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Another Note on Commenting

Posted By Don Boudreaux On October 24, 2011 @ 8:08 am In Cafe Conversation | Comments Disabled

Those of you of at least a certain age will remember the Ku Klux Klan’s insistence on marching in Skokie, Illinois.  As I recall, the vile ignoramuses who are the KKK were allowed to march, and some civil-rights and religious groups staged loud and angry counter-demonstrations.  My thinking at the time was that KKK morons are best left ignored.  It’s difficult, of course, to ignore such abject ignorance, prejudice, and deep hatred for civil society.  But it struck me that the attention that the KKK’s Skokie marches brought to the KKK made the KKK seem more significant than by all rights it should be made to seem.

As long as they are doing nothing but huffing and puffing and whooping and hollering, that – shall we say, ‘beknighted’ – group of fools deserves no attention.

Now I don’t know if ignoring the KKK would have served the larger public interest better than did the series of counter-demonstrations that drew unusual attention to these nitwits, but at least a strong case can be made that ignoring those asses would have been the better course.

Which brings me to the continuing complaints about some commentors here at the Cafe.  (Two more e-mails – both thoughtful – to this effect were in the e-mail that I opened this morning.)

I hasten to say, in all honesty, that I do not believe that even the most ridiculous commenters here at the Cafe are remotely morally akin to the KKK.  They are not.  But what some of these commenters have in common with the KKK’s Skokie marchers is a desire chiefly to be in-your-face – to scream out in frustrated disagreement, even anger, at people better informed and more tolerant than they are – to figuratively throw bombs into what is otherwise a civil conversation.

And while I understand also that the Cafe, being private, isn’t the same as the public places of Skokie, IL, I continue to believe that for us the best policy – the most civil policy – is not to bar or ban our own “protestors.”  It’s undeniable that many of these commenters are obnoxious, uninformed, verbal-bomb-tossing, and (yes) frequently laughably stupid buffoons who fancy themselves as making contributions to intelligent discussion when, in fact, all they do – as all the KKKers do – is to expose their abject lack of intelligence and their absurdly tunnelled world view.

So I plead again for everyone to ignore all comments that, according to the precepts of good judgment, evince only prejudice or profound ignorance.  Just pay no attention.  Correct factual errors that they might make.  But don’t give them the satisfaction of your thinking that their ignorance and prejudice in any way poses the slightest challenge to your intelligence and civility.

Time is precious commodity.  It must be allocated wisely, which is why I almost never bother to address logically incoherent assertions, ad hominem attacks, monuments to the post hoc fallacy, or grossly historically uninformed comments that so often appear here at the Cafe.  And your time, I’m certain, is at least as precious to you as my time is to me.

…..

One goal of the discussion here, in my view, is to expose especially young people to the economic way of thinking and to the precepts of classical liberalism.  Fortunately, no intelligent young person will take seriously the typical argument spat out by the angry hostile commenters here.  And I want, chiefly through our practice, to demonstrate to those young people that ‘arguments’ that are so over-the-top ludicrous can be ignored, that intellectual battles decided 200 years ago need not be ceaselessly re-fought simply because a handful of rear-guard devotees of antedeluvian nostrums cling religiously to their True Religion, and that our efforts are best directed to discussing live issues offered by people interested in discussion rather than in shouting for no purpose other than to say “You’re wrong because I think differently than you!”

These shouting commenters do the cause of economic education and genuine liberalism actual good by revealing the shallowness of their arguments and the often-comical twists that they perform in their efforts to argue with genuinely thoughtful people.

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