Archives for category: Dialectic vs. Rhetoric

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One of the odder things about dealing with people in the political realm is the recurrent reliance upon simple definitions — speaking as if an Official Meaning could trump reality.

For instance: we call a government policy “a minimum wage.” People therefore seem to think that what the government does in enforcing such a policy is establishing wage rates. I mean, “that is just what we are doing, right?” Wrong. A minimum wage law is a law prohibiting hiring people below a specified rate. It is functionally a prohibition on hiring at a specified set of rates. It does not and cannot guarantee any person a wage, for it does not set any wage — wages being, after all, the terms of a particular kind of trade contract. Wages are set by businesses and workers in the market. The government has merely made some contracts at certain rates illegal.*

Calling a legislated wage-rate floor a “minimum wage” is like calling the prohibition of heroin a “minimum opiate” — with only some opiates allowed (Darvon, Dillotid). Under minimum wage laws, only some wage contracts are allowed. On the transactional level, both policies are policies of prohibition, not guarantee.IMG_1239

And yet people blithely go along speaking of minimum wage laws as if they established employment at the levels specified.

Like magic.

Say the word, and it happens.

This struck me when I was reading the Earthsea trilogy by Ursula K. Le Guin, when I was a youth. The magic rules in these fantasies are all about knowing how to find and speak the True Names of the thing or person to be manipulated. Now, these are terrific books. Le Guin’s account of word magic basically amounts to the reification of the human reliance upon words. But one must not believe that this is actually how the world works. The books are good because this is how the human mind works — especially in dreams.

In the actual world, outside our mindscapes, there are no True Names. Words here in the everyday world serve as conveniences of communication. They are semiotic tools. Signs. And though they come in three varieties (icons, indices, and symbols), and evidence no small degree of complexity in the dimensions of their utility and meaning, we can hone these signs to focus in on separate essences — logical atoms — each distinct.

And this is where the power of definitions come in, when we so hone our focus as to become clear as to what we are talking about, and what we are talking about pertains to the world around us and our operations within it. When we define something as x, and point to an X, our definition of x does not change the pointed-to X in our mere act of definition. The thing pointed to, X, may contain essence x as well as essences y and z. So all our blithe confidence in our definitions may not reach far beyond those definitions.

To pretend they do is magical thinking.

Yet that is what dominates politics.

I have found this over-imputation problem in rights theory, in discussions of religion and politics, and in . . . nearly everything said by a leftist today.

IMG_2080Let us say I am arguing with a feminist about the nature of sex and gender and human rights, and I make the case that feminism has advanced some grave errors and moral atrocities. And the feminist responds, “but feminism is merely equality of the sexes — it’s in the dictionary, stupid!” My jaw drops. The dictionary definition does not track what feminists actually say. Though I advocate equal rights for all, regardless of sex, I find that much of what self-designated feminists do is seek superior status for women and girls over men and boys. Special privileges. More rights. And feminism, today, contains a whole lot more bizarre content than is represented by the seemingly inarguable cause of “sexual equality.”

Another example relates to antifa. I often complain, to my friends, about the violence of these leftist bullies in black. And yet mainstream center-left mavens assert that we should not worry at all about these thugs. Why? “Because they are literally ‘anti-fascists’!” Well, yes, fascism is a bad thing. Sure. But fascists can, in reality, masquerade as anti-fascists. And fascists are not the only authoritarian bullies to worry about. But leftists merely point to the definition as if they have proved something. It is as if they think they can utter a few words of a definition and, magically, change reality with their utterances.

This seems like the simplest and least sophisticated form of logic-chopping. It does not even quite rise to the level of logomachy. But when done confidently, with brio, it can bowl over opponents, partly out of the sheer audacity of it all. Which is why one sees the method everywhere, especially in the realms of religion in politics. It is the sophistication of simpletons.

And it is now a major problem of our time.

twv

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* An exception, in a sense, is when governments raise their own employees’ — government functionaries’ — wage rates. But you should see the difference here.

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Sometimes we should take a step back and remember: we don’t know much, and much of what we “know” isn’t so.

