Thursday, July 15, 2010

Words that Shut Down the Mind:- Vemes

I heard on a local radio station this morning a horrible fall into the informal fallacy of hasty generalization. Apparently, there was a woman at a Tea Party rally portraying some racist message. So, hmmmm.  Woman is racist. Woman is at Tea Party Rally. Ergo, went the implied argument, all those at Tea Party Rallies are Racist? Of course, the radio commentators didn't actually say that as a statement. It was in the for of the accusatory question, "So, Tea Baggers AREN'T Racist, huh? She can wear a monkey suit and say Obama go back to Kenya, but Tea Baggers aren't Racist?" 

Here is the fallacy laid out:

X is a Y.

X is a Z.
Therefore, All Y's are Z's.

It made me angry to hear such argumentation, knowing that it would be accepted as gospel just given the emotive well poison (also an informal fallacy).

In Philosophy, we used to use this term "being charitable." This meant, you didn't take an argument or point of view and attack its weakest element. You attack the argument at its strongest. If the opponent proposes an argument, and needs the gaps filled in a little bit logically, or with examples, you even help supply them. THEN you attack that point of view with everything you have. While this is NOT the way to win a tactical position on a battlefield, it IS a good way to show that, even given the BEST that an opponent has, their position is still faulty.

This charitableness is not done in politics either, unfortunately. But perhaps it could be.

Take the position of the morning radio folks who get upset at racist elements in political groups. OK, a fair assessment. But take the same medicine yourself. If one opposes me, and proposes a solution for my group, take the same one for your own. For example, the NAACP enjoys attacking any opponent with the "R" word. Yet, that same accusation can easily be leveled at some of their own members... 


Jeremia Wright:

"Black Africans do not control the economic systems, the military or have control over the resources (the diamonds, the oil and the natural resources that were stolen by the whites who took over South Africa), and until that changes, white supremacy will still be in charge!"
Al Sharpton:

"White folks was in caves while we was building empires. We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it."
- Kean College speech, 1994

There are enough citations here to make the point.

New Black Panthers:

I do not include a single quote here - just the links to Wikipedia and the NBPP's own "Mission" page. That should pretty much cover it. 

Louis Farrakhan:

Again, no need for a single quote here - just the links to Wikipedia and and a couple others. 

Jesse Jackson:

There are a few choice words in here, from Jackson - read for yourself.

If you need to hate, that's your deal. Just know that when you accuse someone else of a racism using argumentative methods that can be leveled back at you equally, your arguments lose all credibility. 

The NAACP has done a good job historically of helping, REALLY helping, the cause of egalitarianism in this country with regards to black people. But there are plenty of people who are part of the group, or to whom the group has given public nods, that are easily racist as well. To say that the NAACP is a racist organization, however, is a fallacy, one which I will not knowingly commit.

But all of this brings up a sociologial issue with memetic conditioning. Historically, there seem to have been one or more words that can shut down conversation, shut down thinking, allow someone to be instantly guilty merely by those words being directed at them, regardless of evidence or logic or truth. I will term these words "Villain Memes," or "Vemes." The practice of "Vemetics" is one that is used to great affect by many people who need an instant accusation. This can buy time in an argument, have someone lose their job, or used at the right time, in the right place, get beaten to death or, historically, stoned to death.

In this case, it is the "R" word. It used to be "Heretic." It used to be "Witch." It used to be "Communist." Hell, in the days when our colonies were struggling to be a country, it used to be "Tory!" Now one of those words is "Racist."

Other Vemes:
  • Antisemite
  • Homophobe
  • Misogynist, or the translation, Woman-Hater
  • Man-Hater (Misandronist)
  • Human-Hater (Misanthrope)
  • Patriarch(-al)
  • Bigot
  • Pedophile
  • Pederast
In Conservative circles, merely calling someone a Socialist or Communist or Marxist is enough to discredit them. In my view, it takes a lot more than an accusation to make such a thing stick. And there are more folks who deny the Vemosity (yes I am having fun with this word)  of the words Socialist, Communist, and Marxist.

What's awesome to the Veme-Slingers is when you can stack a bunch of them together. 

There will be some confused and angry people regarding this discussion. I am an American White Male. Which of course makes me a Devil according to some theologies. That doesn't make my logic bad all by itself though. A logical argument can be posited by anyone - to ignore or decry that argument based upon the person making it is, of course,
ad hominem. We don't do that in rational company.

But then, one would think that Vemes themselves, once identified as such, could be analyzed rationally as well. Good luck with that.

- H. Todd J. Moore