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How to debate with decorum … and why profane, vulgar arguments reveal weak arguments & minds


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Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

TIME OF DANGEROUS DIALOGUE?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, Frank Bruni, who writes for The New York Times recently opined that, “We are in a dangerous place when it comes to how we view, treat and talk about people we disagree with. Madonna fantasizes about blowing up the White House, Kathy Griffin displays a likeness of Donald Trump’s severed head and so-called protests at Berkley, Evergreen State and Mulberry College erupt into violence and property destruction.” What’s interesting about these comments is Frank Bruni is a self-described gay liberal.

Harry, we see over and over again, civility and decorum are disappearing.

PUBLIC SQUARES STILL NEED TRUTH AND DECORUM

DR. REEDER: In its place: profanity and vulgarity-laced declarations and shouts, invectives and the loss of any civil discourse in the public square. Tom, as I mentioned in a previous program, I was invited to a forum concerning an ordinance that is being considered in a rather small southern town. One of the key aspects of the town is a university that’s there and I was told, of course, that the students were going to come and, likely, be protests and that there were plans to shout down the forum speakers.

I, literally, received a number of emails asking me to, “Consider whether you ought to come or not.” “Well, I’m going to come and I’m going to talk and I’m going to try to approach this in an appropriate way that honors the decorum that a nation that honors free speech ought to embrace.”

And so, I came and, let me say that, yes, there were a few hecklers but, by and large, it was well-done and the students were well-behaved but the fact that the shadow loomed over it… Trying to think back to my college days, whenever we would have discussions about matters of morality, ethics, and religion, there was, basically, the rules of decorum and public discourse in terms of how things are handled.

WHY THE EXTREME ZEALOTRY AND PROFANITY?

The shouting down, the yelling, the profanity, the marginalization – now, why is that there? Well, No. 1, you need to understand that there is a religious zealotry to the secular humanist position and the ruling out of any claims of divinity over life.

It comes back to, “We will not have God to rule over us and every man wants to do what’s right in his own eyes.” This becomes a zealous movement in which you want no competition – you want to rid the public square of any claims of divine majesty, divine sovereignty, divine authority over our lives – and that is a passionate commitment to remove that.

Therefore, anyone who comes as an ambassador of Jesus Christ or who comes with just general claims of religion is automatically dismissed. The fact that people are “incurably religious” is seen as a defect to eradicate in the world instead of a freedom to protect and, therefore, you want to clean out any references to religion in society.

And then this life that is lived out from under the claims of God, secular humanism – man is the measure of all things – that becomes something that is a passionate commitment and its success is the eradication of any competition of communication in terms of how we ought to be living and any notion that there is a “how we ought to live.” There is no “how we ought to live” – the only thing that ought to rule is, “I can do what I want to in life.”

Now, that’s nonsensical, it’s chaotic, it’s destructive but that position is so insensible and so irrational of secular humanism that it not only wants to eradicate any competitive ideas, it cannot stand the competition of ideas.

My father, early on, taught me something: The evidence of profanity is either the result of a weak mind or a weak argument. I would say that there may be an exception to that, but that is a generally factual observation. A weak mind – “I don’t have the ability to talk with you and so I’m going to verbally assault you” – or the argument is so weak – “I have no ability to win the argument so I want to remove the person that I’m talking with.”

ARE TRADITIONAL DEBATES DEAD ON CAMPUS?

TOM LAMPRECHT:  To that end, Harry, Steve Salerno of The Wall Street Journal tells of a formal academic debate final at Towsend University back in 2014 in which students ignored the resolution on foreign policy to instead give a profanity-laden rant about racism in American society and they won the debate.

DR. REEDER: And, amazingly, that was given the first place prize. Tom, once again, let me just make the point: Either the person is incapable of the meaningful conversation, therefore, you resort to profanity and vulgarity and volume to shout people down, to marginalize them, to set them aside, to embarrass them and that’s the only way that you can win it.

That is also rooted in what we call the ad hominem attack – that is, you can’t deal with the concepts that are being talked about and you can’t deal with the arguments, so you attack the person. And, if you attack the person, you think you’ve won the day when, in reality, you haven’t won anything – you’ve just attacked someone verbally, but we have already noticed that verbal attacks eventually lead to the physical attacks upon people because they cannot enter into the discourse.

HOW TO DEBATE

On the other hand, communities and nations are blessed when there is decorum in the conversation. What keeps a boxing match from becoming a brawl? Well, it’s called “Lord Queensbury’s Rules.” Well, we ought to have rules for conversation as well.

