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« Semantic Wars | Main | Not now; SC's got a headache »

October 14, 2004


Brandon Kuczenski

He's right! You really can't understand (alternately, "You're right! He really doesn't express...") the liberal argument. While your refutation of Lakoff's portrayal of conservatism was well-reasoned and grounded, your refutation of Lakoff's portrayal of liberalism basically picks at nits.

You understand and relate to, and thus cogently deconstruct, Lakoff's five categories of conservative moral action, but when it comes to the liberal side, you just don't make the effort, focusing your argument instead on stylistic twists and Lakoff's [admitted] humorlessness. You spend quite a lot of time likening him to Lisa Simpson in part IV, but never really attack the meat of his arguments, the way you did in part III, with quotes from the Heritage Foundation and all the other trappings of a conservative editorial (including snarky entendres).

This comment is a little bit of nitpicking from me, but I feel like your critique itself lends credence to at least one of Lakoff's assertions: that conservatives and liberals really don't understand each others' motivations. How else to explain the distinct asymmetry between your rhetorical approaches to Parts III and IV of your oddysey?

I must take this opportunity to reveal a little of *my* political agenda, as you have yours, in complaining about your choice of concerns to address regarding the environment: the arsenic-drinking-water regulations. This is a trivial matter from an environmental perspective when compared to real issues like repealing the roadless rules in forests (a recent event which nonetheless characterizes the last decade of conservative efforts on the environment), or the consistent and almost paralyzingly arrogant whitewashing of global warming by the Bush administration. Both of these issues are better suited to consideration from the perspective of environmental political philosophy than some policy-wonkish measure about arsenic in drinking water. To again advance my thesis, I believe your choice of the arsenic issue over anything more substantive indicates the degree to which your critique, which you took pains to make impartial, is defined by your conservative worldview.

I am left to conclude that either Lakoff is right and you cannot -- or choose not to -- confront or understand the liberal perspective, or that you simply were not interested in remaining even-handed -- which is perfectly within your rights, but a little disappointing for me.

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