Sunday, December 13, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: December 13, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"John, if there’s one or two more of these attacks, Lord forbid, between now and the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. I mean, I know his proposal is very controversial, but what we’ve got in the United States and we know it now from the FBI are ISIS cells and ISIS personnel and ISIS sympathizers. We don’t know how many exactly they are. We have no way apparently of really vetting them. That woman got in this country and was a terrorist hell-bent on murder when she arrived with her new husband, or the husband-to-be. So, I think the problem, and what Trump is touching in onto, is that Americans want to know basically are the folks coming into the country, are they coming here to kill us, do we have any way to know that, and if we don’t, maybe we ought to have a moratorium on immigration from the Islamic world. And to a lot of folks, I know, that’s fascism or Mussolini, to other folks, it makes common sense."
-- Pundit Pat Buchanan, December 12, 2015.

Comment: Buchanan is using "common sense" rhetoric.

Other than being an old-ish white guy who likes a nice suit, Alec Baldwin doesn't have much in common with billionaire blowhard Donald Trump.

But when I met Baldwin here at the U.N. COP21 climate change conference (more on why he's here in just a minute, and, no, it doesn't entirely make sense), the bassoon-voiced actor told me he thinks we all should be listening more to Trump for one reason: His views are so extreme they might finally convince world leaders to sign a climate change accord.

"If we had Donald Trump come here to Paris and make a speech and give his views on climate change, we'd have an agreement tomorrow," Baldwin told me.

"All you need is for these extremists in business (like Trump) to talk about what they need. You say, 'How do you get Americans to care?' I think we are on the road to caring because we've got some pretty extremist views coming back home. And Americans are wise to that. The climate denial thing in America is (at a low), and most Americans know we need some climate change policy."
-- Actor and pundit Alec Baldwin, as related in a December 11, 2015, story by John D. Sutter of CNN.

Comment: This is "extremist" rhetoric.

O'DONNELL: You note in your piece, Webster defines terrorism as the use of violent acts to frighten people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal, the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. And you say that definition fits what Donald Trump is doing. Explain that.

ABDUL-JABBAR: What I'm trying to say is that although Mr. Trump isn't committing the violence, when the violence happens, he exploits it. OK, so instead of offering a practical and realistic solutions, he's exploiting people's fear and he's doing ISIS's work for them. And that is something that we can't let him keep doing. We have to say something about it, at least, in order to maybe somehow impact it.
-- Athlete and pundit Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, December 10, 2015, during an interview with Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump's proposal to temporarily halt Muslims from entering the U.S.

Comment: Abdul-Jabbar is accusing Trump of exploiting terror attacks.

SCARBOROUGH: Shouldn't you be more assertive when Donald Trump comes out and says he wants to keep all Muslims out of the country?

CRUZ: Look, I've said I disagree with that proposal. But is amazing how eager the media is – I mean, the number one question I get day in, day out is, “Please attack Donald Trump, please attack Donald Trump.” And, you know, I’ll point out, my approach to Trump has been the same as my approach to every other Republican candidate, which is that I’m not interested in personal insults and mudslinging. … Because I don’t think the American people really want to hear a bunch of politicians bickering like kids. They want to hear real and positive solutions to the problems we’ve got … Listen, I get that the media wants us to play theater critics and critique every other proposal. What I’m focusing on are my own policy proposals.
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), December 10, 2015, during interview with Joe Scarborough of MSNBC. His remarks were in reference to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump's proposal to temporarily halt Muslims from entering the U.S.

Comment: Cruz says he disagrees with Trump, yet he mischaracterizes the questions posed by the media. It is legitimate to ask a candidate to defend their own policies as being superior to those of other candidates. That kind of comparison and contrast doesn't amount to "personal insults", "mudslinging", "attacking", "bickering", or asking candidates to be "theater critics". Cruz is wrongly trying to dismiss these questions (which are appropriate questions) as "negative politics".

"In Obama's world, facts don't matter, truth doesn't matter."
-- Pundit Sean Hannity, December 9, 2015, during the first hour of his radio show, referring to President Barack Obama.

Comment: This is "they don't care about truth" rhetoric.

The heartbroken sister of fallen
 Benghazi hero Glen Doherty 
delivered her sharpest criticism yet of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday, saying the presidential candidate “wasn’t truthful” about the 2012 terrorist attack.

“She knows that she knew what happened that day and she wasn’t truthful,” Kate Quigley said on Boston Herald Radio’s “Morning Meeting” show yesterday. “This is a woman that will do and say anything to get what she wants. I have very little respect for her. I know what she said to me and she can say all day long that she didn’t say it. That’s her cross to bear.”
-- Kate Quigley, December 9, 2015, as related in a Boston Herald story by Hillary Chabot and Tom Shattuck.

Comment: This is the "they'll say anything" caricature.

Given Trump's knack for stealing the spotlight, it's easy to think he's alone in his Islamophobic views. That would be a mistake. The other GOP presidential hopefuls may not share Trump's penchant for rabble-rousing, but they're complicit in creating a deeply troubling atmosphere. And I'm not talking about the typical stand-on-the-sidelines sort of complicity. No, these Republican candidates are actively -- and dangerously -- bringing us back to scarier times with their fear-based proposals and angry rhetoric: … Ben Carson compared some Syrian refugees to dogs -- with "mad dogs" among them. Comparing people to animals is textbook propaganda, and it often leads to some pretty nasty places (think: "vermin," "blight," "eradicate"). Just imagine Carson's words blown up on a 20-foot poster. Marco Rubio equated Muslims to "Germans who may have been members of the Nazi party, but weren't violent themselves." Shameful. It was only last century that our elected leaders lumped Japanese Americans alongside our overseas enemies. The end result was internment camps, a concept that Trump refused to dismiss.
-- Pundit Donna Brazile, December 9, 2015, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump's proposal to temporarily halt Muslims from entering the U.S., as well as to remarks by Republican presidential contenders Ben Carson and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Comment: First, Brazile is accusing Trump of bigotry, and the Republican candidates more generally of fear-mongering. She also distorts what Carson and Rubio said: Carson did not "compare" Syrian refugees to dogs in the sense of dehumanizing them and saying they were no better than dogs. Rather, Carson said the fact that some terrorists might pose as refugees in order to enter and attack the U.S. shouldn't cause us to despise all refugees, in the same way that one dog with rabies shouldn't cause us to fear all dogs in general. More, Rubio did not "equate" Muslims with Nazis: rather, he said that there is a difference between violent and non-violent members of the Islamic faith, just as there is a difference between violent and non-violent members of any other religion or movement. 

"It's not just Donald Trump that has said that Muslims are unacceptable for admission to this country … Marco Rubio after the Paris attacks said not only that we should be considering internment, he actually suggested that maybe we should close down cafes and diners where Muslims gather, and in fact, compared them to the Nazi party."
-- Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, December 9, 2015, referring to remarks by Republican presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Comment: Wasserman-Schultz is distorting Rubio's comments in a way that makes him appear bigoted. Rubio did not "compare" Muslims to Nazis in the sense of saying they were the same: rather, he said avoiding saying we're at war with "radical Islam" because we don't want to offend non-radical Muslims would be, "like saying we weren’t at war with Nazis because we were afraid to offend some Germans who may have been members of the Nazi party but weren’t violent themselves". Also, Rubio said any place where people are being inspired to violence should be shut down, he did not specify that it should only apply to Muslims.

No comments: