It might come off as no surprise to you, but I like to argue to on the Internet. This inclination of mine has led me to the great digital forum of civil discourse, Youtube. Anyone who has been there, knows immediately this is crap and can smell the facetiousness dripping from my words. As I’ve grown as a critical thinker, my visits are exponentially less frequent as I’ve become less and less taken with Youtube, realizing it’s full of sophistry and demagoguery, short on intellectual rigor.
Yet, I’ve been known to dabble, and the last time I dabbled was with a user known as TheKindAvenue. He is an atheist whose channel’s mission is to promote what he calls kindism. His mantra is to be kind and accept everyone regardless of ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual orientation, etc. I agree wholeheartedly with this idea, especially for Youtube as acrimony and derision reign supreme among both atheists and theists. For that alone, you should visit his Youtube abode and blog.
But he has a second favorite word apart from “kind.” It’s “bigot.” He accused The Cartesian Theist of being one against gays for merely making a playlist of videos supporting the traditional definition of marriage. His video response literally began:
So recently, a popular, philosophical and theistic Youtuber has come out as a homophobic bigot.
He makes no attempt to show how this is the case as the content of the videos the Cartesian Theist endorsed are not inherently prejudiced or homophobic against gays at all. I confronted TheKindAvenue about his faulty inference, thinking I could reason with him because he has shown some interest in philosophy with some of his videos. The errand was foolhardy.
According to him, anyone who is pro-life or subscribes to the definition of marriage being between a man and a woman, is both sexist and homophobic. I tried to show him there was no implicit reason to come to such a conclusion by reasoning akin due to the fact my buddy Oscar (post something, please! You know it’s bad when I’m out-posting you!) thinks my Christian theism is false, means he hates me. TheKindAvenue then inferred and made arguments that pro-lifers and those who support the traditional definition of marriage are against civil rights. That, even granting same-sex couples equivalency with heterosexual ones in the government’s eyes sans the title of marriage is “separate but equal.” I shot down these arguments as falsely conflating the quality of physical objects like bathrooms and water fountains with immaterial rights was categorically a mistake. Law of excluded middle dictates that there is no degrees of quality with rights. You either have them or you don’t. He also thinks hate speech should be outlawed, and he asserted something along the lines of we should not tolerate intolerance “if you see where I’m going with this.”
I, getting frustrated, hastily and stupidly quipped that I indeed saw where he was going with this: a little place called tyranny (more on this later). This, along with my apparently “bigoted” comments, got me blocked from his channel, officially showing me how short The Kind Avenue is.
Honestly, I should have known better. I watched some of his more philosophically oriented videos, especially in ethics, beforehand and should have realized I couldn’t sit down and reason with him. When I pressed him about his ethical views, I got an incoherent mess. He is a non-cognitivist but subscribes to virtue ethics. He also has a video entitled “Metaethics is Irrelevant.” For those who have studied ethical philosophy, the problems here are obvious and embarrassing. For those who haven’t, non-cognitivism is a metaethical position that moral statements don’t have truth value (can be true or false). Virtue ethics is a normative theory that presumes that moral statements do have truth value. So, he’s blatantly contradicting himself in the vein of “I don’t speak a word of English.” Secondly, the claim “Metaethics is irrelevant” is itself a metaethical one.
Most likely, anyone who thinks himself as philosophically minded, yet makes a claim like this one really has no idea what they’re talking about. It’s like saying, “I want to be a gardener, but I don’t want to get dirt under my fingernails.” TheKindAvenue contends we instead should focus on what normative theory is true. For him, it’s virtue ethics, which is predictable. It’s emphasis on internal character i.e. what would the kind person do would be extremely attractive to him. But often in philosophy, it’s the assumptions in nitty-gritty areas like metaethics where theories live or die. They’re made in order for theories to get off the ground. Any attempt to reconcile the contradiction in TheKindAvenue’s moral philosophy would require him to do some metaethics. And I did get him to “get his hands dirty” in defense of his moral philosophy in which he redefined his position as quasi-realism, but before I asked him to show how this is better than what could only generously be called wishful thinking, he blocked me. I’m doubtful he even could as he hasn’t shown much prowess or appreciation for nuance.
