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The Unapologetic Geek

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6 Political Talking Points that Need to Die - Page 2

In modern politics, there are certain arguments that I'm really sick of hearing. Unfortunately, they keep cropping up and raising my blood pressure. Some of these arguments have only been around for a little while now, but others have been around for centuries or more. Common sense should tell us that these arguments are stupid, and yet people keep making them, which means that there are people out there who are actually being swayed.

Those who Disagree are Racists

That sign is racism!

In March, when members of the House were on their way to vote on the healthcare bill, several black congressmen passed through a veritable sea of protesters. A few of the congressmen (and one staffer)--all Democrats--accused people in the crowd of spitting, shouting racial and homophobic epithets, and showing general racism. Rep. Clyburn of South Carolina couldn't help himself from bringing up civil rights protests of the 1960's and talk about how traumatized he was. Despite the wealth of cameras, microphones, and cell phones at the event, not a single video or audio sample was captured of the alleged spitting or offensive shouts. Pressed for pictures to document the racism of the event, The Huffington Post snapped a couple of pictures of some protest signs that compared Obama to Hitler (because comparing Obama to Hitler is racist, whereas comparing George W. Bush to Hitler is perfectly acceptable).

This is a narrative many Democrats have been trying to tell for decades now: those who disagree with them are obviously racists. Now that there is a black man in the oval office, the argument practically writes itself. From Nancy Pelosi proclaiming that everyone making a ruckus at last year's town-hall meetings was wearing a Nazi armband to Keith Olbermann ranting that Republican Massachusetts Senatorial Candidate Scott Brown is a "homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against women," these arguments all have one thing in common: they are ad hominum deflections. It's the same with the immigration debate, the gay marriage debate, and the "Ground Zero Mosque" nonsense. If you don't agree with the president on any issue, it means you are a racist, a homophobe, or an Islamophobe, and therefore your arguments can be dismissed without the need for troublesome debate.

Even if there are obvious racists who call themselves Republicans and even if the alleged racism at the healthcare vote is true, it doesn't automatically mean that all Republicans are racists or that everybody who opposes President Obama's agenda must be motivated by race rather than reason. Those kinds of assumptions are known as stereotypes, and people who live by them are called bigots.

Democratic leaders who play the race card every five seconds or compare every bit of left-wing legislation to the civil rights act aren't stupid. They know what they're doing. We live in an age where being accused of racism is far, far worse than being accused of being wrong. Calling your political opponent racist increases the odds that other opponents will keep their mouths shut for fear of the same label. It's a dirty, condescending, and unfortunately effective trick, and anyone who is not sick of it is obviously a rascist homophobe who hates Muslims.

There's a Conspiracy

Glenn Beck chart
Glenn Beck proves that George Soros is responsible for the Apollo 13 accident

One of the worst parts of the "Ground Zero Mosque" debate is the insistence from certain people on the right that the people behind it are engaged in a conspiracy to destroy America and install sharia law. The imam has certainly made controversial statements and may have potentially dangerous beliefs, but in America, we do not prosecute people for what they say or believe, and people are innocent until proven guilty. Unless you can prove that the people behind the Muslim community center have been engaged in an actual crime, I don't give a flying crap what else you think they have done or said.

Of course, this kind of conspiracy thinking is everywhere in politics, from the 9/11 truthers and the Obama birthers to Glenn Beck's charts of Obama's unsavory associations and the left's continued insistence that the wars in the middle east are all about oil. The problem is in people's inability to apply Occam's razor.

In modern America, this kind of paranoia can trace its roots to the assassination of President Kennedy and to the machinations of President Nixon. Where Kennedy is concerned, a popular Democratic president was assassinated by a self-proclaimed communist, and people on the left, unable to rectify the apparent contradiction, came up with an increasingly elaborate explanation for what happened so that they wouldn't have to accept it. As for Nixon, he was a president who really was involved in a deep and unsavory conspiracy, and when that was uncovered, our collective trust in our leaders--already on the decline--suffered a major blow from which our country has yet to fully heal. As a result of all this, we have become so cynical as a society that we now believe that a complex conspiracy theory involving hundreds if not thousands of actors requires fewer dangerous assumptions than the idea that our leaders are trying to do what is best for the country.

Frankly, I'm sick of it. I'm all for being a realist and distrusting our politicians, but I find the vast majority of conspiracy theories out there to be ridiculous in the extreme. If there's one thing our government has proven, it's that it cannot, under any circumstances, keep a secret for very long. I may completely disagree with what our leaders are doing, but I'm not going to assume--as a default position--that they are actively and deliberately trying to destroy our way of life. The same goes for Muslims who want to build a community center in downtown New York City.

The Media is Biased

Why hate the New York Times?
Hatred is always reasonable

Of all the talking points on this list, this one is the most indomitable. Rather than accept that people with different political views are just as intelligent and learned as them, most people in America today would rather believe that a huge segment of the population has been indoctrinated by biased media. Faced with someone with conservative views, many Democrats will automatically accuse that person of watching Fox News, whereas they might get their news from such reliable sources as Jon Stewart. Many Republicans do the same thing when faced with someone with liberal views, only with MSNBC and Rush Limbaugh, respectively.

First of all, just because a news source is biased, it does not make it wrong about everything. Secondly, there is no such thing as an unbiased news report. Thirdly, this is the Internet age, and people can seek out whatever spin they want to support their political views. Lastly, it is intrinsically insulting and arrogant to assume that everybody who disagrees with you is somehow less reasonable and more susceptable to brainwashing than you are.

If you get all of your news from left-leaning outlets like The New York Times, Air America, and NPR, you are likely to have left-leaning views. Along the same lines, if you get all of your news from National Review, Sean Hannity, and the Wall Street Journal, you are likely to have right-leaning views. However, correlation does not equal causation. Most people tend to seek out sources of information that agree with their world-view, and they are not sponges who will just believe everything they are exposed to. And yet, people will no doubt be complaining about media bias until the end of the human race, which will probably be a subject of much contention on the world's final front pages.

Unless you deliberately seek out every possible spin on every possible news story, you cannot claim that you are any less biased than your least-favorite news source. I do not believe that reality is relative, but there is so much noise, spin, and commentary out there that I can't imagine anybody having enough authority to know what the truth is anymore, especially where politics is concerned. Perhaps that's what pisses me off about all of the talking points on this list: they all fail to make room for ambiguity or nuance.

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-e. magill 8/24/2010

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