There have been times when I have found myself roiling in despair over my fellow humans’ demonstrations of poor thinking. The current rise of populism worldwide is indicative of poor thinking run amok. Poor thinking finds rich fertilizer in twisted misrepresentation.
We have our own brands of such misrepresentation in Canada. It is important in the example below to stay focussed on the argument, not the issue. Whether one is a supporter of freely available guns or not is irrelevant to following the example of understanding logical argument.
Last year, contender [for Conservative Party of Canada] Kevin O’Leary gave an interview with an Ottawa radio station talking about his personal experience shooting the AR-15 at [an] FBI range, calling it an unbelievable weapon that would never be used for hunting. ‘That is a weapon that is just used to kill everybody in the room you’re in. Who should have that? Nobody,’ he said, according to a transcript of the remarks.
While O’Leary is a known gun enthusiast, the way he talked about the AR-15 hinted at his character, suggested Nicolas Johnson, editor of TheGunBlog.ca, which advocates for the rights of gun owners.
A post about O’Leary’s comments has been one of his [Johnson’s] most popular.
“He’s telling us, ‘I’ve just done this thing, but nobody else should be allowed to do it’, which sounds like a double-standard,” Johnson said in an interview.
I really dislike the idea of springing to O’Leary’s defence, (he and I are ideological opposites) but I must defend logical argument. I would submit that Johnson’s view is typical of misrepresentation. There is no ‘double standard.’ Johnson has tried to make it into a double standard, but O’Leary never said that no one should be allowed to shoot a powerful weapon inside a protected gun range as he did. Johnson’s argument is entirely specious. It makes no sense. Johnson is trying to mislead his readers in much the same way that Trump and his supporters argue by misleading.
I witnessed many such arguments in classes I taught for slow-learners. The arguments were often based on mentions of key words and phrases (like ‘double-standard’) rather than on thoughtful, logical argument. Another favourite tactic among the hard-of-thinking is to ignore qualifiers, to ignore context. I often made the point with my ESL students that saying, “If a comet hit the Earth, all life on Earth would soon come to an end,” is a different statement than saying, “All life on Earth would soon come to an end.” One must respect what qualifiers and context mean.
Today, Trump supporters are forwarding many captioned pictures about how evil Democrats, liberals, immigrants, gays and others who seek fair treatment are. I didn’t have the heart to wade through all of them because their lack of common sense was more depressing than I could handle. One example though was a picture that showed champions of liberal causes, Madonna and Michael Moore together. The caption read, “Combined net worth over $600 million. America has failed them!”
That must really rile the hard of thinking who can’t be bothered to ask themselves if it could possibly be true. Presumably the evidence for the claim that “America has failed them” is that Moore and Madonna have criticized American policy, or traditional ways of doing things. Isn’t that evidence of loving America enough to want America to do what they consider to be the right things? Aren’t they trying to leverage their acknowledged success into influencing policy? Did either of them ever say that America had failed them? One might disagree with their ideas about what would make America great, but their ideas are not evidence of them feeling that America has failed them. If anything, their attempts to try to get America to improve is to make it more egalitarian. Presumably they would accept the idea of greater taxation of their fabulous wealth. How does that translate into “America has failed them”? But this captioned picture, among so many others, has the intention of misleading the easily-misled into believing that these two people are terrible ingrates who deserve to be despised. Says who? Says those who benefit by misleading – that’s who!
There are similar simpleton pictures and captions targeting Hillary, Obama and Democrats in general.
As a man who holds strong liberal views, I can admit that sometimes liberalism goes too far into what I call, “Liberal nit-wittism.” I do not support nit-wit ideas of any political stripe. In my view, it is not outside true liberal thought to expect to be able to see the face of the person one is allowing to vote, admitting as a citizen, or even with whom one is transacting business. Sorry, that means I won’t be supporting nit-wit ideas like “niqab and burkah are A-okay” anymore than I would support the idea of people trying to conduct serious business while wearing masks with sunglasses. Give your heads a shake! Know where realistic social boundaries should be, insist that they be respected, and enforce them!
I also differ from some liberal-minded souls who believe that getting new immigrants to understand that when they enter this pluralistic society it is not okay to carry the belief that theirs is the one and only true religion and that all others must convert or die. Does that represent a values test? So be it!
As the world tries to totter slowly away from globalization through populist, nationalistic thinking, it also begins turning its back on true communication in favour of posturing and pointless hatred. That is choosing the road to nowhere! Too often in human history such lack of communication results in the only thing left to those who would ‘protect themselves’ from the ideas of the other side, namely fighting, physical violence and the remaining trauma which slows human progress toward anything resembling enlightenment.