IMG_2025This is especially the case in foreign affairs. Many important events and agendas are kept from the public. Whole organizations operate (and even exist) sub rosa. We are fed misinformation and lies on a regular basis. We are easily manipulated.

I have tried to hedge, or even seem Delphic, in the recent past, regarding Russia and North Korea, for instance. I know I know little, and more-than-merely-suspect that many who say they know important truths often only parrot half-truths, at best.

There has been way too much partisan nonsense about Russia in the past few years, and much of what is important about the “negotiations” between North Korea and the U.S., South Korea, et al., is kept far from public view.

IMG_2027We should try to keep in mind that manipulation of focus is the modus operandi of all major parties and organizations, and with it the clumsy and deceptive uses of statistics.

Arguably, one of the main jobs of the corporate media is to encourage people to think they are informed, while ensuring that they remain misinformed. News is not history or social science. It is entertainment. And the unfortunate unreliability and sheer perversity of the major media outlets does not need to be seen as a conspiracy (much of it being quite open). Ideological fantasy, partisan coup-stick conflict, and the profitability of hype and hysteria might explain most of it.

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For a long time, my skepticism about catastrophic climate change did not take the form of “it could not happen,” or “human civilization has nothing to do with changes in climate.”

My skepticism was prompted, repeatedly, by activists and scientists who kept expressing certainty where certainty could not be had; were given to ignoring and even conspiring to ignore alternative explanations of the effects witnessed; were seemingly uninterested in the reliability of climate data or in questions concerning the relevance of the data they fixed upon rather than other possible data sets.

In all this, I never doubted that terrestrial climate was changing — though I have been dubious, off an on, about the exact shape of the trend lines and whether the climate was indeed ineluctably warming.

Indeed, when activists and scientists were calling climate trends “global warming” I was calling it “climate change”; when they switched I got suspicious.

But my chief problem has been that those most concerned about climate change refused to engage in anything like a stance of curiosity in public, always eschewing the rhetoric of inquiry for the rhetoric of conclusions, especially when confronting long-term trends. The reason I have always believed that climate is changing is that I know history and have read a lot of the science of prehistory, and climate goes in cycles. What climate change scientists have been caught doing is trying to erase the Medieval Warming Period from the record and certainly from the public conversation, and have treated the Little Ice Age as if it were best not to linger over — for fear, apparently, that people might recognize it for what it was, a LITTLE ICE AGE, a very cold period from which we have been emerging for the last 200 or so years.

I used to make a big deal about those two facts: medieval warming and early modern-period cooling. But now what it impresses me most? The facts relating to the end of the last Ice Age — 11,000 years ago or so — which were catastrophic to the American megafauna and to sea levels and climate patterns worldwide. If someone is concerned about current climate change, I would expect to see a lot more interested in past climate change. The fact that I do not suggests to me that they are not really interested in climate change as a subject, but only in current trends — and even that not much. For only a rather stupid person would try to consider current phenomena without reference to past phenomena.

Every climate change activist I’ve met, and most of the scientists I have watched online and on TV, strike me as specialized and not very wise — at best. Most strike me as fools. Or knaves.

And yet, climate change may very well be an important issue. And there might be some out-of-the-box things we could do to reduce human contributions to great, worldwide alterations longterm weather events and patterns.

But as long as activists and scientists try to prove too much while restricting their focus, they will lose their battle.

This is worse than “crying wolf” when there is one. This is like “crying wolf” when it is a swarm of locusts attacking you, and standing around doing nothing but crying.

twv

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This is the golden age of clever analogies. Short “memes” get shared online, and many of them are quite good. And then there are the ones that fall apart.

Consider this effort in the Ban The Guns Sweepstakes:

I assume this “phil h” fellow invented it. And the first time I saw it, I thought, “not bad.” But the second and third and fourth time I saw it? I saw the problems.

A lot of my friends immediately objected to the condescension in the example: statists treat us like kids. Children.

But it’s worse than just that. The condescension is double: he talks of “giving” out sticks. As if what people possess were a matter of what they “receive” rather than what they work for, earn. Have by right.

