Sunday, January 03, 2010

Dealing with Mr. Mark Shea.

There's a guy, Mark Shea, who has a blog. He can be best described as a polemical writer - very funny, very witty, and often, very infuriating. Mostly he deals with theology and culture - but occasionally he dips into politics, and this makes me sad.

Why am I mentioning this? Because I've read Mark's blog on and off for almost a decade now, and gotten myself into hot water many times with him (I think I've been banned at least twice...and I use the same name - my name, John Doman - whenever I post). Why, do you ask? Well, usually the scenario goes like this:

MS: (after several funny and entertaining posts which I totally agree with him) "Oh, and check this out! Andrew Sullivan says that George Bush just drop-kicked an Iraqi baby over the Grand Canyon! George Bush sucks! And know who else sucks! All those torture-loving, heretical, so-called "Conservative Catholics"(TM)! You know who I'm talking about! People like Robert Novak! and George Weigel!"

Me: "Mark, I think you're being a bit unfair! You suck!"

MS's rabid fans: "You love torture!"

Me: "^&%&*^& all of ya! I'm out of here!

I'm oversimplifying a bit (what fun) because actually Mark is much more eloquent on the subjects that he's absolutely wrong about. Like I said, he's funny. He's got snappy catch phrases That's what makes his writing so destructive. In my opinion, he has done more to kill discussion and promote rancor in Catholic intellectual circles than any other blogger.

Anyhoo...I finally bared my soul to Mark Shea. Don't know if it'll do much good, but I said some things that I think are worth posting here.

The occasion was when Mark posted this. You should probably go ahead and read it now, because my response won't make much sense without it.

Here's my response, posted in the comment box (the red words are me quoting him):

Mark, I have a few thoughts, if you care to hear them.

Specifically: treat the guy like a terrorist or enemy combatant VS. a criminal suspect?
Oh. That. Well, being as I am not a lawyer or any sort of person with any expertise in such matters, I basically haven't given it any thought...

That's just you being you! Just kidding. But seriously, you really should - because this question is the CORE of the whole thing. There isn't a lot of serious political discussion on your blog anymore (not that I can see - please correct me if I am wrong) but out there, this is the burning and supremely urgent question.
Beyond that, the normal standards of civilization apply: treat him humanely. Milk him for as much info as we can get from him.
Could you expand on this? How exactly would you milk him? It might involve some discomfort. What theoretical person are you talking about here?
Does it have to be either/or?
YES. It does. Legally speaking, the criminal who is a U.S. Citizen and the terrorist who is not are in totally different universes. (Legally speaking, mind you - not morally). Therefore there are limits on what the law can do to a U.S. Citizen that simply do not exist for a non-citizen. It would be wrong, legally, to hold a U.S. citizen in jail forever without trial. It wouldn't be for a non-citizen. Morally speaking, the same applies - the criminal and the terrorist are in different universes. For starters, the criminal lives inside the society, and the terrorist lives outsides. The criminal, while engaging in immoral behavior, does not repudiate the society
itself. The terrorist does. Chesterton said this more eloquently than I ever could in
Thursday - the scene where Syme and the policeman talk about the difference between the ordinary criminal and the "intellectual criminal". It's pretty much the same thing here - and therefore, the moral approach on dealing with the two is hugely significant.
I don't have a detailed philosophy....
I would respond that, if so, you should refrain from opining on the subject. I mean this with absolutely no disrespect to you. If you don't know much about brain surgery, you shouldn't give your opinion on the right way to do it, because you're likely to make a mistake, or wrongly accuse the surgeon of being a fiend who cuts up people for fun & profit, and incite a mob to lynch him. (Actually, this is kind of happening right now - never mind).
What I'm trying to get at is this: As you know, morality is complicated. So is politics. So much more is how morality applies to politics. I'm not saying that there are no absolutes in the subject - no lines that can never be crossed, no absolute forbidden topics. But smarter men and you and I have thought about these subjects - and, unfortunately, I've seen you slander and demean them, simply because you jumped to a conclusion and did not bother to fully understand their thoughts. Even if they were wrong in their conclusion, it's neither fair nor in accord with Charity to say some of the things you have said about you do here:
and who want to make the US into a torture state because they think it will save their miserable skins.and here:
and then supplementing it with the cowardly torture and murder policies of a war criminal like Dick Cheney.
Sorry, but there's no other way of saying this - this statements are both morally
reprehensible and stupid. By saying them, you have done nothing to promote virtue in anyone. All you have done is this - those who agree with you get a fiat to engage in hatred and in self-righteousness. Those who disagree with you are inflamed with anger, which also leads to hatred. I speak from personal experience here. In the past, I have read things you have written and have gotten so angry with you that I have sinned against you by slandering you in turn. Thus - you have incited me to sin. I take responsibility for my actions, but you need to know the part you played. (incidentally, they also drove me away from your blog - I used to read you daily, but now I only check it once every couple months).
The effect of statements like these are akin to obscenity - they cheapen discourse and neuter the power of reason. They do nothing good - they do much evil. I have to urge you to refrain from them. I'm sorry if anything I said above strikes you as uncharitable or unfair to you. All I can do is say that this is not my intention.

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