This morning's edition of my local paper, Foster's Daily
Democrat, serves up the deep thoughts of Bruce Mallory,
a professor in the Education Department at the University Near Here:
Following Saturday's shootings in Tucson, University of New Hampshire
professor Bruce Mallory has deemed the incident yet another example of
how society claims to be civil, yet goes about solving problems through
acts of violence rather than through informed discussion.
It is false that "society claims to be civil." Society
is not an entity that can "claim" anything.
It is false that the shootings in Tucson were an "example"
(let alone "yet another example") of society "solving problems
through acts of violence." Murder by a deranged individual
is not an act of "society." And only strained logic can
"deem" this mass murder as "solving problems."
I'm not sure how much of this massive stupidity can be attributed
to Professor Mallory, and how much is due to paraphrasing by the
reporter. Unfortunately, things don't get much
better in the remainder of the article, so I'm tending toward
absolving the reporter.
Mallory, noted for his experience in how societies operate, said society
has become increasingly more divided in terms of politics and ideologies
throughout the past few years.
That explains why lunatics
public figures in America
before January 8, 2011.
As a result, he said society has seemed to have lost its concern with
resolving issues and differences through constructive dialogue. Though
it most certainly doesn't stand as an excuse, this, the professor noted,
is key to understanding the actions of the individual who shot
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, killed six and injured another 13
Professor Mallory (dubiously)
claims to have discovered the "key to understanding"
the killer's actions. In a similar vein, I'm guessing I've
found the "key to understanding" Mallory's obsession with "constructive
dialogue" and "informed discussion". As this
from Inside Higher Ed shows, it's a hobbyhorse he's been riding
for quite some time:
Mallory and others believe that divisive, adversarial politics are also
being played out on the national stage, at an unprecedented level of
intensity. He is a proponent of what is being called "deliberative
democracy," a process of informed and civil political discourse that
ideally leads to a greater consensus and more rational collective
When you're that invested in a belief, everything gets viewed through
that prism. And you wind up speaking blithering claptrap,
shilling the magic elixir you just know would have prevented
the violent acts of this dangerous nutball. Back to the Foster's
He [suggested the] suspect in the shootings, a 22-year-old male, may have
lost touch with reality and was threatened by those who he considered
different or to have different beliefs. Noting that acts of violence
like the incident in Arizona are seemingly becoming more and more
frequent, which Mallory said gives him a reason to believe that such
acts are becoming the norm.
"The more this happens, the more our country feels like those
undemocratic, uncivil societies where assassinations, tribal conflict,
and oppression by the powerful few are the norm," said Mallory.
A stunning insight: Jared Lee Loughner might have had psychological
problems. Gee, ya think?
Also note the weasel-wordings: "seemingly", "reason to believe", "feels
like": kids, if you want to be a respected academic, this is
how you try to sneak in assertions for which you have no real evidence
It gets worse:
He stressed that it's a possibility that words are being used less and
less as a means to tackle an issue because of how heavily armed the
United States has become. Mallory said society "has chosen to allow
virtually anyone to obtain a deadly weapon, but not require that he or
she demonstrate the ability to use such weapons responsibly." He said
such access to tools that foster using violence as opposed to language
is one reason why society hasn't reached its goal of being an ideal
"Children! Use your words!"
"I don't have to, I have a
Gun grabbers have long tried, and failed miserably, to establish even
between gun ownership and violent crime. Needless to say, Mallory has
zero evidence for increased gun ownership causing
a decrease in civility. But it fits his worldview, so who needs
"It will be words, not walls or weapons, that will help us restore a
sense of civility and a belief in our capacity to solve our problems in
this troubled world," said Mallory. "The horror of the shootings in
Arizona should strengthen our resolve to come together, face to face and
heart to heart, to listen to each other."
Horror is not likely to encourage thoughtfulness.
Sappy foolishness, forced alliteration, and evidence-free
assertions will not help either.
The article finishes up with one more attempt to hawk Mallory's
panacea of …
The key to solving society's current violence problem? According to
Mallory, that is something that can only come from a nationwide
to resolving differences via dialogue. In order to do so,
the professor said that citizens across the country must be equipped
with conflict resolution tools as well as a knowledge of how to mediate
Mallory, a professor of education at the university, has taught courses
that address leadership and being the change one wishes to see in the
world. He has also performed research in deliberative dialogue and civic
engagement. It is Mallory's lengthy list of experience with how a
society operates that serves as a basis for his comments regarding the
There you go: just run your society like we do faculty meetings
here at UNH. Problem solved.
Or, as Orwell noted:
"One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no
ordinary man could be such a fool."
Simply by coincidence, I came a relevant blog post
at Reason from Brian Doherty: "Big
News Events Make Blatherers of Us All." It reads as if he had
Mallory in mind, although he's responding to commentary from George
Packer at the New Yorker:
You can call this parasitic commentary. It doesn't say anything about
the event or anything legitimately connected to the event. Rather, it
illegitimately hijacks our interest and passion in the event to command
our attention, and aim our emotions and anger about it where he wants to
aim--while maintaining intellectual respectability of a minimal level by
admitting up front there's no connection at all.
The main difference between Packer and
Mallory is that Mallory doesn't maintain
"intellectual respectability of a minimal level"; instead
he's more than eager to assert connections where none exists.
[I've responded to the Foster's article since that was
what I encountered first. If you'd prefer,
Professor Mallory's own words may be found here.]