But the most deceptive aspect of the meme comes in Option C: it uses a singular construction, not the plural that would parallel current debate. The gun grabbers mean to take away “all the sticks.” Not just the malefactor’s stick. But by leaving this in the singular, we are subliminally cued to understand this in a more reasonable light. Adults do take away sticks from irresponsible kids. And perhaps use the stick to swat the little malefactor on the behind. That’s nothing like what leftists really are up to. They want all the sticks taken away.

And think again about that “give” and “take away” — this language completely distorts how kids actually acquire sticks. A realistic scenario would reformulate it as “let kids find sticks and play with them” in contrast to “take away all sticks and denude the trees and parks of branches and. . . .”

The authoritarian attitude is just a part of the paternalist/maternalist Family Model of the State. It’s the wrong model, as should be obvious in this debate. And especially in this really pathetic attempt at persuasion.

twv

 

In the wake of the church shooting in which a Christian man, Stephen Willeford, shot a mass murderer after a car chase there has, of course, been much discussed on social media. I have tried not to get involved . . . directly.

So, “indirectly,” there is this: what I would have said on Facebook had I said anything on Facebook. . . .

img_0452Friend:

No matter what you might think on the subject, many Christians pray after a tragedy not because they are virtue signaling, but rather because they are praying for the repose of souls.

It is an act of mercy.

I can’t fathom why this would upset people.

Stranger:

What I’m seeing in this issue is on one hand, people sick and tired of seeing news of another mass shooting, and on the other hand, politicians and other “leaders” sending prayers and thoughts instead of doing their jobs. I understand that you don’t want to get involved in a political debate, but trying to redefine the problem as apolitical only muddies the issue further. You may as well be burying your head in the sand. I really don’t think anyone is bashing the average person of faith who is horrified and wants to help and can’t think of anything better. The criticisms are aimed squarely at theocrats who send thoughts and prayers instead of doing their jobs.

Me:

Politicians “doing their jobs” on this issue have, on a state-by-state and city-by-city basis, seemingly done more harm than good. So, the issue is political, sure, but not in a good way: “the job” to be done may be much harder than anyone thinks.

In politics, it all becomes religion pretty fast. The amount of faith in government as an institution that is shown by earnest people demanding that politicians “do something” or “their jobs” is contra-indicated by facts on the ground.

Reasonable people remain skeptical, and unimpressed with people who turn from prayer to promoting pointless and problematic action.

And as for “thoughts and prayers” — it is just something people say when there is nothing they can really do. Give people a break. Getting angry and expressing it politically is hardly the wisest social reaction — especially to grieving and distraught people. That is the reaction of dangerous fools.

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img_0050Yesterday, in my first assay into the definition of “mass shooting,” I stopped short of the real oddity of the term, which I was surprised to find nearly everywhere online — the all-too-common assertion that such shootings happen every day in America.

Every day? Really?

When you drill down, you discover that the term has been wrenched away from its original purpose to describe scenarios where one or two or a handful of persons massacre strangers in public, to include gangland turf war murders and much more.

So, what are the definitions? Well, there is some fluidity to the meanings, of course. But we can get some mostly reliable ideas about what these terms of art mean in rigorous usage. The concept of “mass murder” is now defined like this:

The FBI defines mass murder as murdering four or more persons during an event with no “cooling-off period” between the murders. A mass murder typically occurs in a single location where one or more people kill several others. Many acts of mass murder end with the perpetrator(s) dying by suicide or suicide by cop.

Princeton’s Wordnet puts a number of words together:

slaughter, massacre, mass murder, carnage, butchery (noun)
the savage and excessive killing of many people

“Excessive” strikes me as begging an uncomfortable question about what the right number of people to be killed might be.

Now, “mass shooting” is a subset of mass murder, obviously:

mass shooting is an incident involving multiple victims of firearms-related violence. The United States’ Congressional Research Service acknowledges that there is not a broadly accepted definition, and defines a “public mass shooting” as one in which four or more people selected indiscriminately, not including the perpetrator, are killed, echoing the FBI definition of the term “mass murder.” Another unofficial definition of a mass shooting is an event involving the shooting (not necessarily resulting in death) of four or more people with no cooling-off period. Related terms include school shooting and massacre.

