« Do the Carney Two-Step! | Main | Is Cheap Credit Discouraging Personal Saving? »

June 24, 2013

The Fragile Combat Flowers of War...

...have set their sights firmly on one James Taranto, anthill stirrer extraordinaire:

... the Ms. Foundation for Women, in cooperation with an outfit called the Service Women's Action Network, has started an online petition "calling for the disciplining of" your humble columnist, whom they graciously describe as "prominent." They find no fault with our account of the facts; they complain only of our "framing the campaign as a 'war on men' " and of a few phrases they find neuralgic.

That is to say, they want a journalist to be punished for committing journalism--for accurately reporting the news and expressing an opinion contrary to feminist orthodoxy. It is a lovely example of the totalitarian mindset that is the core of contemporary feminism.

The Editorial Staff are chagrined to admit that the thought of Mr. Taranto being "disciplined" by a horde of angry feminists raises the delightful possibility of spanking (and leaves us feeling positively tingly in all the right places)! But we are determined to do the mature thing here. Let's walk through the logic on display.

1. For reasons known only to himself, Mr. Taranto chooses to cloak his entirely valid and well sourced criticism of the factual accuracy underpinning the "military rape crisis" jihad currently underway in Congress in the very same over the top, identity-politics-drenched rhetoric employed with such success by our opponents during the last election. Before we can say, "Isn't that just like a man?", a debate over the scope of the problem and the proper legal disposition of sexual assault accusations has morphed into a full fledged "war on men" that "criminalizes normal male sexuality"!!!11!

And here we thought men were comparatively rational and unemotional.

2. Two fairly obscure women's advocacy groups duly beclown themselves in gratifying predictable fashion, demanding that the Wall Street Journal "discipline" Taranto for offending their delicate feminine sensibilities. They even have a petition you can sign!

James Taranto’s June 17 opinion piece, “Gen. Helms and the Senator's 'Hold'”, was deeply offensive to women’s advocates and expressed a disconcerting lack of understanding of the seriousness of sexual assault. We find such hateful rhetoric highly inappropriate for a newspaper of the Wall Street Journal’s caliber.

We call on you to formally meet with the Ms. Foundation for Women and the Service Women’s Action Network to correct the impression that efforts to end sexual assault in the military constitute a “war on men.” We further ask you to censure James Taranto for his acceptance of sexual assault.

Apparently, the Global War on Terror is about to give way to a Global War on Impressions.

Or perhaps a Global War on Not Taking Sacred Oxen Seriously. No, wait! How about a Global War on Upsetting Opinions? Oh, and reporting inconvenient "facts" (we use the term loosely, in the same sense that Ms. Foundation misrepresents extrapolated poll numbers as actual sexual assaults) somehow constitutes acceptance (approval, even!) of sexual assault.

Ladies, you're not doing your argument any favors here. But then neither is Mr. Taranto, when he claims that upsetting the Perpetually Outraged somehow "proves" his case:

All this viciousness was in the service of denying that there is, as we wrote in yesterday's article, a "war on men." Well, imagine if a prominent feminist journalist wrote about the "war on women" and dozens of conservative male writers responded by subjecting her to similar verbal abuse. Would that not be prima facie evidence that she was on to something? If the answer is yes--and we'd say it is--then either the same is true in our case or the sexes aren't equal. (Select one or both of the above.)

We can take the abuse. In fact, in this instance we delight in it, not only because we see the humor but because it proves us right.

Here are a few debate questions for the assembled villainry:

1. Is being on the receiving end of verbal abuse really all it takes to win an argument? If so, we're going to have to take back everything we've ever said about Andrew Sullivan and his weird obsession with Sarah Palin's lady parts.

2. Does the fact that two relatively unknown women's advocacy groups are calling for a journalist to be "disciplined" (be still, my beating heart!) really establish the "totalitarian mindset at the core of contemporary feminism"? If so, then what do we make of similar calls for Fox News' Shep Smith to be punished for offending conservatives?

Gentlemen, you're not doing your argument any favors....

Oh, never mind.

Posted by Cassandra at June 24, 2013 06:11 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.villainouscompany.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/4665

Comments

I likely would have responded along the lines of, "So when I use your own rhetorical devices against you, you say it is unfair. Hoist, Petard, some assembly required".

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 24, 2013 10:44 AM

Me too. I think that "See how obnoxious and insulting your own language is when it's used against you?" is actually a pretty damned good argument.

On the other hand, "It's outrageous/divisive/unfair/dishonest/inflammatory to do X!", when followed up by retaliating in kind, has the tendency to undermine your credibility with all but the fist-pumping crowd (and they don't need persuading).

