Essay Question #1

A Shocker in South Bend!
(and it’s not the near defeat of the Irish at the hands of a MAC team)

Hey, World Politics fans!

Like any good scholar, I do my best to keep up with diverse perspectives on American politics. Thus, I follow a variety of news sources, from the liberal New York Times to the traditionally conservative Wall Street Journal. Occasionally, I even dare to venture into the dangerous territory of cable news (e.g., CNN, FOX). But nothing could have prepared me for Tucker Carlson’s recent hour and fifteen-minute interview of Curtis Yarvin (a.k.a. Mencius Mordbug). I know a bit about Yarvin/Mordbug, and it is all bad.  Here are two of Yarvin’s blog posts.

Accoring to Yarvin:

“Not all humans are born the same, of course, and the innate character and intelligence of some is more suited to mastery than slavery.  For others, it is more suited to slavery. And others still are badly suited to either.  These characteristics can be expected to group differently in human populations of different origins. Thus, Spaniards and Englishmen in the Americas in the 17th and earlier centuries, whose sense of political correctness was negligible, found that Africans tended to make good slaves and Indians did not.  This broad pattern of observation is most parsimoniously explained by genetic differences.  A person makes a good slave if he is loyal, patient, and not exceptionally bright or stubborn.  But even great intelligence is not necessarily a bar to a good experience in slavery … A slave must carry the unique burden of personal dependency and obedience ….”

About the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik (ABB), Yarvin has observed:

“We can note the only thing he didn’t screw up. At least he shot communists, not Muslims. He gored the matador and not the cape. While still basically animal behavior (especially when it comes to the 15-year-olds—is there a 15-year-old in the world who isn’t a communist?), it’s more than I’d expect from a rogue Gates of Vienna commenter. We should also praise ABB for his spectacular stupidity, which I’d like to think can be a learning experience for the entire right—from Instapundit to Stormfront. You can relax now, because we won’t be praising him again. But we do need to remember that terrorism, left or right, is a legitimate military tactic. Just as a nation that idolizes Che has no genuine moral grounds for condemning ABB, a nation that annihilated Dresden has no genuine moral grounds for condemning OBL (Osama Bin Laden). We’re not exactly history’s pure and precious little snowflake.”

How is it possible, I ask myself, that Carlson, the most watched cable-TV personality in the US, could bring Yarvin on his show? Indeed, can liberal democracy survive if people like Yarvin are given public platforms to promote their views?

I am so shocked that I hardly know what to think.  Luckily, I have two friends, Cardi and Megan, who are much more decisive than I.  I also know that Cardi and Megan are quite tight, so they are sure to tell me exactly what position I should take.  I invite both to have dinner with me in my luxury box in the virtually unknown “1842 Club” in Notre Dame stadium.  I also invite a new friend, you! First, I turn to Cardi. “Well, good friend, is it a good thing for our liberal democracy that Tucker provided Yarvin with this platform?”  “Absolutely not!” Cardi replies, “It’s a travesty that Yarvin was invited and it’s a terrible thing for democracy.”  Since I can always count on Megan to express her convictions, I ask her what she thinks. The room is suddenly silent. To my surprise, Megan scowls at her friend. “Well, Meggie, “she retorts, “you are totally wrong. It was entirely appropriate for Carlson to host Yarvin. And it’s a good thing for liberal democracy, too!”

I can’t believe the acrimonious tension that has arisen in the room, especially from two buddies (former buddies?) like Cardi and Megan. I certainly don’t want to risk of alienating either of my friends. So, I decide to pass the buck to you.  “Well, my new friend, what do you think?  As far as liberal democracy is concerned, was it appropriate for Carlson to invite Yarvin on his show.  And please don’t waffle.  I want a firm and unequivocal answer!”

You are on the hot seat. Please respond to my question by taking a firm and unequivocal stand on who is right, Cardi or Megan?  Feel free to use any of your course readings (e.g., Kingdon, Mill, Mudde, et al.) to justify your argument.  If you like, you may listen to the Carlson interview HERE, but you already have enough information to respond to the prompt above.

Do NOT undertake any additional reading or research. Also do not focus on trying to ascertain whether Yarvin’s comments are good.  For the purposes of this assignment—and, I hope, for everyone—one can’t defend even a little bit of slavery or the murder of innocent people in a liberal society, or for that matter in any good society.  Nor is the prompt about whether Carlson’s interviewing style is good or not. Your question is about a different topic, that is, whether Carlson’s decision to give Yarvin a platform is a good thing for liberal democracy.

We have designed this assignment to teach you while you are thinking and writing. These skills will be useful throughout your college years and beyond.

First, we are challenging you to make and defend an argument. A persuasive argument always has two features: 1) a clear and concise statement of where you stand; and 2) an explanation of your reasons for taking this position rather than its rival. As every good epidemiologist, climate scientist, and football coach knows, a successful argument or strategy must anticipate the counterargument or counterstrategy that someone will raise against it. This means that you should clearly state both your argument and the counterargument that will likely be raised against you.

Second, we are challenging you to wrestle with a challenging issue. Thus, it will not be sufficient for you simply to describe what you have read or heard. We are asking you to demonstrate that you fully understand the topic and its implications.

We will evaluate your essay according to three criteria: the clarity and consistency of your argument; your use of readings, lectures, and discussion sections to back up your points concretely; and, importantly, your demonstrated ability to think for yourself.  Remember:  if you are not sure what you are saying, we will not be sure what you are saying either. Take a stand, explain yourself, and do so in the clearest possible fashion!

NOTE:  There is no single, correct answer to this question.  Feel free to take any stand you like. We are not judging your personal political convictions. Rather, we are interested in your ability to make a convincing argument.

When referring to your readings, feel free to use any simple citation form (e.g., author and page). It is fine to use short quotations, but indicate why you are using them. Quotations do not speak for themselves.

Finally, don’t forget the Shaker hymn: “ ‘tis a joy to be simple . . .”  State your argument boldly; justify it in a logical fashion; when you are done, stop.

The Honor Code to which you have affixed your signature applies! It is fine with me if you discuss this assignment with your classmates. However, your essay and argument must be absolutely, completely, and unmistakably your own work. For this reason, unless you are consulting your TA or meeting with someone at the Writing Center, do not share any part of your essay with anyone else.  Exceptions:  By all means, visit your TA and the Writing Center. Dare to visit me! Failing to take advantage of these wonderful opportunities is not only a mistake.  It is downright illogical.

Some words of advice.

Read this assignment closely the minute you receive it. At first, it may seem complicated. However, if you allow its elements to percolate through your brain, you will find that they all flow together.

Do not put this assignment off until the last moment. If you do so, you will not be a happy camper and neither will we.  Write a first draft, put it aside, then re-read and write some more. Then, repeat.

Requirements and Deadline
: Your essay should be no more than three (3) double-spaced, typed pages (12 point font). No exceptions to these rules! We will be looking. Give the essay an effective title that is directly related to the prompt. Do not forget to put your name on it.

Please adhere to every word of these guidelines. You must turn in your essay to your TA no later than 12:00 noon on Friday, September 24. Your TA will tell you how to deliver your essay. Late papers will be docked 1/3 of a letter grade for each day they are late. In a remarkable gesture of feudal beneficence and to give you ample time to focus on this essay, we will not hold discussion sections on Friday, September 11. Call us generous!

My expectations are not unreasonable.  I simply request that you write the best essay you have ever written in your life.

Good luck!