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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mailvox: the utility of rhetoric

NorthernHamlet objects to the rhetoric inherent in the post Homeschool or Die.  He writes, in response to my explanation:
"Trying to talk about big pictures or summoning statistics is about as relevant as reciting the Iliad. [Rhetoric] is not petty politics or point scoring, it is the only possible form of dialogue."

We both can run through this line of thinking easily.

Your public audience, at least some of it, knows you could have it both ways in a blog post, the rhetorical argument, the statistical reality, and the meta-argument. You yourself admit that the situation has already been politicized; suggesting that you are purposefully furthering that politicization process for argumentative gain, and nothing more. You can claim all day that the only audience you care about is your own (a claim easily disputed) or however you choose to put it, but from an outside perspective, the post comes off as extremely petty.

I'm sure more of your public audience than you realize would appreciate both the amusing rhetoric you are known for and which I'm sure sells books and gains site traffic in addition to the insightful observations you are equally known for peppered in to the post as opposed to the comments; leaving room for even better conversation in the thread.
How the rhetoric in the relevant post comes off to conventionally-thinking conservatives who happen agree with me on the issue of the primacy of gun rights is totally irrelevant, not only to me, but to the argument.  I mean, I harbor very little concern for what most people think anyhow, as per MPAI, but the group whose opinion least concerns me is the most rhetorically impotent and argumentatively challenged group in American political discourse today.

It tends to remind me of those who used to insist that Ann Coulter would be more "effective" if she was only nicer and less strident.  Never mind that no one would have heard of her or that she didn't really have a whole lot to say other than ruthlessly pointing out the hypocrisy and malicious intent of the American Left.

First, note that the post was linked to by Instapundit.  Why?  Because Instapundit recognizes an effective rhetorical argument when he sees one even though his primary public response was dialectic.  Does anyone think that his perfectly rational, perfectly correct argument about the false sense of security provided by gun-free zones will have any effect whatsoever on the minds of women who are posturing about how hard they are crying and how they are "hugging them close today"?

Of course not.  The dialectic cannot reach the rhetorically-minded.  Yes, it is logical nonsense to say "if you do not homeschool your children, they will die", just as it is nonsense to say "because one crazy individual shot 27 people, we must forcibly seize 300 million privately owned firearms that prevent government tyranny."  And yet, these logically nonsensical rhetorical arguments that shamelessly play upon the emotions of individuals are the only ones that the majority - the majority -  of the electorate find credible and convincing.  And so they must be made.

Is this rhetorical assertion a genuine surprise to NorthernHamlet or anyone else: "Standing up to the gun lobby is the best way to honour the innocent victims."  If so, it shouldn't be.  This is hardly our first shooting-inspired gun control rodeo.  In the past, the pro-control crowd reaped a rhetorical harvest in the early days while the pro-freedom crowd remained silent out of fear of politicizing the tragedy or limited itself to weakly protesting in a dialectical manner.  Those days are done.  We know the drill.

As I've already explained, any argument that focuses on the rhetorical aspect of "homeschool or die" can be easily turned against the rhetorical arguments made by the other side.  That is the power of the meta-argument that utilizes both rhetorical and dialectical arguments; the other side can either lose on rhetorical grounds, or, after attacking the rhetoric and stripping itself of its own rhetorical arguments, lose on the more substantial dialectic grounds.

There is nothing petty about it; to claim that it is petty is to fundamentally miss the point that the argument being won and lost on petty grounds because it is mostly being fought on ground that primarily consists of petty little minds.

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26 Comments:

Blogger rcocean December 16, 2012 7:38 AM  

There's always a large segment of conservatives who shrink from combat and always want to play nice and think politics is all about having a glass of port and jolly good discussion with Liberals down at the club.

They often bring up WFB, ignoring the fact that WFB was a bomb-throwing snark machine from the early 50s till the early 70s.

Anonymous Cinco December 16, 2012 7:57 AM  

I hate to say it, but we life live in a world where the best soundbites win. Not the ideas or ideologies behind those sound bites, but the one-liners themselves. I would wager that one in ten conservatives could explain why taxes are bad at the ideological level. They just know that, "It's trickle down economics..."

Blogger JD Curtis December 16, 2012 8:15 AM  

..these logically nonsensical rhetorical arguments that shamelessly play upon the emotions of individuals are the only ones that the majority - the majority - of the electorate find credible and convincing. And so they must be made


This is correct. In order to counter this assertion,one would have to show that the electorate actually checks FACTS before arriving to decisions and we all know this is not the case.
(Especially for the Left which somehow seems to exclusively use emotional arguments over substantive ones although conservatives sometimes do as well)

Blogger IM2L844 December 16, 2012 8:45 AM  

"extremely petty"

Could someone quote the extremely petty part? I couldn't find it. Maybe the title could be interpreted as being overly simplistic, intentionally provocative or possibly even flippant, but that's the nature of titles. Other than that I'm not sure what, specifically, is deserving of being referred to as "extremely petty."

Anonymous Stilicho December 16, 2012 9:22 AM  

I found the post in question to be amusing. What I found even more amusing were the emo-chick responses to it.

If anyone doubts the efficacy of Vox's methodology, just ask this question of the next give-the-children-a-hug-while-making-guns-illegal liberal you find engaging in that type of rhetoric: Why do you hate people who try to protect their children? Follow up as needed and enjoy the show.

Anonymous tdm December 16, 2012 9:22 AM  

It doesn't surprise me that some find VD to be mean.

Anonymous NorthernHamlet December 16, 2012 10:05 AM  

Vox,

Thank you for making my comment the subject of a post. I never expect quite this much attention to anything I say.

"It tends to remind me of those who used to insist that Ann Coulter would be more "effective" if she was only nicer and less strident."

Ann Coulter wouldn't be as effective. But that's not the point. The day of the shooting, my first thought was that you would post that day and it would either be about arming teachers or keeping children out of the hands of teachers. I even compared your style to Coulter, whom I find to be a predictable bore who's mostly just petty. For me, and I'm sure I'm not alone, she's not effective.

But Coulter has to choose between being nicer or being meaner, one or the other. She can't exactly have it both ways. However, this was not the suggestion I gave to you. You can have it both ways, and actually try to have it both ways using the comment sections (a fact pointed out to you in the past by others).


"And yet, these logically nonsensical rhetorical arguments that shamelessly play upon the emotions of individuals are the only ones that the majority - the majority - of the electorate find credible and convincing. And so they must be made."

You underestimate your own public audience, and despite the media's peddling of such things, many people -- I don't know about the majority, so I won't speak for them-- appreciate various levels of argumentation. As was pointed out previously, all you've done is muddied your own waters concerning home schooling since some conservatives are likely to embarrass themselves actually using your argument.

Imagine a conservative who has been preyed upon by emotional nonsense reciting your argument to a more savvy individual and in favor of home schooling their own child. You don't even have to go far to find someone who would do this, check the blog comments, there's sure to be several.

Worse yet, you recognize that these sort of emotionally-minded people buy nonsense, and yet expect that they-- the voting majority-- will either reject their argument because they have to reject yours or will accept your argument because they have to accept theirs. Nonsense knows no limit; they can just accept their own argument and reject yours. Problem solved.


"Is this rhetorical assertion a genuine surprise to NorthernHamlet or anyone else: 'Standing up to the gun lobby is the best way to honour the innocent victims.'

Of course not. But neither was the narrowness of your response.

"There is nothing petty about it; to claim that it is petty is to fundamentally miss the point that the argument being won and lost on petty grounds because it is mostly being fought on ground that primarily consists of petty little minds."

To claim it isn't petty because the other guy was petty first fundamentally misses the point. I don't believe you're a petty person, Vox; I think the way you try to use the comment section shows that you aren't. But to try to argue that the post wasn't petty and yet was on petty grounds...

You and I both know you can have the rhetorical argument and the insights you are known for peppered in to each post.

Anonymous VD December 16, 2012 10:23 AM  

The day of the shooting, my first thought was that you would post that day and it would either be about arming teachers or keeping children out of the hands of teachers.

What can I say? I get bored repeating the obvious.

Imagine a conservative who has been preyed upon by emotional nonsense reciting your argument to a more savvy individual and in favor of home schooling their own child.

What about it? It's actually a pretty good argument in that regard. We've already seen it can't be defeated by the dialectic, only met with an impasse.

You underestimate your own public audience, and despite the media's peddling of such things, many people -- I don't know about the majority, so I won't speak for them-- appreciate various levels of argumentation. As was pointed out previously, all you've done is muddied your own waters concerning home schooling since some conservatives are likely to embarrass themselves actually using your argument.

Muddy the water? See the next post. Homeschooling is always part of the discourse in these matters. Moreover, what do I care if some conservatives are likely to embarrass themselves? Of course they will. Most of them are stupid. They vote Republican, for crying out loud!

Worse yet, you recognize that these sort of emotionally-minded people buy nonsense, and yet expect that they-- the voting majority-- will either reject their argument because they have to reject yours or will accept your argument because they have to accept theirs. Nonsense knows no limit; they can just accept their own argument and reject yours. Problem solved.

No, you're acting as if no one can be convinced by rhetoric. This is false. There are three groups: the dialectic, the rhetorical dynamic, and the rhetorical static. The second group is the largest of the three and this is an appropriate and effective argument for them. The third group is irrelevant; nothing will convert them. How do you propose to reach the second group? Your proposed dialectical approach is worthless with them.

