least roughly democratic, though of course imperfectly. Are there earlier examples that fit these standards? I’d be pleased to see examples, if there are. To my mind it’s the (mixed, of course) sucess of the US constitution, not the idea per se, as I implied before, that’s the real example.

33

Scott Martens 11.04.04 at 2:14 pm

Chris:

There is an astonishing fact for you – the states which voted Kerry have six or eight times the murderers per head of population as the ones you despise.

You wanna cough up some statistics on that one? Cuz, I got some 1999 numbers that say it ain’t so. There’s only a seven fold difference between the state with highest murder rate (Alaska – voted Bush) and the state with lowest murder rate (New Hampshire – voted Kerry.)

Unless the 2003 numbers are way reversed, y’all are pulling one outta your butt.

34

Scott Martens 11.04.04 at 2:16 pm

Sorry, Louisiana rather than Alaska. Same deal, still voted Bush.

35

Pollie Anon 11.04.04 at 2:18 pm

Geez, I hope Chris never condemned bush for his “with us or against us” rhetoric.

36

Uncle Kvetch 11.04.04 at 2:23 pm

There is an astonishing fact for you – the states which voted Kerry have six or eight times the murderers per head of population as the ones you despise.

Chris, would you please provide a source for this?

37

dsquared 11.04.04 at 2:31 pm

Scott’s table refers to murders rather than murderers, so I suppose it might be possible that Chris has some proof that Democratic serial killers make the effort to go out to Bush states to do their murdering.

38

Jimmy Doyle 11.04.04 at 2:42 pm

Dsquared:

Let’s leave to one side the question of who, if anyone, has made an ass of himself. As you yourself say, ‘Saying “Carolos is a racist, so you should not believe what he says” would be an ad hominem fallacy.’ Since your comment did not take issue with the content of anything Carolus said or linked to, but instead argued (as you acknowledge) that he was a racist, I think it’s reasonable to understand your comment as implying that, since (as you argue) he is a racist, we don’t have to take account of what he said. Otherwise, what relevance of your denunciation to Carolus’s original claims could you possibly intend your readers to discern? I wasn’t saying there was anything wrong with the argument you presented (Carolus has done x, y and z; therefore we can plausibly suppose that he’s a racist). I was saying that, understood as a response to what Carolus had said, your further, implied argument (that we can disregard what Carolus said because he’s a racist) was fallaciously ad hominem. And I still say this. Your fallacy wouldn’t really matter if what Carolus said was ignorable, in the way that characteristically racist sayings are ignorable. But it is not ignorable; in fact, it is true: Martin Luther King Jr’s Ph D dissertation was largely plagiarised. Perhaps this shouldn’t require Chris to modify his judgement that MLK Jr is “one of the greatest moral exemplars of modern times,” but it is surely prima facie relevant to an estimation of his character, and deserves to be taken into account even if we learn about it from a racist. Your thoughtful instruction as to the real meaning of the ad hominem fallacy can do nothing to change my mind about any of this, because it told me nothing I didn’t already know. So even if I were teaching “young Americans” (which I’m not), you needn’t worry that I would be teaching them “to be ignorant.” (You may reproduce my statement for any purpose you see fit.)

39

Chris 11.04.04 at 2:46 pm

I have only fellow redneck’s map pages: eg

http://www.ycsi.net/users/gunsmith/map.htm

claims more like 130 times, on a county basis. I disbelieve the 0.1 per 100K absolutely, I think I saw one at 2.2 murders per 100K and that is what I referred to in my post.

But I thought a good place to check this would be snopes.com so…

By calculating the murder rate for each county and then taking the averages, we find a murder rate (defined as number of murders per 100,000 residents) of about 5.2 for the “average” Gore county and 3.3 for the average Bush county. But since people, rather than counties, commit murders, a more appropriate approach is to calculate the total number of murders in the counties won by each candidate and divide that figure by the total number of residents in those counties. This more appropriate method yields the following average murder rates in counties won by each candidate:

Gore: 6.5
Bush: 4.1

There is a distinct difference between these two numbers, but it is nowhere near as large as the quoted e-mail message states (i.e., 13.2 for Gore vs. 2.1 for Bush). Note that the average of these two figures is 5.3, which, as expected, is very close to the reported national murder rate of 5.5.

So I was completely suckered by this made-up stuff. I apologise, and will pass this on to my gun-nut friends.

40

DaveC 11.04.04 at 3:02 pm

When some city feller like Chris is askin “Kin I git me a huntin’ license here?” it is quite apparent that he is thinking “Oh, I can put one over on these ignorant rednecks and laugh about it later with my sophisticated friends.”

Well I reckon you don’t need no huntin license. You kin just hold this here tote-sack and we’ll drive them snipes right to you.

Y’all have a safe trip back to the big city, and I hope you don’t have no car trouble ;)

41

roger 11.04.04 at 3:06 pm

Is the U.S. constitution that document that will soon proudly sponsor the amendment that men can only marry women, and women can only marry men?

Or is that the document that was carried down from Mount Sinai by that pre-Christian guy, Moses?
I’m always getting those God sponsored documents confused.

The question on most God fearing people’s minds right now I think is whether Ashcroft, clearly a sob sister, is going to get the boot. We need that Judge from Alabama, Moore, who had the right idea about the ten commandments.

The next four years look lovely. Can’t wait to see what the aweinspiring Constitution looks like after it is all over.

42

paul 11.04.04 at 3:21 pm

I thought I would take a look at the balance of payments for the red and blue states[1] and I can’t say I was surprised to learn that the red states — whose mouthpieces are on the record as hating the blue staters, not the other way ’round — are running deficits, almost every one. In the meantime, the lazy, effete blue states are running surpluses. Say what you like about code words (“moral value” == homophobia and intolerance), when you look at the dollars, I’d like to know why they hate the people who pay their bills.

fn1. http://www.paulbeard.org/wordpress/index.php?p=2306

43

dsquared 11.04.04 at 3:32 pm

Jimmy: I have an idea for you. Since you seem so keen on putting words into people’s mouths, why don’t you just walk into class, hear the students say “Hello Mr Doyle” and then decide that they have implied all the correct answers to the test, so you can take the year off?

I reiterate, by the way, that you do not have my permission to tell your students that I made a fallacious argument which you, wrongly attributed to me. My actual intention was to convey the meaning “Boo to Carolos”, and I think I succeeded with almost every reader except you.

44

bill 11.04.04 at 3:39 pm

Amazing post. However, you left out the part about Bush supporters being intolerant both of the views of others and of people who differ from themselves.

45

mr. winston 11.04.04 at 3:41 pm

Overwhelmingly??? You use that word very loosely.

Yes, and from the state that brought us the principle writer of the constitution, Jefferson, it voted for who? Bush?

And from the state that Frederick Douglass labeled as the meanest, cruelest, most vile and hideous slave state, Maryland, we have going for Kerry.

You can report facts (or in your case, half-truths) to make them say anything you want them to, and even use words like overwhelmingly to make people think you know what you are talking about, but the fact is, New York City was the asshole of capitalism before a man named Rudy Guliani turned it around and cleaned it up.

Admit it, you’re still jealous that we went our separate ways and came out victorious in the Revolutionary war. We valued, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness more than we valued the monarchy. We fought because, among other things, we were being taxed in absurd and rediculous ways, which reminds me a lot of Mr. Kerrys proposals to tax America. And in “the world’s greatest city,” to remind us of this great of achievement we have a statue of LIBERTY, given to us by France, who also voted “overwhelmingly” (this time the correct use of the word) for Kerry.

You forgot to mention, Osama, a murderer of nearly 3,000 innocent people, voted for Kerry too.

While I have your attention, the movie industry? Are they all of a sudden the bastions of intelligence because of their undying support for Kerry? If the Dixie Chicks didn’t know how to sing they’d be found at Hooters serving pints of beer for $1, and spouting out their political views in much the same way. As far as I’m concerned, you can carry that to much of Hollywood as well. But seriously, keep posting, write more, let us know how you really feel, because the more you say, the more the Libertarians are going swing to the right.

46

WTB 11.04.04 at 3:50 pm

Dear Chris,

“The thirteen original states that brought us the Constitution voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry.”

Time to go back to school: Virginia, The Carolinas, and Georgia, 4 of the original states, voted for Bush. West Virginia, which in 1787 was a part of Virginina, also went for Bush.

It’s also important to note the contributions of red state Virginians to the Constitution. Had it not been these efforts it’s hard to see how the Constitution would exist in its present (or original form).

Also note that the blue states have repudiated the party of Lincoln and emancipation. What would Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas make of that?

Dear Rich,

“I found the continued references like “we saved you in WWII, don’t tell us what to do” immensely depressing. No, you didn’t. Your fathers or grandfathers did.”

I would find this depressing as well if I had to acknowledge its essential veracity. Keep in mind that those stout defenders of the Constitution, our fathers and grandfathers were often, judged by our standards, rock ribbed bigots. I know this for fact but it doesn’t stand in the way of affection and respect. George W. Bush is a moderate compared to many of them. Reflecting on this should help to ameliorate your depression.

47

Chris Bertram 11.04.04 at 3:57 pm

No wtb. Not “time to go back to school”. As I make clear in a comment above I meant my statement to mean that an electoral college composed of the original 13 states would have overwhelmingly backed Kerry. (And the pop.vote in same btw). 107 to 51 (or 56 if you reunite the Virginias.

48

Chris Bertram 11.04.04 at 4:00 pm

And don’t give me that “party of Lincoln” crap either. The modern Republican party isn’t the “party of Lincoln” it’s a takeover by the Dixiecrats.

49

Jimmy Doyle 11.04.04 at 4:09 pm

Dsquared:

A devastating critique! Except that I did not say (or imply) that anything may be understood to imply anything else. That, after all, would be an idiotic thing to say (or imply), and it ought to have been obvious that I neither said nor implied anything of the kind. What I said was, “I think it’s reasonable to understand your comment as implying that, since (as you argue) he is a racist, we don’t have to take account of what he said. Otherwise, what relevance of your denunciation to Carolus’s original claims could you possibly intend your readers to discern?” You now say that your intention was limited to conveying “Boo to Carolus.” Do you mean that you weren’t intending your denunciation to have any effect (such as, I don’t know, diminution?) on readers’ willingness to take his comment seriously? Because that seems to me highly implausible. Nothing could be more natural than to infer, from X’s responding to something Y has said by impugning Y’s character, that X intends indirectly to impugn what Y has said. Therefore (i) you may reasonably be interpreted as having tried, illegitimately, to impugn a comment whose substance turned out, in fact, to be true, and (ii) you almost certainly did not “succeed with almost every reader except (me)” in conveying nothing more than “Boo to Carolus.”

Don’t worry, I won’t use your original comment in class as an example of the ad hominem fallacy. But may I please use your subsequent comment as an example of distortion?

50

Matt McGrattan 11.04.04 at 4:16 pm

WTB wrote

‘“I found the continued references like “we saved you in WWII, don’t tell us what to do” immensely depressing. No, you didn’t. Your fathers or grandfathers did.”

I would find this depressing as well if I had to acknowledge its essential veracity.’

Its essential veracity is far from obvious. As has been pointed out unto the point of tedium the USSR bore a massively disproportionate amount of the work in defeating Germany during WWII and the US was far from the only country fighting in Europe on the Western front.

That’s not to deny the heroic efforts of the USA in helping to win World War II or to denigrate them in any way — it would probably have been possible for an isolationist USA to stay completely out of the war in Western Europe and avoid losing many tens or even hundreds of thousands of lives. It’s great, from a European point of view, that they didn’t stay out.

But everytime someone from the US says “we won World War II for you” my hackles rise. It completely misrepresents the sheer scale of effort and proportionally much greater sacrifices made by others.

51

Scott McArthur 11.04.04 at 4:27 pm

The American Constitution is an overhyped document. And constitutions themselves are over-rated. The Parliamentary system is a much truer democratic forum.

Any document that placed human beings as 3/5ths of person always risked staining the country that made it. Proof is in the pudding. The American constitution, proud home of the 18th amendment. Soon to contain the 28th amendment against the horror of love and commitment, marriage.

Message from the World to 51% America: we see through you.
Message from the World to 49% America: keep fighting.

52

Carolos Obscuros 11.04.04 at 4:41 pm

Tut, tut! Dsquared, what would MLK be saying about all this, if he
were alive today?

Don’t know, but he’d probably have copied it from somebody else
anyhow.

Apart from plagiarising almost every line he ever wrote –
including most of the “I have a dream” speech – MLK was determined not just to eradicate
racial discrimination against blacks (a good thing) but to make racial
discrimination against whites legally mandatory (in the form of ‘affirmative
action’, busing, etc.). His policy was to beg, steal and borrow as much as
possible out of the state kitty in favour of his own racial group. MLK was a black racist, period.

Ma bruddas, more about this shameful conman and intellectual fraudster here.

53

WTB 11.04.04 at 4:42 pm

Dear Matt,

“Its essential veracity is far from obvious. As has been pointed out unto the point of tedium the USSR bore a massively disproportionate amount of the work in defeating Germany during WWII and the US was far from the only country fighting in Europe on the Western front.”

It’s true that militarily speaking, the USSR may have done most of the heavy lifting. But, as you point out, the desirable outcome of WWII — namely that it was won for democracy against authoritarianism — was in fact due to the US. Had the US remained out of the war but the USSR won, things might well have been worse than if the Nazis won.

When Americans go on about “winning the war” for Europe, it’s short hand for: Intervening in WWI in favor of Britain and France, WWII, and the Cold War. Not to mention our prosecution of the War on Terror.

Dear Chris:

“As I make clear in a comment above I meant my statement to mean that an electoral college composed of the original 13 states would have overwhelmingly backed Kerry. (And the pop.vote in same btw). 107 to 51 (or 56 if you reunite the Virginias.”

Are you talking about today’s population or the population in 1787? Don’t bother to do the figures. This has already gotten too hypothetical for me.

If today’s Republicans are no longer the party of the Lincoln, then surely you’ll admit that today’s blue states are no longer the states that were willing to fight to defend the Constitution in the Civil War. They’ve been taken over by the Know Nothings, or Mugwumps, or something like that. At any rate, that’s about as accurate as saying that the Republican party has been taken over by the Dixiecrats.

54

WTB 11.04.04 at 4:43 pm

Dear Matt,

“Its essential veracity is far from obvious. As has been pointed out unto the point of tedium the USSR bore a massively disproportionate amount of the work in defeating Germany during WWII and the US was far from the only country fighting in Europe on the Western front.”

It’s true that militarily speaking, the USSR may have done most of the heavy lifting. But, as you point out, the desirable outcome of WWII — namely that it was won for democracy against authoritarianism — was in fact due to the US. Had the US remained out of the war but the USSR won, things might well have been worse than if the Nazis won.

When Americans go on about “winning the war” for Europe, it’s short hand for: Intervening in WWI in favor of Britain and France, WWII, and the Cold War. Not to mention our prosecution of the War on Terror.

Dear Chris:

“As I make clear in a comment above I meant my statement to mean that an electoral college composed of the original 13 states would have overwhelmingly backed Kerry. (And the pop.vote in same btw). 107 to 51 (or 56 if you reunite the Virginias.”

Are you talking about today’s population or the population in 1787? Don’t bother to do the figures. This has already gotten too hypothetical for me.

If today’s Republicans are no longer the party of the Lincoln, then surely you’ll admit that today’s blue states are no longer the states that were willing to fight to defend the Constitution in the Civil War. They’ve been taken over by the Know Nothings, or Mugwumps, or something like that. At any rate, that’s about as accurate as saying that the Republican party has been taken over by the Dixiecrats.

55

WTB 11.04.04 at 4:46 pm

Dear Matt,

“Its essential veracity is far from obvious. As has been pointed out unto the point of tedium the USSR bore a massively disproportionate amount of the work in defeating Germany during WWII and the US was far from the only country fighting in Europe on the Western front.”

It’s true that militarily speaking, the USSR may have done most of the heavy lifting. But, as you point out, the desirable outcome of WWII — namely that it was won for democracy against authoritarianism — was in fact due to the US. Had the US remained out of the war but the USSR won, things might well have been worse than if the Nazis won.

When Americans go on about “winning the war” for Europe, it’s short hand for: Intervening in WWI in favor of Britain and France, WWII, and the Cold War. Not to mention our prosecution of the War on Terror.

Dear Chris:

“As I make clear in a comment above I meant my statement to mean that an electoral college composed of the original 13 states would have overwhelmingly backed Kerry. (And the pop.vote in same btw). 107 to 51 (or 56 if you reunite the Virginias.”

Are you talking about today’s population or the population in 1787? Don’t bother to do the figures. This has already gotten too hypothetical for me.

If today’s Republicans are no longer the party of the Lincoln, then surely you’ll admit that today’s blue states are no longer the states that were willing to fight to defend the Constitution in the Civil War. (Just as our “fathers and grandfathers”, and not us, fought WWII.) They’ve been taken over by the Know Nothings, or Mugwumps, or something like that. At any rate, that’s about as accurate as saying that the Republican party has been taken over by the Dixiecrats.

56

james 11.04.04 at 4:53 pm

African Americans are an imporatant part of American society. However, they only make up 8% of the total population. To say they are the only ones who constitute Real Americans is being very selective in your definition.

57

Carolos Obscuros 11.04.04 at 4:55 pm

Some error in transmission of my MLK reference document.

It’s here.

58

Matt McGrattan 11.04.04 at 5:11 pm

wtb wrote:

“When Americans go on about “winning the war” for Europe, it’s short hand for: Intervening in WWI in favor of Britain and France, WWII, and the Cold War.”

No, I really think it’s not. It’s often used to literally mean ‘winning’ as in “being solely or primarily responsible for victory in…”. When a lot of Americans say “we won the war” that’s what they mean. That’s precisely why it’s used as a rhetorical cosh in response to any explicit or implicit criticism of the US. It often goes along with ‘if it wasn’t for us you’d all be speaking German…’, etc.

If it simply meant ‘intervening in favour of…’ or even ‘playing a major part in….’ no-one would find that claim even remotely objectionable nor could it be used as a rhetorical weapon in the way that it often is.

59

mona 11.04.04 at 5:15 pm

Oh, poor Carolos Obscurus is yet again being treated so very unfairly. Why, why should his opinions be so cruelly dismissed. I remember these very cute and very accurate and very very inspiring contributions from him in a previous thread – great points you might even use for a debate in your class, prof. Doyle:

If (as may well be the case) homosexuality is as genetically determined as musical ability or athletic talent and if (as may well be the case) the ‘gene’ for homosexuality is ever identified, you can be certain that pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) or similar eugenic techniques will be used to weed out the ‘undesirable’ embryos from the ‘desirable’ ones.

and this:

Perhaps you have to have a homosexual ‘gene’ plus fetal exposure to some kind of hormonal disorder or virus plus a Freudian mom and dad plus teenage seduction behind the bicycle shed to become a non-wavering gay.

and:

…homosexuality, which most parents consider to be a misfortune (as do most gays, judging by their autobiographies).

Such keen concern for Truth should not be mocked!

