We’ve all been there. We’re writing a paper for some humanities class and we’re asked to critique the author. In an effort to finish the paper before 3am, we’re scrambling to find the easiest possible way to attack him. Maybe he used a bogus source, didn’t adequately define a term, or something of the like. We use this as a criticism, but we all know that we’re not making the strongest possible counterargument. After all, we just want the damn thing done.
This is called being intellectually uncharitable, and it’s bad for our peers and bad for ourselves. Bad for our peers because we’re not giving their arguments the careful consideration they may or may not merit–we’re delivering a “cheap shot”–but we don’t know if they merit consideration until we’ve tried. Being uncharitable is also bad for us because we’re not making the strongest possible argument against them. That is, by focusing on one small flaw, we’re failing to attack what might be actually problematic in the larger scheme of the argument.
This so-called conversational terrorism has most recently manifest itself in the progressive machine‘s use of Representative Todd Akin’s recent rape comments to undermine the GOP. Was this comment tasteless, ill-informed, offensive, and scientifically incorrect? Absolutely. And I believe that Congressman Akin deserves whatever negative backlash comes his way. But does this comment reflect the opinion of the vast majority of the GOP? Absolutely not. For the liberal camp to use this incident to insinuate that the GOP doesn’t have respect for women’s rights is unfair. It’s unfair to the GOP because the party has explicitly condemned Representative Akin and his comments. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has decried the remarks, as well. And it’s unfair to the liberal camp because it’s not presenting the best possible argument to convince voters that democrats are better advocates of women’s rights issues. Progressives are neglecting to address the larger flaws which might be present in conservative ideology and policy regarding women’s rights because they are too focused on the disgusting remarks of a single man.
Liberals–no need to search for ammo. The gun is already loaded with personhood bills, the struggle of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and Planned Parenthood cuts. The cheap shot may be the easy one, but it’s not making you look any smarter and might not even help in the long run. Go for the throat, not the kneecap.