Reason and logic have fled. They don’t live here anymore and I think it would be wisest for me to follow them, too, now.
Every day I hear arguments from rightwingers that defy sense. I used to think I was dealing with reactionaries who wanted to return to the 1950s. Then I realized they wanted to undo all of the New Deal and the Progressive Era, too. But they want to go farther back than that to the 1840s when the South was arguing against the power of the federal government. In fact, I can say I’ve heard rightwingers calling for a return to the original Constitution of 1787.
That was just the beginning for me. Now I’m convinced that rightwingers want to take us back, all the way back, to the Dark Ages, and I’m told there’s a book on the subject, though I haven’t read it. I came to my conclusion because the logic and reason that was codified by the Romans is being dismantled and discarded. After the Roman Empire declined, the wisdom of their era was obscured and even lost during the Dark Ages, until what they knew took hold and re-established itself again.
Post hoc ergo propter hoc. After this, then because of this. It’s a logic fallacy and conservative Republicans argue it every day. In their world, the rooster’s crowing does make the sun come up. Just like it did in the Dark Ages.
Onus Probandi. The burden of proof. It’s one of the foundations of our legal system, but just an inconvenient obstacle for rightwingers.
Twelve dead and over 50 injured.
100,000 intentional homicides with guns in the last 10 years.
Now we hear the solution is more guns. If only someone in the theatre was carrying, he could have prevented more deaths. But the police said that the shooter told them after his arrest that he had rigged his apartment with explosive devices. The local police chief said the array had been designed to kill whoever entered the apartment. How many more would have been killed if the police weren’t able to talk to the shooter because a hero in the theatre was carrying?
When reason and logic flee, the society left behind is without laws. A society of laws is confounded when the choice is between life and the law. Every one of us would choose life if the life in question was our own. Even if police stormed the shooter’s booby-trapped apartment and a hundred more people were killed in an explosion, the hero who was carrying would never know that those lives could have been saved, except for his heroics. Willingly, we allow the law to slip from our hands without regard for the consequences.
Back to the Dark Ages we go. A congresswoman and her cohorts make an assertion without proof. Islamists have infiltrated the government. The congressman from a neighboring district protests. He says her assertion was made using “guilt by association” and other illogical arguments. He is accused, in turn, of actively conspiring with the Islamist infiltration, without any evidence or proof of it, of course.
A congressman accuses the Attorney General of trafficking in guns across an international border with no evidence or proof to substantiate the tale that he tells. A majority in the House of Representatives approves a resolution holding the Attorney General in contempt of Congress, even though a proper investigation was never held. In this way, the nation’s entire system of laws is mocked in the face of the nation’s highest law enforcement officer.
In the street, in the popular media, even in politics, assertions are made without proof all the time. The public is saturated with assertions about the President. He’s a Muslim. He’s a socialist. He’s a communist. His policies have failed. He was born somewhere else. He wants to take your guns. His real father was Frank Marshall Davis. He lied his way into Harvard. His law license was revoked. He masterminded the conspiracy to sell guns across the border. It goes on and on and on and it conditions a portion of the public to accept biased opinions, conjecture, rumors, and propaganda as a substitute for truth. No one asks for proof or evidence.
Rightwingers don’t respond much to reason or facts. Manipulative communication that relies on emotional impact is more effective. To be clear, liberals are easily manipulated by emotional messaging too. Conservatives who listen to rightwing radio and television talkers seem to have a special knack for absorbing contradictory information that others would reject. Rightwingers eagerly adopt fallacies and help to spread them. It doesn’t hurt to recognize some of their arguments and speak up when you hear anyone who promotes nonsense.
Here are some common examples:
If guns cause crime, then pencils cause misspelled words.
(Misspelling is a mistake or error. It can be prevented with education to eliminate illiteracy. 100,000 people were killed with guns in the last decade intentionally. )
If guns cause crime, then matches cause arson.
(No one suggests that the gun or the match is more responsible than the person who uses them to commit a crime. Has there ever been a case of arson in which the public was randomly endangered?)
Cars kill people but we don’t make them illegal.
(Most people are killed by cars in accidents. We’re talking about gun deaths that were intentional.)
Those who trade Liberty for security have neither.
(Why is this an “either or” choice instead of both?)
Guns only have two enemies: rust and Liberals.
(Guns aren’t the enemy. People who use them to kill are.)
64,999,987 firearms owners killed no one yesterday.
(Neither did 250 million Americans who don’t own guns.)
Once you get started, refuting and rebutting rightwing nonsense gets easier. It takes a certain frame of mind, skill, and practice, to appeal to them emotionally and make them feel what you want them to feel. But it can be done.