60

Jimmy Doyle 11.04.04 at 5:17 pm

Dsquared:

Just to repeat from my first post: “I wasn’t saying there was anything wrong with the argument you presented (Carolus has done x, y and z; therefore we can plausibly suppose that he’s a racist).”

61

wtb 11.04.04 at 5:20 pm

Dear Matt,

You’re right. I can only add that I try to use this “rhetorical cosh” on dirty fighters, not those who make responsible or fair criticisms of the USA.

62

George 11.04.04 at 5:22 pm

I doubt anybody’s reading this thread anymore, but I’ve gotta say, that was the dopiest, bitterest and (I don’t know how else to say this) *most foreign* reaction I’ve yet read. For starters…Virginia? Home of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? Origin of the American public university? Where the Civil War ended?

Bush by 7 points.

63

Dan Hardie 11.04.04 at 5:24 pm

Shorter Carolos: I’m not a racist, and here is a link to a document on a Lew Rockwell website, Lew Rockwell being the founder of the American Nazi Party.

64

George 11.04.04 at 5:26 pm

Don’t know if anybody’s reading this thread anymore, but I’ve gotta say, that was the dopiest, bitterest and (I don’t know how else to say this) *most foreign* reaction I’ve yet read. For starters…Virginia? Home of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? Origin of the American public university? Where the Civil War ended?

Bush by 9 points.

65

Dan Hardie 11.04.04 at 5:29 pm

Shorter Jimmy Doyle: Oh Christ, I’ve lost an argument… (deep breath) Dsquared your reading of the implication of the denotation of my counterfactual is…(continues at length).

66

Jimmy Doyle 11.04.04 at 5:29 pm

Mona:

As I indicated to D2, I wasn’t defending Carolus. I was just pointing out that (i) his racism doesn’t make his comment about MLK’s plagiarism false and (ii) his comment is true. Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day. I’m not concerned about his being treated unfairly; I’m concerned about the truth of what he said being overlooked just because Dsquared points to his racism (I still maintain) in order to discredit it.

67

Jimmy Doyle 11.04.04 at 5:33 pm

Dan Hardie:

I’m sorry if you can’t follow what I said. Could you point me to the bit where I lost the argument?

68

Dan Hardie 11.04.04 at 5:34 pm

Minor correction to my post on Carolus above: *George* Rockwell was the founder of the American Nazi Party. *Lew* Rockwell, to whom Carolos links, is merely a crank who publishes the work of neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers like Gary North and Joe Sobran. My heartfelt apologies to these fine upstanding Nazi scum.

69

Dan Hardie 11.04.04 at 5:48 pm

Jimmy, Dsquared noted that Carolus was a racist, did so in an amusing manner and quietly left the stage. You cited this as an example of the argumentum ad hominem. Dsquared pointed out that if someone says ‘x is y, therefore what x’s arguments cannot be accepted’ is an argumentum ad hominem; if someone says ‘x is y, and my reasons for saying this are a, b and c’, that is not an argumentum ad hominem. It is indeed not an argumentum ad hominem, and your lengthy paragraphs of clotted prose cannot change that. So, to answer your question, ‘the bit where I lost the argument’ would have come at the point when you typed out your original post.

Jimmy responds: …that seems to me highly implausible. Nothing could be more natural than to infer etc etc etc (continued on page 92)…

70

mona 11.04.04 at 6:00 pm

“… Lew Rockwell being the founder of the American Nazi Party.”

See, the Americans copied everything from Europe. And what did they give us back? popcorn and George Bush? pfft… shining city…

And now that I learnt that even one of your biggest heroes was only a liar and a plagiarist, oh my, I’m so disappointed, I think I’ll go join al Qaeda right now. Thanks to Carolos and Lew Rockwell for showing me the way.

Prof. Doyle: yes, of course, racism and nazi sympathies don’t necessarily make one wrong or discredit their claims. Maybe you’d like to have your students read Mein Kampf? There must be a few accurate statements in there, after all. Maybe even something about stopped clocks getting the time right twice a day. From which can only conclude the statement about MLK being a plagiarist is just as factually true.

(In case your students wonder, this is known as the “ad clockum nazisticum non errandum est” argument, which is definitely NOT a fallacy, but I bet you knew that already).

71

mona 11.04.04 at 6:05 pm

Dan Hardie: I learnt more about the American Nazi Party than I ever cared to know but well thanks for the correction :) :)

72

Dan Hardie 11.04.04 at 6:16 pm

By the way, in his original post, Jimmy Doyle not only threw out an absurd ‘argumentum ad hominem’ accusation, but also said: ‘In other news, the review ‘Carolus’ links to talks of “shamelss intellectuals… spin(ing) tales of Thomas Jefferson begetting slave offspring.” DNA analysis has recently established these “tales” as indubitably true.’

To which ‘Slithy Tove’ replied: ‘No. DNA analysis has established that one of Sally Hemings’ sons was fathered by one of about 25 males in the Jefferson family who were in the area at the time. There is no way to know whether the father was Thomas Jefferson.’

A little Googling finds that Slithy’s point is supported by the Jefferson-Hemings Scholars Commission. Alas, the distinguished Mr Doyle (he can’t really be a Professor, can he?), with his passion for accurate statements, has yet to reply…

73

Loweeel 11.04.04 at 7:45 pm

Why do you care about the states that fought against slavery?

Maybe because mentioning that the Republicans were against it and the Democrats – then as now – supported institutionalized racism would completely invalidate your point?

74

Jimmy Doyle 11.04.04 at 7:55 pm

Dan Hardie:

All I can say is that I was at Jefferson’s home at Monticello in Virginia about six months ago, and the guides and the written materials on display there were unanimous in claiming that there was DNA proof that Jefferson had fathered a child by one of his slaves. Sorry if this isn’t as authoritative as your Google search.

As for the Dsquared issue, I can only repeat: Nothing could be more natural than to infer, from X’s responding to something Y has said by impugning Y’s character, that X intends indirectly to impugn what Y has said. X is D2. Y is Carolus. (Are you suggesting that he didn’t intend to impugn what Carolus said?) This is, by implication, argumentum ad hominem. D2 denounced Carolus as a racist, and ignored the fact that what he said was, as it happens, true. And he no more “quietly left the stage” than you did. As for myself, I’m not a professor, I’m not distinguished, and I never claimed to be either. And inept attempts at parodying someone’s style of argument are no substitute for answering their points.