When you manage to turn off people who passionately agreed with your point long before you wrote about it the first time, that just might be a sign that adopting the worst tactics of the Left just might have some nasty unintended consequences.

I am rapidly losing hope that we're capable of making the case for conservatism. In fact, I'm just plain rapidly losing hope.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 24, 2013 10:55 AM

1. When your argument is that there is a war on men, and for saying that, you are viciously attacked by women, doesn't that sort of prove your point?

2. Yes, because it is representative of what the rabid feminists typically have been saying for years.

Now, don't forget, James Taranto intentionally phrases his sentences to be humorous and get a rise of the totalitarian mindset sort of uber-liberals who constantly provide him with grist for his mill.

I do admit to having a soft spot for James, as I was reading Best of the Web even before he took over writing it, and he was the one who referenced Instapundit which is how I discovered Glen Reynolds and the rest of the Blogosphere, which hadn't quite been named yet.

Posted by: Rex at June 24, 2013 11:25 AM

"So when I use your own rhetorical devices against you, you say it is unfair. Hoist, Petard, some assembly required".

That's always been my reading of Taranto's method. He doesn't wink at the end of it so you know he was joking, though: he just pushes it to the wall, and trusts his readers to be in on the joke.

At least, that's how I've always read him. His sense of humor is pitiless, a point made clearest by some of the puns he makes out of utterly tragic headlines. If he won't defer on that point out of respect for the sensibilities of others, he certainly isn't going to drop the mask while there's still money to be made pushing the masquerade.

It's not my method -- in particular I sometimes object to the puns about tragedies. But I think that's what he's up to, more than intending the argument to be taken seriously on its face.

Posted by: Grim at June 24, 2013 11:42 AM

When your argument is that there is a war on men, and for saying that, you are viciously attacked by women, doesn't that sort of prove your point?

Well, Sandra Fluke was viciously attacked for participating on the war on women meme. So she must have had a point: there must be a war on women?

Posted by: Cassandra at June 24, 2013 12:11 PM

"So when I use your own rhetorical devices against you, you say it is unfair. Hoist, Petard, some assembly required".

That's always been my reading of Taranto's method. He doesn't wink at the end of it so you know he was joking, though: he just pushes it to the wall, and trusts his readers to be in on the joke.

Do you seriously think Taranto's point is that there is not, in fact, a "war on men" any more than there is a war on women? Or that such rhetorical devices generate more heat than light?

Posted by: Cassandra at June 24, 2013 12:34 PM

Well, a generous reading would be that there is exactly as much a "war on men" as there is a "war on women".

I am not familiar enough with Taranto to guess whether he means that both exist or that neither exist.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 24, 2013 12:52 PM

The first, not the second. I think he believes the heat is light-producing. :)

Posted by: Grim at June 24, 2013 12:53 PM

So if I understand you correctly Grim, Taranto doesn't actually believe there's a war on men, and doesn't believe feminists are trying to criminalize male sexuality?

He's wryly making the case against over the top histrionics by arguing things he doesn't actually believe (using over the top histrionics)?

Posted by: Cassandra at June 24, 2013 01:01 PM

I think he probably does believe that there is a small set of feminists who are to some degree at war with men and trying to criminalize male sexuality, especially at universities, and to some degree in the military. In fact, I imagine he believes that these feminists are more really at war with men than any subset of men are with women.

But the real reason to phrase the charge this way is that it's an exact reflection of their charges in their register. I take his point to be that, if we're going to talk about wars on a sex, let's look at both sides of these 'wars' in exactly the same terms, with exactly the same tone. That may shed light (via heat) on where the 'war' really is, to whatever degree there is one.

That in itself is an old feminist method, "deconstruction," which the feminists learned from Derrida. You just reverse the polarity on whatever social institutions you encounter, and see what happens when they're applied in the reverse in the same way. Derrida's idea was that this would in fact produce a lot of light on social injustices, by showing that a given standard being imposed on one group would not be accepted by the other group.

I've never cared for it in feminism, because it's intended to level all separate standards -- and there are many cases, especially in matters of sex, where (as you know) I think separate standards make good sense because there are natural differences for which we ought to account. I believe in natural law, by which standard deconstructing natural differences is a kind of madness, a refusal to accept reality.

But it's had good moments, especially in confronting racism. Where there isn't a real natural difference, it can sometimes actually shed real light on ways in which socially constructed differences might be criticized.

Posted by: Grim at June 24, 2013 01:13 PM

Hi Cassandra,
Fun post, thanks for providing rich fodder for mocking. Have enjoyed earlier posts on related topics, and appreciate the 'tone' here. Forthwith:

1. No, it is a shameful use of a straw man to 'prove' one's point, often involving circular logic. James boldly mocks the feminazi's (deliberate word choice) for being oversensitive, then uses their harsh criticism of him to claim that it proves his point.
> James is usually kept on his blog, and not the op-ed pages for a reason; he is provocative by choice.