To claim it isn't petty because the other guy was petty first fundamentally misses the point. I don't believe you're a petty person, Vox; I think the way you try to use the comment section shows that you aren't. But to try to argue that the post wasn't petty and yet was on petty grounds...

You are missing the aspect of the meta-argument. Just because the argument is petty doesn't mean its purpose is.

Anonymous Outlaw X December 16, 2012 10:28 AM  

You underestimate your own public audience, and despite the media's peddling of such things, many people -- I don't know about the majority, so I won't speak for them--

Yet that is what you have done. People like you have a bur up their ass and can't figure out why everyone else does not have one.

Sometimes silence is the better part a valor, but valor is not your objective so make the fool of yourself while I watch football.

Blogger Michael December 16, 2012 10:39 AM  

VD: "...the argument being won and lost on petty grounds because it is mostly being fought on ground that primarily consists of petty little minds."

It's frightening how true this is.

Anonymous JT December 16, 2012 10:45 AM  

Don't stampede the herd!—oh wait, I don't give a crap.

Anonymous The other skeptic December 16, 2012 10:55 AM  

We have to ask ourselves questions

We have to ask ourselves questions about how dumb people are.

Blogger Robert December 16, 2012 11:15 AM  

Why don't we just make guns illegal for Africans? That would cut the amount of gun violence by half, if gun prohibition actually worked to reduce violence.

Anonymous NorthernHamlet December 16, 2012 11:41 AM  

Vox,

"I get bored repeating the obvious."

The obvious what exactly? The obvious truth? This is where I stop and wonder if you've bought your own argument, even after identifying it as petty, emotionally-driven nonsense.


"We've already seen it can't be defeated by the dialectic, only met with an impasse."

The impasse can be easily passed as I pointed out. Cutting up argumentative strategies is no criteria for identifying how the majority of people actually choose to believe things. You view them as stupid. Why stop at assuming they'll be intelligent enough to see the impasse in the first place? Most people don't even know what meta- means, let alone that you're using it in an argument.

"Moreover, what do I care if some conservatives are likely to embarrass themselves? Of course they will."

Weren't you the one who identified effectiveness as one of your goals? Isn't it a bad idea to make conservatives seem illogical when discussing the ability for them to teach their own children? I can name more than one liberal who's rattled off to me this very reason why you shouldn't have the right to home school.

"How do you propose to reach the second group? Your proposed dialectical approach is worthless with them."

You can have it both ways in a post. When talking to liberals about gun control, I've found the most effective thing is to just explain why I pragmatically find it important to own a firearm. Things such as natural disasters like Katrina are always 100% effective.

"You are missing the aspect of the meta-argument. Just because the argument is petty doesn't mean its purpose is."

It's too bad the post didn't make the meta-argument in addition.

It is not a side-effect of the purpose that you know the majority of your audience is only smart enough to get the argument; you're aware of this effect and have identified it drives site traffic. It is a part of the purpose.

Anonymous scoobius dubious December 16, 2012 12:16 PM  

I fail to see how anybody in this discussion, whether pro or con, is being "petty". I can see how X disagrees with Y, and Y thinks X and Z are mistaken, or whatever; I don't see, though, what "pettiness" has to do with anything. Not that it matters what I think.

"When talking to liberals about gun control, I've found the most effective thing is to just explain why I pragmatically find it important to own a firearm."

In which case you've already ceded the argument, by agreeing en avance that the thing is even up for discussion or negotiation. When I talk to liberals about gun control, I point out that the right to own firearms is a human right, enshrined specifically in the Constitution with unusually strong language, and that there is nothing to be discussed. What part of "the right of the People... shall not be infringed" is unclear?

Any move for gun control on the part of these evil Bolshevists is, a priori, anti-Constitutional, and therefore anti-human rights, and therefore evil. End of discussion. People who wish to permanently rid the nation of occasional murderous acts of lunatics (but curiously, are concerned about no other forms of evil, such as, oh, institutionalized mass black-on-white rape for instance) are formally invited to discuss the matter with King Canute.

When arguing with a leftist, the first thing you must point out is that leftists are evil, support evil, and believe in evil. They're (LATIN DRUM ROLL) "sinister."

Anonymous Outlaw X December 16, 2012 12:20 PM  

Most people don't even know what meta- means, let alone that you're using it in an argument.

The Metians were a tribe that predicted the end of the world.

Anonymous scoobius dubious December 16, 2012 12:25 PM  

By the way, the true purpose of home schooling is not to protect children from lunatic gunmen. It is to protect children from violent, stupid, needy, disruptive, thuggish, predatory negroes.