Mona: All I said was that Carolus’s claim about MLK was true (which it is), even though Carolus is a racist. I don’t see how it follows from that that I’d like to have my students read Mein Kampf. Nor did I claim that anyone could deduce the truth of what Carolus said from the adage about stopped clocks. I just happened to know it was true on independent grounds.

75

dsquared 11.04.04 at 8:15 pm

Could we perhaps all just politely agree that this debate hasn’t been anyone’s finest hour, grudgingly apologise to one another (Carolos; not you) and vaguely drift back in the direction of the topic?

76

Scipio 11.04.04 at 8:19 pm

Thanks for labeling everyone (except blacks) who lived in a state where Bush won racist xenophobe obscurantists.

77

Dan Hardie 11.04.04 at 8:21 pm

‘Sorry if this isn’t as authoritative as your Google search.’

It is not a question of whether your recollections of a visit to Monticello are better than ‘my Google search’. It is a question of whether your recollections of a visit to Monticello is more authoritative than the balance of opinions of historians and DNA specialists who have studied the question. And yes, the balance of such opinion is more authoritative than what you can remember from looking at a few museum captions.

Here- culled, I confess to my undying shame, from a Google search- is the website of Jefferson’s home at Monticello and the page dealing with the Hemings controversy:
http://www.monticello.org/plantation/hemingscontro/hemings_resource.html

The bulk of the papers agree that it is not possible to say that Jefferson fathered a child with a slave, that a Jefferson did and that there are 25 plausible candidates for the role, including several notably more likely than Thomas Jefferson himself. Any undergraduate being tutored by you should march straight to the University offices and demand a refund of his tuition fees, because you are incapable of reasoning. Your attempted defence of the ad hominem accusation is verbiage, and you ignore the fact that whilst MLK is a proven plagiarist, the Carolus statement that you defend- ‘MLK was one of the greatest plagiarists of the 20th century.’- can politely be described as ‘massive hyperbole’. King plagiarised widely for his thesis, and much of his speeches contained others’ phrases, but much of what he said in public was original and indeed extemporised. Therefore it is grossly inaccurate to say, as you did, of Carolus’s assessment of Martin Luther King that’ his comment is true. ‘

As you’re a philosopher, I doubt that you’ll mind too much my saying you’re a historical ignoramus. But it ought to bother your students that you are so utterly incapable of reasoning.

78

paul a'barge 11.04.04 at 9:29 pm

“The thirteen original states that brought us the Constitution voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry”

Oh, what a maroon. Can’t you count? All thirteen, huh? Nope, sorry, brrinngg, wrong answer.

Anyway, the reason those of the original 13 voted for Kerry? Because once the Louisiana Purchase took place, all the cool places in those 9 states left, went exploring, built a country and left the Liberal maroons behind to swill porter and speak French.

79

bryan 11.04.04 at 9:33 pm

“DNA analysis has established that one of Sally Hemings’ sons was fathered by one of about 25 males in the Jefferson family who were in the area at the time.”
well, as long as they don’t cut off my internets porn supply i’m sorted.

you may reproduce this statement and claim that carolus wrote it to dsquared in a private email.

80

Karl Marx 11.04.04 at 9:34 pm

Can’t you count? All thirteen, huh?

Can’t you read (at least two comments among those above)?

81

bryan 11.04.04 at 9:44 pm

“Anyway, the reason those of the original 13 voted for Kerry? Because once the Louisiana Purchase took place, all the cool places in those 9 states left, went exploring, built a country and left the Liberal maroons behind to swill porter and speak French.”

yeah, can you please point out to me the cool places that used to be in new york, massachusetts, etc. that are now in utah, new mexico etc.

liberals are maroons? i thought judging from the preceding conversation that they were octoroons.

so the original 13 were french and english speaking, and then the english speaking left, taking all their cool places with them, to go to the areas purchased in the louisiana purchase. presumably to get away from them demn frenchies.
and the frenchies who were liberals had sex with sally hemings and produced the vicious porter swilling maroons of our present dispensation. thanks, glad to get that settled.

look at me, reaching out, healing….

82

McDuff 11.04.04 at 10:24 pm

Frank Sinatra never wrote a song in his life, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t an excellent singer of others’ material.

I find the same to be true of MLK.

83

Thom 11.04.04 at 11:29 pm

This has to be the most idiotic thing I’ve read about the election yet and brings the concept of cherry-picking to a new height. You might as well write:

Massachusetts: home of intolerant, theocratic witch-burners voted for Kerry.

Nevada: the state which gave us easy divorce, legalized gambling and prostitution – voted for Bush.

84

Decnavda 11.05.04 at 12:14 am

dsquared is right that the debate between him and Prof. Doyle was not either of their finest hours. One hopes.
Prof. Doyle is certainly right that, in context, dsquared was making an ad hominem arguement. If not, what possible relavence could it have had to the discussion? dsquared’s mistake was to be suckered into denying his ad hominem intent: The denial was probably disengenous, and if not, it means dsquared enjoys exposing racists just for the fun of it. Everyone here seemed to FEEL there was something wrong with his labling dsquared’s argument a fallacy, but they could not figure it out because they made the same mistake he did.

Prof. Doyle’s error was to assume that all ad hominem arguments are fallacies. They are not. Some are, but many constitute plausible abductive reasoning aimed at those without the time or resources to investingate the underlying claims. This is the case here.

I do not have the time or the resources to personally investigate every attack I read against MLK’s character. I read such an attack from carlos. dsquared then provides examples of carlos behaiving in racist ways. carlos denies being a racist, then refers to another racist to prove his point. I conclude first that carlos is, in fact, a racist. This conclusion is not deductively valid, it is rather inductively convincing. I further conclude that I should not believe carlos’s claims regarding MLK due to carlos being a racist, since a racist is likely to be an unreliable source of information about MLK’s character flaws. This is an ad hominem argument, and it is also not deductively valid, but it is abductively plausible.

We lawyers do not use the term “ad hominem fallacy”. We say, “attacking credibility.” You philosophers need to learn to argue in the real world.

85

Jack 11.05.04 at 12:59 am

In any case the accusation that an argument is an attaack on the creidibility of the argument. It is not a mortal sin, rather it is a weak argument. If pointing out that an argument is ad hominem demolishes the argument, the argument fails. If it doesn’t.

Pointing out Carolus sympathies and interests, whatever else it might have been, was an explanation of dsquared’s hostility. If it also diminished Carolus’ credibility I’m not sure who will be upset but the framing of the argument means that it is hard to accuse dsquared of deliberately obscuring the main claim he makes which should allow anyone who knows what an ad hominem attack is to make up their own minds without undue interference.