To be fair, I’m being harsh, yet my critique to him personally was much gentler than the above paragraphs. I also think TheKindAvenue is a decent, yet misguided person with an excellent idea that everyone ought to be kind and love each other. Admittedly, I’m irritated, but not so much by the fact he blocked me. He is the king of the niche of cyberspace Youtube had allotted him, and it’s within his right to censure whomever he wants. I wouldn’t have such a quick trigger finger, but it’s his channel, not mine. It doesn’t stop me from blogging about him and his irrationality to my whopping nine subscribers, which I know will not affect his reputation. What will is a continuation of his hypocritical actions on Youtube. The impartial will see through his sophistry and realize he is being unreasonable, unfair and unkind. It will catch up with him.
However, our encounter is just another example in a trend I’ve been noticing among gay rights and pro-choice advocates. They have been using a rhetorical tactic that isn’t being recognized as the intolerant idea that it is. In their view, there are only two categories of people: those with us, and the bigots against us. There is no middle, let alone, rational ground to oppose us. If you simply disagree, it automatically makes you prejudiced and contra civil rights.
These arguments, as ad hominem as they come, appeal to a deeply rooted taboo within Americans. Words and terms like “bigot” or “against civil rights” stir up cringe-worthy and shameful notions like the pre-Civil War and or Jim Crow South. To be compared or likened to those people in history is a serious accusation implying the accused is somehow un-American. That, they don’t believe in American virtues like “freedom, liberty and justice for all.” Hence, “bigot,” “sexist” and “homophobe” are not insults to be tossed around lightly.
But that’s exactly what people like TheKindAvenue are doing. These terms, which characterize extreme people, positions and cases, are being thrown around like baseballs during Spring Training. Once you’ve been dubbed as a bigot, it’s game over. You’re as hopeless as the Chicago Cubs. Once labeled, you’re irrational, emotional and hateful. The martyrs fighting for equality in marriage and pro-choice have the monopoly on reason. Any attempt to show these labels as untrue is dismissed as mere rationalization of your bigotry.
Effectively, this move is censuring those who are pro-life and proponents of the traditional definition of marriage like me. Look at this summer’s debacle with Chic-fil-A’s Dan Cathy. He said:
I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
There is nothing inherently homophobic about his statement. He didn’t say “gays shouldn’t be allowed to be together” or “gays are sub-human” or “fags go to hell.” No, he was being a Christian American who was well within his First Amendment right. That dignity was quickly stripped away from him when he was called a bigot.
I anticipate the paltry responses of the ilk: “Well, to think marriage is only between a man and a woman is to say gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry and that’s denying civil rights or relegating gays as second class citizens.” First of all, such responses like this are proving my point, as it’s an argument and is inferring, albeit poorly, a conclusion. There was nothing blatantly anti-gay about Cathy’s quote as reasoning had to be given, an effort had to be made, to establish your claim. Secondly, gays do have the right to marry, they just refuse to enter relationships within which procreation is, in principle, possible, thereby rendering marriage applicable and relevant. But that’s just what I tell my homophobic self at night.
As homophobes, I, Cathy and others like us are unable to reason, intolerant and un-American. Therefore, our beliefs and rights, including our Free Speech, are not legitimate. The “intolerant should not be tolerated” — again, TheKindAvenue’s sentiment, not mine — is ironically the very authoritarian dogma it’s trying to destroy. It denies a plurality of views. A true test to see if someone or a doctrine is liberal is if that person or doctrine tries to quell any opposition against it. The weapon of choice to do so in this context is to call anyone who dissents civilly as a bigot.
I know I’m not. Sure, I’ve been scathing, but I’ve also tried to be fair here, within which I criticize many of my Christian brothers and sisters’ attitudes towards homosexuality as not only wrong, but non biblical and unchristian. Interestingly, I think it’s the post of mine that has the most likes, ratings or whatnot. However, it’s not enough to absolve me of my prejudice. I disagree with TheKindAvenue and his compatriots, therefore I must be akin to someone who is a journalist by day but dons white, ghost-like sheets and goes by imperial wizard at night.
Alas, as the thespian Ewan McGregor immortalized the wisdom of the great philosopher George Lucas:
“Only a Sith deals in absolutes,”