The One Way to Defeat a Rational Argument
May 13, 2008 by Paul McKeever
Freedominion.com.pa is a popular discussion board, especially (but not exclusively) for small-c conservatives of various stripes, who want to discuss Canadian politics. It is one of a number of sites that has been sued or complained about in respect of matters relating to human rights legislation in Canada (especially as it relates to the issue of curtailing speech).
Accordingly, a major topic of discussion is section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which curtails freedom in respect of speech on web sites. There have been allegations that the real purpose of some section 13 complaints is to shut down conservative discussion boards, thereby preventing the distribution of views contrary to those of the liberal collectivists. The topic is even more interesting for partisan reasons: one sitting member of the opposition Liberal Party of Canada, Dr. Keith Martin, has introduced a motion in parliament to repeal section 13. Dr. Martin was a Conservative, but switched parties a while back.
With that as context, you might not find it entirely surprising that several bloggers and posters on freedominion.com.pa are rather upset that the Conservative Minister of Justice has not expressed any opposition to section 13. Among the several postings on the subject, I noticed a couple by a fellow who goes by the handle EdS, who expressed both a crisis of loyalty to his party (the Conservative Party of Canada) and feelings of defeat at the prospect of fighting section 13:
I’m seriously considering my future with the Party over this issue. Freedom of Speech is the deal-breaker for me…I am overwhelmed…How do you encapsulate this whole CHRT/CHRC mess into something brief and cogent? How do you begin to explain all this to the ignorant and the apathetic?…I’m not taking any shortcuts. I just need some pointers.
I replied as follows:
EdS, you’re dealing with something that I’ve been dealing with since I took on the responsibility of leading Freedom Party of Ontario. You’ll not be surprised if I tell you that I believe Ayn Rand had the right answer:
Ayn Rand wrote:
…In an intellectual battle, you do not need to convert everyone. History is made by minorities-or, more precisely, history is made by intellectual movements, which are created by minorities. Who belongs to these minorities? Anyone who is able and willing actively to concern himself with intellectual issues. Here, it is not quantity, but quality, that counts (the quality-and consistency-of the ideas one is advocating)
…An intellectual movement does not start with organized action. Whom would one organize? A philosophical battle is a battle for men’s minds, not an attempt to enlist blind followers. Ideas can be propagated only by men who understand them.
…when you ask ‘What can one do?’ – the answer is ‘SPEAK’ (provided you know what you are saying)
…A few suggestions: do not wait for a national audience. Speak on any scale open to you, large or small-to your friends, your associates, your professional organizations, or any legitimate public forum. You can never tell when your words will reach the right mind at the right time. You will see no immediate results – but it is of such activities that public opinion is made…It is a mistake to think that an intellectual movement requires some special duty or self-sacrificial effort on your part. It requires something much more difficult: a profound conviction that ideas are important to you and to your own life. If you integrate that conviction to every aspect of your life, you will find many opportunities to enlighten others…
…it is never too late or too early to propagate the right ideas-except under a dictatorship.
…If a dictatorship ever comes to this country, it will be by the default of those who keep silent. We are still free enough to speak. Do we have time? No one can tell. But time is on our side-because we have an indestructible weapon and an invincible ally (if we learn how to use them): reason and reality.
Now, someone who wants you to stay loyal to some big organization – someone who condemns the idea of dissent or of people thinking for themselves – might argue (as they always do): “Yeah McKeever, I can see how well all of that Ivory Tower writing and talking is working for you! What did you get in the last election? Half a percent?”. In that connection, consider the following, from earlier in Rand’s career (1941, to be precise):
You say, what can one man do? When the Communists came to power in Russia, they were a handful of eighteen men. Just eighteen. In a country of [170,000,000] population. They were laughed at and no one took them seriously. According to their own prophet, Karl Marx, Russia was the last country in which Communism could be historically possible, because of Russia’s backwardness in industrial development. Yet they succeeded. Because they knew what they wanted and went after it — historical destiny or no historical destiny. Adolf Hitler started the Nazi Party in Germany with seven men. He was laughed at and considered a harmless crank. People said that after the Versailles Treaty Germany could not possibly become a world power again, not for centuries. Yet Hitler succeeded. Because he knew what he wanted and went after it — history or no history. Shall we believe in mystical fates or do something about the future? (from “To All Innocent Fifth Columnists“)
As an aside: Some moron might respond to that quotation with a smear, like: “Oh, so Rand advocated communism and Naziism, and she would have us all to do what the Nazi’s did?”. To which I will reply, in advance: Ayn Rand was born a Jewish woman. Her family was expropriated, in Russia, by the Communists. To falsely allege that she was in favour of the very things she detested and actively opposed – such as anti-Semitism, Naziism, Communism etc. – is to demonstrate just how fearful you are that someone might take her advice, and speak-up.
I’ve been taking every opportunity I get to advocate for freedom. Years of thinking, studying, writing and speaking have allowed me to identify the root of the problems that face society, including censorship. The root of all of these anti-freedom efforts is: to oppose the facts of reality and all thought and action that is consistent with those facts. Your enemies are those who want to believe that if we all just agree, or pass a law, or point a gun, we can change the facts of reality concerning man’s method of surviving and pursuing happiness. They are only deluding themselves, though at the expense of your freedom to recognize and deal with the facts of reality.
Luckily, one fact of nature is that your arguments, if founded on the facts of reality and if rational, cannot be defeated by others.
The only person who can defeat your argument is you: by not expressing it.
Don’t despair. On this issue (the Canadian Human Rights Act), reality and reason are on your side. Tell everyone so, because your enemy has no verbal weapon to defeat your argument. He only has guns and guns cannot control a person’s mind (to understand what I mean: you can be forced to have sex with someone, but no amount of force can cause you to love someone).