Now that the Trick or Treaters have departed, the election is over, and Thanksgiving is upon us — it’s time to consider what arguments may break out with Crazy Uncle and which debate techniques will be utilized over the bird carcass. Forewarned is forearmed, and the following is intended to prevent the flinging of cranberry sauce, and the jabbing of forks in anything other than the baked turkey.
Rule One: Green Bean Casserole does not provide sufficient cover to prevent onslaughts of “We’re on the Road to Wrack and Ruin.” Even the most timid inquiry as to why this might be the case will suffice to insure the continuation of the rant — which was probably going to happen anyway. Continue to smugly munch the sweet potatoes secure in the knowledge that:
Fact: We are not headed the way of Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland … or any other disrupted economy. The aforementioned countries would love to be in the same “shape” as just one state in this Union — California. [Atlantic]
Fact: Regulations are NOT killing American bid’ness. In reality a lack of adequate regulation diminishes trust, and diminished trust is an open invitation to corruption — which IS a problem in countries like Greece. To Wit:
“One issue is trust and corruption. One of the most difficult aspects of modern social life is that the world is a big place and cooperating with strangers is difficult. After all, they might rip you off. You could appeal to the authorities, but the authorities are likely to be strangers, too. In societies with poorly functioning institutions, high levels of corruption, and low levels of social trust, it makes sense to try to stick with smaller-scale entities.” [Slate]
Fact: There has been no government take over of anything. That includes health care. The Affordable Care Act, begotten of the Heritage Foundation and delivered by the U.S. Congress, requires a “free market” solution to individual health insurance coverage by giving tax breaks to companies that provide group health insurance plans, by requiring individuals to purchase individual policies if they can do so, or to purchase their own insurance policies from the corporations participating in the exchanges.
Fact: There is no horrible, heinous, terrible Debt that’s going to immediately hurl the American economy into the Next Great Big Crisis. Yes, we do need to deal with the residual problems of Bushian Credit Card Conservativism. However, if we finish operations in Afghanistan, get the millionaires and billionaires to pay tax rates they were paying during the Clinton Administration — when the arithmetic made sense — and get the economy going a a slightly higher rate, most of the horrible heinous terrible Debt will be erased.
Fact: Austerity doesn’t create prosperity. We have pictures for this. Here’s a picture of economic growth in the Eurozone:
Now, here’s a picture of U.S. economic growth, from the Department of the Treasury (pdf) :
Rule Two: Crazy Uncle’s contentions, allegations, and assertions will be no more organized than the flight from the table to the television. All the rules about the construction and presentation of arguments have no more substance for Crazy Uncle than the cream whip on top of the pie.
Tactic: When losing the point in the face of overwhelming facts to the contrary, change the terms. For example, when Crazy Uncle asserts that small government is always better and someone has the temerity to mention that national disasters like Hurricane Sandy are not well contained by local agencies themselves reeling in the wake, Crazy Uncle may respond by attempting to compare disaster relief to local nutrition programs. “Who knows the local situation better? Some bureaucrat in Washington, or the local people in the neighborhoods?“ The analogy doesn’t work any better than those marshmallows on the yams, but there is a sentient response. The answer, of course, is that local agencies do have hands on experience with such local issues, BUT the capacity of the local agencies to provide nutrition programs to the people they know in their neighborhoods often depends on federal funding levels.
Tactic: When the facts don’t fit deny them. When Crazy Uncle is faced with the information that the administrative costs for Medicare range from 3.6% to 5% while industry rates range from 11% to 12% [Politifact] expect a reply to the effect that (1) I’ve never read that. OR (2) That’s what the lame stream media says. OR (3) That’s some government figure, can’t trust’em. Having internalized the notion that no media information is to be trusted from any source other than the notoriously fact free right wing radio environment, Crazy Uncle isn’t inclined to believe anything from anyone about any topic which doesn’t have the imprimatur of a radio ranter. Forget him — continue to enjoy playing with the wish-bone.
Tactic: When the territory can’t be shifted, or the facts can’t be denied, implement Operation Bullshit. Those who watched the Presidential Debates may recognize the Gish Gallop.
“It is often successfully combined with the “point refuted a thousand times” (PRATT). The gallop must consist of as many points as possible, and even old and worn out arguments are useful in overwhelming the respondent and bamboozling the audience. The technique also takes advantage of the one single proof fallacy, since if a respondent only manages to refute 99 out of 100 points there is still one point that proves the galloper correct.
The trick is to press Crazy Uncle on a single point. Narrow the argument to something like “which economy had the consistently higher rates of growth in 2011 — the U.S. or the Eurozone?“ The necessity of defending a single point at a time puts the reins on the Galloper.
Rule Three: Since Crazy Uncle has his very own reality distant from, and unrelated to, the remainder of the population on this planet, the only way to completely obliterate his rambling rants is to find a televised athletic event upon which most of the diners can agree, and turn the sound up.