The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Think Progress Arm-Waving

Posted on | October 5, 2014 | 6 Comments

Arm-waving is a technique frequently used by the Left that needs to be called out more often. The technique involves hyping up a make-believe controversy when someone on the Right — a conservative journalist or Republican politician — says something that is arguably true and not necessarily offensive to anyone, yet is stated in a provocative or colorful way. The Left gets all excited and calls attention to the statement simply because of who said it.

You saw this in 2012 when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut,” in the context of criticizing her demand for free contraceptives. Never mind the actual issue, said the Left, Rush said a bad word and therefore — REPUBLICAN WAR ON WOMEN!

This kind of arm-waving — the jumping up-and-down agitation, the “look at this!” gesture — is the antithesis of argument. It is an appeal to emotional prejudice. What is actually being argued about, the pros-and-cons of the issue, disappear in a cloud of synthetic outrage. Let it be admitted that conservatives sometimes also do this; still, when the Left does it, the intention is not merely to obscure the argument, but to discredit and silence their conservative opposition.

Consider this Think Progress headline:

George Will Complains About Obama
‘Monitoring Sex On Campuses’

What is this? George Will wasn’t talking about Obama. He was talking about declining public confidence in government:

Teasing this segment, you [host Chris Wallace] said, can we have faith in government? I think we have much more to fear from excessive faith in government than from too little faith in government.
You asked, can we trust the government to do its job? What isn’t its job nowadays? I just made a list of it. It’s fine-tuning the curriculum of our students K through 12. It’s monitoring sex on campuses. It’s deciding how much ethanol we should put in our gas tanks. It has designed our light bulbs and it’s worried sick over the name of the Washington football team.
Now, this is a government that doesn’t know when to stop.

Well, is the government “monitoring sex on campuses”? Yes, says the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women:

In Fiscal Year 2013, the Campus Program funded 28 projects, totaling over $7 million. Since 1999, OVW has funded approximately 388 projects, totaling more than $139 million, for grantees addressing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking on campuses.

In May, it was announced that federal investigators were “checking whether 55 colleges and universities illegally handled sexual violence and harassment complaints.” All of this was premised on a demonstrably bogus statistic, the claim that 1-in-5 college women were victims of sexual assault, a statistic produced by a survey that counted as “sexual assault” incidents that were not assault and were not even necessarily sexual. Actual reported cases of sexual assault have been declining for more than 15 years, and the government’s intervention appears to be mainly motivated by crackpot feminists who have ginned up a phony hysteria about a “rape epidemic” on campus that does not actually exist.

Anyone who looks at what actually is happening in terms of sex on campus will find that the problem is quite nearly the opposite of what the “rape epidemic” rhetoric suggests. That is to say, college administrators have set up star-chamber proceedings to deal with complaints about sexual activity — typically, drunken hookups — to treat them as disciplinary problems, rather than as crimes. Why? Because these incidents typically involve “he-said/she-said” disputes, where there is no real evidence of a crime, so that the police couldn’t possibly prosecute. Yet in these campus disciplinary tribunals, the accused male students are denied due process, so that they may be punished on the basis of a mere accusation. The reason that feminists are complaining about a “rape epidemic” on campus involves a number of cases in which these pseudo-judicial proceedings set up by college administrators have failed to “convict” the accused male on the mere say-so of his female accuser. It is commonly claimed that, by failing to expel a male so accused, administrators are allowing a “rapist” to roam free on campus, despite the fact that the “rapist” has been convicted of no crime.

Every attempt to discuss this issue in terms of facts and common sense is shouted down — “Shut Up, Because Rape” — by feminists. Yet if the question is whether the government is now monitoring sex on campus, the answer is clearly YES, THEY ARE.

Why, then, is Think Progress arm-waving about George Will mentioning that the government is doing this? Because George Will dismantled the “rape epidemic” nonsense and refused to be intimidated by Democrat Senators who criticized him.

“Oh, no! George Will is telling the truth! He must be stopped!”

They’re arguing so hard their arms might fall off.



6 Responses to “Think Progress Arm-Waving”

  1. RS
    October 5th, 2014 @ 8:37 pm

    It’s a variant of the “poisoning the well” fallacy. which is itself a species of ad hominem argumentation. The assertion “government is monitoring sex on campus,” is not colorful or particularly provocative. The words “George Will” in the headline inform the “elect” that they can stop reading.

    Many years ago, I illustrated the fallacy for a class by writing “2+2=4” on the board. (It was during the Pre-Powerpoint Paleolithic.) Of course the class said the mathematical assertion was true. I then prefaced it with the words “Adolf Hitler said . . .” and “Mother Theresa said . . .”

    Certainly, the identity of the speaker can have some relevance with regard to biases and so forth, but the relevance is extremely limited when it comes to pure statements of fact.

  2. M. Thompson
    October 5th, 2014 @ 8:40 pm

    In a local fashion, MPR (a listener supported, tax exempt subsidary of the DFL) thought it was Big News that Jeff Johnson supports the death penalty.

    Minnesota hasn’t had the death penalty after a botched execution about 100 years ago, and his campaign is largely in favor of the status quo with most laws. There’s also no demand to change it either, so where’s the issue?

    There isn’t, other than to show how mean that Mr. Johnson is.

  3. BurkeanMama
    October 6th, 2014 @ 4:43 pm

    George Will has done quite a bit of arm waving himself about those breaking our immigration laws. I have no sympathy. Live by the liberal pieties you deserve to have those pieties used on you.

  4. Dodd
    October 6th, 2014 @ 6:51 pm

    Since, obviously, no female who works for ThinkProgress could look anything like an SEC cheerleader, it created a great deal of cognitive dissonance for me to read this after scrolling down past the Rule 5 post and getting that image in my head right before commencing it.

  5. theoldsargesays
    October 6th, 2014 @ 9:20 pm

    Are our immigration laws not being broken?
    In tens of thousands of cases per month are our immigration laws being broken?
    Is our government enforcing our immigration laws on a select basis or not?

    If George Will or TheOldSarge point out an indisputable fact are we “arm waving”?

  6. BurkeanMama
    October 8th, 2014 @ 1:52 pm

    Uh, no George Will does not point out facts about illegal immigration. Like the rest of the Murdoch toadies at Fox he thinks the more the merrier. That is my point. When it comes to illegal immigration he speaks of conservatives in the same dismissive tone with liberals speak of him. As I said he played the left’s game and they are using it against him.