In the wake of the new Republican "Pledge" (more on that in the coming week), there's been a small bloom of commentary from the Professional Right on how to run their political commentary. Call this meta-commentary. Ron Ross, over at the American Spectator, gives some sound advice: use the tools of logical analysis. You know: determine what your opponent's argument is, highlight questionable premises, detect unsound reasoning. Allow the opposition to to the same with your proposals. Then defend what's been criticized, and listen to the defenses of what you've criticized. That kind of stuff, right?
For example, one of Rush Limbaugh's most effective and influential innovations is his use of audio clips and reading quotations of liberals. This is not something that had not been done before, but he definitely has taken the practice to new levels. Rush turns the words of his political opponents against them and demonstrates the absurdity and inconsistency of what they say and believe. He listens carefully to what they say, takes it seriously, logically dissects it, and then shows just how nonsensical it is.
Oh. All right, so logical dissection is finding utterances from your opposition that sound inconsistent, playing them back to back, and then acting like it's all nonsense. And Ross thinks that's good. Well, first, there's the problem of tu quoque fallacies — just because someone's inconsistent, it doesn't mean that person's wrong. Second, it's not got the solutions side to the equation — you know, you've got to have ideas, too. Third, sometimes, the facts change, and given that, some statements are indexed to the facts. Quoting without context is just an abuse of the resources.
Ah, but Ross is all about context and the meta-elements of exchange:
What's even more important than their (Liberals) intended message is the "meta-message." The website Enclyo defines meta-message as "A message about a message…Meta-messages are higher level messages about: 1. The type of message being sent. 2. The state/status of the messenger. 3. The state/status of the receiver. 4. The context in which the message is being sent." We can use an awareness of their meta-messages — that their reactions are signs of weakness, for example — to our advantage.
So Ross's suggestion is to be sensitive to context, but only for the sake of detecting signs of weakness. Logical weakness?
We need to answer their wussy double-talk with clear, muscular words that actually mean something.
I don't think he means logical weakness. But given Ross's notion of meta- messages, what do you think is being said with that sentence? Perhaps: liberals are scared, weak, and muddle-headed; conservatives must be brave, strong, and … uh, muscular?