Wildly Failing to Make an Assertion

I asserted in my previous post that I found it unclear whether the contributors and commentators on the anti-liberal blog the Othosphere all defined liberalism in the same way. Terry Morris (a regular commentator on the Orthosphere and of late my blog), claims I “wildly failed” (somehow) to make this assertion. He expressed this in a brief exchange of comments following my previous post. I found this exchange interesting because it illustrates an unfortunate, adversarial dynamic I have experienced repeatedly in the comment sections of many blogs. This dynamic is characterized by two commentators ostensibly arguing the merits of a disagreement when they are actually (typically by means of passive aggression) trying to humiliate the other person because they feel the other person has offended them in some way.

Terry Morris began this exchange by taking issue with a passage from my post. In this passage I referenced a post entitled The Sexual Left Devours Itself made by Othosphere contributor Kristor. Specifically, I wrote:

If [Kristor] is talking about political liberalism then the counter example of myself refutes his assertion that political liberalism necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all the time.

Terry Morris reacted to this passage by exclaiming:

That isn’t Kristor’s assertion; it’s *your* assertion about what he wrote.

I can see why Terry Morris reacted this way although I think he misunderstood the point I attempted to make. It is true that a plain reading of my comment could lead one to believe I asserted that Kristor asserted “political liberalism necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all of the time.” To clarify, (1) the word “If” which begins my statement should have keyed Terry Morris into the fact that I did not know whether Kristor was in fact making this assertion and (2) the whole point of my post was that I found it unclear what exactly Kristor was asserting because I did not know what definition of liberalism he was using. Terry Morris is right, however, that I could have worded this specific sentence with greater clarity.

Proceeding with his misunderstanding Terry went on to say:

Having followed Kristor’s posts for years, dating back to our old VFR days, I can assure you that Kristor would *never* assert that “political liberalism necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all the time,” your counter-example and any number of others you might cite (or the lack thereof) notwithstanding.

Two things are interesting here. First, we see Terry Morris speaking for Kristor based on reading his prior posts. I find this interesting because it demonstrates Terry Morris’s readiness to speak with authority as to the mental states of others. Another example of this behavior that readily comes to mind comes from a comment from another post where Terry Morris asserted with (apparent) authority that God could not get bored. Putting aside the question as to why Terry feels the need to speak for other people, I get the sense that he is motivated not so much out of a desire to set the record straight but rather to put me in what he perceives to be my place because what I have written has offended him in some way. Second, notice the passive-aggressive parenthetical phrase “or lack there of” he uses to describe my counter-examples. This reinforces the sense of offense I perceive as to his motivation.

Terry Morris goes on to say:

Concerning what definition of liberalism Kristor is working off of, yes, he would agree with Zippy’s definition. He would also agree with Zippy’s definition of what a liberal is further down Zippy’s post.

Again we see Terry Morris speaking on behalf of Kristor by stating with authority the definition of liberalism that Kristor would use. I admit that I have not been reading Kristor’s posts for as long as Terry Morris claims to have read them. I can only state that based upon my own experience have have not seen convincing evidence that Kristor  agrees with Zippy’s definition as Terry Morris asserts.

I then asked Terry Morris what I thought to be a reasonable question based on his comment.

So you are saying that Kristor’s post is discussing sexual liberalism only and that sexual liberalism is not necessarily related to political liberalism?

I thought this question to be reasonable because if political liberalism did not necessarily lead to sexual liberalism all of the time then it makes sense that they would not necessarily be related. That is, political liberalism could lead to sexual liberalism but not necessarily. Terry Morris apparently did not agree that this was a reasonable question to ask as indicated by his response.

Umm, no, that’s not what I’m saying and you know it. I’m merely pointing out that Kristor isn’t saying (in the post you cite) what you claim he said. Namely that political liberalism *necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all the time*. And I’m working off of your (sketchy) definition of what constitutes sexual liberalism at that. Hint: that you (or I, or anyone else for that matter) haven’t groped another woman in the 20 odd years you’ve been married does not make you a sexual conservative, or non-sexual-liberal if you like.