Here’s what the Bible says to us: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from out of your mouth, but only such a word that is good for edification according to the need of the moment.” It certainly can be a word with passion. It certainly can be a word of contradiction to what the other person is saying in a discussion, but it’s ultimately for edification, coming to a conclusion, dealing with the ideas and attempting to expose ideas to the sunshine of a conversation with decorum and clarity.

We need to remember the people we talk to are made in the image of God and, therefore, ought to be treated with dignity and respect – that’s the way we ought to do it – so we need to become models of that. As our society descends into this loss of public discourse, we need to become both the models of public discourse, where our language and our communication – our volume, our tone – and everything that we say, right words in the right way at the right time for the right reason – that we need to become models of this.

“Well-chosen words are like apples of gold and settings of silver,” so we need to be those whose language is attractive, does communicate, “Yes, it’s not wrong to win the idea, but you want to win the idea in a way that you win people, even the person with whom you disagree.” I believe that such an approach to conversation in the public square over a period of time actually becomes winsome.

THERE CAN BE CIVILITY AND COMMUNITY-BUILDING

The forum that I was in this last week in which the warnings came, and because of the way the moderator handled it and the, by and large, because everybody – both pro and con on the ordinance that was being discussed and debated in the forum – as all of that was taking place, when people left, I have received many, many emails and comments – I love to hear this word – “It was a constructive time and we want to thank those who participated. Not simply the four speakers on the forum – we want to thank those who participated in the audience and in the after program of Q&A and discussions that went on as well.”

And people went away, some with the debate having changed their perspectives or added to it, but it was so good that people went away with a sense of accomplishment. We had a forum with decorum – that is the way we ought to live our lives day by day in conversation after conversation.

Tom, what a glorious privilege it is to win souls, not only with the words, but the way the words are spoken. And I do pray that God would allow that kind of discourse to be returned to our society.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

6 hours ago

The surprising link between Alabama seafood, timber and U.S. national security, and how Shelby is leading the way

There are plenty of areas of debate over exactly how and where the U.S. should spend its foreign aid dollars. But for Alabamians in particular — and the entire Gulf Coast region more broadly — the international assistance that flows into cracking down on illegal wildlife trafficking is paying massive dividends, both economically and, perhaps more surprisingly, in terms of national security.

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates Americans grossly overestimate the amount the federal government spends on foreign aid.  The average answer was foreign aid accounts for a whopping 31 percent of spending. Fifteen percent of respondents actually thought it represented over half of the U.S. budget.

In reality, according to the Congressional Research Service, it accounts for about 1 percent total when military, economic development and humanitarian efforts are combined.  And it is paying massive dividends for Alabama.

Here’s how:

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First, foreign aid dollars fund multi-nation efforts to combat illegal trade in timber and fish. These illicit practices cost U.S. foresters and fishers billions of dollars in lost revenue every single year by flooding the market and driving down prices.

According to the Alabama Department of Commerce, “Alabama has the second largest commercial timberland base in the U.S., with 23 million acres. Forestry is the state’s second largest manufacturing industry, producing an estimated $14.8 billion worth of products in 2013, the latest data available.” Alabama also ranked second in the country in fish production. By cracking down on the black-market trading of timber and fish, our foreign aid dollars are protecting Alabama jobs.

Second, foreign aid that flows into international conservation efforts, which has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades, helps countries manage their natural resources sustainably. This prevents the scarcity of water, food or forests that often contributes to instability and sparks regional conflicts.

Third, cracking down on illegal wildlife trafficking cuts off a major source of income for armed groups and organizations with terrorist ties throughout the world, many of which pose a direct threat to American interests.

A report by the United Nations and Interpol found that the “illegal wildlife trade worth up to $213 billion a year is funding organized crime, including global terror groups and militias.” Additionally, “the annual trade of up to $100 billion in illegal logging is helping line the pockets of mafia, Islamist extremists and rebel movements, including Somalia’s Al-Qaeda linked terror group al-Shabaab.”

Fortunately, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who recently rose to the powerful post of Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, has remained a staunch supporter of ensuring that resources continue to flow into efforts to combat the illegal trade in timber and fish.

“The Committee has worked together to strike the appropriate balance between the competing priorities of law enforcement, national security, scientific advancement, and economic development,” Shelby said after announcing critical funding for Fiscal Year 2018. “Additionally, the measure includes necessary oversight provisions to fight waste, fraud, and abuse. This is a step forward in maintaining critical funding for core programs and addressing the needs of our nation while staying within our spending boundaries.”

