Friday, May 19

What do you get when you pack shit together?

A whole lot of packed shit. Tristero at hullabaloo takes a look at winger rhetoric:

In today's Times, Lauren Winner writes:
If we are truly to help our teenagers adopt the countercultural sexual ethic of abstinence until marriage...
This is all of a piece with modern rightwing propaganda style, to pack as much loopy nonsense as possible into every sentence. This makes it exceedingly difficult to confront and rebut, but not because there's a solid argument to "engage."

Firstly, the sheer amount of garbage that needs to be cleared away all but requires, as it does here, a response longer than the original winger passage. Secondly, the whackiness of many of the secondary assertions makes it extremely easy to get distracted onto tangents - for example, into a debate on exactly what is meant by "countercultural." Thirdly, the effect is literally paralyzing and intimidating. To read the word "we" in this context stops us (heh heh) dead in our tracks - huh? - and then "we" wonder what's wrong with us that "we" aren't focused on helping us make our kids' teen years as miserable as they possibly can be.

Finally, notice the appropriation and inversion of liberal/lefty rhetoric. We wish to help our teenager. We are the counterculture, sticking it to The Man. This is very common and very old. The early pro-coathanger activists would adapt Beatles songs and old 60's protest chants ("All we are saying, is give life (sic) a chance") and Lauren Winner is steeped in that tactic. And what are "we" gonna do in retaliation? It's not as if there are that many compelling rightwing songs around to rip off ("The Ballad of the Brie Ballet," maybe? Nah...).
I see this everywhere. By burying a shaky argument in a pile of crap, you force anyone looking for the point to dig through that shit to get to the nugget at the middle. And you know what? It's such a lame point, that most of the time, you don't feel vindicated at the end. I've about given up on trying (for the time being) just because it takes so much effort to figure out what I already know: The winger is an idiot.
This packing tactic was, if not pioneered by him, surely brought to a new level of obnoxiousness by Robert Novak many, many years ago, when he would ask a Democrat a trick question filled with screwy righty assumptions that simply would have to be dealt with before the question even could be addressed, thus enabling Novak to accuse the hapless Dem of wimpiness and evasion.
In formal debating, you need to be able to pick out and dispute the point of your opponent. In formal debating, you are both arguing from the same field as well. Yet in the real world, people have different world views (sorry right wingers, not everyone sees the world in black and white). When we start debating with someone arguing from a completly asinine frame, we can lose our way, especially when they're blowing as much smoke out their ass as they can.

I'm trying something new: Ignore these pieces. There is no point in going in when all you get is shit on your hands (so to speak). When I come across an honest to goodness rational piece about differences between those of us in the real world and those stuck in Manichean- land, I'll give it a try. Until then, good luck with all that shit.


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