Friday, May 11, 2012

Don't drop the good argument to go for the easy yet stupid one.

I'm an ethical debater. Ask anybody. Even if I AGREE with you on a topic, if you believe Thing ABC should be done, but for a damn fool reason, I'm honor bound to argue with you. 
When I was getting my first car, I picked a little foreign number that was reasonably priced.  I knew I wasn't going to drive it far, or often, and didn't want (and knew I didn't need) a brand new car or anything expensive.  So I showed it to my Mom, who vetoed it, saying...

"It's yellow. It'll attract bees in summer."

I spent a good five minutes trying to get her to grasp how featherheaded a reason that is for saying no to a car.  She finally responded that she's ALSO heard that this model of car was unreliable, and she wanted me to get a car with a bit more weight to it.

Again, I tried to get her to grasp that if she'd led with that perfectly valid reason, I'd have agreed with her straight away, and we'd have been done.

Much of my early life was iterations of that conversation.  So I'm really sensitive to the idea of leading off with your BEST argument, one that's hard to dispute.

OK, fast-wipe to today.

Rand Paul (The didn't-fall-far-from-the tree apple of Crazy Ron's eye) sent out an email (to be more precise, an independent organization sent out an email that he agreed with. And allowed his face and name to be used upon.  And signed.) urging local voters to put pressure on Congress not to pass the "Million rifle ban" that President Obama is pushing.

OK, let's look at the facts.
That was easy.

There IS no such thing.  There's no bill, act, initiative or back-bunch ulterior motive even CLOSE to that being put forth.  But that doesn't matter.  This letter SAYS there is, and that the president is behind it, and that's enough to get the arch-gun-nuts up on their hind legs to send their pointless emails to Washington, and increases their fear and distrust of the President, and maybe they better vote against him in November just in case he ever DOES want to create such a ban.

Now, that seems like a pretty good argument against this email, right?  They're making up something from whole cloth in an attempt to convince voters that he wants to take away their guns, one of the few issues they have feelings about, or at least think they understand.  Seems like a good club to pick, right?


There's the graphic from the email.It features a picture of Rand Paul on the left, because that's the direction you read, so you see him first.  And a picture of the president on the right, because he's the one the letter is about.  And in the middle, a picture of a rifle; the topic of the email, about which it attempt to de-bejabber you with terror.

So rather than argue the fallacious nature of the text. Everyone goes bats over the picture, claiming that "there's a gun pointing at the President's head".

There's that yellow car again.

The gun is NOT "aimed at Obama". It's a graphic element on the page. It's a stock photo. I did a Google search - something like ninety percent of the stock photos of guns I found point to the right.  I have no idea why.  Perhaps that's how they're usually displayed, maybe they're easier to pick up for right-handed people that way, I've no idea.  But most pictures of guns seem to point that way.

It's not even a well laid out graphic.  The rifle and the text beneath aren't centered, because they chose to use a picture of Obama where he's pointing in what I'm sure is supposed to be a bossy (dare I say "uppity"?) fashion, while Rand stands stoically, waiting to speak.  They also chose to place Rand's head in a slightly elevated position, at the expense of shearing off the top of his hairdo.  So, again, sloppy.

If there was more time spent on the fearmongering meat of the piece, it would come off as a more substantive argument. But going for perceived threats in the (poor) design of the art reduces the debate to alternating "Yuh-huh" and "Nuh-uh"s

In the sound-bite based 24-hour news cycle, there's no time for a reasoned and rational argument.  So the points of a specific argument against this policy of that stand are glossed over for a crappy Photoshop letterhead, or a snippet from a biography, or a story of bullying a hippie 50 years ago. 

It's only a matter of time before I see a headline reading "President rises 10 points in polls by holding up something shiny".

1 comment:

  1. Well-said, as always! Sometimes I think people don't really care what kind of nonsense they spout as long as they get their name in print!