Bumper-sticker politics on full display on Facebook
by Barbara Donnelly Lane
January 13, 2013 12:00 AM | 1577 views | 6 6 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Recently, several liberal friends have posted a straw man statement on their Facebook pages that seems to have originated on a site called “We love to irritate hateful Republicans.”

With multiple people apparently feeling as if the sentiments expressed by this organization make for a clever intellectual thrust at the dastardly Right, I’ve decided to address the rhetorical fallacy presented to me multiple times in blazing red, white and blue on my social media newsfeed.

You see, this is not just because of my perpetual desire to point out to normally nice people that they foster bitter divisiveness when they address their fellow citizens as “hateful” simply because they don’t share the same political views that they do.

Rather, I want to engage in this particular analysis because such statements are casually pasted across cyberspace now-a-days in the same abundance that bumper stickers used to be pasted on the backs of old Volkswagen vans in the ‘60s.

Therefore, if I’m going to be subjected to reading these things again and again rather than looking at cute pictures of cats playing the piano, I firmly believe people should start considering if there is any sound reason contained in what they are posting.

Of course I don’t deny that there are some political bumper stickers that are downright clever. For instance, the one that says “Save the Whales: Collect the Whole Set” has always made me snort and giggle. But most of the time the reader of such stickers — and similar Facebook posts — feels as if he or she has been subjected to a sort of mental hit-and-run. This is especially true when responses are discouraged in social media.

So the super popular political statement for liberals this week has been: “Conservatives are getting rid of the welfare system because some people are taking advantage of it is like getting rid of the Second Amendment and banning all guns because some people use them for criminal purposes. Do you get it now?”

The immediate reaction I have as a “hateful Republican” is to furrow my brow and think “not really.” Not only do I not “get it,” I recognize this is an example of clumsy rhetoric, which reminds me a bit of a Tonya Harding goon armed with a lead pipe intent on unfairly kneecapping an opponent, or an argument as presented by a sixth grader.

First, the statement completely distorts the conservative position on entitlements by implying conservatives want to cut down the entire social safety net in the same manner that liberals might like to ban guns. Well, there are no conservatives in office who have proposed dismantling the welfare system, and (I think) only the hard Left wants to completely disarm America. So the whole argument is based on a false premise, which is ridiculous. Additionally, comparing an entitlement system to a constitutional right is a false analogy.

However, if I am going to take the Left’s logic here at face value, let me fork out some straw man hay of my own to better illustrate my point.

“Liberals saying we must tolerate people who steal from our children’s futures because fraud is an integral part of the welfare system is like saying a few mass murders every now and again are OK in a society that codifies the right to bear arms.”

Do you get how this statement is as equally silly as the one posted on Facebook? The straw man here is that all liberals are completely accepting of all forms of welfare corruption. It also creates a false equivalency between theft and murder, which one might find offensive.

In other words, both of the arguments presented — while pushing political agendas from opposite sides — rely on distortion and appeal to demagogues only. They are not persuasive.

On the other hand, if a straw man post’s purpose is really only to irritate someone on the other side of an argument, then it normally accomplishes its intended goal.

Is that really the motive of people who post such fallacies?

Are they not interested in engaging in civil conversations?

Is there no desire to address the very real problems I know citizens of all ideological stripes recognize that we need to solve in our country?

Wouldn’t it be more productive to invite honest debates about things like entitlement spending and gun crime rather than distribute sloppily constructed antagonisms?

If after understanding what they are, one still insists on putting forth straw man arguments to make any political point, just keep in mind it was the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz who was missing a brain.

Barbara Donnelly Lane lives in east Cobb and blogs on the MDJonline.com web site.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Too funny
January 19, 2013
Trust me, liberals do not have a monopoly on Facebook stupidity. If I never see another right wing nutter quote Tea Party paranoia or American Family Association anti-gay bigotry, it will be too soon.
Concerned Citizen
January 14, 2013
This is well-written. It would be so refreshing if we could see a civil discussion of issues by both sides which is what this article requests.
Kevin Foley
January 13, 2013
Ms. Lane evidently has never received the anonymous chain e-mails widely circulated by conservatives that accuse Democrats of all kinds of nutty conspiracies. These are almost always easily debunked, but conservatives don't bother because they affirm their own narrow views.

I've got news for Ms. Lane. Grover Norquist speaks for virtually every conservative when he says he wants to shrink the size of government so it can be drowned in a bath tube. That includes the social safety net.
Dr. Mike Donnelly
January 14, 2013
What a load of drivel. It is easy to accuse. How about posting some of those extreme emails that you alone seem to be lucky enough to receive. By the way, Grover does speak for this conservative when he wants to curb out of control spending. What is there about the national debt that you don't get? Today the president took another shot at Republicans saying because they want the senate to pass a budget they are they are the problem. I became disabled in the service of this country so fools like you have the right to be wrong. It does not give you the right to lie.
January 15, 2013
The Democratic Senate passing a budget - what a novel idea. Well, let's give Obama credit; at least HE has submitted budgets. Of course, they got no votes...NONE...nada...zip. Not even from his party.


[turn off sarcasm]

That Harry Reid has not allowed a budget resolution to come to the floor in over 3 years is proof that the Dems do not deserve to govern. There is nothing more fundamental to governing that operating from a budget so the taxpayers, who are footing the bill, know where their dough is going.
Christine Thiessen
January 13, 2013
Excellent article.
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