Liberal Arguments: My Debate with Salon’s Scott Kaufman, Part 1

When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” – Dale Carnegie

I had a piece planned for today, but last night, I had a Twitter debate with Scott Eric Kaufman of Salon that perfectly illustrates illogical liberal argumentation. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to break down our debate into its component parts to show you how the left argues.

It all started when I wrote a piece critical of Scott Kaufman and his seeming support of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. I won’t deny specifically targeting him. In the piece, which can be read here, I argue that while Sanger never said anything explicitly racist (many of the racist quotes attributed to her are misattributions), she did speak at a gathering of the KKK. Additionally, Sanger was a proponent of eugenics. If you google Sanger, you will find many essays in which she specifically speaks of her fondness for eugenics.

Well, Kaufman wasn’t pleased. During our Twitter exchange, I was as cordial as possible—which is hard for me to do, as I tend to get prickly when arguing with liberals. You can read the Twitter exchange if you follow me @rob_politics.

Kaufman, however, made several critical errors when debating me that are all too common when debating a liberal. First, he built a straw man.

In my article—as I mentioned above—I suggest that while we cannot know if Margaret Sanger was a racist because she never explicitly says it, and she spoke fondly of blacks in later essays, she did accept an invitation to speak before the KKK in 1926.

In her autobiography, she describes attending the meeting, and how well she was received:

“Always to me any aroused group was a good group, and therefore I accepted an invitation to talk to the women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan at Silver Lake, New Jersey…[I was] summoned at last and entered a bright corridor filled with wraps. As someone came out of the hall I saw through the door dim figures parading with banners and illuminated crosses…

I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered. The conversation went on and on, and when we were finally through it was too late to return to New York.”

She never mentions the content of her speech. Presumably, the speech had to do with birth control, eugenics, or both. Either way, we don’t know what she said. The point is that she readily accepted an invitation to speak before a group that despised and lynched blacks, and she had such a jolly time, and was so well received, that she stayed for hours afterward.

To this point, Kaufman tweeted (I’m combining tweets for clarity):

“That’s uncommon now, but not then. Teetotalers gave lectures in BARS. That’s how prohibition happened. You think you have a trump card, but you’re just applying modern standards ahistorically. Yes, people used to enter the lion’s den to debate their opponents…

I’m saying that’s why she went there. If I go to a KKK meeting to argue against Klansmen, that ‘suggests’ I agree with them? That’s not logic, but the opposite.”

The straw man constructed by Kaufman assumes that Sanger went to the KKK rally to “debate” them in the “lion’s den.” That’s not what happened at all, as far as we know. Here’s the argument.

First, we don’t know the content of her speech. Given that, we cannot know if she was antagonistic toward them. We cannot know if she was “debating” them regarding their racist beliefs.

Second, the fact that the KKK first invited Sanger to speak suggests that her views were not antithetical to theirs, and that she herself was not antagonistic toward them. Why would an organization like the Klan invite someone to speak before them if they knew that person would scold them? It doesn’t follow logic.

Third, the fact that Sanger was so well received, stayed for hours, and got multiple invitations to speak at similar events indicates that the content of her speech wasn’t accusatory. It also indicates that she did not go there to “debate” them, but that her speech either spoke to their values, or that it was at the very least neutral to them. She may have spoken about birth control—a neutral subject.

Kaufman’s straw man is based on empty air. He has no idea what the content of her speech was, but makes the assumption—against the evidence presented above–that she spoke before the KKK group to “debate” them.

Liberals use straw men frequently when they cannot win the argument. It can really throw you off your game. Don’t let it. By the way, this is a man who claims to be very familiar with the works of Margaret Sanger, yet doesn’t know them well enough to not use fallacious argumentation. Seems odd.

Tomorrow, I’ll lay out the rest of the debate, and reveal more of Kaufman’s fallacious tactics. Stay tuned.