Sunday, August 30, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: August 30, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Two anonymous gunmen launched a hit-and-run attack on an Islamic State radio station inside Mosul, the group’s stronghold, a Kurdish official said Saturday.

Al-Bayan radio network airs a news/talk format and broadcasts in Arabic, Kurdish, English, French and Russian. The ISIS radio station has been framed as “highly professional” and compared to NPR and the BBC for tone and quality.
-- From an August 30, 2015, article on RUDAW.

Comment: This is a "comparison" I'm sure NPR and the BBC would rather not have made, but it's clear they're being likened to Islamic State's radio network in terms of production, not ideology.

Women who walk around drunk and provocatively dressed should expect to be sexually assaulted, Chrissie Hynde, the lead singer of the Pretenders, has suggested.

The former chart topper claimed in a Sunday newspaper interview that scantily clad women were likely to “entice a rapist” and that it is their “fault” if they are attacked.

She discloses in a new memoir how she was abducted and sexually assaulted by a motorcycle gang in Ohio in the early 1970s – but concludes it was “all my doing” because of the way she was dressed and the fact that she was under the influence of drugs.

She also claimed that pop stars who call themselves feminists but use their sex appeal to sell records were effectively just “prostitutes”.

Charities said her remarks highlighted how victims of sexual assault wrongly blame themselves for their ordeals.

Her comments came in an interview with The Sunday Times, which published extracts from her autobiography entitled “Reckless”.

The book details an incident when she was 21 when she was picked up by a motorcycle gang who promised to take her to a party but instead took her to an empty house and sexually assaulted her.

But she said: “If I'm walking around in my underwear and I'm drunk? Who else's fault can it be? – Er, the guy who attacks you?

“Oh, come on! That's just silly.

“If I'm walking around and I'm very modestly dressed and I'm keeping to myself and someone attacks me, then I'd say that's his fault.

“But if I'm being very lairy and putting it about and being provocative, then you are enticing someone who's already unhinged — don't do that.”

She added: “You know, if you don't want to entice a rapist, don't wear high heels so you can't run from him. If you're wearing something that says 'Come and ---- me', you'd better be good on your feet… I don't think I'm saying anything controversial am I?"

She went on to argue that many women who describe themselves as feminists were anything but in practice.

Asked whom she meant, she said: “Women who sell what their product is by using sex – that's prostitution.

“A pop star who's walking around, parading themselves as a porn star and saying they're feminists.

“They're prostitutes.

“I'm not making a value judgment on prostitutes, but just say what you are.”
-- Entertainer Chrissie Hynde, as related in an August 30, 2015, story by John Bingham in The Telegraph.

Comment: "Prostitutes" is sexual rhetoric, though Hynde leaves open as to whether or not it should be taken as derisive. She is saying that the victim is to blame in many cases of rape.

MoveOn wants to get New Yorkers moving against Sen. Chuck Schumer, their senior senator and the highest-ranking Democrat to oppose the controversial nuclear agreement.

According to details shared first with POLITICO, the liberal advocacy organization’s political action arm will next week launch a member-backed mobile billboard, dubbed the “SchumerMobile,” that will drive around New York City for five days in an attempt to publicly admonish Schumer and other Democrats who are pondering how they will vote next month on the resolution.

The mobile billboard features the words “MOST LIKELY TO START A WAR” with an arrow pointing to a red circle drawn around Schumer’s photo.
-- From an August 28, 2015, story in Politico by Nick Gass. The story concerns Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and his opposition to a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Comment: Accusing Schumer of wanting (or being most likely) to start a war with Iran is exaggeration at best, if not demonizing.

"I don’t know what happened to the good people of Connecticut to be voting for a piece of crap like this."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, August 28, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio show. Levin was referring to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who had criticized Congress earlier that day for being "complicit" in mass shootings.

Comment: It's fair for Levin to criticize Murphy's remarks, but he can do that without resorting to the language of disgust (i.e., "piece of crap").

“We need a movement which takes on the economic and political establishment, not one which is part of that establishment,” said Sanders, who is an independent but caucuses with Democrats in the Senate.

Asked later whether he was speaking specifically about Clinton, he told reporters, “I’ll let you use your imagination on that.”
-- Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), August 28, 2015, as related in a Washington Post story by Philip Rucker, Anne Gearan and Dan Balz.

Comment: Perhaps he is being sarcastic, but Sanders is avoiding answering the question.

