Sunday, November 8, 2020

Trump and the Dangers of Bad Rhetoric




Look, I bit my tongue during the entire election. I avoided all political talk, but I feel there's something that needs to be said about some of the dangerous rhetoric that's been floating around the Interwebs for the past 48 hours.

So, the thing is, making a cogent point is something, you might say, that I know how to do really, really well.

In fact, I did it for over a decade on my religion of philosophy blog. Indeed, I managed to keep an active dialectic going on my religion of philosophy blog The Advocatus Atheist for over a decade (totaling over 20 million words of philosophical content). 

Not only this, but my humble blog racked up over one million-page reads, received numerous accolades, and was voted one of the top 30 atheist blogs on the Internet (even if I do pat myself on the back here for a moment).

Don't get me wrong though -- I'm not trying to gloat or brag here. That's not what this post is about.

I'm merely laying down these credentials as a matter of courtesy to those who might want to argue with me after they hear what I have to say. But we'll get to that in a minute.

First, I want to point out that I'm more than willing to accept different points of view, change my mind, or shift my views because over the years of arguing both professionally and as a hobby, I've had my mind changed on more than one occasion. 

In other words, I'm no stranger to eating crow and having a few slices of humble pie.

Emotional pleas and knee-jerk reactions, things like ad hominem (i.e., mud-slinging), trolling, or gish-galloping pseudo-cerebral exercises, however, will get you a ban from my page.

Because this isn't formal argumentation. There's no genuine thought behind it. It's just white noise and rudeness presented in the form of an opposing point of view that is not likely defensible, otherwise, they wouldn't be resorting to cheap tactics to try and win their arguments.

These types of people are easy to identify. A lot of the time they amount to little more than trolls -- because they pop out of the woodwork only to rock the boat and get everyone riled up. 

Do they actually care about the validity of their points, their views, their beliefs? Probably not. They might take them for granted, feeling they're entitled to those beliefs and worldviews for the sole reason they believe them to be true and credible. Not because, it's worth observing, because they've been demonstrated as true and credible.

The good rhetorician doesn't lie, because he/she doesn't have to. The good rhetorician admits that his/her argument could possibly be wrong. 

Such is the nature of a subjective, third person, analysis of the world around us. But, in the hopes of moving toward a more objective understanding of that world -- good reasons need to be given for holding the sorts of beliefs we hold. And we can debate the merit of these reasons, or likewise their contra-arguments, as we move closer to finding a common ground.

And this brings us my main point -- the thing that I want to warn you all about. The dangers of bad rhetoric.

It was an observation I made about four years ago and an observation that I continue to make in lieu of this recent presidential election. And no, I'm not simply talking about Trump's inane Twitter ramblings and the level of demonstrable misinformation he spews daily (although this is a big problem).

There are a lot -- and I mean a lot -- of conservatives, whether they be republican or right-leaning libertarians, or conservative centrist, etc. that are spreading the mail-in ballot rumors that there has been major tampering by Democrats in the recent vote counting.

A lot of bad information has been debunked. My job here isn't to debunk what's already been debunked. I don't do other people's homework for them. But I do see a lot of conspiracy theories floating around that the election was somehow rigged to favor the Dems and the liberal agenda.

Of my conservative friends who are sharing such theories, their feeds quickly become an echo-chamber of other conservatives sharing the same *debunked details. 

A lot of them resort to dangerous rhetoric that is either thinly veiled threats or, in many cases, claims about going to war with "libtards" who -- they feel -- are making lists and working together as a secret cabal to round up all the conservatives in the future and do away with them.

Endless posts and exchanges about how voter fraud is rampant and how they want to drag out the recounts as long as possible to ensure that the election was fair.

Now, I'm not saying voter-fraud has never happened. I mean, hell, Russia literally interfered with the previous presidential election and probably did their damndest to tamper with this one. But this has been proved -- by the CIA and FBI -- and has a mountain of evidence supporting these claims. It's not a conspiracy theory.

The idea, somehow, that this election was stolen, however, is more akin to conspiracy than anything. And even if there was voter-fraud, reports I've read said it would be less than 1% of the votes.

By all means, if something looks fishy, then let's look into it. But let's rely on the advice of real political scientists, expert analysts, and data crunchers who have been following the election every step of the way. Don't spread unfounded accusations because a friend Tweeted it or because President Trump (a demonstrably proven habitual liar) shared some misinformation.

Do your fact-checking. Stop living in the echo chamber.

The easiest way to root out poor arguments and bad rhetoric is to notice when they all say the same thing without ever addressing the various points that would go to proving their claims.

I'm hearing a lot of conspiracy theories, misinformation, a lot of bellyaching and a lot of people stirring the pot instead of doing what they should be doing -- researching the alleged corruption they say is rampant and finding the evidence that would prove their claims true.

Like I said, though, recounts are common with close elections. It's always wise to double-check your tallied results and cross-check them. But I don't easily buy into conspiracy theories and bad hyperbole is just that... bad hyperbole.

If there is a smoking gun, it will be revealed in due time. But trying to blame an entire political party and claiming they rigged an entire election just because your guy didn't win is petty and, quite frankly, a bit undemocratic. These people should be ashamed of themselves.

And, yes, by all means, let my virtue-signaling challenge you to do better than just sling hollow words and empty platitudes. Do your homework. Root out the facts. Unearth the truth and then come to me with your theories of how this could have possibly happened. That's where we'll start to address the problems together and begin to heal the country.

Sharing twice regurgitated rhetoric, however, does nothing but increase our collective blood pressure and stress levels. 

That's all I wanted to say because I keep seeing these wedge-styled tactics being employed all over the media and online by what appears to me to be sore losers. If there is widespread fraud, then let the call be to get to the bottom of it and find those responsible and hold them accountable in a court of law. 

However, let's not simply accuse the opposite side of being guilty before the evidence is even in and create wild conspiracy theories about how the next four years will go. Knock that shit off.

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Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist