Saturday, February 06, 2021

031 The Erickson Report for February 4 to 17, Page Four: The Rules for Right-wingers

The Rules for Right-wingers

To end the week, something I like to go back to from time to time. And with recent events, it seemed an appropriate time. It is my list of "The Rules for Right-wingers."

Flakes, nutcases, paranoids, and other assorted bozos are almost the totality of the present right-wing and almost the totality of the national Republican party. And for some time I had observed with varying degrees of annoyance and bemusement the predictable tactics of the wingers in debates - or rather, their tactics in avoiding actual debates. But I finally came to a point where I had had it with the evasions, the dodges, the schemes and slime that make up winger discussions and began assembling a list of those tactics.

So here it is, the latest always-subject-to-expansion-or-refinement list of wingnut arguing tactics and operating procedures, including a brand new one addition. They are listed simply in the order in which they got added.

Rule #1: Attack, attack, attack!
In fact, try to level so many attacks so fast that your opponent never gets to make a criticism of their own because they are so busy trying to catch up to your attacks. However, don't forget to be deeply shocked and offended if anyone on the left responds in kind.

Rule #2: Deny, deny, deny!
Doesn't matter if it's something undeniable, deny it anyway.

Rule #3: When facts are beyond even your ability to deny, change the subject.
This can be done in various ways, for example:
- Introduce irrelevant details on a tangential point.
- Pluck out from what your opponent said an individual phrase you think you can attack, even if it's one that was just tossed out offhandedly, and treat that as if it's the focus of the entire discussion.
- Tie up the discussion in piles of minutia to the point where everyone, including your opponent, loses track of the actual issue.

Rule #4: Issue a lengthy, ranting denunciation of "the left."
This often can be initiated with "whataboutism," responding to criticisms by ignoring them and going "Yeah? Well what about" whatever seems most useful at the moment. Try to include the words "hypocrites" and/or "hypocrisy," arguing that the left can't legitimately criticize the right (because any such criticism is by your definition hypocritical) while insisting that the right can continue to criticize the left. (Note: Where possible, include the phrase "you liberals" or better yet, "you libtards.")

Rule #5: Make the particular stand for the whole.
Find something offensive or silly some liberal or leftist, somewhere, sometime, said or did and label it as identifying the entire left half of the American political spectrum. Demand that your opponent spend their time denouncing that example rather than discussing the original topic.

Rule #6: Never answer a question.
When faced with one, ignore it and respond with a question, preferably on a different point. If possible, the question should be accusatory. If you do not get an answer, repeat the question and loudly demand it be answered while continuing to ignore the original question you were asked. If you do get an answer, ignore it. If necessary, drop the matter without acknowledging having gotten a reply; if possible, repeat the question, insisting it has not been answered, even if it has.

Rule #7: No amount of proof is enough.
Demand every remotely questionable assertion by your opponent be proved in every conceivable detail, right down to dates, times, and places, complete with signed affidavits. Refer to all factual assertions by your opponents as "just your opinion" even if the level of proof you demanded is supplied.

Rule #8: Assert unsourced statistics and facts with great assurance.
Or, more appropriately these days, assert "alternative facts." Reply to requests for proof by saying some version of "You can look it up." You thereby demand that your opponents do the work of proving your argument for you.

Rule #9: Frame the debate in false choices.
For example, "Do you support socialism or freedom?"

Rule #10: Accuse the accuser.
You could call this "I'm rubber and you're glue" method: Insist, even in the absence of any foundation, that any criticism of you actually applies to your opponent. For example, if someone notes you're avoiding a debate, insist "You're the one who won't debate!" Faced with examples of right-wingers lying, reply "That fits you lefties to a T!" If something you said is challenged as bigoted, say "You're being intolerant!" or better yet, "You're the real racist!"

