Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wagging the Dawg

I'm really torn over this Dr. Dawg character. From what I can tell, he's a very capable writer, a very capable thinker, and even, I think, a good person (to the extent that his intentions are good, anyway) ... You'll agree with me that these are rare enough qualities by themselves--so it's hard not to be impressed when you find them wrapped up in one tidy package.

Thing is, the man talks absolute rubbish.


In spite of the statement-of-intent-thing that tops his blog, i.e.:
This is to be the usual running commentary on events, if sporadic. I hope it will be a counter to those out there who imagine they have ideas when all they really possess is a collection of right-wing idées reçues accompanied by spasms of anger. What I always look for is debate above the Usenet level.
In spite, I say, of this admirably worded proviso, the good Doctor has demonstrated in his most recent post precisely the dangers to the sort of debate he envisions, by presenting his readers with a series of really quite brazen left-wing "idées reçues" accompanied by, if not spasms of anger, then at least spasms of petulant condescension. (Or passive aggression, if you like.)

His post takes as its subject the whole spanking issue, and the proposed repeal of section 43 of the Criminal Code. His argument, ostensibly, is an attack on this op-ed column, that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen yesterday. But you'll notice that he dismisses the piece in fairly short order. He does so, first, by employing an only peripherally relevant argument to the effect that one of the authors is inadmissible because of her association with the Western Standard*; and, second, by mischaracterizing the piece as pushing the line that "spanking is good for you." (It does nothing of the sort. Indeed, it stresses that "spanking as a disciplinary tool is ... neutral"; that the problem with outlawing a "reasonable force" exemption in the Criminal Code is, amongst other things, that serious cases of child abuse will be buried under an avalanche of child abuse charges brought against adults who are, conspicuously, not criminals.)

Now. Dawg dismisses Ms. Mrozek and Mr. Quist's argument, I say, but he is careful to replace it, quickly and almost seamlessly--and without ever letting on explicitly that he has done so--with a series of straw man cases that carry him through to the conclusion that "If anyone had any doubts about the sado-political mentality of the Right, its take on this issue is frankly conclusive."

See how he does it:
The op-ed, citing various studies that claim that spanking is good for you, is in response to the it's-about-time Senate initiative to repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code. There's a good synopsis of the issue here. The Supreme Court of Canada already prescribed strict limits to the practice in 2004: no belts or paddles and no shots to the head, and the child to be hit must be no younger than two and no older than 12. Focus on the Family, an intervenor in that case, liked the law just the way it was, and provides a helpful on-line "how-to" guide to hitting a child, including the use of "neutral objects" ...
Okay, okay, okay, Dawg. But what does all this nonsense from Focus on the Family have to do with the Citizen piece? That is, what does it have to do with the issue at hand, i.e. the possible consequences of the repeal of section 43 of the Criminal Code as examined by Ms. Mrozek and Mr. Quist? ... Alas, that first sentence there is as far as Dawg gets in terms of relevant rebuttal.

Then the post really starts to spin out of control:
Now, hitting a child is not everyone's idea of how to generate family harmony. If there is a line between spanking and child abuse, I would like any of the pro-hitting folks to tell me where it's to be legally drawn. Here? Here? Here?
Jesus, Dawg! The first two links are to cases of parents beating their children with belts and paddles. You just told us that the Supreme Court outlawed this! So ... the line has very clearly been drawn between their spanking their children, and their flogging them with belts or paddles. Right? And the third link is to a case of murder, for God's sake! As far as I know, that's against the law too. (Even in the United States; where, I should like to point out, each of these cases has its origin! I can't help thinking that the fact that the Doctor wasn't able to find any comparable Canadian examples says rather a lot about just how clear the line is here between spanking and child abuse.)

But let's not stray from the point. Again: what does any of this have to do with the Citizen piece? Mrozek and Quist don't, as far as I can tell, advocate a return to the stricter forms of corporal punishment. Nor do they suggest that parents be allowed to murder their children. So what's your point?

But nothing's stopping him now:
If the various conservative sources I have cited think that hitting children is good for them, setting them on the Correct Path, why stop there? What about troublesome teenagers? Adults? Seniors? They flog people of all ages in Singapore, don't they? But perhaps I shouldn't encourage them further. A number, in fact, are well along that road already ...
Dawg! Section 43 does not, I repeat NOT, permit anyone to "flog" anyone else! It does, however, permit the use of reasonable force by parents, guardians, or teachers towards children between the ages of 2 and 12. You know who else has a privilege remarkably similar to this? The police! So if one of your "troublesome" teenagers, adults, or seniors does something to merit it--like, say, beating hell out of a child in spite of requests that he or she desist--then they too will have the standard of reasonable force applied to them.

Res ipsa loquitur nothin', Dawg. Try non sequitur and ad hominem ... ne plus ultra!

Now, I'm very willing to entertain suggestions of how we are to create this race of noble savages that Dr. Dawg imagines to be the apotheosis of leftist achievement, but I should like very much to know how that can be accomplished in this specific case (i.e. via the repeal of section 43 of the Criminal Code) without creating more problems than are solved. And I'm not being rhetorical here either. The Doctor has done a bang-up job of proving that conservatives are all either idiots or aspiring murderers, but that is quite beside the point. (Particularly given that confessing conservatives aren't the only people who are alarmed at the prospect of having the state act out on its belief that parents are insufficiently equipped to be able to tell the difference between reasonable and unreasonable force.)

The questions he needs to answer--directly, and without any obtuse surmising about the "sado-political" alignment of the people the questioner bares a fleeting resemblance to--are 1) how the outlawing of spanking will improve the protection of those children who currently suffer very serious abuse (that is, by people who disregard the law even as it stands now), and 2) how it will protect all children from possibly falling victim, in their adolescence, to the sorts of epidemics of violent behaviour Mrozek and Quist outline in their, as yet unchallenged, Ottawa Citizen op-ed piece.


*I don't deny that this information is relevant, but taken alone it amounts to nothing more than an accusation of guilt by association. Which, needless to say, is a fallacy.


UPDATE (11:30 PM)

Well, the good Doctor has posted a reply to the above on his site. (He does so as an addendum to the original post.)

He notes that I don't have comments, which is true. I have been working on the assumption up until now that if people have something they really desperately need to say to me, they'll just send me an email. That way I don't have to sift out any of the spam or nastiness that's likely to come in on comments. I have just discovered, however, that Blogger for some reason--and I don't know when--decided to remove my email address from my profile. This has been remedied. (And no smart ass comments about how I never noticed this until now, and that that says rather a lot about how much interest EMG is generating.)

Anyway, as I say, Dawg has posted his reply. And very terse he was about it too--but perhaps I deserved this. It's worth reading, and of an impressive length given how little time there was between my posting and his. I'll try to come up with something like a worthy reply over the next few days.

Until then--and in the hopes that I might be given a better sense of the substance of Dr. Dawg's idées reçues (which I'm still really really fuzzy on)--I give you this from some dude:
What modern people want to be made to understand is simply that all argument begins with an assumption; that is, with something that you do not doubt. You can, of course, if you like, doubt the assumption at the beginning of your argument, but in that case you are beginning a different argument with another assumption at the beginning of it. Every argument begins with an infallible dogma, and that infallible dogma can only be disputed by falling back on some other infallible dogma ...
I can confidently say that the infallible dogma under which I am currently labouring in this matter is that while violence is terrible and undesirable, it is inevitable. Take away my ability to resist address it, and not only might I perish, but the innocent under my charge might too. 'Simple--or, if you like, simplistic--as that.

Now the question is: what is Dr. Dawg's infallible dogma?