Sunday, December 6, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: December 6, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Anyone who follows U.S. political debates on the environment knows that Republican politicians overwhelmingly oppose any action to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, and that the great majority reject the scientific consensus on climate change. … More important, probably, is the denial inherent in the conventions of political journalism, which say that you must always portray the parties as symmetric — that any report on extreme positions taken by one side must be framed in a way that makes it sound as if both sides do it. We saw this on budget issues, where some self-proclaimed centrist commentators, while criticizing Republicans for their absolute refusal to consider tax hikes, also made a point of criticizing President Obama for opposing spending cuts that he actually supported. My guess is that climate disputes will receive the same treatment. But I hope I’m wrong, and I’d urge everyone outside the climate-denial bubble to frankly acknowledge the awesome, terrifying reality. We’re looking at a party that has turned its back on science at a time when doing so puts the very future of civilization at risk. That’s the truth, and it needs to be faced head-on.
-- Pundit Paul Krugman, December 4, 2015.

Comment: Krugman is accusing Republicans of rejecting science. He also claims that it's wrong to say that both sides are equally at fault when it comes to being "extreme", but he offers no rigorous evidence to support the claim that one side does it more.

"Meanwhile, from, Nancy Pelosi -- ready for this? -- Nancy Pelosi says Congress has no right to moments of silence for victims of gun violence unless lawmakers intend to take action to prevent it. This is insane. I mean, the woman's brain, there's a flesh eating disease that has entered her skull, a bunch of amoebas running around in there just slowly eating away at her gray matter."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, December 4, 2015, responding to remarks December 3, 2015, by House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Comment: Limbaugh is using "stupid" rhetoric.

"Okay, you still think that I'm wrong about this? Well, then, get this. Criticism of Islam equals Islamophobia, and the attorney general of the United States, Loretta Lynch, has just warned that people will be prosecuted for criticism of Islam -- i.e., telling the truth that Islamic terrorism exists. You can be prosecuted if you tell the truth about Islam. Don't doubt me, folks. … And then we hear the attorney general the United States and the president of the United States say, "Make any criticism of Muslims, and we are coming after you. We are gonna prosecute you. We are gonna deny you your First Amendment rights because we are not tolerating that. That's not who we are." This would... I don't know. What's the difference in this and the government criticizing anybody that went after John Gotti as anti-Italian, and saying, "We're not gonna put up with it"? It's absurd, folks. It's literally absurd."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, December 4, 2015, remarking on President Barack Obama and his administration's refusal to use the term "Islamic terrorism".

Comment: Limbaugh is misrepresenting Lynch. Lynch never said she would prosecute people for linking Islam to terrorism; rather, she said she would do so for "violent talk".

A former U.S. congressman urged Attorney General Loretta Lynch to arrest him after she warned on Thursday that her office would take a more aggressive approach to those spewing anti-Muslim rhetoric.

“I think Islam has a real freaking problem, alright?” Former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh said in a video posted to his Facebook page. “There is a cancer in Islam, and if they’re not going to learn to assimilate, I don’t want them in this country.”

“You got a problem, Loretta Lynch, with me saying that? Then throw me in jail,” Walsh, a conservative talk show host, argued. “I think Islam is evil. I think Islam has a huge problem. I think most Muslims around the world are not compatible with American values. I don’t want them here.”
-- Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), December 4, 2015, as related in a story by Kaitlyn Schallhorn of The Blaze. Lynch, on December 3, 2015, had threatened to take action against anti-Muslim rhetoric that "edges towards violence".

Comment: Walsh is misrepresenting Lynch. Lynch never said she would prosecute people for anti-Muslim remarks; rather, she said she would do so for remarks that incited violence (which Walsh did not do in his remarks).

