Category Archives: Things that are false

Prezza-Denchal

When your kids finally act like members of the human species over dinner, you go out of your way to compliment them.  How grown up they’ve been!  When the dog that will jump and hump any goddam leg in range keeps to himself for a minute while guests are over, you praise him.  What a good boy!  Why? Because you want to encourage further good behavior and you’ve been trained to put up with bad behavior.

And so when the kids and dogs do what they are supposed to do,  you act like they are friggin’ saints.  And then they think that they deserve praise for doing the minimum.  (Chris Rock had a fabulous version of this insight – but it’s got some… uh… language.)

Well, you know where this is going.  President Trump’s address to the Joint Session of Congress did not involve any egregious lapses of rhetorical judgment, overt antagonism or any ad-libbed lines beginning with ‘believe me…’.  It was still filled with dopey lines like, promoting “clear water” (just after ordering the repeal of the CleanWater Rule), and “We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.”  And “And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.”  Yeech.

Moreover, Trump’s speech was all over the place argumentatively.  Just take for example the fact that he rebukes the Democrats with the line

The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us.

But then he just rolls into the cadence-windup for the big finish.  Not a well-written or well-delivered speech.  Not inspiring or clear about what or how things will be done.  But not an hour of blustery windbaggery or braggadocio.  He stopped being the cartoon villain. And so the pundits fell all over themselves with praise:

He became President of the United States in that moment. Period.

Said Van Jones on CNN.  Tom Brokaw said his presentation was

Tonight, this is easily the most Presidential he’s been.

And that’s just the media folks.  Breitbartians have been reporting that there has been a wave of “positive reaction” to the speech.  And so that’s where we are, folks.  We’ve gone from Obama’s standard to just being Presidential.

 

 

 

 

 

Ad Stalinem

obamarodeoclown

We’ve had discussions of the Ad Hitlerem and Godwin’s Law here at the NS a few times.  There’s a close cousin to it, which is the Ad Stalinem.  The argument runs in the form:

You did X

Stalin did X (or something like it)

Therefore, your doing X is wrong.  And you’re like Stalin.

Arguments by analogy have trouble with relevance, and this one has plenty. In recent news, a rodeo clown took over the mic at a state fair in Missouri and put on an Obama mask.  The announcer asked if they wanted to see Obama run down by a bull.  That’s pretty crazy.  The rodeo clown in the mask has been banned for life from participating in rodeos in Missouri, and all the other cowboys have been required to attend sensitivity training seminars.

The RIGHT, instead of feeling a little silly for catering to people who think that having bulls trample a president in effigy is good political commentary, they rush to these guys defense.  This is where the Ad Salinem comes in.  So here’s a taste of it over at the American Spectator:

I’m surprised, in the efforts to lynch the Obama Clown and brainwash other cowboys with sensitivity training, that the Obama regime and cronies have failed to recount one of my favorite Stalin stories from long ago.

After a hard day’s work, Uncle Joe blessed a Moscow circus with his presence. The clowns performed a bit that contained (what Stalin perceived as) political commentary obliquely critical of him. Yet the audience roared with delight at the funny clowns!

True to form, Stalin had his armed guards line up the clowns in center ring and execute them, on the spot.

Then, as a clever follow-up on Stalin’s part, he had the guards turn their guns on the audience and slaughter dozens. Call it a curtain call: it was curtains for all.

Oh, the dangers of mocking Great Leaders.

For arguments by analogy to work, there must be some important factors in common between the cases.  Here are a few.  1. The objection to the clown’s portrayal of Obama wasn’t about criticizing his policies, but about the racist overtones of the portrayal. 2. None of the consequences visited on him are from the Obama administration, but from the Missouri State Fair officials.  3. Nobody in the audience had anything bad happen to them.  4. If you look at the picture closely, you’ll see that it looks like the guy’s got a broom halfway up his butt.  He should be fired for that, solely.  That’s not funny. It’s weird. Even for a rodeo clown.

Do you want firm, weasely abs?

Weaseling is a form of informational misdirection.  You get your audience to agree to a very weak version of a commitment, then proceed as if they’ve agreed to a stronger version.  The greatest weasel ever was in Dumb and Dumber when unattainable romantic interest in the film says that one of the dumb guys only has a one-in-a-million chance of ever having something with her, and he giddily replies “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!” (See the clip HERE)

Beachbody, the giant exercise company that has brought you the Sunday morning infomercials about P90X and Insanity!, has a product called HipHopAbs (don’t click the link if you hate frenetic pop music).  They have all the perfunctory before and after photos, but this awesome weasel caught my eye:

Jump-start your weight loss with this easy-to-follow plan that will help you lose up to 3 inches off your waist in your first week!

Up to 3 inches.  Now, that means:  no more than 3 inches.  But you hear: 3 inches.  Now you own HipHopAbs.  So you’re sayin’ there’s a chance!

Scarequote overkill

Scarequotes are a form of downplayer (I’d posted on them and what I call the scarequote exercise earlier HERE) — you use them when you invoke the vocabulary of the opposition, but to call attention to how false the vocabulary is.  And so, when you introduce the opposition’s experts, you call them “experts,” and thereby you are on record for holding that they are only so-called experts. It’s a form of indirect discourse, like sarcasm or irony.  But it’s the club-instead-of-scalpel form of indirect discouse.  Now check out George Neumayr’s post over at the American Spectator and his use of the scare quote to address those who support gay marrige:

Were the people on their side, they wouldn’t need to doctor “social science” to justify their propaganda. They wouldn’t need to use judicial activists to undo democratic results. They wouldn’t need to ignore the written Constitution in favor of a “living” one.

Plenty of regimes that no longer exist once thought themselves on the “right side of history.”

There’s plenty more, but it would require more work contextualizing than it’s worth.  Here’s the weird thing: most of it doesn’t actually make sense.  Take the first use of scare quotes.  Unless Neumayr doesn’t think there’s any legitimate social science, the claim that doctored “social science” is being used by the opposition is a form of double-dipping.  Why not say just ‘doctored social science’?  What does doctoring so-called social science do?  In fact, that seems counter-productive for all sides.   The same goes for the “right side of history” downplayer, too.  Nobody he’s invoking thought they were only on the so-called right side of history.  Notice further that Neumayr’s thoughts aren’t clarified by adding the scarequotes — you can get the message that he thinks the social science is illegitimate, that the written constitution is preferable to the doctrine of a living constitution, and that those who believe they are on the right side of history are regularly wrong.  In every case, scarequoting in attributing thoughts to others confuses what’s so-called and what’s being attributed.  Scarequoting like that is just sloppy writing.

I’ll perform the scarequote exercise from earlier below, taking the last few sentences from my previous paragraph.

Notice further that Neumayr’s “thoughts” aren’t clarified by adding the scarequotes — you can get the “message” that he thinks the social science is illegitimate, that the written constitution is preferable to the doctrine of a living constitution, and that those who believe they are on the right side of history are regularly wrong.  In every case, scarequoting in attributing thoughts to others confuses what’s so-called and what’s being attributed.  Scarequoting like that is just sloppy “writing”.

Now that’s how you use a scarequote! And, again, notice that it’s mostly just cheapshots.

How not not to be a cynic

Inside Higher Education ran an advice post for newly hired academics in the StratEDgy blog section.  They then posted the high points on the front page last week.  Most advice was just fine, ranging from get tenure quickly, before they take that away to focus on the teaching and find ways to enjoy it.  Then there was this gem:

Avoid cynicism by recognizing early that academe is just as fraught with petty squabbles, mean-spirited colleagues, and irrational rules as any other area of endeavor – but no more so than any other.