"With respect to the appearance before the committee [the Congressional Committee to Investigate Benghazi], I think this will be by my count the eighth committee in the Congress that has looked into the tragic events in Benghazi. I have been saying for nearly a year I am ready to go up and testify. I offered dates in the spring and summer. And when they came back with alternative dates, I immediately said I'll be there, and I will be there. I hope this will be the last effort by some in the Congress to politicize the tragic events of Benghazi and that we do what all the other investigations, both the Congressional ones and the independent one and press and others who have examined this, we do what we can to make sure it doesn't happen again. That's always been my focus."
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State August 28, 2015.

Comment: This is "politicizing" rhetoric.

"Well, you know, her life was cut short. She had so much potential, and, you know, it's senseless that her life and Adam's life were taken by a crazy person with a gun. And, you know, if I have to be the John Walsh of gun control and -- look, I'm for the Second Amendment, but there has to be a way to force politicians that are cowards and in the pockets of the NRA to come to grips and make sense -- have sensible laws so that crazy people can't get guns."
-- Andy Parker, August 27, 2015. Parker's daughter, Alison, was killed along with Adam Ward in an August 26, 2015, shooting.

Comment: This is demonizing, saying that supporters of gun rights have no noble intentions, but are simply cowards who are under the sway of others.

"Now, extreme views about women, we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world, but it’s a little hard to take from Republicans who want to be President of the United States, yet espouse out of date, out of touch policies. They are dead wrong for 21st century for America. We are going forward. We are not going back."
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, August 27, 2015.

Comment: This is "extremist" and "out of touch" rhetoric. In addition, in comparing Republicans to terrorists or those who "don't want to live in the modern world", Clinton is demonizing Republicans.

"And here come these young kids at the New Republic thinking (summarized), "Oh, my God! Oh, my God! What if? What if Stalin, what if Mao -- oh, my God, what if Gorbachev -- had just had the computers and us that we have today! "Can you imagine with the data collection and the data mining and the algorithms what beautiful results we could create for people?" So it finally cemented something I know, and that is all of this liberalism, most of it -- all of this dreaming and fantasies -- is all rooted in emotion. There isn't a single element of intellectual application to it."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, August 27, 2015.

Comment: By saying that their positions are based on emotion rather than reasoning, Limbaugh is resorting to "stupid" or "they don't care about facts" rhetoric.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has rankled some Virginia Republicans by repeatedly calling for greater gun control after Wednesday’s deadly shootings in Southwest Virginia.

“Clearly, that gentleman should not have owned a gun,” McAuliffe said of Vester L. Flanagan II, who killed a two-person news crew on live television early Wednesday. “That’s plain and simple. That was a tragedy. Now, I have no idea if any new gun laws would have changed that, we don’t know, but my job as governor is to do everything I humanly possibly can do to make our communities safe.”

Several Republican legislators took to Twitter to blast McAuliffe for what one called his “shameless politicization of tragedy” — particularly because closing the gun show loophole, a gun control measure McAuliffe mentioned, wouldn’t have kept the gun out of Flanagan’s hands.
-- Gov. Terry McAuliffe, as related by an August 27, 2015, story in the Washington Post by Laura Vozzella and Jenna Portnoy. McAullife had spoken in favor of gun control in the wake of a deadly shooting August 26, 2015, near Roanoke, VA.

Comment: McAuliffe is being accused of "politicizing" and "exploiting a tragedy".

Normally, when your main geopolitical rivals are shooting themselves in both feet, the military manual says step back and enjoy the show. But I take little comfort in watching China burning money and Russia burning food, because in today’s interdependent world we’re all affected. I also find no joy in it because we Americans, too, have started burning our most important source of competitive advantage — our pluralism. One of our two political parties has gone nuts and started following a pied piper of intolerance, named Donald Trump. … America’s greatest advantage is its pluralism: It can govern itself horizontally by its people of all colors and creeds forging social contracts to live together as equal citizens. But right now we’re messing around with that incredible asset. Yes, we must control our borders; it is the essence of sovereignty. It has been a failure of both our political parties that the Mexican-American border has been so porous. So I am for a high wall, but with a very big gate — one that legally lets in energetic low-skilled workers and the high-I.Q. risk-takers who have made our economy the envy of the world — and for legislation that provides a pathway for the millions of illegal immigrants already here to gain legal status and eventually citizenship. In June 2013, the Senate, including 14 Republicans, passed a bill that would do all that. But the extremists in the G.O.P. House refused to follow, so the bill stalled. And now we have Trump shamelessly exploiting this issue even more. He’s calling for an end to the 14th Amendment’s birthright principle, which guarantees citizenship to anyone born here, and also for a government program to round up all 11 million illegal immigrants and send them home — an utterly lunatic idea that Trump dismisses as a mere “management” problem. Like lemmings, many of the other G.O.P. presidential hopefuls just followed Trump over that cliff. This is not funny anymore. This is not entertaining. Donald Trump is not cute. His ugly nativism shamefully plays on people’s fears and ignorance. It ignores bipartisan solutions already on the table, undermines the civic ideals that make our melting pot work in ways no European or Asian country can match (try to become a Japanese) and tampers with the very secret of our sauce — pluralism, that out of many we make one. Every era spews up a Joe McCarthy type who tries to thrive by dividing and frightening us, and today his name is Donald Trump.
-- Pundit Thomas Friedman, August 26, 2016.

