Tag Archives: Gish Gallop

The Media Was Warned: Trump Campaign is one giant Gish Gallop

Gish Gallop Trump

“Trump’s incessant barrage of outrageous pronouncements is reminiscent of the Gish Gallop strategy of argumentation: keeping your opponent on their heels and unable to debate effectively by throwing out so many false and misleading statements that it becomes too difficult to address any single one of them or make your own case. It’s a common creationist tactic, and a common tool of hucksters and swindlers everywhere.” [Washington Monthly, November 22, 2015

Three ways to spot a swindle:

Number One:  High pressure sales pitch.  Those who would have you part with the contents of your wallet will tell you that “time is short!” “Act now.” “This is a limited time offer!”  Hogwash. In order for me to pull off a swindle on you it is necessary for you to feel the “urgency” of my pitch.  If I were trying to pitch an investment swindle, I’d tell you that the economy is in terrible shape (it isn’t) and if you don’t act now to protect your retirement fund (which is probably fairly safe where it is) you’ll be in Dire, I say DIRE straits down the line. Notice I didn’t tell you where that line was drawn.

Trump’s pitch, and it’s more Pitch than a stump speech, is that voting for him is necessary to Save The Country; Yes, Save It Immediately – from what?  The leading economic indicators forecast a modest growth rate in the early part of 2016. [MarketWatch]

What part of this chart indicates to any sentient person that there’s a horrible unemployment rate problem in this country?

Unemployment chart trend The President noticed the Gish Gallop from Trump quarters in a recent speech:

“But he largely defended his record and sought to tell voters about the stakes in this November’s election.

Improved economic numbers don’t mean “folks aren’t struggling in some circumstances, and one of the things I’ve emphasized is that there’s some long-term trends in the economy we have to tackle,” Obama said in the PBS town hall. “So we’re going to have to make sure we make some good decisions going forward.”

“The notion that somehow America is in decline is just not borne out by the facts,” Obama said. “But it resonates. It resonate with aggrieved people who are voting in big numbers for Donald Trump.” [NBC]

No, we’re not “in decline,” and NO we don’t need to make America great again, it’s already the strongest nation on this planet.  But that isn’t going to impress the devotees of the Gish Galloping Trump; they are listening for the second element of the perfect swindle pitch.

Number Two: It’s too good to be true.  Again, if I were to launch a swindle in your direction I’d promise outcomes like a 25% increase in your investment, in some ridiculously short amount of time.  And, should you hesitate I’d shower you with misinformation, disinformation, and pure south bound product of a north bound bull, all the time pointing to the Bright Blue Sky (to which MY bank account is headed if I can only get you to play along).

If, IF, you will invest with me all your troubles will be long ago and far away.  I’ll “build a wall,” I’ll “get a better deal,” I’ll “get you a better job,” I’ll “fight the Chinese currency manipulators,” I’ll “turn the water on.”…..

This will work, if you don’t do two things: Check my facts, and do some Critical Thinking.  If I can get you to avoid these two activities, then I can effectively initiate the third element of a good swindle pitch.

Number Three: Downplay the risks.  Galloping right along… Here’s Mr. Trump with a classic example: “We have been too afraid to protect and advance American interests and to challenge China to live up to its obligations. We need smart negotiators who will serve the interests of American workers – not Wall Street insiders that want to move U.S. manufacturing and investment offshore.”

Unfortunately, for those who know how to use the Google, downplaying the risk of getting into a trade kerfuffle with the Chinese is a matter of taking on the wrong target for the wrong reasons.  

The Chinese “currency manipulation” charge is a set piece of conservative attacks on our trade policy.  First, let’s agree that setting nominal interest rates is something that central banks DO.  The U.S. Federal Reserve sets its sites on the federal funds rate; the European Central Bank focuses on the marginal lending facility, and the Chinese central bank fixed the yuan-US dollar rate along with a “basket” of other currencies. [Wall St Journal]  Message to Mr. Trump: “Currency devaluation of revaluation is a common exercise of sovereign monetary policy.”

With this understood we can get down into the weeds, and again look closely at what the Wall Street Journal had to say about focusing on the “currency manipulating:”

“Movements in the nominal yuan exchange rate have almost no long-term impact on global flows of exports and imports or on broader considerations such as average wages. The exchange rate that matters for trade flows is the real exchange rate, i.e., the nominal exchange rate adjusted for local-currency prices in both countries.

The real exchange rate, in turn, reflects the deep forces of comparative advantage such as technology and endowments of labor and capital. These forces drive trade regardless of monetary policy.”

[…] Today more companies operate in global supply networks—in which trade and investment link different stages of production across different countries. Because these networked companies incur both revenues and costs in many currencies, their trade competitiveness tends to vary little with the movement of any one currency.” [emphasis added]

Thus, NO, Mr. Trump, waving the “Currency Manipulation” banner like some kind of red flag obscuring the more complex nature of international trade forces and trends, doesn’t come anywhere near explaining the issues involved in international trade and the related currency valuations thereof.  What Mr. Trump is saying is a rather vapid “I’ll get a better deal.” Without, obviously, introducing any of the real factors associated with international trade policy.  However, in Trump’s campaign, waving this banner is just one more piece of the continuing Gish Gallop.

Before the third element of the perfect swindle pitch is successful, it’s time to remind ourselves of H.L. Mencken’s famous line:”

“There is always an easy solution to every problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.”

It isn’t like the Trump Gish Gallop hasn’t been spotted already – Blue Virginia caught it back in March 2016, the Democratic Underground wrote of it in January 2016 – proposing to call it the “Trump Trot,” and the media was warned, as noted previously, by the Washington Monthly in November 2015.

Gish Gallop 2

Those still confused by the combination of Gish Gallop and Word Salad emanating from the Trump Campaign may note with some trepidation that Mr. Trump can lie faster than the fact-checkers can keep up.  Prevaricate he will, as he pours forth his high pressure sales pitch, promising that which is too good to be true, and downplaying the risks of his preposterous proposals.

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Talking Turkey in the Thanksgiving Season

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.


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Filed under conservatism, Economy, Health Care, Politics