Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Strawman Explained

The Strawman Chronicles are fun to write, but sometimes the point I'm trying to make gets a little opaque. That's the risk of being cute about this kind of thing.

So I'll clarify.

There are a lot of language tricks that go on in popular communication, in media and journalism. Most people aren't aware of them - they don't pay attention, and they pick up habits and ways of thinking practically by osmosis.

One of those little tricks is the whole left-wing/right-wing, conservative/"progressive" language game.

Stop me if you've seen this before: someone is stoned to death in a muslim country for some moral transgression. Adultery, owning a dog, converting to Christianity - take your pick. The news report makes sure to mention that this is due to the 'conservative' laws in the country, or the conservative mood of the state.

A nice, bright line is drawn between 'reprehensible action' and 'conservative'. It happens like clockwork, and this isn't news to anyone who's reading this blog.

A bit more subtle is, of course, how repressive left-wing governments get treated. When's the last time you read about an act engaged in by the communist, left-wing government of North Korea, and the news described their government (or their act) as left-wing, liberal, or progressive? When's the last time you've read about Hitler's socialist and left-wing policies, the death toll of Stalin and 20th century progressives?

As I said, that's a bit more subtle. But come on. What readers I have tend to be intelligent sorts. The above isn't news to you either.

So let's shift the focus. Instead of talking about the AP Wire, CNN, or God-forbid, MSNBC, let's talk about a different source of interpretation of world events.

Namely, you. The person reading this post.

Here's a direct question: would you call NAMBLA a left-wing organization? Progressive? More importantly, have you done this? When an organization like that has come up in conversation, when such sex acts have come up in conversation, did you yourself describe it as progressive, liberal, left-wing acts?

Here's my own reply. Until recently, I wouldn't have. I mean, NAMBLA... that's a group of child-fucking advocates. Left wing? It's odd to even think of them as political. It's... a bunch of freaks, right? Wingnuts. Limit cases on the fringes of society who are universally condemned. The same for child molesters. Not exactly on the short list of things even the most cranky of SJWs tend to speak up in defense of, normally.

Of course, I've never heard of even the most loudmouthed jackass specimen of right-wing Christian calling for gays to be stoned to death. I don't doubt such exist, on the fringes of society as I know it. But then, if we're going to those fringes, I imagine you  would find some defenders of child molestation too. Hell, you wouldn't even have to go terribly far - just go to those "feminist fathers" who talk about how their daughters are in complete control of their bodies so presumably they're A-OK with their 13 year old being a party favor at a frat, if she tells herself that's what she wants.

And yet there we are. It's been programmed in that one extreme action, utterly fringe in this entire country and most of western civilization, is right-wing, conservative. It's placed on the political spectrum. But other acts, quite horrific and distasteful, which have a pretty straightforward placement on that same spectrum (It's trivial to couch NAMBLA, bestiality, incest, etc in 'sexual liberation' and 'progressive' language), don't get placed at all. They're political poltergeists, presumed not to exist.

A bit like how same-sex marriage just wasn't a 'left-wing thing' until it was, you know. Popular.

Perhaps you're different. Maybe you'll tell me, "Crude, of course I know those things are left wing, and I've called them as much." To which I salute you, and admire your mental acuity. Me, I've not noticed this particular trick until recently - and I usually work damn hard to notice as much.

But if you're like me, and you've been tricked on this front, a word of advice - henceforth, label things appropriately. NAMBLA is a left-wing, progressive organization. Call it 'far left' or 'extremist' if you like - whatever is truly fair. But don't deny the left-wing, progressive nature of it.

Don't deny the left-wing, progressive nature of tolerated incestuous relationships. Or of bestiality. Or of adultery, general infidelity, and a whole lot more. And in general, try to be alert to areas where left-wing extremist politics have gotten a free pass and denied their proper label, whether by reflex or deliberate shielding.


GoldRush Apple said...

>>And in general, try to be alert to areas where left-wing extremist politics have gotten a free pass and denied their proper label, whether by reflex or deliberate shielding.

The movie industry, which I follow, comes to mind immediately. I'm not necessarily talking about "Hollywood" - I'm talking about the entire movie world, be it small indies and foreign cinema. The "respectable" films.

The Fez said...

Another consequence of this is that modern conservatives are incredibly bad at controlling frame during an argument. This is primarily because they aren't aware that the frame exists, and just think they're "talking" using "language" and "reason". It's an honest mistake.

Liberals do not have this problem because all left-wingers argue according to an established narrative. (You are, undoubtedly, not a stranger to this). Thus, they are arguing from an established frame where the conservative believes that he is arguing from the seat of reason. Consequently, conservatives sometimes fail to challenge the right presuppositions because they've allowed themselves to get caught up in a leftist construct.

Still, I've noticed what appears to be a growing trend amongst conservatives to identify Left-Wingers with Statism, explicitly. It is not particularly difficult to do now, given that so many examples abound:

You can only fine so many well-meaning people into compliance before the pols begin to realize that something sinister is afoot, especially when something like the nonchalantly Orwellian "Division of Human Rights" is the transgressor. It becomes difficult not to associate the radical LGBT wing of the far-left with the Gestapo: Strong-armed goons using fear and propaganda to intimidate and coerce.

I believe, consequently, that many conservatives slowly waking up the the importance of controlling the argument by controlling the rhetorical terms by which that argument is conducted.