86

Jack 11.05.04 at 1:11 am

Sorry, that should read:

Anyway the accusation that an argument is ad hominem is an attack on the argument not of sin on the part of the proposer.

Whatever else it was, dsquared’s description of Carolus’ sympathies was an explanation of the hostility of his initial comment.

If it also attacked Carolus’ credibility it cannot be said that dsquared is guilty of obfuscation which is the crime of which those making an ad hominem attack are most likely to be guilty.

87

Jose 11.05.04 at 2:36 am

George Washington…

Thomas Jefferson…

Patrick Henry…

Virginians all, they hail from the state that voted for George Bush.

They fought for Liberty, as George Bush has. They would have voted Bush.

88

jet 11.05.04 at 3:03 am

If exchanging incredibly lame insults is reaching out and healing I’m all for it. How fun is this going to be? Although I think the exchanges should take place around a fireplace with lots of that French wine :)

89

jet 11.05.04 at 3:07 am

This just in. Bush announces Ashcroft is fired while having a gay toga party (where he and his wife politely pretend no one is gay), wearing a beret, and drinking champagne. Now how’s that for reaching out and healing?

90

Chris Harding 11.05.04 at 6:20 am

Regarding DSquared vs. Doyle:

I’m on Doyle’s side on this issue, and I do think it’s relevant. It’s absurd that Daniel thinks he can skirt away from the implications of his post; and it is mind-boggling, that after starting a flame-war (yet again) and not claiming responsibility (yet again), he seeks to play “daddy” and tell people to get back on topic. Daniel, your behavior is an embarassment to Crooked Timber. Respond with whatever sarcasm and frivolity you like; or better yet, surprise me and actually comment seriously on your behavior.

91

Jack 11.05.04 at 9:14 am

Chris H,
What exactly is wrong with Daniel’s behaviour? I think your post is a far better example of what is wrong with ad hominem attacks because you blur personal inslut with your actual claim.

I put it to you that your claim is weak because the debate following Daniel’s post has not been about either of Daniel’s claims. Rather it has been about whether it was ad hominem or not. Further you yourself obfuscate the weakness of your substantive claim with irrelevant ad hominem arguments.

I do blame Daniel for not simply saying that the source of Martin Luther King’s doctorate is nothing to do with why he is admired and that indeed Carolus does hold some pretty unpleasant views in general.

Once again the problem with ad hominem arguments is that they are weak and that they can be used to confuse. It seems to me that there is nothing confusing about Daniel’s post and tha claims made do not dissolve when the potentially ad hominem nature of the claims is suggested. It is certainly not the only reason that Damiel adressed the nature of Carolus activities.

On the other hand Carolus’ original slur on MLK is a good example of a bad ad hominem argument and Jimmy Doyle was rudely and crudely ad hominem in his response to Damiel. My disappointement is that their ploy’s seem to have succeeded in diverting attention from any substantive claim.

Do we admire MLK because he was a great scholar or because he beautifully and effectively espoused a noble vision at great risk to himself? I think the latter.

Did Jimmy Doyle make any attempt to address the wonderfully lucid claims of Daniel’s post or did he make a half baked personal attack on Daniel? Is there a good reason why he chose Daniel’s comment as an example of ad hominem rather than Carolus or his own? I don’t think so unless he is an artist of unexpectedly high calibre making an ironic Magritte/Stallman style use of self reference.

Finally Mr. Harding do you believe that neither Carolus or Professor Doyle bear any responsibility for the flame war? If not, surely you should apportion some blame to them as well.

92

mona 11.05.04 at 9:21 am

Mr Doyle, I haven’t heard any such claims about MLK before, so I don’t know if they’re true. Consider me biased, but I don’t generally take into account claims from racist and nazi-affiliated sources, and I’m even less inclined to do that when it’s about a leading black public figure in the civil rights movement. If you have more reliable and credible sources… no, on second thoughts, I really don’t care, I don’t see how even plagiarism and ghost-writing would, if true, invalidate a point about MLK as a moral figure. I might have gotten my American history wrong, but I wasn’t taught MLK was a novelist or scientific researcher. And so far I’d never heard anyone criticise a political or religious leader as immoral for not penning 100% of their own material for sermons and speeches. So it sounds like a very bizarre criticism to make to supposedly invalidate the morality of MLK.

That’s it, explained in non-sarcastic terms.

dsquared, sorry but I’ve got nothing to add to the topic and no apologies to make except for not being on topic.

93

David Tiley 11.05.04 at 9:58 am

Nationalism is silly when it is not disturbing, but I do share rich’s irritation with the “We won the war for you” meme.

To me, the statement is peculiarly trivial. What does this piece of patriotism actually mean? What else can you say on the basis of it? What follows from it? That we should be grateful?

I prefer the parallel question: who suffered to create victory in WW2? That is meaningful because it tells us about a cultural experience which is still deeply embedded in the life of the various communities today, and certainly created the present we are now living through.

Australians, who did declare war on Germany in 1939 from far, far away, may be a bit quicker to point out that the US stayed out until after Pearl Harbour.

I wonder how the isolationist voting blocs which kept Roosevelt out of the War map onto the Red/Blue states now?

94

Jimmy Doyle 11.05.04 at 12:27 pm

Dan Hardie: I believed what I was told at Monticello. So sue me. You say that “(my) attempted defence of the ad hominem accusation is verbiage.” What you mean is that you either weren’t able or weren’t willing to figure out the structure of my argument. Since I’m also an historian of philosophy, I do mind, as a matter of fact, being called an historical ignoramus, especially by someone like you. But I’ll take the fact that you think me “utterly incapable of reasoning” as a compliment. I wasn’t defending the Carolus statement you quote; just his claim that MLK plagiarised most of his dissertation, which no-one has plausibly denied.

decnavda: Thanks for the logic lesson. “Prof. Doyle’s error was to assume that all ad hominem arguments are fallacies.” Once again, I am not a Professor (or only in the degraded US sense). Where did I assume this? All I meant was that Dsquared had responded to a claim by trying to discredit the claimant. I do realise that this is sometimes a legitimate tactic. The irony was that in this case it was not, because (to repeat) Carolus’s main claim turned out to be true.

