Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Rhetoric: "War!"

One of the ways politicians employ violent rhetoric is by saying that there is a "war" going on. They claim that their opponents have declared or are waging a war on something good and decent.

Typically, this is just false. There is no such war going on. But the people who employ this rhetoric seldom admit that they're exaggerating or using it metaphorically. Instead, they want to you feel a sense of urgency and concern as if there actually was a war going on.

But, of course, there isn't.

"I don't care where the judge comes from or where judges come from. I just want to get a fair shake. And we've had some very unfair [judicial] opinions coming down. And you wonder, what's going on? And I will tell you, it's a little disappointing, some of the Republicans – and, in all fairness, they're some of the people that I went through war with – and I won – and there's a lot of, there's a lot of anxiety there, there's a lot of, you know, there's a lot of anger, I guess. Anger. They just can't come back, they can't get over it. So they have to get over it, ideally. As to whether or not they endorse me, it's OK if they don't. But they have to get over it. They shouldn't be so angry for so long."
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, June 7, 2016. Trump was responding to criticism of his demand that U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel recuse himself from a civil case concerning Trump University, given that Curiel was of Mexican heritage, was a member of a Latino lawyers' association, and that Trump had pledged to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border to stop illegal immigration from Mexico.

Comment: Yes, maybe some of the people criticizing Trump for his remarks on Judge Curiel are angry because they lost to Trump in the GOP presidential primary (the "war" Trump refers to). But that doesn't mean their criticism is invalid; to argue that way would be ad hominem reasoning.

"Make no mistake about it, the right wing in this country is continuing its war on women".
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), November 7, 2015.

Comment: This is "war" rhetoric.

KOCH: I would love to have the government stop this corporate welfare. That's what I want. I want the government to let companies – require that companies only profit by helping make other people's lives better.

HAYES: That's Charles Koch expressing his commitment to ending corporate welfare. Do you buy that, Senator?

SANDERS: And "making life for people better" – no doubt. Look, you know, in 1980, Chris, and we don't talk about this enough, David Koch ran for Vice President of the United States on the Libertarian Party ticket. What his agenda was, it was not to cut Social Security or Medicare, but to end Social Security, end Medicare, end Medicaid, end the EPA, end the concept of the Environmental Protection Agency, basically he wanted to eliminate virtually every program developed since FDR designed to help working people and the middle class. That is their agenda. And to tell you the truth, you know 30 years have come and gone, I don't think that agenda has changed at all. What these guys are doing is spending unbelievable sums of money, some $900 million on this campaign cycle, to support right-wing candidates who are going to war, big time, against working families in the middle class. No, I do not think the Koch brothers want to make life better for ordinary people.
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), November 3, 2015, with Chris Hayes of MSNBC, responding to a video clip of activist Charles Koch.

Comment: Sanders is demonizing Koch, saying that Koch doesn't want people's lives to improve. Just because Koch doesn't believe these programs do a good job of helping people doesn't mean he is opposed to making life better for others. Sanders is also using "war" rhetoric.

As the top ranking Democrat on both the Benghazi and Oversight committees in the House of Representatives, I have a front row seat to watch House Republicans push their highest priorities. Right now, the top two goals for Republicans are to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign to become the nation’s first woman president and to attack and defund Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides critical healthcare services to millions of women across the country. … Focusing on issues that make a difference to hundreds of millions of Americans would be much more helpful — and appropriate — than continuing to squander millions of taxpayer dollars on Republican political campaigns to attack the interests and rights of women.
-- Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), September 30, 2015, in a Politico op-ed entitled "The House GOP’s War on Women".

Comment: This is "war" rhetoric.

"It's a war on women's health, it's not about abortion. Planned Parenthood spends 97% of its dollars on non-abortion related services … They serve 2.7 million people in America every year, 500,000 of those happen to be Hispanic. It is a very important healthcare organization, and this attack started from the day Planned Parenthood was founded in 1916, when the founder of Planned Parenthood was arrested for trying to distribute birth control to poor women. So it's a constant battle here. I can't believe in this century we are still battling against women's health."
-- Sen. Barbara Boxer, August 4, 2015.

