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NYT: You Can't 'Win' an Argument with RFK
Opinion author has no understanding of argument.
By JOHN LEAKE
New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo just opined that It’s Not Possible to ‘Win’ an Argument With Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—an analysis that led him to conclude that no one should talk to the presidential candidate about any difficult or controversial subject affecting mankind.
What is an argument? The English word derives from the Latin argumentum, from arguere ‘make clear, prove, accuse’.
Most of the time, what we call an argument is two humans engaged in a contest for dominance, each trying to force the other to concede, ”You are right and I am wrong.”
This kind of verbal struggle rarely results in any greater understanding. The fiery political commentators from Left and Right yell at each other and then run out of time on the TV slot. The drunk couple finally goes home and goes to sleep, and then wakes up the next morning wondering what they were arguing about.
A true argument—in the proper sense of the word—is an adversarial conversation about a difficult and complex subject about which clarity has not yet been established. If conducted properly, a civilized argument can, through the process of talking about the subject, prompt both participants to think more clearly about what they are saying.
We’ve all had the experience of debating with ourselves about a difficult decision or evaluation. For days you ruminate about it and don’t get anywhere, but then you decide to talk to someone about it. In the act of saying your thoughts (out loud) to another person, you find yourself gaining greater clarity about the matter.
A true investigator of our world often concerns himself with a complex reality that lies at the limit of our understanding. Instead of blindly accepting official representations of this reality, the true investigator critically examines and questions these representations. This is how all serious inquiry has been conducted for thousands of years.
By experience, temperament, and profession, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has a strong inclination to question official orthodoxies. A psychologist might speculate that his questioning posture is rooted in the trauma of his uncle and father being assassinated.
I’ve heard that Mick Jagger was inspired to write “Sympathy for the Devil” after reading Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, which tells the story of the Devil visiting Stalin’s Russia.
Mick Jagger’s song depicts the devil primarily as an agent of confusion. He introduces himself as “a man of wealth and taste,” and then relates how, under his influence, humans have, throughout history, done terrible things to each other without any understanding of why they’re doing it. As he tells it, there is NO clear delineation or understanding of things:
'I shouted out, 'Who killed the Kennedys?' When after all It was you and me.'
For my part, I don’t believe that Mr. Kennedy possesses perfect understanding of all of the difficult subjects he has tackled over the years, but at least he’s tackling them. In recent years I’ve heard him make a number of statements that I believe are debatable, and I would be delighted to debate him. By numerous accounts, he is perfectly comfortable having conversations with people who disagree with him, including his wife.
Contrast this posture with the bizarre advocacy of orthodoxy—propagated by U.S. government officials such as Anthony “I am science” Fauci—and censorship that is now being endorsed by papers such as the New York Times.
It would be one thing if the U.S. government and mainstream media were in the business of offering accurate representations of reality to the citizenry. However, most of what we hear out of the official organs in Washington and news agencies in New York is dubious at best, and often downright mendacious.
Nowadays the difference between a ridiculed conspiracy theory and a proven conspiracy is about six months.