Jack: “Did Jimmy Doyle make any attempt to address the wonderfully lucid claims of Daniel’s post or did he make a half baked personal attack on Daniel?” Erm…I conceded, twice, that D2’s explicit argument, for the claim that Carolus was a racist, was perfectly fine. I took issue with the implicit argument, that we could therefore safely ignore what Carolus said. I made no personal attack on Daniel, half-baked or otherwise. “Is there a good reason why he chose Daniel’s comment as an example of ad hominem rather than Carolus or his own?” Yes. Daniel’s comment strongly implied an illegitimately ad hominem argument. I made no ad hominem argement. I wasn’t concerned with engaging with Carolus’s arguments, merely with pointing out the truth of his central claim about MLK.

Mona: “I don’t see how even plagiarism and ghost-writing would, if true, invalidate a point about MLK as a moral figure.” I have already conceded this possibility, when I said in response to D2, “Perhaps (the plagiarism) shouldn’t require Chris to modify his judgement that MLK Jr is “one of the greatest moral exemplars of modern times.”

I suspect I’ve attracted so much opprobrium over this because we’d all prefer it weren’t true that MLK plagiarised a lot of his Ph D dissertation. If you really want to shoot a messenger, shoot Carolus. He sounds like a racist jerk.

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Dan Hardie 11.05.04 at 12:55 pm

Right, one last time to stomp on this clown and then I really do have to grapple with the Fulton, Missouri speech.

Carolus’s original statement:‘MLK was one of the greatest plagiarists of the 20th century.’

Jimmy Doyle’s characterisations of this statement: ‘ in fact, it is true…a comment whose substance turned out, in fact, to be true…his comment is true…I just happened to know it was true on independent grounds. ‘ (What, by the way, are these ‘independent grounds’? Certainly not the scholarship of anyone involved in research on King, since they have carefully pointed out both the existence of and the limits to King’s plagiarism. Does Doyle hear voices in the air? Or was this a kinda-sorta memory of part of a TV documentary? I suspect the latter.)

Facts of the matter: anyone calling King ‘one of the greatest plagiarists of the 20th century’ is engaging in gross hyperbole. King’s term papers and college thesis show considerable evidence of plagiarism. King’s speeches, for which he is most famous, show evidence of occasional plagiarism, and frequent paraphrasing, quotation, rephrasing and reworking of phrases from sources as diverse as the Bible, hymns and spirituals, the speeches of Lincoln, poems, etc. As someone who is currently editing the speeches of Winston Churchill for DVD publication, allow me to inform Mr Doyle that Churchill was at least as much of a paraphraser, rephraser and quoter as King, and so indeed was Lincoln. If Doyle reads, say, Churchill’s ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’ speech, then reads Clemenceau’s speech on becoming French Premier almost a quarter of a century earlier, he will find certain…similarities. Regardless, both speeches are magnificent. Allow me also to assure Doyle, as someone who reads primary and secondary sources before shooting my mouth off on historical subjects, that ‘MLK was one of the greatest plagiarists of the 20th century.’ is not a true statement, unless your definition of ‘true’ is ‘statement compounding hyperbole with lies’.

Doyle further objects to my calling him a historical ignoramus.That’s odd, because the description is accurate. He makes false statements and shows no capacity, or even willingness, to read up on the history he pronounces on.

He made two historical statements, both entirely unsupported by the historical scholarship: one on the ‘truth’ of a grossly untrue statement about MLK (see above); one on the ‘truth’ of Thomas Jefferson’s parentage of a mixed-race child with a slave mother. ‘Slithy Tove’ and I both noted that the preponderance of DNA specialists and historians who had recently studied this matter had concluded that a member of the Jefferson family had indeed got Sally Hemings pregnant, but that there were 24 candidates besides Jefferson and several of them were adjudged- by people who had done years of research into Jefferson and his milieu- much more likely to be the culprit.

I even helpfully appended a link to the Monticello museum’s webpage, which has further links to around two dozen scholarly papers supporting this view. Doyle has refused to read this, on the grounds that he visited the Monticello museum and the guides there told him something different. I’d like to say I was making this up, but I’m not. He really is that much of a fool.

And Doyle is a historian of philosophy. Ah well, it must be a pretty easy subject if all the research you have to do is visit a museum or two and then refuse to read the literature. That Plato bloke was no good, Jimmy- I know, I’ve been to Athens.

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Jimmy Doyle 11.05.04 at 1:19 pm

I meant that Carolus was right in that King had plagiarised a very large part of his dissertation. I thought that it was obvious that this is what I meant. As a ground for calling me a historical ignoramus, this is mere “verbiage,” as you would say. Plagiarism in speeches is obviously a far less serious matter; I wasn’t concerned about that. So your comments about Churchill are irrelevant.

“I even helpfully appended a link to the Monticello museum’s webpage, which has further links to around two dozen scholarly papers supporting this view. Doyle has refused to read this, on the grounds that he visited the Monticello museum and the guides there told him something different. I’d like to say I was making this up, but I’m not. He really is that much of a fool.”

There is nothing in what I have said to support your claim that I have refused to read the papers you linked to. It is therefore false that you are “someone who reads primary and secondary sources before shooting (your) mouth off on historical subjects.” You are a fool and a hypocrite.

Monticello is not a “museum.” It is the house that Jefferson built and lived in, now open to the public, and run by very knowledgeable people. It was not irrational of me to regard what I learnt there as highly probable. Your comparison with going to Athens to find out about Plato is absurd. I await your next inadvertent self-embarrassment with interest.

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Dan Hardie 11.05.04 at 1:34 pm

Okay, clown, put up or shut up. I’ll send £50 to a charity of your choice if you can prove that Carolus was right because ‘I meant that Carolus was right in that King had plagiarised a very large part of his dissertation. I thought that it was obvious that this is what I meant.’

Carolus said the following, and it was this statement that you were defending as ‘true’:’MLK was one of the greatest plagiarists of the 20th century. And much of what he didn’t plagiarize, he got ghost-written.’

That’s two sentences. I have copied and pasted this several times into my own posts, just to remind you. I have read and re-read those two sentences. Please point me to one (1) phrase or sentence where Carolus objects specifically to King’s plagiarism in his thesis, or limits his claim to King’s college studies. He doesn’t, does he, clown?

He says- and this is now the fourth time at least that I’ve reproduced his statement- ‘MLK was one of the greatest plagiarists of the 20th century. And much of what he didn’t plagiarize, he got ghost-written. ‘
Nothing about theses. No limited claim. Just lies and hyperbole.

As to Monticello, you say ‘Monticello is not a “museum.” It is the house that Jefferson built and lived in, now open to the public, and run by very knowledgeable people.’ It is indeed those things; it is also a ‘museum’, or even a museum without the scare quotes; and it is also the leading centre for archival research into Jefferson’s life.