It also protects children from the various anti-white mind-poisons brewed in the mind-worm vats of malignant leftist racist anti-white Jews, and also from having their educations perpetually slowed, diluted and disrupted by ever-growing swarms of foreign, perpetually needy, non-English-speaking, low-IQ shit-colored immigrants.

LIBERAL: Another school shooting! How many more of these are you nutjobs willing to tolerate? It's time to have much stricter gun control!
MYSELF: Another white girl raped and murdered by a negro! How many more of these negro rape/murders are you nutjobs willing to tolerate? It's time to have much stricted negro control!
LIBERAL: [GASPS, CLUTCHES PEARLS]
MYSELF: Don't worry, no need to clutch your pearls. I'm not going to rob your pearls. I'm not a negro.

Blogger IM2L844 December 16, 2012 1:10 PM  

I fail to see how anybody in this discussion, whether pro or con, is being "petty". I can see how X disagrees with Y, and Y thinks X and Z are mistaken, or whatever; I don't see, though, what "pettiness" has to do with anything. Not that it matters what I think.

I'm with you, but I think that maybe NorthernHamlet is using the term in the more technical sense of the scope of the argument being too narrow rather than the more derogatory sense of the argument being superfluously shallow, but that may be too generous of an interpretation. I don't know

In any event, NorthernHamlet should deconstruct a particular instance of this pettiness so people like myself who are not smart enough to figure out exactly what he is talking about can more fully understand his position. Otherwise, it seems as though he might deem any stated position that is contrary to his own as petty.

For instance, does he see it as petty that a mainstream news anchor, this morning, strongly insinuated in her closing statement, after a piece on the school shooting, that Nancy Lanza, the slain mother of Adam Lanza, was at least partially responsible for her own death as well as all of the others because she had "trained him to shoot"?

It's also worth noting that practically every mainstream news article opens and closes with an emphasis on the guns. Every journalist with even a rudimentary understanding of composition knows that what is contained in the opening and the closing statements is paramount to informing the audience as to what the main point of the presentation is. The body of the work is just information to reinforce the opening statement. And the closing statement is just to drive the point home.

Anyone who is paying attention can see this sort of politicization for what it is.

Does NorthernHamlet regard those things as petty too? Again, I don't know.

Anonymous Outlaw X December 16, 2012 1:21 PM  

Anyone who is paying attention can see this sort of politicization for what it is.

There was a moment of silence in Atlanta before the game for the victims in Connecticut. I don't think it is politicized, I mean Obama cried.

Anonymous J December 16, 2012 1:33 PM  

Scoob, you deserve a scooby snack for those posts.

Anonymous Stingray December 16, 2012 1:41 PM  

Scoob, make that two scooby snacks. I would love to see that conversation.

Anonymous DonReynolds December 16, 2012 3:30 PM  

I am already tired of hearing the Leftwing shout down anyone who wants to comment on this mass murder of children, claiming they are politicizing the tragedy. Of course, the little kids were still laying in their own blood when Barack Obama, as President, got on national media to politicize the event. He and others had already announced this was the moment when we needed to take effective action to prevent such events in the future by doing way from the guns. Lemmie see, they are NOT politicizing the tragedy by using it as a renewed call for more gun control? Listen, anytime the President of the United States gets on national media to shed a few croc tears, it is ALREADY POLITICIZED. What follows is the usual kabuki theater, complete with the predictable posturing and painted faces.

Is anyone saying they would be happier if the killer had only used a compound bow or a Bowie knife? Or how about a claw hammer or a tomahawk?

Anonymous scoobius dubious December 16, 2012 5:01 PM  

"Or how about a claw hammer or a tomahawk?"

Make that a Tomahawk instead of a tomahawk, and you've got yourself a DNC pro-Obama campaign talking point. If you see what I mean, and I think that you do.


Anonymous NorthernHamlet December 16, 2012 7:09 PM  

IM2L844,

You are right that I am mostly using the term in the more technical sense. I do find the examples you cite to be examples of pettiness as well. Personally, I don't own a TV anymore because most of it is just shite and I primarily restrict my Internet reading to sources that I consider more insightful, both on the left and the right.

Blogger redlegben December 16, 2012 11:04 PM  

I posted this on FB the day of the shooting:

"When will we realize that we need to ban gun-free zones? How many more children need to die?"

...and I linked John Lott's book about gun control and crime rates. I haven't had any gun control postings from my family or friends. I have more than half liberals in that group. In fact several of the self-identified liberals reposted the same thing. Lead with the rhetoric and trail with the dialectic is a method I am successfully employing much more often.

OpenID simplytimothy December 17, 2012 9:27 AM  

Vox, Doug Wils recently wrote (tangentially) on this subject http://www.dougwils.com/Sex-and-Culture/on-being-a-responsible-bad-boy.html

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