Several of the constituent terms in these definitions are contestable, expecially the concept of “indiscriminate selection.” Really? On some level, most mass shooting victim groups are targeted for very clear reasons. The Pulse nightclub shooting, for instance. It was not accidental or random: a gay nightclub was the perfect target for a radicalized Muslim lowlife. Same with the Dylan Roof’s attack upon a church, whose racism was a key factor. Or the more recent case of a black Muslim who shot up Christians at a white church.

In all of these cases, the groups were selected for their representative nature, as embodying the focus for some grievance.

Of course, what we are seeing is preference on one level (the group, with definitions of groups as all-important) and indifference on another (the individuals, indiscriminately selected). A similar distinction must be made in the pure theory of choice, where preference is the usual rule of choice, but indifferent selection can occur among things of equal value to the chooser. (The latter concept explains why Buridan’s ass is more of a joke than a real philosophical puzzle. Even asses assess options using indifferent selection to avoid preference paradoxes.)

A better definition seems to come from a study covered by CNN in late 2016:

Between 1966 and 2012, there were 90 mass shootings in the United States. Mass shootings are defined for the study as having four or more victims and don’t include gang killings or slayings that involve the death of multiple family members. These shootings include the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in June 2016 — the worst mass shooting in US history — and others in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, both in 2012.

Note that in under half a century there were 90 such events, about two per year. Currently, however, major newspapers are claiming that there is a mass shooting every day. Take the infamous fake news outlet, The New York Times:

More than one a day.

That is how often, on average, shootings that left four or more people wounded or dead occurred in the United States this year, according to compilations of episodes derived from news reports.

So ask yourself: if the secular trend for murder and gun violence is down, how can mass shootings be up? Have interpersonal shootings gone down so much that they offset the dramatic growth in mass shootings?

IMG_4096Seems unlikely. The key is the nature of the study the Times cites: “compilations of episodes derived from news reports.” They are not throwing out family killings and gang and drug-war related shootings. They are counting everything above a mere three victims.

This is probably to sell papers. If crime is generally down, how can you pitch panic?

So the Times and other mainstream media sources try to make things look like they are worse than they are.

Now, I do not want to suggest that gang warfare killings in, say, Chicago are not a real problem. They are. Indeed, they tell us a great many things relevant to crime fighting and gun control as political topics. But they are are far afield from terroristic, vindictive, and spree murder events. Including them may make a jump in the rate of mass shootings per day to skyrocket from 2/365 to 1/1, but this is hardly responsible journalism.

And there is no great mystery behind this. In addition to selling papers, it is obviously in service to an ideological agenda orthogonal to the truth.

twv

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Trump’s “Rocket Man” epithet was of course funny.

All the non-witless agree. But there is more to the story.

Scott Adams explained on Periscope how it is funny. It really is about Trump finding the boundary of “good taste” (political etiquette; verbal rectitude) and deliberately crossing that borderline. The joke works not because it is, itself, hilarious — stand-alone it’s worth a mere chuckle — but because the quarter of the audience that expresses shock and dismay make it funny.

Two birds with one rock, man. Humor depends upon a logical catastrophe, as John Allen Paulos has explained so well. We laugh when the logic slips and our grasp on categories shifts, when something or someone in one category falls into a lower category (occasionally the reverse). In the case of “Rocket Man,” not only does a dictator get a demotion, but Trump has yet again tweaked the sensibilities of his critics.

“Something for the fans.”

In a follow-up talk, Adams notes how it proved to be more than that. Trump effectively took away one of Kim Jong-Un’s goals: the “prestige thing.” Trump’s belittling of the dictator, Adams perceptively argues, effectively took out of the negotiation room one whole issue.

“Rocket Man” became “weaponized.”

It all depends on the full frame. “A month ago, every time Rocket Man launched a new rocket, how do you think he felt?” Adams asks. “I’m gonna guess proud. Probably good for his ego. Made him feel important, made him feel like he was a big player on the world stage.”

That must be right. The dictator surely felt the bigger man because of the rocket launches, because of his threat. “Powerful. Bold. . . . his T-count went up a little bit.”

After Trump’s mocking monickerization, however, “he will feel that the entire world is laughing at him.”

