Ken P vs Birdman: Final Installment

Thanks Ken

 

[Ken replies to Birdman's last-posted letter:]

Dear John,

My comments are interspersed below.

Ken P.

John Bryant wrote:

>Dear Ken: > >Truly I am surprised by your reactions. Possibly this is because I did not express myself very well, so let me very briefly summarize my main point, in hopes that this will make it more understandable to you. >

And thank you so much for taking the time to do so. As I am so feebleminded, I would be lost without your helpful remediation.

>That point is just this: When a person is upset over a problem, as I am about the growing police state in America, then his rhetoric heats up and becomes more biased -- as you would say, more over the top, less 'fair and balanced'. That can be said of most of my essays. They are polemics, philippics, things which reflect my disturbance over some problem. I am not really concerned in making them 'fair and balanced', in the sense of trying to make the presentation of both sides equally forceful. >

I looked up *polemics*. It says nothing about unsound or relaxed-fit logic. *Philippics* was a new one for me. A philippic is a verbal denunciation characterized by invective. I don’t know how that helps your case.

As you know, when you put “fair and balanced” in quotation marks above, you are not quoting me, you are quoting yourself in you 9/23/08 e-mail to me. I have never advocated that both sides of an argument be presented with equal force. This is not what I meant when I wrote, in my first e-mail, that your Letter “lacks any sense of balance.” Pardon me for not being more clear. What I meant was that your Letter failed to follow the standard rules of persuasive writing. You should have at least acknowledged in your Letter the existence of obvious counter-arguments.

>But on the other hand I HAVE been concerned to respond to all substantive arguments aginst my position. >

This is not true. Consider that my second e-mail critiqued your 9/23/08 e-mail to me. I pointed out that you have taken advantage of the lexical ambiguity of *propaganda* to make an illegitimate point. I showed that you made a black-and-white fallacy when you said that your only options were to write either a one-line bromide or a wild-man rant. Also (most importantly, in my opinion) I think I made a strong case that your oft-quoted “learnin’ is churnin’” adage is probably wrong. You haven’t responded to any of this.

>And since my essay follows this long-standing pattern, >

Not true. Consider the following, which I quickly located from my e-mail in-box: #495 The Virtue of Intolerance; #498 Shorties; #491 Economic Evolution. They all seemed to be well argued. It’s possible there was some sort of serious flaw in one or another Letter, but nothing jumped out at me. And they certainly weren’t cathartic rants.

>I am surprised that it seems to have upset you. >

Again, I’m not upset.

>Indeed, of the several responses that I received, there were NONE which were critical, and one which rather raked you over the coals. > >

You’ve got a point there. If I’m not popular, I must be wrong.

>Beyond the above, I really do not see anything in your most recent letter to respond to. So I guess my best strategy is just to shut up. -j

 

[Birdman responds:]

Dear Ken:

I have been trying to write this letter all night, and in fact am falling asleep doing it. I guess that you can figure out that I was pretty shocked by your mockery, especially because it came from someone who has been a generous supporter. For the record, these were the two instances that I detected tho there could have been others:

(1) >And thank you so much for taking the time to do so. As I am so >feebleminded, I would be lost without your helpful remediation.

(2) >>Indeed, of the several responses that I received, there were NONE which >were critical, and one which rather raked you over the coals. >> >> > >You’ve got a point there. If I’m not popular, I must be wrong.

Really, I have been just as courteous and responsive to you as I could possibly be. In particular, by my taking the blame for not expressing myself clearly, I was trying to make you feel better, but evidently you thought I was just implying that you were an imbecile. I could apologize for not choosing better words, but now perhaps it is your time to consider apologizing for reading into my words something which wasn't there.

In simplest terms, our basic difference is that you don't like the essay, and I do. And since there is no argument about taste, that might ought to be the end of the discussion. However, out of respect for you, and because of my naturally-contentious nature, I responded. Perhaps that was not such a good idea.

The objection to my essay which you posed consisted of a major point, which I attempted to respond to, and several minor points, which I did not address because I just didn't feel they made much difference, tho apparently you did, and evidently this was part of the reason for the reactions of your most recent letter. I really want to leave our argument there -- we could unpack our differences until the cows come home, but I doubt that, at the end of the day either of us would feel it made much difference. The Jews have a name for this -- pilpulism -- as do the Catholics -- casuistry -- and it is something from which I hope to be spared.

I don't plan to post any more of our correspondence on this unless you object. I don't want you to feel as if I am suppressing a response from you that has knocked my arguments for a loop, but on the other hand, I don't feel that the current exchange will have much interest for readers.

In closing, let me say again that I was frankly shocked that you would mock me -- shocked because I did not feel I had done anything to deserve it, and shocked because our heretofore friendly relationship was breached. But if I am wrong, please accept my apology. -j

 

[Ken replies:]

Dear John;

I’m sorry that you lost sleep over this. Perhaps I’m naive about people in general, but I didn’t mean for you to take this discussion so personally. This started out as critique of your Letter #499, which as I have stated several times, is, in my opinion, unpersuasive. You keep mentioning that I’m angry, and I keep telling you that this is not the case. Maybe I’m just insensitive to the insults that I cause to others.

You’re right about the “feebleminded” comment. In retrospect, I realize I should not have included that. It’s just that I (incorrectly, as I now know) translated your comment that lead up to it to mean “so now I’m going to put it into baby words so that even someone like you can understand.” So please accept my apology on that one for reading in words that you did not intend.

On the “popular” comment, I don’t know. You cited the fact that the opinions by others that you have received on this subject were uniformly in your favor as a proof of the correctness of your own position. As you know, that’s a fallacy. I was trying to defend myself by pointing out that fallacy in a clever way. I should have expressed my opinion is a less clever way.

It’s true I didn’t like the Letter, but I think I’m being objective when I say that it’s unpersuasive. That’s my basic point. Sure, people who already hate cops and people who love Birdman will pat you on the back. But everyone else who might read it will just figuratively walk away from it and say, “The guy’s nuts!” So you haven’t converted anyone.

You apparently think that you are breaking up cerebral ossification with this Letter and you said as much in you 9/23/08 e-mail. (At this point, our conversation conflates the original Letter with the subsequent e-mail correspondence.) You wrote in your latest e-mail to me: “The objection to my essay which you posed consisted of a major point, which I attempted to respond to, and several minor points, which I did not address because I just didn't feel they made much difference, tho apparently you did, and evidently this was part of the reason for the reactions of your most recent letter.” My point is that your “learnin’ is churnin’” adage, is being misused by you as a justification of the writing style in the Letter. This is not a “minor point.”

You write words to the effect that Letter #499 is your standard writing style. I randomly picked out (in my last e-mail) three previous Letters from my in-box and determined that, in my opinion, that this is not true. In each of the three, your position was persuasively presented. Obviously, this observation should be seen as complementary to your overall writing history.

In further defense of myself, I should add that I am concerned that you write that you are “shocked because our heretofore friendly relationship [has been] breached.” I really didn’t see things going this way. I thought we were having a spirited debate. Sure, I got slightly annoyed when I saw what I thought was bad reasoning on your part, and I responded – some places with a bit of sarcasm. But I do not hold you in contempt or anything like that. Part of the problem is that in correspondence, all of the subtle cues of face-to-face conversation are missing. And I am not always as sensitive as I could be to those cues as it is, but on the other hand, I’m not a deliberately mean person. So please realize that I did not mean any harm, and get some sleep, man.

As far as posting our ongoing correspondence, that’s up to you. I think it would be of some benefit to the other readers to see that there has been some resolution to this issue. (And I hope I’m not being presumptuous by predicting that the issue has been resolved.) But you do whatever you think is best. I will not be offended if you don’t post it.

Ken P.

[Birdman responded with a promise to post the [above] remainder of the correspondence, in view of Ken's evident desire to have it posted. No further exchanges are expected.]

 

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