Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Rhetoric: "Media Incitement"

Sometimes people blame the media for "starting fights" or "ginning up a scandal". The basic idea is that, if it weren't for media coverage, nobody would be paying attention to a certain topic. (This is related to "distractions" rhetoric.)

This claim, in and of itself, might be true. But it settles nothing about whether or not people should be paying attention to the topic at issue, or whether there's a legitimate or fake.

Maybe the media are giving added prominence to a certain topic; that doesn't mean they're wrong to do so.

COSTELLO: Why does Mr. Trump keep doubling down on Judge Curiel? What's the purpose?

PALADINO: Well, answer the question for me as to why the press keeps doubling down on this Judge Curiel thing. The press has created this issue.

COSTELLO: Erick Erickson, who's a conservative blogger, he's an anti-Trump conservative, he does not like the media, either. He wrote this, this morning, of Donald Trump and his continued attacks on Judge Curiel, quote: "So the Party of Lincoln will entertain a racist as its leader in the name of winning? What good does it profit a party to win the White House and lose its soul? Because the odds are the party will not win the White House and will forfeit future victories as it sees Hispanic voters, black voters, and a solid number of evangelicals flee the party of racists." What would you say to Erick Erickson?

PALADINO: Erick Erickson just likes to use the term, "racist". He's not a racist. By far he's not a racist. This is incredible that you want to pull this word out and use it, because it always pushes back on the white guy. It’s not fair. And it's not a fair description of Donald Trump. Donald Trump might have some anxiety about this particular judge because he lives in the same real world that I do, where this type of thing does go on, where the ethnicity means something, in a court case or someplace else.
-- Carl Paladino, honorary co-chair for the campaign of Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, June 6, 2016, during an interview with Carol Costello of CNN. His remarks concerned Trump's 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: First of all, Paladino is using "media incitement" rhetoric. There are legitimate questions about what Trump has said, and the media are asking those questions. Second, while Paladino is right that the term "racist" has been used unfairly in the past, that doesn't mean it's being used unfairly against Trump. When Paladino says he and Trump live in the "real world", he's implying that others don't, which is a form of "stupid" name-calling. Lastly, while it's true there are cases where people (likely even judges) act on racial prejudice, there are also cases where they don't. The burden of proof is on Trump (and Paladino) to show that Curiel is doing so; they can't just speculate that he might. Otherwise, the case couldn't be given to a white judge either, because a white judge might favor Trump based on ethnicity.

CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: Let's bring up Donald Trump. You've defended him. Your former governor, Rick Perry, has criticized him. You've had an experience with plenty of Mexican immigrants in Texas. Are they -- are these immigrants that are coming into Texas what Donald Trump describes? Are they drug dealers, rapists, and such?

SEN. TED CRUZ: Listen, I am a passionate advocate for legal immigrants. I am the son of an immigrant who came legally from Cuba. And I'll tell you, from the day I started campaigning, I traveled the state of Texas, talking about how all of us, we are the children of those who risked everything for freedom, that that immigrant experience of all of us is what makes us Americans, because we value in our DNA liberty and opportunity above all else. Now, when it comes to Donald Trump, I like Donald Trump. He's bold, he's brash. And I get that it seems the favorite sport of the Washington media is to encourage some Republicans to attack other Republicans. I ain't gonna do it. I'm not interested in Republican on Republican violence.

TODD: Rhetoric matters.

CRUZ: You know --

TODD: Doesn't rhetoric matter?

CRUZ: I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration. The Washington cartel doesn't want to address that. The Washington cartel doesn't believe we need to secure the borders. The Washington cartel supports amnesty and I think amnesty's wrong. And I salute Donald Trump for focusing on it. He has a colorful way of speaking. It's not the way I speak. But I'm not gonna engage in the media's game of throwing rocks and attacking other Republicans. I'm just not gonna do it.
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), July 5, 2015, during an interview with NBC News' Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press". Cruz was referring to remarks made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on June 16, 2015.

Comment: This is an evasion, as Cruz never addresses whether Trump's remarks were appropriate. Is Cruz never going to criticize remarks made by other Republicans, no matter what they are, because that would be "Republican on Republican violence"? (Note that Cruz also uses violent rhetoric, though as a (comically exaggerated?) metaphor.) Is he never going to oppose another GOP candidate on anything? What if someone doesn't like the idea of Americans being "encouraged to attack" one another: does that mean Republicans shouldn't criticize the remarks of Democrats, either, and vice versa? Of course not. Cruz isn't being asked to engage in name-calling, demonizing, or negative politics. He's being asked to take a stand on whether someone else's rhetoric is acceptable, and he's refused to. He's evaded the question by praising Trump for criticizing illegal immigration – which was never the issue; the issue was Trump's description of illegal Mexican immigrants as being mostly rapists and drug-runners – and by accusing the media of trying to draw him into some contrived conflict. But it's entirely appropriate to ask a politician to take a stand on the rhetoric of another politician. Note, the word "colorful" is essentially a way of designating Trump's rhetoric as being attention-getting, but not wrong (for the record, what Trump said was wrong).

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

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