Correctly feel, I might add.

Trump, Adams argues, effectively took Rocket Man’s nukes away from him in terms of honor — with a simple two words. Without touching a nuke . . . or dropping one.

I must admit, I worry about a dictator stripped of his last shred of pride. What does he have left, now, but his life? Even his power may taste like sawdust.

But there’s no doubt that the negotiation game has changed. And, short term, this may be quite advantageous to nearly everyone but Kim Jong-un. (The loss of honor will eat away at the man, though. That could be quite bad.)

Trump’s “linguistic kill shots,” as Adams dubs them, amount to something important. At first blush, this routine may seem not too much different from schoolyard taunting. But there is a difference. It is not the “slow kid” or the “ugly girl” who receives the brunt of the ribbing, the humiliation; it is not the lowly or the powerless: in most cases it is the cultural elites, the people who have cultural power, the people who have determined for decades what may or may not be said. They are the ones who take the hit.

And in the case of Rocket Man, he who took the hit is someone with outrageous, horrifying political power. A man utterly deserving of any put-down we can deliver.

In this context, the litany of complaints about Trump’s rough language seem, increasingly, to be vapid and even stupid.* Schoolmarmy.

The schoolmarms naturally object to his example. What will the kids do? Will bullying go back on the rise? Perhaps.

But they miss something. Trump’s not the bully. That’s not the right metaphor. He’s the smart-ass who mocks the principal and the teachers in the hallway and, if the jocks misbehave or abuse their power, the jocks, too.

It’s not “Truth” to Power, of course. Not exactly. Trump is saying not that the Emperor has no clothes, but that the empire’s hangers-on and petty enforcers have their flies open.

And that our biggest enemies are dicks.

Keep those pocket-rockets docked, boys, or the Donald will getcha.

twv


 

*The piling on of boos and hisses, sad-faces and disses by world leaders is just the usual bit of U.S.-bashing. It is cheap credit for the world leaders. It is pathetic.

Irony is easier to identify on the page than it is in the “post.” This marks one difference between writing under a byline and writing in an Internet forum. In the former, irony is usually understood; in the latter, irony is usually misunderstood — not even identified when it is happening.

notty-hottyRecently, in an online argument, I engaged in a bit of performative hyperbole after someone else had done precisely the same — yet my interlocutor did not play along. I was puzzled by this; he was adamantly insistent on taking everything as serioso as possible. So we both decided (consciously?) to play moral high dudgeon and flame war, reënacting the oldest social tradition of the Internet.

Like usual, the whole affair ended up looking ugly and stupid.

This particular case involved the phrase “I can no longer allow” in a recent Daily Caller polemic entitled “Everybody Needs to Stop Celebrating the ‘Plus-Sized Models Are Awesome’ Garbage.”

The meat of this particular think piece is simple enough to understand. Its core argument is expressed in the title, and it belongs to a genre becoming increasingly prominent as the Social Justice Warrior mindset of “fat acceptance” has hit peak cultural acceptance. But the author does go his own way:

For some inexplicable reason, American entertainment outlets think male consumers are entertained by “plus-sized” models. They’re not. Trust me when I say that there’s a reason men read the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit magazine, and it has nothing to do with the seemingly unending supply of bigger models.

Naturally, I’m not suggesting that obese women are bad people. Obviously that’s not the case, and it’d be a lazy critique of my argument to even attempt to boil it down to that.

My point is very simple. Men love football, alcohol and the women in bikinis that they don’t see walking around the town. If I can look out the windows of my office building and see six people similar to a woman featured in Sports Illustrated, then put simply, that woman has no business being in Sports Illustrated.

I do not believe this is a good explanation for why the fat acceptance/“beauty myth” movement is off track. And I explained my position. Which I need not address here. Just insert a typical Gad Saad-ish evolutionary perspective and run with it in your mind. You will guess what I was arguing.

But I did get in a jibe at one of the online debaters: his love of “plus-sized” women is somewhat of an aberration. He is an outlier.

And he got a little perturbed, as was his right, and responded in what I regarded as a deliberately hyperbolic manner: he “would not allow” others to spew “bullshit” about something in his bailiwick.

