Since my alternative Comedy Central is Fox News, I was watching some Glenn Beck tonight. While apparently drunk (as usual), he was attempting to defend conservatives from claims of extremism.
Now I’m not one to care about these idiotic debates which take place for the sole purpose of entertainment, I do care about the underlying question: Is extremism bad?
Most people would agree that all things are good in moderation. Drinking, playing video games, smoking pot, watching TV, eating, and millions of other activities are not necessarily harmful if done in moderation. This moderation is the cornerstone of the virtue ethics of Aristotle.
But isn’t it possible that moderation is not always a good thing? Maybe extremism can be a good thing.
Take the abolitionists for example. Is it better to be a moderate abolitionist who is willing to make compromises for the sake of moderation? Perhaps it would be better to take drastic measures to ensure the abolition of slavery as quickly as possible.
How about helping other people? Is it better to balace this act with other less important things, or is it better to upset the balance at any opportunity? Is it better to oppose a great evil (such as the state) only to the extent which you can be considered a moderate, or is it better to oppose great evil with all your ability?
I don’t care about Glenn Beck’s insane views, but he should learn defend the right claims and look for faulty premises (like the assumption that extremism is intrinsically evil). Maybe if he took a logic class or two, he would be more effective at spreading his bullshit.
Since the ad hominem fallacy allows me to take quotes from any individual regardless of their record, their believes, or character, I will leave you with a quote from Barry Golwater: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”