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Language in the Crosshairs

January 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Cable news was all abuzz over this CNN clip this week.  Notice the language “hold us accountable when we don’t meet your standards.”   This idea that we have to cleanse the language of every allusion or metaphor that has any relation to guns, combat, or violence didn’t come from the masses it came from these clowns in the media.   He might as well be saying “this is the standard you should be holding us (and everyone else) to, after all that’s what a person of high culture and values would do…..” Of course then you wouldn’t feel like you thought of it yourself.

Media Wars and the Argument From Intimidation

October 25, 2010 3 comments

Years ago my favorite cable news personality was on MSNBC.  It was Tucker Carlson.  Now he’s on Fox.  And remember when John Stossil used to be on ABC?  I don’t, but apparently he did….

I’m a little behind the news cycle but if you haven’t heard, Juan Williams was fired by NPR last week.  This came after comments on the O’reilly Factor following this incident on the View.  The state of the media is getting frightening.

First of all, the case of O’reilly on the View is a particularly insidious form of the argument from intimidation.  And let me say that I saw Whoopie Goldberg speak about it afterward and I think she was acting honestly.  That is, I think she was honestly furious and left to keep herself from losing her temper  any more than she already had.  I don’t think it was a calculated stunt on her part.  But that is why this form of the argument from intimidation is so powerful. 

The statement that Bill O’reilly was trying to make was prevented from reaching the minds of Goldberg and Behar years ago, probably decades ago.  Somehow, they have been conditioned on a subconscious level to immediately block out certain kinds of speech.  They have been taught that anyone who says certain things is evil and they must react with violent contempt the moment these things are said or else they are not good people themselves.  This reaction is not logical it is emotional, and it makes logical analysis of the subject impossible (at least temporarily). 

What’s more, the effect of this reaction, especially when it comes from multiple people at the same time, is to perpetuate the epidemic in others.  It says to anyone watching “you just heard something that is not to be said, and this is how people who break this rule will be treated.  You don’t want people to think you are a bad person do you?  You don’t want to suffer the scorn and outrage of your peers.  If not, then you better not say what he just said.  In fact you better not even think it.  You better not even consider whether or not it’s true (in this case it was factually accurate but that seems to be lost in this debate).  And it would be best if you acted outraged anytime you heard anyone else say it just so that we all know that you are on the level.  You wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and think that you could ever consider such a thing.”

Now the bigger part of the story is Juan Williams.  Williams also said something that is not to be said.  But his crime was much greater because he is a “liberal.”  Juan Williams is the kind of person who is the biggest threat to the left because he blurs the line between those to whom you are allowed to listen and those to whom you are not.  He was a liberal  news analyst on NPR.  That is to whom you are supposed to listen.  But he also goes on Fox News and carries on reasonable and thoughtful conversations with people like Bill O’Reilly.  This is not allowed.  In his own words:

They are taking bits and pieces of what I said to go after me for daring to have a conversation with leading conservative thinkers. They loathe the fact that I appear on Fox News. They don’t notice that I am challenging Bill O’Reilly and trading ideas with Sean Hannity. In their hubris they think by talking with O’Reilly or Hannity I am lending them legitimacy.

You see what’s going on here?  They have driven most of the reasonable conservatives and libertarians out of all the “mainstream” networks.  But they just keep ending up on Fox.   They have tried to bring Fox around or put them out of business by organizing boycotts and  cutting them out of the White House press pool, etc. but this hasn’t worked.  So they have to quarantine them.  They have to keep their loyal supporters from watching it.  They have to make sure that you don’t ever think to yourself “I wonder if there is actually a side to the news that I’m not getting that I could get on Fox?”  You must believe that they are only “pushing an agenda.”  But when well-respected liberals are going on there and giving their opinions and not being crucified as non believers it makes this argument difficult to make.  When those well-respected liberals also have a line to the left’s protected constituencies, then you have to worry about them getting the impression that Fox is OK to watch. 

