Death comes to dinner

One of the things TTAG prides itself on is civil discourse. TTAG has a policy of deleting ad hominem attacks and vulgarities in the comments section. While some may complain that this restricts their right to express their opinion on certain issues, the administrators maintain that it keeps us from looking uncivilized. I couldn’t agree more. The purpose of this article is to touch on civil discourse and how to get your point of view across without sounding… uncivilized . . .

Some time in the last 15 years, public speaking devolved from being an art form into giving any untrained person a microphone. “Being you” or “being real/authentic” became prized over being professional. Language better suited for the bar became acceptable in public. And ever since, public discourse has taken a nose dive. I personally believe that the anonymity the internet purports to provide is another reason for this. People say things on the internet that they would not otherwise say to a stranger’s face for fear of being rebuked, attacked, or possibly even killed.

During my undergraduate years at Notre Dame, I was a member of the Notre Dame Glee Club. It is considered by some to be one the country’s best all-male classical singing ensembles. While a member of the group, I participated in many white tie events. I had the pleasure of mingling with foreign dignitaries, politicians, and even got to eat dinner with the Secret Service on a couple of occasions. It was quite the experience.

Throughout all of this, our director maintained that we were to always act as ambassadors of the university and our art. We were all part of a large group and if one of us looked bad, it made all of us look bad by association. It was excellent advice and I apply the same line of thinking to anything I care about, my top two priorities being classical music and firearms. Civility is key.

One way to maintain civility is to avoid discussion of the controversial topics of sex, politics, and religion in polite conversion. In some cases, you may have to address a subset of those topics. When you do, stay to the topic at hand. For instance, if you are talking about the Democratic Party’s stance on gun control, don’t veer off into an attack on gay marriage.

There’s an old saying, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Well, it’s true. Recently, Shannon Watts posted a picture on Facebook of a pro-gun individual who snapped a picture with her. She claimed it was disingenuous of him to do so. Immediately, pro-gun people began to respond. As for the civil discourse… there was none. People began attacking Shannon personally. There were numerous sexual comments made regarding her, chiefly, that she was frigid and if some stud were to just lay with her, that she would be magically cured.

I do not like Shannon’s group. I disagree with everything they stand for. That said, Shannon Watts is someone’s mother, daughter, grandmother, wife, etc…. How would you feel if someone on her side made a sexually-related insinuation about someone close to you? Misogyny has no place in civil discourse. Neither does misandry or homophobia. Just because someone disagrees with you does not mean they are sexually frigid, insignificantly endowed, sexually confused, or need correction by intimate means. Bringing sexual language and insinuations to a discussion unrelated to sex is not conducive to the discussion at hand. It lowers the bar of discourse to the base.

The same goes for religion. On Thursday of last week, an article was posted about Boston area Catholic bishops who lent their support to a gun control proposal. Those Catholic bishops were in the wrong. I say this as an ardent and practicing Catholic. Nothing they said was religiously binding in the Church. They do not speak for the Church as a whole or for its individual members. It was an off-hand opinion by high-ranking clergymen.

What followed in the comments section was a wholesale attack on the entire Catholic church. With the exception of a couple people who were actually knowledgeable about the Catholic faith and had the wherewithal to explain how the bishops’ opinions were just that — non-theologically binding — the remainder of the comments were about pedophile priests. Lovely. These comments had NOTHING to do with either explaining or refuting misconceptions on which the Church’s stance on guns was based. They were attacks on religion. That’s all.

Let me put this into practical terms. Catholics make up a large majority of the US population. They make up a very large portion of the Northeast population. If I was a Catholic who sat on the gun-control fence and saw those comments, what do you think my opinion of the pro-gun crowd might be? If I was on the fence and a priest, how might I reword my homily concerning gun-related issues? Your personal opinion on purgatory, transubstantiation, and your time spent in the principal’s office at Holy Name of Jesus Elementary School, have no bearing on the gun control discussion. Insulting someone’s religion will drive them away really quickly. Either address the matter directly, or don’t address it at all.

We have covered sex and religion, now for politics. Specifically, politics unrelated to gun control. You know what would be great? Talking about Caracal pistols without having to read Arab-bashing remarks in the comments section. I forget where exactly it was, but there was an “Ask-me-Anything” with a rep from Caracal concerning their pistols. A couple comments in, people began hammering the guy with questions like, “What do you think of the state of Israel?” and other huge bomb throwing political questions. It happens almost any time there is an article about Caracal pistols.

There are a couple of new firearms upstarts in Pakistan that are beginning to export pistols. The guns look pretty good. I have a feeling that comments sections on gun boards are going to hammer these guys for the simple fact that they are from Pakistan. Asking a complete stranger their opinion on politics is considered rude. Even someone who voted for the same candidate as you might not have the same opinions regarding other political matters. Again, the quickest way to move from a conversation into a confrontation: start talking sex, politics, or religion.

