Archive for ‘esr’

June 4, 2009

You may not have heard of Eric S. Raymond

by Smitty

  But his style is spot-on. Emphasis mine:

  Occasionally people will show up on the channel looking for project-related help. Some of them become semi-regulars on the channel because they’re often working technical problems for which the project is part of the solution. One of these guys hopped on the channel last night while we happened to be in the middle of a firearms digression, listened for a bit, and then started to spout.

  “Why do you guys think you need firearms?” “Criminals will just take them from you and use them against you.” “They’re useless for anything but killing.” “You can’t seriously think they’re a deterrent against overreaching governments, the cops will just come for you you first.” And on and on and on, the same factually and historically ignorant babble civilian firearms owners are wearily used to hearing – as if civilian firearms had not been culturally and politically decisive in hundreds of struggles for freedom, from the American Revolution clear down to short-stopping Communist counter-coups in Russia and the Baltic States as recently as the 1990s.

  I listened to the others on the channel offer polite, reasoned, factually correct counterarguments to this guy, and get nowhere. And suddenly…suddenly, I understood why. It was because the beliefs the ignoramus was spouting were only surface structure; refuting them one-by-one could do no good without directly confronting the substructure, the emotional underpinnings that made ignoramus unable to consider or evaluate counter-evidence.

  The need, here, was to undermine that substructure. And I saw the way to do it. This is what I said:

  “You speak, but I hear only the bleating of a sheep. Your fear gives power to your enemies.”

  Ignoramus typed another sentence of historical ignorance. My reply was “Baa! Baa! Baaaaa!”

  And another. My reply was more sheep noises, more deliberate mockery. And you know what? A few rounds of this actually worked. Ignoramus protested that he wasn’t a sheep. At which point I asked him “Then why are you disarmed?”


  The conversation afterwards was completely different, and ended up with ignoramus speculating about meeting with one of our regulars in his area to do things with firearms.

  I learned a valuable lesson last night. I’m not normally a fan of mockery and attacks on a man’s character over reasoned argument. But when the real issue is in fact the man’s character – specifically, when the issue is where he fits in terms of Dave Grossman’s seminal essay on sheep, wolves and sheepdogs – then that’s the level on which the argument has to be conducted.

US Foreign policy applications are left as an exercise for the reader.