Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Rhetorological Fallacies

A friend of the blog passed along this typology of rhetorical and logical fallacies. (See here for the original, full-sized graphic.)

This blog's premise is that people often make political decisions on an irrational basis. Conservatives both inside and outside the Republican Party are aware of this and have exploited it to their advantage, framing issues in a way that has shifted the nation's politics to the right. 

I think the graphic can get us thinking about some of the tactics through which this has been done, and how progressives can flip the tables on conservatives. I don't have time to go into all of the fallacies the visualization lays out, but a few strike me as particularly important. 

Appeal to Tradition
  • Conservatives have done a great job getting people to believe that this is a conservative country. From insisting that the Founding Fathers were Christian moralists who hated government and taxes to claiming that things were so much better in the 1950s (when you could pray in school and women couldn't access contraception) to arguing that the 1960s were a disaster, Republicans have owned both ancient and recent American history. 
  • President Obama and others have pushed back on this to a certain extent. But I think the overall narrative still holds. If you were to walk down the street and ask people about the Founding Fathers, I bet 9/10 would say that they were die-hard Christians who fought for independence because they hated paying taxes. We need to figure out ways to change this misunderstanding because it has a subtle but significant impact on the way people think about politics. 
Appeal to Fear
  • I'm not advocating that Democrats exploit fear the same way that the Bush administration did after 9/11, but it is important in an adversarial democracy such as ours to draw sharp distinctions between different parties. Democrats have and are continuing to do this with issues like the Republican plan to gut Medicare, but I think more can be done here as well.

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