Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rules of Discourse....

Grumble Grumble


Keith Taylor

I disagree with what you say but I’ll defend unto the death your right to say it.

If Voltaire were alive today he’d have a hard time selling that idea, and it was such an impressive idea too. A radio program of the 1940s, Mr. District Attorney, appropriated the line for a stirring lead-in. I knew what Voltaire said before I knew who he was.

Sadly the brightest light of the Enlightenment is out of date.

In today's cyberspace age he would have to say I disagree with what you say but I’ll defend unto the death your right to forward it incessantly even if it's nonsense.

Veracity is taking a beating nowadays. With the immense traffic jam on the information highway most folks just give up and choose what they want to believe.

Then they send it to me via twitter, I-Pod, or the increasingly obsolescent e-mail. Breathless discoveries are passed around at the speed of light. And so are disagreements. Old friends send me things they know will upset me, then get upset if I disagree. It's rough for a geezer like me. Many relationships built up over decades have become strained. Quite a few have been knocked for a loop.

We need some rules of discourse. I have written ten. I hope they help.

1. If you don’t want your ideas challenged, don’t send them to people who think.

2. Don't be surprised if your recipient ignores such admonitions as “If you don’t agree with this, delete it.” He may just keep it just as a reminder of how arrogant you are.

3. Keep in mind that “Don’t send me that crap” means little if you’re sending crap yourself.

4. Don't claim things without proof as fact unless it is something so obvious it cannot be disputed. “God wants you to vote Republican” does not fit that description.

5. If you don’t care enough about what you send to check it out, someone will take great delight in looking it up and sending his findings to everybody on your mailing list.

6. Claims of the paranormal are encouraged as long as they are accompanied by proof of the paranormal.

7. Believing is not science. Do treat not something as if it is, even if it comes from a politician.

8. Sending an e-mail telling a dissenter to “sit down and shut up” is not the best use of the first amendment.

9. The wisest thing a person can say is “I don’t know.”

10. Or, it might be "I was wrong." I don't know.

10. Don't start to write list of ten rules unless you can count. -30-


//Keith Taylor is a retired Navy officer living in Chula Vista. He can be reached at

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