Comment: "Gone nuts" is "stupid" rhetoric. Friedman also engages in "extremists" and "exploiting" rhetoric. Friedman demonizes Trump's immigration plan as being racist (i.e., "nativism"), which is a distortion, given that it doesn't end legal immigration. Friedman also engages in "fear-mongering", "bipartisan", and "divisive" rhetoric.

"I will tell you, he was totally out of line last night. I was asking and being asked a question from another reporter. I would have gotten to him quickly, and he stood up and started ranting and raving like a madman, and frankly, he was out of line".
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, August 26, 2015. Trump was referring to Univision's Jorge Ramos, who interrupted Trump's press conference on August 25, 2015.

Comment: "Madman" is "out of touch with reality" rhetoric.

It's said ONLY 5-10% of Muslims are extremists. In 1940, ONLY 7% of Germans Were Nazis. How'd that go?
-- From a meme retweeted by ESPN analyst Curt Schilling, August 25, 2015. CNN's link to the story was titled, "ESPN analyst compares Muslims to Nazis".

Comment: First, the meme uses "extremist" rhetoric. Second, CNN used "comparing" rhetoric in describing the text of the meme. Technically, the meme isn't comparing Muslims to Nazis; rather, it is comparing extremist Muslims to Nazis, and comparing Muslims in general to Germans. (Whether the percentages cited by the meme are accurate is a separate issue.) In likening extremist Muslims to Nazis, the meme is describing them as a group that should be opposed by violence.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Can we start with the comments last night, the “crazies” comments, and the opposition to it that’s already come out? Representative Black saying that it was incendiary rhetoric that causes problems in politics. Do you want to clarify those remarks?

SCHULTZ: I haven't seen Representative Black’s statement, so I don’t have a direct response. … the President came back from vacation and was remarking with Senator Reid at the challenges they face this fall. And he may have been a little flip in his language, but we have seen Republicans do wildly irresponsible things in the past, and that includes shutting down the government for ideological reasons. That’s a prospect that came to fruition a few years ago, and it’s something that Republican lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are floating this time as well.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: But does he think that that rhetoric is helpful to the debate and helpful to getting things through, calling the opposition “crazies”?

SCHULTZ: Look, again, Isaac, the President may have been a little too flip, but at the end of the day, the President and Leader Reid were talking about the challenges they face this coming fall. I’ve listed a few instances of Republicans taking steps that we consider unwise.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Could you just clarify -- the crazies are who? The crazies are the people who are opposed to him on which things? And are they only Republicans?

SCHULTZ: Look, I think if you look at some of the things being proposed by Republicans in Washington -- for example, watering down Wall Street Reform, which is something that has built in the safeguards to our capital markets at a time where we’re seeing wild gyrations in global markets, we do find that irresponsible.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Does the President wish he hadn’t said that?


QUESTIONER [unidentified]: But he thinks there’s a logical, rational case for the infrastructure bill, for the budget bill, and you’ve said that those people who disagree with that case would count among the crazies. He’s made a logical, rational case, in his mind, for the Iran deal. Nobody who’s opposed to the Iran deal counts as the crazies? Can a Democrat be crazy, I guess is the question.

SCHULTZ: Present company excluded? The answer is, Isaac, he wasn’t talking about Iran when he made that remark.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: More on the crazies thing. So if you’re opposed to the Iran deal, you’re not crazy, in the President’s mind?

SCHULTZ: I honestly think you’re just conflating two different pieces.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: In his mind, aside from what he said last night and your explanation of it, are you crazy if you oppose the Iran deal?