The move did not go unnoticed by leaders in the seafood industry, a major source of economic activity in all Gulf States, including Alabama.

“We cannot thank Senator Shelby enough,” said Southern Shrimp Alliance Executive Director John Williams after fiscal year 2018 appropriation. “Their extraordinary efforts ensure the survival of the domestic shrimp fishery in the face of what has been an endless stream of illegal shrimp imports.”

Support for foreign assistance and international conservation is smart domestic policy. It protects our economy and cuts off the flow of cash to criminals and terrorists. Sen. Shelby and the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from whom he has helped rally support deserve recognition and praise for their leadership.

Allison Ross is the owner of Yellowhammer News.

 

 

6 hours ago

What’s wrong with Calhoun County’s economy?

Earlier this week, Zippia, one of the many job search websites out there, released its list of 2018’s 50 worst job markets in America. Only one in Alabama made the list: Anniston-Jacksonville, AL, which came in at number 43.

That’s not bad given what we’re told about Alabama and poverty. But it does raise one question: Why are Anniston and its surrounding areas struggling compared to other similar places in the state?

Although unemployment in Calhoun County is not nearly as high as counties in the Black Belt, compared to other quasi-urban areas of Alabama, Calhoun has the highest unemployment rate, coming in at 5.9 percent according to data posted recently on the Alabama Department of Labor’s website.

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That far exceeds the seasonally adjusted numbers for the state of Alabama, at 4.1 percent, and nationally, at 4 percent.

So, what gives? Why does Calhoun County struggle economically?

“It’s a good question,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) said in response to that in an interview with Yellowhammer News back in April. “I saw those numbers come out for my congressional district and Calhoun County had the highest unemployment rate, still. It is better than it has been, but I don’t know the answer to that question.”

Rogers said part of the answer to that question may be tied to military spending during the Obama administration and its impact on the nearby Anniston Army Depot.

“[T]here was a real downsizing at the Depot,” he added. “They had had a couple more thousand employees than they have now at the height of the war and there had been a downsizing since the drawback from Iraq and Afghanistan. You don’t need to refurbish as much equipment. But now they’re trying to ramp back up as we try to rebuild our military.”

He credited the potential for a turnaround in that trend to President Donald Trump’s commitment to the military.

Beyond that, why isn’t Calhoun County booming? It seems like every other day, Gov. Kay Ivey is announcing a new addition or manufacturing facility in the Huntsville area that includes a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Let’s compare the Anniston-Oxford area to another economic hot spot in Rogers district, the Auburn-Opelika area.  Although Lee County isn’t quite enjoying the successes of Madison and Limestone Counties, it seems to be growing. Its unemployment rate is 4.7 percent – a little higher. But when you look around Auburn and Opelika, there are all kinds of new commercial and residential construction projects.

That doesn’t seem to be a trend in Anniston and Oxford.

Both Lee and Calhoun Counties have some similarities. Having Auburn University in Lee County is a big difference. Besides that, the two approximately the same distance from Atlanta and its international airport. The two are served by the Interstate Highway System – I-20 in Calhoun County and I-85 in Lee County.

If Lee County can make it work, then why not Calhoun County?

Getting to the bottom of determining what is ailing Calhoun County is not an easy chore. Although reading the pages of The Anniston Star is not quite the adventures of “Alice in Wonderland” it was when H. Brandt Ayers was in charge, under Josephine Ayers and Anthony Cook, it still tends to dwell in the politics outside of Calhoun County.

Addressing Calhoun County’s struggles is a politically worthwhile endeavor. While Kay Ivey is patting herself on the back for economic prosperity in north Alabama at plant-opening ceremony number 105, and Walt Maddox is championing his heroics in Tuscaloosa post-2011 tornado devastation, what about Anniston? What about Oxford? What about Jacksonville?

From an outsider’s perspective, there seems to be a presentable case for manufacturing to make Calhoun County a home given its infrastructure and proximities it Atlanta and Birmingham. But first, we need to determine what’s behind its current struggles.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

7 hours ago

Six vote difference: Republicans Todd Rauch and Debbie Wood in tight race for House District 38

Todd Rauch and Debbie Wood are in a tight race to become the Republican nominee for House District 38, where only six votes separate the two candidates. Wood has 2,165 votes to Rauch’s 2,159 votes.

The number is well within Rauch’s reach considering there are still votes to be counted.