As far as I can take it, this advice is that one avoids cynicism by being a cynic.  That’s simply not how you avoid being a cynic.  I suppose the more charitable reading is that one can avoid the disappointment of realizing the truth of the cynical worldview (especially in the vaunted halls of academe) if one is antecedently cynical.  But that’s a different thing, and, by the way, not very effective — expecting others to be small-minded and mean doesn’t decrease decrease disappointment when they invariably are so.

Consistently confusing criticism for censorship

Jeffrey Lord's post, "Gay Totalitarianism," over at The American Spectator is hampered by confusion.  Lord's main case is that liberals can't stand dissent, and want to shut down any opposing voice.  This has, in his view, been in bright highlight with the Chick-fil-a issue.  Here's his case in point:

Down in Southwest Florida liberal reporter Mark Krzos of the News Press was furious at seeing free speech exercised in his midst, whining on his Facebook page that "The level of hatred, unfounded fear and misinformed people was astoundingly sad. I can't even print some of the things people said."

So this means Mr. Krzos wants to shut down Occupy Wall Street? It gets better. Krzos went on:  "I have never felt so alien in my own country as I did today while covering the restaurant's supporters…. It was like broken records of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and a recitation of half-truths and outright lies…. Such a brave stand… eating a go**amn sandwich. "

So this guy feels "so alien" in his own country because he comes face to face with free speech? What country is Mr. Krzos living in? Cuba? North Korea?

I can't speak for Krzos, but on my interpretation, his alienation was at seeing speech he disagreed with, and that he felt he was powerless to address or argue against because of the way the beliefs of the speakers were formed.  It's not the freedom his lines were objecting to, but to (a) how the views stated were misinformed and hateful, and (b) that those speaking seemed to be only interested in those who speak for them, not the views of anyone else.  Krzos wasn't, by my lights, calling for the supporters of the chicken chain to be jailed or muzzled or anything like that.  He was criticizing them.  That's how you respond to speech when you recognize the freedoms — you use more speech to criticize it.  Ah, but Lord's on a roll, and can't resist the conservative argument-by-comparision-money-shot on speech issues:

As we have mentioned before, leftist intolerance for dissent and opposition is as old as the blood soaked guillotines of the French Revolution. Not to mention the Revolution's 20th century descendants from Communists to the Nazis (aka the National Socialists) to their more modern American cousins like all those progressives who hid for decades behind the hoods of the Ku Klux Klan or a few decades later appeared as Bill Ayers and his bomb-setting brethren in the Weathermen.

Whew!  When Lord makes historical comparisons, he doesn't hold back.  (Oh, love the "aka the National Socialists"… what's that even doing? Making a point about socialism?)   I said at the end of my previous post that there's a weird thing about many Burkean conservatives, that they see Robespierre behind every progressive.  This seems overkill, but maybe with the Robespierre line so abundant, you've really got to pile on to be sure that folks know you're using hot rhetoric.

Again, the point is that responding to dissent with criticism and responding to dissent with violence are different things, and Lord's case conflates them.  Responding to speech with more speech is a form of tolerance, actually — you face something you think is wrong, but you don't destroy it,  only criticize it.  But for the analogy to go through, you have to be responding with violence. 

Big Boss Man

Michael Bloomberg is the Republican mayor of New York.  He has advocated a ban a gigantic sodas in New York.  This provoked the following reaction from George Will on ABC's "This Week."

STEPHANOPOULOS: And it's not easy. I want to get to one more issue before we go. Michael Bloomberg this week banning the sale of 16 — anything over 16 ounces of soda in movie theaters, restaurants (inaudible) got that ad right there in the New York Times. It says he's the nanny. And, George, I got to — I got to confess, the minute I heard about this plan from — from Michael Bloomberg, the first person I thought about was you…

(CROSSTALK)

WILL: Let me read you what Michael Bloomberg said, because in one sentence, he's got the essence of contemporary liberalism, that is something preposterous and something sinister. Listen to this. We're not taking away anyone's right to do things. Could have fooled me. We're simply forcing you to understand. Now, that's modern liberalism, the delight in bossing people around, the kind of irritable gesture that'll have no public…

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it is a massive problem, George. Obesity is a problem across the country.

