Tuesday, January 29, 2013

When You Peel Back the Layers of Junk, They Show You What They're All About

Ah, Tobold Rollo. Always on the run.

Oh, he puts on a brave face for his followers. But as it turns out, a recent blogpost I wrote dissecting a blogpost that he wrote -- and using the language of his chosen field, no less -- stung him far more than he would like to let on. He did try to make it seem as if this wasn't so. He actually dismissed the post as "researched on Wikipedia..." a patently false claim, as the sources for the post were linked with in it. For the record, it was the Standford University Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Which is hardly Wikipedia. (Nice try, Blinky.)

But it turns out that he was rather disturbed by the meticulous dismantling of his bad faith arguments that he actually went so far as to update his blogpost. It seems he may have had some additional points that he thought may have made up for the errors in his blogpost, errors that not even the greenest poli sci 100 student would ever make. (It's nearly day one stuff, after all.)

How much more did he have to say? Well, let me put it to you this way: not much more than he had to say in the first place. Which, as you may recall, wasn't very much at all. But I'd like to draw your attention, in particular, to his new concluding line::

"(My apologies if you were hoping for an academic critique, but the Calgary School’s errors aren’t a matter of scholarship – they are ideological.)"

 So there you have it. There, in one sentence, everything that Tobold Rollo's "scholarship" seems to be about: ideology. And ideology alone.

Apparently Rollo admits that he takes no issue whatsoever in the facts that Tom Flanagan and Barry Cooper cite. He has no problem with their analytical rigour. Rollo's single and sole objection is that Flanagan and Cooper do not share his ideology.

Suddenly, it all makes sense: the conceptual shakiness of his online offerings. The scant references to anything even remotely resembling a source or even a fact. And the spectacularly wanton resorting to logical fallacies of every sort imaginable to sweep any criticism -- that blasted criticism! -- away.

Because to Tobold Rollo it seems that this isn't about conceptual soundness. It isn't about facts or sources. It certainly isn't about good-faith debating tactics. It's all about ideology, and ideology alone. There's nothing else. Rollo has drawn a line in the sand of academia: on one side, he and those who share his ideology, or at least ideologies that he is willing to give some sort of approval, however, begrudging. On the other side is everyone else.

From a scholastic standpoint, that's a serious problem. For one thing, it actually precludes defending a position with facts or logic. Ideas promoted by those adhering to one particular ideology are automatically granted merit, regardless of whether or not they withstand academic muster. Ideas promoted by those adhering to another particular ideology are immediately discarded, regardless of whether or not they withstand scrutiny. That makes for an extremely toxic scholarly environment, but as it turns out that isn't even the most striking thing about this stance.

There are various theories about what ideologies are, how they are formed, and whether or not those who hold such ideologies are aware that they hold them. I won't go into them at length here because quite frankly it can get quite boring. But I will mention this important concept: many theorists have held that virtually everything about the way people are socialized within any particular society is ideological. The argument holds that one way or another, everyone adheres to some sort of ideology regardless of whether they recognize it or not. In one way or another, that ideology guides virtually every decision that a person makes.

Now clearly, awareness of his personal ideology is not an issue for Rollo. He's fully aware of it, and it seems he allows it to guide how he judges and responds to work by other scholars. Considering this, it's not hard to draw the conclusion that, for Tobold Rollo, the conclusion is always foregone. The result of a study or research project always decided in advance. And that no conflicting piece of evidence will be allowed to change his mind so long as it leads him in the "wrong" ideological direction.

Suddenly it all makes sense. How Rollo could entirely skim over the most obvious shortcomings in Barry Cooper's original column -- and make no mistake about it, I feel there are logical and conceptual shortcomings in Professor Cooper's article -- and instead resort to the bad-faith tactics of which he appears to be so fond.

I peeled back the layers, revealed his offerings to be utterly hollow, and in response Tobold Rollo simply came out and revealed what he's all about. And in Tobold Rollo's case, there's nothing there but ideology.

I won't pretend to be more Catholic than the Pope here. I'm no less ideological than most people. But I do take the time to challenge my ideological assumptions on a regular basis, and in doing so I at least strive to give you more than mere ideology. Troll-bold doesn't, and he makes that perfectly clear.

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