If you want to witness an adamantine mind at work, you could do a whole lot worse that observe the 44th president of the United States. Barack Obama is the most rigidly ideological president of my lifetime, a man who has a nearly blind adherence to a particular ideology (progressivism). It’s a disturbing, if at times a psychologically fascinating, thing to witness. We’re seeing it play out in multiple ways, but let me offer just one illustration — his approach to jihadism. It has been clear from the start of his presidency that Mr. Obama has decided that Islam is wholly separate from Islamic terrorism, which explains his refusal to use the words (or variations of the words) radical or militant Islam. It also explains why his administration has used absurd euphemisms like “man-caused disaster” and “workplace violence” to describe Islam-inspired attacks. Why the 2009 Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was an “isolated extremist.” Why the shooting at a Kosher supermarket in Paris earlier this year was “random.” (The gunman had declared his allegiance to ISIS.) And why the president, in an effort to protect Islam, invokes the Crusades at a National Prayer Breakfast, despite the fact that the Crusades happened roughly a thousand years ago. On and on it goes. … Here’s the problem: There is an independent reality apart from what Mr. Obama thinks. He can ignore the truth, but he cannot wish it out of existence. And by ignoring the reality of things, he makes everything worse.
-- Pundit Peter Wehner, December 4, 2015.

Comment: First, Wehner is accusing Obama of being an ideologue. Second, it's one thing to denounce somebody for persisting in a false belief despite evidence to the contrary; it's another to say accuse such a person of being detached from reality. Aren't there lots of people in politics (and not on one side) who stick with questionable beliefs? Are they all "wishing away independent reality"?

At the end of the day, I am the mayor and I own it. I take responsibility for what happened and I will fix it. Nothing less than complete and total reform of the system and the culture will meet the standards we have to set for ourselves.
-- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, December 4, 2015, remarking on the investigation of the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police.

Comment: Emanuel is using "I take responsibility" rhetoric. Isn't it always the case that the mayor is responsible for supervising the police?

"Barack Obama is not a bad president because he was a senator; Barack Obama is a bad president, because he is an unmitigated socialist, who won't stand up and defend the United States of America."
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), December 3, 2015.

Comment: Cruz is demonizing Obama, accusing him of not being willing to defend innocent people, and questioning his patriotism.

"If you can’t come to the conclusion at this point that this is an act of terror, you should find something else to do for a living than being in law enforcement. I mean, you’re a moron."
-- Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), December 3, 2015, referring to investigations into the San Bernardino shootings on December 2, 2015.

Comment: This is "stupid" rhetoric.

"He’s an unbelievable divider. I thought he’d be a great cheerleader for the country. That’s one thing I thought. I said, he’ll unify the country, and he’s really divided the country, he really has. And we’re going to unify the country."
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, December 2, 2015, referring to President Barack Obama.

Comment: This is "unify the country" rhetoric.

"If you look at over the last few days you’re seeing a lot of stories that Obamacare is collapsing of its own weight. And in 2017, unfortunately, you know, if it’s gonna go, let it go now, so that he has to straighten it out, but he’s not going to straighten it out correctly. Because nothing he does is correct. No, nothing he does, if you think about it."
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, December 2, 2015, referring to President Barack Obama.

Comment: This is an exaggeration; absolutely nothing Obama has done has been correct?

It’s estimated that around 50,000 hypocrites will be participating in the Paris climate conference this week. What do you call it when elites fly their private jets to an international climate change conference to forge a deal with despots that caps American prosperity without our consent? You call it progressivism. It’s estimated that around 50,000 carbon-spewing humans will be participating in the Paris climate conference this week. But while President Obama was taking his working dinner at the three-Michelin-star L’Ambroisie, public protests were banned in the aftermath of the Islamic terror attacks. Liberté, not so much. No one inside the confab seemed too disturbed.
-- Pundit David Harsanyi, December 1, 2015, referring to the climate change talks in Paris.

Comment: Harsanyi is accusing attendees of the climate change talks of hypocrisy, given that they are emitting carbon dioxide in order to attend talks on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. This is wrong, because it's not necessarily hypocritical to produce a small amount of something bad in the name of avoiding a larger amount of it down the road: in medicine, we often undergo painful treatments in order to avoid greater pain in the long run. The climate change conference attendees could, in principle, make the same argument. However, they would need to prove that they will actually be doing more to reduce carbon emissions in the long run by having the conference, and they would need to show that the conference couldn't happen effectively without this level of carbon emissions (for instance, couldn't the conference be held online?).

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