WILL: Of course it is. And regulating the size of these drinks at some outlets will do nothing about it. By the way, the sale of sugary, carbonated sodas has fallen 24 percent since 1990. The American people are getting the word on this. But what this really says is — what Bloomberg is saying, the government helps with your health care, the government's implicated in your health, therefore, we own you, therefore, the government can fine-tune all the decisions you make pertinent to your health.

Bloomberg, again, is a Republican.  How his behavior expresses the "essence of liberalism" is a mystery.  What it does express is the fact that many laws entail "bossing people around."  As a matter of very obvious fact, the law is a kind of big boss person, who tells you how fast to drive, to wear a seatbelt, or a helmet, or to have a child safety seat, or not to drive drunk, or to pull over for emergency vehicles, or any other of the hundreds of very bossy rules about driving, walking, and riding.  Some people, Republicans, also try to use it to tell you which person you can marry, or which words you can use on TV (could go on, but why bother?)

Will then finds that the Republican soda plan is just like climate change:

WILL: But this is one of the reasons liberals are so enamored of the issue of climate change. They say all our behavior in some way affects the climate. Therefore, the government — meaning, we, liberals, the party of government — can fine-tune all your behavior right down to the light bulbs you use.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Wow, the leap from soda to climate change. Donna, you get the last word, 10 seconds.

BRAZILE: George, all I could tell you is that this is a very serious concern and I commend the mayor for raising it and also giving you something to drink about.

Ah, the lightbulb thing.  Cheers to Brazile for the joke; but couldn't anyone have pointed out that Bloomberg is a Republican?  It's not that hard folks.

H/T Crooks and Liars.

It’s not only mistaken, it’s also wrong

John Kass, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, argues in today's column that requiring health-insurance plans to include contraception for women in their health insurance plans is a "clear" violation of the First Amendment.  He offers this puzzling argument:

But then, recently, he decided to challenge the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. And his new policy to force religious hospitals and schools to offer abortion-inducing drugs and birth control in health care plans for employees is a clear violation of religious freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

It demonstrates to Americans that their government is not only willing but eager to dominate faith, by telling religions how to practice their beliefs. And if they refuse, then the faithful will feel the federal wrath.

So the president's policy is not only mistaken and insensitive and wrong, it is the perfect expression of everything Americans fear about the ever-increasing federal leviathan.

It is not only mistaken–it's also wrong.  Mistaken is the most wrong kind of wrong.  The article (and the comments) are worth reading for the factless cocoon in which some people seem to live.  Nowhere in the piece does Kass bother to (1) cite the facts about the actual policy; (2) consider reasonable objections to such non-restrictions; (3) discuss what the actual position of the Catholic Church is:

The Catholic bishops have called the new health coverage rule "an attack on religious freedom" and argue that all employers who object to contraception–not just faith-based organizations–should be exempt from having to provide it to their employees.

“That means removing the provision from the health care law altogether," said Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the USCCB, "not simply changing it for Catholic employers and their insurers."

He added, "If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I'd be covered by the mandate."

That's not a slippery slope, that's their stated objective.  So imagine the following etiam tu quoque (offered, by the way, by a commenter on the Tribune page): the Chicago Tribune has now changed hands, it's owned by Jehovah's Witnesses.  However life saving blood transfusions may be, they are not covered on their plan because Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in them.  Sorry John Kass, no blood transfusions for you so long as you work at the Tribune.  In addition, the JWs think it immoral to refer you to outside plans that would cover blood transfusions.  You must find insurance and pay for that out of pocket on your own.  A discount from you current plan to cover it would violate their beliefs (these are, by the way, objections actually offered to compromise plans by the Catholic Church).    Would you support the law then?

Anyway, the point is that it is not super-obvious to everyone that this is a religious freedom issue.  I would say that it's one worthy of some careful discussion.  Kass isn't offering that.