To put it another way, their quarantine relies on you believing that only right-wing loonies are on Fox.  If Fox refuses to cooperate by only putting right-wing loonies on, then they have to cut off the supply of liberals (“Democratic senator _________’s office was invited on/asked for comment but we haven’t heard back from them” is quite the common refrain on Fox these days).  If some liberals insist on contributing to Fox, then they must be cut off from the sheep and made to look like right-wing loonies. 

Meanwhile the situation is turning into a public relations disaster for NPR.  This means that Ellen Weiss (Williams’ boss at NPR) who told Williams that the decision to fire him  “had been confirmed above her,” and also insinuated that he should discuss his views with his psychiatrist, is catching flack from all sides including within NPR.  I predict she will be gone by the end of the week.  Williams stood up for himself and his views and when he got fired he landed a lucrative contract with Fox.  Weiss probably thought that she was being a loyal servant to her bosses.  Let’s see what she has waiting for her after she takes the fall for this.  The dichotomy is worth taking notice of. 

Oh and by the way this happened the same week that George Soros donated $1.8 million to NPR.  I’m sure it’s just a coincidence though…

Update: It was actually NPR CEO Vivian Schiller who said that Williams should consult his psychiatrist not Weiss as I said.  Also, neither of them lost their job yet so I guess you are free to conclude the opposite of what I intended on that one.  This is kind of amusing though.

More Arguments From Intimidation

August 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Our favorite cable news host on Letterman giving the leftist narrative of the Sherrod scandal.  It has all the elements of a good argument from intimidation.  Starting with a distortion of the facts.

They [the White House] were several layers down.

Of course Fox was a layer deeper than the White House only reporting on the story after the firing had happened.  This is woven into an explanation of the behavior based on the  moral depravity of the target which is assumed as a premise and not to be questioned.

You can’t count on people who are unscrupulous to stop doing unscrupulous things.  If you’re going to run a so-called media organization that’s really a political hack-job operation, they’re gonna do political hack-jobs. 

Letterman: So in the collective ideology of Fox and others, to what end, what is the objective of this sort of nonsense?

Maddow: Scaring white people is good politics on the conservative side of the spectrum.

About Bill O’reilly: He’s just doing this because that’s where the money is.

They accuse the right of fanning the flames of racial discord which I find downright humorous.  She says that the solution is CNN and MSNBC debunking the story but she doesn’t mention that Fox also spent the whole day debunking it and she actually says that the best remedy is “sheer mockery.”  Not facts, mockery!  This is one of those candid moments when they expose their real strategy.  Finally they finish it off by calling you a simpleton if you happen to agree with anyone on Fox.

I don’t think you can be as smart as [O’reilly]  is and actually believe what he believes.

Notice that he doesn’t mention what O’reilly actually believes.  This narrative is everywhere on tv except for Fox.  If you watch Fox you can’t help but notice that it’s complete nonsense.  But as long as they can get you to not watch Fox, then they keep you in the dark eating out of their hands.  They have to do this by convincing you that Fox is just money-grubbing, racist, republican hitmen.  Also notice the subtle dangerous points like this.

How much time and energy was wasted because this _____ was ______ around?

In other words, wouldn’t we be better off if we didn’t have quite so much free speech?  Don’t fall for that.  By the way, earlier in the interview Letterman equates “liberalism” with objectivity.

You have the people at Fox who represent a screamin’ right-wing conservative viewpoint and then you have MSNBC which is a little more objective, a little more liberal.

He also calls her show “very popular” which is stretching a subjective statement to it’s absolute limit… (remember the answer is sheer mockery, haha)

Howard Dean Follow-Up

After being challenged with the facts on Fox News Sunday, Howard dean retreated to a friendlier battlefield and repeated the same lie!  Unfortunately the only clip I could find of this was from Fox News so I can’t make the point I was hoping to make which basically amounts to: you can lie on MSNBC without worrying about them bringing up the facts and throwing them in your face (at least as long as you’re on their side politically), since I have no evidence that  they didn’t challenge him on it.  But what do you think the odds are?

You Wouldn’t Want to be Disrespectful Now Would You?

