With Tony Blair who won 3 elections and clearly many people at one time thought to some degree he represented them it is apparently sufficient to smugly say ‘Iraq’ and smile smugly turn away, argument done. Now Blair is a reprehensible reptile and Iraq was a mistake but it’s his support for despotic leaders not to mention torture and rendition that makes him truly nasty and a representative of the worst the world offers. Yet what if what he says is about something he is not paid to support? What if you don’t have an argument against it? Is your dismissal really so clever? Would you be happy if I brought up the time you punched someone, took some money, puked on a carpet, lied at work to someone else’s detriment, belittled someone or covered up a cock up? And dismissed anything you said.
Oddly many ‘liberal’ Americans applauded George Bush cos they agreed with him this week. If he had said Obama was an incompetent clown who let Russia into Syria and caused chaos they’d object even if they’d say the same had Bush done it. Such is the depth of debate where you judge ideas not on their merits but whether they fit how you want the world to be – confabulation in a word.
We need to engage more and not be afraid of having to change our minds. Humans naturally resist changing their minds so being open minded is a tough choice. Indeed the appearance of cognitive dissonance when your first response is to strike out ad hominem should become a trigger. Also you can react badly and still change your mind and consider the position later once the fog clears. You aren’t forced to stick to your first reactionary response.
Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.
John Kenneth Galbraith