One of the more dispiriting processes I regularly notice in confrontations between Good and Evil is when Evil concedes that it has done something evil, and Good promptly turns round, in the spirit of fair play, and concedes something else evil. It’s like Good is a football team, and when it goes one-nil up, it feels that the fair thing to do is to give the other fellows a goal. To make a game of it. Or something.
So, for instance, if Evil concedes that, I don’t know, “socialism hasn’t turned out very well in practice”, Good, in a burst of bonhomie and generosity and brotherhood-of-manliness, concedes that socialism was a nice idea “in theory”.
No it wasn’t. An idea that turns out badly in practice is a bad idea. Especially if the badness was a predictable and predicted consequence of that bad idea.
Often, in circumstances like these, Evil even asks for an equalising goal.
Evil offers a pairing of ideas – good twinned with evil, like socks emerging from the laundrette – as a package: “I’ll concede that socialism has turned out badly in practice if you concede that socialism is a nice theory.”
The proper way to behave, if you are Good, and go one-nil up in an argument, is to press for a two-nil lead.
The proper response to going one-nil up in the above argument about the practice and theory of socialism is to say: “Socialism has indeed turned out badly in practice. Now, about this evil notion of yours that socialism is a nice theory. Let’s talk about that. And let’s you admit that you are wrong about that also. We told you you were wrong from the start, and we were right that you were wrong. We predicted that socialism would turn out badly in practice, on account of it being a bad theory. You pressed on. You were wrong. In theory as well as in practice.”
Like I say, press for two-nil.
Meckler, arriving in New York and learning that he must not carry a gun, handed his gun over to the New York goons. (That much, he was willing to concede.) The goons promptly arrested him, for carrying the gun up to the point where he stopped carrying it, or something.
Faced with a determined Meckler, and a huge outcry of rage and contempt from the forces of Good, the New York goons have dropped their evil charges. One-nil to Meckler. But Meckler is now being subjected to another evil injustice. The goons still have his gun, and are refusing to return it.
Instead of thanking the goons for being so nice about not arresting him any more, Meckler now wants his gun back. Quite right. New York goons, give the man his gun back! (This is now an international campaign. I am international and I now say this.)
Saying “now give me back my gun” is not only the good thing for Good Mr Meckler to do; it is also excellent tactics. He is now one-nil up. He faces the chance to score another goal, and go two-nil up against the forces of Evil. He is now pressing to do just that.
Quite right. When you have argumentative momentum, against a team that is saying (or in this case also doing) not just one bad thing but many bad things, use it. Thereby keep it, and build it.
When the New York goons do hand back Meckler’s gun, if they ever do (and actually, even if they don’t), the proper next response, from all of us who have now rallied around Meckler, is: “Now, about all these other gun-carrying people, against whom you have not dropped the charges, and whose guns you have not returned …” Three-nil. Four-nil. Five-nil …
If the New York goons don’t hand back Meckler’s gun, perhaps because they sense that if they do, Meckler’s team will then get more momentum, then the New York goons will be digging their heels in in an argument that they will hate but which the Meckler team will relish.
Also good. Shame about the stolen gun, but also good.