Opposite evils to do not balance: They aggravate each other

A reader complains:

You and Galupo are just wrong about Palin. Her bit with the Big Gulp was so drawn out, it was obviously comic shtick to make fun of Bloombergism.

Apparently Palin the performance artist is too sophisticated for snotty Mark Shea to understand.

I think product warning labels are often deeply stupid and unnecessary Nanny statism. You have to be an idiot not to know you should not use your hair dryer in the shower, not to use shampoo on dry hair, and not to eat Odor Eaters.

Still, I knew a man who, in a particularly rowdy moment, was joking around with a friend who had told him to do something. He brashly replied, “I don’t take orders from anybody.” Spying a Binaca breath spray thingie on the dash of the car they were riding in, he picked it up and said: “You see this? It says ‘Do not spray in eye’”. Whereupon he sprayed it in his own eye. Funny stuff, particularly when he started howling in pain because, you know, you shouldn’t spray breath spray in your eye. That’s bad for you, even if some nanny state ninny tells you that in a dumb product warning label.

So: Palin. Of *course* it was comic schtick to make fun of Bloomberg. That’s the point. Pretty much her whole schtick is to take some stupid thing some Dem says, make fun of it, and do the opposite, to the roars of the mob.

The problem is, what with Palin being dumb, “doing the opposite” doesn’t mean “Doing something smart in opposition to doing something stupid”. It far too often means “doing something stupid in opposition to the stupid thing my enemy does”.

If a Dem says “We should pass a law against committing suicide by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge” that’s a stupid law. It does not help to fight that stupid law by doing “performance art” and jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. It helps instead to find smart ways to oppose suicide. Bloomberg’s Nannyism is a stupid way to advocate for public health. Advocating everybody guzzle sugar is also stupid in a country with soaring obesity and diabetes rates. I advocate less stupidity from our Ruling Class. It’s my civic duty. Otherwise, you wind up with a party that used to be prolife devolving into a machine that hawks funnee T-shirts reading “I’d rather be waterboarding” because that’s the opposite of what those damn libruls say so it’s funnee performance art. Get it?

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  • http://www.chesterton.org Sean P. Dailey

    Indeed. Guzzle beer instead.

    • ivan_the_mad

      Wisdom for the ages, Sean.

    • Stu

      No wonder we always got along so well.

    • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

      But sip your whiskey (or even your whisky [or perhaps even your uisge beatha])!

      • Scott W.

        Unless it’s rotgut–then pinch your nose and down it goes!

    • http://www.chesterton.org Sean P. Dailey

      Thank you, gents. Thank you.

  • David B.

    I don’t think this merits serious criticism. I don’t think she was advocating unhealthy living (she herself seems rather health-conscious), as much as she was just doing it to tweak Bloomberg. Take the messenger out of the equation, and there’s a silly joke that makes and deserves no substantive remark.

  • http://catholiccinephile.wordpress.com/ Evan

    “Palin the performance artist” – you mean that hilarious British guy who led the Spanish Inquistion, worked in the cheese-free Cheese Shop, and had a not very silly silly walk? I love that guy’s performances; how can they be too sophisticated?

  • http://losthunderlads.com acilius

    I agree with your major points, but disagree with one of your examples.

    I don’t think it’s stupid to have a law against jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. The law does various things; one thing it does is to demonstrate that a community is something that can and does take particular stands on particular moral issues. So laws against suicide show people that society regards individual human lives as something more than the private property of those individuals, that we have a stake in each other and that others have a stake in us.

    Specific laws against spectacular forms of suicide, such as jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, show that public spaces have meanings and that we as a community claim the right to preserve those meanings from disordered acts that would shred them. If the Brooklyn Bridge means that the people of New York City and surrounding areas have committed themselves to a multigenerational project that links the boroughs together physically and in other ways, that life-affirming meaning is shredded every time someone uses the bridge as a means to commit suicide.

    None of that proves that there ought to be such a law, perhaps there oughtn’t. Perhaps the jurisprudence surrounding the First Amendment, the USA’s method of protecting freedom of expression, will require that people be free to make nonsense of every statement by which society affirms the value of life; perhaps the Brooklyn Bridge itself is so corrupted as a symbol of that affirmation that it should be denied any special treatment. Still, even if the law is bad, I don’t agree that it is stupid.

    • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

      Such a law would also advertise that the Brooklyn Bridge is an interesting place to commit suicide. Most major suicide bridges have tried to avoid labeling themselves as such, exactly because it draws more people to attempt suicide on them. It appeals to those who perversely see something romantic or thrilling about jumping off a bridge.

      So I disagree with your disagreement. This example fits well the definition of a “stupid law”.

      • http://losthunderlads.com acilius

        I grant you there are other considerations to take into account, and that it may not be a good idea to specifically outlaw jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. But I can’t imagine anyone who is both suicidal and bent on doing it in a spectacular fashion looking at the Brooklyn Bridge and failing to make the connection.

        Also, every law that bans an act advertises that act. That such advertising can have a perverse effect is an observation as old as Paul’s letter to the Romans. But neither Paul nor anyone else who deserves our attention calls for an end to all lawmaking. So, should the city pass an ordinance prohibiting suicide by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge? I have no idea. But I do deny that such a law, even if on balance it would be a bad idea, would be a stupid one.