2. Everyone calling for their ideological opponents to be 'disciplined' for expressing a point of view they dislike should go back to journalism 101 and re-read the 1st amendment.
> further, and more to the point, a person is much more likely to persuade the open minded in the reading audience by presenting rational arguments supported by facts and logic.

(3), to your last questions on James, I'd say he mocks pretty much *all* 'over the top' language wherever he notices it . . . . . though he obviously targets lefties more frequently.

Very Best Regards,

Posted by: CAPT Mike at June 24, 2013 01:21 PM

I think he probably does believe that there is a small set of feminists who are to some degree at war with men and trying to criminalize male sexuality, especially at universities, and to some degree in the military. In fact, I imagine he believes that these feminists are more really at war with men than any subset of men are with women.

I'm confused. Earlier you suggested that his argument wasn't intended to be taken seriously.

Now you're suggesting that he does actually think there's a war on men (in which case he wasn't actually joking about the war on men/criminalizing male sexuality shtick).

Posted by: Cassandra at June 24, 2013 03:35 PM

In fact, I imagine he believes that these feminists are more really at war with men than any subset of men are with women.

Well, I suppose that if one accepts that Romney needing a binder full of women's resumes and businesses being allowed to determine for themselves if their insurance benefits will cover birth control pills constitutes a "war on women" what else can you call it when a woman's group basically asserts that a woman's accusation of sexual assault is sufficient for legal action unless proven innocent and that someone who argued otherwise should face punitive action but a "war on men"?

It's pretty ridiculous to call either a "War on X", but if one buys into the conceit of the former, I think one has to buy into the conceit of the latter, too.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 24, 2013 03:44 PM

It's pretty ridiculous to call either a "War on X", but if one buys into the conceit of the former, I think one has to buy into the conceit of the latter, too.

BINGO :)

That's precisely the point I was hoping someone would make.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 24, 2013 03:53 PM

I took Grim's comment as this:

Take an elementary school with 1000 students. There are 3 girls and 2 boys fighting in the sandbox.

It's pretty ridiculous to declare that there is a "gender war" going on in the school.

But in as much as the term can be used (because it *is* being used by one side) the female contingent does seem to be the larger of the two.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 24, 2013 03:57 PM

I think YAG has it.

Anyway, it's just how I happen to read him. I don't actually know the guy; it's just how I've been interpreting his work. I think he's doing deconstruction. Deconstructing the deconstructivists, partially because it's fun and partially because it makes them go ape, but also because there's alleged to be (and sometimes really has been, as in the case of race) some value to the exercise. Sometimes it does produce light as well as heat, or maybe more precisely, the kind of heat that produces light.

Posted by: Grim at June 24, 2013 04:02 PM

That's precisely the point I was hoping someone would make.

I guess I'm not understanding, Cass. Because that does seem a defensible reading of what Taranto wrote.

Radical Feminist groups set rules and then proceed to slap men with them.

Taranto says "Fine, I'll play by your rules" and proceeds to stuff them down the throats of said radical Feminists (let's face it "guilty until proven innocent and anyone who says otherwise should be punished" seems much more severe than "buy your own damn condoms like the guys do").

Are you taking issue that he did it, or that he didn't include the last line "See how stupid this form of argument is?"?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 24, 2013 04:11 PM

...and that by not including that line, that it can reasonably be inferred that he is an adherent of the "gender war" meme himself?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 24, 2013 04:14 PM

Taranto says "Fine, I'll play by your rules" and proceeds to stuff them down the throats of said radical Feminists (let's face it "guilty until proven innocent and anyone who says otherwise should be punished" seems much more severe than "buy your own damn condoms like the guys do").

Actually, the ideas being debated are that:

1. Military conviction rates are so low that they show pro-male (or pro-rapist, but I repeat myownself...) bias in the military justice system.

I happen to think this hasn't actually been established, and I did a fair amount of research several weeks ago to support my belief.

2. Allowing commanders to set aside convictions amounts to 'trusting the fox to guard the hen house'. Therefore, this rarely exercised option should be taken away.

Again, I'm not persuaded. But still, no one I am aware of has suggested switching to a legal standard of "guilty until proven innocent". Even the much-criticized DoE policy doesn't amount to that.

Sure, you can exaggerate the actual arguments of the 'military rape crisis' crowd to make them look terrible, but it's not actually clear to me (on the other hand) that taking a rarely exercised option out of the hands of commanders would have much impact on military sexual assault cases either way. Of course that's cold comfort if you're the one whose conviction won't be overturned.

3. The problem with allowing commanders to reverse convictions before they go to the automatic appeal they are all entitled to under the UCMJ is that this "sends the wrong message to rape survivors".

No, the problem is that taking command review away would remove a safeguard designed to protect military defendants because courts martial differ in many important ways from civilian criminal procedure (the automatic appeal for serious offenses is one, the lack of what we think of as a jury of one's peers, another).

Here is where Taranto's latest salvo (subtitled, "Gen. Helms's legal adviser refutes a war-on-men propaganda point.", which rather suggests he believes there really is a war on men, and that propaganda is being used to wage it) does a fantastic job. He literally beats McCaskill over the head with logical arguments well supported by facts.

So yes, I do think the repetition of the gender war meme suggests this is what he actually believes.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 24, 2013 05:03 PM

Are you taking issue that he did it, or that he didn't include the last line "See how stupid this form of argument is?" ...and that by not including that line, that it can reasonably be inferred that he is an adherent of the "gender war" meme himself?

I think that if you're claiming there's a war on men, you ought to present ample evidence to that effect.

A disagreement as to the proper handling of military sexual assault cases doth not a "war on men" make. That line of argument is every bit as deeply stupid as the notion that, if you are criticized for voicing opinions some women don't like, you're not being "allowed to speak".

Mind you, Taranto has not embraced this pathetic line and that redounds to his credit. To give him his due, he has never whined about criticism or implied that it's off limits (which is more than I can say for the two women's groups trying so hard to get him "disciplined") :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 24, 2013 05:06 PM

My impression of Taranto is that he's normally tongue-in-cheek and a merciless satirist, but on the subject of women he loses a bit of his sense of humor: his sense of the hypocritical remains acute but the joke is more sour. Of course it's possible it's just not as funny to me when I'm at least partially the target. Ordinarily I think he's a scream.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 25, 2013 10:16 AM

Actually, the ideas being debated are that:

Well, I agree that those are the ideas that should be being debated. I'm less than convinced that they are.

The reaction to Taranto's column hasn't been to address the facts he's presented, nor to address whether it is proper for a commander to review proceedings that are markedly different from the standards in a civilian courtroom. It has been: How dare you defend sexual assault. I don't see how else to interpret that other than that Guilt is assumed. The idea that, perhaps, the soldier is innocent, and is due some measure of protection seems completely absent. So I think my characterization of "guilty until proven innocent" is fair and it is a more severe statement than "buy your own condoms". Defining "war" down to either statement makes pandas cry, but if you accept the latter you must accept the former, and if you reject the former you must also reject the latter.

I think that if you're claiming there's a war on men, you ought to present ample evidence to that effect.

If one were a true adherent I would agree. I'm not convinced one way or the other that Taranto is*. If someone else is claiming something I find to be ridiculous I don't really see a problem with turning it around and making the other guy eat his own dogfood. And I would certainly use only slightly less ridiculous examples to do it (I couldn't very well offer concrete evidence as I veiw the entire form of argument as stupid).

In fact, I remember doing this to another commentor who was making some psychoanalitical claims about parents who spank their children. But I think I said something along the lines of "the difference between your statment and mine was that I knew it was BS when I wrote it".

*About the only time I read Taranto is when you've linked to him. I'm simply taking the side that he isn't honestly making the claim because I find it to also be a reasonable reading. Taking your reading doesn't spur much discussion.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 25, 2013 10:53 AM

I'm simply taking the side that he isn't honestly making the claim because I find it to also be a reasonable reading.

Fair enough, Yu-Ain :)

I'm not a regular reader of his, but I have enjoyed his writing for many years. Like Tex, I generally find him to be pretty rational except on the topic of feminists/uppity women. There's a personal edge to his rhetoric on these topics that I haven't seen in his other writing.

FWIW, the reactions to Taranto's column are restricted to the ones he has chosen to highlight. I certainly didn't react that way (in fact, I agreed with the majority of his points) and because he didn't link to any non-hysterical responses, we have no real way of knowing how many other women reacted in a more measured fashion.

I know of at least one other female writer who reacted similarly - will link to her essay today.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2013 11:11 AM

Oh, yes. I'm fully aware that his examples are cherry picked. I also happen to believe (because I have no data) that it is also representative of a very very tiny subset of women.

Probably about as tiny as the subset of men who, under the same stupid rubric, are waging a "war on women".

Personally, I'm thrilled that "The Battle of Sexes" is in such a state that who is responsible for condom buying and angry online magazine articles are the biggest problems we have to deal with.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 25, 2013 12:03 PM