SCHULTZ: Let me try it another way, Isaac. President George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, said the following about the idea of opposing the Iran nuclear deal because you could get a better deal. This is a claim we hear frequently from both Democrats and Republicans who oppose this deal. He says this is somewhere between -- the idea that we can get a better deal is somewhere “between naïve and unrealistic.” So you can judge for yourself what language to use. But the President believes that, yes, this is the best way to cut off Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon, and that those claiming they can get a better deal somehow are indeed, to paraphrase the former Treasury Secretary under President George W. Bush, somewhere “between naïve and unrealistic.”

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Are the Koch brothers the “crazies”?

SCHULTZ: I think the President mentioned them yesterday because they are part of the entrenched interests spending large sums of money trying to impede the progress that we’re making as a country.
-- Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz, August 25, 2015. Schultz was fielding questions regarding comments President Barack Obama had made August 24, 2015, in which he referred to some of his political opponents as "crazies".

Comment: First, Obama was resorting to name-calling of the "stupid" variety. Second, Schultz engages in a number of efforts to avoid answering the question of what justifies someone being amongst the "crazies". Schultz points out that many of Obama's opponents have behaved (in Obama's view) in ways that are reckless, irresponsible, naive, unrealistic, etc., but does that justify calling them "crazies"? Schultz says we should "judge for yourself what language to use", but note that while Schultz says Obama's rhetoric was "a little flip", he insists it was not something that Obama regretted or would retract. That is, Obama regards the rhetoric as appropriate. So, is it OK to use the same term to describe Obama if we think his policies are reckless, irresponsible, etc.?

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz clashed with Fox News host Megyn Kelly on Tuesday night over whether the Texas senator would deport immigrants who came to the United States illegally if their children were born in the country.

When Kelly pressed the Texas senator on what he would do as president, Cruz said that he’s “not playing the game” and declined to answer the question.

“What would President Cruz do? Do American citizen children of two illegal immigrants, who are born here, the children, get deported under a President Cruz?” Kelly asked.

Donald Trump, she said, “has answered that question explicitly.”

“Megyn, I get that that’s the question you want to ask,” Cruz said. “That’s also the question every mainstream media liberal journalist wants to ask.”

Asked whether it is an unfair question, Cruz said that it is “a distraction” from solving the issue.

“You know, it’s also the question that Barack Obama wants to focus on,” Cruz retorted.

“Why is it so hard? Why don’t you just say yes or no?” Kelly asked.

Cruz’s response: “Because, Megyn, we need to solve the problem. And the way you solve the problem is you focus where there’s bipartisan agreement first. Once we’ve secured the border, once we’ve proven we can do this, once we’ve stopped the Obama administration’s policy of releasing 104,000 violent criminal illegal aliens in one year. Once we’ve solved that problem, then we can have a debate, then we can have a conversation.”
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), August 25, 2015, as related in a story by Nick Gass of Politico.

Comment: Cruz is evading the question, and he never actually answers it. He insists that we should first focus on areas of "bipartisan" agreement before we decide what would happen to the children of illegal immigrants who are U.S. citizens. But that doesn't mean he can't state what his preference would be to deal with that situation, even if his preference doesn't have bipartisan support. More, Cruz engages in "distraction" rhetoric. Finally, he tries to undermine Kelly's question (using guilt by association) by noting that "liberal" journalists want to ask the same question. This is ad hominem, however: just because liberals are posing the question, too, doesn't mean it's an unfair question.

"Crazy Uncle Joe".
-- Pundit Sean Hannity, August 24, 2015, referring to Vice President Joe Biden.

Comment: This is "out of touch with reality" rhetoric.

Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Moore accused Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker of “literally” tightening the noose around African-Americans Monday.

Moore, who is black and represents the city of Milwaukee, Wisc., made the comments during a conference call with reporters timed to coincide with the Wisconsin Governor’s arrival in South Carolina.

According to a local Fox affiliate, the policies Moore believe are comparable to lynching are “Walker’s opposition to raising the minimum wage, requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, and requiring drug testing for public aid recipient…”
-- Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), August 24, 2015, as related in a story by Alex Griswold of Mediaite. Her remarks referred to Republican presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI).

Comment: Moore is demonizing Walker with language that invokes racism. She is using violent rhetoric, likening (or "comparing") Walker's political positions to a racist lynching.

"@mstanish53: @realDonaldTrump @megynkelly The bimbo back in town . I hope not for long ."
-- A message retweeted by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, August 24, 2015. It referred to Fox News' Megyn Kelly.

Comment: "Bimbo" is rhetoric intended to disparage someone in sexual terms.

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