Friday, December 09, 2005

Controlling the agenda

Prof. Critical of Creationism Resigns Post
A University of Kansas professor who drew criticism for e-mails he wrote deriding Christian fundamentalists over creationism resigned Wednesday as chairman of the Department of Religious Studies.

Paul Mirecki stepped aside on the recommendation of his colleagues, according to Barbara Romzek, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Mirecki had planned to teach a course in the spring that examined creationism and intelligent design after the State Board of Education adopted science standards treating evolution as a flawed theory. Originally called 'Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies,' the course was canceled last week at Mirecki's request.
On Monday, Mirecki was treated at a Lawrence hospital for head injuries after he said he was beaten by two men on a country road. He said the men referred to the creationism course.

A few years back, while mired in some ugly, painful litigation, I formulated a sort of corollary to Murphy's law: In any situation, the craziest person in the room controls the agenda. Since then, I've seen this rule validated in a wide variety of contexts. Reasonable people tend to try to accomodate, find common ground and compromise. Those with limited capacity for reason tend to take harder and more extreme positions, and take more extreme actions to defend those positions. And, sadly, the dynamics of such a conflict tend to favor the crazy.

Until I read this story, I had not thought about applying the rule to our political situation. But it fits rather well. I sincerely doubt we will ever read reports of Darwinist thugs going after Creationists with tire irons. Anti-war activists are unlikely to gun down even the most flagrant chicken hawks. And the most violence lefties are likely to let loose on the far right is the pie thrown at assclown Ann Coulter.

But the right wing is consistently the craziest person in the room. So we talk about what they want to talk about, we compromise in hopes of bringing the discussion back to the realm of civility. But it never works, because our very approach rewards their misbehavior. Concessions merely move the midpoint, and lead to new and more extreme positions on the right, and further escalations of rhetoric and, cf. Professor Mirecki's hospital bill, actions.

Mirecki's politics provoked a physical response from the crazies. Their thuggery produced the results they wanted. The voice of reason in Kansas is now thoroughly cowed. I am not questioning his decision, but we need to understand that they must see this outcome as a victory, and are likely to be emboldened by it.

The Brownshirts had little trouble controlling the agenda 70 years ago. Their spiritual heirs are well on their way to such control again.


Blogger Eric Soderstrom said...

Thank you for that law. I think it should be called Blue Meme's law and not a mere corollary to Murphy's. In fact, it's not really realted to Murphy's Law at all, in my opinion.

Anyway - this is off-topic a bit, if I apply your law to my personal relations with my family, it all makes sense. Thank you for bringing me this clarity.

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That bit sbout the craziest person in the room controlling the agenda and how that works in relation to the Bushies and the evangewackos is brilliant!

abso-freakin'-lutely brilliant!

8:46 AM  

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