One other thing to bear in mind:

Keep your swears minimal to non-existent. Nothing brings the conversation down to base level like the f-word. I was at a developer conference once where a new product was being demonstrated and the lady doing the demonstration thought she’d be edgy by dropping a couple f-bombs in her presentation. It wasn’t edgy, it was uncomfortable. The older investors in the room rolled their eyes. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t doing anything to help bring capital to her cause.

I realize this may seem long-winded. I’m sure a number of you will disagree with me. That’s fine. Just make sure you address the topic at hand in a civil manner when you post in the comments section. And please, no ad hominem attacks.

110 Responses to Civil Discourse and Civility

  1. Well said. If I were to judge the human race based solely on how people conduct themselves on various online media, I would go mad. Online media is the worst form of public discourse, I appreciate that TTAG is vigilant in that respect.

    • God help us if alien visitors decide to check out social media before they make first contact. They would probably drop the moon on us just to be sure we didn’t make it out of the solar system.

      • I suspect they already have checked. It just verified what they already suspected from our past actions: There is no intelligent life on this planet.

  2. “A priest, a pro-abortionist, and Shannon Watts walk into a bar. The bartender says, ‘What’ll ya have?’ The priest says he’ll have a Shirley Temple, the pro-abortionist says she’ll have a Bloody Mary. The Bartender turns to Watts. She says …..”

    Hold on a second! You know what, that’s exactly what you’re talking about. I’ve just hijacked the discussion to something else. Sorry about that.

  3. Take care that we don’ t end up like the Bear for being civil.

    The Bear and the Fox Go into Partnership
    Norway Folk Tale.
    Once the fox and the bear made up their minds to have a field in common. They found a small clearing far away in the forest, where they sowed rye the first year. “Now we must share and share alike,” said Reynard. “If you will have the roots I will have the tops,” he said. Yes, Bruin was quite willing. But when they had threshed the crop, the fox got all the grain, while the bear got nothing but the roots and tares. Bruin didn’t like this, but the fox said it was only as they had agreed. “This year I am the gainer,” said the fox. “Another year it will be your turn. You can then have the tops, and I will be satisfied with the roots.” Next spring the fox asked the bear if he didn’t think turnips would be the right thing for that year. “Yes, that better food than grain,” said the bear, and the fox thought the same.
    When the autumn came the fox took the turnips, but the bear only got the tops.

    The bear then became so angry that he parted company then and there with Reynard.

      • I don’t think it’s necessarily Norwegian in origin. There is a near-identical Russian folk tale, too. But it may well be far more ancient than either nation.

    • Being civil does not mean one must indefinitely put up with another’s dishonesty.

      In your tale, the bear left.

      In our struggles, perhaps the equivalent is to refuse to compromise.

      • That’s what I was thinking.

        My ending went something like this:

        The bear then became so hungry that he ended Reynard’s life then and there — and discovered that fox is quite delicious garnished with turnip greens.

  4. I completely agree with you that the anonymity of the internet, or relative anonymity at least is what causes this lack of intelligent discourse. As you stated, it seems that only 15 years ago we had much more decorum in public speaking. What happened at that time was the introduction of high speed internet and its availability to more people than ever before. Back in the 80s and 90s when people first started creating online identifies they actually cared about their reputation. A person chose his or her handle and stuck with it, developing that online persona as they would their offline persona. They were more responsible, for the most part, in what they said because they knew it would come back to them, usually by being blacklisted from forums, bulletin board systems and other online communities.

    When the floodgates were opened and suddenly everyone and anyone found they could speak their mind, they didn’t care about an online reputation, they just wanted to say something, anything. Many times they said a lot of stupid stuff, but that stupidity got a reaction. Suddenly coarse language, vile imagery and outright rudeness was validated because someone noticed. That is essentially what trolling on the internet is, saying something to get people to respond. As more and more people started playing this sick game of “Look At Me!” civility and respect began to diminish. Now that people can post from just about anywhere at any time they want, they feel that they have the right to say what they want and they do not care if it offends someone else. They truly don’t understand how to act in public.

    We are seeing this lack of respect and civility transcend the internet and invade our daily life. It’s a slow, downward spiral we seem to be caught in and it is only reinforced by the other cause that also rose to prominence in the last 15 years: pundits appearing on television as “journalists”. This new media values shock and flash over substance; anything they can use to gain ratings, to get eyeballs looking at their channel or website if fair game. There used to be a strict standard of journalism, but thanks to the cable television news explosion that standard has all but disappeared. As long as someone can yell louder than the person they are debating, they win.

    The attitude that TTAG is taking is perfect, and hopefully we see more and more online forums and web sites take that tame tack. There are many forums that do have this same policy of keeping things civil, discussing the ideas and not the person and requiring civility in order to post, but we need more administrators and owners to step up. Unfortunately, the base element usually drives people to seek something out, so there will always be ignorant and hateful posts on the internet. Just look at the comments to any news story online in order to see the worst of humanity. As you said, we as posters here on TTAG need to rise above that lowest common denominator even in the face of that exact same treatment by the people who want to take our rights away. We need to show that we are better than they are.

    • Correct. However, it’s impossible to block out the Internet and still be a part of it. They’re trying in the PRC, and failing miserably for the most part.

    • Dev wrote, “We need to show that we are better than they are.”

      Remember a few years ago when one of the gun-control groups (I forget which one) used the slogan, “We’re better than that.” They had no idea how much more appropriate their slogan was for the gun-rights side. Gun-control groups have always used lies and unreasonable/emotional arguments, while Gun-rights groups have insisted on the truth and arguments that are rational and pragmatic. We (the gun-rights group) were better than they were.

  5. Great article, great points. What does it hurt having a civil discussion about something? Stick to the subject and avoid the personal attacks. Unfortunately the gun issue is emotional on both sides and shooting from the hip seems to bypass the brain filter. We have plenty of ammo to refute the anti freedom side of the argument. Stick to the subject and keep it clean.

    • I’ve been disappointed several times at the seeming inability of some people on this site to disagree without becoming insulting. One in particular would not dispute the points I made, but continued to attempt to insult and disparage me personally. I had to shake my head. Do they really not see how pathetic that type of behavior is? When a person has to resort to insults and vulgarity, it really just shows how weak their argument is.

  6. And to attack someone personally during debate is to say that you have no effective response. Don’t respond (in kind) to attacks, use them to demonstrate the weakness of your opponents position.

  7. This is a civil rights issue. Remember that. If Ghandi had been recorded as saying “Those fuc%ing British crackers need to fuc%ing die!”… No matter how right he may have been, it would have set the cause back. Remember too, this is a cause. A reason. A purpose. We are fighting for the future. Yes, the enemy is…beyond contempt. But our CAUSE is JUST. We have to show the muggles such. Rage privatly, publicly show your best.

    • The other side is the opponents, not “the enemy”. They are not beneath contempt. They are just wrong. They are feeling, fearing, but not really thinking. They certainly have no real association with traditional healthy American values like lawful, responsible firearms ownership. Giving vent to frustrated outbursts is understandable and may feel good for a moment, but it makes changing tearts and minds more difficult. What they can tell, even if they cannot face a different paradyme, is that you behaved in a more classy fashion than they expected; that you showed patience and even kindness and politeness. That commands respect, which opens minds.

  8. Sage advice for all those who publicly advocate for gun rights. When you wander into public unshaved and wearing camo spouting off about the “gummint”, it does not matter how right your facts are, you are turning people off. What’s the old saying about christian hypocrites? “I’m good with Jesus, it’s his fan club I can’t stand!”. Take care that’s not you on gun rights.

  9. Get the hell out of here with that noise: Shannon Watts is a paid shill who is getting all kinds of airtime and trying to take away our right to defend ourselves and our families. I don’t give a fsck about her being someone’s mother, sister, etc.

    • You are entitled to your opinion.
      And you are correct on the facts of Ms Watts employment.

      But you are missing the point.
      The F’ word and personal attacks do us no good here, where people come for the Truth About Guns. Right or wrong, we are judged by our words.
      And the proof is, TTAG is working.

      “A clean and well lit space…” ~ Hemingway

      • You’re right; I guess I had a bit of a kneejerk reaction there, which is actually unlike me. I just thought of how – contrary to what many here think – she’s making progress each week toward her goal of our rights being further infringed.

        • Actually, I don’t believe she is, except in her own mind and in her little Internet echo chamber. Even the NYDN didn’t single her out in their last Bloomberg-worshiping article.

  10. We need to ask ourselves something when selling the 2A argument to the uncommitted voters. Do we PotG want to be seen as:
    – eager to stoop lower than the Anti’s?
    – unwilling to stoop so low as the Anti’s?

    If we want the uncommitted voters to hear-us-out it makes more sense to invite them into a civil discussion rather than to scare them away with a prominence even more disgusting than that of the Anti’s.

    • The sad part is that the antis are quite willing to rapidly degenerate into the vilest discourse you can imagine. I give you as an example the comments following ANY MJ anti-gun article. We don’t have to do that here.

    • Number of comments means nothing. Quality is what counts.

      If the numbers dropped because the asinine, immature comments have been culled, good riddance.

    • I’ve noticed that I skip over more and more articles now. I’m not sure whether my own commenting frequency has diminished for that, or been countered by more comments on fewer articles. Still, overall page views is what matters for web traffic and ads. Whenever they start in with this sanctimonious civility sermon, while permitting and practicing incivility themselves, I usually roll my eyes and move on.

    • and don’t forget, Shannon’s crowd actually made an effort to say that male gun owners are limp d!cked, not well endowed, racist, homophobic, kuckle draggers, etc. So let’s not go there with asking for patience when we are attacked.

      • So? It was wrong of them to say such things. There is more frustration over there than you might realize. They have some flashy superficial advantages, and still cannot make much progress outside the bluest states. They’re facing an election and not optimistic about the folowing years. Tides still turn.

      • That argument really doesn’t hold a lot of weight with me. “They did it first”? Sounds like when you hear children fighting. “Bobby pushed me!” “Yeah, but Jenny pushed me first!” Basically, you are saying that because they behaved badly, that justifies us in doing the same?

  11. The problem is no more the internet in this case than firearms are in any other. I agree with the article but there is little else to blame than people. Human nature did not change in 15 years, but our view of it may have.

  12. The 10 Commandments of Logic

    1. Thou shall not attack the person’s character, but the argument. (Ad hominem)

    2. Thou shall not misrepresent or exaggerate a person’s argument in order to make them easier to attack. (Straw man fallacy)

    3. Thou shall not use small numbers to represent the whole. (Hasty generalization)

    4. Thou shall not argue thy position by assuming one of its premises is true. (Begging the question)

    5. Thou shall not claim that because something occurred before, it must be the cause. (Post Hoc/False cause)

    6. Thou shall not reduce the argument down to two possibilities. (False dichotomy)

    7. Thou shall not argue that because of our ignorance, claim must be true or false. (Ad ignorantum)

    8. Thou shall not lay the burden of proof onto him that is questioning the claim. (Burden of proof reversal)

    9. Thou shall not assume “this” follows “that” when it has no logical connection. (Non sequitur)

    10. Thou shall not claim that because a premise is popular, therefore it must be true. (Bandwagon fallacy)

    • That is a fine list but I wish there was room for one more:

      11. Thou shall check thine ego at the door. (“I know that I know nothing.”)

    • You forgot the “appeal to authority” fallacy, which is a very cherished notion among statists.

      eg “The government says X, the government is the authority, therefore X must be true.”

      or

      “Professor Dimwit has a PhD, you don’t, therefore his argument is correct.”

  13. I grew up in Jersey, white, and in one of the worst ghettos you could ever find. Shannon Watts represents ALL those who created my hell. I know what it means to hate this/her symbol. BUT, to WIN, we must be BETTER. Give them nothing, but TAKE FROM THEM EVERYTHING.

  14. OK all very good, and I agree for the most part-particularly about the gratuitous sexual references. But it’s kind of hard to avoid talking politics on a 2A forum. Nothing says a political discussion has to be uncivil tho.

    • Re politics your point is well taken, but I think the author’s point is to keep it focused on the topic at hand. For instance, bringing foreign policy into a discussion about concealed carry reciprocity – to just make one for-instance up – likely doesn’t add to the discussion.

  15. TTAG has a policy of deleting ad hominem attacks

    No, TTAG has a policy of deleting personal insults, which Rob mistakenly confuses for “ad hominem attacks”. Many others have pointed out the difference – you guys really should update that line.

    On another note, we’ve all been well informed that the policy is in place because Rob / other TTAG staff members are afraid of gun grabbers calling them “politically incorrect”. What they fail to realize is that the antis have shown time after time that they have no problem with making things up if they cannot find anything to criticize from their opposition. It’s a silly policy when the people you’re enforcing it for (our political opponents) will demonize us no matter what is posted on this site. Only a fool lets his enemy determine the rules of engagement.

    • I believe the statement was not that they would be thought politically incorrect,rather, that anything said here that could be used against us, would be.

      Do the gun control crowd lie, exaggerate, play on emotions, fling indiscriminate insults, and all the rest? Yes, absolutely.

      However, that is never covered by the media – with rare exceptions – because the media mostly already agree with their agenda. It does NOT mean that any lies, exaggerations, etc., that are put forth by a pro-2a commentator will be given the same pass.

      The simple fact is, anything we say is under a lot more critical scrutiny than what they say.

      • [facedesk]

        You completely missed the point. They have no problem making things up / photoshopping things. Sure, censor TTAG to death – it doesn’t matter, Shannon Watts will claim it was there and when there’s no proof, she’ll claim that TTAG deleted the comment to keep from being caught. Living in fear of offending people who are completely insane and pathological liars is nuts, because no matter how much you cower and bow to their will, they will always make up reasons for why you’re the scum of the earth.

        • So you’re saying the ends justify the means? Or are you saying that because we’re trying to defeat what we see as evil, it’s acceptable to do evil things ourselves? (Assuming you equate lying with evil … and certainly some of the sensationalizing they do qualifies in my book.)

