Friday, April 2, 2010

I've had enough.

It appears that RedState has given Moe Lane the job of spinning reports of violent behavior by right-wing nutjobs immediately before and after the health care reform vote in the House on March 21.  Their entire approach to this phenomenon is one whopping non-sequitur.  More about that in a future post.

In his latest poorly argued piece of propaganda, Lane claims that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who is believed to have been spat upon by a protester March 21, made the whole thing up.  His evidence?  Cleaver doesn't want to talk about the incident.  In an obviously biased report produced by a Fox "News" affiliate, Cleaver said:
All I'm saying is that we all have to diffuse it and I think that it is not in my best interests or the best interests of this nation to stoke it, and I've avoided doing it, and I'll continue to do that. 
Cleaver's decision not to talk about it is motivated not by an unwillingness to face those who accuse him of lying, but rather by a desire to elevate the debate from the immature racist name-calling of the protesters to something more civil and productive. 

It is incredibly easy to point out just how truly awful Lane's inference is.  Here's Lane's argument:
  1. If a person does not want to talk about an incident, then that incident did not in fact occur.  
  2. Cleaver does not want to talk about the incident.  
  3. Therefore, Cleaver made the whole thing up.  
The problem with this argument is obviously (1).  (1) is clearly false.  Human beings everywhere decline to talk about things that have happened to them, for all kinds of reasons.  Many people don't like to talk about traumatic events in their lives, and sometimes need therapy in order to bring themselves to the point at which they can talk about them.  For Lane, if a woman tells a loved one that she's been raped, but refuses to talk about it or go to the police, then she must be lying.  Well, isn't that convenient for the rapist? 

Moe, your argument is a pile of shit. 

And Moe, don't bother me with any stupid objections like, "I didn't say that Cleaver was a rapist!" or "What does my argument have to do with rape?"  Take a critical thinking course and then get back to me.

If Lane's argument is so bad, then, why did he present it?  If you watch the Fox "News" video, you'll notice that the reporter interviewed Chris Stigall, a morning radio talk show host, in order to get his opinion on the story.  And what did Stigall say?
It's incumbent upon [Cleaver] to downplay it.  If truly he's interested in diffusing the anger and the hostility out there, then acknowledge, this [protester] was just wanting to be heard.  To even allow the myth for a week now to be out there that he was spat upon purposely, that does nothing to diffuse anything.  It just makes things worse. 
Lane took Stigall's comments and ran with them.  Stigall has clearly decided that Cleaver is lying.  How he knows this is a mystery.  And the subtle racism in his advice to Cleaver is unsettling.  Allow me to decode: "Just admit that nothing happened, leave that nice man who was screaming at you alone, and know your place.  When you're uppity like that, it just makes things worse."  It sounds very much like what abusers tell their victims in order to keep them quiet. 

I have no problem with conservatives expressing their views.  What bothers me are writers who, in spite of their nauseating smugness, have the critical thinking skills of a gerbil and a propagandist's complete lack of interest in truth and evidence.  To quote Bill James, "What we really need is for the amateurs to clear the floor." 

  1. Lane has updated his post with a link to a post on something called Weasel Zippers.  The post is signed "ZIP."  ZIP asserts that some claim or other is "100% bullshit." ZIP also writes, "If Rep. Emanuel Cleaver was spit on he would be milking it for everything it's worth," rather than refusing to comment on it. ZIP also writes, "I interpret this as Cleaver backing away from his initial claim he was spit on. Again, proving it NEVER happened."  That's ZIP, showing us all how to jump to conclusions. 
  2. My spouse thinks I may be jumping to conclusions by seeing racism in Stigall's opinion.  Maybe I am.  But I doubt it, and this is why.  Conservatives are arguing that, among all of those protesters, no one used the n-word and no one spat on the congressmen.  Seriously?  Isn't it more plausible to believe that among all of those protesters, some of them used the n-word, and one of them actually spat on a congressman?  Their position on this matter is prima facie implausible and much more difficult to defend than mine.  So why would they argue for that position?  Well, they have a partisan axe to grind, of course.  But it wouldn't surprise me if some latent racism is a factor as well. 

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson