I am a liberal, and I am very much against President Bush. In various political communities around LJ, I've seen many of my fellow liberals posting criticisms of Bush and his administrations and watch discussions ensue. Occasionally I've followed posted links to similar discussions in conservative communities. There is an interesting symmetry to these discussions. On both sides, unsubstantiated claims are frequently made. Most people posting articles and comments seem unprepared to defend their claims against challenges by those with opposing viewpoints. Both sides seem filled with far too many people trying to cloister themselves away from people who disagree with them. The kinds of discussions that go on in these ideologically homogeneous communities seem to me to be unhealthy in some ways. When I'm calmer and more thoughtful, I want very much to avoid conducting such unhealthy discussions in my journal.
What this means is that, in those calm thoughtful moments when I am considering posting something political (I should try to avoid such posts when I am not calm and thoughtful), I have to spend time thinking about how people with other points of view might criticize what I want to say. That means trying to check my facts, as I key them in; It means looking for potential flaws in any chain of reasoning that I offer, even if that chain is somewhat informal; It means trying to anticipate objections, and qualifying the statements I make, and explaining how the qualifications help me avoid the objections while still letting me make my points.
I think that part of what's wrong with political discourse, these days, is the fact that far too many people fling political gossip around as fact, and offer things that sound vaguely like arguments without any sense for what makes an argument valid or invalid. Within these cloistered communities of the faithful to various ideologies people seem to admire each other for some of the most appalling excuses for reasoning, and viciously attack outsiders who dare to intrude.
I want reasonable conservatives to feel comfortable challenging the things I say in my journal. I don't want moderate conservatives to walk away from my journal in disgust. I think some people deserve serious criticism, even criticism of their character, for some of the things they choose to believe; But when I offer such criticism, I want to describe the category of people that I'm criticizing narrowly enough that it doesn't include anyone who doesn't really deserve the criticism. I think it's important to think about how people who don't agree with me might be offended by what I write. Sometimes we must say what we have to say, even if some people will be offended; But I think it's much healthier to think about whether each potentially offensive point is really justified and necessary than it is just to assume that no one who disagrees really matters. Further, I think this exercise of trying to anticipate challenges to what we want to say helps us learn to form better ideas.
But, healthier though it may be, this approach to formalizing ideas takes more time. I find myself holding back more and putting off committing my ideas to journal entries until I've had more time to think. And I've learned that the more passionate I am about a position, the more cautious I need to be.
I do have more to say. Little by little, I'll keep trying to say it