It’s not sporting

Lately I've been in a kind of why-bother mood.  Has the world of political discourse been particularly foul lately?  It's hard to say.  It's certainly true that the imminent (maybe today!) health-care legislation has driven many around the bend.  For too many people who ought to know better, this corporate-friendly legislation is basically communism.  Pointing out that such people have constructed hollow men seems really ineffective.  Not because they don't get it, but rather because they know exactly what they're doing, and they know that our current discourse rules reward them for doing so.  Why's that?  

We'll all agree it's wrong to break the rules.  The rules in this circumstance (tv and print political discourse) include the following:

(1) being accurate and truthful;

(2) being decorous (not being a name calling arse);

(3) managing your facts well–i.e., drawing the appropriate connections, etc. (not blaming things on voodoo for instance);

(4) being consistent in your positions (goose and gandering).     

These are the ones I can think of at the moment.  Fallaciously reasoning or behaving covers all of these or some of these depending on the infraction.  Hollow-manning, for instance, is a failure of all four of these, but particularly the first two.  When one hollowmans, one isn't being accurate and one isn't be decorous. 

I think we all know that.  The problem, however, seems to be in pointing this out.  The hollow manner (and by extension the fallacy-employer) has an advantage.  He can break the rules, claim not to, and then claim, as they often do, that pointing out violations of the rules is a violation of the rules.  So therefore:

(5) accusing someone of a violation of the rules is a violation of the rules.

This makes the whole rule-bound enterprise very odd.  If I suggest someone has made sh*t up, I'm going to open myself to the accusation of not being decorous.  It's not sporting, in other words, to accuse people of cheating.  Or at least one–a devious one–will be allowed to make that accusation–so now you're the d**che for pointing out the dishonesty, and now the discussion regards your violation of the rules, rather than the initial one.   

I'd suggest that this is one reason at least we see so little explicit fallacy-identification in our political discourse.  Put another way, this is why people–such as those who frequently appear here–get away with arguing the way they do.  That's the way the rules of discourse have been allowed to work. 

Now if anyone has an explicit example of what I'm talking about here I'd appreciate it.  I've seen it a gazillion times, but it's Sunday morning, and though I've been gone for a week so, I'm now on vacation.

3 thoughts on “It’s not sporting”

  1. "That's not sporting, using real bullets." – Phillip Vandamm (James Mason), <I>North By Northwest</i>
    "Give me a break, we're both lawyers!" – Louis Tully(Rick Moranis) to opposing counsel, <I>Ghostbusters II</i>
    We saw a similar dynamic throughout the health care debate – Eric Cantor and other Republicans would vow that they wouldn't vote for health care reform regardless of any concessions given to them, then without batting an eye, they'd whine that the Democrats weren't listening to them.  "We openly seek your destruction, but it would be terribly uncivil of you to beat us."

  2. Just found your blog and love it.  Thank you. 
    Lately I've learned that there is such a thing as too much news, even if it's NPR, and have to turn it off.  It was in the interest of my health and sanity….my own healthcare reform measure.
    Your posts are the perfect antidote.

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