Sunday, May 17, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: May 17, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"What we’ve long understood, though, is that some communities have consistently had the odds stacked against them. That’s true of rural communities with chronic poverty. That’s true of some manufacturing communities that suffered after the plants they depended on closed their doors. It’s true of some suburbs and inner cities, where jobs can be hard to find and harder to get to. That sense of unfairness and powerlessness has helped to fuel the kind of unrest that we’ve seen in places like Baltimore, Ferguson, and New York. It has many causes -- from a basic lack of opportunity to groups feeling unfairly targeted by police – which means there’s no single solution. But there are many that could make a different and could help. And we have to do everything in our power to make this country’s promise real for everyone willing to work for it."
-- President Barack Obama, May 16, 2015, during the weekly presidential address.

Comment: Obama is explaining unrest, but not justifying it.

"Now on to [Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid [D-NV], who has his own deflated balls problem, that's quite obvious."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, May 15, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio show.

Comment: This is derisive name-calling (perhaps intended comedically), referencing "Deflategate".

"[Democrats] have a single answer to everything. Raise your taxes, spend the money and the other thing that's really quite remarkable about this, only six years ago, not 100 years ago that the Democrats passed the largest infrastructure spending bill in the history of the galaxy. Even the Klingons never spent $380 billion on infrastructure to rebuild America. Remember the roads, the ports? The airports, the bridges. Where did that money go? But they're always at the trough again for more money for infrastructure. It shows a brain dead liberalism with no other answer to every other question."
-- Pundit Charles Krauthammer, posted May 15, 2015.

Comment: "Braindead" is name-calling of the "stupid" variety.

On his increasingly popular radio show, Mark “The Great One” Levin lashed out at liberals yesterday for trying to politicize the Amtrak disaster. He played several audio files of Democratic politicians and pretend-journalists who didn’t even wait until the victims’ bodies were cold before they started playing their usual political games, and rightfully responded with great outrage:
Almost since last night, but since early this morning — while emergency personnel are at the crash scene trying to find bodies, trying to save people, trying to get them to the hospital — early this morning, within hours of the accident, the media, the Democrats, the liberals … in front of the microphones … all of a sudden it’s a spending issue. It’s a spending issue!
-- From a May 14, 2015, PJ Media story by Michael van der Galien, entitled "Mark Levin Lashes Out at Libs Politicizing Amtrak Disaster While Bodies Aren’t Even Cold Yet", with the subtitle "Liberals exploit victims to make the case for more government spending". The article concerns the the 2015 Philadelphia derailment.

Comment: This is "politicizing" rhetoric. There's nothing wrong with discussing how to make train travel safer after a train accident (though that doesn't mean that the solutions being offered are good ones, or that they would have stopped the 2015 Philadelphia derailment).

"Lysenkoism, by the way, if you look it up... Let me spell it for you 'cause I know a number of you want to research these things on your own. L-Y-S-E-N-K-O. Lysenko. Lysenkoism is also synonymous with scientific fraud? How could it not be? It traces back to communism. It traces back to a mass murderer, Josef Stalin. So if you want to look it up on your own, you will see that."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, May 13, 2015, remarking on the theories of Soviet biologist and agronomist Trofim Lysenko.

Comment: It's ad hominem reasoning to dismiss the ideas of someone simply because they were a communist. That's not to say Lysenko's ideas are sound; many of them are not, but that's determined by scientific inquiry, not guilt by association.

Pope Francis’ closest adviser castigated conservative climate change skeptics in the United States Tuesday, blaming capitalism for their views. Speaking with journalists, Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga criticized certain “movements” in the United States that have preemptively come out in opposition to Francis’s planned encyclical on climate change. “The ideology surrounding environmental issues is too tied to a capitalism that doesn’t want to stop ruining the environment because they don’t want to give up their profits,” Rodríguez said, according to the Boston Globe's Crux blog.
-- From an article in The Hill, May 12, 2015, by Timothy Cama.

Comment: Rodriguez is demonizing climate change skeptics as being greedy. Also, if his argument is that climate change skepticism is based on greed, then he's engaging in ad hominem reasoning,

Whom we seek advice from reveals a lot about ourselves, our judgment, our common sense. So it was a shock over the past week when presidential candidate in training Jeb Bush divulged that his closest adviser on Mideast and Israeli affairs is George W. Bush. … And today, many look at George W. Bush and see the man who launched a disastrous war in Iraq that killed thousands and squandered trillions. But not his brother Jeb. “If you want to know who I listen to for advice, it’s him,” Jeb said of George W. last Tuesday at a secret meeting for fat-cat investors in New York. Which leads me to wonder just how many times Jeb was dropped on his head as a child. … So to fully appreciate the importance of Jeb’s revelation that George W. will be his chief adviser when it comes to the Mideast, you’ve got to keep in mind that Jeb’s entire campaign is built around one selling point: Jeb is the smart one in the family.
-- Pundit Roger Simon, May 12, 2015.

Comment: This is name-calling, with Simon saying that somebody would have to be mentally deficient to take President George W. Bush's advice on Mideast affairs. Assuming the Iraq War was a mistake (which people will debate along with, say, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or even the War on Poverty), is it correct to conclude that all Mideast advice from George W. Bush is mistaken? Isn't that ad hominem reasoning, or at least a hasty generalization? Should we distrust advice on the Mideast from all those who supported the Iraq War, regardless of its content (or even if it's the same advice?)?

"I don't really understand how Hillary Clinton can be marching forward with a progressive reform agenda that tackles income inequality as a sort of central tenet, while Bill Clinton is having very splashy events around the world with big dollar donors who are standing onstage taking photos of him and bottles of Coke as basically product endorsement. I just think it dramatically complicates the optics of this, and that may be surface, but it's also going to dog her throughout the year and next year if it continues. Do you think he stays on in the same public role that he has right now with the Clinton Foundation?"
-- Pundit Alex Wagner, posted May 11, 2015.

Comment: Wagner is saying that, because of her wealth, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton doesn't know what it's like to be poor (i.e., on the losing side of income inequality). Is this a suggestion that Clinton therefore cannot represent the poor (which would be ad hominem reasoning)?

Sometimes I think that Rush Limbaugh is the dumbest man in America. This happens whenever I take him at face value and forget that he is basically an entertainer with contempt for his audience. He will tell them anything. Last week, as if to validate my opinion of him, he went after Michelle Obama for playing the “race card” at the dedication of a museum in New York City. He described her as angry and complaining.
-- Pundit Richard Cohen, May 11, 2015, in an article entitled, "Michelle Obama, criticized for the sin of being black". Cohen's article concerns remarks made by pundit Rush Limbaugh on May 7, 2015, regarding comments made by First Lady Michelle Obama on April 30, 2015.

Comment: This is name-calling, of the "stupid" variety. Cohen is also demonizing Limbaugh as having contempt for his audience, and saying Limbaugh criticized Obama for being black. Cohen also uses the "they'll say anything" caricature against him. (There is also "race card" rhetoric being used by Limbaugh.) Cohen can disagree with Limbaugh's remarks without resorting to name-calling.

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