July 27, 2010 2 comments

Ok, this is what I was actually looking for but I think I stumbled on an important point in the previous post.  Remember this: “when they don’t have any relevant facts to bring up they will always bring up irrelevant facts and obscure the argument.”  Then watch Obama’s interview with Bret Baier (part 1 can easily be found as well if you want to see the whole thing).  I am fighting the urge here to go through this interview word for word and point out how Obama never answers a single question but the main point I want to make is actually not about the interview.  What you need to notice about it though are two things. 

First, as I said, Baier asks a number of direct questions about facts and Obama never answers any of them.  Second, every question Baier asks requires him to interrupt the president.  It is not as though he isn’t letting him talk, there are long periods where the president goes on and on about things that are completely unrelated to the question he was asked.  But he never stops talking on his own.  If Bret Baier had never interrupted, Obama would have spent the whole interview “answering” the first question.  The reason for this is obvious.  He doesn’t want to answer the questions and the more time he can spend making vague ideological statements with little meaning, the fewer concrete questions can be asked.  Also, this makes Baier look rude.  Here is Bret Baier describing it in his own words.

Now for the big point, look at this and consider the absurdity of the statement “as this montage will show it was hard going, hard for him to get in a sentence, at least a full one.”  They literally cut out all the sentences that Obama said and then offered the doctored clip with them removed as proof that he was unable to finish a sentence.  And then the argument from intimidation begins.  They refer to Baier as “that character,” they laugh (the laugh is key, they always do this, it implies that it’s so obvious that they are correct that any attempt to argue with them would be a complete joke and therefore no actual argument in their defense is necessary), they trivialize it by comparing him to the White House party crashers, they say it was disrespectful, and they imply that if you even watch Fox, you are probably an imbecile.

Frankly, I think he did score some points, not with loyal Fox viewers but there might have been a few independents who were watching….

Most notably they actually betray the true nature of their strategy when they say

Every time they wanna go around telling us that they’re a news channel and not an opinion channel I think somebody should play that montage because that was extraordinary.

Think about what this statement actually means.  Every time Fox claims to be a real news organization someone should counter that by playing a doctored clip of nothing but interruptions.  Do not fight with facts!  Just show something that makes them look “disrespectful.”  Oh and it helps if you laugh a lot while you’re doing it.  All of this is designed to accomplish one simple purpose, to discourage people from asking questions and seeking out the facts.

By the way, there were in fact seven interruptions in that montage not 16 or 17.  Remember that time on Countdown when Keith Olberman made Chris Matthews look like a complete moron for not being able to count?  Me neither.  I guess I missed that one…

More Arguments From Intimidation

I went on youtube to look for some old clips I was thinking about and couldn’t help getting distracted by senseless attempts to make Glenn Beck look like a crackpot.  Here is another MSNBC personality.  Notice that he does not argue with any of the big ideas that Beck is talking about.  There are only two actual facts that he uses against Beck.  The first  is the fat that he spelled a word wrong.  OK you win that round Keith.  I think this is why most people on TV don’t use a blackboard.  Take it from someone who stands in front of people and writes on one every day, you’re gonna mess something up every once in a while.  Olberman seems to expect us to disregard all the horrible things Beck is pointing out to us not based on any contradictory facts but because he caught him misspelling the word oligarchy.  Surely any man who could ever make such an egregious error must be some kind of lunatic!

Second, he makes an argument that the term “czar” originated in the Nixon administration and was prevalent during the Reagan administration.  Again, this is correct but this has nothing to do with the point that Beck was making about czars.  The point is that they are becoming more powerful and that is a problem because it is making congress and the rule of law irrelevant and Beck would be the first to agree (I think) that we have been on the wrong path for a long time and it’s not about one administration or one party.  Olberman is the one making it partisan by cherry-picking two republican administrations who also had czars and pretending like this contradicts Beck’s argument.  This gives the impression that Becks argument was that Obama and Democrats are bad because they have czars.  This is a fact.  But the important thing to notice is that it is an irrelevant fact.  When these people have no relevant facts to offer they will always offer some irrelevant facts in their place and they will obscure the argument to make it appear that these facts somehow support their argument.  This will be much easier if they can get you to not even listen to the other side so they will go out of their way to make you feel like if you do, you are a dimwit by saying things like

…the one percent of the country who watches or listens to his show thinking they are not listening to an uneducated imperceptive panicky wackjob are completely mistaken

and repeatedly calling him names like “the mythical homespun ‘aw shucks’ TV totalitarian lonesome roads Glenn Beck.” 