I responded in a similar outrageous way, in performative hyperbole, accusing him of “threatening” me by using the words “bullshit” and “not allow” commentary, and saying I do not deal with such argumentative gambits. (All of which is true enough, but not the point of what I was doing.)

What I was expecting was the interlocutor to speak to me condescendingly, explaining his word choice in reference to the article we had just discussed. The article, after all, ends on a light note, in ironic grandiosity disparaging the fat acceptance movement:

I understand that this garbage is done to push a social narrative and nobody has the balls to criticize out of fear of being called a bigot or much worse. If I’m the only one willing to carry this banner and fight the good fight then so be it.

I can no longer allow this to happen, and nobody in America should tolerate it either. Stop celebrating obesity and go back to giving me hot women in tiny bikinis. Is that too much to ask?

The writer of this squib proclaims he would “no longer allow” the nonsense. Of course, the author was not talking directly to anyone, but simply posturing for stylistic effect. My Internet interlocutor, on the other hand, was doing something significantly different, echoing the very words — “I will not allow!” indeed — but applying it to an interpersonal — indeed, social — situation. And then, in his self-defense, did not mention that he was playing off the very words of the piece in question.

I am always somewhat nonplussed when debaters do not seem to realize what they are up to, and then object when someone else calls attention to it, or riffs on in a similar manner. My interlocutor instead called me a “cunt” and delivered the usual low-brow excoriations, and the whole thing descended into childishness. It became the opposite of amusing.

To engage in hyperbole and not recognize others engaging in the same seems odd to me. To riff off of someone else’s hyperbole and then take seriously another’s hyperbolic reaction strikes me as bizarre. And, indeed, to neglect to defend oneself by addressing what actually happened, but instead get caught up in argumentative denunciation, is so witless.

This happens every day, on the Net. It is so familiar one wonders why almost no one studies it, why there is so little rumination on how to think about better ways to handle tricky argumentative impasses.

Why get caught in the traps you yourself lay down?

When I, in this case, “over-reacted,” the proper response would have been to play along, and subtely reference the literary maneuver that led to my reaction. “My huffy debater,” my interlocutor could have reacted, “must not have realized that I was not engaging in a threat, or even in a prideful boast, but merely carrying on the rhetorical stance of the article in question.” But he, instead, apparently forgot that he had been doing precisely that, instead approached the evolving debate as combat and a grave breach of honor and who-knows-what. My response would have been, “Touché.” As it was, I left without screaming ALL CAPS or profanity or outrageous denunciation, just a statement of my opposition and an acceptance of his judgment. I gave him the last word. Which he had been insisting upon, in any case.

I probably should never engage in this form of tweakery. I do not want people to fly off the handle, after all. I did my part in the 1990s. I watched many a self-righteous arguer go ape over manners, of all things, based on simple and extremely polite nudges from me. Or impish trolls like me. It was fun to watch then, as people supposedly obsessed with honor in debating lost all sense of honor in debating. I have witnessed this dozens of times.

Now, though, I expect others not to lose their “cool.” But my expectation is apparently unwarranted, for losing their “cool” is indeed what most people do. They forget even what they have said, and the manner they have said it, and proceed to moral high dudgeon.

And they think themselves utterly honorable.

My error is thinking that everybody has learned the lessons of the Net. Or that they will learn mid-conversation. But to witness people take offense and then go “ballistic” is an amazing thing. The passive-aggressive stance provokes aggressive reaction because people simply cannot control themselves. If someone says something sneaky and insinuating, call attention to it and move on.

Humans are touchy creatures, and we live in a touchy society.

No wonder there once were duels.

twv

 

 


Isn’t it by a legal fiction that the accused are, in this country, said to be “innocent until proven guilty”? The fiction is important.

Similarly, it is by dialogic fiction that you are instructed to regard 

  • your interlocutor as honest, 
  • open to new information as well as unfamiliar logic, and as 
  • earnest in a desire to resolve cognitive dissonances.

Further, in political argumentation, we assume that everybody wants everyone else to be healthy, wealthy and wise. We assume good will.

All these assumptions about arguers have been shown to be incorrect. 

