Thursday, March 24, 2016

Talking to ourselves.

26 dead in Brussels, reads the sign. 26 dead in Newtown.  It isn't something meant to inform us. Close the borders says the rubric. Get used to it says the counterpoint. Forget for the moment that this is a conversation between two straw men, their lines scripted by someone with a purpose -- and forget that the death toll in Belgium has escalated beyond that number and is only a small part of a much larger number, this isn't about accuracy anyway.  It's about energizing the base, giving them something to contemplate with masturbatory self-satisfaction while mocking an opposition created of straw  for the purpose. But wait, there's more.

Focus on the false equivalence.  Is the international threat of a fanatical, well-armed and well-funded army of tens of thousands that's already killed many thousands of innocent civilians really in any way equivalent to the threat of a disturbed teen taking a gun to school?  Of course not. Yet some will read this, will nod together in warm solidarity and feel good about themselves. Many will feel superior to those other people, whether they exist or not.

Welcome to politics in the 21st century.  From the grotesquely infantile Ann Coulter quote: "Liberals go Wah.  They go Wah, Wah, Wah."  to the  straw words to the effect that "white people think there's no more racism."  one could make a case that there are more straw men then real men in our country and that anything worth stating is worth expanding or reducing to an absurdly smug and factually inaccurate generalization.

It's done not to convince an opponent, to inform or to answer any questions but to unite a group and to unite it under the aegis of some entity, consolidating it's power and authority to speak for all those concerned with, for instance, armed violence, police brutality, civil rights and many other valid concerns. It's there to make it all seem simple and to stifle other approaches to such problems. Quibble about any detail of  the canon and you're the enemy.

Straw man arguments, false equivalences, they're part of a larger constellation of  sophistical arguments. Oversimplification, the idea that one factor is the only factor, the sole cause of a complex problem. "Speed is a factor in all traffic accidents"  so all efforts to make driving safer must be based on speed limits, never mind the tautology and never mind all other factors.  "Air bags save lives" but never mind how very few or how many are killed by them.

 Is that just how it is in America?  Should I just get used to it?  If it weren't for the possibility that  progressive ideas make themselves poisonous to the public using obviously misleading and manipulative techniques: name calling, weak and fallacious arguments and obstinate repetitions of well known falsehoods and more.  We don't argue to persuade, we argue to show people how morally outraged and angry we are and how afraid they should be.  We encourage people to support demagogues and their lies  We encourage Republicans to vote against us.

Every time we call a well-intentioned person a racist.  Every time we call a sportsman a gun nut, every time we elevate a problem every time we shout down a valid question we energize a Republican. We distract from their excesses and their deceit and instead of creating unity we fragment ourselves.  We so rarely put up a united front. We go Wah.  We go Wah, Wah, Wah.-

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