Last month, I wrote a NewsRealBlog post summarizing the case against Ron Paul. A Paul disciple named Wesley Messamore attempted to refute it at the Young Americans for Liberty blog. I responded in another NRB post, demonstrating that Wesley’s screed consisted almost entirely of dishonesty, misdirection, and simply ignoring information that was too inconvenient.
Curious to see how our apologist friend's reaction, I gave him the link a couple weeks ago. No reply. Several days later, I wondered aloud if Wes was unwilling or unable to defend his conduct, to which he politely responded:
I'm a little jammed up presently with the election (timed perfectly to coincide with some other heavy lifting I'm doing for my non-political, commercial enterprises)... give me some time and I'll respond. Or if you're up for it, I propose we set up a debate to stream live.
Fair enough; we all have real lives beyond the blogosphere. I’d be happy to give him some time, but I wasn’t terribly interested in a live debate, given a) that my schedule is fairly “jammed up” as well, and b) the caliber of his arguments thus far made me doubt such a debate would be worth the time and effort. For politeness’s sake, I replied with the former explanation, and told him to take his time on a blog response. Simple, right?
Wrong. Wes turned around and decided that there was only one option after all, and that it had to be a video debate, because with columns, “it's too easy to wiggle around, equivocate, ignore key arguments, misinterpret (deliberately or not) assertions, and just generally waste time.” For good measure, Wes also whined: “It’s just more time consuming for me to correct your evasions, obfuscations, and equivocations than it is for you to make them.”
At this point, my suspicion of what a waste of time this “debate” would be was confirmed. Wes wanted to change the subject from his ineffectual propagandizing to my supposed unwillingness to accept his challenge (which didn’t start out as a challenge). Unsurprisingly, today he declared victory on YAL using that very spin.
But as I told him, my rebuttal's currently the last word in the debate—the record shows that I’m the one who confronted my opponent’s challenge head-on, not him. My original claims remain intact, while his attempted rebuttal has been discredited. Anyone can read it, and he has done nothing to change the situation. Unless he comes up with a substantive defense of his words or a substantive criticism of mine, I have no need, reason, or obligation to pursue this further.
And anybody halfway familiar with the average cable news “debate” ought to recognize that there isn’t a huge difference between the two formats in the ease with which people can get away with rhetorical trickery. I don’t deny the value of direct real-time discussion, but it’s actually just as arguable that blogging provides the most accountability to audiences.
For one thing, spoken arguments are not fundamentally different from written ones—people make claims and state opinions, and audiences digest them and compare them to one another. For another, blogging offers the convenience of being able to directly link to sources, which audiences can evaluate for themselves with a single click.
Indeed, if you want to know whether or not this medium facilitates sufficient accountability—and, I suspect, the real reason Wes has a problem with it—look no further than the fact that I’ve already been quite able to expose Wes’s use of the very tactics he pretends to oppose (and shamefully attributes to me):
- I pointed out that he repeatedly made wild, false accusations about what I and other Paul critics think about other issues, apparently without having made any effort to ascertain my actual views first, and without even trying to present evidence that Paul critics are driven by a broader lack of conservatism.
- I pointed out that he completely ignored the supporting evidence for my claims about Paul’s fringe tendencies and his dishonesty about Israel and other national security & foreign policy issues. His most transparent attempts to change the subject were an astoundingly stupid analogy to David Horowitz and pretending that I criticized Paul for merely being against “Washington running our lives.”
These are specific examples not of Wes being mistaken (although I trounced him for that, too), but of Wes being dishonest. Examples of, to use his words, “evasion, obfuscation, equivocation, dropped context, (etc.).” That dishonesty comes so easily to him, and that he keeps it up even after he knows he’s been called out on it, makes it all the more pitiful when he pretends not to know why I call him dishonest: “Apparently in his eyes, if I say anything in disagreement with him, I'm not merely wrong, I'm lying.”
Wes, you know exactly what I’m referring to when I talk about dishonesty. And your conduct only proves I’m right not to expect a live debate with you to be worth the opportunity cost.
Lastly, a few words about the time aspect. In one of his trademark lame gotcha attempts, Wes claims the “lengthy” comments I’ve left on his blog take more time than his dream debate would, which is absurd—the small handful of comments I left there each took a minute or two at most. Granted, this post took considerably longer (and is arguably an exercise in futility), but I figured that if Wes can devote another blog post to spinning what went down, I can devote one to setting the record straight.
As I said, my daily life is “jammed up” with plenty of responsibilities, such as my senior-year academic duties at Hillsdale College, several extracurricular organizations, holding down an on-campus job, blogging daily for NewsRealBlog, and my own (admittedly-neglected lately) personal blog. Could I make time for a live debate with Wes in the near future? Probably. But again, it wouldn’t be worth the opportunity cost to me, given that I won the blog debate, and that Wes’s conduct has overwhelmingly demonstrated that he’s just not worth the effort.
(And please, spare me the absurdity of suggesting that a single live debate would “settle” anything. If you were a genuine seeker of truth, willing to change your opinion when presented with a better argument or contrary information, you would have done so already, and you certainly wouldn’t have engaged in as much blatant dishonesty. I highly doubt you’d concede much of anything, either about Ron Paul’s integrity or your own.)
But y’know what? When the holiday season rolls around, and I’ve got more time to kill, maybe I’ll take Wes up on his offer. It would be fun to see his smug propagandizing on full display, challenge him on his dubious idea of character, and watch him try to justify his blind devotion to the personality cult surrounding a single deranged politician.
We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m content with the fact that he badly lost this fight, and that he’s demonstrated that Young Americans for Liberty doesn’t deserve the support of serious conservatives.