          Do I give up? No. Am I afraid of what they say? Also no. Can I stop them from making stuff up? Likely not. (I think it’s a little easier to cry BS, however, thanks to archiving web crawlers; but that’s a side track.)

          But if I stoop to their level, I lose respect for myself much as I lost it for them. And if I make stuff up, if I fling insults wantonly, then I am doing just that.

          Finally, for what it’s worth, I don’t write the way I do because of TTAG’s policies. It’s the way I was raised, and the way I prefer to maintain my part of a discourse.

        • Wow, no matter how many times I blatantly spell it out for you, you guys just cannot grasp the concept.

          They do not care what you post here. If you don’t post something that they find “offensive”, they will lie and say that you posted it anyways.

          Is that clear enough? Cowering in fear of them will not change their view. No matter how much your prostrate yourselves before them, they will not respect you. Letting them determine the rules by which our sites are run is silly because they will never accept us.

          Or, to use an analogy, letting gun grabbers set the rules on gun sites is like bashing men to try to get a girl to sleep with you. No matter how much you bash your gender, she’s not going to have sex with you – so there’s no point in pretending men are evil when you’re around her.

        • No, sir, you are missing a very important point.

          If they make it up, we can point to their lie and discredit them. If they report something that was, in fact, posted, we lose.

          There is NOTHING gained by being immature, low brow and making attacks personal. Ever.

          Well, except for some sense of self-satisfaction for the immature, logically replete mind.

        • No, we can’t discredit them if they lie, because they will simply insist that TTAG either edited the post or deleted the comment. I already pointed this out, but apparently no one reads any counter arguments….

          There is NOTHING gained by being immature, low brow and making attacks personal. Ever.

          You sound like a BLAST to hang out with if you never make a joke. /sarcasm

        • Let them say it, then.

          What really is your point? That acting like a bunch of middle school brats with nothing intellectually honest to offer so we have to stoop to vulgarity just because the other side does the same is the only way to win in the court of public opinion?

          That’s nonsense.

          Let me turn the question around. Forget what they do and how they act for minute. What is hurt on our side by acting like grown ups with facts and logic AND decorum on our side?

          What do we lose by NOT using personal insults against the antis?

          Do you think there are a lot of fence sitting, middle class Moms out there saying to themselves, “Well, gee, I’m not going to listen to TTAG posters in this debate. They are just too plain jane, un-edgey and they don’t swear enough!”

          Because truthfully, any argument against the ‘civil discourse’ debate sounds like exactly that. You want to think it does not ‘help’ our side to take something like the high road, fine. Whatever.

          But it won’t HURT either, so there is no down side. And, that’s the rule the man who pays the bills to run this side has set down, so the rest of it is really moot anyway.

        • JR,

          What Publius is saying (and I agree) is don’t let the other side set the rules and prevent us from being effective. If being civil is effective, great! Let’s be civil. If being edgy is effective, great! Let’s be edgy. If it is effective to call an anti-freedom advocate a douchebag for signing our collective death warrant, great! Let’s call them douchebags.

          While my personal style is to be civil, there are times when it is appropriate to be harsh with people who are actively trying to ensure that criminals can successfully rape our wives and daughters with impunity. Would such language be shocking? Quite likely. And that is, at times, a necessary communication element to highlight the shocking consequences of gun control — and the despicable nature of gun grabbers.

        • Publius wrote, “If it is effective to call an anti-freedom advocate a douchebag for signing our collective death warrant, great! Let’s call them douchebags.”

          No, call them “anti-freedom advocates who want to sign our collective death warrant”. Then support your statement with an example or two. That is more effective, more civil, and ‘taking the higher ground’. Calling them “douchebags” proves nothing, but that you have no effective arguments.

          When it comes to gun-control advocates “Name calling, slander, and hyperbole is a sure sign that the other person has lost the argument and has nothing else to say. We see this all of the time.” We (gun-rights advocates) are better than that.

          There is another, very important reason for maintaining civil discourse on this blog. Many people that visit here and comment here (myself included) do not want to wade through 50 low-brow, spiteful comments to find the one or two meaningful ones. This site is more useful to us when we keep the discourse civil.

        • Publius wrote, “If it is effective to call an anti-freedom advocate a douchebag for signing our collective death warrant, great! Let’s call them douchebags.”

          Please show mere where I said that.

        • Bob,

          I am not advocating that we simply call a gun grabber a douchebag. I am advocating that there may be times to refer to gun grabbers as douchebags in addition to providing supportive, substantive facts that clearly establish that gun grabbers are douchebags. Think of it in terms of the commonly accepted best practice of writing: summarize what you are going to say, say it, and repeat your summary. You can summarize your statement that gun grabbers are douchebags by simply saying that gun grabbers are douchebags. Then provide your facts that illustrate that gun grabbers are douchebags. And then repeat your summary that gun grabbers are douchebags.

