I am officially titling my lifetime, at least what has evolved in the last decade or so, “The Age of the Specious Argument.” There’s a whole lot of debating going on about a lot of things, and the more I read, the more I find that not a damn thing anyone uses to “argue” has any teeth. Not even baby teeth nubs. We’re talking Grampa Gus before the water was fluorinated and denture paste was readily available. In general, I find that arguing with someone who has presented their point accompanied with specious arguments is a total waste of time. Those who find this an acceptable way to state or rebut, usually don’t have a clue what’s going on in the first place. And the more you try to intelligently tussle with them, the more their thought process breaks down into a level of crazy that should only happen within the walls of a psych ward.
I would first like to address this misconception that has arisen as the popularity of the paper newspaper has declined. An article is something written with facts. NOT ARGUMENTS. FACTS. Primary source information is usually present. For instance, If you picked up the paper (I realize that I might be the only one who still picks up papers – granted, I tend to only do this in Europe as the quality of American papers has reached an all time low…), a piece speaking about how many people died in Syria yesterday referencing locations of explosions and a survey of who set of the bombs or was believed to have set off the bombs would qualify as an article. It shares factual information. A piece that discussed why a person thought the UN or US government should take a certain course of action based on accumulated statistics is EDITORIAL. It is not an article. It is an Op Ed (as they used to be called) – that first abbreviation referring to Opinion. ALMOST EVERYTHING YOU READ ON THE INTERNET IS EDITORIAL. This blog is editorial. Half of the things you find on Huffington Post are editorial. Anything that can be found inflammatory is usual editorial. If someone has imbued his writing with opinions of his own, it is NOT an article. It is an editorial. Subjective. Not fact. Up for debate. Theory. I don’t know how many more ways I need to describe this.
The debate (using that term loosely) inspiring this particular post is over the death or survival of classical music in America. I’m not interested in taking a side in this, that is not my purpose here (though I will say, you can’t kill art, but you can kill a business). Some knucklehead penned an EDITORIAL for slate.com about how he thought classical music is on death’s door. Mark Vanhoenacker’s entire piece is specious argument. He references things like decline in audience and ticket sales for classical organizations, cuts in arts funding, discontinuation of classical programs on the radio. If you look at any of these things in context, ticket sales are down but so are a lot of mainstream stock holdings like Best Buy and Sears. So there’s not a whole lot of music in education right now; there’s not a whole lot of education in education right now. Have you talked to any young people recently?! In speaking with my 13-year old horn student the other day, I discovered that she couldn’t tell me anything about the Renaissance except that it was a long time ago. And how many people do you know who listen to the radio anymore? I can’t tell you the last time I listened to the radio. I’m a classical musician and I wouldn’t go NEAR the classical station here because all they play is boring shit. BORING.
Like I said, holes with kisses. The thing that really gets me, though, is how many people felt compelled to push back at this inflammatory, poorly written editorial. And with MORE SPECIOUS ARGUMENTS. I would see things and find myself saying, “you may say classical music is still alive, but is living in a coma really living?” Sure, people are buying audio files. But, do they listen to them? There are plenty of new groups popping up, while the Memphis Symphony Orchestra just announced that they’re pretty much through at the end of the season. Nothing gives value to an argument like an irrational rebuttal. It’s like the guy who cheats on his girlfriend. “I swear I didn’t! Those are lies people are telling you! That underwear was my mom’s!” Where as, the innocent party wouldn’t even dignify the accusation with a response. “The sky is RED! It’s not blue it’s RED!” Do you think I would stop and argue with someone that the sky is blue and not red? No. Why? Waste of time. The person is obviously either crazy or suffering from some sort of opthalmological issue. I feel the same way about the hubbub over the Bill Nye vs. creationist debate. No matter what either of them believes, neither was alive when the earth was created. Neither of them knows for sure. Maybe aliens cloned themselves to create the human race. It is all theory.
I think the prevalence of the specious argument has something to do with the level of importance this society gives itself in this day and age. I actually read somewhere that the UN folks came to some sort of pact that they would limit the rise in temperature on the earth to 2 degrees C. I completely agree that we shouldn’t be wasteful and destroy the environment. Thinking that we have control over the degree to which the earth warms, however, is farcical. If we could actually implement that kind of control over the climate, I would assume we could also keep it from snowing during commuting hours. Opinions don’t become facts just because someone who thinks they are special speaks them. Oprah could tell you that Justin Bieber needs to be deported. While I'm sure we can all come up with evidence to support this statement, it's still not a fact.
So, can we quit it with the subjective nonsense now? If you want to start a discourse on a topic, please use facts. And if you want to talk about things that have no factual basis, it’s called a philosophical discussion. It’s valuable, but acknowledge it for what it is. If it can be argued, it is not fact. And until that point is understood, there is no starting point for conversation.