Crude said...


The movie industry, which I follow, comes to mind immediately. I'm not necessarily talking about "Hollywood" - I'm talking about the entire movie world, be it small indies and foreign cinema. The "respectable" films.

I think I get what you mean here, and I'd agree. It's not just Hollywood, it's anything blessed by the media elite.


Another consequence of this is that modern conservatives are incredibly bad at controlling frame during an argument.

Agreed, and the linguistic aspects has long been something I've focused on. Language. It sounds so niggling at times, but this is really a case where a minor change means big results.

It's not all conservatives, thankfully. I think the NRA and, to a lesser degree, the pro-life movement both are examples of 'conservative' frame control. The fact that the pro-life movement never had its members happily redefine themselves to be 'anti-choice' - despite considerable pressure to do exactly that - is a testament to them.

As ever, I'm wishy-washy when it comes to the subject of left-wingers. One sub-lesson in this post is that the whole 'left-wing' 'right-wing' narrative itself is deceptive. It's more a rhetorical tool than a reflection of reality. I know the sorts of people who speak of. They exist, and their voice is abundant, even if they themselves may not be - products of some major echo chambers.

But one thing that occupies my thoughts, more than most would think, is how to reach out and get through to left-wingers. Not all of them are what they are irrevocably. Of course, there are right-wingers I need to reach out to as well. Biting off more than I can chew here, but hey.

Anonymous said...

@The Fez:

"Liberals do not have this problem because all left-wingers argue according to an established narrative."

Actually, that's something I've been wondering about. Certainly it would explain a lot if all leftists were just parroting somebody else's narrative, but I'm also not sure how they could achieve that level of co-ordination in the first place, especially in cases like same-sex marriage that were literal non-issues a decade ago.

Crude said...


I've wondered the same myself. It's eerie, isn't it?

Part of it is the fact that they're more likely than others to speak up at all. But that doesn't explain come close to explaining it.

I did stumble upon one realization lately. SJW sorts have a particular mental issue going on, and it's similar to hardcore 'weirder' religious types: they make it clear to whoever will listen, and make it clear as loud as possible, that dissent is not allowed.

That's why you see pushes now to just shut out questions about the morality of same-sex sexual acts, period - even in philosophy circles. That stuff is as certain - possibly more certain - than things like 'the existence of an external world' or 'cogito ergo sum'.

The Fez said...

The more I have pondered, the less I'm sure that there is some all-encompassing explanation for the Liberal psyche. The only constant I can narrowly define is the adherence to the "Narrative". To MSGRX's point, I don't think there is any coordination, per se, but liberal narratives are purposefully general, yet quizzically amorphous in their construction. "War on Women." "Rape Culture." "White Privilege." "Homophobia." "Islamophobia." Ect.

Social media slogans, to be sure, but each assumes a kind of victimization. Each of them is also designed to prevent skepticism by fiat. Rape Culture, for instance, assumes that rape has been normalized amongst the general populous. Given that rape has been normalized, any attempts to question the legitimacy of rape culture actually affirms rape culture, given that skeptics are unwittingly confirming their rapist sympathies.

Nearly any hot-button liberal talking point can be reduced to question begging arguments utilized to establish A. Victims, and B. Perpetrators. Furthermore, these arguments are designed to prevent the assumed perpetrators from defending themselves à la rape culture.

I suspect that many liberals are not so much politically motivated as they are self-involved, and there is no better way to accrue attention and sympathy than to paint oneself as a victim or to come to the aid, as a white knight, of someone suffering the brunt of injustice. Much of contemporary liberalism, enabled as it is by social media, is simply a conduit for getting attention, and the narrative is simply a method for promoting one's personal branding within the cause.

Again, I do not think this is an all-encompassing explanation, but it definitely characters more than a few personalities I've encountered in the past.

Anonymous said...

The Fez: Liberals do not have this problem because all left-wingers argue according to an established narrative.

I’m not sure left-wingers are really that much better organised than right-wingers, but TV establishes the narrative, and TV is generally left-wing. So it downplays divisions on the left, and highlights problems on the right. (Of course, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle, etc.) And it defines the “frame” for right-wingers too, at least to a large extent. Indeed, it’s a testament to how wrong-headed left-wing views are that after generations of setting the baseline, so many people still haven’t swallowed them.

Acatus Bensley said...

I like to think of it as large scale character assassination. Progressives use it to avoid talking about political issues. They know their agenda would never be supported if people looked into it for themselves. For example empirical research proves that left wing economic theories have never worked and never will work. If someone like myself tries to inform the general population then progressives can say what does he know he's a right wing asshole. These villains can't rely on honesty so they must create a proper antagonist that people can dislike without even knowing what they dislike about them(Republicans, Religious people, White people, Rich people, etc). Progressives would have you believe that the Nazis weren't practitioners of progressive values because the truth would result an eternal disdain for progressivism and progressives. Progressives would have you believe that the meaning of liberal in America and Saudi Arabia were mutual because they rely on the misconception to put themselves on a moral high ground. The most perplexing thing about it all is how prominent News sources and adults could engage in such verbal trickery. The fact that such a level of dishonesty is a prerequisite for a progressive indicates that they are knowingly advocates for ideas that are detrimental to every human being in existence.