          This is important because many people are not willing to invest countless hours understanding the debate. That being the case, endless details will not stick with those people. What will stick with those people is that gun grabbers are douchebags. They will forget why long after reading your explanation that plainly establishes the fact. But they will remember that gun grabbers are douchebags and begin voting against them. That is important for us to win. See what I did there? I summarized. Stated my case. And summarized again. That is what I am talking about doing.

          And what I believe Publius was saying is not to rule out effective tactics simply because they are not 100% “civilized”.

  16. Nothing more to add except that I agree. Spot on. I was very put off by the comments (and I was one of the respondents trying to explain what you mentioned in this post) about the article on the Bishop’s in the NE. Painting all priests with the “pedophile” brush is just as bad as painting all gun owners as mass murderers. The good far outweigh the bad apples in any group.

  17. This piece proves once again many in our ranks don’t have what it takes to counter and defeat the opposition. Remember the anti’s play by Sol Alinsky’s “rules” (For Radicals) where there are NO rules save for demonization, ridicule, and the spreading of misinformation. We MUST fight fire with fire or we WILL lose what little 2nd Amendment Rights we have now.

    Now lets discuss the Quarrelsome Quim (financed by Bloom-BOIG) and her malicious band of miscreants in MDA.

    • Mr. Holderer’s description of civil discussion is certainly a virtue that I hope everyone aspires to achieve. I also feel compelled to point out that civil discussion utterly failed Chamberlain and the U.K. in 1939 just prior to World War II.

      The problem is that anti-freedom people have no rules which means they can make up “facts” and demonize us. The truth of the matter is that we cannot undo much of that damage with “civil discussion”. While I aspire to engage in civil discussion, I am going to keep my options open. Knowing that we stuck with “civil discussion” as we walk into the ovens will not provide any comfort.

      • “civil discussion utterly failed Chamberlain and the U.K. in 1939 just prior to World War II.”

        … but once the war started for the U.K., I am certain their bombadiers were the very model of politeness.

        Rudeness vs. politeness and effectiveness vs. ineffectiveness are perpendicular axes.

        I truly wish people would stop equating “polite” with “not willing to do what is necessary.” You are doing this, I believe, with the “walking into the ovens” comment. How many times have we heard that people carrying concealed find themselves acting more politely? Doesn’t that sound a bit at odds?

        P.S. Hello, Godwin! That took longer than I expected, also. 🙂

        • John L.,

          When the UK declared war on Japan, Churchill (who wrote the declaration) was criticised for the formality of the language he used. He commented later, “Some people did not like this ceremonial style. But after all when you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite.”

      • Chamberlain was a weasel.

        Civil discussion did not fail Churchill. Nor Roosevelt or Eisenhower. Maybe Patton! But his job was not public speaking.

      • wha… of course you can! Maybe not in goals, but if your enemy is better than you at the methods- like propaganda, for example- you better figure out a way to even the field on that score.

  18. Thank you.

    More often than I’d like, reading the posts here, I’m reminded of something my mother told me many years ago. In essence, she said that if I need to use foul language to express myself, I’m not going to be doing so very well.

    I’m pleasantly surprised how few such comments have shown up already by the time I’m hitting send (at around 30 total comments thus far).

  19. I agree with some of this. However Catholics DO NOT make up a large majority of the country. I also believe TTAG mostly reaches the converted. Well except for the occasional paid trolls. Whatever folks…I have no wish to censor anyone.

    • I wasn’t quite sure what he was going for there, either. Christians, including Catholics, make up about 76% of the U.S. population; which I would consider a large majority. Catholics themselves make up about 25% of the U.S. population ; which I would agree is a large minority. So it could go either way.

      Either way, though, I’m not sure reducing it to numbers is all that material, anyway. I’m confident they constitute but a tiny fraction of 1% of the U.S. population, but even so, I wouldn’t want to read 50 lengthy comments of viciousness slamming the Zoroastrians, either.

  20. I had to stop reading when you brought in “homophobia” after all one can be a bigot without having a phobia on the subject.

    • I think you’re right. Probably anti-gay bigot would be a more apt descriptor. The term homophobia seems to suggest that they’re otherwise nice people who have a recognized psychological disorder. But they’re just bigots.

      • Or……they just have a different viewpoint. Geez, when the only two options to address someone who disagrees with you are “homophobic” or “bigot”, who’s the real threat to civility here? We see once again, it’s not a matter of being civil or not, but rather of being politically correctly uncivil to an appropriate target. Hmmm….isn’t there a word for that?

  21. It is impossible to have civil discourse with individuals and groups who have as their goals mass arrests and murder to advance their agenda of gun prohibition. Shannon Watts, Josh Sugarmann and Mikey Bloomberg would be quite happy to see millions of peaceful citizens killed or imprisoned.