Which is why I posted a link to Monticello’s webpage concerning the Sally Hemings controversy, which- if you will trouble yourself to read the relevant page- contains links to all the most relevant recent scholarship, wherein the overwhelming consensus is that Jefferson cannot be said to, and almost certainly did not, father a child with Sally Hemings.And you haven’t read those papers- collected by the Monticello people, based on research largely conducted at Monticello, because, er, Monticello (meaning your visit there) is more trustworthy than Monticello (meaning the scholarly papers that the Monticello trustees and scholars have published). You’re a proper fool, aren’t you?

But as I say, disprove my claim that the Carolus statement you defend is a) untrue and b)contrary to your claims contains no reference to King’s thesis but instead is a general characterisation of King as ‘one of the greatest plagiarists of the 20th century’. King wasn’t, that statement isn’t true, Carolus said nothing in his original statement about King’s thesis- you’re a fool. And an ignoramus.

But £50 to charity if you can prove otherwise.

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Dan Hardie 11.05.04 at 1:58 pm

I’m busy now, but I’ll be back at a computer terminal around 8pm. If Jimmy Doyle can provide evidence that Carolus’s statement was, as he says, ‘true’ and/or a specific claim limited to King’s college thesis, £50 will be on its way to Bristol University’s Philosophy Department, thence to be sent to whichever charity Jimmmy favours. That statement is, for the umpteenth time:
‘MLK was one of the greatest plagiarists of the 20th century. And much of what he didn’t plagiarize, he got ghost-written.’

‘True’? Specific references to MLK’s thesis? Hmmm…

Lotsa luck, Jimmy.

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Jimmy Doyle 11.05.04 at 2:01 pm

“Please point me to one (1) phrase or sentence where Carolus objects specifically to King’s plagiarism in his thesis, or limits his claim to King’s college studies. He doesn’t, does he, clown?”

Well now, Dick (you don’t mind if I call you Dick? I know you’re name’s Dan, but… it just seems more appropriate, somehow), Carolus’s post doesn’t say anything at all about the nature of MLK’s plagiarism, but, you see, Dick, it does contain a link to a book review, which identifies the plagiarism, and notes that it includes much of his dissertation. Dick. You see. And the first thing I said on the subject, Dick, was in response to Dsquared: “Your fallacy wouldn’t really matter if what Carolus said was ignorable, in the way that characteristically racist sayings are ignorable. But it is not ignorable; in fact, it is true: Martin Luther King Jr’s Ph D dissertation was largely plagiarised.” When I said “it is true:…”, I meant “it’s true that…”; that is, I wasn’t claiming that everything Carolus had said was true. And it was pretty clear, Dick, which bit of what Carolus said I was characterising as true: the general claim (which I admit Carolus expressed hyperbolically) that MLK was a plagiarist, with particular reference to the fact, as stated in the review to which Carolus linked, that HE PLAGIARISED MUCH OF HIS FUCKING DISSERTATION. If you came away with the impression that I was endorsing anything more than this, Dick, then you’re a fool and an ignoramus, Dick. And you’re still denying, on no evidence, Dick, that I’ve read the relevant material on the Monticello webpage. Since you’re clearly proud of your credentials as a real, proper, historian, Dick, who “reads primary and secondary sources before shooting (your) mouth off on historical subjects,” this lack of evidence still makes you a fool and a hypocrite, Dick. You can send the $50 to your nearest retirement home for clapped-out historians.

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Chris Bertram 11.05.04 at 2:21 pm

Dan, Jimmy, I love you both dearly…. how about pursuing this further by private emails to one another?

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Jimmy Doyle 11.05.04 at 2:45 pm

Well, he started it. Anyway, it’s more fun to insult people in public.

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Dan Hardie 11.05.04 at 3:24 pm

Goodness, swearing. Or almost swearing. What a very hard little boy.(Brief textual note to non-native-speakers of English: Dick is a man’s name-short for Richard- and also a slang word meaning ‘penis’, or more generally ‘dislikeable person’.It’s not especially rude, but seven-year-olds think it is shockingly so.)

You defended these sentences by Carolus:’‘MLK was one of the greatest plagiarists of the 20th century. And much of what he didn’t plagiarize, he got ghost-written.’

You said this of Carolus’s statement: ‘’ in fact, it is true… a comment whose substance turned out, in fact, to be true…his comment is true… I just happened to know it was true on independent grounds(what independent grounds, fool?)….Carolus was right in that King had plagiarised a very large part of his dissertation.’

The book review Carolus linked to made specific claims about King’s thesis, the claim that Carolus made and that you defended did not and is untrue. Pappas’s book is not accepted at all within the scholarly community for its treatment of King’s speeches and overall career; as to the review’s rhetoric about no-one accepting King’s plagiarism, the official King archives were actually the first to detect that King’s thesis was largely plagiarised, and this is accepted by all serious scholars. If I say, for example, that person x wrote 18 books, and then link to an article in which it is established that person x wrote 1 book, I have not thereby provided evidence for my original claim. Just to remind you of what you would love to forget, you described as ‘true’ a claim that ‘MLK was one of the greatest plagiarists of the 20th century.’

Carolus linking to one book review neither proves that claim (since the consensus of scholarly opinion is that it is untrue) . Nor does linking to that review limit Carolus’s plagiarism claim to MLK’s thesis -since, as the review makes clear to anyone with basic literacy, a category excluding yourself, the Tom Pappas book reviewed deals with far more than just King’s thesis, and asserts plagiarism in the speeches by King, which assertion has generally not been accepted by scholars who have studied the question.

Now can you understand that, or do I need to put caps lock on and type in lots of swearwords?

(The ‘F’ word! And in capitals! Oooh, how hard. And how convincing an argument. You sound like a rough, tough sort of fellow, too frightening for me. You should become a paratrooper, you know.)

I asked you to ‘disprove my claim that the Carolus statement you defend is a) untrue and b)contrary to your claims contains no reference to King’s thesis but instead is a general characterisation of King as ‘one of the greatest plagiarists of the 20th century’.

And you can’t. You are indeed a clown and an ignoramus. I leave open the question of whether this is forgiveable in the light of the fact that you are clearly also a schoolboy eagerly awaiting his eighth birthday.

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Chris Bertram 11.05.04 at 3:54 pm

Children, children ….

Genuinely enlightening discussion in this thread has clearly come to an end, and neither of you is going to respect my plea to take your bickering elsewhere, and I’m not going to get drawn in to a discussion of who started it.

So I’m closing the thread to further comments.

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