Our biases have been exhaustively examined by psychologists, and our intellectual limitations demonstrated as surprisingly vast. Similarly, the glee with which people wish to harm some others puts the lie to any universal notion of good will. And, to add a twist to the knife, some of us old arguers have come to expect the most ugliness from the loudest professors of benevolence; we know that ill will is ever-present in politics and government, at least.

And yet the dialogic fiction of benevolence retains its importance. It provides the groundwork for change, and for the reciprocity that is necessary for a free society.

And it is not just “those others” who are nudged to better behavior. Even when only one person in a debate behaves according to the fiction of general good will, that person is improved. 

twv

 

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A friend of mine on Facebook, definitely not in my camp but a very intelligent person nonetheless (!), asked his friends for assistance:

Question: what are the advantages of characterizing the Trump administration as fascist?

I’m not asking here if this description is true. I’m wondering about its practical uses and benefits.

Many of the answers ignored my friend’s stricture about whether or not the description were true. I tried not to. But I still did not quite follow his guidelines either. For my answer characterized the utility of the word as extremely limited.

My response was as follows:

Using the term, especially when shouting down people who are engaged in peaceable assembly and normal free speech activities, makes you look insane. Against Trump it just seems gratuitous. We have reason to fear tyranny from him (as with his predecessors, if more so), but not all tyrants are fascists.

More importantly, it is worth remembering that, by calling Trump a fascist, you are insinuating that his supporters are fascists (fascism was a popular movement, if not quite populist). And since most of his followers are simply not fascist, their reaction is to dismiss you as an unhinged zealot.

Is that what you want? It certainly exacerbates the gulf between camps. When I argue against Trump with his supporters, I do not go there. But then, I am trying to convince them of something, not make myself feel good.

I’ve used the f-word, too. It makes me feel so righteous!

The full-war verbal arsenal we deploy when we fire the f-word yields quite a thrill. I know. And there are fascists in this world, and they deserve to be called by the name. So, sometimes use the word.

But when we have little evidence of fascism, and use it anyway, it does not really accomplish much but score brownie points with our tribe, while utterly alienating most people not in our tribe.

Those who use the word often, and especially indiscriminately, are not merely engaged in what we now call “virtue signaling.” They are engaged in open cultural warfare with those whom they disagree.

Unless your interlocutor whom you have dubbed “fascist” self-designates as such, you have used a word that he (or she) will likely regard as a fighting word, and you should expect full retaliation, of whatever kind that may take.

And at that point, dialogue enters a quite different realm. People are no longer arguing matters of fact and logic and perspective; no one “follows the argument wherever it leads” in such situations. Political philosophy becomes a distant dream of a forgotten time.

Now, in many situations, were I called a fascist, I would probably laugh in the name-caller’s face. The idea is ridiculous. And my opponent — enemy, really — can only be one of two things: a ridiculous boob, an idiot, a moron; or a liar, a fiend, a very knave.

So, of course, after being called a fascist, one really should be looking for and securing a weapon. For, though when you (dear reader) use the term you are mostly harmless, your opponent may be quite dangerous, and you have a right to defend yourself. Look around for pens, chairs, vases — anything to strike back at the person. Or hold up as shield.

People who throw around mad charges in high moral dudgeon should not be merely brushed off. They present a high probability of grave danger, and should be regarded as potential threats. The fact that the “anti-fascists” of antifa and BAMN are now engaging in open violence on the streets indicates how dangerous such people can be. Prepare yourself for total warfare at the personal level.

And accept the likelihood that a mass, citizen-participating civil war is in the offing, not beyond the horizon, like it used to seem, just a few years ago.

However, if you are a fascist, why should you mind being called one? Well, most people who lob the term around are in warfare mode, so even if the charge sticks, caveats, still.

But why would you be a fascist? Fascism is collectivist corporatism, and corporatism is what we have now. Fascism is just more of what we have now. Why would you want more?

Less, please. Less corporatism; less statism; fewer regulations; an end to group-based law and culture; more competition in politics; and calm down on the war lust, please.

And one way to do the latter might be to stop throwing the f-word about so easily.

twv