Left Outside

Homophobes: From Common Sense to Sophistry

One of the advantages of being a reactionary is being able to resort to “common sense” to defend your positions. A radical proposal, even if it is a good idea – like a Land Value Tax – or supported by tons of empirical evidence – like tackling climate change – can be stymied by appeals to “common sense.”

What you rarely hear are sophisticated arguments attempting to philosophically undermine either position. You don’t hear people claiming often that value is so intrinsically effemerable that no taxation of it is possible, they just moan about old ladies being forced out of their homes because they are asset rich but cash poor. [1] If anything resorting to sophistry is a sign that the reactionary bigots know they’re losing an argument.

And so we turn to Cardinal O’Brien who has recently said that 1) gay marriage is on a par with slavery 2) marriage is an immutable platonic ideal and so timeless and pure it cannot and must not be reformed by governments and that finally 3) defining gay marriage as real marriage would violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. No. Really. All of this nonsense was said by a real person.

Controlling what counts as common sense gives you an enormous amount of power to not only silence critics but to determine the overton window within which debate occurs. For a long time homophobes helped define what common sense was, but demographics and logic has shifted common sense and majority opinion in a more liberal or accepting direction. Losing control of common sense is thus a major blow and can only really be dealt with through attempts to recapture it, capitulation, or reaching for resentiment.

O’Brien’s sort of sophistry is introduced as a sort of resentiment, focusing internal fears of losing control onto the misbehaviour of governments, or gays, or society in general. There is no choice here for O’Brien, because the reactionary can no longer appeal to “common sense” because about half of Brits think gay marriage should be fine.

So he cannot recapture it, and neither can he capitulate to it because that would be more or less impossible to reconcile with Catholicism and he knows it. So look out for shifts from “common sense” and empirics to sophistry, because it is a sure sign you’re winning whatever argument you’re having and the other person knows it.


[1] Look, you fuck-wits, liquidity transformation is what finance is for. If we implement a Land Value Tax, a bank, building society or whatever will help people turn their illiquid assets into liquid cash, that is one of the core purposes of finance. At the moment releasing equity in a property is quite expensive, but were a million extra customers to appear then the extent of the market would quickly increase entrants and push down costs. I could write the contract myself:

“We will pay your tax for you, but on exit from the property or your death we shall demand payment of amount paid plus seven percent for each year we paid your tax. This can be met out of sale of your property or if possible and if as your last will and testament specifies from the remainder of your estate.”

Anyway, I got sidetracked…back to the top you go.

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Paul Sagar

Left Outside is always worth a read for passionate, and frequently irreverent, analysis and comment.

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Oi! Enough of the cheek!

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This might be the least well informed piece I’ve read on LC, which is quite an accolade.

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