Monday, December 7, 2015

Forget the Facts, Just Sling Mud, Part 1

(This and some following blogs are taken from Chapter 16 of my book, Freedom or Serfdom? The Case for Limited, Constitutional Government and Against Statism)

About the only exercise some folks get is jumping to conclusions and running people down.

Bumper Sticker Bigotry

Tea Party sounds so much nicer than Mob of Racists and Homophobes.”

That bumper sticker provides one of the most bigoted statements it has ever been my displeasure to encounter. When I see it I'm tempted to ask the car owner how many Tea Party members he or she has actually known. I'm guessing that the answer would be zero. Yet the accusation remains, often accepted without evidence. Tea Party people and other “conservatives” are often accused of bigotry just because they oppose statism.

The essence of bigotry is evidence-free judgment of people as a group rather than looking at individuals and their actions. That is exactly what many statists do to with free men. They automatically label any freedom lover as racist, no evidence required. The news media aids and abets the slander. For example, when some Tea Party activists demonstrated against congressional representatives on their way to vote for “Obamacare,” the news claimed that they were using racist language. Yet nobody has been able to find even one recording of such language, in spite of the fact that both media and private individuals recorded every second of the demonstration. Did lack of evidence change how the media represented the Tea Party? Of course not; many in that business hold it as an article of faith that the Tea Party is racist. (See Chapter 27 for more on media bias.)

Racist” is probably the most common invective thrown at free men, with “homophobe” a close second. Why bother with facts when you can call names? That is bigotry, pure and simple.

Name Calling

In too many cases, name calling replaces rational discourse. People are called extremists, racist, socialist, fascist etc. on evidence as uncertain as a politician's promise. Too often the accusation is regarded as proof, and the deception is often intentional. Statist Saul Alinsky in his book Rules for Radicals even devotes seven pages to this tactic. He recommends that his followers pick a target (scapegoat) and personalize it. They should act as if the target is 100% bad and their side 100% good.[1]

Of course this goes both ways. Too often even some free men do things like accuse Barrack Obama of being a Muslim. That is not only unfair but counterproductive. With so much of the media favoring Obama, any false accusation will only work against the accusers – and against anyone the statists and the media can claim is associated with the accusers. They are masters of guilt by association and will use such accusations to tar all free men with the brush of alleged ignorance.

Such accusations often amount to preaching to the choir. People who agree with the accusers take those claims as proof that the accused is next of kin to the devil. However those who disagree are not likely to be convinced by bumper stickers or similar sound bites.

There are two dangers, however. First, some people who have not yet made up their minds may accept those accusations and vote accordingly. That puts the misinformed in the voting booth and raises the probability that demagogues will be elected. Second, and much worse, all that name calling leaves little room for rational, evidence-based discussion. An avalanche of innuendo buries the truth deeper than the Mariana Trench.

In fact, the entire name-calling technique smacks of demagoguery. It is a tactic of people who want to hide truth and create false impressions. If those people had evidence for their accusations they would undoubtedly publicize that evidence. The very act of unsubstantiated name calling indicates that the accuser is not being honest, or is blindly accepting the word of someone else who is not being honest. This applies especially to one of the more common forms of name calling.

Godwin's Law

“As an Internet discussion goes on, the probability that someone will be compared to Hitler or the Nazis approaches 100%.”

Mike Godwin formulated that law back in 1990.[2] He was correct, but was also guilty of understatement. His law applies to any political discussion, on the Internet or elsewhere. We regularly hear politicians, mainly statists, accuse their opponents of being Nazis. The irony is that the accuser is usually closer to Nazism than is the accused. The Nazis believed in an all-powerful government that would control nearly every aspect of life. That has obvious similarities to today's statists, but it is the opposite of what free men believe.

Whenever we hear an accusation that someone is a Nazi, fascist, or anything similar, we should be skeptical and demand evidence.

[To be continued]
[1]      Alinsky, Saul, Rules for Radicals , pp130-136


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