  • Benjamin

    Palin has degenerated into nothing but a third-rate stand-up comedy act. I didn’t think it was possible for Movement Conservative “humor” to get any lamer than the Half-Hour News Hour, but they’ve finally managed to do it.

  • Benjamin

    Also, Mark, you don’t quite understand the kick Movement Conservatives apparently get out of “pissing off liberals”. I actually saw a billboard for a local talk radio station that said, no joke, WRVA: LIBERALS HATE IT!” If Nancy Pelosi said people using power drills to make holes in their skull made her really, really mad, I bet you could get 1,000s of Movement Conservatives to do just that because it “pisses of a lib”.

  • MikeTheGeek

    “Opposite evils do not balance…”

    A Big Gulp is an evil? Get a grip.

    • Mark Shea

      Stupidity is an evil. Encouraging stupid things like habits that will help guarantee soaring diabetes rates continue is stupid.

      • MikeTheGeek

        Drinking the occasional big gulp encourages no habits that I’m aware of. Equating buying a Dr. Pepper to being an occasion of sin is so far over the top I can’t even see the top from there. Scarfing down a plate of chicken-fried bacon with cream gravy is not the same thing as telling little boys and girls they should have it every night but Friday. Shall we embrace the “don’t drink, don’t dance” brigade and all join the SBC? Else we might encourage habits like alcoholism and promiscuous sex, ya know.

        • Benjamin

          Alcohol in moderation actually has health benefits. Sex in moderation also has many benefits (duh!) HFCS-packed Super Duper Gulp drinks have zero health value at best, and at worst it means Type 2 Diabetes at age 30.

  • http://drdawgsblawg.ca/ balbulican

    Over here on the lefty side of the fence, we get a tremendous kick out of the conservatives who celebrate Earth Hour by turning on every light and appliance in their house, running their showers, turning up the heat to max, and otherwise spending their money in an ostentatious demonstration of indifference. It gives one the urge to announce that The Left (you know, that monolithic, homogenous movement all us commies are part of) will be celebrating National Don’t Dunk Your Head In Boiling Iodine Day on April 23rd.

    • ivan_the_mad

      No, those aren’t conservatives; neither are a goodly portion of those in the public square who label themselves as such. The label in popular parlance is nearly an anachronism, bereft of meaning. Someone once wrote something along the lines of “there’s nothing conservative about failing to conserve small farms or small businesses”, and as a corollary I’d suggest that there’s nothing conservative about deliberate waste. It’s emblematic of American politics in general; empty gestures and a multitude of ad turbams.

      • Benjamin

        Yes, there’s a big difference between actual conservatism and Movement Conservatism™, and I say this as someone to the left of the Democratic Party. The latter is standard GOP boiler plate from National Review and Fox, the former is along the lines of The American Conservative magazine, First Things, etc. Actual conservatism is actually into conserving (though I think it conserves way too much bad along with the good). Movement Conservatism™ is increasingly about making smirking references to cultural shibboleths and voting straight GOP while sending panicked chain emails in ALL CAPS about the coming Obamitler IslamoMarxist Tyrannical Dictatorship.

  • http://ktcatspost.blogspot.com K T Cat

    Interesting post, but I’m not sure it needed the “Palin being dumb” bit. It’s hard to square Sarah Palin as being dumb when measured against a random sampling of Ivy League professors. I’d put her up against the hopelessly Peronist Larry Summers any day of the week. I’d highly recommend Dean’s series, Sarah Sez if you want to see some real dumberousness.

    • Chesire Cat11

      It seems as though you have had more contact with stereotypes of Ivy League professors than with actual Ivy League professors.

  • Birthday girl

    Um, griping about a Big Gulp bit? Really? Sounds to me like you really really dislike Mrs. Palin. Unworthy topic for you.

    • joeclark77

      Yeah, methinks Mark Shea doth protest too much.

      • Mark Shea

        Actually, Mark Shea assumes too much familiarity with my past quotations of C.S. Lewis, who writes in Pilgrim’s Regress: “Opposite evils, far from balancing, aggravate each other.”

  • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

    I’m no fan of Palin, but I’ll admit to being a bit caught off guard by the term evil being applied. I don’t think what Bloomberg tried to do was ‘evil.’ Wrong headed and typical of a particular mindset, but not evil. I don’t think Palin gulping a giant soda to make a point was evil. I don’t think Sean Dailey saying let’s all guzzle beer to make a separate humorous point was evil. In fact, I chuckled when I read it. Sometimes I think our entire generation needs to calm down.

  • Me

    I have never seen a libral college professor at my university keep condoms on her desk to irritate the more conservative students in the very conservative university.
    My protestant friend keeps taking the bible quote wives love your husband out of context to “encourage me” as a “sister in Christ” to stay in my abusive marriage (I left anyway). It’s so nice of you to take Palin’s simple joke out of context and blow it out of proportion and turn it in to something evil.
    Maybe you would have to have less tin-cup rattles to raise money to support your family if you spent your working time doing something of actual value (like me, I am a nurse, I’m off today) and less time searching the web and blogging about a joke.

  • Chris

    Mark, I must preach. Why strike at the dignity of the person. Dumb is unnecessary. I am fine with a critique of behaviors but to label is beneath you. Or it should be.