A winner won’t be declared until at least next Tuesday, July 24, when provisional ballots are officially counted and even then, it could take longer for Secretary of State John Merrill to certify the results officially declaring a winner.

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“There’s never a winner until everything is certified,” Secretary of State John Merrill told Yellowhammer News.

Even in the case of such a wide margin as Attorney General Steve Marshall has over Troy King – 62 to 38 percent – there is still no official winner because it hasn’t been certified, Merrill said.

Provisional ballots are provided to those whose names do not appear on the voter roles when they show up to vote but who insist they belong, and still want to vote.

In order to have their votes counted, those who participate in the provisional process must prove to the board of registrar’s office that they ought to be on the roles.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

8 hours ago

Alabamians less likely to be understood by ‘Alexa’ and other ‘smart’ tech because of southern accents

The remarkable drawl that embodies Southern culture may be responsible for the frustration many Alabamians feel when trying to get their smart tech to answer a question. The repeated “Sorry, I didn’t get that” can lead people with accents to underutilize voice-activated devices such as Alexa and Google Home that are rapidly growing in popularity.

study conducted by the Washington Post and two research groups revealed people with Southern accents were three percent less likely to get accurate responses from a Google Home device than those with Western accents.  Foreign accents face the largest challenge with 30 percent more inaccuracies.

But, help is on the way.

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According to the study, the artificial intelligence used in programming the technology is taught to comprehend different accents by processing data from a variety of voices.  The more it learns, the more accurate the programming will become.  Even though these tools may be more useful for some people at the moment, Amazon, the maker of the smart home product Alexa, says to keep trying.

“The more we hear voices that follow certain speech patterns or have certain accents, the easier we find it to understand them.  For Alexa, this no different,” Amazon said in a statement.  “As more people speak to Alexa, and with various accents, Alexa’s understanding will improve.”

Over 20 percent of U.S. households with WiFi utilize smart speakers, and the number of users is growing.  Hopefully, for the benefit of Alabamians, that growth will happen in the South.

Allison Ross is the owner of Yellowhammer News.

Learning from President Trump: Words matter

“I don’t see any reason why it would be”.

Those words, voiced by President Trump when asked whether he believed it was true that Russia interfered with the 2016 election, set off a media firestorm early this week.

Trump, of course, is used to media criticism, but this time was different. Joining the normal critics were a multitude of Fox News hosts including Neil Cavuto, Bret Baier, Brit Hume, Dana Perino, and even Brian Kilmeade of the oft-lauded by Trump Fox and Friends.

The morning after Trump’s press conference with President Putin, Kilmeade spoke in second person “you” language and pleaded for President Trump to clarify his statement and his belief in our intelligence agencies over Russians who, as Kilmeade said “hate democracy.”

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To his credit, Trump – who had previously agreed that Russian meddling existed – corrected his statement within twenty-four hours.

Regardless of whether his clarification was believable or timely, this episode reminds us that in politics and government – and in everyday life – words matter.

19thcentury German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche recognized the power of words. Nietzsche wrote, “All I need is a sheet of paper, and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down”.

Nietzsche’s statement wasn’t merely hypothetical. His declaration that “God is dead” shattered worldviews across western civilization into pieces that PureFlix (the movie company behind God’s Not Dead and its sequels) is still trying to pick up.

Even so, it seems that many have forgotten the power of words and have embraced the idea that simply being heard, regardless of content, is of utmost importance.

In NBC’s hit show The Office, Michael Scott tells viewers, “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.” I think a lot of us are more like Michael Scott than we’d like to admit.

We might do well to envision more intentional dialogue from ourselves and from our elected officials, especially our state and local representatives.

In an environment where soundbites are everything, Trump’s statements in Helsinki and the backlash that ensued ought to prompt Alabama officials and candidates to rethink any “wing it” sympathies they may have towards public statements, press conferences, or tweets.

This is even more important in the post-primary period of our election cycle.

Now that the nominees are chosen, we must remind each of their responsibility as leaders to use words, strategies, and express differences in a way that is less divisive and more unifying, less bombastic and more genuine. Our officials and candidates should think twice before resorting to name-calling or vilifying their opponents, as doing so endorses that type of behavior and lowers the standard of Alabamians for those who represent them.

We should also expect, now that the in-fighting of our primary process is over, nominees to run thoughtful campaigns where issues, not personalities, are articulately debated.

Candidates and regular Alabamians alike must remember that words yield tremendous power. Therefore, as Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the BFG, and Matilda, suggests, “Don’t gobblefunk around with words”.

Parker Snider is Manager of Policy Relations for the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families.