The phrase “and you known it” suggests to me that Terry Morris thinks I was being willfully ignorant or perhaps intellectually dishonest. This further reinforces my suspicion that my original post offended him in some way and that he sees our interaction as adversarial. He then goes back to the claim (I did not intentionally make) in my previous post as to what Kristor asserted. This is a great example of how adversarial comment section exchanges can easily go off the rails as both sides do not fully understand each other and are not motivated to do so. Rather, the primary motivation seems to be to punish the other either by demonstrating to them they are wrong or by making them look foolish to the viewing audience.

Terry Morris then asserts that he “is working off of [my] (sketchy) definition of what constitutes sexual liberalism.” This further illustrates that we are not really communicating because to my knowledge I never attempted to define “sexual liberalism” anywhere in my post. My point (once again) always was that I did not know what definition for liberalism Kristor was using in his post and I attempted to articulate this in my response:

I don’t use these terms. There does not seem to be an agreed upon definition which was the point of my post.

To which he replied:

Agreed upon definition of what? Liberalism, Political Liberalism, Sexual Liberalism, Moral Liberalism? What? You’ve made distinctions that certainly exist on a case-by-case, moment-by-moment basis, but what has that to do with anything Kristor said in his post?

I am not sure what he is accusing me of here. In my mind I have been clear that I do not know if the writers on the Orthosphere are using a common definition of liberalism. As such, I cannot be sure which definition Kristor is using. In my analysis of Kristor’s post I attempted to document my thought process as I parsed what he had written.

Interestingly, Terry Morris followed with this comment:

I don’t presume to understand what your overall point in the post was/is, but I’ll take you at your word and also say you’ve wildly failed to make it!

This statement leads me to believe that when Terry Morris’s emotions got the better of him. He was obviously attempting to be insulting. But even more interestingly, he immediately refuted his own assertion that he did not “presume to understand [my] overall point” in his next statement.

That *you* don’t see general agreement amongst traditionalists about what constitutes liberalism, is a failure on your part. 

If Terry Morris really did not understand my point then how could he clearly articulate my point in his next sentence? As to the failure on my part to discern a general agreement amongst traditionalists I can only say that this agreement Terry Morris asserts to exist is not apparent in the posts that I have read. Perhaps he can point me in the right direction.

In the final comment I wrote:

I think my point was clear but I take you at your word that you don’t understand it.

Obviously (to me anyway), this was a bit passive aggressive on my part. I do not take Terry Morris at his word (i.e., that he does not understand my point) based on his own articulation of my point. But whether we understand each other was not really the point of this exchange especially as it reached its conclusion.

I cannot speak with authority as to Terry Morris’s mental state (as he can apparently do of others). I can only say that the tone of his comments suggests to me that my post has offended him in some way. Of course, interpreting motivation and mood behind writing (especially in internet comment sections) is always an inexact science. This is why I always couched my interpretations as to his mental state by saying “I suspect” and the like. In some ways it is a shame that most adversarial exchanges in internet comment sections devolve in this way. On the other hand there is a certain joy that one experiences in doing it even if he refuses to admit it to others or to himself.


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11 responses to “Wildly Failing to Make an Assertion

  1. T. Morris

    Winston: Where to begin? Hmm.

    Well, first of all, I didn’t begin the exchange by exclaiming anything. This is not merely a semantical disagreement; the fact is (unlike a bunch of knuckle-dragging facebook warriors I know) I know what punctuation is for in writing, and use it profusely to *avoid* getting into these nonsensical exchanges about what my *real motivation* is behind what I write. You’re familiar with the phrase “too many chiefs and not enough indians” I presume? In certain corners of the internet I take it we have too many psycho-analyzers and not enough normal people who think they detect, behind every other statement, some sort of deep-seated psychological defect in the person(s) making it. If my intention in the sentence in question had been to “exclaim” what I wrote, I would have ended the sentence with one of these – (!) – thingys. Lol.

