Thursday :: Jun 3, 2004

Gee, This Sounds Familiar, ...

by pessimist

We have had a lot of 'discussions' with our conservative visitors, and we are often frustrated at their ability to mold the topic into their ideological bent no matter what we try to do to counter their arguments. It's good to know that we aren't alone ...

Tactic: Downplay the Opponents Rhetoric

[BTW: This follows an excellent post on the similarities of George Tenet's resignation to that of John Dean during Watergate. Highly recommended!]

This morning I was once again in heated debate with some colleagues regarding the validity of the Iraq invasion. As we were volleying back and forth I noticed a rather interesting execution of an old technique in debate (or perhaps it's an old technique in avoiding debate). I pointed out that the entire basis for the Bush invasion was based on lies and even gave examples, fabricated dossiers, forged documents, refuted intelligence reports, misread satellite photos, etc.

Their response? They didn't even bother questioning my assertions, probably because they knew they were true. Instead, they simply blurted out, "Oh, you’re focusing on minutia."

"Minutia"? "Semantics"? Why won't these guys debate the issues? Answer? Because they can't. They lose at every stage of the game. And what do you do when you can't win based on evidence and reason? You resort to "undermining" tactics.

Essentially, they were asserting that the facts simply don't matter. Of course I thought that was total nonsense, but some observers were obviously buying into it.

Indeed, This is the way the entire conservative spin machine works. The truth comes out. It's broadcast by a member of the opposition.... and the machine goes into hyperdrive, stimulating the pundits and politicians to pooh-pooh the reports as meaningless "rhetoric", "playing politics", "minutia" or "semantics".

Unfortunately, for some reason the public buys it. Why? Well, that's a question that must be answered by someone who is far more versed in psychology than me. A little commonsense, however, would suggest that the elements involved in being swayed by such tactics include some combination of fear, prejudice, apathy and faith. Regardless of the reasons, the cold fact is that they do work.

These conniving tactics are part of the reason that the right wing is dominating the airwaves. If you don't believe me, you need go no further than the radio and switch to the AM dial. Every point made by these 'conservative' mouthpieces (Limbaugh, Savage, Hannity, O'Reilly, North, et al) incorporates such techniques to degrade the enemy (progressives) and their line of thinking. Ninety percent of it is pure nonsense. It also happens to be entertaining and simplistic, two things that tend to appeal to the masses. Cynical, but true.

In any event, we, as progressives, cannot be left without such a weapon in our arsenal. We have to be willing to get into the trenches and bust a conservative cap once in a while, even if it means sacrificing some of the dignity associated with policy superiority. After all, what good is dignity if its maintenance requires that we forfeit this nation and the world to the right-wing agenda?

Pooh-Pooh Your Opponents' Rhetoric


* Dismiss, berate, minimize or otherwise talk down any nonsupportive evidence or opinions thrown your way.

* Claim that the news or accusation is silly, irrelevant and/or unimportant. Whatever it is, it's silly.

* Stress that this is merely a distraction technique intended to take the focus off the true issue. At this point you state what you want the "true" issue to be. Of course this will be an issue that is to your advantage.

Example: The above referenced conservatives first belittled my factual argument as "irrelevant" (of course it wasn't, but that doesn't matter when using the technique) and continued to state what they wanted the "true" issue to be (in this case it was the liberation of the Iraqi people.)

In any event, give as little attention to the adverse information as possible and immediately follow with what is truly important. (i.e. Your opinion)

I think the author, Tom Ball, must have been reading our comment sections!

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pessimist :: 1:03 PM :: Comments (7) :: Digg It!