Last month, I wrote a 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 here, demonstrating that Wesley’s screed consisted almost entirely of dishonesty, misdirection, and simply ignoring information that was too inconvenient.
Curious about how our apologist friend might 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, yesterday 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 his claim that only a live debate will prove our mettle is especially stupid, because anybody halfway familiar with the average cable news or presidential debate ought to recognize that there isn’t a huge difference between the 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.