  22. Nicely said. Also the grim reaper in that painting totally looks like he got drunk and started waving that guy’s granddad’s ashes in his face. And everyone else is like “WTF Grim, not cool man.”

  23. I read this site for its entertainment value and could go either way on the whole gun debate. That being said, why does TTAG need someone to admonish their commentators to behave while sites about golf or monetary policy remain civil without intervention?

    • Offhand, I’d guess that those topics don’t generate as much emotional involvement in the readers.

      But have you ever read any of the Yahoo! Finance message boards? Some of their regulars make this site look like a knitting circle twiting about day-old crumpets.

  24. “That said, Shannon Watts is someone’s mother, daughter, grandmother, wife, etc…. How would you feel if someone on her side made a sexually-related insinuation about someone close to you? ”

    That does not matter. She and members of her group have made specific sexually-related insults towards gun-owners. She shouldn’t expect any dissimilar treatment, nor should she be shocked when someone replies the same way in turn.

  25. We should borrow a page from the civil rights protesters handbook(s).

    I heard the most interesting story from a mentor of mine several years back. He was around during the civil rights movement (when I was just a sprout) and participated. He talked about the experience.

    They were organized.
    Protesters were briefed.
    They had guidelines for tactics, message, and comportment.
    They even tested people beforehand.

    He told this story because he failed one test – he was talking about yelling and other physical intimidation. He, this wise, influential person, failed the yelling test because it sent him back to a place from before in his life, and he became physically agitated. That was enough. No longer master of himself, he couldn’t be on the front lines, because of the bad story it might create, if he slipped. The small, local protest full of amateurs he was dealing with was working from mimeographed manuals, telling them how to do it.

    Thing is, he just started shaking during the test. Didn’t do anything. But that was enough.

    So, what are the lessons?

    – It’s a communication and persuasion exercise. Know who you’re trying to convince, of what, and what might do that.
    – Act deliberately to achieve your ends. Not “do what you want”, but “do what will work.:”
    – Know the media and messaging biases you are working with.
    – Understand that some things will get transmitted way more than other things. It only takes one speck of poo in the sandwich to make it bad.
    – Do what it takes to create the message you want to have transmitted, and the event that will get it picked up.

    They had a playbook. Several, actually. I’ve read some of Ghandji’s writings (Yes, that Ghandhi.) from his pre-India time, organizing protests and similar in South Africa. With some digging, you can find some of his thinking on tactics and strategy from his time in India.

    I don’t know exactly where to find the actual playbooks from the civil rights movement protests and media strategy. BUT, they gotta be out there. So, we have a successful movement that through protest and communication changed the conversation about rights of individuals, in the modern US. Maybe we could take a few notes.

  26. Whoa, that was cool! But will the guys who need to read this post do so?

    Civil discourse needs to be modeled to young people. I worry about the next generation which grew up with screaming, obnoxious talking heads on the cable news channels.

    One thing I really dislike which I don’t think Mr. Holderer mentioned are guerrilla tactics. A person makes some incendiary comment and then brings the conversation to an end before there can be any sort of debate or discussion worthy of the topic. Someone says, “only radicals want assault weapons,” but then the speaker drops the topic after a minor exchange. I think if you’re going to pick a debate, you ought to be willing to devote enough time to it so that both sides are given a fair shake. Those kinds of hit and run guerrilla tactics are cowardly and rude.

    • In other words, civil discourse will help us stay on topic, and not get distracted into silly name-calling sessions. (Who can say the vilest thing about that person without getting censored?) If you can’t add something to support or deny the point being discussed, it’s better to just watch the discussion without commenting.

      Dirk Diggler, are you listening, because you are the worst offender? (Used to be William Burke, but he has been banned now.)

      • Already made the “point” over 30 years ago, the political left rejected it. Being civil to an enemy gets you killed.

  27. It all comes down to finding a clean, well lighted place where one is personally and conveniently content to draw the lines, then defining everyone outside of those lines as the bad guy. Even people who claim to defend civility will engage in this behavior. To wit, the author’s use of the loaded and bigoted term “homophobia.” Surely he considers himself above the fray, hence this article, yet there’s that word. Now, I suppose it’s possible that there can exist such people who have a clinical, psychiatrically diagnosed, irrational fear of homosexuals. I suppose. Hell, there may be people out there with irrational fears of sock puppets. I’m looking at you, Homer Simpson.

    Still, if it existed, such a legitimate condition of genuine “homophobia” would be extremely rare, and not at all typical of those to whom that slur is applied daily. In common usage, lack of vocal and vociferous support for gay issues can be deemed homophobic, let alone adopting a questioning or challenging position on any gay issue.