    Second, no I didn’t overlook the word “if” to begin your sentence. The point (my point) was/is that Kristor isn’t responsible for *your* assertion even *if* he’s talking about political liberalism. Political liberalism does not necessarily lead to sexual liberalism all the time, and Kristor knows this perfectly well. *If* he were to hold otherwise he would be engaging himself in a logical fallacy, namely a non sequitur. This is simply something Kristor in particular, and the Orthosphere contributors in general, is not prone to do.

    Third, I’m not just basing my understanding of where Kristor is coming from on reading of his blog posts alone, Winston. I have had many exchanges with Kristor over the last ten years or so, both online and in private conversations between us. “Having followed his posts for years” is just shorthand to avoid getting into a bunch of stuff that might interest you but also might not, … but in any case is private so is no one else’s business.

    But by all means, don’t take my word for anything I’ve said concerning Kristor’s thoughts on a matter, the definition of liberalism he is operating under or any of the rest; if you *suspect* I am speaking out of line, attributing to him a false conception (mine) of these things, then by all means shoot him an email or post a comment at the Orthosphere concerning your query. I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to give you a direct and honest answer.

    Fourth, there was nothing “passive-aggressive” in my parenthetical or the lack thereof. Once more, instead of saying (long hand) “it wouldn’t matter if you gave zero counter-examples, he (Kristor) still wouldn’t make the error in logic you seem to be assuming he would” I simply wrote, for brevity’s sake, “or the lack thereof.” I put the statement in parenthesis because the point is the same with or without it, but I still thought it important enough to add just to avoid its needlessly being brought up later in the discussion. …

    • Once again Terry, I did not accuse Kristor of making an error in logic. My point was (1) I did not know what definition of liberalism he was using and (2) I did not know if all Orthospherians were using the same definition of liberalism.

      • T. Morris

        Okay, fine. Perhaps you’re unaware of this, but asserting the following

        If [Kristor] is talking about political liberalism then the counter example of myself refutes his assertion that political liberalism necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all the time.

        is tantamount to accusing him of a logical error. Why? Because you assume that *if he is talking about political liberalism* in the post, then he also *must be* ‘asserting that political liberalism necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all the time.’

        That is *your* statement (which itself is a non sequitur, but nevertheless), Winston. I have merely pointed out its falsity on its face.

      • I specifically said in my post that the passage you are having difficulty with could have been written more clearly. I’m not sure what the problem is here.

      • T. Morris

        Lol! I’m not sure what the problem is either. You wrote a whole ‘nother post mainly dedicated to pointing out that I (apparently) have some deep seated, underlyng psychological motive for defending a long-time friend against false (and illogical) accusations leveled against him.

        I respect and appreciate that you said ‘I could have worded this better,’ but am confused as to why you thought it necessary to make a whole ‘nother post about it claiming, essentially, I have some underlying psychological motive beyond merely trying to get to the truth of the matter. …

      • To be fair, I said that your reaction and the manner in which you chose to write it suggested a motive behind it. I don’t think this is the same thing as me claiming you have a “deep seated, underlying psychological motive”. Nor did I accuse Kristor of anything. I merely wrote about my reaction to what he wrote. I understand that you believe my reaction to be false and illogical for some reason.

      • T. Morris

        Okay. I can appreciate that. Now that I’ve clarified what I’ve said and the motive behind it, do you still think I’m psychologically unstable? Ha!

      • I never said you were psychologically unstable. To be clear, are you denying all the motivations I inferred from your writing?

      • T. Morris

        Winston, let me tell you something:

        I have *literally* had women from all over the country send me emails (emails, for goodness sakes!) telling me how that when they get around to it (ahem!) they’ll most assuredly cut my nuts out, and feed them to my boys on a silver platter. Literally! No joke! Where the hell they wound up with my email address, and blah blah, is WAY beyond my comprehension. Nevertheless I keep myself onguard at all times!

      • T. Morris

        Of course I’m denying them! I take no pleasure from arguing with you or anyone else. What you’re talking about in that is something that *generally* applies to younger people who haven’t gotten their fill of it yet.

  2. Pingback: An Anti-Liberal’s History of Liberalism | Winston Scrooge

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