Meme: in this case I mean one of those billboard/poster-like items we make on sites like memegenerator.net, and most often posted on Facebook.
Strawman: I am referring to an artificial, filled with little more than straw, argument… the kind of simplistic arguments used in these memes that offer false comparisons, or a lack of logic, common sense. They often use simplistic talking points intended to get folks defending the indefensible.
To your right you’ll see the meme that inspired this column…
I am going to assume Margaret actually said this and it wasn’t taken way out of context, only because it serves the point I’m trying to make here. So Hillary, according to this, must obviously agree with anything, and everything, Margaret Sanger ever said, which in some cases I’m guessing some on the right might be a tad mum about too. After all, it was Margaret who referred to abortion as, at best, a terrible form of birth control.
Couldn’t use that quote, eh? Doesn’t quite suit the partisan purpose of vilifying Hillary, pre-2016, does it?
How do we know this kind of comparison, this method of framing, is a strawman, and offers bogus reasoning? Well…
Let’s use our Wayback, fellow Sherman and Peabodys, and go back a ways to Ayn Rand: holy mother of libertarianism. Yes: I’m practicing a tad hyperbole there too, but it’s only meant in good fun. It is claimed that Rand’s main character, John Galt, was based, in part, on William Hickman, a horrendous, murderous beast who, in one case, kicked the body parts of a father’s dead daughter out of his car after getting his ransom from the girl’s father. “Kicked them out” while the father was watching, having just provided the ransom to Hickman. You see he had taken her apart and then temporarily sewed her back together with the purpose of doing just this, as he laughed at the sheer joy of the moment.
Libertarians, and Ayn Rand: pro kidnapping, pro dissecting a human while she’s still alive, pro murder for fun and profit?
Unfair, you say? Damn straight it is. But it’s no more “unfair” than taking a pro Sanger comment and assuming that means whomever said it approved of everything she said, or did. If we are to accept the premise that saying something positive about someone means that person is responsible, in agreement with, everything and anything that “someone” ever said, ever did, well, slamming Rand for Hickman is just as justified.
Ronald Reagan promoted cigarettes, so obviously he must have loved cancer, enjoyed the fact that people died from them, right? Maybe he even had death from cancer porn he watched on a daily basis. Hey, if Hillary saying something positive means she loves everything about Sanger, then saying something positive about cigarettes could be used as proof positive too. Indeed, he not only said positive things about cigarettes, he was also a willing, paid, spokesperson. So that would make him a tobacco whore?
Do I think that? Hell, no.
Even worse, Bush Senior, and Ronnie, supported, helped fund and train, a group of “gentle” folks in the 80s who were, supposedly, like our forefathers, one of whom was bin Laden, and quite a few who either became part of the Taliban, or al Qaeda.
Yes, our forefathers would have heartily recommended striking the towers on 9/11.
John McCain pushed for funding a group he declared, indeed guaranteed, were moderates, many of who became ISIS. Part of the funding for ISIS came from McCain’s efforts. And then he turned and blamed the result on Obama.
Like Osama funded al Qaeda: John McCain, the financial father of ISIS?
Do I believe any of this? Well, I do believe these folks may not have thought out what they did, made mistakes… just as Hillary has made mistakes, not thought out some of what she’s said.
John McCain: helping to fund beheadings for fun and political profit!
But that’s actually the opposite of my point here. “Point” being, you can take the words of any person, like the Hillary meme maker did, and think: smugly, you’re making some valid point. But… you’re not.
Do I make the claim the right is only guilty of this? Hell, no. This is the problem with politics all across the board these days. Instead of rational, reasonable, thoughtful debate, we have hyperbolic framing that relies on strawmen: trying to make people defend the indefensible.
Do I claim to be pure in this regard?
Double, “Hell, no.”
But if Hillary Clinton saying something positive about Margaret Sanger means she supports everything Sanger ever said, then an equal claim could be made that Sarah Palin saying positive things about the Duggars means she supports everything every member of the family did, and as important, didn’t do.
If Hillary Clinton saying something positive about Margaret Sanger means she supports everything Sanger ever did, then just as “logical” an assumption would be that Mitt Romney keeping a dog on the roof of the family car for many, many miles means Mitt Romney is pro puppy torture. I suspect some meme maker could take something he said out of context and use it to show he would cheerfully support tossing excess puppies and kittens into a woodchipper.
Of course these claims are not just beyond sheer and utter nonsense. If they aren’t slander, they sure as hell approach something once called “slander:” something we rarely, if ever, prosecute these days as we increasingly worship at the altar of the nastiest forms of hyperbole.
I started writing this because I realized someone needs to point out the almost mindless wrongness of it all. I knew people needed to visually see just how easy it is to turn the tables on those who attempt this nonsense. I also wanted to give a not so soft nudge to those who repost these things without thinking, hoping they might be able to consider how posting these things might be problematic, at best. Doesn’t matter if it’s Hillary, Rush Limbaugh, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, Ann Coulter or Ayn Rand. Who the target is isn’t important to the point I’m making. What is important is this kind of framing contributes worse than nothing to our need for rational debate regarding the important issues of the day, and does everything to help distract from such.
Hence this edition of Inspection
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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