Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Friday, January 28, 2005

LSU Cross Vandalism - How Not to Debate

So, a little while back, vandals removed or damaged 3,000 crosses placed on the LSU campus as part of a protest against abortion. There have been arrests. And now, the leader of the vandals has sent a letter to the university newspaper explaining his actions. We don't usually Fisk here at MansfieldFox (it runs counter to our generally easy-going attitude) but the letter is such a masterpiece of inanity that it cries to Heaven to be parsed and mocked.

And so, with no further ado:
My name is John Philip Morlier. I am the sole student being charged with destruction of property for my actions against the crosses on the parade grounds.
Hi! My name is Angus White Dwyer. I am the sole blogger about to Fisk your letter to the editor. (Nice to meet you.)
I engaged in what I believe to be an act of free speech. The crosses were planted in an effort to join a debate, conversation. By removing from the ground and disassembling the crosses I was voicing a counter point.
I, too, have found that the most effective way to participate in a debate is to shut the other side up somehow. You win a remarkably high percentage of debates in which you can successfully do that. In seriousness though, this is an all-too-common tactic of people engaged in debate today, and one that pops up far more often on the Left than on the Right. I've never been able to figure that one out. I guess you get the bully's thrill of pushing someone around, and you can deceive yourself into believing that's a form of refuting their argument. Plus, it seems like a protest, which harkens back to the glory days of the Sacred Sixties, but can be done by very few people (it only takes one or two shrill people to shout down a speaker) which makes it a cost-effective tactic for a movement whose numbers are shrinking. And decorum, I guess, is just a tool of patriarchy, or hegemony, or whatever they're calling it today. Anyway:
I know that my actions were rash; however, the statement made by the crosses was rash, inappropriate, invasive and hostile.
Now, John, you're a grown-up. You should know that you can't fight rash with rash. You need Lotrimin AF for that.
The technical legal issue of the status of abortion has to do with the definition of a woman's body and the state's roles in controlling said body, not in the metaphysical labeling of a fetus.
You know, you're right. All these years of believing fetuses and embryos were human beings: what a fool I was! If only someone had simply baldly asserted that the issue doesn't matter! I also appreciate being lectured on the fine points of legal doctrine by an Anthro major. Next time I see him, I'll pass this info on to Justice Blackmun, who's woefully misinformed on this issue. After all, he's the guy that said, "If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment." And in Roe v. Wade no less. Talk about missing the boat!
Year after year the tasteless crosses shout accusations of evil, guilt and shame. After five years as a student and resident of the greater campus community, I shouted back.
Now, I'm no expert on Louisiana State. I've never even been there. So I can't speak to the accuracy of his statements. I just think the idea of a talking cross is cool. What? That was a metaphor? Oh. So the crosses don't actually say anything? So where's all this shouting come from? Whence the evil, guilt and shame? Surely these aren't coming from inside Mr. Morlier, for whom abortion is just about the woman's personal autonomy right to procure an elective surgery. Hmmm. Curious. Also: I can't speak to the tastelessness of the crosses, but I make it a point never to try to eat anything that's been lying out on the lawn. You can consider that a free piece of advice, John.
I want to make it very clear that I believe in free speech. I am not anti-Christian. I am not anti-life. I am anti-hegemony. What I did is not simply a matter of pro-life or pro-choice, it is much deeper than that.
Hegemony he·gem·o·ny ( P ) Pronunciation Key (h-jm-n, hj-mn)
n. pl. he·gem·o·nies The predominant influence, as of a state, region, or group, over another or others.

So you stole the crosses as a protest about geopolitics? Now I'm really confused. Oh, wait: you were an Anthro major. You've absorbed the collegiate-academic tripe-trope (trope-tripe?) that "hegemony" is a word empty of actual meaning that can be used to describe, and condemn, anything that's, y'know, bad. I too prefer jargon to argument, though I think you're supposed to lay it on a little more thick. You're not anti-hegemony. You're trying to construct a heuristic that denatures the paradigm of hegemony. See? It's easy!
The misuse of a Christian symbol by the students for life is indicative of a very old and sad trend. That is, factions of person's attempts to attach to their agenda the supernatural powers of God and the finality of the word in order to ensure the compliance of those targeted.
See? He's not anti-Christian. He just wants Christians to shut up. OK, that's not fair. They can speak on issues of public concern, just as long as they pretend they're secular humanists while they do so. With Mr. Morlier as referee. (It must be awfully difficult to be both anti-hegemony and so obsessed with controlling what other people do. No wonder the second sentence is so unreadable: he was exhausted!)
The crosses are not an invitation to engage in a give and take debate on the issue, rather the issue is evasively hidden behind the most powerful symbol in our community.
Wait, I thought that "[t]he crosses were planted in an effort to join a debate, conversation" and that your stealing them was your special way of continuing the debate. If they weren't "an invitation to engage in a give and take debate" does that mean your witty (if felonious) riposte was uninvited? That you weren't debating when you stole the crosses? I'm so confused. I'll just assume that I'm the dumb one, lost in the depths of your dizzying intellect.
Those crosses were a black and white framing of a very complex issue veiled behind the threat of hell; a wood and glue manifestation of the self-righteous, mislabeled "Christian" mentality that fuels itself off of the punishment it threatens or administers to those that it persistently persecutes.
Wait: I thought the abortion issue was very simple ("The technical legal issue of the status of abortion has to do with the definition of a woman's body and the state's roles in controlling said body, not in the metaphysical labeling of a fetus.") I'm pretty sure I know what a woman's body is. (I mean, it's been a while, but not that long.) As for the state's role, I suppose there's some room for debate there, but in general in a liberal polity we try to avoid infringing on people's freedoms, and in particular their bodily freedoms, without some compelling countervailing reason. (Like protecting the life of the fetus? Perhaps, except remember that "the metaphysical labeling of a fetus" is a non-issue.)
I did what I did because I feel that debate is democracy, I feel that the image of ideologically impregnated and anonymous crosses is an attempt to end the debate, to abort democracy.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. I mean, isn't the issue the definition of the body politic and the state's roles in controlling said body, not the metaphysical labeling of a democracy? Then again, if the crosses really are pregnant, shouldn't their choice as to whether or not to carry the ideology to term? (No, silly: being anti-hegemony means having the right to use force to compel others to think and act how you want. Right. My bad.)

OK, that's all she wrote. There's still lots of good material in the letter for a further Fisking, if anyone's interested. It's circles within circles, wheels within wheels of assininity.

Also, Fr. Sibley has been all over this story like white on rice. All the links in this post came from his blog, A Saintly Salmagundi. Send all further factual inquiries his way.

UPDATE: Minor edit for content. No change of substance.