Comment: First, this is "war" rhetoric. Second, Boxer is demonizing opponents of Planned Parenthood, saying they don't care about abortion, they only want to prevent women from getting health services.

“Think about this war on CO2. If we don’t have CO2 we’re Mars. … CO2 is not a pollutant.”
-- Pundit Mark Levin, July 22, 2015, during the 1st hour of his radio program. Levin was referring to efforts by global warming advocates to lower CO2 levels.

Comment: First, this is "war" rhetoric. Second, Levin is knocking over a straw man. Global warming activists aren't proposing that we get rid of CO2  (carbon dioxide), which of course we need to live. Rather, they propose that we stop raising it to dangerous levels in the atmosphere (i.e., the dose makes the poison), which is different from eliminating it altogether. Levin is distorting their position.

This year is the 10th anniversary of a book called "The Republican War on Science." I could just as easily write a book called "The Democratic War on Science." The conflict conservatives have with science is mostly caused by religion. Some religious conservatives reject evolution, and some oppose stem cell research. But neither belief has a big impact on our day-to-day lives. … By contrast, the left's bad ideas about science do more harm. Many on the left -- including a few of my fellow libertarians -- are paranoid about genetically modified organisms. … The left's anti-science fears also prevent us from building new nuclear reactors, especially after Fukushima and Chernobyl.
-- Pundit John Stossel, June 17, 2015.

Comment: This is "anti-science" rhetoric, and "war" rhetoric. Stossel seems to be arguing that, if this sort of rhetoric is fair to use against conservatives, then it's hypocritical not to use it on liberals and progressives, too. I'm not sure if he's advocating the rhetoric as a means of retaliating in kind.

"Here in Texas, former Governor Rick Perry signed a law that a federal court said was actually written with the purpose of discriminating against minority voters. He applauded when the Voting Rights Act was gutted, and said the lost protections were “outdated and unnecessary.” But Governor Perry is hardly alone in his crusade against voting rights. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker cut back early voting and signed legislation that would make it harder for college students to vote. In New Jersey, Governor Christie vetoed legislation to extend early voting. And in Florida, when Jeb Bush was governor, state authorities conducted a deeply flawed purge of voters before the presidential election in 2000. Thankfully in 2004 a plan to purge even more voters was headed off. So today, Republicans are systematically and deliberately trying to stop millions of American citizens from voting. What part of democracy are they afraid of? I believe every citizen has the right to vote. And I believe we should do everything we can to make it easier for every citizen to vote. I call on Republicans at all levels of government with all manner of ambition to stop fear mongering about a phantom epidemic of election fraud and start explaining why they’re so scared of letting citizens have their say. Yes, this is about democracy. But it’s also about dignity. About the ability to stand up and say, yes, I am a citizen. I am an American. My voice counts. And no matter where you come from or what you look like or how much money you have, that means something. In fact, it means a lot."
-- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, June 4, 2015.

Comment: "Crusade" is a form of "war" rhetoric, though I think it's generally understood to be metaphorical. More worrying is that she is demonizing Republicans, accusing them of wanting to take people's right to vote away. She is also using "fear-mongering" rhetoric.

"The left is at war with America."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, May 29, 2015, 3rd hour of his radio show.

Comment: This is "war" rhetoric.

A lifelong environmentalist, I opposed genetically modified foods in the past. Fifteen years ago, I even participated in vandalizing field trials in Britain. Then I changed my mind. After writing two books on the science of climate change, I decided I could no longer continue taking a pro-science position on global warming and an anti-science position on G.M.O.s. … The environmental movement’s war against genetic engineering has led to a deepening rift with the scientific community.
-- Pundit Mark Lynas, April 24, 2015.

Comment: This is caricaturing people who disagree with the safety of genetically modified foods (GMOs) by saying they are against science. Also, this is "war" rhetoric.


Examples from 2014.


Examples from 2012.


Examples from 2011.

The Republican War on Science
-- The title of a book written by pundit Chris Mooney, released August 30, 2005.

Comment: This is both "war" rhetoric and demonizing people as being anti-science.

(The list above is not intended to be a comprehensive record of all relevant examples.)

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