Sunday, May 20, 2018

Munk Debate: Political Correctness (Peterson/Fry vs. Goldberg/Dyson)

Hard to tell, given my evangelical anti-PCism, but it seemed to me that Peterson/Fry wiped the floor with Goldberg/Dyson. According to before-and-after polls they changed a lot of minds...though I'm not sure how seriously to take those things.
   Dyson was just awful--he was basically the only representative of a fairly robust variety of PC. He's a bullshitter who went right for a racial ad hominem. Honestly, I can't remember him saying a single coherent thing. The preacherly cadence got old fast.

   Goldberg is pretty reasonable, but, consequently, she's not that PC. She basically started off by abandoning much of what distinguishes PC from liberalism: censorship and the application of political violence. Similarly: she basically argued that those who oppose PC are basically racists and sexists who want to be able to drop n-bombs in public. That's a common, bogus defense of PC. If it were true it would basically mean that PC is just the rejection of overt racism and sexism...but the majority of liberals and conservatives are against that sort of thing. So PC can't just be that. Of course it isn't...but what it is is anyone trying to defend it has to motte-and-bailey for all they're worth. Anyway, Goldberg launched some of the de riguer ad hominems against Peterson, too, distorting what he says. So...maybe not all that reasonable...but she really did have her moments. At times she seemed to be genuinely struggling with some of the issues--you've got to admire that. In fact, her attempts to run away from PC indicate that she's got at least that much sense.
   Fry's a witty over, really. You can't beat those fuckers in a debate...I mean, seriously. Glad he was on the right side--but it was kinda unfair. And what he characterized as his general position is wrong: he said, basically: PC is fine, but its methods are ineffective. Other things he said made it fairly clear that's not what he really thinks. I think he was just making the sound point that the alternative to PC is civilized right-of-PC-ism, not wanton racism. Anyway, he also made the most important point of the debate, which was: Goldberg/Fry really weren't defending PC.
   Peterson started off really strong. His opening statement was excellent, I thought. Surprised me how good it was, actually. He ended on a weak note, though: the question he kept pushing against Goldberg ("When does the left go too far?") is an important one, but she answered it: censorship and violence. It's not a great answer...the PC left goes wrong way before they start in with the censorship and violence...but it's not an unreasonable answer. If Peterson had an objection to that answer, he should have stated it instead of just insisting that she hadn't answered.
   Anyway. Debates are shitty because they're too much like rhetorical contests, and too little like inquiry. But they may do something to get people to think a bit more about the issues. And the good guys won this one. So that's something.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, this was never a fair fight, given how much of an obvious hack Dyson is. Goldberg frankly isn't much better, but interestingly she was equivocating her defense much of the time, then just fell back to attacking Trump, which is so lazy. Dyson seemed completely unwilling to engage with the other side at all, just pontificate about racism.

Still, the fact that the con side got a 10% bump post debate with an already strong pre-debate lead shows how poor a showing they had, especially since > 35% of the audience probably strongly sympathized with the progressive perspective.

4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to reflect and write on the debate. I enjoyed reading your post.

I watched the debate yesterday and agree that Peterson/Fry were the winners. For me, Fry's closing lines were the highlight: "this strange paradox: that liberals are illiberal in their demand for liberality; they are exclusive in their demand for inclusivity; they are homogenous in their demand for heterogeneity; they are somehow un-diverse in their call for diversity (you can be diverse, but not diverse in your opinions, and in your language, and in your behavior), and that’s a terrible pity."

I haven't watched a debate like this in years (decades?). You're right that we don't get a lot of inquiry. But I thought that some of the stakes were at least made clear by Fry's reference to Orwell.

10:50 AM  

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