Rule #11: When a claim has been debunked, continue to use it nonetheless.
When it has been debunked so thoroughly and completely that continuing to use it is counterproductive, stop claiming it for a time, after which assert it again as if the debunking had never happened. For numerous examples where this can be found, see climate change denialists.

Rule #12: Never accept responsibility.
Never, never, never admit any responsibility for the meaning or impact of your own words. If you want guidance, see almost any GOPper statement since January 6.

Rule #13: When all else has failed - and even when it hasn't - lie.
Just make crap up. Important: Keep repeating it. See Rule #11.

Specifically for use on TV discussions is

Rule #14: When you fear a contrary point may be raised, shout.
If that contrary point is a good one, shout very loudly. Your point may not get heard, but neither will your opponent's.

Rule #15: Seize control of the Clock of History.
Choose the period of time most advantageous to your argument and insist that any event outside that time frame, either before it or after it, is irrelevant and must not be considered. A recent example is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene saying how unfair it was for people to bring up things she said before she started running for Congress.

Rule #16: "Both Sides Now."
If the behavior of some among us is so undeniably bad that it can't be explained away, airily dismiss it with "both sides do it." Freely employ false equivalencies, such as the recent attempt to equate Marjorie Taylor Greene with Ilhan Omar.

Rule #17: All debate stops when you win - and only when you win.
Remember that there are only two responses to anything in contention: It's "up for debate" and "we won, the debate is over, shut up." Gun control provides a good example: In the 2008 Heller decision, the Supreme Court, for the first time in US history, held that owning a gun is an individual right. Even since then, we have been snickering "the Supreme Court has ruled. The debate is over." But for the 69 years preceding that, the controlling precedent was that the 2nd Amendment was about a collective right of collective self-defense, not an individual one. In all those years, we never said "the Supreme Court has ruled. The debate is over. We lost."

Which brings up

Rule #18: If you can't win by the rules, change them.
A great example of this is voter suppression. We know we can't win if the mass of the American public votes, so we have been engaged in a years-long effort to make it harder and harder for people we figure won't reliably vote our way to vote at all.

Rule #19: Intellectual consistency and honesty are for wusses and losers.
For a recent example, consider Mitch McConnell, who famously said his intent was to make Barack Obama a one-term president, proudly described the GOPper-run Senate as the place were progressive ideas "come to die," and changed the filibuster to get a string of reactionary judges onto the federal bench including the Supreme Court. Now he is complaining that if those mean ol' Democrats limit the filibuster it "would drain comity and consent" from the Senate.

But if you want an excellent example, consider that late in evening of election day, 2012, it looked for a time that Obama might lose the popular vote to that traitor Mitt Romney despite having won the electoral vote handily. In response, Our Lord Trump tweeted that such a result would be "a total sham and a travesty" and the electoral college is "a disaster for a democracy."

Rule #20: Sitzfleisch.
It's German for "sitting flesh" and it goes back to the days before chess clocks put time constraints on games and players would sometimes win by simply taking so long to move that their opponent would either give up or become so tired from the wait that they would make foolish moves and lose. More generally it can be taken to mean winning by virtue of sheer, unmitigated, stubbornness. We are past masters at this.

Finally for now, a new one that actually cuts across a number of others and truly sums up our worldview:

Rule #21: We are always the victim.
Whatever it is, we are the real victims. We are the ones facing discrimination. We are the ones being oppressed. We are the ones whose free speech is imperiled. We are the ones being called names. We are the ones who can't get a decent break.


Okay, that's all the rules for now. Scanning across all of them makes clear what the right wing actually is: a bunch of selfish, whining, crybabies. Which is why playing the victim comes so easily to them.

Okay, I'll wrap this up with an observation, one I've made before in discussing this: I frankly expect many of us have at some time or another been guilty of one or more of these sins in the course of a debate, especially if it got heated. But occasional sins in the heat of the moment is not what this is about. This is about a consistent pattern by the right of evasion and deceit. It is being an intellectual coward. It is about being a bully. It is about being a liar.

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