    Yet here we are, in the name of appealing to civility, with this author essentially labelling anyone other-than-pro-gay as having some kind of mental disease or defect. How uncivil. Ironically, homosexuality ITSELF was officially deemed the unhealthy psychological condition as recently as the early 1970s. My my my how times have changed. Think about that, next time someone calls you homophobic, and the implications for your firearms ownership. Think back that TTAG endorsed smearing dissenting opinions as evidence of a diseased mind.

    As for the rest of this article, it reads like a cloying, high school essay. Fifteen years ago was the magical mark? Thereafter it all went to dreck? Oh really? Oh the arrogance of people to consider themselves and their times remarkable even if only for their alleged depravity! Usually the nice round, tragic romantic, faux figure is twenty years.

    “Times have changed. Twenty years ago you would NEVER see such….” Uh huh. “Ohhh these kids today, when *I* was growing up, we NEVER….” Right. “People used to be able to disagree, without being disagreeable. But nowadays…..” Sure. It’s part human nature, part intellectual laziness, to think that way. Memories of past hardships fade, while current controversies shine. Or perhaps twenty years ago for an individual personally was a simpler time, when the daily problems of life at that much younger age were indeed smaller, but that doesn’t apply to the entire world. Just you.

    And yet, there’s that refrain. “It’s all different now, and worse!”, they’ll declare, with full throated fervor and empty headed ignorance of the agelessness of such “fresh” observations. Hint: virtually every major religion and mythology holds that there existed some simple, peaceful ancient time which, through some calamity of humanity, devolved and delivered us this oh so miserable and coarse world today, regardless when today actually is. Pure piffle.

    Nevertheless, it’s probably a good idea to keep the incivility at a dull roar, if only to keep the exchanges interesting, original and on topic. Still, the greater risk is in overreacting and poptarting TTAG to the point of regulating all the fun out of this place.

  28. My Dad told me when it comes to war you either destroy them or they will destroy you. Period. All the great schools are for the rich who only benefit from war. The poor is in training to fight it. We get nothing, not even our opinions. SAD…

  29. When fighting the uncivilized civility is a loser. We have been “civil” for decades, that is precisely how we have gotten into this mess. Death with honor is still dead, and treating leftards with civility is stupid and the path to defeat.

    We have no “moral high ground” because the left refuses to accept morality as anything more than a weapon to kill us with. Period. Full stop.

    • The problem is when you let the other side define what “civility” is. That is where you get terms such as “homophobia”. Those promoting citizen disarmament have always been particularly adept at using their great advantage in the old media to define their opponents into irrelevancy.

  30. And why, pray tell, is the Roman Catholic Church not a fair target for attacks based on its despicable actions, whether it be aiding and abetting of child rape, or broad and unjustified attacks upon my civil rights?
    It’s highly dishonest to say that just a few bishops want to take my rights away and The Church itself isn’t a major force in the enemy camp.

    The same goes for the The United Methodist Church. It is the sworn enemy of principles I hold dear, and it is not an ad hominem attack for me to state such.

  31. I’ll be the first to admit that the moderator supreme has taken issue with my posts before, and I do often curse. Like a sailor. Who’s just had an anchor dropped on his foot. In the middle of a !”%$?* storm.
    But I digress. My point is, as hypocritical as it may be, I agree to Michael’s view, ad hominem has no place in TTAG. I do, however, understand the motives behind it- belittle the enemy with withering insults, discredit them by suggesting that they are such and such or have done such and such. This does not help though, it only makes us appear juvenile and as we all know the only thing worse than a person with a gun is a juvenile person with a gun. I will try to clean up my act in future with regards to this, and I hope others will to. Good !”%$?* luck.

  32. Catholics make up a large majority of the US population.

    If you call 24 to 25% of the US population a “majority,” sure.

    Protestants, on the other hand, are about half of the US population, and maybe a bit more than exactly half. In other words, much closer to the actual definition of “majority.”

  33. Sophocles said, “Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud”.

    I’m continually amazed at the numbers of folks willing to sacrifice honor because of the actions of those to whom we are opposed. If you truly believe acting with honor has anything to do with impressing the Bloombergs, Watts, or Obamas of the world, I submit that you truly are unaware of what honor truly is.

    It doesn’t matter if they lie, or demonize, or falsify what has been said. They must figure out a way to look in the mirror, but that doesn’t affect me. Nor should it affect any of you. The path we are on could eventually lead to a place of seriously awful consequences – we should certainly strive to be on the high road every step of the way.

    • I get your point and I agree with it, but I think it’s overapplied in this case. People are objecting here to playing by overly restrictive rules and having to ask “Mother, may I?” prior to each post.

      I don’t think the POTG in general, or in here in partucular, are advocating personal ruination of the gun grabbers or fomenting a frothy, angry atmosphere. I think we’re talking more along the lines of snarky remarks and gibes about their hypocrisy and callousness. Fidelity to the truth about firearms and the second amendment remains paramount.

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