Furthermore, youtube is crawling with doctored clips with names like “Glenn Beck Gets Owned on Teabagging.”  This raises another issue worth pointing out.  Most people in the country between age 18 and 35 were raised getting their news from The Daily Show.  Their idea of “getting owned” is not having the weakness of your position exposed by a clear illumination of the facts but rather it is being made to look bad by a clever comedic distortion of your position.  This is the way we have been trained to engage in debate our entire lives.  God help us….

The War on Fox

July 26, 2010 2 comments

Here is Howard Dean blaming Fox News for the Shirley Sherrod incident and calling them racist.  When asked the question “are you aware that Fox News never mentioned Sherrod before she was fired” Dean refuses to answer and instead claims that she was “about to be on Glenn Beck” which is a flat-out lie.  Meanwhile, when an MSNBC commentator invites someone on who “disagrees with them completely” you get a lively debate like this one.  (Notice how he says that Obama’s surrogates such as the Democratic National committee should deal with these issues and notice who was the chairman of the Democratic National committee until last year.)

If you haven’t read it, you must read The Argument From Intimidation.  Then notice the language they use–scorpions, liars, sleeze-artists, smear-artists, clowns–and understand that what Maddow is describing in the case of the birther issue and calling for more of is exactly this tactic.  Now I am not a birther, but one can’t help but wonder why the administration doesn’t just release the long-form birth certificate that the guy in that clip was asking for.  I suspect that the reason is that they relish the opportunity to make their opponents look like racists.  In a stunning bit of hypocrisy, here is Maddow in another rant about Fox News causing the Sherrod controversy saying

“Fox News continually crusades on flagrantly bogus stories designed to make white Americans fear black Americans, which Fox News most certainly does for a political purpose, even if it upends the lives of individuals like Shirley Sherrod, even as it frays the fabric of the nation and even as it makes the American dream more of a dream and less of a promise.”

and then following it up by declaring that what really matters is the facts.  But there is not a single fact in the above quote, it’s all hyperbole, and the entire segment is really about making Bill O’reilly look like a jerk for calling her “madame.” In fact, when she talks about Glenn Beck and Van Jones, she never actually says that any of the claims that Beck made were untrue, she just implies that they are.  In fact, she never addresses the simple fact that O’reilly was trying to point out, namely that Fox News never mentioned Shirley Sherrod until after the administration had fired her.  This seems like an important fact in this debate does it not?  In fact I challenge you to find any clip anywhere on MSNBC mentioning this fact (in order to avoid playing the same game as them I will say outwardly that you might be able to, I actually wish you would try.  I don’t watch them that regularly but I haven’t seen it.  Just for fun here is another gem where they revive the old “vast right-wing conspiracy” language).

The response by the White House to the birther issue that Maddow is such a fan of, is not based on fact.  I think that in that case the facts actually are on their side but they didn’t just release the proof and let the facts speak for themselves.  Here is what Hayworth is saying in the clip they show from his radio show:

“Questions continue, and until president Obama signs his name and in fact has the records revealed, the questions will remain.”

Is there an endorsement of “birtherism” in there?  What I see is a request for facts.  For the record, I have no idea whether  Hayworth is a birther or not, but this quote doesn’t make him one, it just makes him someone who wants a direct answer to a question.  But they put his picture next to two nut-jobs and say that they’re the same.  Similarly when the man asks Robert Gibbs for the same thing, he is laughed at and his question ignored. 

Instead of taking a clear stand and relying on the facts, they chose to impeach the character of those who questioned the facts.  They are actually demonizing the act of questioning the facts!  You may think it doesn’t matter because it’s a stupid issue but what happens if someone comes out and accuses the administration of something that actually is true?  They are creating a climate where questioning the facts doesn’t get you simple answers it just gets you called a racist and a wingnut.  They are establishing a pattern of arguing only with the character of their opponent while simultaneously claiming that it’s the facts that matter.