We Need Debates
Ta-Nehisi Coates linked to a video debate between William F. Buckley and James Baldwin on topic concerning the “American Negro” in American society. Watching it reminded me that we are no longer in an age of Great Debate. I mean, we debate. GOP candidates rehash the same tired issues with slightly different flair over a dozen times through the course of the primary season. And we watch shows like Meet the Press or Real Time with Bill Maher and a few other scream fests here and there which count as pseudo debates. Even then, there is always an ideological disadvantage when the moderator is either a liberal comedian (?) or employed by a risk-averse media company.
But what about 1-on-1 debates between two people with well thought-out arguments who could not be any further apart on the ideological spectrum? Many of the talking heads on pundit TV have tweaked their argument here and there in the same way that the stylist backstage applied makeup and coiffed hair. For Rat Pack bloggers and academics we have Bloggingheads.tv – a site which I enjoy thoroughly. But that site rarely pits two ideological adversaries, and we get the sense that the people discussing issues there are going to meet up for martinis somewhere in the near future. Not that debate opponents have to be enemies, but I don’t want them worrying too much about if they’ll get an invite to the next backyard tofu BBQ.
I suggested on Twitter that I’d love to see a debate between John Derbyshire (or Steve Sailer) and someone like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jelani Cobb, or Toure. A hardcore conservative on the race issue and a hardcore liberal. I’d even be willing to shell out money to watch it online, and I believe that plenty of other people would too.
Because what are the hottest button issues today? I mean, people get mad about income inequality, the environment, and the economy, but they don’t get quite as worked up about that as they do highly contentious racial issues. And there is never an embargo on the discussion of contentious economic issues. But the fact that there is one surrounding race indicates that it is of utmost importance. The people of this country are just pretty good at sweeping all of it under the rug until individual cases open up the wound.
The topics that should be discussed now, as we’ve moved up the Kuznet’s curve to a point where blacks have their civil rights and affirmative action and equal *opportunity*. During the era of the Buckley-Baldwin debate, none of the issues that Derbyshire brought up in his column at Taki’s were in play. None of the anger blacks had towards whites had coalesced to the point that it overtook the fear of policing and punishment – as such seems to be the case in many cities today. Jail was not glorified; “No Limit” had not become a way of life or a badge of honor for young black kids in the streets. But instead of having an efficient point-counterpoint, rebuttal-rebuttal, we are stuck with mischaracterizations of argument, misunderstandings (of which I was slightly guilty too), and unchecked hand-waving. And only the most fringe extreme voices on the idea-discussion circuit have any desire to bring up arguments that are supported by a much larger percentage of the population. These are citizen advocates, but they are quickly labeled as racists and then marginalized. Liberals and liberal-conservatives are denying what very many people see as true. At the very least, the arguments being put forth by the *silenced* majority need to be borne out. They need to be addressed in a respectable manner by a person who can properly craft the arguments.